I have used Evernote for years, first as a web app and now as an application on all three of my Apple devices. I also use the web clipper on every browser. About a year ago I increased my use of Evernote when I started to use it to organize my teaching and book writing. A very good decision. I am a very happy user....but here is my problem.
I get advertising type pitches from Evernote on Google+, Feedly and the Evernote apps. More impressions than I probably want, but I could tolerate it if the pitches had some value. For the last 12-18 months Evernote has been using a headline similar to "10 tips to get more out of Evernote". For the last 18 months they have not added a new tip that was not obvious to a 3-year old. Evernote..provide some value or stop boring me. Hint: think about the emotional value of the product rather than the feature set. At least the ads would be interesting.
Another peeve. On Google+ the comments in response to the postings all sound like PR department comments. 1 PR comment out of 100 is OK but not 99. Again no value in the comments and it is boring.
Evernote, you have learned how to use social media to increase sales. Now you have to learn how to provide valuable information to existing users. Remember marketing is customer acquisition and customer retention.
My last posting to improve corporate marketing, "Publix Marketing Strategy Changes for the Worse", focused on price positioning in advertising.
It always irks me when a good company with good products makes a marketing mistake.
I always tell my students that they should read the blogs of venture capitalists as a way to easily expand their knowledge of entrepreneurship. Successful VCs are students of new business concepts and the factors that lead to large new businesses. They study ideas and companies from the "napkin stage" through to market traction and scaling. A few VC blogs I especially like for their thorough analysis of issues are AVC, Both Sides of the Table and the posts of Michael Skok.
Josh Ellman has written an excellent post on consumer network companies, "“How will they make money?” is the wrong question". Josh is a Principal at Greylock Partners and formerly worked at Twitter and FaceBook. He cites four factors required to build a successful consumer network:
One of my pet peeves is all the silly new network concepts that have no future. I hope everyone will read Josh's post in its entirety and evaluate their new business idea against the four factors.
Much has been written about Google's decision to cancel Google Reader, their RSS feed reader. This decision troubled me for several reasons, not the least of which was that I had been using this free product for several years. However, something else troubled me about this as a strategic decision by Google but I could not figure out what it was. This morning Fast Company provided the answer in an article "The Danger of Free Google Software".
Google is one of the best examples of what Clayton Christensen calls disruptive innovation. Christensen correctly argues that a more limited feature set product at a lower price point can disrupt an incumbent market leader. For example, Gmail disrupted Microsoft Outlook. The power of Google's disruption strategy is in part that they have lowered the price to zero or free.
Google has used the same strategy with the new Google Drive, which is their competing product for online storage and backup. A certain amount of storage for free, which is perhaps a better price than market leader Dropbox, might encourage people to leave Dropbox...until now. Who wants to backup their whole life on Google Drive and in 3-5 years find out that Google is canceling the product like they did Google Reader.
For Google to make a decision that potentially undermines their whole disruptive innovation strategy strikes me as a very poor decision. No matter how bad the profitability of Google Reader, such a prominent product should not be cancelled when it it risks customer confidence in Google's other free products.
I saw on Google Reader today a previously overlooked feature--Trends. When I clicked on it I got analytics on my blog reading. The first statistic surprised me (and prompted this post), which is below:
"Since July 15, 2007 you have read a total of70,466 items."
Based on another statistic on Trends, I have seen 3.5 million blog posts since 2007. I read about 2% of the articles I see. What blogs provide the most information of interest to me are shown below:
3Quarks is the most eclectic. Hacker News is a must read. NYT Technology just a habit.
RWW has an interesting post on streams, as in information not fishing. Streams are defined as:
"A constant flow of information ordered chronologically and (ideally) topically too. In the near future, the theory goes, it won't matter where you enter content - a blog platform, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etcetera - because all of it will be accessible to other people as a stream."
The Wall Street Journal is an early adopter in the use of streams. Formating and style of their streams suggests that streams will look particularly good on mobile devices.
I have been intrigued by the idea of streams since this SF post in 2010, which I quote below:
"I think that where the web will evolve is toward a model where all your content will be generated from a single web-based app and you will merely choose what distribution channels you want to use (public, private, group, company, etc.), similar to the Google Reader feature "share". As soon as you can choose easily where content is distributed, Facebook and Twitter become much less valuable."
As I correctly predicted, Twitter and Facebook are fighting streams according to RWW.
No I did not miss my wedding anniversary. BTW I am way past five years married to the same woman.
