Archive for the ‘launch’ Category

What Ever Happened to Zune?

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Microsoft Zune logoRemember that highly-touted, over-budget, lackluster Microsoft MP3 player Zune? If you don’t, I forgive you. If you do, you may be wondering the same things as I.

Is it still around? Did anyone actually buy one?

I don’t know a single person that bought the device. Nor do I ever hear or read anything about it anymore. It’s like it doesn’t exist. The iPod still seems to be the player of choice for most of the population. The disease that is the Apple culture has gone mainstream and never looked back.

I think we need a term for this recurring Microsoft trend.The scenario seems to follow an eerie, recognizable pattern in which the company enters an established market late in the game, and produces a hyped, high budget, flop of a product. How about the “Microsoft Syndrome”?

A recent example that comes to mind is the announcement of an Adobe Flash competitor named Silverlight. Isn’t it a little late in the game? Flash is the industry standard. In addition, most web junkies hate the plug-in from a usability perspective anyway.

I think the company needs a wake-up call. This software giant continues to ‘innovate’ and push the boundaries beyond traditional products into new, unchartered waters. Sometimes this move works (xBox), while most of the time it crumbles (Live Search, Zune).

If I had one piece of advice for the company, it would be this: stick with your core competency and focus on creating a more useful, enjoyable experience. Almost everyone hates Windows for many reasons. But since there is a monopoly, consumers have no other choice if they want to operate a PC. Furthermore, the company has a stranglehold on their bread-and-butter - the office suite. But this area is in jeopardy as competitors, such as Google and Zoho, threaten with web-based suites. Therefore, Microsoft needs to erect barriers against these competitors and create more robust offerings to satisfy consumer needs.

Finally, as mentioned, the company needs to focus on the Windows experience. After all, this is what made the company the worldwide mogul it is today. Without the OS, Microsoft is nothing. And I suspect there may be some heavy competition and surprising innovation in the area in the very near future.

Is The VC World Dead or Just More Selective?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Is it just me or has the VC world slowed down over the past couple months?

Six months ago, TechCrunch or GigaOM would report numerous VC fundings everyday. Now, they seem less frequent and more dispersed. So… is it a case of VC money (and private equity) drying up, or is it that the VC’s are simply picking and choosing their investments more carefully?

My gut says it’s the latter. Why do I say this? Well, a typical A round of financing tends to lie somewhere in the $1-5 million range. Below that it’s usually considered a friends and family round. Above that is usually considered a B round.

We are seeing less and less rounds falling within these boundaries. Perhaps, some are carefully placing smaller amounts of money in more start-ups to hedge their bets. This would explain the ‘under-the-radar’ financings that don’t get much press or media attention.

But interestingly enough, we have witnessed a few unusually large A rounds of financing take place. Forget the typical $1-5 million dollar range. Take a look at these recent investments: just raised $25 million in their A round and Spock raised $7 million in an A round (with no BETA product even). Now obviously these are special cases, but it should be noted that these types of Internet-related start-up fundings are rare. Or at least they used to be.

It should also be noted that Aggregate Knowledge, another prominent new-comer, just raised a whooping $20 million after their initial (and substantial) $5 A round.

So is VC money really dead? I doubt it. We are definitely not seeing the same bubble warning signs as the late 90’s. The days of a good domain name and a slick Powerpoint presentation are gone. Nowadays, it takes a business model, and perhaps… just perhaps… a revenue model to convince a VC your company is a worthy investment.

Facebook Gets a Facelift… and a Backlash?

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Facebook new logoYesterday, the pride and joy of Mark Zuckerberg received an extreme makeover. Facebook made significant changes to the design and layout of the interface. The company claims that the changes will ‘reduce clutter on the profile page’ (new link navigation) and eliminate the need for users ‘to scroll down to find what they’re looking for’ (drop-down menus).

Whether this is truly the case or not remains to be seen…

Already, some users have expressed their frustrations and anger. Several of my friends have changed their profile statuses’ to “____ is hating the new facebook layout” or “____ is not enjoying the new facebook”. I think I’ve heard enough crap about that new ‘blue bar’ at the top of the page already to last me a lifetime. Plus, consideration must be taken for the fact that Facebook has millions of users and there is a 100% likelihood that some of them won’t agree or like the new changes. Ironically enough, the company can get feedback from users by simply looking at selected status changes via the aggregated status feed system.

