Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gigapixel-Dresden.de - Large Size Panoramas

This is pretty bad ass: 26,000 Mega Pixel Photo (largest photo in the world as of Dec/2009):

Gigapixel-Dresden.de - Large Size Panoramas

"Technical characteristics

The picture was made with the Canon 5D mark II and a 400mm-lens. It consists of 1.665 full format pictures with 21.4 megapixel, which was recorded by a photo-robot in 172 minutes. The converting of 102 GB raw data by a computer with a main memory cache of 48 GB and 16 processors took 94 hours. With a resolution of 297.500 x 87.500 pixel (26 gigapixel) the picture is the largest in the world. (stand December 2009)"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Make $1M on Apple App Store. Woop-Dee-Do.

So I was reading about this article on TechCrunch about how awesome this app was to make over a million dollars over 8 months.

Gut reaction was, wow, indie developer making real bank on the app store!

Then I put it into perspective: that's over 8 months, about $125k a month.  That's assuming that the $1M number if POST apple's 30% cut.

Lets forget that for a moment.  Lets say the app made a over $1M in one single month.


Now before you all start calling me a hater  -- I sincerely have crazy respect for the guys who built this awesome barcode scanning app (something I've always dreamt of wanting to have and even at one point contemplated building in the distant past). Lets put this in relative terms to the Facebook platform for indie developers:

I know for fact, indie developers that have made hundreds of thousands (to million+) a month, for many months, on Facebook.

If $100k-$300k a month is a big deal on the app store as a TOP paid app for multiple months is a big deal, with little in the way of recurring revenues off the one app is a fantastic success story:

Then I stand by my opinion that it still the economics still suck to build for the iPhone platform as compared to the Facebook platform, and perhaps this suckage is a good thing for apple for innovation as I've talked before in a prior posting.

That said, I suspect/hope things will change for the better on the iPhone platform.

Someone had to say it, but pound for pound, hour for hour, the pay off is still better for a developer to build FB apps than iPhone apps today.

As I said before, this is just another great data point for those that are evaluating between the two platforms to build for.

All that being said of course, if I had to build something -- I'd always build something that I'd find most interesting AND lucrative.  But never just one or the other -- as you'll never win if there isn't a good balance between the two.

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Does iPhone's Suckage Breed Better Apps?

...Or Put Another way Does Lower Virality on App Platforms Breed Better Apps?

Here are some great iPhone apps demo videos from a recent AppsFire contest at LeWeb.  In spite of the crappy economics of building iPhone apps, I seem to keep finding more creativity employed in iPhone apps than FB Apps (granted the iPhone has a camera and location and touch screen to play with over most FB apps).

I'm starting to think that its the reasons behind the poor economics on the iPhone platform (i.e. crappy distribution channels, low virality, no re-engagement channels, etc.) that are driving/forcing more diverity and creativity with iPhone Apps over Facebook Apps.

Because there are no easy viral channels on iPhone, from a economic perspective, building a derivative game/app on Facebook that copy an existing proven game mechanic (farming, fish tank, mob-combat, quizzes) and model that:

1) have of strong viral loop opportunities (quiz apps)
2) lends itself to well to driving its users towards monetization behaviors (in game survival and personalization purchasing motives)
3) have a low cost of replication (i.e. no complex 3D engines) 
4) lends itself to opportunities that enabled developers to differentiate though easy "re-theming"

Where as in the iPhone world, derivative works tend not to stand out, and relies on short bursts of exposure (and high churn) of the Apple App store via large amounts of downloads via burst promotions/marketing campaigns and strong word of mouth and reviews.

The rational developer is driven to build profitable, derivative viral games that can take advantage of a fast growing ecosystem of "fresh blood" that grows at 20-40M users a quarter on the FB platform, whereas on the slower growing iPhone platform, the rational developer is forced to differentiate itself much more so in order to gain distribution without the benefit of virality.

So the questions is: does virality + explosive platform growth breed highly profitable, derivative app development efforts, crowding out and driving out creative efforts?  And is the lack of better economics for iPhone developers actually providing Apple a better and more diverse app developer ecosystem?
Either way, at Kontagent, we are seeing that developers are becoming much more focused than before about micro-tuning their virality, and putting more efforts on A/B testing given the more limited viral events/messages/channels that are available to them. 

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

6 Must Read Start Up Blogs

Here's the list of my favorite startup resources and blogs... not entirely conclusive, but I've picked the ones that I think have the highest signal to noise ratio from a startup content only perspective.

Collections of Top Resources:

  • Noam Wasserman/Founder Research: http://www.founderresearch.blogspot.com/
    • HUGE Body of Reference on Founder Related Issues and Research from Noam Wasserman, Professor of Entrepreneurial Management at HBS
  • Nivi and Naval's VentureHacks - http://venturehacks.com/ 
    • HUGE Collection of Real World Advice from the Trenches by Naval Ravikant and Nivi
Fantastic Start Up Bloggers:

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Posterous Quick Blog

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Another example of why Paul Graham rocks in my books.

