Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why Canada is Rockin' the Facebook Scene

3 out of the 5 FBFund Finalists are Canadian. That got me thinking.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Not reflective of the entire development community? That I'm not so sure. I noticed a strikingly large number of pretty successful non-US/Silicon Valley developers, and have a couple of theories on why we have so many (and arguably, a disproportionate) Canadian and Non-US developers on Facebook:

1) No/Low Capital Required: traditionally, Canadian (non-US/Silicon Valley) b2c startups/developers lacked the resources/venture capital (seed funding esp.) to launch competitive B2C offerings -- Facebook Apps take VERY little resources to get off the ground, and their success if usually a function of creativity

2) Low Distribution Costs/Viral Distribution Required: again, traditionally, its been more difficult for Canadian (and non-US/Silicon Valley) ventures to secure high profile distribution partnerships to "get the word out" -- the great thing about Facebook apps is that some of the most successful apps are often launched with small to no artificial viral seeding costs. In other words, success comes from optimizing their viral loops in their apps to secure distribution. Heck, they might even be using some pretty cool viral analytics to optimize their K-factor (aka: pass-along rate/viral co-efficient/pick-your-buzzword). Yeah... that was a pretty blantant plug, but come'on, you saw that coming. ;)

And of course, huge congrats to our fellow Canadian FBFund Winners WedSnap and Mousehunt!

(Sidenote: Technically, we're a US HQ'd startup, but both founders are Canadian and we have a Canaidan presence... so that makes us at least half Canadian, Go Canada! ;-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60% of FBFund Phase 2 Winners are Canadians!

Yes, this is a repost from our corporate blog... why? Because I'm lazy, and just stepped off a 12 hour flight from Asia. To top of all off, I need time to reflect on how kick ass it is that we just got a $250K grant from Facebook to further Kontagent's cause with the little sleep I'm going to have tonight. So there. =P

Here's the Lazy-Al re-post:

Congrats to all the winners , and a big thanks to all those that have blogged about the announcement!

This was a result of a ton of hard work from the entire team, and its been a fun process getting here. Thank you for all those that voted, Cat and Julia from the FBfund team, and the judges from the surprisingly enjoyable due diligence discussions from the partners at Accel and FounderFund.

An interesting tid-bit: did you know that the 3 out of the final 5 winners out of the 25 finalists are Canadian (including me and Jeff - both Canucks!).

Go Canada! =)

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Huge McLeod is The Man

... and so is Joey deVilla for posting THIS, and David/Jevon for hosting him at StartUp Empire (which I missed, but heard was a success).

The short version is here, the longer version is here, and the ChangeThis version is here.

Here are some highlights for me...
"The reason we work in this field is that we want to build stuff — fun stuff"

"What really drives us? The "C" word: creativity"

"Put the hours in; do it for long enough and magical life-transforming things hapen eventually"

"Do it anyway."

"Remain frugal."

"If you can accept the pain, it cannot hurt you."

"Failure is part of the process"

Friday, November 14, 2008

WarCraft in Your Pocket

IMG_1711.JPGImage by mhuang via Flickr
On October 28th of 2008 - just under four years after its launch - Blizzard announced that World of Warcraft had reached eleven million subscribers around the world। To put those numbers in perspective: there are more people playing WoW than there are living in Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, or New York City.

If Azeroth were a country, it would be the 75th most populated country in the world (right after Greece).
from: Escapist Magazine

I can't claim to be a avid World of Warcraft player (I wish I was, but there's this Kontagent thing that keeps getting in the way), but what I can claim to be is an early beta tester of the very first graphical MMOG, Ultima Online in 1997 (as well as being an early player of 'massively multiplayer asynchronous BBS games' like the old school, text based TradeWars on a 2400baud modem in the late 80's).

What prompted me to write this is the absolutly amazing wealth of opportunities around MMOGs on emerging devices like the iPhone, Andriod, and consumer oriented Berries -- and the emerging bridges from Mobile Phone and social networks (think Facebook Connect/etc. on iPhone -- i.e. Zynga's Texas Holdem Poker)

The difference in the opportunity that developers today have with MMOGs on emerging device vs. Warcraft on the PC include having access to....:

1) Billing Infrastructure: i.e. iphone app store
2) Impulse Billing Infrastructure: i.e. premium SMS and/or future social network connected currency platforms. iPhone app store... not so much... yet
3) Social Graph: Play with real friends, access personal data/images
4) GPS / LBS: use location as input, play/battle with people around you
5) Always On Access: Unlike your PC, your game can be always-on, in your users pocket, allow them to lose their jobs even faster!
6) Social Analytics =): (Yes, that was a blatant plug) This is of course assuming you're building a social game on an existing social network platform like some of our customers

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vote for!

