Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Facebook / Instagram Analysis

I thought I'd put together a extended analysis of Wired/Andy Biaos great article/analysis on the buyout Facebook's $1 Billion buyout of Instagram.

(Here's a link to the full sized JPEG)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Four Years of Awesomeness

It's hard for me to imagine being a more fortunate entrepreneur.

In the mid 90's, I had the good fortune of running into the idea of creating the very first “Yeardisc” - a sort of “Pre-broadband Internet Facebook on CD-ROM”, an end of year compilation of multimedia student profiles, and galleries for high-school students. While the project was not ever a massive commercial success, it did however spawn a series of very fortunate events. One of which led me to launch my first of four Internet companies prior to Kontagent. Another, was the opportunity to have worked on the Yeardisc project in high school, alongside Jeff Tseng, the person that would eventually end-up becoming my brilliant co-founder at Kontagent, over a dozen years later.

Flash forward to early 2007 - my last day, at my last company, BubbleShare (a photo sharing service that I started and sold just prior to co-founding Kontagent), the first person I called in search of my next adventure was none other than my high school partner in crime, Jeff.

Since then, Kontagent - though many twist, turns and pivots, as well as surviving one of the worst economic downturns in history, has evolved into the leading social games and application analytics platform. Rocketing to over a hundred million users tracked each month, along with snowballing revenues that is growing faster than ever before -- establishing itself as an industry standard and
leader of our software category. Most importantly, along the way, we had the opportunity to attract some of the most talented, hardworking and committed people that has catapulted the company to where it is today.

Currently, the company stands stronger than ever. With a strong cash position, fast growing revenues, expanding addressable market, committed institutional investors, supportive angel investors, along with continuous interest from outside financial and strategic partners, Kontagent is riding on a massive wave of momentum. The incredibly talented executive and supporting team assembled at Kontagent, is well equipped and positioned to continue to lead its category and expand into lucrative new opportunities.

Jeff, and more recently, Josh -- have worked tirelessly as visionary product, technology and business leaders. They are two of the smartest, most thoughtful minds I've encountered. Fredric, Chris and Lih, the three founding, and amazingly persistent and effective engineers of the company, along with their team, have built an incredible technology foundation over the past four years. Mitch, along with the sales team and Aaron have been pulling off miracles in unison to multiply revenues, and creating great market awareness with little resources. Andy and Jimmy, and the rest of the support team have helped us efficiently operate the company infrastructure and deliver customer support. Last but not least, our amazing investors, board members, angels, and advisors -- our angel investors have been amazing, and Eric and Anthony from Maverick and Altos I have been able to count on as great supports and friends from the start, in addition our two seed stage investors Naval Ravikant/HitForge and Amar & Sunny from Extreme Venture Partners and strongly recommend any entrepreneur to speak with them if you are looking for capital. Furthermore, our big list of angel investors have also been amazingly helpful these past few years, and I have been blessed with their guidance and support! There have been countless others that have contributed to building Kontagent to what it is to-date, and I wish to also thank you all for your contributions. We have an incredible team, and I have no doubt there will be a great deal of successes to come.

Upon reflection of the four years since the dawn of this adventure, I have come to learn a great deal from our talented team, and from building our product; moreover -- I learned a great deal about myself.

Kontagent has been the most successful company I have had the opportunity to contribute to launching. It also happens to be the longest I have ever been a part of any single company. I cherish every moment spent with Kontagent - even when I served as head of sales, marketing, biz dev, PR, and janitorial services, in the same 20+ hour work days, especially during our earlier years. It gives me great pride to have been one of its founding members, and I feel privileged to have been a part of this spectacular group.

This being said, I also realize that it is time to move on.

More recently, I developed an increasingly strong desire to take an extended break to recharge, while paradoxically, progressively yearning to start something else...So as to get back into an earlier stage, more business-to-consumer and product-centered type role and environment; an area that represents most of my previous start-up efforts and success -- as well as an area where I believe I can add the most value and have the biggest impact.

Perhaps starting Kontagent back-to-back from BubbleShare without an extended break, has taken a bit of a toll on me as well. This combined continuous period of time equated to seven plus intense years of non-stop “start-upping.” Prior to those seven years, I had been involved in launching three other startups, over another seven plus year period, with an equal amount of intensity, and nonexistent downtime in between.

There has been much accomplished, and still much to do in order to realize Kontagent’s full potential. With Kontagent in highly capable hands, a strong financial foundation, and great momentum, there is no doubt in my mind that Kontagent will be successful and the team in place will take it to the next level and more.

While I will not be present to assist day to day, I am available and will be accessible for assistance and advice moving forward. Additionally, I will be serving on the board. Generally speaking, I will assist in whatever way I can, outside of my new adventures.

So what is next for me personally? While I have a substantial number exciting challenges on my mind for my next venture, the most immediate plans on my horizon is some over-due personal travel plans, with the goal of enabling me to recharge my body, refresh my perspective, and gain a more global view of technology. Ultimately restarting the addiction that is the drug of every serial-entrepreneur / startup-pirate: to once again attempt to redefine what is possible in the present, so as to reinvent the future.

