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Friday, October 31, 2008

Virgin America - 2 Quibbles

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.

virgin america interior

virgin america plane

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trading Up A Storm - 200 And Counting

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.

zecco trading

Monday, October 27, 2008

Flying with Virgin America's CFO

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.

Go Virgin!

Here's Bob in a presentation outlining Virgin America, including their mission statement.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Startup Good News - AdMob Gets $15.7 Million

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

Dell Lays off 8.5K

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

Searching for a Cafeteria - Google

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.

google cafe

Chrysler Update - Driving Off Into The Sunset?

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).

chrysler autos

Gold Man Sacks Crew

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.

goldman sachs

Print This - Xerox Laying off 5%


Xerox is cutting 3K jobs in the US, about 5% of their workforce. 

My roommate works for Xerox, I'm hoping he and his team are ok.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Signs of a Downturn - Chrysler Layoffs, Plant Shutdown

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.


Mahalo, all 13 of you

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.


Signs of a Downturn - Imeem Lays off 25%

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.


LinkedIn's Cash Windfall

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 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.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Need Medicine - Merck Layoffs

Merck announced their Q3 profit fell 28%,... and they're going to lay off 7,200 people.  That's 13% of their workforce.



Zecco, Don't Fail Me Now!

Dear Zecco

I know you are a startup, and you think it is acceptable to not always work.  But I am starting to look longingly ahead to the time when I don't want to quit you immediately.  Why can't I see any of my data (see screenshot below)?  The market is falling - this is when I like to buy my stocks!!! 

Please, Zecco, learn how to work  properly. 



zecco problem

Even the Bobcats and NBA have Layoffs!

I keep forgetting the NBA is a business.  But the folks working at NBA headquarters, and league offices around the country do know that.  The Charlotte Bobcats, who have probably the league's stingiest ownership after the L.A. Clippers, laid off about 40 people from their marketing and business department, and three front office executives.  And the NBA asked some people to leave, too.


charlotte bobcats


Flip Me Off - Pressflip Founder Out

Ted Dzubia, the founder of Pressflip, which originally came out as Persai, has left the startup. 

Pressflip didn't seem to have much funding, as far as I can recall.  And it was a bit of a joke among other Search companies... their results were generally quite bad.  Pressflip's algos were supposed to learn about your search choices as you kept searching and giving them input.  But I gave up after trying a few times, since I didn't see any progress at all.  I do have to admit, I liked their UI a bit. 

pressflip homepage

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 Advertisements Begging for your Advertisements ad

Take a look at the ad above.  The ad is asking other people to advertise on  Hmmm.... I guess it makes sense.... sort of?  Anyway, I would love to know what their ROI is.

Perhaps they should spend the money instead on getting the word out to advertising agencies and potential medium-to-large advertisers.  The ad I saw above was on a blog with a nice following, but not the clientele that (I assume) would immediately jump and throw ad money at

Whoops, Yahoo Update

The original rumors were wrong.  (See my original blog post).  Yahoo is cutting 1,50o people (10% of their workforce) instead of 3,500. 

But I feel Yahoo is wrong - they should clean house a bit more, get rid of the people who no longer want to be there.  And then hire new high performers - they will be among a smaller set of companies hiring in this economy.

Seesmic Shift - Layoffs at Video Conversation Company

Loic Le Meur's Seesmic has asked about 10 of their roughly 25 - 30 employees to leave (most last week, and 2-3 about three weeks ago).

Seesmic is all about video conversations - upload your videos, join in the conversation.  Great.  I wonder what the Seesmic team is talking about now.

Just as with most of the other companies going through layoffs this early, Seesmic has a bit of money in the bank (including a recent $6 Million round of funding, and another $6 Million last year), and is tightening its belt for the upcoming economic winter.

seesmic homepage

Auctioning off Jobs - eBay laid off 1,500


I had forgotten to mention earlier, but eBay, as expected, cut 1,500 jobs.

Their latest earnings report was ok.  And they're finally getting serious about selling off Skype, even as Skype revenues keep growing... making it an attractive spin-off. 

I'm hoping eBay gets its act together, but I really don't like using them any more.

