My blogs just crossed 70,000 visits this Sunday. Sweet.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Finally, the iPhone has made its appearance at Walmart - a little late to take full advantage of Christmas shopping.
What I find really hilarious is the price - after all the breathless rumors about the iPhone price getting slashed for Walmart's sake, it turns out the discount is 1%. For the 8 GB phone, that means a $2 discount. For the 16 GB phone, thats a $3 discount.
Hahahahaha. Who would put up with the lines at Walmart for that discount? I'll tell you who - people who were shopping at Walmart to begin with.
Advantage Walmart - it gets to sell the iPhone, right next to the Google-phone. And gets bragging rights about the lowest price for an iPhone
Advantage Apple - the discount doesn't even register, and other retailers won't care enough to quarrel with Steve and co. At the same time, this is another 2k - 3k outlets to sell the iPhone, which is great.
Advantage the Consumer? - Seems rumors of a price decrease are still around; and the iPhone has a fat enough (and growing) profit margin to allow for a nice price drop in the near future.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Can you spell C-A-S-H C-O-W? J&J spells it L-I-F-E-S-C-A-N.
I had covered LifeScan's last layoffs in October. Seems there was more to come.
Another 10% of the company, specially in the US division in Milpitas, is being shown the exit door, including the entire Business Development department.
LifeScan is doing well compared to the rest of the Blood Glucose Meters companies, specially in the US. They are a $2 Billion company with manufacturing and operations in Milpitas (California), Inverness (Scotland - at the tip of Loch Ness), Mayaguez (Puerto Rico), and marketing and sales arms around the world. And now, they are considered ripe for rationalization.
This makes sense, if you think of LifeScan as a cash cow. J&J can continue to reap the profits from R&D mostly done 5 - 10 years earlier (not talking about incremental changes to the product, of course), as well as Business Development deals put in place as early as 10 years ago - including one that is supposed to be the product of the near future, out of Australia.
With this in mind, only functions necessary to continue operations satisfactorily are needed; the rest can either be consolidated within J&J headquarters, or gotten rid of altogether.
The Business Development team has some outstanding people. I'm sorry they need to look for new opportunities in this job environment.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Ning and Glam Media are two companies that have a lot of funding - over $100 Million each.
Ning is also a lean company - they have a lean staff, and everyone works really hard (even by Silicon Valley standards). I visited their office a couple of weeks back. They have a normal office as startups go, except for the enormous monitors each person gets. If you work at Ning, watch Hulu at your desk, no need for a big screen tv!
And Glam has all sorts of claims of success. CEO Samir Arora is a consummate salesman and PR guy.
But such are the times, both of these companies, awash in capital, are cutting down on costs.
Glam is reducing everyone's salaries - 3% - 15% for the employees, 25% - 60% for Samir and some top execs and sales people. They're replacing this with a variable bonus element. It is a good idea... but might still lead to some top people defecting. Glam has also started delaying payments to partners and publishers even further. Hopefully, this doesn't drive any partners out of business, or causes them to scale down their business - because that would come back to haunt Glam.
And Ning is rumored to be readying itself for layoffs, or other cost cuts as well. This is completely unconfirmed, but several valley folks (none of whom work at Ning) are talking about it, as is FuckedStartups.com. Hope its not true, but......
Scary times, my friends.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It only took a couple of months; VC money is flowing again. We at Kosmix, of course, just got $20 Million. And now San Francisco-based Scribd has announced a $9 Million round of funding from Charles River Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Kinsey Hills Group.
I like Scribd, so I'm glad they're going to be around. Essentially, the site lets you upload and share documents online. I work in a remotely spread out team (Mountain View, New York, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco), so Scribd is something we should be using at work too.
Former Bebo COO George Consagra (no, not the guy from Seinfeld) has joined Scribd as its president. So they're getting serious.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
I had covered Slydial on my blog earlier. This Monday, I was contacted by SHIFT Communications, who seem to be handling their PR, to let me know the app was available on the iPhone, and that I should try it. (Slydial is an app created by the guys at MobileSphere)
I tried it over the last couple of days, and I have to say, I love it! I hadn't even thought of all the uses I could put it to;
- Calling a business associate late in the evening. I've already done this a couple of times. This way, I make sure I'm not delaying talking to partners on the east coast by another day; at the same time, I'm not calling them at a very late hour.
- By the same token, sometimes when a long or nuanced message is needed, SMS is a bit painful... specially when you have an iPhone, as I do. Slydial is a much better alternative
- Prank calls. I know, this isn't a very elegant use.... but....
