Venture Capital in the Rockies Wrapup

I’m at the Beaver Creek Resort in Avon, Colorado today for the Venture
Capital in the Rockies event.

20 startup and growth companies, including 14 from Colorado and 4 from
Utah are here to present business plans to 200-300 venture capitalists
from 8 states. Our company, FamilyLink.com, was selected as a
presenter. We each get 15 minutes and then 5-10 minutes of Q&A.

Here is a brief rundown of the presenters:

- Albeo Technologies (Colorado) markets solid-state lighting systems
based on white light-emitted diode (LED) technology. Lighting accounts
for 40% of all electricity consumption in the commercial market. Have
raised $1.55 million in two rounds of funding.

- Altela (New Mexico) has raised $10 million to develop a new
energy-reuse water desalination product that operates at remote
locations such as oil and gas wells.

- AVA Solar (Colorado) was spun out of Colorado State University. They
have "perfected a robust, industrial-scale, continuous process for
producing solar photo-voltaic modules at an industry-leading
manufacturing cost below $1 per watt. The market for solar PV is
large, growing rapidly, and currently hampered by a significant supply
shortage. Growing at a 46% CAGR since the late 1990s, the market is
projected to be 23 gigawatts, or $40-60 billion by 2012.

- Control4 (Utah) has raised a total of $80 million in funding since
inception to create a platform for the digital home. An estimated 38
million households are potential customers for Control who have
installed or plan to install home theaters, plasma TVs, LCD Flat Panel
TVs, big screen TVs, intercom, lighting control, security system,
structured wiring, digital or media PC, surround sound, and MP3
playback through stereo.

- DAZ Productions (Utah) provides easy to use 3D software and
ultra-high quality 3D models and accessories. They operate the
Artzone.com social marketplace. Have been funded by Highway12
Ventures. $10 million in revenue in 2007; raised more than $4 million
last year. They have a huge opportunity in social networks, online
gaming, and virtual worlds.

- FamilyLink.com (Utah) runs a genealogy subscription web site with
more than 25,000 paying customers. Worldvitalrecords.com has nearly 1
billion searchable names online with 2.5 billion more in the pipeline.
Genealogists pay $49 to $149 per year for access to these databases.
FamilyLink.com also builds social networking applications for familes,
with more than 2.8 million users of its We’re Related app on Facebook.
(I’m presenting this company as its CEO.)

- Filtrbox (Colorado) has raised more than $400,000 from angel
investors. They provide filters and alerts for knowledge workers who
want to monitor news, blogs, and other content sources. They had 250
beta invitations available today, and I was excited to get one.

- Format Dynamics (Colorado) has raised $4.4 million from NY angels.
They turn printed internet pages into a revenue opportunity for web
sites by providing magazine quality formatting and by inserting
dynamic ads onto the pages. Third party research shows 61.2 billion
internet pages were printed last year.

- Go Fast Sports and Beverage Company (Colorado) creates a great
tasting energy drink. The company is listed as one of the top 100
Beverage Companies in the world the past three years.

- HiveLive (Colorado) has raised $2.2 m in angel investment and closed
a $5.6 million venture round last week. They provide solutions to
companies who want to create their own social media applications or
customer communities.

- ISONAS Security (Colorado) was founded in 1999 and provides IP based
Access Control enable by a true network appliance.

- Newmerix (Colorado) had bookings of $4.74 million last year, more
than double 2006. They are the leading provider of automated
application lifecycle management solutions for SAP, PeopleSoft, and
Oracle E-Business Suite.

- Nilar has raised $11 million to date. They produce advanced bipolar
nickel metal hydride batteries for large format applications,
including hybrid vehicles.

- ProStor (Colorado) has raised $23.4 million in two rounds. They are
the leading supplier of removable disk solutions for data protection,
long-term archive, and compliance applications.

- Socialthing, Inc (Colorado) has raised $375,000 to date. They let
social networkers consolidate all their popular social websites into a
single interface, including on mobile phones.

- Tendril Network (Colorado) has raised more than $8 million in
funding to bring energy efficiency to the energy industry.

- WBS Connect (Colorado) is owned by its two founders. It had revenus
of $6.4 million in 2006 and $18.5 million in 2007. They provide high
bandwidth IP-based telecommunications services.

- Yieldex (San Mateo, CA) is backed by Sequel Ventures, First Round
Capital, and Woodside Fund. They have unique technology to analyze and
allocate online ad inventory, increasing yield by 10-40%. Focus is
yield optimization. Very impressive management team. CEO founded
NetGravity in 1995.

- Zayo Group has raised $225 million in equity and $140 million in
debt to do a roll-up of broadband fiber optic networks. They will have
revenue of $160 million and EBITDA of $45 in CY2008.

50 topics I wish I had blogged about

I keep a Google doc called Blog Ideas. I have added a few dozen ideas to it in the last few months, and haven’t gotten around to blogging about very many of them. Right now, I’m looking at the Google doc on my new iphone (Google applications work beautifully on the iphone). Here are some of the blog ideas that I would have blogged about if I had more time:

  • Record page views the last two days on WorldVitalRecords.com
  • My new Amazon Kindle: I love it!
  • The new $20 cell phone from India
  • A video of my Nov. 6th lecture at BYU about having a Second Chance in the "connecting families" business
  • The Scrabulous incident on Facebook and a blog post that linked to a US gov’t web site about how games are not copyrightable
  • Wall Street Journal coverage of FundingUniverse.com
  • Analytics tools for Facebook apps
  • The launch of the new World Collection from WorldVitalRecords.com
  • Quantcast’s $20 million in new funding: this company will be very disruptive in the online advertising space, imo
  • Ted.com
  • DEMO 2008
  • Google.org renewable energy grants
  • Facebook Beacon
  • Google Presentations
  • Genetree.com launch

There were actually a total of 50 items in my Blog Ideas doc that I haven’t taken time to blog about.