SAP-ping Morale - SAP's Spending Freeze - Layoffs Not Far Behind

Wisely, SAP is going to stop any unnecessary expenditure.  But the severity of the moves they're making  point to a soon-to-come layoff announcement. 

sap homepage

Among the actions SAP is taking:

  • No new expenditure on IT.  At all.  No new equipment to be ordered, at all
  • Complete headcount and hiring freeze,  including contractors, interns, students  (wait, why wouldn't you keep students?  Just make them unpaid internships - in this economy, the students would fight for unpaid internships.... as my batch did back during the dot com bust)
  • Employees leaving through natural attrition are not to be replaced
  • No internal transfers;  yes, you can leave your group, but you won't have a place to land at
  • Internal transfers or written offers to new candidates sent before October 7th will be honored, all others to be called off
  • Stop working with external recruiters immediately  (oops, sounds like SAP's HR group will be among the first to go!)
  • Stop working immediately with all management consultants (ok, so the consulting firms are about to start 'counseling out' folks, too)
  • Stop all external training sessions
  • No meetings off-campus.  No renting off-campus meeting rooms or hotels
  • Cease ALL internal non-customer-facing travel in October…Any non-customer-facing travel already booked should be canceled immediately, even if this incurs penalties  (they're serious!)
  • Fly coach from now on

Monday, October 20, 2008

CarZen - Helping Choose your Dream Car

I recently found a way to test CarZen (

I like it! I like it!  And for a beta, their results for cars matching my tastes were pretty much on the money (see below).


Of course, it shouldn't be too difficult to build a car chooser such as this - all you need is a structured data repository, and create a question set against it.  But to test this, I kept my answers slightly ambiguous - and still got good results.

Minor gripes - I would have preferred to have seen my beloved BMW 335i Convertible instead of the Lexus SC430.   But I guess they had already picked the BMW M3, so didn't think two relatively-comparable cars from the same manufacturer were needed (although they did give me two Mercs... admittedly further apart than the two Beamers).

Another thing - I think they're a little off base thinking you can get an M3 convertible at $65K. Hah!

Medical Issues - LifeScan Layoffs

My old employer, Milpitas based LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company, has asked some more people to leave.  This is sad, as unlike startups, most people at LifeScan have been here for a large number of years, sometimes a couple of decades.

The layoffs are only partially related to the economy;  the first factor is that LifeScan is slowly moving more functions across the ocean, to Switzerland.  And the second factor is a reflection of the changing face of diabetes, and diabetes testing.  The entire diabetes market is growing at a slower rate, and most companies and patients are now eager to move to continuous blood-sugar monitoring, instead of the episodic monitoring that is currently used.

LFS is a $2 Billion company, and has a lot of brilliant minds leading it.  Here's wishing them the best.

one touch ultra 2

Sweet Chin Music - Pandora Laying off 15% of Staff

Time once again for sweet chin music at Pandora, but hopefully this stops the fat lady from singing too soon.  My favorite online music site has been through the tough times of the dot com bust, and most recently the tyranny of those damn record companies.  So I am confident they will come out successfully on the other side. 

But for now, Tim Westergren, Joe Kennedy and team are letting go off 20 of their 140 staff members. 

Pandora does have a load of analysts, well versed in music, some extensively and classically trained, who analyze songs and classify them by very detailed multiple descriptive categories.  My guess is the majority of layoffs will affect these folks.   I do have to admit, my Pandora radio stations don't play too many new songs. 

Their sales staff is also supposed to be doing well, and I do see a lot of ads now.  Thats good - keep bringing in the revenues, guys!

pandora page

Voicing Despair - Jaxtr Lays Off 13

Menlo Park based Jaxtr, which offers voice-over IP services (and yes, a social network as well... why not?), has laid off 13 people, about a third of their employees.

Jaxtr has raised a total of $21.5 Million, about half of that this June.  As such, they seem to be in a good position, as long as they keep costs contained for a while.   I like Jaxtr, I think they have a great product, and am pulling for them to come out strong on the other side.

jaxtr homepage

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Signs of a Downturn - Yahoo cutting 3.5K Jobs

Per a Valleywag tipster, Yahoo is about to cut 3.5K jobs in early December.  The job cuts have long been rumored, but the number sounds higher than earlier guesses. 

What seems a bad move - the layoffs are going to be announced within a week of an over-the-top holiday party.  And, of course, there are rumors that the severance packages will be pathetic.

Not I'm normally ok with holiday parties - layoffs are exactly when you need to put something else up to boost up the morale of remaining employees.  LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company, did this while I was there, after their first layoff in almost a decade.  But the timing isn't good.   And, of course, if severance packages are bad, this reflects poorly indeed on the judgement of the executive team.

Most of the layoffs are rumored to be in Finance and Sales/ GA.


yahoo homepage

Legally Laid Off - HellerEhrman Shutting Down?

About a week earlier, Silicon Valley-based law firm HellerEhrman had started shutting down, laying off everyone.   Given that HellerEhrman had grown to quite a position of strength over the 2001 - 2007 period, this is a bit hard. 

Their website now seems to reflect that they've completely exited.  The screenshot below is all you will see if you go to  

hellerehrman website

The Placement Opportunities link takes you to a page with a list of firms hiring, as well as placement firms.

placement opportunities

Poignantly funny - check out the Disclaimer they have on the Placement Opportunities page.  Yes, this used to be a law firm.


Searching for a Job - SearchMe Layoffs

SearchMe, a promising startup in the search space, is laying off 1/5th of its employees.  And yes, they are another Sequoia-portfolio company.  

