Win a private jet flight to CES

This will probably start another conversation about being tone deaf in an increasingly tough economic climate, but my friend Steve Broback and team is doing a variety of things at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that I’m working with him on. We’re doing a party (Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibrary.tv is coming) but we’ll focus on lower cost wines.

They also got a private jet sponsored from Seattle to San Francisco to Las Vegas. He gave me a seat in that jet, which I’ll be giving away to one of you soon (I’ve decided not to go on the plane, instead wanted to give it away to one of my readers), but they are giving away seats on their own.

Anyway, they also got their CO2 emissions covered by a sponsor now too. That’s smart.

More to come on this and other CES happenings coming soon.

Recession Proof Your Startup

Today on Techmeme there are a bunch of stories encouraging entrepreneurs to startup companies right now. Here’s a couple that caught my eye.

Paul Graham talks about why to start a startup up in a bad economy.

Don Dodge urges entrepreneurs to go for it.

OK, rah, rah, rah, we all know some startups will take off in the recession. Microsoft and Google both either got started in, or accelerated through downturns early in their lives.

But I think some of the advice I’ve been seeing out there it a little too optimistic.

Last night on Donny Deutsch’s show an entrepreneur called up and was crying. He had started a business that was selling promotional cookies and swag to corporations and his business has dried up. Clearly not EVERY startup will do well. Why? People change their behavior in recessions, but that behavior does NOT change equally. In this case companies had stopped buying non-essential items, which means that promotional items get cut first.

So, the question to me is “how do you recession proof your startup?”

That’s the conversation I’m hoping to see happen. Already VentureBeat is putting together an event to discuss how to manage through a downturn. I’m attending that and will bring any good idea I hear.

Some ideas I’ve already heard though:

1. Make sure your startup is aimed at a real pain point of other companies. I was speaking at Cisco a week ago and saw that lots of people really are struggling with email, for instance.
2. Have a startup who’s customers and users are recession proof. For instance, education is probably not going to cut back a lot, so if your customers are teachers and educational IT people, you’re probably a lot safer than if you sell to small businesses like restaurants like my brother has.
3. Have a business that helps people or companies save money. Both Dodge and Graham pointed this out. I’m starting to use services like Mint, for instance, which look at my behavior and try to find me ways to save.
4. Look for upturns due to change in behaviors. For instance, if you can’t afford to go on long trips anymore, you’re more likely to stay home. That might mean more people will work on home projects or try things like crafts or games. Make Magazine might be well positioned here.
5. Diversify your customer base. Are you only reaching customers in USA? What about going international? Often times, one country’s economy will do better than another, or might be more open to new approaches.
6. Have enough cash on hand to last at least a year without any revenues. Who told us to do that? Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
7. Look for new opportunities that happen because of the downturn. Banks might start paying money to maintain houses that have been foreclosed on, for instance.
8. Look for new distribution channels. TurnHere, for instance, told me about landing YellowPages.com and that’s meant that their business is taking off. If yours can land similar distribution deals that might really help you accelerate through the downturn.
9. Be innovative with marketing and advertising your startup. For instance, if you do a Google Search for “Recession Proof Business” and you’ll find an ad that says “start your own economy.” That took me to CircleDog, which is a customer relationship management software package. Hey, if the economy is falling apart, I want to start my own! Not to mention it caught my eye among the ads because it was different. Now, let’s say you’re going to CES or SXSW or the Web 2.0 Summit next week. How can you find new customers without spending much money?

How about you? What are you doing to recession-proof your business? Would love to see some ideas.

Apeer brings collaboration to multimedia files

[viddler id=2fb79a8f&w=437&h=370]

I visited today Apeer, which has just released a P2P system that lets you share and collaborate on files. It’s aimed at enterprises and companies like advertising agencies. Unfortunately it’s not free (something I think we’ll be seeing more of in this economy) but it shows innovation in helping people work together on files in a new way that gets out of just putting the files up on a Sharepoint server or emailing them back and forth. In this video Bob Goldstein, CEO, gives me a demo of how the system works.

The "live web" arrives on Twitter and FriendFeed

You’ve seen Twitter’s election feature that showed a select kind of tweet in real time. A few minutes ago FriendFeed released a real-time-web feature that lets you watch FriendFeed in real time. This is fun to watch! Especially on nights where everyone will be giving you their opinions on politics. More about this on FriendFeed’s blog. Of course we’re talking about this on FriendFeed too and on cofounder Bret Taylor’s feed.

Unlike Twitter’s page, which only shows Tweets, FriendFeed’s “real time web” shows you everything that people are doing on the Web including, but not limited to, videos, photos, blogs, event calendar items, tweets, and other things.

This is wild. It’s like the web has been turned into a chat room.

What do you think? Keep in mind that unlike a chat room each item you are seeing here has its own URL, its own RSS feed, and its own place on the Web. Also, unlike a chat room each item here can be commented on live, or you can like it, which will push it to the top of the old fashioned FriendFeed page.

This is also functionality that Facebook or MySpace does not have.

UPDATE: you can also see other people’s views of FriendFeed this way. Here, you can view my feed (which only includes about 3,500 people): http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer/friends/realtime

You can also view rooms this way. For instance, if you want to watch just the political room tonight as the debates go on, visit here: http://friendfeed.com/rooms/2008-debates/realtime

First bit of feedback after watching for a few minutes. Now we REALLY need to be able to talk to the database! I’d love to be able to say “show me all items that have the word ‘obama’ in them, but also that have two or more likes.” Imagine if you could do that. Wow.