Paul Graham On Two Kinds of Programmers and Painters
...In the world of painting there are some people who are just fabulously talented at drawing. They can sit down, these are like the kids who could draw in high school age fifteen they can sit down with a pencil ... sit in front of you ... wow, it looks just like me. But then when you say to these guys, "ok, use this amazing skill to just produce anything, just put it on the wall it's going to look great and then they lose". And within programming there is this distinction too. There are some people who are really really good at implementing code like if you give them a spec for a programming language and man, they will just implement it; The hardest stuff as long as you tell them precisely what to do, they will just do it. But you say, "ok, make up a product, make up some kind of new product that people want", and they are just utterly lost. This is actually a big mistake that companies make. There's a lot of companies who think that the programmers are basically implementers, that products are supposed to be designed by product managers. They are supposed to be designing what the products do. And they make mockups or something like that and they hand it to the programmers and the programmers translate their ideas into code. Like this one way process, no loopback - that loses! The best programmers are the ones that combine in one head both the ability to translate ideas into code and having the ideas.  Just like the best artists have both the ability ... (have) a great hand. They can make their hand do what they want. But they also know what to tell it to do and actually between the two, I would take the Cézannes. Cézanne could not draw, he makes the same drawing mistakes that every one makes in introductory drawing classes. Occam's razor said he couldn't draw, not that he was trying to transcend three dimension ... But what he was good at was sort of the other half - deciding what to produce. He was terribly frustrated he was like this guy who had all kinds of ideas, but he couldn't articulate them with his hand. When you put the stuff on the wall in a room full of other paintings, it looks like there's a spotlight shining on his paintings and other ones have been sprayed with a light coating of mud. It's just amazing when you look at side by side paintings. So I will take the Cézannes actually and one interesting thing that has been happening is because programming languages have gotten so powerful you don't have to be that good an implementer to get something built.
Paul Graham in an interview with Russ Roberts (~45:30-48:25)

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Posterous Quick Blog

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Early Predictions for the Social Web in 2010-2011

2010/2011 Will Be the Year of...

  • The Social Web, Facebook will be a part of the fabric of the web (PC, mobile, xbox, PS3, iphone, etc.)
  • LAMP-"F" (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python, Facebook-connect)
  • Social Micro-Commerce: Facebook Connect + "Facebook Wallet" = Web Micro-Transactions at last (for light weight web content/services etc.)
  • First pure social game company to IPO (zynga) and people will finally realize that it is the most successful internet company in a first two/three year time window in every financial (revenues, profits) and reach metric (users)
  • Brands will start to clue into the power of viral marketing in the age of the "social web"
  • "Data Driven Design" and "Viral Engineering" will be memes used in the real world (and powered by Kontagent ;)

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Posterous Quick Blog

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm Such a Geek: StarWars: In Concert (in Toronto) - Rocked the House.

Show was pretty damn awesome.

A fellow StarWars geek friend of mine wanted to go, and we had to resort to scalper seats on craigslist as the WHOLE Air Canada Center was sold out.

But wow.  We had some of the best seats in the house.

The music was awesome.

The visual/video college was amazing -- esp. on the ultra high res/high contrast projector -- and we were right in front of it, right in the middle.  

Just awesome.  Almost worth the ludacrous amount that we ended up paying (mind you, it was still probably less than the really great tix for a Basketball game) 

But hell, you only live once:  Work hard.  Geek harder!

Posted via email from Albert's posterous

Thursday, November 26, 2009

This is a MUST SEE Slide Show

Virtual Goods in Asia</object><div style="font-size:11px;font-family:tahoma,arial;height:26px;padding-top:2px;">View more documents from Benjamin Joffe.</div></div>

Damn I Love Posterous

If you guys haven't checked out Posterous, you should.

It makes blogging so easy.

I can see myself blogging daily now, or at least a lot more often.

Its reminds me of BubbleShare -- Focusing on simplifying something that used to be a pain in the ass.  Clever use of email.  Etc.

Love it.

Posted via email from Albert's posterous

United Airlines: You Impress Me - $250 Coupon Back for a 60 Min Short Delay!

(Update: To be clear, this was not a normal pre-boarding delay, but a delay that was due to a malfunctioning gear on the plane that forced us to land, but it was a short stop and they were able to get us back in the air within 60 mins)

Dear Mr Lai,

On behalf of United Airlines, please accept my apologies for the delay and inconvenience you experienced on Flight 854.

I was made aware of the circumstances regarding our precautionary diversion of your flight to Chicago for mechanical reasons, and requiring a change of aircraft. I want to assure you regardless of the reason, I understand how frustrating or unsettling it can be to have your travel plans suddenly altered. I know that in choosing air travel you do so with time constraints in mind, and I am truly sorry if we did not provide the level of service that you expect or deserve from United. Thank you for your patience and cooperation as we made preparations to get you safely on your way.