SearchMe was another of the startups trying to carve a niche in Google's backyard; their tack - 'visual' searches.  You should try them, they are an interesting take.  And given they have almost $44 Million in funding, and one of the most successful serial entrepreneurs as a founder, (Randy Adams, with over 4 successful startup exits to his credit), they have a good chance of weathering the downturn.

It is a totally different question as to whether their visual search method helps them get anywhere. 

In the screenshot below, I searched for Kosmix on


Heavy Hitters Hit - Layoffs and Attrition at Heavy

Glam's very much less successful counterpart, Heavy, which focuses on male-oriented programming and advertising, has been losing people for a few months.  Well, they are helping matters along, and 14 of their 70-odd employees are being laid off.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bringing Down the House - Zillow Layoffs

Turns out Zillow isn't just reporting a lower value for my house (each time I check, damn it!).  Almost 40 of Zillow's 150 employees are being laid off. 

This is another Seattle based real-estate startup going through some economy-related pains.   As usual, CEO Rich Barton's layoff memo talks about how business is great... but layoffs are needed.

As I keep saying, I think this is good for Zillow.  Bad for the employees, but good for Zillow, and of course those same employees' stock options, in the long term.  (one hopes, anyway - none of the startups I worked at during the dot com bust managed to give me a single dollar back on my stock options).

zillow homepage

Signs of a Downturn - no IPO for Synacor

Synacor, based in Buffalo NY, was thinking about raising $80 - $90 Million by going public, but those plans seem to have been shelved for a while.

Synacor is hovering around profitability, and has received a total of $29 Million in funding from VCs including Intel Capital, so hopefully they can stay stay afloat long enough to make another attempt at an exit.

Synacor homepage

Friday, October 17, 2008

Silicon Valley Layoffs - SkyRider Riding off?

Mountain View P2P company SkyRider, yet another Sequoia portfolio company, seems to be shutting down.  Its all still a rumor!

skyrider homepage

Signs of a Downturn - Zivity Layoffs

Zivity is an adult social network.  But sounds like even this industry is tightening up for the recession - Zivity is laying off 30% of its jobs. 

Again, hope this helps the remaining 70% of folks keep their jobs through 2009.

zivity homepage

Sequoia's Scare-Tactics - Ladder 49

Here is slide 49 from Sequoia's shock and awe presentation

sequoia presentation how to survive

The synthesized message - tighten your belts now. Lay workers off now.  This might help you survive the nuclear winter starting up.

This does make sense.  I've been through the dot-com blow-up, and the macro-economic indicators were never as bad as they are now.   Back then, 9 of the 10 people in my close personal group were laid off.  But Iceland wasn't going bankrupt!  So yes, if you want to survive, learn from the lessons of those who have gone before you, like PlumTree and Google.  Don't become the next

On a personal note, this is very sad for the people who are getting laid off.  My small consolation to them - they'll come out stronger, maturer, better rounded, and with better jobs on the other side.  Its not easy to understand right now, but I'm saying this from personal experience.

Signs of a Downturn - Adbrite Layoffs

Adbrite, another Sequoia portfolio company, is feeling the pressure of Sequoia's doom-and-gloom lecture, and is laying off 40 of its 100 people, including the VPs of Finance and Marketing. 

San Francisco-based Adbrite, which was spun out of Philip Kaplan's half a decade ago, has $35 Million in funding, and made almost the same amount in revenues in 2007.  They are one of the top ad networks, serving over One Beellionn ads.  But the coming ad slowdown is going to affect them, no doubt.  Adbrite folks think they'll come to about break-even after these layoffs, but my guess is they'll stay below profitability for a while.

adbrite homepage

Silicon Valley Layoffs - Not So Hi5

Latin American favorite Hi5, which lags behind MySpace and FaceBook but has figured out a nice growth strategy, has asked 15 - 20 of its 100+ employees to leave.  Thats sad, I know some very good folks there. 

Too many layoff and shut-down announcements coming too close to each other.  This is starting to get depressing.  Again, hope these companies protect the remaining jobs by managing their cash flow more closely.

hi5 homepage

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Crossed 100 Trades in October, using Zecco

I love Zecco.  Sure, they still have glitches, sometimes you can't do even basic stuff.  But overall, they keep me smiling. 

Zecco had given its existing customers unlimited free trades in October, as I had written before.  Well, I'm happy to say that with half the month gone, I have already made 102 trades.