- Don't give this app to the folks in the Philippines! If you do, you know they're going to start using it when they want to break up with someone. A voice-mail does beat out SMS in some cases
- Relatives, friends, associates you don't really want to talk to. Or don't have the time to talk to.
What's great is that the recipient also sees a missed call. This way, there is no reason to believe slydial was used.
The app has made its way to the front page on my iPhone!
Friday, December 5, 2008
I hate AT&T, just as I hate Comcast.
But I hate the company, not the people (at least non-executives) who work there. So I'm sad to hear AT&T is joining the layoff bandwagon, letting go off 4% of their workforce, or 12,000 people.
There are two factors that are leading to this:
Firstly, they are seeing their landline customers defect - that business is shrinking by 11%, while AT&T's own wireless business is growing by 14%. Their landline business is still bigger, and needs a bigger workforce compared to the wireless business, so that feeds directly into the total workforce.
Secondly, they are seeing people stop taking add-on services, and manage their minutes on limited plans more carefully (AT&T is one of the worst companies at charging through the roof for a single extra text message, or a single extra minute on your calling plan).
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Sneakerplay was a perfect example of a niche social network - it catered to people like Entourage's Turtle, who are obsessed over sneakers.
And to think it was only one among a number of similar plays.
Sneakerplay is shutting down now. Its time for most of the other niche networks to fall soon.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The Thanksgiving buying bug has bitten my favorite blue-chip, Johnson & Johnson, which is buying Mentor Corp. and Omrix Biopharmaceuticals.
Omrix is going to feed right into J&J's surgical care business.... and by that I mean the serious surgical stuff.
Mentor, on the other hand, feeds into, shall we say, the sometimes desired-but-not-required cosmetic surgery side. It is a leader in cosmetic products, including breast implants. J&J has traditionally not been a market leader in cosmetic surgery, but this acquisition will change that.
J&J's stock went down as a result of these acquisitions, but the long term prognosis is very positive. I'm shoring up my position in the stock.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
This Monday, November 24, my blogs hit a new milestone - 1,240 visits. Woohoo!
Normally, between them, my blogs get around 500 visits/day, so this is a nice new rise.
This occasion calls for a random photo - how about one from Kosmix' 2007 holiday party. Nagraj and Sailesh are flanking me.
Monday, November 24, 2008
J&J's Alza division, over the last 7 years, has been a dismal place to work. They started by helping Google out, shutting their offices near the search giant. Google of course immediately snapped up those facilities.
Alza's Vacaville location has been a not too happy place to be at, since. In the last couple of years, there have been two massive layoffs. A large part of this is due to J&J methodically moving facilities and costs overseas. But in Alza's case, there is a lot more going on.
Its very sad. Right now, I can't even get their website to load.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, given that Apple's ads are always everywhere you look; Steve Jobs and crew apparently have an ad budget of close to $485 Million for this year.
I would love to have Apple put a part of that ad budget online on Kosmix
Personally, by the way, I hate the Mac vs. PC ads. So, Mac is cool, eh? And PC is nerdy, geeky, stupid. To me, Mac is like the high school jock picking on the nerd. And when they both graduate, PC is going to work in a startup, while Mac will ask if you want fries with that.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Damn economy. Damn Sequoia. Now they've made Hollywood-based Buzznet lay off 10 - 15 of their 90 employees.... today. That's Friday.
What a buzzkill.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
With WebMD's share price free-fall ($32 to below $20), the erstwhile online Health leader is trimming some of its upcoming investments. Its latest is to stop its proposed acquisition of Quality Health, which I covered earlier.
This explains why, even after 3 months of announcing the deal, WebMD had not yet integrated Quality Health's traffic into its own in comScore. As such, Waterfront Media's Everyday Health, which now reports Kosmix's RightHealth metrics under its own (see my earlier post), has a better chance of holding on to its new #1 ranking in comScore.
WebMD and Quality Health have signed an ad deal, with WebMD's sales team representing Quality Health as well. As part of this deal, there is still a possibility that WebMD negotiates to report QH's metrics under itself in comScore. Thats when the race begins again.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
On Tuesday this week, my blogs passed 50,000 visits. Sweet!
The blogs, of course, are:
- The serious blog - all about Tech, Startups, Revenue
- The all-purpose, main blog
- Blog on cars - one of my passions
- Blog about Travel topics, including not just destinations, but also food, wine, etc.