Now that the US elections are over and have some of you have had some pratice voting, come vote for Kontagent in the fBFund contest! For those of you that have wondered what the live system looks like beyond the screenshots, check this out:

Kontagent in 30 Seconds from albert lai on Vimeo.
(sorry about the lack of audio... we hope to have another updated version soon)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hey Facebook, Go Steal Xiaonei's Payment System!

Hey Facebook, we all know that Xiaonei (China's FB clone) stole your design.

But maybe now you can you steal this payment system -- which would obviously have a huge positive impact on the app ecosystem.

We all know folks are using PayPal and/or CPA offers from the likes of Offerpal and others.

But come on, lets get that FBwallet online -- I've already given you my name, address, email, a list of all my friends, and all my photos, I'm ready to give you my credit-card so I can store and take cash from my friends.  How about turning that social utility into a financial/social-micropayment utility as well?

And of course Kotagent is ready to help you track all the money swooshing back and forth... =)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Facebook Status: "Albert is... FBFunded"

News is a little late (yesterday), but thought I'd still share the great news: Kontagent has been selected as winner of the FBFund.

Been working with the great folks at Facebook for months (always a pleasure to visit their offices as well, we always get offered really yummy fruit drinks)... so I'm delighted to finally see a public endorsement and support from Facebook. =)

Always good to get further validation.

As a side note: we are the only Non-App company that was selected.  Which I guess makes us also the only analytics platform supported by FBfund.

Lots of stuff happening at Kontagent, so its been keeping me away from updating this blog.  Sigh.

Anyways, lots more exciting news to come!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oh how Condo Fire Alarms and CityPlace Sucks.

Firealarm keeps going off again and again.

This is insane. This happens multiple times a year. All night.

I can't sleep.

I am going to have to look into moving to a non CityPlace building.

Does anyone know of fire alarms that allow you to adjust the volume (within reason) of their alarms? (our speakers are unnecessarily loud... you could hear it though 10 foot walls)

Does anyone else have stupid fire alarm problems with their condos due to poor design (our alarms go off usually due to condensation in the piping or breakage of pipes in the sprinkler system somewhere...)?

Furthermore... I'm surprised I wasn't able to find a good source of info about condos. Like a Yelp/epinions of Condos. Anyone know of a well done one? I'd sure as hell contribute to it. The challenge I guess would be filtering out the noise/realtors/astroturfers. Which I guess could be eliminated with the use of some sort of identity/trust system (facebook connect?)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crazy Awesome & Other Random Midnight Rantings

Sometimes, when you feel like the whole world is against you, or you wonder why you're doing whatever its is you're doing, or you just don't feel like you're up for it -- something pops into view that changes everthing.

Today I saw two things that inspired/motivated me.

1) Seeing Will Wright's newest baby: Spore being played/demoed to me by an office mate for the first time (on a 30" monitor no-less).  Wow.  It is so insanely cool and genre demolishing that it left me mostly speechless. 

2) Seeing my name publically recommended by Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) as one of three people that would make for a good speaker for a conference.  I remember having only met Reid once many years ago in my eariest days of building BubbleShare, and sought him out early as even then when he was recongized as a respected early stage investor.  Damn.

Random Sidenote #1: I read in an interview that it took Will Wright 7 years to create The Sims (best selling PC game in history), and it took him 7 years to create Spore.  One of the things that I had immediately stubled into was -- given the option, would I pick creating two very good products/business in 7 years or one great product every 7 years.  While it would be great to have a world changing product in 7 years -- and its easy to pick the option that grants you "greatness" -- it really does take a ton of skill, courage AND patients to work on one thing for 7 years.  As someone that's used to seeing things happen in 2-3 year cycles, I think one of my personal goals as I enter into my 5th venture will be try to take a longer and more patient view.

Random Sidenote #2: Ironically, one of the people Reid had kindly told me to follow up with (from years ago now), and someone that I should have kept in touch with, was BJ Fogg.  BJ directs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford. Now years later, he was the professor behind the first Facebook only course at Stanford along with my friend Dave McClure.  Which of course I was interested in given my invovlment with Kontagent.  BJ as we later found out after our chat with Reid, was at the time (circa super early days of BubbleShare ~2004) was experimenting with voice inputs/recording on the web as an alternative group communication and social networking method.  BubbleShare at the time was one of the first to use voice clips with photos several years ago, and later I found out that BJ was experimenting with voice + web as an altnerative asyronous communication method)


Friday, August 01, 2008

"Kontagent: Game Changing Analytics"

"Kontagent: Game Changing Analytics" - VentureBeat

Here's a great article on Kontagent.