Yes, you heard that right. 102 trades by the morning of October 16th.  Here's the screenshot from the end of trading on October 15th, showing me poised to leap over the 100-trades barrier

zecco stock trades

Signs of a Downturn - Cisco Layoffs

Cisco is laying off 129 people in its Richardson, Texas facility.  Cisco normally does some pruning of its staff on a semi-constant basis, but these many people at one location is a layoff, no painting it any other way. 

cisco logos

Signs of a Downturn - Upheaval at Tesla

What's new at Tesla?  5 items, apparently -

1. Elon Musk has kicked out Ze'ev Drori and become CEO himself.  Drori, of course, was brought in by Elon and his gang after they kicked out founder Martin Eberhard.  These are, of course, all signs of a stable company.  Want some more signs of stability?

elon musk tesla

2. There are rumors that Tesla is looking for another $100 Million in financing.  This is a complete rumor, so lets not think too much about this.  After all, Tesla is very stable, as shown by...

red tesla

3. They're about to have layoffs.  Ooh.  That isn't good.  As I had written earlier, these are the same guys who were about to open a new manufacturing plant in San Jose.  I'm not sure what's going to happen to those plans (although they are going to rely on funding from the Governator and others for that).   Per Valleywag, a tipster says about half the staff is going to be asked to leave, but company officials are begging to differ.

4. But in another ominous sign, their proposed engineering center in Detroit now seems to be gone.  Hmm.  That is sounding a little less stable.  So maybe this helps...

5. Tesla's Model S Sedan seems to have been delayed.  Indications are that it will launch mid-2011.... which sounds like never. 

tesla motors logo

Well, hopefully the girdle tightening helps Tesla survive and thrive. 

Signs of a Downturn - Jive-talk about Layoffs

That was a terrible heading.  Ah well. 

In more bad news for the Oregon startup and tech community, Jive Software (based out of Portland) is laying off about 30% of their staff  (which is interesting, considering they doubled in size since last year, until this announcement).  

They're still building world-beating products, right?  Of course.  That's why their VP of Engineering, Marty Kagan, has left.

They're still selling to an eager customer base, right?  Of course.  That's why their VP of Sales, Scott Campbell, has left.

Its interesting to note that Jive is one of the old startups, having been around since 2001, on only $15 MM in funding.  That probably means they're around break-even, if not slightly profitable.  And they're a Sequoia company, so this is probably one of the early Sequoia kids pruning their trees after the scare tactics their parents have recently employed.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Signs of a Downturn - Redfin Lays off 20% of Staff

Redfin, the online real-estate site that helps run and facilitate real-estate transactions, is cutting 20% of its workforce, or about 20 people.   They are obviously experiencing slowing revenues right now, and specially since they don't have additional revenue streams via advertisements, which other sites such as Zillow and Trulia do.  But with enough money still in the bank from their last funding round, this looks like a move to prepare for the leaner times to come.

Glenn Kelman, the CEO, is shrewd enough to move ahead of the economy, so I would trust his decision - he steered Plumtree Software through the last downturn and finally to a successful IPO.  (Plumtree is now part of BEA)

Redfin homepage

They're based out in Seattle, by the way.  I've wondered for a while - why do real-estate startups seem to like Seattle?  

Wii-ing in Hotels

It took its time coming, but Nintendo has finally opened another distribution and monetization channel.  Now, you can play Wii games in your hotel room - starting with some Marriott chains and a few other select hotels. 

nintendo wii in hotel

So if you're staying at the Renaissance hotel on Times Square in New York (check out the view from the hotel, below), and figure out that all the distractions that garishly lovely city can offer are not enough for you, well, pull out the Wii !  Or if you want to go and watch Spamalot and don't want the kids to watch anything remotely British, well, pull out the Wii !

renaissance times square  hotel

Two things are interesting:

a) That the Wii is still not easily available in stores, but Nintendo decided to go ahead with this strategy anyway.  This is good - hopefully once they have enough data, they will realize that not only do they need to ramp up production for the average Joe's out there, but that there are vast untapped reservoirs of moolah just waiting for their itchy little fingers

b) The second fact is that Nintendo is bringing some of their blockbusters to the hotels, including Super Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart.  These are their premium properties; given the captive audience they would have in the hotel rooms, I am not sure if the lift in effective revenue per customer (via a higher sell-through/ percentage of people paying for this option) will be worth it.  But on the other hand, this will help them serve these games up to whet the taste buds of potential buyers, as well as keep a strangle-hold on their current fanatic players

Well played, Nintendo

Monday, October 13, 2008

Finally, some Page Rank for this blog!

This blog finally has some Page Rank.  It is at PR = 2 right now.  Good enough to start with.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New Nintendo DSi Software Region Locked?

Nintendo is going where Sony showed a game company should not go.  There are rumors circling (and reported on X-Play) that new DSi software is going to be region-locked. 


When will companies stop trying to put artificial blocks to manage their own supply chains and region-based pricing?  Stop region-coding.  I would have bought multiple family members in India PS2's, PS3's or XBOX's in the past had it not been for region-coding and region-based issues.

Its not as bad as DRM (Spore!), but this isn't good to know

new-look Nintendo DSi