Over five years ago in June 2007 Sophisticated Finance was launched. The first post on June 18 is here. A typically short post, with just the barest details. Somethings do not change. Did I stick to the proposed agenda? Maybe, maybe not.
I have written quite alot on strategy, startups and technology. Strategy post are far and away the most popular. In the last two years I have also written quite alot on education and social entrepreneurship. These topics were never anticipated when I started the blog, but social entrepreneurship posts are almost as popular as strategy.
The best device I have found to increase readership is LinkWithin, which probably adds about 30% of daily page views. A good post on Hacker News (no affiliation) can bring 3,000 readers to the blog. Commenting on other blogs also brings alot of readers. Also, I have discovered that I am a natural SEO expert. The number of SF posts that are in the top ten Google search results is much higher than the readership of the blog would suggest. About 40% of viewers come from Google searches.
What would I do differently:
To anyone who started with me five years ago, a special thank you, and to everyone else thanks for reading Sophisticated Finance.
Fred Wilson did a nice post on his personal history in computing, which inspired me to recall my own history.
I first used a computer in 1969. It was a time share service provided by NORAD to high school students. The free dial-in service prompted us to make long distance calls rather than program the computer. Missed the chance to invent VOIP.
In 1982 I invested in my first IT company, a provider of videotext. Learned the importance of not being ahead of the market when investing. The Internet came along about 10-12 years later. Went off to Japan for eight years instead of continuing to invest in IT companies.
In 1983 I had my first email account on Compuserve. Used the account to surf Compuserve content from hotels around the world on weekends. Licensed Compuserve in Japan, which lead to the first ISP there.
In 1995 I made my first Powerpoint presentation at a conference. Everybody else still used transparencies or slide dollies.
In 1996 I established the first networked company in Indonesia for email. Also I built the first private voice network using satelite. Saw my first business card with just an email address for contact information.
I bought my first personal organizer in 1997, a Palm 1000. I bought my first BlackBerry in 1999 when it was an email only device. Wish they still made the email only version.
In 1999 I raised $35 million for an Internet-based company. The first Internet bubble burst shortly thereafter.
In 2000 I ran a telephone company and correctly called the growth in data services. Data service revenue grew to $18 million in one year. Experimented with private wireless networks for companies, which never caught on.
Started blogging in 2007. July will be five years. Great decision for me and hopefully the readers.
Started tweeting in 2008. Spanish language tweets give me great access to links and info I do not normally see. Have met some great people through Twitter (and blogging).
Joined OLPC in 2009 and began a serious education in operating systems and hardware components. 40 years after my first use of a computer I actually understand the engineering.
"When any new form comes into the foreground of things, we naturally look at it through the old stereos."
Trying to understand McLuhan's idea better I clicked through to this post on Brain Pickings, where I found this quote by Evgeny Morozov:
"Our Internet intellectuals lack the intellectual ambition, and the basic erudition, to connect their thinking with earlier traditions of social and technological criticism. They desperately need to believe that their every thought is unprecedented. Sometimes it seems as if intellectual life doesn’t really thrill them at all. They never stoop to the lowly task of producing expansive and expository essays, where they could develop their ideas at length, by means of argument and learning, and fully engage with their critics. Instead they blog, and tweet, and consult, and give conference talks—modes of discourse that are mostly impervious to serious critique.”
I have been advocating for greater public intellectualism since I started this blog. This post from January 2008 is the first on the subject and captures many of the same ideas as Morozov.
In 2012 perhaps we should resist a bit the tendency for short superfluos publishing made possible by FB, Twitter and other digital technology. Perhaps we should rather develop more in-depth thoughtful written pieces or put the energy into book writing. That's the idea to guide you in 2012.
These posts from 2011 were the most popular here at SF. If you missed them you get another chance to read them.
If you would like a reading marathon, the entire SF archive is here. Happy New Year.
Image via Wikipedia
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that France Telecom will shut down Minitel. Minitel was one of the first videotext services (and the largest operator) that allowed users to access computers through telephone lines and a dumb terminal. The text only, four color service provided consumer information. Minitel was the forerunner to Compuserve, AOL and the Internet.
Minitel was established by President Francois Mitterand, who arguably was one of the most visionary public officials in the telecommunications and computer-based information area. In the early 1980s Mitterand also launched a project to develop the first online learning program to educate French children. He hired Nicholas Negroponte to run the project.