Let me assure you that we are thoroughly evaluating our recovery efforts in order to improve coordination of services for our customers on future flights. Meanwhile, your satisfaction and business mean a great deal to United, and I am pleased to offer you this choice of a goodwill gesture. I hope you will use it with the full confidence that United is committed to meeting your expectations and we hope for an early opportunity to serve your travel needs.


Sherri Hermance
United Airlines
Customer Relations

Posted via email from Albert's posterous

Friday, September 04, 2009

Lists of Lists of Startup Resources

I’m republishing this here as I was worried about the reliablity of the original source here.

I hope Dr. Jager (a founder of BytePlay, Seedcamp Mentor, and Founding Investor of Playfire) doesn’t mind me repeating/creating redundancy of the content here.   He has compiled an incredible list of great resources that I’m sure many of my readers here will find interesting.

Another useful list of resources is posted here at StartUpNorth by David Crow.

Republished from: Dr Douglas de Jager’s bookmarks:


Market size

The only thing that matters: market size

Long tail: the hits get bigger

Overviews of different verticals by the Internet Advertising Bureau

Morgan Stanley's market research

Customer Development

The leading cause of startup death: the product development diagram

The customer development manifestor: reasons for the revolution. Part 1.

The customer development manifestor: reasons for the revolution. Part 2.

Customer development: the long lost formula for startup success

Acquiring traffic; seeking and maintaining critical mass

Search Engine Ranking Factors

Understanding online marketing.

What's your viral loop? Understanding the engine of adoption.

Viral loop and retention loop.

Modeling viral loops

Viral marketing is not a marketing strategy

Engagement loops: beyond viral

Viral expansion loop.

FaceBook app case study

Calculating cost of user acquisition

Social network marketing

10 obvious strategies to ruthlessly acquire users

Growing renewable audiences

User retention curves

CPA versus CPM

3 Drivers of growth for your business.

Six strategies for overcoming chicken-and-egg problems

Converting traffic into paying customers

How to measure the success of your web app

Tips for improving high-bounce, low-conversion Web pages

Ad-based versus direct monetization

How to create a profitable freemium startup

Understanding freemium

A simple formula to gauge a freemium model's success

5 factors that determine your advertising CPM rates

5 things that make your social network monetize like crap

Your ad-supported web2.0 site is actually a b2b enterprise in disguise

Ad targeting

How to price

Startup Tips for Enterprise Software Pricing

Branding; image; PR

Branding lessons from Basecamp

You're a little company. Now act like one.

Why metrics-driven startups overlook brand value

PR guide for startups

User interface. Engagement and product design

Top 10 user interface myths

25 Reasons users stop using your product

Do you ever say that MySpace is so ugly?

Why FaceBook apps are focused on fun instead of utility

How Metcalfe's law can work against you

Desktop app versus Web app


Essential algorithms: genetic algorithms, simulated annealing, etc

How to build a popularity algorithm

Statistical ML explained

Metrics-driven business

Does AB testing lead to crappy products?

Benefit-driven metrics: measure the lives you save, not the life preservers you sell

The first 6 steps to home-growing basic startup analytics

Are you misusing Alexa numbers?

I'm just a startup. I can't do those fancy analytics.

How to measure if users love your product

Case studies

Web app biopsies

The underbelly of a web app

5 lessons learned from yousendit.com

AdultFriendFinder: ARPU, churn and conversion rates

Gambit: funnel metrics

What would FaceBook look like if it sold out to ads?

Whirl: metrics for virtual goods businesses

FaceBook vs MySpace: traffic and ad revenue/a>

Lessons from the casino industry on engagement metrics and lifetime value

How companies like Google, Ideo and 37Signals build failure-tolerant systems

Google's Key Success Factors

Everything you always wanted to know about Google

Platform versus application: considering FaceBook

Lesson from SnapTalent: Know Your Market

Rentoid: overcoming the chicken-and-egg problem


How to hire


How to fund a startup

But I don't know any VCs

Elevator Pitch

When VCs say, "No"

The truth about VCs. Part 1

The truth about VCs. Part 2

The truth about VCs. Part 3

Venture Hacks: Cheat Sheet

Series-A Termsheet as advised by YCombinator

Series-A Termsheet as advised by TheFunded

5 milestones to reach before raising venture capital

Ramen profitability

Angel investing

Understanding investors

Don't shop your termsheet

Venture capital firms care about the upside case, not the mean

Pitching the VC partnership

Founder returns

Managing one's own time

Guide to personal productivity

News / Views

Hacker News - YCombinator

Andrew Chen


Read Write Web

Radar O'Reilly




John Battelle

Matt Cutts: Google, Gadgets, SEO

Neuroscience Marketing



The Accelerator Group (TAG)

Local Globe

Seed Camp

Saul Klein's bookmarks

Fred Destin


Fred Wilson


Venture Beat

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Facebook Faceoff: Facebook vs. iPhone App Economics

yoville vs. Convert

What prompted me to write this was that I wanted to do some quick back of the napkin calculation/exercise after seeing this post about “Convert”, a #2 top paid application (in the app store) case study on an iPhone App (which btw, looks like an awesome product, but…). 

