Will paying the crowd be new business model?

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Dave Ingram, CEO of Brownbook.net, had a business problem: how can he build a world-wide business directory, but one with much more up to date info than any database that exists so far?

Well, he’s paying people who add data. He and co-founder Marc Lyne explains how it works in this video.

Already they are seeing 40% growth per month and tons of new businesses added all over the world. Can’t argue with that. I’ll be putting in my favorite Half Moon Bay businesses into Brownbook.net.

Facebook tears down part of its walled garden

Another thing that Facebook just released is embeddable videos. TechCrunch covers that part.

But they missed how important a change in direction this is for Facebook.

This means that I can embed videos on blogs from Facebook and make those videos available to everyone.

Facebook now is a YouTube competitor and one that has a huge advantage: you know a LOT about the people who publish the videos on Facebook due to their strict rules and the social network — you can click on each person who uploaded video and you can see who their friends are, which is very valuable to knowing whether the person who is publishing video is someone credible and who has authority with other people.

It also means that we no longer have to visit Facebook to interact with an important data type kept there.

To me that’s huge and worth underscoring. Will Facebook continue opening up its walled garden? Interesting to see this in light of Facebook’s other battle with Google over how it’ll open up its social graph data.

Fast Company’s video with Facebook’s Chris Putnam explains the new embedding system along with the new HD video quality they just turned on.

Nice to see Facebook opening up to the Web, though, and tearing down its walls. What do you think?

HD war breaks out as Facebook, YouTube deliver new features

Tonight an HD war online broke out. YouTube appears to have turned on HD video. Now Facebook jumps into the fray with true 720p HD 16:9 widescreen video. This is HUGE for those of us who have HD camcorders.

But also Vimeo and SmugMug have turned on HD video before.

Why is this important? Well, a bunch of people just received their Canon 5D Mark II cameras that do HD video. So does the Nikon D90. Look at the video that SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill did with his. That shows off SmugMug’s HD goodness.

Or look at Joi Ito’s videos from his 5D which use Vimeo’s video system.

Of course, we have exclusive video from Facebook which explains these features. Here’s a video with Chris Putnam, who runs the Facebook video team.

TechCrunch also covers the new Facebook features.

We’re trying to upload a 720p video to all of these services to see which ones have the best quality and features. Which one are you going to use if you have an HD camcorder? We should have a test video up soon.

UPDATE: this news has already started a long conversation on FriendFeed.

UPDATE 2: Chris Putnam, who was featured in my video, has posted a blog post about these changes and TechMeme has more posts about Facebook’s new video.

Steve Jobs sleeps like baby after Nokia World

So, my wrap up after Nokia World here in Barcelona, Spain?

Steve Jobs doesn’t have anything to worry about.

Apple still has the best mobile OS out there with the best developer support.

Nokia customers should, however, thank Steve Jobs because their OS is seeing pretty dramatic improvements thanks to the pressure from Apple and Google’s Android OS.

It’s interesting. Yesterday I went to the Barcelona Zoo. Lots of fun, but I was keeping track of what the kids were using. I did not see a single iPhone. Nokia owns the Spanish marketplace. Nokia’s challenge was to get close enough to the iPhone to keep from losing those kids. I think they’ve done it and not because of the N97, either. Their cheaper 5800 phone has a far better music service for kids than the iPhone has. Why? It includes a subscription. You pay flat rate price and your kids get all the music they want.

But, why is Steve Jobs sleeping like a baby? Because Nokia’s N97, which does push the market ahead on several fronts, is six months away and Nokia still hasn’t shown off a good set of developer features.

It’s so strange for me to say that Apple is way ahead in developer support. That will really be the mobile story of 2009 going into 2010. The device with the coolest apps will win. So far that looks like iPhone, big time. If Nokia changes that in any way, it will be the story of 2009.

Anyway, Nokia did show off some really great stuff. Here’s a few videos of my favorites:

1. Messaging. Joins email and chat and Lotus support. The chat supports XMPP so FriendFeed’s new live feed can be shoved in here. That’s cool. Here’s a demo during yesterday’s keynote of Messaging.
2. Maps. Nokia’s maps are ahead of Google’s in some ways. See a demo of why.
3. R&D, Point and Find. We all know that eventually you’ll be able to point your camera at things on the street and get data back. Here’s Nokia’s answer to how you’ll do that, named Point and Find. Still very early, but inspiring demo.

