Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FeedBurner Validates Google Reader Domination

The folks over at FeedBurner released a nice overview of how they see the web-based RSS/Feed reading market. I.e., which web-based clients are reading the most feeds/articles. Great article.

It pretty much confirms what I expected. I previously wrote about my switch to using Google Reader. Apparently, many others have as well.
Burning Questions • FeedBurner's View of the Feed Market


TopAggregatorsByView.gif


Notes yet again:




  • Given the way Google Reader renders HTML (see here for an explanation on our Publisher Tips blog), the 59% figure is actually conservative. Since Bloglines and other clients render all HTML on a page at one time, rendered item views are likely greater than the actual number of stories "read" by their users.

  • The top 4 aggregators as measured by views - Google Reader, Bloglines, NewsGator and Netvibes - account for 98% of all item views recorded.




There are still many features that I would like to see added to Google Reader. Customized search through my feeds is a big one. As well as "smart tags" which would do such a search and dynamically organize it under a tag. Maybe some day. For now, Google Reader works pretty well. And, I'm not alone in that belief.



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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2007 Toyota Prius MPG: Actual Results


I've owned my 2007 Toyota Prius for 5 months now. And, it still (mostly) makes me happy. The GPS NAV system is the biggest disappointment. The car does have more "pep" than I expected, so I guess it all balances out. Everything else is about what I expected.

In 5 months, I have driven about 7,500 miles. The electronic MPG gauge tells me that I get about 46.0 MPG on average. I drive about 80% Highway miles and 20% City miles. I have never seen a whole tank get either of the two EPA stated values for the car (which, I believe, are 51 MPG Highway and 60 MPG City).

What you are seeing reported here are real-world MPG numbers. I drive the car hard, just like I would drive any car. I do end up speeding more often than I would like. And, just FYI, the car was once running smooth for a brief moment at 91 MPH. Performance is excellent for a car with so little horsepower.

Don't get me wrong, though. This is a commuter car first and foremost. It does not handle well in the corners (but, my other car is a Porsche, so there really is no comparison). When you get in it, you should be in fuel-conserving commuter mode.

And, with the HOV car-pool sticker, I am even more pleased with my purchase.

In other reading...


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Monday, February 26, 2007

OpenID Enabled



I'm OpenID enabled. Check out the Wikipedia OpenID article for a great overview. The high points include:
When you post on a blog using OpenID, the blogger's site asks your OpenID provider to log you in; when your provider verifies you, you are guaranteed a unique identity without maintaining an account for that blog.

On OpenID-enabled sites, Internet users do not need to register and manage a new account for every site before being granted access.

Sounds pretty good to me! Also, take a look at the Simon Willison Screencast on How to use OpenID.

The other thing I like about OpenID is that I can make my website/blog address be my OpenID. I.e., my OpenID is brianberliner.com. So, what do I get with this:

  • An easy username to remember that works on multiple web sites.

  • Muy OpenID maps to me, my brand.

  • No need to create yet another password to forget (there's only ONE PASSWORD) to manage.

  • My very personal OpenID URI will only authenticate to me.

  • I can change the back-end provider that does the actual authentication at any time, and the OpenID that the rest of the world sees does not change.


So, how did I do it?

1. Check out Simon Willison's article on How to turn your blog into an OpenID.

I chose VeriSign Labs as my OpenID provider, since I trust the VeriSign brand. They are the one's that will do the heavy lifting of securely authenticating me on multiple OpenID-enabled sites using my single sign-on password (yes, ONE PASSWORD!). I'm
brianberliner.pip.verisignlabs.com.

2. Configure your website/blog software to include two additional links in the header.

I edited my Wordpress 2.1 theme to add the following two lines to the <head> section:
<link rel="openid.server"
href="https://pip.verisignlabs.com/server">
<link rel="openid.delegate"
href="http://brianberliner.pip.verisignlabs.com/">

And, that's it! Do these two steps and you too can be OpenID enabled.


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Friday, February 23, 2007

Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks

I don't listen to many podcasts. Way too time consuming, and not particularly searchable (and, they play back at a constant speed). However, from time to time, I will find one and play it in the background while I work.

And, occasionally, I hit an episode that is brilliant. I really enjoyed this 1.5-hour (yikes!) podcast with Fred Seibert of Channel Frederator.