It made me think: 

WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO TRY TO MAKE MONEY BUILDING IPHONE APPS? (instead of building facebook apps, or getting a real job ;)

The post is a quick case study/snap shot of a #2 app paid app that is in the Apple App store.  The post shows that in the last 7 days, its roughly averaged roughly 4,000 downloads a day, peaking out at a bit over 6,000.  Each download is priced at (the magical) $1.00 price point.

Lets be a bit generous and say they were able to turn the 6,000 download figure into something that became 8,000 downloads (peaks out at 30% growth… which is generous given there is little virality in the iPhone space)  for every single day for the next 30 days – and stays on top of the AppStore “Top Seller” list.

That would equal $240,000 in revenues assuming 8,000 downloads each and every day of the month for 30 days, which given the way that apps are churned/cycled though the app store, there is little likelihood that would ever happen.  But lets just say that it did.

So what would you need to do on the Facebook side as a social game/app developer to achieve the same results?

Social game developers commonly report $0.20 to $0.50 in revenues for each Monthly Active User (MAU) per month - via virtual currency sales within social games via offers (gambit/super rewards/others) and or direct transactions (paypal, sparechange, zong etc.)

Quite simply, what this means is that you’d need to create an app that ranged from 500k to 1M users to achieve the same results.

So in summary:


- BEST case top 3 app on AppStore

- Generates 8,000 downloads a day @ $1.00 per download

- Month 1 Revenues: $240,000 in next 30 days (under amazingly positive circumstances)


- Builds a reasonably successful Social Game with standard game mechanics targeting a sizeable vertical

- Social game that monetizes at the middle/lower part of the range ($0.25-$0.50 / month / MAU)

- Needs to generate 500,000 to 1 million MAUs to achieve the same results in one month

- BUT: The facebook game is likely to also (1) be able to sustain this revenue stream over several months, (2) grow its user-base via engineered viral distribution channels/strategies via “social distribution” vs. being at the mercy of the Apple Store.

So lets say a Facebook game has a life expectancy of roughly 4 months: this means that for the average developer, they would have 3 months to achieve the same amount of revenues – meaning 1/4 of the MAUs  to achieve the same results.  Translation: you could make the same amount of money with roughly 100,000-250,000 MAUs (kept at that level over 4 months). 

Now to put this into context, while not ALL apps are social games (and therefore usually not as easily monetized/have lower ARPU) there are over 500 apps on facebook that have over 100,000 MAUs, and nearly 300 apps with over 250,000 MAUs.

There are of course massive distribution benefit’s on Facebook as well, the most important of which is you CAN engineer your distribution/exposure via viral optimization (i.e. A/B testing and engineering your viral loop and messaging channels, or optimizing your seeding/media buys… at the risk of losing all credibility here – not that i assumed that i had any to begin with, heh - you may want to consider looking at using Kontagent for doing some of this?…  ;).

I’m no doubt casting a very rough estimate on the topic, and I am more familiar with the economics behind the FB development world than the iPhone app development world, and I’d love to see some of my friends on the iPhone side correct me on this.

To me, there is almost no question that right now, social games on Facebook has better economics given the limitations of the iPhone – and I’m most certainally no the only one that thinks that.  The real question for me are: (a) how much better is it really? 2x, 5x, 10x?  and (b) what needs to change for mobile social apps/games to take off, and when will it happen?

But just keep in mind as you’re bashing this that this is really meant to be a back of the envelope calculation, and wanted to get some feedback on the topic.

Bottomline: Purely economically speaking – it sucks to build iPhone App relative to Facebook Games.  iPhone games have no good distribution options, little virality, extremely high churn, revenue share requirements, pain in the ass approval process, a relatively small total addressable audience (compared to FB).

Yes, its a bit of an apples and oranges comparison (no pun intended).  But I don’t care. =P 

[update: here’s another case study that happens to echo my sentiments]

[update #2: here are two comments from my Facebook Note/Blog – both from people that I respect & trust from both the iPhone camp (Greg Yardley/Founder/CEO/PinchMedia) and the Facebook camp (Siqi Chen/Founder/CEO/SeriousBusiness).  They agrees with the above and passes the reality/bias check. =) ]

Siqi Chen Siqi Chen


Greg Yardley Greg Yardley

yeah, this is pretty much correct.