Bonus video from Nokia World? I filmed the designer, Eguchi Shunjiro, of the N97 during a press conference. He told us all about how they designed the N97 and the thought that went into various details like the hinge.

Anyway, all said and done I want one of those Nokia N97′s just for the 16:9 video capabilities, especially now that YouTube has turned on 16:9 widescreen videos, this is going to be a killer device for recording my life.

Even if that doesn’t keep Steve Jobs awake at night it’s damn cool.

Next up, London for family time and meeting some cool entrepreneurs.

Twitter (and all social networks) will never be the same thanks to PeopleBrowsr

For the past few weeks I’ve been using PeopleBrowsr. Very cool. It’s the most significant thing to happen to social networking since FriendFeed came on the scene a year ago.

It was launched on FriendFeed and look at the reaction. That tells me that this is going to see significant growth because it delivers features that people need from Twitter, like grouping and ability to augment contacts, that Twitter and other social networks have been unable to deliver.

Here’s CEO Jodee Rich demoing it to me, I highly recommend you try this if you are a social networking freak like me.

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The unfundable world-changing startup

Some startups are just unfundable but are developing things that change the world. In Barcelona I’ve found one. It won’t be my last, especially since venture capital is a LOT harder to get lately. I’ve been hearing a lot about deals that are falling through because the VCs are lowering valuations by a lot. As Ron Conway told me a few weeks ago it is a buyer’s market for VC now and they can pretty much demand anything they want.

But, this startup probably wouldn’t get funded in usual times. It’s sad, too, because it’s a technology that I really want. In fact, I want it to much that I videoed the founder showing it off so you can get excited about it too.

So, what is it? It’s a database that acts like a wiki. Sounds lame, right? But that’s why it’s unfundable. You need to spend some time with it to get why this is a world changing technology. The inventor, Terry Jones, has been working on it for 11 years. It is very significant new technology. Here, watch Terry on four videos:

Part I. 10 minutes.
Part II. 26 minutes.
Part III. 18 minutes.
Part IV. 11 minutes.

Terry’s blog is here. His company is called “Fluid Info.”

The videos got a long conversation going over on FriendFeed.

Fluid Info will be released in early 2009.

So, why is it unfundable?

1. It’s too general. VC’s don’t like to fund things that really will end up competing with Google or Microsoft. That’s too massive of a challenge and, despite their protestations to the contrary, VCs generally only invest in things that are more defendable than a general “take on Oracle and Microsoft and Google” approach.
2. Terry doesn’t have a team of stars. VCs tell me they say no thousands of times per year. What gets them to say yes? When there’s a team of stars that they’ve worked with before. Terry is just a visionary, to build a business the VC way you need to have a finance guy, a guy who is good at PR, someone who has done it before that can make the VCs feel comfortable. And, you need someone who is expert at the business model being proposed (ie, done it before).
3. Terry doesn’t have adoption. It hasn’t been deployed. He doesn’t have millions of users. VCs are now pretty much only funding things that are seeing sizeable growth and have some track record.
4. The technology is too hard to explain. After watching these videos for an hour you’ll be as excited as I am, but that’s too long. VCs want to understand the real proposition and pain point that it’s solving in a minute or two. Any longer and they’ll just say no.
5. He lives in a place far away from most VCs (most VCs are still in Silicon Valley, or Tel Aviv, Israel, Shanghai, China, London, Tokyo — it’s hard to find VCs outside of those places). That still is a barrier because most early-stage investors, like Jeff Clavier, tell me they will only fund things that are easy for him to drive to. That might be unfair in the age of Twitter and Skype, but a lot of funding events happen because of personal relationships and it’s hard to have those relationships happen when the visionary lives thousands of miles away.

Anyway, I can’t wait to use Terry’s new database and congratulate him on seeing his dream through. How many people would have given up? Hint: visionaries don’t give up on their vision just because they hear “no” a few times.

It’s why I’m very happy I got to spend a few hours over the past couple of days with him. Oh, and thanks to Tim O’Reilly for introducing us on Twitter.