Another major change manifested itself by way of the logo, or lack thereof. The iconic ‘Facebook guy’ part of the logo is now gone. Sniff, sniff… It’s been a good run. Kudos to Facebook for their plan to monetize his death by offering 100,000 limited edition ‘Facebook guy’ tombstone gifts. Expect these bad boys to go quick.

Wow… Who would have thought you could potentially make $100,000 by simplifying your logo? Mind-boggling… and PR-worthy…

Now back to the changes… So far, so good from me. I have fiddled with the new system and navigation for the past day and everything seems to be intuitive. I have yet to find something I REALLY dislike about the new launch.

If you’re a Facebook user, let me know what you like about the new changes… or what pisses you off…

Stealthy Spock is the People Search Engine

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Spock logoSpock has been one hyped beast. Buzz has been swirling around this stealth start-up for months now. This low-flying aircraft has carefully managed to avoid the media at large and focus on the company. And despite the hype, the company looks to have an exceptional service from my preliminary analysis… 

Already, the company has raised $7 million (in December 2006) via Clearstone Venture Partners and Opus Capital Ventures. This was even before a BETA product was available. 

At the core, Spock is aiming to be the Google of people searches - which it estimates to be around 30% of all Internet searches. Should this number be accurate, then obviously there is huge potential in a largely untapped market. Competitors include the likes of Wink and ZoomInfo - neither of which has made a significant impact on the search world or gone mainstream.

Search results and profile information are being aggregated from blogs, Wikipedia, and social networks, among other sources. Individual searches reference tags and meta data that is edited by users. Finally, a given individual can claim his/her profile through an e-mail verification process with Spock.

Exclusive screenshots courtesy of TechCrunch are available here:

What do I like about the profile interface?

  • Prominent display of the search bar at all times
  • Simple demographic information
  • Abbreviated bio
  • The ability to quickly and easily find pictures, related people, and even contact information

There is even a widget available… talk about web 2.0 compliant…

I would imagine that many people (including myself) end up on a Wikipedia page when researching a famous person. Not only am I biased to Wikipedia, but a link is usually present on the first page of nearly every search result for a given person. Having said that, I do use IMDB the odd time when researching a movie star or entertainer in particular. However, should Spock prove to be as useful as it looks, I may be changing my searching tendencies…

Web 2.0 Start-Up Roundup

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

I would like to profile a few interesting web 2.0 start-ups I have come across over the past month or so (in no particular order):

ZipLocal (

ZipLocal is a new hyper-local search directory, focused initially on the Greater Toronto Area and Montreal with future plans to expand to 45 metropolitan markets across Canada. The service aims to be a user-powered next-generation local directory that will provide a rich, self-defined experience. Essentially, the site provides directory-based listings, plus rich community-level search. The data itself is being pulled from existing directory databases. Expect new features, such as tagging, to be added in the coming months.

CrispyBlogPosts (

CrispyBlogPosts is essentially a social bookmarking site strictly for blog posts. The site allows you to share, rate and discover the best blog posts on the net. You can also submit a blog post, create a new channel, and view popular content. Kudos for the clean, slick interface.


VBS TV is a new broadband television network (IPTV), creatively directed by Spike Jonze. The site streams free VICE-produced content that is updated daily. The service claims to use an advanced video player technology to optimize the viewing experience. Content covered on the site ranges from heavy domestic and international news, to underground cultural coverage, to music, and more. All content is available on-demand and enabled for sharing and embedding.

AutoRoll (

AutoRoll is a widget that showcases the blogroll of your readers. In essence, it displays links to blogs your readers are visiting the most often. The service traces the number of visits of each unique reader on each blog that has installed AutoRoll. The more often a reader visits a specific blog, the greater his affinity is with this blog. The benefit to the publisher is highly qualified incoming traffic from other blogs, as well as a useful, pertinent blogroll. 

SeekSift (

SeekSift is a simple way to personalize and track syndicated web content. The service only tracks up-to-date information on local events, travel deals, job listings, and your blogs (to name a few). Content can be accessed via an RSS, e-mail, or both. The service is free.

Clipperz (

Clipperz is an easy way to store and manage your passwords and credentials online. But it is more than a password manager. Not only does it simplify the sign-in process across numerous sites by remembering your user names and passwords, but it also protects confidential and private information. The service is free and completely anonymous (no e-mail is required).