Wish I could be blogging here more... but been busy with the company blog as well.

(Updated Aug/04: Link was broken)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Facebook News(feed) Flash

Besides the obvious user experience improvements, greater flexiblity for advertising for facebook, and general polishing -- the new design also signals an interesting move by facebook with its new empahsis on the feed: Control.

With the new user experience emphasis on the newsfeed, not only does it enable more interesting user interactions, but provides facebook with a way to have greater control over how its applications connect with its end users.

We're seeing an obvious decline over the use of profiles, but it'll certainly be interesting for developers to see if there's going to be a shift in the effectiveness and use of the other viral channels.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Launch Rush.


We launched Kontagent, our viral analytics tool.

Have gotten some great feedback from the developer community at F8 today. While this might sound a bit cocky, I can honestly say that we had fully expected given the feedback we had gathered from a number of discussions during our earlier private trials and discussions with some of the top thought leaders in the space.

The F8 conference was very well organized. Rumored to have cost 1 Million to host the 1000 attendees.

After 22 hours straight run with what ended up being about 2 hours of sleep the night before, and a few snags on the news release, "public day" #1 is done.

I don't think there's anything more exciting than the "day before the launch" rush -- where months of work accumulate to one jammed packed day of unexpected events and feedback loops.

With this being the 5th startup now, the rush of the launch is still as addcitive as ever.

Whats been an amazing experience with building this bi-coastal this time is that some of the things that have happened would have never happened if I had done this exclusively out of Toronto as I had with most of my previous startups.

By having a presence in the mist of the action in "the valley" (technically, its San Francisco) is the flow of information and networks. Even prior to our public launch, while still in stealth mode, we've had an astonishing number of parties that came to the table with serious acquisition interest.

Thankfully, I was not in a position to have to sell early, as is often is the case with startups that are undercapitalized due to limited access to early stage financing. That's not to say that I don't beleive in "sell early and sell often" (truth is that "it depends") -- as was the advice that I had given to my friend Greg of YoVille (congrats Greg on the sale to Zynga! -- go London Ontario!) -- just that when one is well capitalized or in an enviorment where there is more access to capital, the option to grow further vs. selling too early are often much less stressful choices.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hours Slept To Probablility of an Eventful Next Day Analysis

So I'm going to have 2 hours of sleep tonight.

Anytime that I have around 2 hours of sleep, something special usually happens the next day.

As long as it doesn't involve a red eye flight I mean.

Thank you to all those who have supported me. You know who you are.

This is either the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning... time will tell. =)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Future Of Mobile Entertainment on the iPhone

Check this great summary and review of the latest iPhone apps out.

One thing that I have noticed about this first wave of iPhone apps is the relatively high quality of the user experience and visual design as compared with the first wave of apps on Facebook (empahsis on first wave as the current "2nd wave" apps on facebook are now far more advanced than the original batch and many are competitive to whats on the iPhone now). 

I think this really speaks to the power of the Apple iPhone SDK and its amazing development community following.

The iPint was easily one of my favorite apps.  Not just because of its attention to detail and innovative use of the accelerometer, but also because it happens to be a great example of how a brand can leverage the iPhone platform to create fun and engaging branded experiences.

The iPhone is clearly an awesome platform for some very cool next gen gaming.

I do wonder how soon we'll have our first iPhone based Next Gen, Massively Multiple Player Online Game + Alternate Reality GeoCacheing type app that takes advantage of:

  1. Always-On Mobile Unlimited* Broadband for instant access to your in game character (*well, at least for countries with a competitive wireless carrier environment... Canada/Rogers )
  2. GPS for Geocaching Mini-Games and Tasks/Game Clan Building
  3. Social Networking and Viral Distribution Features that Take Advantage of Your "Social Graph" (AKA: the Phonebook and/or Facebook Connect)
  4. Built in Camera on Device for Avatar Personalization and User to User Communications
Given popularity of free, ad and micro-transaction supported of MMOGs these days, I'm eager to hear what people are building/funding right now in this space.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Canadian iPhone: Pay 3X More with WITHOUT Unlimited Data

This is almost a moot point with regards to pricing, as an iPhone without Unlimited data is virtually useless in terms of mainstream user adoption of the phone and its most important features (first and 3rd party data applications/ecosystem).

