iPod voice recorder

My brother showed me his Belkin voice recorder attachment for his iPod today. It is tiny. He used it to record a one hour meeting today. I bought one at CompUSA for $49.95. One of my companies, LDSaudio.com, was approved recently as�iPod reseller. We told Apple that one of our marketing approaches to sell iPods would be to encourage�people use it for recording oral histories, which is an important part of family history preservation. I’m going to start trying it out with my wife and kids to see how useful it is in capturing stories.

Fox VP Marketing speaks in Orem
Today at UVSC I heard a VP of Marketing at Fox (as in 20th Century Fox) speak to the business school at the Executive Lecture. It so happens that Brandon d. Miller grew up right across the street from me in Orem. He has always been a movie fanatic. At a very young age I remember how he used to set up little filmstrip or film showings in his garage; he charged a small fee for his friends and neighbors to watch (or maybe it was just for the popcorn and snacks). He is an Orem High grad and UVSC alumni. His career has been meteoric. He talked about all the in-theater promotion and buzz-building they do for new movie releases. His budget is between $1 and $5 million per film; the total marketing budget for most films is $15 to $30 million (most of which goes to media).

Wherever you live, if you’re close to a business school, check out the calendar of speakers and go listen to the pros tell you how they do things. Take copious notes. Save them in a searchable database. Refer to them later. Find keys to success by comparing experts in different fields. Find the experts and learn from them. It surprises me how few people take advantage of discovering who the experts are and then finding a chance to learn from them. BYU, UVSC, and the University of Utah all have excellent guest speakers. After the talk, go exchange business cards with them and find a way to make a connection with them that might actual lead to a future opportunity.

MySQL Profits From Open Source

Linux is still the most famous open-source app, but database software using the same model is getting some play. MySQL is giving established software firms a run for their money. By Joanna Glasner. [Wired News]

MySQL (Seattle) raised $19 million in venture capital last year, has 4,000 customers (who pay to use the MySQL database and not contribute their code as open source) and made $10 million in revenue last year. Not bad for an open source company.

I’ll be attending an Open Source conference in San Francisco next month to learn how Open Source companies are making money. I’m personally very interested in Open Content projects such as DMOZ and Wikipedia. Some people say “information wants to be free.” I don’t believe that as a universal rule. I believe that some people want information to be free and other people want to charge for it.�There are enough consumers of information in the world that both models can work. Both of my successful content companies (Infobases and Ancestry.com) started by aggregating public domain information and making it accessible to large numbers of consumers. But as we grew, we added premium content, licensed from copyright holders. Our success came because we added value to information by making it easier to find and use than ever before.

I do like the shorter term of patents (14-20 years) vs. copyright (life of author plus 70 years). I think it is very unfortunate that copyrights extend so long. Clearly, the copyright laws have been modified based on pressure from large media companies. Individual authors and artists don’t need protection to last 2-3 generations after they are deceased. The original 28 years coverage given to copyright holders under the 1790 law was good and maybe as life expectancy increased it increased to 42 then 56 years. But the new laws favor large corporate interests and not the common good.

High tech agriculture

If I were a small farmer, what would I do? I just read in my latest issue of Wired Magazine (March 2004, p. 44) about an amazing tractor that basically drives itself using nagivation software and satellite guidance. The onboard computer is powerful and the rig is completely wired. Its autopilot is GPS-guided, and after the farmer inputs speed and row width, guides the tractor “on a path accurate to within 1 inch.” Its software “sets fertilizer and seed distribution levels, reads and records topographic maps, and monitors crop yield.” A Wired article in 1996 about Smart Farms predicted a major change in agricultural production as technology caught hold. They said it was coming, and now some of it is here.

Large corporate farming interests invest in technology, boost productivity, and make it nearly impossible for the smaller farms to stay in business. Thus the cry for continuing farm subsidies. I wonder how effective cooperative US farmer ventures could be to compete with global agribusiness? I think if I were a small farmer, I would look at the technology that is available now, and find a way to get big or team up with others so that I could benefit from these latest advances.

Google Labs Search by Location

I just read on Doc Searl’s weblog about Google Lab’s new search by location engine. Wow! This has real potential. But like news.google.com, I wonder how long Google will leave this in beta and how long before they figure out a way to integrate it into the average Googler’s user experience. They keep building great new tools, but the average person probably just uses Google’s home page search engine.�I think local search engines will be�used by everyone when they make it onto�all our portable devices and into our cars. My Acura GPS system would have been 10 times better with a�powerful local keyword search engine integrated into it.