I invested in a competitor to Minitel. The investment did not work out and I let my interest in online access to computer information eventually wane. I had seen the Internet well ahead of its popularity but I could not put the pieces together. Someday I will tell the story of how I missed the Transformer toy opportunity.
Being a long time supporter of the contrarian position that blogs should not be narrowly focused, I would like to list some terrific blogs written by smart people that cover a wide range of subjects.
If you do not remember, many great ideas come from the point of intersection of multiple disciplines. Broaden what you read. These blogs may help.
This long weekend provided a lot of time for reading and more thinking on entrepreneurship. One interesting example of entrepreneurship revolves around the history of the automobile. As we know the car industry started with this famous quip from Henry Ford.
"If I had listened to the customers I would have produced faster horses."
Overcoming the doubters and a bankruptcy Henry persevered and produced the Model T. Along the way he changed the traditional distribution strategy and created franchised auto dealers. (Note: for business model enthusiasts this is why we include distribution as part of a business model, as described in my book Billion Dollar Company.)
What is interesting to me is the new business opportunities that came from the automobile. First came taxis (very, very short car rentals) and then came rental car companies (longer term rentals). Essentially both of these new businesses just applied the time share pricing model to an existing business (1 of 15 pricing models in my book). This ends the book advertising portion of this post :) and brings us hopefully to the substance.
One of the methods I like to find new business concepts is the abundance-scarcity paradigm (first discussed here). This model says look for what is abundant and then look for the related scarcity. As we all know, information is now abundant and the scarcity is finding what we need or organizing the information in a useful way. This recognition of the scarcity has lead to a zillion IT startups, but where I think the auto story can help us is in looking for different pricing models for information. For example:
If you have other new business ideas related to pricing models for information, show them in the comments.
Image credit: probertencyclopaedia.com
My new book, Billion Dollar Company: An Entrepreneur's guide to business models for high growth companies, is available on Amazon. See the fourth strategy Porter should have added, determine if the market opportunity is large enough to interest venture capital and learn the 5-step process to really develop a business model. Book website.
Image via CrunchBase
I have been blogging for about three years. When I started I read several books on HTML coding and a lot of blog posts about how to create more interesting posts. Obviously I did not learn much but we will leave that for another post. This morning in my weekly blog search stats from Lijit I received a promotional offer to try Zemanta.
Zemanta gives you content recommendations while you write. Zemanta helps you enhance blog posts and emails with relevant images, videos, links or tags and it works with WordPress, Blogger, TypePad and other blogging platforms. Other articles on Zemanta are shown below.
I wrote this post using Zemanta. The only real problem I had was that the Zemanta generated image at the beginning of the post appears fixed in position. Despite five tries I could not move the picture to a better layout position. It would also have been nice if a Zemanta generated tag showed up as a key word in TypePad and if the related articles from Zemanta generated their own trackbacks. Hopefully these improvements will be in a future release.
If you have been afraid to blog because of layout and HTML questions, Zemanta eliminates a lot of those problems. For experienced bloggers I think it will improve productivity. Today it appears to only work with Firefox through a very nice add-on. Very cool demo is here. By 2010 I am sure it will write the whole post :)
Zemanta is obviously using a semantic search algorithm to generate all the suggested tags, links, and articles. What really interests me is what database they are using. Could it be the Lijit search database. Remember Lijit sent me the promo for Zemanta.
Let me know in the comments if you like the extra links and articles.
As shown in the picture below, under my byline there are now two new buttons in addition to "Share This". "Tweet This" allows you to directly post to Twitter the title and http:// address of any post you like (or don't like) with comment. "Favorite" is admittedly self-explanatory but it gives me and anybody who has a TypePad profile additional information on the popularity of the post. (Share This is a also a great button because it allows readers to easily share posts on FaceBook, Stumbleupon, email and seven other services.)
One last site note, especially for my fellow bloggers. The "You Might Also Like this" section shows Sophisticated Finance posts related to the post being read. YMAL generates approximately 15 percent of my page views. It's been on the site for awhile, but I just wanted to recommend it to fellow bloggers.
I have been working on this never ending accounting/finance project for a client and I need a change of pace. Therefore, today's post is a lazy man's post on some new blogs I have been reading that may be of interest. It's kind of an eclectic mix but diversity of information improves the quality of thinking.
Time to get back to my accounting project.
This morning I tried a new technique to bring traffic to this blog and it worked really well.