Analysis: I still like the old style of reading FriendFeed better. Why? Because each comment cluster is threaded together so you get the context. Things aren’t moving so reading is easier too.

Compare the real time pages above to these:

http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer (my FriendFeed account, which shows everything I’ve put into the system).
http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer/discussion (the page that shows everything I’ve liked and commented on).

Personal Dashboard perfect mobile app for tough economy

Have you checked out PageOnce on your iPhone yet? In just three months they are one of the top 10 productivity apps and 200,000+ have downloaded it. Here’s Guy Goldstein, CEO, telling me about the company and giving me a demo on last Friday’s WorkFastTV show.

One thing I learned is that this week they are shipping a version of this popular app on Blackberry mobile phones too.

What makes it a great productivity app? It lets you see all sorts of personal information. Your bank balances. Your stock plans. Your credit card accounts. Your Netflix account. Your favorite airlines. And a lot more. All in one screen and it warns you when you have bills due. Great stuff for keeping up to date on your finances.

More on Microsoft and not going to PDC

Frank Shaw answers back. He’s the head of Microsoft’s account at Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s main PR firm (and has been for years). Frank’s one of the smartest guys in the PR business, so it’s good for him to step in here. He basically has a finger lashing for everyone involved in yesterday’s incident, including me. I just saw his post in Google Reader, and added this note to it when I put it on my shared items blog:

Frank runs PR for Microsoft for Waggener Edstrom. He takes me to task. Fair enough. I over reacted a bit, mostly because employees were saying that what they said on blogs and on Twitter doesn’t reflect back on their companies, even if they try to disclaim that it’s their opinions. Sorry, that’s just not true. I didn’t make that point well, though, and over reacted. I’m still not going to PDC, it just isn’t high enough value for me. Same reason I’m not going to Apple’s PR thing in the morning. Engadget will beat me all over the place and I don’t have a team to tackle the event. At conferences I rarely get video that fits FastCompany.tv’s style — this year I’ve been to dozens of conferences. How many have you seen video from? Very few.”

To other Microsoft employees, I apologize. Glad to see that Frank addressed this in public.

My feelings got stirred up quite a bit by being on Gillmor Gang and hearing the other participants in the call saying they thought it affected their perception of Microsoft in a negative way, so I figured I’d make a point to get a discussion going. It did that, for sure, and for doing that I’ve done myself some harm. I’ll lick my wounds and come back at it tomorrow.

TurnHere for interesting recession-resistant video business

[viddler id=89fc89ae&w=437&h=370]

Well, I can see that on my last post I went too far in pushing a point that corporate bloggers don’t live under the same rules that unemployed bloggers do. In any case, this next video demonstrates why I’m not going to go to the PDC even better than worrying about my feelings.

Today I visited TurnHere.com. Some facts. Profitable. 60 core employees. 7,000 paid contractors. Hundreds of new videos per day.

But in talking with them I realized they are a recession-resistant business and thought what I learned from them is important to highlight. Why are they recession-resistant?

1. High value for low price. Their customers are small businesses who don’t know how to use Apple’s FinalCut Pro or how to tell a story with video. It’s not easy, as I joke around about in the video “I don’t have talent.” They charge less than a grand to do the videos, a videographer shows up, spends an hour or two interviewing and shooting, then goes home and edits together a pretty nice video. I sat in their meeting today where they showed off a couple and they were nice quality, the kinds of things that a small business would find invaluable for their website, etc.
2. Distribution. They are on Yellowpages.com, Citysearch, and other places. I can’t get my videos onto the Yellowpages.com, so they have defendable and high volume distribution that small businesses are willing to pay for.
3. Few salespeople but lots of revenues. They outsourced their sales team to Yellowpages and Citysearch and their other business partners. Those business partners bring them tons of revenues and distribution. That’s a neat business that I admire.
4. Low-cost production. They have hand trained 7,000 videographers around the world who make the videos. That might seem expensive, but not really. There are a lot of people who have decent video equipment out there (decent being a $500 camera, a $200 tripod, and a $300 microphone, along with a fairly beefy Mac and Final Cut Pro) who often have day jobs working at TV stations and making movies. They get hired for a few hundred bucks to make the videos.
5. Rapid iteration and quality control. The team meets every afternoon to watch a couple of videos from that day’s videos. That ensures that quality stays high (no one wants to put a crappy video in front of their teammates) and increases the ideas that come from the team.

Anyway, I asked off camera if they had seen any effect yet (I’m hearing small businesses are having a rough time right now, so wondered if they had seen any effect). They have not, the execs say, and their sales are up. Since it’s a private company I can’t verify those claims, but the product and team seem very good and it’s nice to see a business with real revenues and a real business plan (and a good reputation, I’ve been getting nice notes from people since Twittering that I was visiting this afternoon).

Oh, this video is the first I did with a new Nokia N96 cell phone that Nokia sent me to try out. It’s nice, but since it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G yet it will be hard for me to use for my live videos, but for things like this it works very well. My wife just bought a Flip cam too, so we’ll do some comparisons.

I’m using Viddler for this video and am very impressed. Last week I put a couple of videos up on Google Video and Viddler is a lot nicer to use for uploading and the player is much nicer too. Viddler videos are also embeddable in WordPress.com, while Google Videos are not. I’ll compare to Kyte soon (I like Kyte because it has a neat chat room and can be used with live, including recorded stuff like this).

Thanks TurnHere for showing me an interesting new business!