For my first ever�search by location search I looked for toys in Salt Lake City, UT and found a map and ten places to visit (ToyRUs was #4, but probably should be first).

I was pleased when I�searched for marketing in Orem, UT and found 10x Marketing was ranked #1. I guess incoming links matter to the local search engine algorithm as well. And of course, the company name helps as well.

Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen

Last night one of my UVSC students (actually, a successful net entrepreneur already) told me she was reading Jakob Nielsen’s Designing Web Usability, which I highly recommend. It reminded me that there are a core set of books, related to a core set of skills, that are absolutely essential to a successful internet business. Web design, of course, can make or break a web site. But so can several other things.

You could liken a successful online business to a chain of dominoes. If one dominoe is missing, the line of dominoes will not work. But I prefer thinking in terms of�mathematical formulas. Let’s say you take a set of core skills and assign each of them a value of 0-1. Then you line them up and multiply them. The product of all the numbers,�becomes the likelihood of success for your venture, or rather, describes the revenue-generating potential of your web site.

I would propose that the following “core skills” would represent numbers in our mathematical formula:

  • web site hosting (a slow site can kill your online�revenue potential)
  • web site design�usability
  • web site credibility
  • search engine friendliness of web site design/architecture
  • content management system (how quickly can you update the site?)
  • online marketing strategy and tactics (how are you bringing visitors to your site?)
  • web analytics and skill and speed in testing and measuring new ads/designs/copy/offers
  • customer database design (to streamline repeat orders and maximize lifetime value of customers)
  • customer and prospect email marketing strategy

So the success formula could perhaps be�written as hosting x usability x credibility x seo x cms x marketing x analytics x database x email strategy

Using numbers, now, let’s assume that your team is perfectly�skilled at every aspect of your internet business except web site design. Your revenue generating potential would be calculated like this.

1 x .5 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = .5

Looking at your web business this way, you simply cannot afford to be weak�in any of these core skills. Most large companies don’t have these core competencies, at least not in a group that controls the web site. It is more likely that very small and cohesive�teams that combine marketing, development, and IT strengths. That is precisely why most of the wildly successful internet companies (eBay, Yahoo, Amazon.com) were pure-play start ups with very small teams in the beginning.

It is very difficult to build a�web site infrastructure that combines a well-architected customer database with�a content management system, web analytics, and a permission-based email marketing strategy. When you have multiple weaknesses in your chain of core skills, you are multiplying low numbers, and you quickly end up with a very weak revenue-generating machine.

Most companies that I have consulted for look something�like this:

.8 x .7 x .6 x .5 x .4 x .3 x .2 x .2 x .5 = .0004

The product of the typical online business is therefore .0004, or less than 1/2000ths of the potential, if they had every competency and executed perfectly in every way, becoming one of the leading�web companies in their space.

It usually takes years and significant capital to develop (or hire) and hone these core skills and to build the kind of machine that is possible to build.�But those internet companies who have done it can reach valuations in the billions. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of individuals and small businesses generate some revenue online, but far below their potential. Unfortunately for the late-comers, there seems to be a network effect and customer lock-in that rewards the winners with a winner-takes-most outcome.

My point today is not to suggest that this mathematical formula is water-tight. It was just�a random thought. But rather, to suggest that if you are a net entrepreneur, you should consciously find experts in each of the fields listed above and develop your knowledge base in each of these areas. Improve in each area, speed up your site, improve your site credibility, update your web site more often and using�web analytics to test and measure what works best. If you do this, you’ll see the multiplication effect working for you instead of against you.

I’m working on my list of recommended books, sites and newsletters and will post it in the future on my internet entrepreneur’s resources page.

ComScore Statistics

I love how many free mind-blowing industry statistics you can find in one night of internet surfing. Here are some of the latest things I found interesting.

According to ComScore, the average searcher in the United States searched 28.4 times in December. Search engine market share was as follows:

  • Google: 35%
  • Yahoo: 27.1%
  • AOL: 16.3%
  • MSN: 15.4%

Since Yahoo is dropping Google and Inktomi will soon power both Yahoo and MSN search results, Google will barely be ahead of Inktomi. But if Inktomi sticks with paid inclusion while Google keeps adding billions of web pages to its index (at no cost to web sites), then Inktomi won’t have a chance. I have to believe that Yahoo knows this and that Inktomi will beef up its web crawling and indexing in a massive way.

