News Discussed at Today’s Live Friday Session (Mostly from Business 2.0)

Normally I get my news for Live Friday from 100+ RSS feeds, but this week I found that a deep dive into Business 2.0 (my favorite internet publication–it took the place of Industry Standard which went away years ago) gave us much more interesting topics that the kinds of PR and brand new announcements that hit the blogosphere. Business 2.0 tends to cover companies that are getting real traction, so you can avoid wasting time on all the hype that is out there. I think I’ll use Business 2.0 a lot more in the future when planning Provo Labs Academy events.

  • This month’s issue of Business 2.0 lists the 12 Influential Investors that every Web 2.0 Entrepreneur Needs to Know.
  • 2007 is shaping up to be a better year for IPOs, according to Business2.0. I always love when a great company files to go public and you get to read the S1 for the first time. I rarely met a first time entrepreneur that has any idea how much information they can learn from public filings, including S1s. One place to see who is has just filed to go public is Hoovers.com. Hoover’s also has a calendar of when the IPOs are scheduled to occur. I hadn’t noticed that Glu Mobile, run by Greg Ballard (former CEO of MyFamily.com) went public about 10 days ago and raised $84 million. (See Glu’s Google Chart.)

    When entrepreneurs write business plans, they can get all the market research and statistics they need for their plan from public filings of companies in a similar sector.

  • We demonstrated chacha.com, the Jeff Bezos funded ($6.5 million) human assisted online search engine that reportedly had 30,000 guides working from home by January and is aiming for 300,000 guides by June. The founder wants to replace 411 calls (an $8.7 billion industry) which human assisted searches using his group of guides. He is planning for voice activated searches from mobile phones. The online strategy seems secondary, but he is hoping to have a million consistent users per month by June. Chacha intersperses sponsored links among the natural search results, but in my tests, I found the human guides actually found some great sites for me. I did have to wait several minutes in one case, but I could do other work while I was waiting for the guide to help me. The business model includes improving the natural search results by what the guides find for searchers–an interesting but possibly expensive model. But the founder thinks he can generate $12 million next year while paying his guides about 20% of that revenue. The Business 2.0 article says his long term vision is “instant access to guides on near-invisible Bluetooth earpiece.” Imagine that: being seconds away from free human help from trained internet searchers, at any time, from any place. Let’s hope chacha.com gets some traction, because this is a cool vision.
  • We discussed how Spot Runner (which was founded by the folks behind Firefly and PeoplePC and has already raised $40 million in VC) is aiming to make local, targeted television advertising available to virtually any small business. They have divided businesses into 4,000 categories, and are producing generic TV spots for each type of business, that can be customized (new voice over, logo, phone number, address, and etc, I suppose) for any company, and then run on cable TV stations targeting local audiences. The founder rebuts the “TV is too expensive myth” because they sell these customizeable video spots for $500 and then help you place the ads for cheap: “You can buy 30 seconds of prime time on a premium network in almost any local market in the country for less than $200. Outside the top 10-15 markets, it’s less than $100. Outside prime time, it’s less than $50.” Google will certainly be competing soon with Spot Runner, so this space will become very exciting to watch.
  • RightMedia.com did $150m in auction-based online advertising sales last year and expects to triple it this year. Yahoo recently paid $45 m for 20% of the company, and offers billions of impressions on its web sites for sale via RightMedia.com. I haven’t tried this site yet, but encourage people to try this and see how well it works for them.
  • We discussed how PayScale used public domain data from the federal government to attract search engines and go from 10,000 monthly visitors to 1.2 million, primarily through natural search traffic (and word of mouth) without spending any money on advertising. And now, it has wage data on 5.5 million US employees, nearly 5 times as much data as the leading traditional wage consulting firm. Using public domain data to attract initial customers, and user generated content to keep people coming back and signing up for your free salary comparison reports, so you can upsell them to your $19.95 for six months subscripton to more detailed reports that can help someone get a pay raise, is a brilliant business plan. I’m very impressed with this company and its model. It generated $5 million last year.
  • We also looked at Mojopages and Yelp both of which are yellow pages sites trying to supplement their data with user reviews. Mojopages expects $500k in revenue during the next 12 months, while Yelp already has a great Alexa ranking of 1,744 and a nice three year chart.
  • Finally, we looked at Meebo.com, a VC backed company that lets you put IM windows on your blog or webpage (kind of interesting), and Pickspal.com, which facilitates office pool betting, and has attracted 200,000 registered users since October and has 1 million monthly unique visitors. I dislike gambling and anything gambling related. I simply showed this site because it has a novel viral marketing approach. The founder “created an incentive for users to invite their sports-obsesses buddies to the site: if they win a prize, so do you. ‘I’m going to be giving away two of a lot of things.’”
  • Finally we looked at Dogster, a profitable (since July 2005) social networking site for dog lovers, which had $1.1 million in revenue last year and doubled the number of users. We highlighted their iterative and rapid approach to web development, which I wholeheartedly agree with: “Instead of working on a feature for months trying to get it perfect, we’ll work on something for two weeks and then spend two or three days listening to users and fine-tuning it.”