- The older, retired Autos blog
And on a smaller scale, my profile on blogger has now been viewed 550 times.
Its finally over. Jerry Yang has stepped down as Yahoo's CEO.
I feel bad for him. Everyone else has savaged him mercilessly... while I can see that through all the tough times, he still talked about "bleeding purple", and did his best to shield his employees from harm, including laying off a smaller number than should have been appropriate.
Which of course points out that he wasn't a good CEO - a good CEO of a company as big and as troubled as Yahoo would need to make merciless, dispassionate decisions. But in these tough economic times, saving some jobs (even if its only temporary) has to be looked at favorably.
Anyway, I want to nominate someone for the now vacant CEO post, someone who I believe has what it takes to take Yahoo to the next level....
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Remember the Seinfeld episode where George is trying to avoid a girl, so keeps trying to call her home or office depending on where he thinks she isn't? Of course, he gets caught... its George.
Now Slydial is what he really needed. These guys (still in beta) offer a service (downloadable through apps on the iPhone, BlackBerry, WindowsMobile) where you can directly reach someone's voice-mail.
Not bad, not bad at all.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
An analyst with Sanford Bernstein, Toni Sacconaghi, had estimated that Sun needed to cut 20% of their workforce to be able to get closer to righting themselves, mainly by raising operating margin by 5% - 7%.
Well, Sun has now announced a restructuring, which is hopefully realigning the company to be leaner and more efficient, while also laying off between 15% - 18% (translated, 5,000 - 6,000 employees)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I've been writing about the consolidation in the online Health space. My last three blog posts were:
- Revolution Health's sale to WaterFront Media, the parent company of Everyday Health
- Revolution Health's traffic
- WebMD getting into the act, and acquiring Quality Health
Everyday Health had started the whole thing off by stating that their goal was to become the number #1 online Health site. Well, they just did that! Everyday Health has now become the #1 Health site, per comScore (and yes, this is still playing the traffic game).
So how did EverydayHealth/ WaterFront Media manage to do this? Since the dawn of time, WebMD has been the #1 Health site, with no one else coming even close. EverydayHealth and Revolution Health, in their quest to gain on WebMD, kept acquiring other health sites, or representing them for online sales, in exchange getting their traffic assigned to themselves in comScore. And then, of course, EverydayHealth acquired Revolution.... and they were still lower than WebMD.
Well, this week, we've just announced that RightHealth, Kosmix's flagship Health site (we were #2 in Health through most of this year, per Hitwise), is now also going to be represented for display ad sales by EverydayHealth. RightHealth traffic is the biggest contributor to Everyday's traffic - woohoo.
I guess the online display ads world is going to be a little different.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I was at last week's Accel party for portfolio companies and partners at San Francisco's Fluid lounge
Who cares how long its been since his last hit, I'll visit any startup of MC Hammer's!
Here's MC Hammer at the TechCrunch party. And below, the old, wilder, balloon pants Hammer!
Friday, November 7, 2008
Bay Area's very own LinkedIn surprised everyone by being the first startup to announce layoffs..... ok, maybe this is not a joking matter.
Anyway, LinkedIn is also laying off staff. I am a bit fan of the service - I prefer it greatly over FaceBook, Friendster, MySpace, Hi5. I hope this means the company is growing up, trying to get its act together, because the rumors out of their campus are not favorable. And they did raise a lot of money recently, so the layoffs are a pre-emptive move, hopefully (I really don't want LinkedIn to disappear!)
By the way, surprise surprise - LinkedIn has Sequoia as one of its funders.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
San Diego-based online video site Veoh is laying off 20 of their 110 employees.
Veoh has brought in $70 Million in funding, including $30 Million last June, so this sounds like yet another pre-emptive move to manage costs during the slow economy.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Linden Labs (Second Life) is laying off its Business Development group.
I keep forgetting that Second Life is still around. Maybe this will refresh my memory - an old Thriller video recorded on Second Life during the early days
And to show the kind of excitement Second Life can generate, check out the huge crowds at the Obama Campaign
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The prevailing economic conditions are having predictable waterfall effects. Take the case of ad agencies; their value stream begins, of course, with advertisers. In times like these, advertisers (in general) do two things -
a) Tighten their belts - they reduce budgets, reduce staff, reduce expense accounts. Marketing folks generally fly high, compared to many other parts of most companies. So it is relatively easy to reduce spending on both the advertising expenditure, as well as non-ad related expenditure.
b) Focus on ROI - traditionally, ROI on ad spend is not easy to measure. Efforts are continually made to better understand the effects of advertisements, and media channels used to deliver a message. Everything from immediate buying decisions, deferred buy decisions, perceptions of competitive brands, to brand lift need to be measured and used to refine ad spend. But ROI on ad spend, to quite an extent, is a black art.