Quoted from Venture Voice: VV Show #43 - Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks:

VV Show #43 - Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios and Next New Networks



Download the MP3.
Before the rise of the Internet, cable TV was the new form of distribution remaking the entertainment business. Life-long entrepreneur and former jazz producer Fred Seibert pioneered that field, and is known in the industry for branding MTV (remember their ever-changing animated logo) and Nickelodeon (remember Nick-at-Nite). While he was figuring out what to do next, Ted Turner hired him to be president of the then-struggling Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio. Fred turned the famous studio around and kept his hand in the cable business until some friends dragged him into the Internet business. He now runs Frederator Studios which produces several cable and Internet TV shows. He also just launched a new well-funded startup called Next New Networks to create Internet TV networks.



Good storytelling. Reminds me that things sometimes work, and sometimes they don't. In any case, you're always learning and always moving the ball forward.

Enjoy!


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NetNewsWire Beta Goes Public


Back in November 2006, I wrote the article, Google Reader: Actually Quite Good.


In that article, I noted how surprised I was that Google Reader was such a good online RSS news reader. I had been using the desktop application, NetNewsWire 2.1.1, on my Mac and was overall pretty satisfied with it (except for some scaling issues)... Then I moved up to the pre-release version of NetNewsWire 3.0 and found that things had not really improved.


I even complained that the developer, Brent Simmons, had not made much progress on NetNewsWire since the acquisition of his company, Ranchero Software, by NewsGator, over a year prior (October 2005).


The result was that I switched my RSS news/feed reading experience over to Google Reader and wrote about the switch. And, the Blogosphere responded.


Brent Simmons wrote a personal email to me to let me know that development was progressing along nicely and that he hoped to entice me back to NetNewsWire with the 3.0 official release. I thought that was awesome! In that note, Brent added:



I'm more excited about the 3.0 release than I have been about any software I've ever worked on.



Very cool. Brent is an excellent programmer and excited programmers can change the world.


Fast-forward. I noticed today that Brent has released a new pre-release version. I downloaded it and kicked the tires. I have to say that the performance of the Combined View and search functions were much nicer now. I may use Google Reader and NetNewsWire in parallel, or may just decide to wait for the official NetNewsWire 3.0 release to give it it's full due.


Bottom line: Many thanks to Brent for engaging the community and continuing to make NetNewsWire great. I look forward to the official 3.0 release!


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Diggnation #85 - We’re There!

Last night, Amy and I attended the live taping of the 85th episode of Diggnation. Diggnation is one of the properties of Revision3, and perhaps their most popular property (shout out to my colleague Mike Maples, an investor in Digg and Revision3). Diggnation is a weekly video podcast, hosted by Kevin Rose (co-founder of Digg) and Alex Albrecht. The hosts sit on a couch, drink beer, talk about some of the top stories submitted to the digg.com site, and generally crack me up. I find it quite entertaining. Thank goodness the FCC does not regulate video podcasts!

This particular show was held at the Beach Chalet Brewery and Restaurant in San Francisco. And, it was packed. Amy and I made a night of it. Ate some tasty seafood, enjoyed the sunset over the beach, drank some stout, and enjoyed the show.

The Laughing Squid folks wrote a blog article and took some great pictures at the event. Here's a sample:


Photo credit: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

And, the Discovery Channel was there taping with a nice, big HD camera. Not quite sure what they were planning to do with the footage, but I look forward to seeing it in bright HD on the home theatre.

Finally, here's a shot of my ugly mug (and half of Amy's pretty mug), captured by one of the attendees (licensing does not allow me to show it to you here; you'll have to click through).

We even scored a couple of free Diggnation T-shirts thrown out to the audience. Unfortunately, they were both of the female variety. Amy looks awesome in hers, but I can't quite pull off the chick T-shirt look. Kevin... Alex... Please send along a Large male T-shirt to me so that Amy and I can be a proper Diggnation couple in public!

I don't use digg.com. But, I do enjoy the show. Good times.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The MoneyTree Shook - Q4 2006




Colleague Mark Radcliffe was kind enough to invite me to today's Shaking the MoneyTreeTM event held at the DLA Piper offices in East Palo Alto. PricewaterhouseCoopers and the NVCA put out the report quarterly, based on data provided by Thomson Financial. The report is in its 12th year. The Master of Ceremonies for this event was Steve Bengston of PwC, who did a very nice job talking to the current trends in the Venture Capital industry.