China Internet Use

China‘s Internet community is slated to reach 100 million by the end of the year
Baidu, a Chinese search engine, has 30 million text searches per day
It is estimated that online gaming in China is valued at US$150 million with 11 million annual subscribers. (Chinatextnews.com)

Mobile phones

More than 500 million mobile phones were shipped last year.
1.5 billion cellphone handsets currently in use globally
133 billion SMS text messages sent around the world in 2003
DoCoMo has signed up more than over 40 million paying subscribers in Japan and 1.5 million abroad for its I-mode Internet mobile service in just five years.

iPods

Apple Computer�has sold 2 million iPods since 2001. Experts predict an additional 3-4 million iPod sales this year (Fool.com)

Computers

An estimated 168 million personal computers were sold worldwide last year (IDC).

The hard-drive�industry expects to sell 260 million to 300 million units this year.

Other

A couple of fascinating thoughts: one expert thinks HP may ship an iPod in 2-3 years with a WCDMA transceiver. Also, hard drives are getting small enough to go into cell phones. If cell phones get hard drives and can store (and download) music and other audio files, then the 1.5 billion cell phone users�on the planet may all be dancing like the folks in the iPod commercials. Talk about a massive future market for mobile entertainment and information services!

Net Entrepreneurs Only

I’m reading “Net Entrepreneurs Only” a book that profiles 10 internet entrepreneurs who were Ernst & Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. The chapter on Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, lists some of the things Meg Whitman (eBay CEO) learned in making the transition from a traditional business (she worked at Hasbro, Proctor & Gamble, Disney, Bain & Company) to an online business. She compares the “old way” to the “web way.”

  • Decisions made in a matter of days or even hours instead of months. Meg’s “main advice” to online entrepreneurs is: “Fasten your seat belt. This is a far faster world. You have to be more nimble and far more willing to make decisions without nearly the kind of data and analysis that I used to have at Hasbro, Disney, or P&G.”
  • Focus on selling consumers an experience rather than products
  • CEO micromanages the company image rather than monitor it.
  • Management style is more approachable instead of hands-off.
  • Strategy sessions might be needed several times a week, not just once or twice a year. “At Hasbro we would set a year-long strategy and then we would simply execute against it. At eBay, we constantly revisit the strategy–and revise the tactics.” At eBay, she meets three times a week with her staff to keep up with what other auction sites are doing and to figure out what to do.

Other books like Burn Rate, Business at the Speed of Thought, Blur, and Zero Gravity claim the same thing–that things happen much faster in internet companies than in traditional ones. I have watched individuals join a dot com and then experience a transformation or conversion when they personally experience this pace and the results that come from making a quick decisions or changes in strategy. By the next day, you see results from your live web site and can’t believe how quickly an idea turned into measurable results.�But most people, even in dot coms,�have not experienced this first-hand.

I don’t believe large traditional organizations can easily adapt to the new pace of the internet. My advice to “old way” organizations is to create small tiger teams of empowered, already transformed individuals, who have tasted the fruits of the “web way” and are hungry for more. Then get out of the way.

Installing Radio UserLand on Godaddy

I’m struggling to install Radio UserLand 8.08 on my GoDaddy server. I’m determined to start actively blogging, but configuring this blogging software has been a bit problematic. I’m pretty decent with some technical things like software, but not server/hosting related stuff. So the world renowned blogger Phil Windley has offered to help me. My blog works, but my page is missing a few Radio UserLand images so 3 links at the bottom of the page look broken. I tried to email Radio UserLand support my configuration so they could troubleshoot for me, but I got an STMP error while attempting to do so. It’s one thing after another.

So I think I’ll just blog and let the links look broken until Phil helps me out.

A new Open Source Genealogy Software email list was set up on Yahoo! Groups today by Dallan Quass. It was the result of a Birds of a Feather session held at Gentech to discuss open source and open content projects in genealogy. It’s a humble start, but hopefully the group will grow and try to foster communciation among the many good "free genealogy" projects that exist, including many that date back years to the Rootsweb glory days.