Dane Knecht and CloudFlare

mattdaneMy nephew Dane Knecht has been working at startups his whole career – so when he told me he had moved to San Francisco – and was working at a ‘Cloud Security’ firm – I was incredibly excited for him. I then saw his company – CloudFlare - listed on the OpenCo list of open houses – so I stopped by to see what CloudFlare was all about.

1M websites covered – for free.  Several billion hits – per month.

These dudes and dudesses and figured out how to do a software Firewall and CDN which helps get rid of DoS attacks and all sorts of ugly, negative, security breaches, hacks, etc.  Not too shabby – I’d say.  The basic service is free and they have a premium $20 a month model.

cf-logo-v-rgbI heard Michelle (one of the co-founders) present during OpenCo and she reminded me of a younger Kim Polese.

This is a company to watch!

I later had dinner with Dane and ran into the CEO Matt – so I can personally say – “these people rock!”

Final note – I can still remember a 4 year old Dane being enamored of the Mac 512k we had.  His grandfather funded MacroMind and I’ll always have warm memories of those days – back in Houston.

David Brodsky and OpenWatch

David BrodskyOne of the coolio things about teaching at CWRU is meeting some awesome students who rose above the conformity embraced in Cleveland to focus on unique, value added propositions to change the world.

I had the good luck and fortune of teaching David – who actually took BOTH my courses there – and who I worked with on a design for a USB form factor, name tag, wireless key/identity thingie.  David got his EE degree, went to Cali, took on some jobs – but eventually co-founded a startup called OpenWatch (along with Rich Jones and Chris Ballinger.)

You go to the site and you’re IMMEDIATELY struck by the chaos, violence and issues of the world.  This is EXACTLY how on-line media should be used to spread messages, get the word out and connect people together.

OpenWatch - currently – is for assigning citizen journalists stories – which they then can go report on – and send back to “us.”  Its a compelling, vibrant kind of community site which will help bring on-line journalists together to help change the world.

I’m incredibly proud of David.  He’s found funding, is doing his thing and he can wake up in the morning – and look at himself in the mirror and know that he’s doing his part.  This is the big problem with youth today. They’re often lured by the pot of gold promises, and so go work for the Borg or even worse – Zynga.

But David started OpenWatch!

Travis Atkins and PiggyBack

TravisOne of the enthusiastic people i met at the SFMusicSummit was Travis Atkins.  Travis had found out I was back in town via Dave Winer’s Scripting.com – so once again I find myself thanking Dave for convincing me to “hold office hours” and get my ass “back out there.”

Travis has a startup called Piggyback – which has come up with a unique, disruptive model for messaging and cash remediation/rewards.

I want to get your attention – I want to get you to reply to my message – well then I’m willing to PAY you – if you reply!

Think of it as Keen or Guru – taken to Messaging.

I tried to find holes in Travis’ strategy – but at the end of the day – its a ballsey, disruptive thingie – that Silly Valley LOVES!

Travis and his partner Eric Martin both are experienced entrepreneurs and startup dudes – as they’ve worked for someone no less than Phillipe Kahn.  The odds are they’re gonna find funding, get their service out there – and see if it sticks. Inspirational = indeed.

Chutzpah would be another word to describe these dudes.

I just wish I had captured a better image of Travis – as he’s really very upbeat, enthusiastic, etc.  [NOTE TO SELF - check all photos AFTER you've taken them - for quality!]

David Temkin and a stealth project

david-temkin-vp-of-mobile-at-aolNot all projects and efforts I hear about are funded and many do NOT want to talk about – in public – what they are up to.

So when my friend David Temkin contacted me – he made it clear to NOT talk about his new startup.  That was totally coolio with me, so I had a great time talking to David about his new thingie – which – again – I can’t talk about.

But David is an important character for me.  He put me to work, when I needed it – back in the early 00′s when he was running a startup called Laszlo.  Laszlo was Flex – before Macromedia stole the idea from them.  This is something every startup has to worry about.  The exact people whom you’re ‘dissintermediating’ may decide to simply copy you.  That’s what happened to Laszlo.

‘Nuf said – water under the bridge.  Kevin Lynch can now take those techniques to Apple.

meanwhile David went on to head AOL Mobile and he’s doing fine.  So much so that David and his former techie head – Oliver Steele have this coolio new startup.

Which I cant tell you about.

Joe Brilliant and CratePlayer

0585e0fI ran into a bunch of people I knew at he DLD lunch on Friday and I also met folks who I only knew by name and reputation.  Then there were the folks who I recognized, but couldn’t quite put a name to the face.  One of those was someone named Joe Brilliant.

So here I am – waiting to pickup my Burrito at Iron cactus – the sister restaurant to the Creamery and this guy Joe – is standing in line.

“Hey dude – I saw you at MacAurthur park on Friday!” I said.

Joe has a startup called CratePlayer - which is a mixed media curation site.  In the old days we used to call that “multimedia” – meaning video, audio, photos, etc.

The first question I ask him is “what does your player do?”