I don't have a pointer to the slides presented, but you can find the Q4 2006 Press Release here.

Panel attendees (who also did a very nice job and kept the discussion lively) included:

Some highlights that I found particularly interesting include:

  • 2006 VC investments of $25.5B ranked it as fourth largest year ever (beat out only by 1999, 2000, and 2001).

  • 1980 total VC was just $600M - compare that to 2006, where a single investor, Intel, made an investment of more than that amount in a single deal!

  • Called this the "Decade of Life Science and SoCal".

  • My previous home state of Colorado had a tough Q4 in terms of deals, withh only 16 deals, down 70.8% from the previous quarter (on the year they were down 4.9% from 2005).

  • Current VC investment levels "feel" like what it was like in 1996-1998, depending on the metric you dig into (e.g., Q4 2006 Series A dollars invested were higher than the Q1 1999 Series A numbers for Silicon Valley, but comparing # of deals feels more like 1997).

  • The money is slowly moving to Biotechnology and Medical Devices. While Software investments continue to lead, Biotechnology is right behind, and if you combine Biotech and Medical Devices, they exceed Software by some 50% margin.

  • "About one-third of the money is going into Life Science". Good thing I'm invested in 5AM Ventures!

  • First investments, or "Series A", used to be exclusively the domain of Seed-Stage or Early-Stage companies. Today, we find about 30% of Series A dollars going into Expansion-Stage companies. This is a notable change from the VC investments in days gone past.

  • Early-Stage companies are getting roughly $7-9M Pre-Money valuations, which seems about the right number to me.

  • However, what's interesting about the valuations is that the Later-Stage companies are seeing Pre-Money valuations of $80-90M. That's hard to reconcile with the fact that the average M&A exit valuation for VC-backed companies is just north of those numbers. I.e., lots of Later-Stage VC investors are making poor deals/not making much money on each deal. This is also a more recent development in the industry.

  • Most VCs are "Early-Stage" because that's where the money is, historically. Early-Stage still leads the 20-year return numbers over pretty much everybody else (Later-Stage, Buyouts, Mezzanine, etc). However, returns of late for Earl-Stage have been pretty crappy. Personally, I'm an Early-Stage guy and an Early-Stage investor. I agree that it is the best place to get the best returns (and the best investors will prove that out way beyond what the "averages" in these reports show).

  • "Overhang continues to grow" - i.e., there's plenty of money out there for the best companies. Raising money should not be a problem. If it is, you've probably got a fundamental problem with your business.

  • Advertising dollars to Internet/Mobile is currently about 5%. However, we spend about 20% of our time online and mobile. I.e., massive amounts of ad money will be flowing into these spaces, enough to support 4 more Google's in the next 10 years, perhaps. Lots of opportunity.

  • Interestingly, 13% of US marriages in 2005 were from couples that met online! That's an amazing amount of growth. I met my fiancĂ©e online as well!

  • Average life of an S&P 500 Company in 1938: 100 years. Today: Just 20 years.

  • 50% of VC General Partners will be gone in the next 5 years. If you are a VC and are reading this, I hope you are working on your next gig as we speak. That's a lot of turnover.

  • Lots of discussion about VC in China & India, and the need for startup companies to go global much sooner than they used to (for both outsourcing as well as to get access to humongous new markets). India has 300M product-consuming middle-class families, for example. Asia gets mobile phones and being continuously connected through their devices (PC at home is less important than mobile access everywhere).

  • Conversation even strayed to cover VC vs PE/Buyout guys vs Hedge folks.


All in all, a very good use of a couple hours. Many thanks to PwC and the panel for their thoughts.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

As Predicted, VMware will IPO in 2007

In October, 2006, I wrote the article, "VMware as LBO Opportunity for EMC?" The article examined the impact that the VMware acquisition has had on the EMC bottom line and speculated on some ways that EMC could benefit its shareholders by spinning out the EMC asset with an IPO in 2007.

Looks like I was pretty close to right on this call.

Yesterday, EMC announced that they will sell approximately 10% of VMware in an IPO to happen sometime in the summer of 2007.

Just as it was a smart move for EMC to acquire VMware back in early 2004, this is also a smart move on their part. And I'm not just saying that because I thought it was a smart move last year. Well, OK, I am saying that (a bit). Briefly, it's smart because:

  • EMC shareholders will see increased shareholder value. The positive uptick has started already, as EMC gained 6.62% in the first day of trading after the announcement. Witness:

  • VMware, as a separate and public entity, will be better positioned to offer transparency to their shareholders.

