Tag startups

My 23andMe kit just came in! Here is what's inside.

I just picked up a 23andMe kit as a part of their Research Revolution campaign. They're trying to better understand disease in a crowd-sourced user-generated way. I think it makes a ton of sense.

Health information is difficult to gather, and with good reason. Health information is sensitive, and can change your life in positive and negative ways. On the one hand, I can see what ailments and diseases I'm prone to get, and change my lifestyle to avoid them and live a longer, better life. But on the other hand, if that information gets in the hands of my future employers, or worse, my future health insurance, then a Gattaca-style scenario could become reality.

Those concerns are luckily handled through HIPA and the privacy policy that 23andMe has published. Once I know my data is safe, I can give it to science and help researchers make us all more healthy.

I'm glad they're doing it, because I don't know who else could.

Here's what came in the kit today. I am sending it off later today, and am waiting eagerly for the results.

And just for fun, here's what it's like to do a spit kit, courtesy of my friend @jensmccabe.

Mint.com is like Nielsen / Comscore for consumer spending

Originally built as a Quicken-competitor, Mint.com just became a lot more interesting. It's a case study in having aggressive terms of service that declare company ownership over data. When you own data, you can do a lot more than just provide a service to a web consumer.

Like make aggregate graphs like the above. Mint has direct access to the realtime spending habits of all their users. As such, they are able to forecast consumer spending *AND* revenues of large public companies sooner than everyone else. It's almost like insider trading. They will have information nobody else has access to. If you see Mint CEO Aaron Patzer making a killing on the stock market, I wonder if the SEC will come calling.

Mint proves that when it comes to making money with user-generated / user-provided content, opportunities can come in unexpected ways.

The Demise of SpiralFrog: Proof that buying traffic is a crap way to grow a startup

CNet illuminates the troubled story of SpiralFrog, an online music startup that burned through $26.3 million, and only generating sales of $1.2 million.

They bought traffic with the misguided intention to "get eyeballs fast." Smell like 1999 to anyone? Their traffic maintained a 1:1 correlation to the amount of money they were plowing into affiliate ads.

It's a cautionary tale. Great metrics might help you raise dumb money. But if you're buying those metrics, it's just a house of cards -- possibly worse than a Ponzi scheme. At least in a Ponzi scheme, someone comes out on top (and later, in handcuffs, hopefully).

If you buy traffic, everyone loses.

JamLegend becomes the web-enabled Rock Band / Guitar Hero that lets you upload and play ANY SONG.

This is phenomenal. My senior project at Stanford was a Dance Dance Revolution game that could take MP3's and turn them into playable DDR steps. But I have to say, it didn't work nearly as well as what the JamLegend guys have done. I just uploaded one of my favorite rap songs to JamLegend. They processed the file, extracted the beats and melodies of the song, and made a playable song based on it.

What's even cooler is you can now play JamLegend just like RockBand / Guitar Hero, with your real guitar. There are instructions on how to set this up for both Mac/PC for GH/Rock Band controllers for all platform controllers PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.

And you can duel your friends online (multiplayer) without ever even being in the same room.

OK, so lets review: JamLegend has created Guitar Hero that a) is super fun multiplayer Flash web game with no download, b) works with any guitar controller you may have lying around, and c) lets you upload any song you want and it will work awesome.

You should play jamlegend here.

Filmmaking advice writ large: Tarantino's advice at ComicCon applies to all creative endeavor

I love these kinds of questions posed towards filmmakers and media creators of all kinds. Like Ira Glass on creativity.

Great auteurs answer these questions about specific industries but they're broadly applicable to everything, including my favorite topic, creating Internet startups.

There's a certain auteur aspect to it that translates precisely. It's a business, no doubt about it. But you have to appeal to people, even change people's lives -- the way they think and act. You have to understand and communicate visually, spatially and emotionally with your audience.

There's a technical element, substitute filmmaking and editing and cinematography for software engineering, scaling, and tech architecture / ops.

How you start is the same. You create. You create until your fingers bleed, and then you create some more. Iterate and don't worry about creating crap, because at the end of it, you'll have made a movie. Or a site. Or a story. Whatever it is.

The final part spoke to me the most. Yes, it's harder than ever to become a filmmaker or an Internet entrepreneur, or an author-- a creator of any kind. There is so much competition. But that competition sucks so fucking bad, that it will be plain as day when you've created something good.

It can be done. Today. Now. Go.