This is the challenge that mixed media, mixed vendor-controlled players face – how do you create a playback experience when:

a) the sources are coming from YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Rhapsody, Rdio, Flickr, Facebook, Vimeo – and the list goes on and on

b) you’re switching between a video and photos – and just audio

c) you’re downstream from all this – and YOU wanna make some money – as well!

Well CratePlayer seems to have their heads on straight – and Joe gave me all the right answers.  So they didn’t really need any of my advice.

Then we talked about the battle of playlists – which is looming and how multimedia (sorry for using that “old fashioned term!”) playlists – have never really been utilized or understood.

THIS is why I think CratePlayer is in a really good position.  Its where a lot of the fun is gonna be over the next few years. Playlists to exercise by, to walk to school – by, to ride your bike to school – by, the make love with, to dance to, to change diapers – to, cook dinner, do the laundry, or garden – to.

I’m now gonna go play with it, create some crates – and link them here…..

Chris Russell and Voqel

chris russellMonday was quite a day for me at the Creamery.  Not only did I meet Michael Priv and run into my old friend Ben Werdmuller – but I also got to meet and talk to Chris Russell.

Chris apparently knew me from an earlier past – but I hope this does not disturb my readers to know that I don’t really remember Chris.  He was part of an investment group that passed on investing in Broadband Mechanics – so trust me when I say “I’ve run into quite a few people over the past 30 years” – and I really don’t remember meeting Chris before.

But that didn’t perturb him and he was excited about meeting me again and telling me about HIS new startup called Voqel.

Its an audio based story telling mobile app – which is based on the premise that when you hear someone’s story – THAT’s how you connect to them.

I buy that.  I buy that I want to tell my story of why I want to return to San Francisco.

I buy the fact that audio has been greatly mis-understood and ignored and that JUST having podcasting is no where near the potential of what audio can bring to our lives.

Think about the soundtrack of a video. Of a film. Of a TV Show.  Audio is HUGE!

Or the fact that transcribing audio into text is itself an entire business.

So Chris and Voqel are focused on creating a new way to connect with people based upon the stories they tell.  I just LOVE that notion!

Chris’ own story is that he went to India with his son and came back to start his own startup company around telling stories as a way to connect to people.  Chris has worked at Oracle and been around the block a few times and he’s working with my old buddy Marv Scaff – so I’m pretty sure these dues are gonna be successful.

I’d recommend going and trying out Voqel – looks pretty damm coolio!

voqel grab

Ben Werdmuller, Latakoo and IDNO

An old friend of mine named Ben Werdmuller came by to visit and to be fair – Ben actually had TWO companies to clue me in on.

The first – which is Ben’s “day job” – is called Latakoo.  They’ve gotten some Angel money, they’ve got customers and they’re well on their way to getting more funding.  But that’s not what I care about.  I’m a product guy and Latakoo has a really interesting play in the on-line video arena – which is making it really simple to upload video, store it and then use it, in various manners.  Newsrooms is what Ben and Latakoo is currently focusing on and they have some pilots going with NBC – as we speak.

Video has been a huge bugaboo in our industry and I’m familiar with Brightcove and Kaltura – but I had not heard of Latakoo before.  They’re mainly focused on “smartphone” kind of video – but they can certainly handle any kind of video, on up to pro-level quality 4:2:2 huge sized clips.  There’s little I can add to Latakoo’s business model or approach, except to wish them luck – and add them to the list of vendors in this ultimately hot arena.

container-schemeBen also clued me in on a new “side project” he’s working on – which is something that Ben and I have shared the same dream of – for some time now.  It’s called IDNO and it’s billed as “a decentralized open source social networking platform which can be used to power your social network, intranet or personal site.”  OMG!  This is EXACTLY what I’m all about.  You see Ben was the co-founder of ELGG - which was another white labeled social networking platform in the 00′s.  Ben left London to come to jolly old San Francisco, and is a typical, high-energy entrepreneur who can easily handle two completely different projects – and do them both – really well.

So IDNO is a project that I’d like to get involved in and help – so I immediately pitched Ben on some of my thoughts that I’ve been having recently regarding shared ‘meta-data’ that I call “dashboard containers.”  Recent epiphanies have led me to this new OS called CoreOS - which uses Docker - and so Ben and I spent an ADDITIONAL hour just rapping about that.

You see one of the challenges in having a truly distributed network of inter-connected websites, social networks, eCommerce sites, brochure sites, OpenGov Citizen dashboards, etc. – is keeping them all in sync.  If a teenage girl uploads a photo of herself on a Friday night and changes her mind a week later, she can go and change her access privileges on HER site – but what about all those OTHER sites who now have her photo?

I believe that utilizing CoreOS and Docker container – to update a mutually agreed upon micro-formats schema (see <-) – THEN we can agree upon updating and DNS-like synchronization – to keep us all in sync – with each other  under the kind of control we all wish and need to have!

So I’ll be working on this concept – and hopefully Ben will help.  I now need to pitch this to Tantek Celik and Kevin Marks….

So much to do, so little time.

So you’ll be hearing more about IDNO and Ben in the coming months.