I keep hoping I can find more time to blog. I keep thinking, "maybe when we’re cash flow positive."

I recently switched my blog site from WordPress to Drupal, with the help of an IT consultant. The way my site has been set up will make it more SEO friendly, and it should also be easier for me to insert images, and to email blog posts without errors. Drupal is a very robust content management system used by some major web sites.

53

I love basketball. But my career pretty much ended in 9th grade when I was 5’2″ tall and had glasses–and though a pretty good shooter, I got cut from my junior high basketball team.

Finally I got my growth spurt, and was about 5’10″ as a senior where I tried out for my high school team. I made first and second cuts, but was the final person cut from the team and I’ve never fully recovered.

Back then I was a pretty good shooter. About 25 years ago I once hit 40 consecutive free throws. That was my personal best. About 10 years ago while practicing basketball at my local church (yes, a great reason to join the Mormon church is that they have a gym in almost every chapel) I hit 40 consecutive free throws again and was so upset when I missed on number 41. But my nerves got to me, and I choked.

But this week, I am thrilled to announce to the entire world that I achieved one of my major goals in 2008 by hitting 53 consecutive free throws on my new home court. That is now a very special number to me. And isn’t it the number of Herbie, the Love Bug too? I might have to buy a miniature Herbie on eBay and mount it on my trophy case.

When you were a basketball wanna-be who was the last person cut on his high school basketball team, and you’ve lived all these years wondering where your basketball career would have gone if only that one coach had believed in you…and then you do something like this…well, it just made me feel really good and I thought you might be happy for me.

So now, what do you do if you’ve achieved your year goal in February. I’m not sure what to do next.

I want to know if you have achieved any of your 2008 goals yet? If so, feel free to tell the world here, and then tell us what you are going to do next.

“World Collection” from WorldVitalRecords.com

The worldwide reach of the internet never ceases to amaze me. Earlier this week, after the announcement of our World Collection, containing genealogical data from more than 30 countries, I received an internal company email that said:

We now have subscribers from 48 countries. We increased our country count by 5 in January.
The bolded countries are new in January.

Afghanistan, Algeria, American Samoa, Angola, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Denmark, East Timor, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, Wallis and Futuna Islands

Does brand loyalty come from family word of mouth?

During nearly 20 years of marriage I think on two or three occasions my wife and I have discussed the laundry detergent that she uses. As a pragmatist, I have often come across less expensive generic detergents, which she refuses to use. I can’t even get her to try anything else, even once! She is a die-hard Tide detergent user and she would never ever consider changing brands. Upon closer investigation I discovered that she inherited that brand loyalty from her mother. I don’t exactly know how, but there is no denying that her mother’s recommendation is stronger than any suggestion that I can ever make. I need to find out if my wife’s 7 sisters also have the same brand loyalties. That would be an interesting question.

My company, FamilyLink.com hopes to become the leading developer of social networking applications for families and for genealogists. My background is in subscription marketing. I co-founded Ancestry.com in 1996 and it approached 1 million subscribers in the next 10 years to its massive genealogy database library. And now WorldVitalRecords.com has passed 25,000 subscribers and our rate of growth is increasing.

But as everyone knows, most social networking sites are free (Ryze.com was an exception, and it claimed to be the first profitable social network, back in like 2003) and rely on advertising revenue to grow. In order to generate advertising revenue from our family apps and widgets, and from our own social network (which have attracted more than 2.3 million users in the past 4 months), it will be useful to understand what brands and products are used based on family recommendations.

So yesterday, we asked some of our customers what brands they are loyal to because of their mother. Here are the top 28 responses:

1. Tide
2. Ivory
3. Clorox
4. Campbell’s
5. Crisco
6. Dove
7. Crest
8. Kraft
9. Comet
10. Quaker
11. Hellman’s
12. Dial
13. Palmolive
14. Colgate
15. Arm and Hammer
16. Heinz
17. Gold Medal (flour)
18. Dawn (dish soap)
19. Oil of Olay
20. Folgers
21. All (laundry detergent)
22. Wisk
23. Kleenex
24. Windex
25. Jello
26. Clabber Girl
27. Cascade
28. Ajax

Tide actually had more than twice as many responses as the next highest, Ivory. So the brand marketers there must have been doing something terribly right all these years.

I heard a projection at CES that 1.2 billion people will be using social networks by 2012. And since so many people try or buy products and services based on word of mouth recommendations, and since we hope to have tens of millions of families using our applications, we will invest a lot of time and energy into understanding how viral marketing (or what we called “genetic marketing” back at MyFamily.com) works within families–both within nuclear families as well as extended families.

I need to make it clear that our survey was not scientific. We got about 1,000 responses in a day. But with our reach growing larger every month, we will use surveys and quizzes to become experts on family word of mouth.

If any of the brand managers of the brands listed above (or any other major brands) want us to do some research for them and discover the genetic marketing quotient for their product, we’d be happy to work something out. We have a Facebook audience of ~2.3 million users and a genealogy audience of more than 500,000 monthly visitors.