  • VMware will be much better able to attract, reward, and retain the key talent they will need to ride the Virtualization market as it blossoms over the next 10 years.

  • EMC retains 90% ownership of the public entity. So, if the Market Cap of VMware hits $20B in 5 years, then EMC is sitting on an $18B gold mine. Of course, we'll know much more when we see the S1. The high-level breakdown of the cap-table will tell us what's left for recruiting and acquisitions.

So, let's do some more speculation. I reported on VMware's Q42006 numbers earlier. They did $232M in revenue in Q42006, total revenues for 2006 of $709M, and EMC is projecting $1.2B total revenues for 2007. Since their CAGR numbers are astronomical, I'd be comfortable pricing them right now at 4x forward revenues, or about a $5B Market Cap (give or take $1B). If EMC sells 10% of the company, we're looking at a $500M IPO. This move could very well jump-start the IPO market for high-tech companies back into existence.

The only downside to this that I can find is that the company will not truly be held by the public. We just get to join along for 10% of the ride. I would much prefer that Joe Q. Public had a larger stake in any public entity.

Other interesting blog coverage includes:

All told, however, this is certainly an IPO that anyone would want to be a part of...

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VMware Q42006 Results Exceed Expectations

Last October, I wrote an article titled "VMware as LBO Opportunity for EMC?"

In that article, I projected Q4 revenues for VMware to be about $200M, with the resulting FY2006 total VMware revenues of about $677M. Needless to say, I was a bit on the low side.

Last month, EMC announced their Q42006 results. VMware grew total revenues 101% year-over-year to $232M. They also grew total revenues 83% year-over-year to $709M for 2006.

On the conference call, EMC projected revenues of $1.2B for VMware in 2007. That's another 69% year-over-year growth rate. I don't doubt it. In fact, sources on the street tell me that internally VMware believes they can do $1.5B in 2007. That's a bit harder to grok, but, as witnessed above, I have underestimated VMware before. Many congratulations to VMware and their hard-working employees. I look forward to adding them to the elite list of $1B+ revenue software companies in 2007.

Looks like the Virtualization market is finally maturing. Hallelujah!

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

In Search of Jim Gray

I know Jim Gray.


Well, I don't know him personally, but I have watched his presentations at numerous conferences, and thank him often for his ground-breaking work in transactional database design. Business works today, in part, because of that core work.


Jim Gray went Missing At Sea on January 28, 2007, after setting out on a solo voyage from San Francisco Bay for the Farallon Islands, some 25 miles out. It's February 6 as I write this. Jim and his 40-foot sailboat have not been found.


With the Coast Guard giving up on the search, the high tech community has stepped up to do what they can to assist. In particular, Amazon.com has uploaded recent satellite images of the 3,500 square mile search area and has set up a Mechanical Turk activity to harness the power of Internet users to identify a small boat in a large sea. Each user is asked to review an image and try to spot Jim's boat within that patch of sea.


Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com, asks for our help and covers the Amazon Mechanical Turk effort well.


I spent the day today helping to complete the effort. Today, we reviewed the remaining few thousand satellite images. While I did find a few images that may have had a small sailboat on them, the best I could find was the following:



Pretty tough to spot a 40-foot sailboat from outer space! That white blip is likely a cloud. But who knows. I forwarded this one, and a few others, on to the experts for further review.


When the final images had been reviewed, I received the following message from Amazon:



Thank You for Helping Search for Jim Gray.

On behalf of everyone involved in the ongoing search for Jim Gray, thank you.

The efforts of the Mechanical Turk community during the last several days have been remarkable. Your work has contributed to one of the largest volunteer search efforts ever.

During the last 5 days, Mechanical Turk workers looked at more than 560,000 images from 3 satellites, covering nearly 3,500 square miles of ocean. A group of experts is currently reviewing the images that workers identified, and sending their results to the appropriate authorities.

More information about the search is available at: http://helpfindjim.com



This is an amazing example of the power of the people. When technology is put to a very good and noble use.


Many thanks to Amazon.com and all the volunteers that have been helping to find Jim. I am certainly praying for a miracle ending to this story.


As you may know, I spent 7 years doing mountain Search and Rescue in Colorado. This is the strangest search that I have ever contributed to. I was very happy to do so.


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