International Cost Comparisons1

Canada (Rogers)2

United Kingdom (O2)3

United States (AT&T)4

Phone cost (8 GB model)

$ 199


$ 202.03

Plan cost per month

$ 100

$ 76.63

$ 101.51

Minimum contract length

3 years

1.5 years

2 years

Voice minutes (day)




Voice minutes (evenings/weekend)


N / A



1 GB



Text messages




Call display included




Mandatory extra fees per month

$ 7.45

$ 0

$ 1.25

Caller display fee

$ 7

$ 0

$ 0

Total monthly cost

$ 114.45

$ 76.63

$ 102.76


$ 4319.20

$ 1379.34

$ 2668.27

Canadian iPhone: 3X the Price as the UK and 1.6X the Price the US WITHOUT Unlimited Data

Source: Get the facts on the Rogers iPhone - FACTS

JesusPhone: Does this mean Geotagged photos is FINALLY going to hit mainstream?

Exclusive: Sneak Peek of the 3G iPhone OS | Gadget Lab from

iPhone + Photos + GPS = Killer Geo-Tagged Photo Platform/App?


For what its worth, going to try a new higher frequency blogging pattern with short spurts of thoughts. Partly inspired by my use of ScribeFire (an awesome in browser/firefox plug-in blog editor).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rogers + Jesus Phone (AKA: iPhone) w/ NO Unlimited Data = Lame

Jesus: Rogers, That Was Lame.

Damn, this is lame (article with better chart here).

Lack of unlimited data will kill mainstream consumption and stifle any real use/market of innovative data driven applications that make the new Jesus Phone a killer platform in Canada.

This is really really sad.

There will be some killer apps that will emerge on the v2 iPhone, but the lack of freedom and peace of mind that comes with having an unlimited data plan will kill the mainstream adoption of the iPhone and/or its 3rd party applications in Canada.

I guess not even Steve Jobs can bail us out of this crappy uncompetitive situation in the mobile environment that we have in this country.

I'm might just end up keeping my grandfathered/discontinued City-Fido Unlimited Voice/Data plan that costs ~ $130/month. Sure its dog slow on my GPRS/2.5G speed iPhone when surfing the web. But at least I don't have to worry about overages or being locked in for 3 years.

On the flip-side, I'm likely going to pick up another 3G modem from Telus which DOES give me unlimited data, and also data roaming in the US -- and stop borrowing my partner's Sprint 3G modem when traveling in the US.

Update: Just did a search for the unlimited Telus Data plans... WTF did they go?! Ah, I see from the comments section at MapleLeafTwo -- that they have killed the program recently. Did they do this in reaction to the lack of a threat from the 3G iphone Plan? God damnit. Sounds like some people got grandfathered in. If anyone can transfer their contract me to me, please ping.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Facebook Viral Phishing Scam

I just came across a very well made Facebook "viral" phishing attack.

A friend of mine sent me a Facebook message that suggested that take a look at a video:

"You need to check this out now, it sooooooooo funny, a monkey smoking a cigarette! HA!HA!HA!
It's on facebook videos here:


[note that clicking on that link as it stands will not bring you to the attack, it must be clicked from within the facebook message -- as well, the above message may be on of many variations this phisher might be using as templates -- if the phisher is really smart, he/she would do A/B test message templates on instrument for "conversion rates" on phishes...]

It was the perfect storm: I was brain dead the time before my morning coffee, lack of sleep, and the goof that I am, and also the trusted reputation of this friend of mine that was the sender -- who would normally never send me something unless it was insanely funny (how ironic), and the fact that I never really mentally associated phishing attacks -- I went on cruise control and clicked the link.

(side note: I suspect that most people tend to have a lower expectation for phishing attack [and spam], myself included, in the facebook world as compared to traditional emails)

The link pops up a new window (hint #1) with the facebook landing page exactly as it looks everytime my session times-out from Facebook, and asks you to re-login to the system (hint #2). I was going though the motions in auto-pilot punching in my user name and password (this was partly because I had left this facebook message window open for quite sometime, so I suspected it would have likely timed out...), then I realized that the URL looked legit with a proper icon etc, it said "" (major hint #3).