[update #3: ironically, Om at GigaOm has also posted something about the iPhone App space today, with a (questionable) survey that was posted by AdMob that implies that the mobile app space is making $200M a month… here’s my quick 2 cents:

Hey Om, I have to agree with Sourabh above (and call BS on the “Survey” results).

Timing of this post is intersting, as I just did a quick back of the envelope economic/case-study of a recent/current top (#2) paid app on the app store here:http://bit.ly/2VgTF

I find it difficult to believe that the iPhone app space is 5-10x bigger than the Facebook app space given the economics and user metrics.

You can roughly guesstimate the SNS app/game space being $500M market ($100M for Zynga, $40M/$40M for playdom/playfish, and lets call it 3x-4x that for the rest), with a user base of 400M users (FB+MySpace+OpenSocial) vs. ~1/10th of that on the iPhone side.

ARPU on the social game side is $0.20 to $1 per MAU.

According to AdMob’s survey, iPhone app market is 5x that of the SNS app/game market given that the space has 1/10th the reach of SNS apps (~40M vs ~400M users)?

The other thing that throws me off the most is the”survey results”/assumption that shows 50% of users spend $10/month on AVERAGE on Apps. That number just strikes me as being highly optimistic/inflated as an average.

That said, I could see a day that the mobile app space makes $240M a month… that day just isn’t today.

Also, it could be argued I’m just as biased towards Facebook as a founder of Kontagent (facebook analytics) as AdMob (mobile analytics/ads) is for towards the iPhone. =)]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

You’ve probably seen this, but in case you haven’t, allow me to allow Steve Jobs enlighten you today… =)

“Stay Hungry.  Stay Foolish.”

Almost exactly 10 years ago, I vowed and believed in the same ideal and philosophy as the above timeless quote when I made my first little bit of “FU” money very young adult.

What’s different today?  It gets harder and harder to do so as you get older.  I’ve wished this for myself over the past decade, and I’m glad I have remained foolish and hungry for much of it.

I think for that that I’ve managed to become wealthier in mind and money!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Farewell BubbleShare... You will be missed.

[blogging has been slowed, and lately i've just been twittering... but now f'ing twitter has locked me out of my account for a week now due to THIER systems being comprimised, still waiting for it to get unlocked... so here I am, back on Blogger... need to catchup on my blogging still, but today, I'm lazy, so I'm just posting my massive reply to an eariler TechCrunch posting here...:]

Ironic that Michael would write a piece about it before I even got a letter up on my own blog about my good byes.

The truth is, when we launched the service — BubbleShare did kick total ass.

If fulfilled our vision of what would happen if Google and Craigslist got together to create a great photosharing tool.

BubbleShare was super simple, had “zero registration” (think craigslist style private email setup), Flash Multi-Uploader (first introduced via beta of flash8), use of AJAX for dynamic grid views, magnifying glass viewer, decorative scrap book like overlays, user audio captioning, and later video captioning — many of these were all industry firsts (or at least very damn close to it) back in 2005.

These innovations came in rapid succession as flickr was appleasing the high end of the alpha geek market (targetting bloggers), slide had come out with a similar desktop product that we had created — and then steered towards social widgets (targetting myspace users), and we had remained focused on elegant digital sharing for novice users (targetting “photo moms”).

Within a year of launch, we were entertaining a number of buyout opportunities and series-A term sheets, and it was clear where things needed to go. While financing was interesting, a number of buyout offers were starting to appear which became really attractive. Things didn’t go as smoothly on that front as we would have liked, but then the VC funding options also came, in our opinion, too late to really help take it to the next level.

But since the buyout from Kaboose in early 2007 (which really started in mid 2006 amongst a number of parties), the innovations have to a stop.

The incredible team that we we had at BubbleShare after the acquisition were diverted to some important strategic projects inside the parent company that needed BubbleShares technical DNA that we had brought to Kaboose (a strong marketing, and not a technology company). And BubbleShare languished as bits of its tech and DNA scattered across the Kaboose properties.

Since that time, after a relatively short earn out for myself, and then my peers — as expected, many of us are working on heading up new projects.

Myself on a new social analytics startup (Kontagent), our CTO on a new online/social ads startup (Chango/Tweekbucks), and much of the core team now involved in a number of other social media companies.

Perhaps one of the unintended legacy that BubbleShare will leave behind is an event that it helped spawned due to our desire to grow the local tech scene at the time with another tech community evangelist, David Crow. The event was the first “DemoCamp” which was in part setup and hosted by us to gain feedback from the tech community. Since then, DemoCamp has gone on for 25+ events in just Toronto, and spun out events as far as Austin to Dubai.