In the mean time, check out Latakoo!

BTW Ben is one of the folks who gave me feedback on my book “How to build the Open Mesh” and actually and visited me out in Walnut Creek and saw my “mural fence.”

 

mural-Ben

 

Contrarian marketing in the “Us vs Them” era

Its time we took a different approach to viral marketing and our relationship to our customers and users.

I am an eternal optimist and I’m convinced that right will win out against greed and dishonesty and that an open, free web will rein supreme.  I believe that there are factors and trends which can be seen as the ”tea leaves for our future” - and that ”contrarian marketing” is one of those tell-tale signs of where we’re headed.

To stand out in the crowd, marketeers have been embracing social media, #hashtags, Twitter accounts and flogging the Facebook horse.  When #hashtags make it onto ESPN and Nightline – you know we’re there.

These efforts and campaigns are successful “sometimes”, but more often than not brands and advertising agencies attempts at being “social” come off as just another generation of pathetic attempts at manipulating customers.

Authenticity and real relationships are missing from this virtual panacea of marketing and customers are noticing that.

To go viral – you have to Zig while others Zag.  No amount of buzzwords du jour or insider connects is gonna generate the authentic traction you’re looking for with your users.  With each new startup, innovative idea or entrepreneurial movement – the world further bifurcates between folks who “get it” and those who don’t.  Products either fall right into line and customer/users grokit – or – they fall into this venue fly-trap kind of stance – waiting to “trick” users into THEIR lock-in strategy and monetization model.

That’s not really how we should be treating our customers – people!

 

We need to be on the CUSTOMERS side – not OUR side!

Put yourself into their (your customers)  headset and here’s what you’ll find:

- because of past failures and intransigence of politicians to do the right thing, customers are being TRAINED how to spot the bullshit and uncover the truth (fracking, NSA scandals, Deep Horizon, Tea Party, etc.)

- brand after brand continues to make mistakes, like running Twits on 9/11 promoting themselves or leveraging disasters to their own gain

- purchases are made – and many times these costs turn out to be wasted, shams, hustles or just outright lies – which leads to disappointment and disgust

- customer have been trained to never trust anything before V3.0

- after signing up for some new social network, customers find out – too late – that they’ve been tricked, and that they either have to PAY for the account or relationships to work or they can’t get their data and relationships OUT of the dam thing!

- whether its your underwater mortgage, your lost job, the nice things you can’t afford to buy or that vacation you never had – the distance between the 1% and the rest of us – is continuing to grow – and media just LOVES to make sure we know that!

This is the era where US (the users) are increasingly figuring out that commercial interests (THEM) are exploiting and manipulating US for the purposes of generating the evil dollar.  While the social networking powerhouses do their IPOs and desperately search for additional revenue streams; true sharing-economy powerhouses are being born every day – which bring true disruptive power to the masses (AirBnb, Uber, etc.)

That says to me – that there’s hope!

On top of the sharing economy there are all sorts of other models out there (Etsy, Wikipedia, Lynda, Angie’s List, Kixeye and the Huffington Post) which continue to drive the OPEN web, making SURE that URLs, browsers and links – don’t go away.  In case you haven’t noticed – the baby in the bath water that is getting thrown out of apps and games – is the URL.

Users are wisening up.  They’re noticing that their privacy is being abused by Facebook. They’re noticing all those ads appearing in their timeline and inside of Twitter as well.  They’re noticing posts from brands and people they don’t even know and they’re noticing both Facebook and Twitter turning into ad machines – with little regard to what’s important or matters – to users like themselves.

The youth are also wisening up.  They’re finding Minecraft, YouTube and Spotify are a lot more relevant than just wasting their time on Facebook.

So what’s happening?

We’re living in an era where users no longer buy the bullshit handed to them by big tech brands.  They’ve seen upteenth Apple launches.  They’re heard Google claim they’re not evil.

They watch claims by AT&T that their missing network access actually is GREAT network access!  They’ve seen Facebook change their policies to suit their own best interests.  They’ve watched IPOs from GroupOn and Zynga fall flat on their face.  And they’ve heard politicians claim that they’re working to – create jobs!

The shimmer is off, the ugly side is exposed.  Greed is pervasive and omnipresent in our industry.

Super Angels and VCs conspire to dump startups as acqui-hires.  Large tech behemoths cooperate with the NSA. The English-dominant web continues to ignore the International community.

What works nowadays is siding with users and taking a contrarian approach.  GoDaddy prepped TV commercials KNOWING they’d be turned down for the SuperBowl. This made them look like heroes.  Standing up to the Status quo – is IN.  Its the new black.

Jimmi Fallon teases about #hashtags and we all look at the fanboys lining up for new iPhones as some weird sick cultural by-product.

Those marketeers who can leverage this “Us vs Them” mentality – will make out like bandits.

So they can start entirely NEW trends – to offset the old trends.  Which will lead to new blogs, hashtags, expert consultants and even MORE trade conferences and newsletters. Last year’s TED is this year’s Kickstarter project.

And the beat goes on…..