Stunted By Reality Just another know-it-all talking about life, business, technology, sports and music.


I quite fancy

I've just seen a review on Venturebeat about a photo sharing and discovery website called Fancy. It's sort of like Pinterest but with the inbuilt ability to purchase items in the picture or book hotels and flights to the places depicted. The nugget is that it all seems to have been done in a non-intrusive way which still puts the user experience first and the commerce distinctly in the background.

For some reason the author of the Venturebeat article doesn't like this and he thinks they should have done the classic start-up move of concentrating on the users and finding a business model later. To be honest I never believe it when start-ups like Twitter et al pull this move. To me it just means that either they've got a cool but useless technology which no one will pay to use or that they will put ads on their app, but only after fooling 10 million people that they won't ever pimp them to the highest bidder.

Fancy haven't done anything new but they've obviously looked at similar apps and wondered if it all could have been done better. That's something which I've mentioned on this blog as one of the hallmarks of a solid business idea. I personally don't really use photo discovery apps apart from the odd time I stumble onto a great Flickr stream which I'll fully explore. But if I did I wouldn't mind if Fancy offered me the option to buy the stuff in the photo in a very discreet way that doesn't take away from the experience. I'm not talking Google text ads here people!

I think they may be onto something which Facebook, Google and Flickr would love to have done. Now look out for the Fancy guys to pimp themselves to one of those companies and get a decent bag of money for their start-up; which is entirely fine by me as long as they don't pimp me around. Check them out.

Source Venturebeat

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I’m tired of explaining Facebook and the internet to people

Technology is here, get used to it

Maybe it shouldn't amaze me because the world is full of dumb people and it should be expected that now and again I'll run into the misguided opinions of some of them. But it's amazing that in this day and age some people still don't get that Facebook is just another communication tool. Same as text, MMS, letter, postcard, fax, phone, email, smoke signals or Morse code.

Facebook and the internet enable communication in general and are not specifically for narcissists and voyeurs. The dumb people who don't get this irritate me by trying to put across to me that they are somehow holier than I because they don't use Facebook to share their 'pregnancy news'. To say that a communication tool is sad and pathetic doesn't make sense to me. A tool is only as sad and pathetic as the information going through it. In other words if you think Facebook is sad and pathetic maybe you need to look at your 'friends' first. A communication tool can only be labelled useful, useless or other such adjectives. This doesn't apply to Twitter which as an open publishing platform that is actively trying to take on the soul of it's content. Go ahead and call Twitter sad if you like.

What people should realise is that you can have 3 connections or even less on Facebook and exclude your cousins or whoever because of that long running feud your Mom hold's against her sister for not letting her borrow her mascara when they were teens. If you were going to send photos of your newborn to your 3 siblings, Facebook is just as good a tool as any to send those pictures with. You don't even have to accept one more friendship request or make yourself discoverable to that crush from Year 6 who thinks you're the one that got away simply because one curious day you decided to give him a quick peck on the lips.

It's true that voyeurs and narcissists do have it slightly easier on Facebook but only in broadcasting to other voyeurs and narcissists. There are plenty of people who very privately share information and pictures with only the people they care about. The internet can be a lot like real life in that sense. Most of the people saying dirty jokes online would likely have been saying them offline.

Anyway, let me stop this rant before I point out about the absolute contradiction of someone actively publicising the fact that they don't publicise something! LMAO!! (as the Facebook generation would say).

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Mephedrone and Panic buttons. You can’t legislate against stupidity

This week in the UK people have mostly been getting mad about Methodrone and paedophiles. I say mostly because this country loves to get mad about stuff so at one time or another they (and us who live here) will be mad about something or another. One day soon I’m sure we’ll all be mad about why there’s nothing to be mad about. But I guess a little bit of madness does the mind some good. In the least it keeps us from the self-reflection that just might result in a sane and sterile world. To be honest that scenario would be enough to drive me mad!

On a serious note, all the madness and clamouring going on has been the result of tragic deaths of three young people. Two young men died after taking a substance known as Mephedrone which is something of a hit (pun intended) with people seeking a readily, available, cheap high. Note that I omitted ‘legality’ as one of the things drug takers are looking for. Mephedrone like most substances that could get you high, but still kill you was NOT meant to be taken by humans. It is in fact a plant fertilizer. Update. It is sold as a plant fertilizer but was apparently developed for human consumption.

In an unrelated incident a paedophile was found guilty of the murder of a 17 year old who he lured on Facebook. He posed as a teenage boy, asked to add the girl as a friend and after some time arranged to meet her by lying that his father would pick her up. The episode ended with the girl being killed soon after that.

As I’ve already mentioned this is all tragic, just as any death is. However it is people’s reaction to these incidents that really has me shaking my head at the things that we come up with when we go mad. Which to my mind feels like every day.

From the noise, it seems like everyone is now calling for Mephedrone to be banned, including those who have previously been high on it. Others are calling for Facebook to have a panic button so that kids could press it if they suspected a paedophile! I’d expect this sort of thing from the Daily Mail but like I said, it feels like everyone is calling for this.

It’s all really ridiculous if you ask me. Are these people saying that if Mephedrone was illegal they wouldn’t have taken it? If the answer is no, then how did they get the idea that they’d like to get high? Not from anything legal that’s for sure.