It was also super cool to see BubbleShare on TechCrunch - and be hosted to an adhoc mini-TechCrunch party at the BBC (bar) in the Bay Area by the “Early Mike Arrrington” (before his parties had dozens of sponsors and thousands of people) during an impromptu visit out west. Which lead to a series of interesting meetings with mike (who in all honesty, put bubbleshare on the map for us), including a trip to Taiwan (with him and ironically a professional innovation hero of mine, stewart butterfield/cofounder of flick ironically), then a crazy lunch with Mike, Bill Gates & Scoble, then him only writing about my deadpooled photosharing companies but never anything about my more sexy social analytics/Kontagent platform ventures (which has all the pleasing aesthetics but twice the geekiness!). =-P

Although I’m not sure I’m quite up for it, I’d sure am happy to see someone keep the BubbleShare legacy alive — and pick up where Kaboose and Disney has left off…

But until then, farewell my old friend… BubbleShare will be missed. =(


One other note... the thing I miss the most from building BubbleShare wasn't the product itself, but the continual fun and excitiment of bringing something super cool to the world with a team of fun and talented people. That above all will be the thing I miss most about my BubbleShare experieince.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

(Social) Games and the Future of Television (esp. Canada)

A few months ago, I was at the I/O (interactive ontario) confernece in Toronto -- the final panel had a speaker from the CBC and amongst other speakers.

The thing that threw me for a loop was that very few people on stage vocally spoke about the impact of games as "real content" (there was debates about Canadian content vs. US, and the need to have original "Canadian content" etc.) -- David Crow happend to be on stage as I was victim of me MADLY twittering him to bring up the topic.

The real point of my posting though isn't so much that debate,  or the debate about Canadian content production policies (and its associated goverment financial incentives/tax-credits).  

But rather its a much braoder point: 

Dude: Games, MMOs on computers, iphones, social networks, consoles, whatever -- Not Television shows, is the future of "content" for the vast majority of the emerging Gen-Y population... and will represent a huge part of  their media/entertainment time-spent and share of wallet.

The debate is not about if something has "Canadian content," the debate should be -- what can Canada do about its fledging leadership in games -- and turn it into a WORLD leader in this area of content that is the fastest growning, and one of the most lucrative.

There is a massive amount of talent in Canada for game development.  I don't know what it is... but we've had a history of a convergence of great creative AND technical talent.  I think it stems from the fact that we've had a very vibrant CD-ROM production community in the early to mid 90s (which was really of off shoot of the alpha-geeks doing video and film and super early F/X and traditional animation work in the late 80s/early 90s).

Canada (Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal especially) was once a hot-bed for CD-ROM/"Multi-media" design shops, as it has been for animation studios.

This has probably something to do with the great number of top game studios listed in the recent "Develop 100" most "bankable" game studios being Canada (2 of the top 6 are Canadian -- EA Canada and Ubisoft Montreal).  There's even a nice little profile of all the top folks here in flash-magazine format.

This country could aboustely kill it by being a leader in this emering space.  There seems to be a reasonable amount of support for it from some gov programs, but I don't know if I'm seeing enough of it.  I have a feeling that not enough of it is trickleing down to the smaller studios and startups that could otherwise be funded at the earliest stages.  Esp. folks that are in the killer lucrative social gaming world.

Here's the other thing... I know of some killer pockets of developers here that are doing some world class stuff, including from my friend Greg Thomson, who created the flagship Zynga (a social game company rumored to be making $30M-$100M in just ~2 years of existance) game called "YoVille" (currently has 5.1 Million Monthly Active Users) - built out of London Ontario (of all places -- no offense to folks living there, but its not exactly the hot bed of tech -- which goes to show great innovation CAN happen anywhere -- including outside the valley and toronto).  Greg also happens to be  speaking at DemoCamp 20 to talk about the his new 3D first person shooter in Facebook (all developed in Flash).

Social Games is a killer opportunity for cash/resource strapped, boot strapped minded enviorments like Canada.  The capital requirements for buiding them are (still) relatively low, the cost of distribution is zero (i.e. viral, and much of your ability to gain adoption is not via owning shelf space, but rather how clever and good you are at creating a strong viral loop).

So basically: No access to big VC Valley money to compete with multi-million dollar triple-A console titles?  No access big brand licences from New York to attract users?  No problem: build social games, get viral distribition, monetize with direct virtual payments (i.e. paypal and sparechange), incentivzed offers (i.e. Super Rewards, OfferPal), and/or ads (RockYou, SocialMedia).

Anyways, just my 2 cents late night rant. 

A List of Startup Outsource Designed and Other Virtual Services

So as a follow up to my last blog... I figured I'll put together a bit of a list of my favorite resources from around the web for bootstrap startups that want to get access to some great outsource/virtual services (esp. on the design side).

So I thought I'd share some of my favorite (startup/outsourced design) resources are:
  • iStockphoto.com - the standard in cheap stock photos)
  • fotolia.com - run by my friend Patrick Lor, formerly of iStockphoto, this is his new gig
There are others of course, and please feel free to let me know.