@IndianStartup posted a link on Twitter to a very good post on Entrepreneur Corner about startups and valuations. After reading the article I sent @IndianStartup a Tweet for a link to my blog category for startups with #entrepreneurship. The number of people that hit the blog immediately was noteworthy. Response would probably have been spectacular if I had done it later in the day and not at 715 am.
If you write a blog, you probably have your posts categorized by topics. For example, I have categories for Excel, venture capital,financial crisis, etc. A list of all categories is here (scroll down). Rather than sending people links to a specific post, send a link to a blog category and show off all your work on the topic.
I meet a lot of start up executives in the course of a year. Many are involved in Web 2.0 businesses and unfortunately many do not have a clue about how to get a company off the ground or build a web following for their site. Every once in a while I meet someone who "gets it" and I track the development of their business. Such an executive is Daniel Chow. I have been impressed by the continuous improvement and feature expansion of his "Business & Finance Professional Education Network"--Finance 3.0.
Daniel is a full-time executive based in Hong Kong who works for a leading international media company. He formerly held positions with Arthur D. Little, a world class consulting firm, and Deutsche Bank, where he worked in investment banking. His background is analysis and finance and that may explain why I find the content on the site of such good quality--especially in finance and modeling. I spend a lot of time on business and finance sites and Finance 3.0 is one of those rare sites that combines high quality, correct information with the distinct absence of a lot of self-promotion by the participants. In many ways Daniel has achieved what LinkedIn would like to be.
I had the occasion to interview Daniel by email and his responses to my questions are below.
1. Are you the founder?
Answer. Yes I am, along with my wife Retha and sister Michelle. The 3 of us are all experienced finance professionals with several years of experience working with Wall Street firms, Big 4 CPA firms and multi-national businesses across the Asia Pacific region. We feel fortunate to have the depth of talent and resources within the family, which allows us to make decisions and respond to customer requests quicker then others.
2. When did it start?
Answer. We started our sister site - Financial Modeling Guide - in June 2007. A community element was added - Financial Modeling Community - in Feb 2008. In Oct 2008, the community was rebranded Finance 3.0. Finance 3.0 is now the "mother ship", with Financial Modeling Guide (and hopefully other finance & accounting sites, with time) forming part of the Finance 3.0 network.
3. XXXXX is your full time job and Finance 3.0 is your night job?
Answer. Not just nights, but weekends and almost all holidays as well :) As much as I would love to work on Finance 3.0 full-time, it is only prudent for us to manage our cash flow as we evolve (and bootstrap) the business. However my wife Retha, has recently left her job to work on Finance 3.0 full-time. She spent 8 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore and Jakarta, working across their M&A advisory and assurance practices. She now helps to manage our new product development efforts.
4. Future direction for the site?
Answer. Our vision is to build a financial education resource that every finance professional will turn to whenever they have questions and training needs. We currently distribute professional finance products (spreadsheets, software, books, etc) and sell advertising. We are developing a subscription based e-learning product for finance & accounting topics. With time, we hope to evolve a business model with equal-part contribution from subscriptions, e-commerce and advertising.
This business model can only be successful with continued emphasis on quality and balanced editorial (no bias, no spam). Our customers should associate Finance 3.0 as a premium, world-class resource completely focused on their continuing professional education needs. For this reason, I continue to invest a lot of time on the site as a writer and community moderator.
5. What mix of readers / users do you have in terms of geography?
Answer. The United States and India were our 2 largest markets by far. The United Kingdom, Australia and Pakistan follow closely. In the year of 2008, our page views were in the millions, from 222 countries & territories, of which 75% were new visitors. There continues to be a lot of growth potential from both existing and new visitors. We are excited by the opportunity to build a dominant position in this financial media niche, across both developed and developing markets.
Check out Finance 3.0. Well worth the time.
Daniel Marcos is a Mexican venture capitalist and entrepreneur who first blogged in Spanish at Capital Emprendedor. Daniel's posts reflect a fine blend of U.S. and Mexican insights into entrepreneurship and his blog is also a great way to improve your business Spanish. Capital Emprendedor is a major source of readers for Sophisticated Finance and a reblogger of my posts translated into Spanish.
Daniel is now launching his first English language blog--CEO Brain Trust--which serves the interests of startup and early stage CEOs. The blog is here.
Daniel also enjoys the distinction of being one of the few people I have corresponded with online and have actually met in person. Great guy.
If you are going to be in Miami, let me know.