The panic button is just as stupid, because I just can’t imagine that anyone suggesting this has ever been out of their house. At which point would they think that a user could reach for the panic button if a sex offender was lurking? No actual crime is committed on a social network. It’s hatched on Facebook or whatever, but not carried out there I’d imagine. So let assume a girl is being assaulted and she reaches for her phone so that she can log onto Facebook to press the panic button. I it logical she'll do all that instead of just dialling 112 or 999?

The weak links as far as I can see are the victims. It’s sad, but very very stupid that young guys want to get high even if it means doing it on fertilizer. No laws can ever save such a person. If they don’t get killed by Methodrone, it’s very much possible they could die from smoking banana leaves or some other plant they’ve been TOLD is legal. Though I can see how kids can be lured on social networks, the answer to both these problems is not to create more legislation.

In addition to all this there’s the media who go around labelling these things. Legal high. WTF? That really isn’t the best way to describe these drugs. Facebook killer? Again WTF? The media should know better and call it like it is. If they did then maybe not so many kids would want to get high like that. That’s because getting high on plant fertilizer is not a legal high. It’s a “Foolish High.”

Woo hoo! Yeah dude, this is awesome! Try it it's legal too!

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Starting a business without an idea. Dumb.

So I’m reading Venturebeat, which is one of my favorite blogs, and they have a Q & A with a guy called Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo used to be the Chief Technology Officer of Facebook, their first in fact. He left some time ago and has now started a new venture called Quora. A  cross between Wikipedia and  Yahoo Answers. It’s a question-and-answer site with very refined incentives to get people to share specialist knowledge.

Reading the interview what stood out for me is his answer to the question “Is this what you knew you wanted to do when you left Facebook?”

D’Angelo says “I knew I wanted to start a company and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. And after several ideas, I thought that this one was the one with the most potential.”

What struck me from that statement is that it sounds like D’Angelo wanted to start a business…., didn’t have a specific thing in mind…., came up with several ideas…. and settled on this one. I don’t know, but this really doesn’t sound like the way great concepts are born.

I mean, say you’re in that looking-for-an-idea zone, and it’s been a few weeks and nothing has really come up. What do you do? Do you go back to something you thought about some time ago and add a twist to it? Do you scratch your head harder so that as that bit of dandruff falls it may just dislodge a couple of brain cells that were in the way of a great idea? Then Eureka!

"I'm taking this to the Dragon's Den. Reggae Reggae sauce has nothing on this!"

Call me old fasioned, but I believe great businesses offer services that solve a particular problem. I believe good companies are built from one of the following, though this is not an exhaustive list;

  • an idea that came about because someone encountered a problem.
  • a copy of a great idea that came about because someone had a problem. AKA a copy cat business. Even the most visionary people have at some point thought about doing something that been done a million times before. That tech company called Apple comes to mind.
  • an opportunity to exploit a market’s lack of knowledge. For example, buying cheap electronics in one city and selling them in another.
  • an opportunity to go into an under-served market. Your typical bricks and mortar businesses do this most of the time.

In any case, I don’t think most of the above come about because someone some sat down and wondered what to do! It’s like the lotto winner who sits down to think how they are going to multiply their earnings by going into business. I can’t think any significant money will be made that way, if any.

Still good luck to Quora. It seems that, without a solid problem to tackle, they need it.

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iLike didn’t believe the hype

Nic Brisbourne the London based venture capitalist yesterday blogged about the lessons of iLike's low valuation. The gist of the article was that iLike, a business based around a Facebook app that allows users to share and interact around music, had been sold for the relatively low figure of $20 million. Nic says;

It seems to me there are two big takeaways here.

1. It is important to build value as well as traffic

Ultimately the true measure of value is net cash flow and it seems that despite being profitable there simply wasn't much scale to iLike's business in revenue terms.  I would speculate that is partly because not all their 50m users were very active (it is telling they always quote total registered users not active users) and partly because the inventory they do have doesn't monetise that well.  Widgets on social networks suffer from the double whammy of limited real estate in an environment where ads perform poorly.

It is worth noting here, as David Pakman of partner at VC firm Venrock points out, that traffic is often a good lead indicator of value, just not always .

2. Dependence is a weakness

The other big problem for iLike seems to have been that 70-80% of its traffic came from Facebook, making them vulnerable to changes in FB's terms of service or if FB decided to launch their own music service.  So iLike was dependent for its future on the good will of Facebook, and If there is even a small chance that iLike could have its ioxygen (sic) cut off nobody is going to risk paying too much for the company.  This problem is all the more acute when the company you are dependent on hasn't sorted out its own business model and is somewhat unpredictable

These are very valid points for any web-based business to take on board. Nevertheless I'm just not sure they apply in the case of iLike and I commented to that end. (Updated: Nic has commented below with more insight and futher clarifying the background information. Be sure to read that.)

I'm guessing, but I think iLike's founders and investors probably knew the value of the company they were building. That they cashed out a slightly profitable company at $20 million, with other bidders on hand seems to suggest that they got what they were looking for and where not unhappy with the price. It would have been easy for them to move along thinking they'd grow and/or get more down the line.

This however, is a lesson to the tech media, analysts and all those who build copy cat businesses. Hype does not equate to a high valuation. It seems iLike (quite rightly) didn't believe the hype.