I have also discovered (and heard great things about):
  • Shoeboxed - which seems like an awesome service to get your recipets and business cards scanned for a pretty reasonable price (and has a netflix like subscription/mail in monthly model).
  • eLance - everything from transcription services (tried putting a bid out) to outsourced developers (no experience yet) 

Kontagent Facebook Analytics (New Web Site) Launched

Long over due update here on Kontagent (Facebook Analytics).

If there is one thing I've learned about creating a marketing website with Kontagent is that... well, I shouldn't have bothered.

Not that we shouldn't be revamping our site, because the old one sucks and the new one is MUCH better (but far from perfect), its just that it has been an insane drain of our resources and time.

Made me realize why we decided to build Facebook Analytics and not Facebook Apps in the first place.

The lesson I learned (re-learned really) is that you should really pay attention to your team's DNA.

Do what you're great at, in our case building great Social Analytics for Facebook (and soon, MySpace and OpenSocial), and basically large systems (I work with a group of super-hard core Engineers), and outsource the rest.

The time we spent using our own resources to flesh out this website from conception to design to execution and revision, we could have probably saved thousands of dollars even by going with great local web design firm (or better yet, tap into any number of great international independent designers/firms that are cropping up everywhere from Russia to Brazil).

If you're a startup, there's a ton of great "virtual"/crowdsourced design and assistance services avaiable all over the web.  You'd be foolish not to consider them... I'll follow up with another post that lists some of my favs.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Venture Capital Breakdown (in Canada)

Here is a cross-post of my comments on today's article from Matt Hartley on "Venture Capital Breakdown" (read first) in Canada on the Globe and Mail... thought a few of my readers here might be interested...
In the early morning the comment system here ate my comment, which has now apparently disappeared into the ether. Since that comment took way too long to post/edit, I'm posting my 2 cents in point form below:  
- Matt, thanks for the very TIMELY article, this is an extremely important issue for the future of Canada  
- Two comments in the article that particularly resonated with me were: 
(1) Kevin's comments about students from UofT that lack the entrepreneurial attitudes compared to Stanford's - albeit an extreme case (in favor of Stanford as a representation of a typical US university) - I absolutely agree with his point. We do not even come CLOSE to doing enough to foster and support entrepreneurial spirit in our culture and education system;  
(2) Rick's comment is spot on - we do not embrace failure as a necessary ingredient of *breakthrough* success. While I have had a couple of small successes, I've had many more failures/learning-experiences (thankfully coming out of them net positive). However, my peers and I know that this is a necessary path (as is the risk capital required to do so at the right time!) to achieving great innovations  
- We took our very first investment money from silicon valley, as that is where we ended up setting up our HQ (and it resulted in us being able to get access to our very early and aggressive investor/fund that ENABLED the venture to get started)  
- That being said, I want to clarify that we DO have a (very unique and fantastic) follow on investor from Canada that came on board several months later that we met in the course of operating our business. They are in the very small minority in Canada, as they have been quietly making some very aggressive and very early stage (i.e. high risk/reward) investments  
- There are glimmers of hope, eg. new incubator initiatives like BootUp Labs in Vancouver, and some very smart & connected early stage investors like Extreme Venture Partners in Toronto. (update: and also things like founders and funders and democamp ... stuff that wasn't around when I was working in the web1.0 startup world in Canada, which has obviously been critical to fostering more innovation and entreprenurial thinking in the region -- and more support for the startup community coming from what would have eariler been much less likely entities such as larger corps. via internal champions like David Crow, Evangalist at Microsoft and less publically via folks such as Mike Lee, Chief Strategist at Rogers).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kontagent Co-Hosts Facebook Developer Garage San Francisco Tonight

Lazy and busy day, so dediced to just steal most of the content from my friend Justin Smith from InsideFacebook's posting to mention that we're co-hosting our first facebook developer garage in San Franicsco, more details below... hope to see you there (esp. if you're in town for GDC)!

There should be a packed house tonight at the San Francisco Facebook Developer Garage. The event, co-hosted byKontagent, will focus on Facebook Connect, social games, and advanced app metrics.

Over 600 people have RSVP’d, and there’s a full list of speakers scheduled to present (see the full list below). 

