This morning I read a 2005 article in Fortune on How Netscape Lost Its Way. Jim Clark, Netscape cofounder, reflected at the time:
We were all consumed by Microsoft. Jim Barksdale aged ten years in three. Marc Andreessen is not one to hold his tongue. It’s part of his charm, I guess. He did thumb his nose at Microsoft pretty much continuously. And I did too. I would give speeches, and when I would pound Microsoft a little bit I would always get a rise from the audience. If we had kept the visibility lower and said nothing about Microsoft, it probably would have given us another year. Ram Shriram, who was at Netscape and later at Microsoft, has since told me that Bill Gates and everyone there said we were like the matador waving the red flag. The more we waved, the more it helped him unify the troops to kill us. So it was a bad thing to do in retrospect. But once it got started, we almost couldn’t stop, because the press would egg you on and Marc was the David to the big Goliath. He liked that role. But it was actually misplaced—there was no way the browser was going to replace the operating system.
So a couple lessons. The first is relatively obvious -- pick your battles with those you have a fair chance at defeating, at least initially. Later in the same article, employees mention that multiple tactical mistakes happen because Microsoft turns into a foe too early. Having an enemy can focus you in intense ways, but might focus you on the wrong things. It's a double edged sword.Lately, in the course of advising and talking to super early stage web startups, I've also often seen the reverse. Many founders starting out worry too much about ___ startup they saw in Techcrunch. Those guys aren't your competitors. Your competitor is the back button. And it is a far more lethal competitor than those bullet point item companies you threw in your Competitors slide. On the other hand, isn't it funny how in 2005 it was still OK to say that there was no way the browser was going to replace the operating system? That strikes me in 2010 as plainly untrue. If anything, the browser will kill Microsoft eventually. It just won't be Netscape doing the killing.
Hat tip Jeff Morin -- killer find from Stargate Studios
Those scenes look phenomenally familiar (CSI, Monk, Ugly Betty, 24, various movies), and absolutely realistic. What is reality anymore? You won't be able tell from video these days.
This demo reel just utterly blew me away after seeing what I already thought was impressive posted earlier today to my cool-internet-stuff blog hiphopoposterous.
In the '80s, the idea of the yuppie was really about just consumerism: I have an expensive BMW, I have these things, and it's buying, buying, buying. I think that that attitude is still there, but the materials changed into where it's "My carbon footprint's lower, my music taste is better, I visited more countries than you.
Hat Tip my friend Dustin Chang - Facebook Profile favorite quotations
Virtual Private Network software is notoriously bad and difficult to configure. Years ago I heard about a solution that got me actually excited about the space. It was called Hamachi, and it was a simple, Napster-like desktop client that let you share files and actual network connectivity even behind firewalls. It was magic.This is what Hamachi's homepage looked like in 2006, when I last saw it:
By April 2006, it had garnered over 2 million unique users. That is EXPLOSIVE growth. It was a simple homepage for a simple, free, and awesome networking tool that everyone loved. I was looking forward to seeing how this software would change the world. There was a groundswell of support for this service, and people used it for everything from file sharing to LAN games. You could have an office LAN without being in an office. (Think: Damn where are my files, can I remote desktop back in? Doh, IT guy didn't set it up. Or won't let me. Or is incompetent. Hamachi made this problem go away because it democratized networks to the personal level instead of the physical IT level.) Today, if you wanted to do what Hamachi did for free in 2006 (and for $200/year now) -- it would take hours of configuration using OpenVPN. Here are the instructions. I tried it. It works, but you'd have to be insane to think more than .001% of the very big geeks on the entire planet would be willing/able to set that process up. The Hamachi scenario seems to me incredibly valuable. Recently I wanted to be able to create a simple VPN for my two Macbook Pros, and went back to do some research. Turns out that in August 2006, just later that year, Hamachi was bought by LogMeIn.com for an undisclosed sum. Pretty amazing work for what I've heard was a single founder who built it all himself. That's the great and beautiful news. Someone created something people wanted, and is now hopefully set for life. And rightly so. The bad news: Hamachi's homepage now looks like this:
That's brutal. The MBA's got to it, and now look what happened. Hamachi had the potential to change the world through peer-to-peer networking. It made sharing across firewalls totally safe. It solved a need that in a connected world, everyone has. But there's nothing interesting about the new positioning of Hamachi. Its geared towards IT managers looking for big iron purchases. The PC World crowd -- the evaluators and the tire kickers. Don't get me wrong, they're going to make money with this strategy, and plenty of it. But it won't nearly approach the potential of what you see today with, say... Dropbox. Dropbox, Napster, and Hamachi are phenomenal examples of difficult technology made incredibly easy -- thus creating something so easy and useful that a revolution was made. A hundred million people won't use Hamachi anymore. It is but one product in a suite of many, a destroyed brand and a mostly squandered opportunity. But a hundred million people may use your version of it... because it doesn't exist yet. That is the beauty of it -- when someone stumbles and falls, no matter how large, that is your opportunity. Go forth and build.
Dude. I loved these keyboards. I am debating buying one right now, and hooking it up to my 2009 model Macbook Pro + 30" Cinema Wide. Needs a Cmd key though.
It might keep up the neighbors though. These things are loud.
Turns out physical stores make a difference. An Ohio State study has found that people are willing to pay more and are more likely to buy a mug they have touched, increasing in proportion to the amount of time they're in contact with the mug.
The strength of this attachment seems to increase with greater physical contact. And one explanation is loss aversion; that is, the longer people have an object, the stronger their attachment and their eagerness to keep it. People become attached and they are willing to pay much more to avoid losing that object,” Muhanna said.
There's a lesson in here for software products too. Try before you buy goes a long way. That's why Posterous's homepage prompts you to email us at email@example.com before you ever register. Touch it, try it, you'll like it.
There are so many breakout successes in tech. Andreesen. Cuban. Zuckerberg. Ev. Larry and Sergey. Sometimes it feels like they were ordained in some special way. It's enough to get someone very very discouraged! Are they lucky, or are they good? The truth is... both. Keep this in mind next time you feel discouraged. It is all too easy to compare yourself to those more fortunate, and come out feeling like you're not living up to your potential. It's not all luck -- to say so would be to denigrate the incredible hard work that people put in to get where they are. But it's also not all skill -- because what we do as entrepreneurs is explore this unknown space before us. Sometimes we find treasure, and sometimes we hit mines. The best we can hope for is the ability to avoid mines before they blow up, and to have the wherewithal to recognize opportunity when it is in front of us. Keep up with the search. Keep your tools sharp. Perseverance is key. Paul Graham says "If you don't die, you get rich... The odds of getting from launch to liquidity without some kind of disaster happening are one in a thousand. So don't get demoralized. When the disaster strikes, just say to yourself, ok, this was what Paul was talking about. What did he say to do? Oh, yeah. Don't give up." Good luck with your treasure hunt.