(side note: was registered April 7th, 2008 -- under a private listing with no contact info, clearly not a trust worthy domain)

After you punch in the user name and password, the site sends you to a YouTube video. Most folks probably would have watched the 30 second time waster, and carried on -- unaware of the fact that the phisher will now use the username and password in Facebook to carry out an attack via Facebook Mail disguised under your login info to send and share the same video to your friends list.

The real danger of this is of course not the spread of the video, but rather the fact that the phisher now has your Facebook password that contains your login email, your password, and all of your private Facebook information (i.e. your cell phone number, name of your friends, photos, inbox data, location/address -- all useful info for identify theft!).

Now my question is... what can be done about this other (highly lagged) phishing filters/blacklists built into browser?

A friend suggested that they could use SSL on the site, but its not like a regular user is going to care about a popup window that saids you're about to leave facebook to another site (i mean, you're leaving to watch a video or whatever), and when people see a new window post click with a facebook login, MOST people will go into cruise control and just punch in their user name and passwords anyways. So I'm doubtful SSL makes a difference here (its actually completely useless IMHO other than securing the data/contents between your system and Facebook)

... Regardless, Facebook Friends Beware of Phishing Attacks and DO NOT LOG IN via "" or anything BUT a URL that contains ""!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Friend Jared Kim: A Real Whiz Kid (vs. Yours Truly, now an just a Big Kid)

My good friend Jared (19 year old serial entreprenur... a true "whiz kid") just announced publicly that he's raised $3M for his Series-A financing round in San Francisco, lead by True Ventures today.

So, why doesn't this happen in Canada?

The article, about Canada's "Venture Gap" in this month's Canadian Business magazine (which coincidentally just came online today) may shed some light on the situation (hint: one of many things would be: further support university/youth entrepreneurship, and take bolder risks in business to consumer venture opportunities.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cisco: The New King of Web2.0 Spammers

This has got to be one of the dumbest things I've ever seen pull off by a marketing team.

The new management at (now owned by Cisco) -- not to be confused with the founding team (the Definitely-Non-Dumb founders: Chris Law and Mark Pincus) -- had the infinite wisdom of spamming their entire user base and violating their trust knowingly. 

Within the first sentence of their mass mailing, they acknowledge that I SPECIFICALLY told them NOT TO email me, and this is what I get:

Dear alai2001 ---$at$, (gee, thats personal)
We hope you excuse this mass mailing
(I would if I permitted you to mail me!, which i didn't). Some of you getting this email specifically have told us that you don't want email from (uh... yeah) and we generally don't send out emails to the entire userbase. We wanted to let you know about the big changes that have happened here at (look, if i cared, I would have asked), and if you haven't checked in with us in a while we encourage you to do so. (uh... yeah, maybe you haven't heard of this thing called "facebook?")

Now if that wasn't enough, they had the NERVE TO ATTACH A 3rd PARTY BANNER AD to the end of the email that sends me to some random (unrelated) classifieds web site that I've never heard of?! ("This email sponsord by our friends at....")


This is clearly not the way I would go about stepping into the web2.0 world.  I don't know about your hardware/router/enterprise customers, but us regular web folk don't like having stuff sent to them that they SPECIFICALLY ask not to get spammed with.

You SUCK Cisco (new owners of  


PS: Here's a clue Cisco, if you're going to spam my ass: don't go and piss me off some more and remind me that I SPECIFICALLY TOLD YOU not to email me in the first sentence of your email.  Then have the nerve to try to make money off the mailing with some stupid banner ad at the bottom to piss off your entire (and likely vocal and blogging) user-base.  That's just straight dumb.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

YouTubed by CBC/FortuneHunters

This is a promo for an upcoming show that was shot on the same day that I had my very insane day in which I delivered my keynote at the OCE Keynote at the BOT in Downtown Toronto. Was a nice and somewhat representative "day in the life" of yours truly...: me running around like a chicken with its head cut off, on 1 hour of sleep before trekking out to give a keynote at 7:00AM with a giant room full of people that dished out nearly $100 bucks to wake up at some ungodly hour, and sit and listen to me yap about "the next web" all while trying to close an insane business transaction, with my iphone dead and not fetching any emails, and a giant camera following me around capturing every second of my stupidity. =)

Uber props goes out the producer, researchers, and cameraman that worked with me at CBC FortuneHunters. They were super professional, kind, and understanding -- a real pleasure to work with. I have no idea how the show will be cut, or what spin it will have, but I am impressed by the online promo that they've edited below. It actually manage to make me not look like the total goof that I am. =)

The full show airs Jan 19th at 6:30 on CBC.