Consider this - the effects of online advertisements are easier to measure than television or radio ads (with online ads, there are direct actions that can be immediately measured, such as clicks on ads, how long the ads were visible on the page, etc.).
And in the world of online ads, CPM (cost per thousand impressions) ads have the least immediately measurable ROI, compared to CPC (cost per click) ads, which are second to CPA (cost per action) ads. Of course, I am assuming that brand lift is not the most important metric here; when brand lift is the metric, you have to look for more esoteric metrics. But when action is directly required, and ROI is top of mind, CPA ads are the clear winner, followed by CPC ads.
So what do I think will happen? Well, first of all, based on the points above, there will be layoffs and budget cuts in all marketing departments, and secondly, ad budgets will be moved to areas and agencies that can promise a deeper focus on ROI. This of course should imply that print and TV ads will give some ground to online ads. (see my earlier blog post about some layoffs already announced)
As part of my job at Kosmix, I am already starting to see some of this.
And in online ads, we should see a higher proportion of CPA ads, then CPC ads, both taking away from CPM ads. This will also drive a slightly less desirable behavior in websites - where CPM ads give a guaranteed revenue for impressions, one needs to drive users to click on CPC ads; and with CPA ads, you have to drive either qualified users (who will end up completing a desirable action on the landing site after clicking on the ad), or send over a lot of users and hope a fair proportion of them complete a required action. That should make sites less user friendly, unfortunately.
Monday, November 3, 2008
On my main blog, I have Google ads turned on, as a small experiment. Now I'm going to turn them off.
On all my pages, I see those foolish ads asking people to vote yes on Prop 8, which is fundamentally and morally incorrect - these idiots want to foist their version of laws onto everyone. I hope Prop 8 gets turned down by the largest margin ever recorded, only so these fools get so embarrassed they never try something like this again..
The worst part - in no way are these ads targeted even slightly to my content; the only connection is that I am in California, where this proposition is up for vote.
Google, fix this immediately!
Google is still not stable. I guess I shouldn't expect it to be, specially since most issues are too minor, or too obscure for most users to notice. But today's was a funny one - for some reason, Google took me to Deutschland - everything was in German, including the results, until I clicked on the "Google in English" link. Fun times
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Razorfish, which Microsoft acquired as part of last year's $6 Billion aQuantive acquisition, is laying off 40 of its 2,000 staff members. The layoffs are all from their New York office, which has lost quite a few clients in the recent economic downturn.
At the same time, Razorfish is looking to expand its presence in Europe, and is buying Wysiwyg, one of Spain's largest online ad agencies.
Add to these two the rumors that Microsoft is looking to sell off Razorfish (which used to be Avenue A/ Razorfish before a recent rebranding), and you have an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.
The rumors around Razorfish's potential sale have quite a bit of meat to them. Add to them the following facts, that bolster the rumors:
a) Microsoft was really looking to buy aQuantive, in response to Google snapping up DoubleClick. Razorfish came as part of the package, and didn't really fit with Microsoft's overall strategy.
b) Microsoft puts almost $250 Million a year into digital advertising. You read that right! And they use other agencies, mainly (as far as I know) Universal McCann for a lot of their digital media plans. Now, if Razorfish was strategically a fit, wouldn't this be different?
c) Razorfish represents a broad spectrum of clients. But they aren't really selling them on advertising on Microsoft pages front and center. That stands to reason - without objectivity, Razorfish would not be able to keep their clients for very long. But then how does it serve Microsoft to keep them around?
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Thanks to Zecco's unlimited free trades month, I completed 225 trades in October. Yep, I managed to make a tidy profit. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage with only 10 free trades/month from now on.
And of course, still staying true to my original plan - no short sells, no options trading, nothing except straight out stock trades that kill the bear's buzz
Friday, October 31, 2008
Ok, so I do like Virgin America. A lot. Based on only 4 flights so far (between San Francisco SFO and New York JFK, and San Francisco SFO and Las Vegas' McCarran Airport - LAS)
But I have a couple of minor issues. First of all, they've started charging $2 for headsets. With all the great programming (and not to mention the original Doom video game!), this is idiotic. Just add $2 to your tickets, and stop asking for handouts! Some people will use their own earphones, some will read a book or do something else... and some, like me, will get just a little pissed off.
