30 boxes to beat the big guys with Web calendar?

Everyone expects Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google to come out with new calendar initiatives in 2006, but I sat with Narendra Rocherolle who told me about his company’s new product that’s coming out (named 30 Boxes). You can sign up to get on a beta. Should start hitting the Web in the next month or so. I’ve signed up. The way he described it it’ll be a lot more useful for family-style calendars than anything out there. We’ll see. Don’t know who Narendra is? He was CEO of Webshots that got sold to CNET.

#54: Another phone-based advertising platform: Voicestar

I’m working backward through my day. It’s been quite a day with quite a diverse set of businesses crossing in front of me.

While I was hanging out in the cafeteria, Ari Jacoby, president of VoiceStar called me up. Remember Ingenio from the other day? Well, VoiceStar does a lot of that, but Ari claims his cost per signup is a lot cheaper. He also showed me features that I didn’t remember Ingenio showing me (things like you could record each incoming call).

Let me back up first. VoiceStar has an advertising platform. Let’s say you go to Yelp.com and search for Sushi in San Francisco, like this. See the ad at the top of the page? The one with the phone number? Well, if you called that number you would have kicked a few bucks over to the person/company that owns the Website you’re on.

Now, I don’t know how to validate their claims, but clearly these two companies are going to be interesting to watch as the online advertising world gets built out.

#53: Joyent Meetroing with the geeks (touring CA’s startups)

So, on the way to pick up Patrick last night I stopped to meet with two new startup companies. What a great way to end a geeky week in Silicon Valley.

First, what do Silicon Valley geeks do on Friday night? Why they stop at Nola’s for a drink in Palo Alto. Last night was no different. I met Meetro’s CEO, Paul Bragiel, there for some early evening fun.

Of course, what did we do? We sat outside, I opened my TabletPC, and counted the Wifi networks that were publicly available. Six.

That makes sense cause his company, Meetro, has software that makes Wifi networks more fun and useful. See, there’s a little trick. If you know the position of where the Wifi network access points are in your neighborhood you can determine your position with a high degree of accuracy. Paul said usually he can get within 40 feet of your actual position.

So, look at a street like the one Nola’s is on. You could know where everyone who was using Wifi is located. Now, there’s the obvious stuff. There’s a Starbucks around the corner. Of course they’d love to know when you were within a block so they could advertise to you and tempt you to come in and get another latte. But, what else could you do? A dating game? Or, just a game that you could play with other people? How about a sushi restaurant lookup? Or a lookup for really anything?

A fun aside. The entire Meetro team is staying in a house in Palo Alto. They just moved to Silicon Valley from Chicago. Paul told me lots of stories about the power of being in a community with lots of geeks. Turns out their engineers feed off of the geek energy in the valley. They’ll go out to dinner and meet developers from other companies, throw around lots of ideas, then come back and code all night long.


After saying goodbye to Paul, I headed north of San Francisco to visit the worldwide headquarters of Joyent. Oh, OK, it’s a few people in a house. But, they are seeing an office worker that Microsoft isn’t serving: one that isn’t that computer savvy and works in a workgroup of a few people. He showed me how setting up Microsoft’s Small Business Server was too hard and took many wizard tabs to navigate to get to work.

Instead David Young, their founder and CEO (and his team) showed me their new service. It’s available two ways: one as a hosted service that’ll cost something like $15 per month and one available as a turnkey box that you buy for your workgroup or company for $5,000.

Anyway, they have some interesting ideas. For one, they don’t believe you should ever do configurations. So, they’ve done away with configuration dialog boxes and wizards. You simply sign in with your user name and password. Just like creating a WordPress blog, actually.

Then they do some very interesting things that are counter-intuitive. For one, your email is — by default — open to everyone else to see and work with on your workgroup. They say they get a lot of initial pushback on that one from customers, but that after they use it they see why it’s so powerful. I totally grok this. I wish I could make all my email available to my team, but that requires a completely different working model.

The hardest thing that Joyent will have to do is convince its model is interesting for small businesses to use. I feel for them. I remember being at UserLand and trying to convince people that weblogs would be the way how everyone would share information with coworkers. It’s four years later and that vision still hasn’t happened yet.

That said, I’d like to try using Joyent in my workgroup. I really liked its elegance. It’s striking how much having a good graphic designer on staff helps (they hired Bryan Bell who is the guy who developed the orange XML icon you see lots of places). I compare their service offerings to, say, ePlatform, which has a lot more services and a lot more depth, but is just not as compelling, mostly because the graphic design and user interactions weren’t as crafted. It’ll be interesting to see who gets more valuation over time.

Anyway, what a Friday night. Two very interesting startups. It’ll be interesting to watch them over the next year or two and see how they do.


Using Flock for blogging

I’ve been playing with Flock for blogging purposes lately. It’s a new browser based on Firefox. I’m interested in it because of the driving force that all the big Web businesses like Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Google, and many of the smaller sites too, like Craig’s List, are focused on: user generated content. It’s interesting, there’s some areas where it just isn’t as nice as IE (the font in the editor on my monitor is ultra tiny, for instance, gotta figure out how to change that) but I love the drag and drop editing of blog posts (I just did that on the previous eBay Stores post) but overall I like it better — the integration to Del.icio.us and Flickr and drag-and-drop blogging is real nice.

I wonder if this will be a trend of seeing specialized browsers be built for unique purposes? Or, will the world just stick with Firefox and IE and add components onto those? I wonder what the browser of 2007 will look like?

Update: One thing I notice is that my workflow has to change if I’m going to keep using Flock. With IE I just Shift-Click on a link and open a new instance of the browser. That’s one reason I never got too enthralled with tab browsing.

But when I do that in Flock my Web performance goes WAY down. I like separate Windows on a high res screen. But I’m weird, so you can ignore me. 🙂