Archive for the ‘markets’ Category

Jigsaw - The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Jigsaw logoJigsaw terrorized his victims in the ‘Saw’ movies and his Internet-related twin continues to do so today. Some, including Michael Arrington in particular, absolutely abhor the company. And though most frown upon this Internet start-up, I, for one, applaud their efforts.

Contrary to popular opinion, the company isn’t evil. They identified an apparent information inefficiency and filled the niche. So what do they do? To quote the website, “Jigsaw is an online business contact marketplace”. Essentially, users can buy or trade for business contact information such as e-mail addresses or phone numbers. Some call this a breach of personal privacy and security. Others call it pure genius.

So why do I applaud this venture?

Web 2.0 is all about democratization. The new web aims to destroy information barriers. This creates accessibility for everyone. Tech executives, CEOs, and upper level management shouldn’t be considered superior to anyone. When it all boils down to it, we’re all the same species. As the historical steel wall has been pummeled, new ideas and views can now channel to the top, thereby creating a whole new business mentality and culture.

To use another popular cliche, Jigsaw has leveled the playing field. Transparency around such sought-after information should be universally accessible, allowing anyone to reach anyone else, regardless of their ’social status’.

Critics of the system cite misuse and abuse from salespeople and pesky marketing groups. Though I do see this as a downside, I truly believe that the upside more than compensates for this downfall. Furthermore, users can apply to Jigsaw to have their information removed if necessary.

From a more general perspective, verticals are quickly becoming a significant and important trend on the Internet today. Vertical search engines and marketplaces are popping up on a daily basis to fulfill the needs of different groups. So, why not a marketplace for contact information? It just makes sense.

Armageddon 2.0

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

This first coming of Armageddon was successfully thwarted by Ben Affleck and Bruce ArmageddonWillis. Very heroic. Now, Andy Rutledge believes that Armageddon 2.0 is upon us…

This modern-day Nostradamus is predicting the crumble of the new web as we know it. His doomsday words have touched a chord with numerous bloggers, including Mathew Ingram. Other cynics, such as Nick Carr and Andrew Keen, have echoed similar views, but not without much disagreement from the ‘web 2.0′ community.

I appreciate these alternative views and skepticism with regard to new web trends and technologies, but I do not believe they are merited. My belief is that these individuals engage in argumentary discussions for personal reasons and self-exposure.

The criticisms of Rutledge spawn from social media. He believes that if everyone contributes and collaborates, only mediocrity will emerge. His thought is that greatness stems from a few elite and that diluting this talent will hinder productivity and development. It is my belief that he oversees an important point. If these ‘mobs’ or ‘masses’ can be focused in a specific direction with some level of co-ordination and guidance from a select group of educators and tech innovators, then social media can work and succeed.

Why has Wikipedia been so successful? Why is it so accurate? The dynamic nature of wikis and real-time collaboration enable any site or live document to move toward 100% accuracy levels. Though this level will never be reached, the site will benefit greatly with every additional user/contributor. Essentially, the network becomes more and more valuable. Crowdsourcing is a powerful thing.

Andy is living in his own little anti-web 2.0 echo-chamber. He needs to break out and witness the power and potential of these trends and concepts. They are here to stay.

Bundle Shopping

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Shopping for a single item or a bunch of different items and want the lowest possible price? You’ll be happy to hear Ugenie launched. Founded by two former Amazon execs, this site goes a step beyond the traditional comparison shopping experience online.

You enter an item or combination of items you are looking to purchase. The system then browses through 35 online marketplaces to establish the lowest possible price for that specific item or grouping of items - including shipping and taxes. Quite impressive. And get this: the system also outlines how to buy a grouping of items individually from different merchants if you aren’t worried about simplicity and focused solely on price. The Ugenie system can handle up to 15 items and functions in real-time. The UI is extremely well-laid out and intuitive.

The company recently raised $5 million from Blue Run Ventures and Sierra Ventures.

I’ve always been a big fan of comparison shopping sites as I see an incredibly compelling value proposition for users and a viable business model for the company. Having said that, I still think each comparison site can take on its own niche area. In this case, Ugenie is focusing on ‘bundling’ - a smart move in my mind. I expect the site to do very well and garner significant market share.

Reddit… Set… Go!

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

After Google announced the acquisition of JotSpot, Conde-Nast announced that it was going to acquire YCombinator funded Reddit. Though not as popular or widespreadReddit logo as Digg, this democratic news portal has garnered a significant amount of traffic and a loyal following. Add to that the fact the company only employees 4 people and you start to develop some admiration for the team and the venture.

As a side note, Conde-Nast owns several magazines and websites (including Wired). The price tag of the deal was not disclosed.

From a personal standpoint, I am not convinced there is a fit here. I am going to have to delve further into the strategic direction of the publishing company, but my gut feeling says this doesn’t make sense. TechCrunch reports that Conde-Nast will leave Reddit as a standalone site, but also integrate it into other web properties, which I don’t get. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out before we jump to any solid conclusions.

Congrats to the team at Reddit.

Can You Digg It, News Corp?

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

The rumour mill is swirling with talk of a Digg acquisition by News Corp. Both GigaOM and TechCrunch report that the media conglomerate is offering a reported $150 million Digg logofor the ‘democratic’ news site. At this point, they are only rumours, but my guess is that talks are well on their way and an announcement may be made at any time.

Is this a good opportunity for News Corp? Meh. I’m not so convinced. Although I am a huge fan of Digg and I visit on a regular basis, I see a better fit elsewhere. In my mind, the obvious bet may be Google. I definitely see a better fit there - especially with Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. In addition, Digg’s algorithm functions in a similar way to Google’s Page Rank algorithm so there may be some advantages to that.

From my perspective, I think $150 million is a low ball offer. I remember seeing that Business 2.0 magazine with Kevin Rose on the front and they valued Digg at $200 million. At the time, it seemed like a rather ridiculous valuation, but time has passed since then and I think that number is a lot more realistic now. Digg’s traffic has risen considerably - not to mention its userbase. And because Digg benefits from the network effect, it becomes more valuable as more people sign up.

In addition, there is stunning financial proposition. Because Digg generates millions of page views with relatively low bandwidth (as opposed to YouTube or Flickr), the margin between cost and revenue is greatly increased. Digg pages consist almost entirely of text which loads quickly and costs very little to run.

My opinion is that Digg should hold off and wait for a higher bid from a company with a better fit.