Second - no free food. Pay for your food. I guess I shouldn't even expect this any more, even on 6 hour flights. But it does irk me just a little bit.... I expect more from Virgin America.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Thanks to Zecco's unlimited free trades month (October), I've been trading up a storm. I have already passed 200 trades for the month (and I started trading on October 6th, since I was traveling on a business trip before that).
Quite fun! And profitable - so far I have closed a profit of just over $1,050. And two more days to go, so lets see where I end up. One thing is for sure - I am going to be in for a LOT of pain come tax time.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This morning, while on my nth flight this year back from New York, I found out I was sitting next to Bob Dana, Virgin America's CFO!
What's quite interesting is that we were sitting in the economy class. Granted I feel Virgin America's economy class is better than almost all other US airlines, this was still quite funny. Turns out Virgin has their executives travel on economy. They do get one perk - the exit row. (apparently they fly business/ first when they are on Virgin Atlantic, which is good).
I am impressed. This was a 6 hour flight, and the CFO was sitting in the aisle seat in economy, typing on his laptop, with his Bose headset on his head in between friendly stops by the airline stewards and stewardesses. And Bob's an ex investment banker.... so he is probably used to the good things in life.
Here's Bob in a presentation outlining Virgin America, including their mission statement.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Sequoia, which can be credited for starting the rounds of layoffs going on in startup land, just gave AdMob almost $16 Million. Nice!
Omar Hamoui's AdMob focuses on mobile advertising. I guess Sequoia thinks that is a growing market, and one where (at least where AdMob is concerned) the doom and gloom scenario they're painting in general doesn't really apply.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Michael Dell says he is very strong on Dell's future.... having just cut 8,500 salaries, I guess he can definitely be certain on the personnel cost front
Friday, October 24, 2008
Ah, the mighty get hit by the recession, too. Google has shut down one of its cafes, the Off the Grid.
Valleywag and the other blogs are talking about rumored layoffs, too. That would make things very interesting indeed.
There is an update to my earlier update on Chrysler's plant shutdowns and layoffs. Seems Chrysler is more than doubling the number of full-time workers getting laid off - the number is 5,000, or a quarter of Chrysler's full-time workforce.
This doesn't even tell the full story; the company has a very large number of contract employees. Chrysler has mentioned a quarter of them will also be let go.... but it doesn't need to specify the number of contractors let go, so there's probably a lot of blood-letting there.
What does all this point to? Chrysler putting itself up for sale, or something else equally drastic. Or, only selling a much smaller sub-set of their current auto lines (eg: selling off Jeep). Wow. I wonder if this will be another car company from a developing market (think Tata buying Land Rover and Jaguar), or time for the Private Equity firms to get back into action.
Check out the page on Chrysler in RightAutos, a Kosmix site. (Ankur Jain is the product manager).
That absolutely has to be my worst headline yet. But these are punny times.
Anyway, Goldman Sachs is laying off over 3.2K people, or about 10% of their workforce. But I believe these folks will be sent off with nice severance packages - GS is still very generous with their people.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Chrysler is laying off close to 2,000 people, by shutting down a Delaware factory (despite the favorable tax rules there?), and slowing down work at their Ohio plant.
That's bad for both places, and should also put some influence on the upcoming elections.
Smart boy Jason Calacanis has laid off 13 people from his team. Mahalo, of course, is the Organized Wisdom for everything (or is Organized Wizdom the Mahalo for Health?).
Put more flowers on the site. Perhaps that will make your inadequately paid wiki-editors feel better.
Here is a Mahalo page for Kosmix, which demonstrates their major flaw - the page hasn't been updated since 2007, and for a topic page on a fast moving startup like Kosmix, that means it is quite out of date.
San Francisco based music startup Imeem, which has raised about $19 Million in funding, is the latest to lay off staff, asking a quarter of their 80 employees to leave.
The current startup climate is very mixed indeed - a lot of layoffs, and quite a few companies announcing funding rounds. Good news is always nice to hear at this time; so even though its a little puzzling, its quite nice to hear Dan Nye's LinkedIn has just raised another $22.7 Million.
The main investors are SAP Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Business Week's parent McGraw-Hill Companies. Of all the social networks, I use Mountain View-based LinkedIn the most heavily (most of it for work, and yeah, I have a few connections).
LinkedIn is valued at a whopping $1 Billion - ok, that might be a little too much happy sauce going around. But even if it doesn't capture that full value, it should have a good run towards it.