Here are all the details:

What: Facebook Developer Garage San Francisco

  • When: Wednesday, March 25, 6:30-9:30pm
  • Where: Hyatt Regency San Francisco
  • Address: 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA

Speaker Lineup and Topics:

  • Albert Lai (Kontagent co-founder/CEO) - Intros
  • Andreas Weigend (Data Mining Professor at Stanford and Former Chief Scientist at Amazon) - Keynote
  • Eric Ries (Kleiner Perkers, co-founder IMVU) - Metrics for social engagement
  • Jia Shen (co-founder/CTO RockYou) - Metrics of notifications
  • Jeffrey Tseng & Fredric Newberg (Kontagent co-founder/CTO & VP engineering) - Viral tuning beyond conversion
  • Josh Elman (Facebook) - Facebook Connect on Web & iPhone and others
  • Justin Smith (Inside Facebook & Inside Social Games, Advisor & Former Head of Products at Watercooler) - Social Gaming trends
  • Andrew Mayer (Media Shifters) - Casual gaming metrics applied to social gaming
  • Vikas Gupta (co-founder Jambool) - Virtual economy Ooptimization
  • Michael Hart (Netflix) - Netflix Facebook Connect metrics

Look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kontagent Hackathon Toronto

We're hosting a Hackathon this March 19th for all Facebook developers in Toronto that's interested in trying out and learning about Kontagent and analytics for Facebook.  The last one we held in SF was a fantastic, so we're hosting another one. This is the 2nd in a series that we'll be doing over the course of the year across many cities.  

We will providing consulting & instrumentation for Facebook App Developers that are using PHP and Rails!

This is a HANDS ON EVENT -- Please come prepared to hack (i.e. come with a laptop & access to your app) & get your app instrumented with free on-site support, software and feedback.

Students with FB Apps are welcome! 

Beers and Pizzas Avaiable.  

Looking forward to connecting with some Toronto FB Devs!  

There will be a capacity limit.  So please RSVP.  

Details and RSVP links are here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Reminder: Kontagent Demoing at DemoCamp Today!

Looking forward to demoing Kontagent and reconnecting with some old DemoCamp friends and new commers alike.

Pretty amazing to think that DemoCamp is ver. 19.0 in Toronto.

I just found this link that speaks to the history of DemoCamp  (with an overly generous tid-bit of my contribution...).

Ironic story about DemoCamp was that it was really meant as a means for me to reconnect with the local community on a more regular basis, and an excuse to allow me to solict early feedback from my peers on BubbleShare during the earilest days of my previous startup.

Its now grown into 19th seperate events in Toronto due to David Crow, who has been the sole reason its continued to this day.

The concept which was a dervivied and insipred by BarCamp, amazingly the idea of DemoCamp has spread out to :

All of which were self organized (which I can take absolutely zero credit for).  Goes to show how great things can happen when you bring passionate people together that want to share their ideas and knowledge.

This is what we're hoping to do with more community events for the social network application development space, such as our Social Games Workshop and Hackathons (SF).

If there is sufficient interest, we'll also be launching a Toronto Kontagent Hackathon.  Please drop me a line here and/or directly if you're interested in attending one!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Special Kontagent Facebook Developer Event in SF... Details Soon!!

Special Event on March 25th in SF
Kontagent will soon be hosting a large developer event on March 25th.  This is a follow on event to a private workshop that we hosted earlier with an unbelievable turnout with reps from Facebook, Google, Ohai, Serious Business/Friends4Sale, Playfish, ShuffleBrain and others -- with folks traveling in from LA/Amy Jo Kim [speaker of an awesome recent google talk here] to Beijing/Robin/XPDMedia [congrats on the series-A funding guys!]. 

Stay tuned for more info on this...!

3 Upcoming Events: Research Capital Workshop, DemoCamp19, and EngageExpo

Three event announcements...

1. Research Captial Social Gaming Workshop (w/ Austin Hill and Jon Walsh) / Toronto

I'll be speaking here this coming Tuesday:

Event is hosted by David Shore from Research Capital.

If you haven't seen David's amazing WEEKLY Web2.0 research report.  It includes a summary of all "web 2.0" private and public financing info and some very useful and deep financial data in the space) and highlights.   I have not seen anyone else anywhere go into the depth that he on the financial research side of the web2/social network/UGC and casual/social gaming space.  Do yourself a favor and hunt him down to get a report & subscription. 

It is an international report (with some AMAZING numbers from Asia -- highly complimentary to the awesome research on Asia's Social Networking community that Ben Joffie has done here), and it is better than any report I've seen in the US/Valley in its category.  Who ironically I'm hosting in SF for a few days just prior to the event with David -- so if you want to meet Ben in SF, he's on this side of the world for a limited time, catch him while you can. =)

I'll try to get a copy of it up here as well, and add some commentary soon.

2. DemoCamp 19 (!!!) / Toronto

Later in the day I'll be doing a talk at DemoCamp.

Thanks to David Crow, Toronto DemoCamp is a v19.0.  That's more versions than Oracle, and more sequals than Rocky.  Who could have guessed.   The DemoCamp/Toronto community owes David a huge debt for the great work he's done in rallying the alpha-geeks of our great city.

3. Engage Expo / NYC

Thanks to the Dan & Reuben at Virtual Greats/MillionsOfUs (an really cool "branded virtual goods" company), I'll be sharing a panel with Dan to talk about social games and virtual goods at teh Engage Expo.