Thursday, January 25, 2007

We've Just Launched

We have just launched the definitive one-stop place for all celebrity news, gossip and entertainment. We bring you the good stuff all in one place so you don’t have to visit a bunch of different sites to get your fill of celebrity news and gossip. We search, surface and organize the best online content from other sites and serve you up a big tasty helping of the latest, up-to-the-minute breaking coverage of today’s hottest celebrities, movies, television shows, music and more.

Dotspotter is the hottest online community for finding, sharing and talking about what’s happening in the world of pop culture and celebrity gossip. Our community is a fun and engaging place where fans and trendsetters connect and share their thoughts on the hot and the hip. We’re passionate about pop culture, and we’re interested in hearing what our community has to share. That’s why we don’t just blog… we tap into the power of your voice to dish out fresh insights on what the current chatter is.

Please check us out at Dotspotter.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Developing a Distribution Plan

I was recently asked about how I spend my time. My answer is that outside of the typical administrative and team obligations, I spend most of my time thinking about and developing our distribution plan. "But you don't even have a product yet" some may say...well for a new online consumer service, it's all about distribution. A person I highly respected once advised me to convert the golden rule in real estate of "location location location" and to "distribution distribution distribution" and I will have my top priorities for the year one of my startup. I can't disagree.

I'll share more about our distribution plan and the post-mortem review of how we did after we launch. For now, I believe Guy Kawasaki has a great piece about it in his blog.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Raising Money in a Strong Market

Our counsel Ted Wang has an interesting piece in today's VentureBeat about raising money in a good market. I agree with his piece and believe that keeping terms simple is the way to go for most startups. I have witnessed many of my entrepreneurial peers get caught up in the emotions of the deal terms that they lose sight of the required investment of time and effort spent versus the marginal value potential of the effort.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Building a Company in a Web 2.0 Era

I recently attended a party (didn't actually attend the conference as I couldn't justify the shelling out for the price of admission) during the Web 2.0 conference and I can't tell you how many folks I met who described their company as a "new Web 2.0 company".

Noting the increasing buzz in the Valley about this new "pot of gold", some observers have wondered where we fit into this map. Let me clarify our strategy in this regard: we do not see ourselves as a "Web 2.0" (or even a "Web 3.0") company. I do not believe the rules for success have changed. We need to build a business that generates positive cash flow in a reasonable amount of time. Being a new company we are focusing our efforts on bringing a new product to the market at which time post-launch we will then focus on distribution and then after that start the cycle again by delivering enhancements to the product that we hope will attract more users...not very exciting insights, but I believe it's the blocking and tackling that a startup needs to focus on...

Friday, November 17, 2006

To Our Current and Future Employees

I have learned that for any organization to run successfully, several elements are essential to the performance of the company. The first need is to have good leadership at the top and, for best results, throughout the organization. If you don't have it, the organization will usually be paralyzed by indecisions. A second need is to have strong management. If you don't have that, the trains will most likely not run on time. Third, there must be a team of people with the knowledge, skills, aptitudes, and attitudes to perform at a sufficiently high level of production to accomplish the organization's mission. The business rules are the same for any industry. It doesn't matter if you are running an Internet company, a manufacturing company, a professional services firm, or a non-profit organization.

To this end, we understand and appreciate that one of the major elements that will determine the success of our venture will be our human capital. My co-founder Norbert and I have spoken a lot in the past few months about the culture that we want to build and the talent pool that we desire. These are our aspirations. We realize that we will not always get this right, but we will strive to offer our employees a set of principles that we believe are the right things to have in our workplace environment.

Interesting Problems With An Opportunity to Make a Difference
We are working on interesting and extremely challenging problems (technical and business) with the chance to "get big" as we anticipate our products will be adopted and loved by millions of users worldwide.

Empowered To Do Your Job
We offer the freedom and control for an individual to do their job without the roadblocks of a task force, review committees or bureaucracy. You will work on a team that is small, diverse, talented and fully engaged. It's really true that smart people with no egos can accomplish a lot together. No bozos need apply. :-)

Continual Learning
We strive to have an environment where everyone has the opportunity to continually learn new skills and interests.

We strive to be a supportive organization with a culture where accountability is chosen and everyone acts and feels as an “owner” of the organization. In this environment we believe intentions and expectations are set upfront and blame and politics should never be allowed. The team will be rewarded based on performance.

Information Will Be Freely Shared
We have an open environment where information about what's happening with the company and the industry that we compete in are freely shared.

Mission Statement, Mantra or Nothing At All?

As our company grapples with the question of "what do we want to be when we grow up?", there is a natural desire to want to pull the organization together and develop a mission statement that sums up our company's reason for being. If delivered as advertised, the mission statement should explain our intentions, priorities, and values to people inside and outside our company. It should guide us and help us stay focused on the things that are most important to us. If we ever question whether what we need to prioritize or a particular course of action, we can look back on our mission statement and see if the proposal is consistent with our mission.

Sounds good right? But at what stage is it appropriate for an organization to formally develop a formal mission statement? Is it better to organically let the company evolve and then allow for a mission to come about as a result of market learnings? Or is it better to dictate the direction and guide a company in that direction? Or is Guy Kawasaki correct that a mission statements is useless and what a company really need is a three to four word mantra?

As with a lot of things in life, I believe the answer depends. While I certainly have witnessed mission statements that were developed by committees with everyone having equal votes that spoke to everyone's points and at the end addressed no one's beliefs or values. I believe that it is important for a company at any stage of it's evolution to hold itself accountable and write down their objective and their goals...otherwise, it is just too easy for every feature and every project to be classified as Priority 1s with each discussion going back to the question of "what do we want to achieve here"...As for our company, we are working on a three to four word mantra so that anyone and everyone on our extended team can easily explain what we are doing. In addition, we are developing a mission statement to help guide us in our prioritizing features and projects as well as using it as a basis for our elevator pitch, messaging and positioning. I'll keep you posted.

Btw, if you are ready to outsource your mission statement work, I would highly recommend checking out Dilbert's mission statement generator or the mission generator slot machine.

Financing Terms 101

I was recently discussing our company's financing plans with someone on the team and it hit me that the topic of financing and the terminology associated with it is one of the areas of great intrigue and questions for the folks inside not associated with the process. At one point, I came across a good cheat sheet from our counsel Ted Wang at Fenwick & West that I thought I would share.

Btw, for those of you who are in the early stages of forming a company, I'd recommend you put together a cap table with a written down understanding of the founding team's equity split as soon as possible. This can save you a lot of frustration and misunderstandings later on in the company's evolution.