Here's hoping the next four years will be even half as fun and awesome as the last four years!

Yours till' the ink blots, the chocolate chips, or the plane taxis,
Albert Lai
Start-Up Pirate :)

In case you haven't heard from me on my twitter or facebook feed, Kontagent is Hiring! :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

7 Top Social Game Metrics for 2011 - The A.R.M Metrics Framework

Here's a presentation that I put together a while back that I had forgotten to post here.

We're working hard on generating and sharing more insights/research pieces from all the things that we've learned as a hub of knowledge in the analytics and social game space.

Your feedback is of course most welcomed!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Should I Straight Up Short RIM Now?

This is becoming more and more sad.

As someone who owns and carries 2 blackberry, a proud Canadian, and someone that take pride in hiring from the same pool that RIM hires from (waterloo grads and coop students), this is really really sad.

I can't help but think I should take some money and short RIM.

With Win Mobile 7, Andriod, and iPhone -- how does a developer justify building anything for RIM?

Esp. since their "Playbook" is going to be running a different OS than the Berry.

Win Mobile 7 has some amazing features, Android is already getting escape velocity, and iPhone/iOS is well... it just rocks.

Heck, even Nokia and Palm/HP are hustling hard to fight for 3rd/4th place in the Smart Phone world.

Sure RIM has the playbook, but think of all the Andriod tablets that are going to be coming out from dozens of OEMs?

Not that even matters given that iOS/iPad has such a massive lead in terms of its operating system.

Here's kind of the kicker that got to me tonight. I was using my Berry, and lately I'm finding that my experieince with my iPhone -- "a consumer toy" -- seems to be hanging/stalling less and crashing less than my "enterprise grade BlackBerry."

I got the BlackBerry to get work done. But I can't get work done if its stalling and hanging and forcing me to reboot on a regular basis.

That and my US CDMA/GSM blackberry takes about 25 minutes to reboot!!!

RIM isn't going down the shitters because of the privacy/control debacle that is happening over seas, its not even that the Playbook faces an up hill challenge.

Its that its core devices aren't doing what they are suppose to do -- ROBUST ENTERPRISE GRADE EMAIL.

Ugh. RIM, I love your hardware, its awesome. BBM is awesome. Please fix these problems so we can continue to have an awesome business-oriented device that we can all use as an alternative to these crappy on screen keyboard phones?!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am a Start-Up Pirate.

This article posted by Arrington at TechCrunch, and the link to Glenn's blog maybe the best writing I've come across this year.

The timing of this article is almost perfect.

For the past week, I've been begging some very talented Waterloo undergraduate "Co-op Students" (Canadian term for interns) to join Kontagent. Our very own pirate ship. (Read the above linked article to understand the statement - but if you don't read it, here it is: Pirates = Risk Taking Entrepreneurs)

Begging. Yes. Begging.


Because these are the very best of the brightest students.

Almost in every case in this upcoming term, these students have multiple offers from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Mozilla, [insert elite brand name here].


Often paying WAY more than we could ever afford.

I personally fly+drive to Waterloo. Waterloo is 1.5 hours drive away from the closest international airport in Toronto.


Because students, Canadian students especially, and most people in general don't know what its like to be a Pirate.

That and because these students are f'ing amazingly talented -- and worth every hour that I volenteer to speak at Waterloo to hopefully (selfishly) inspire these students to do a startup, and hopefully join Kontagent one day.

But a pirate's life is a hard life. It means making sacrifices like less pay, longer hours, more stress.

But so many of us are condition in school to take the straight and narrow, easy way out -- of hard-work to guaranteed success.

But for Pirates, its about the risk -- and the love of risk. As Michael said in his article in TechCrunch -- the RISK IS THE REWARD. Its knowing that everything you do makes an immediate impact. Its the thrill of uncertainty of not knowing if you're going to crash and burn or if you'll change the world.

Everytime I go into battle for top co-op student talent at Waterloo, I sell the adventure. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose to the security blanket of working at Google.

But its worth it.

Because every student I rescue from the pits of the guaranteed "success" of working at a good big firm. I (selfishly) create an opportunity for a student to become an entrepreneur (that may one day graduate and come work for our company and not some generic super successful brand name tech company).

That and I often get some amazing talent that makes a huge difference in the company.

So there you have it. This is why I love my life. Its because I get to be a modern day pirate -- every single day.

If there was ever a formula to my "success" its this:

My Life = Pirates Life = A Hard Life = A Awesome Life = Eternal Happiness.

And this is why I think my life is awesome, and why I love every day of my life since I started being a baseball card pirate when I was 13 years old selling baseball cards to my friends in the school yard. :)


Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Why "Social Commerce" and "The Viral Economy" Matters

So I was asked by an analyst to put into words something that I've been espousing for sometime in presentations and panels for sometime about this topic.  So I thought I might as well throw it up here as well:

My fundamental thinking as it related to "social-commerce" and the "viral economy" as it relates to the Suppliers/Distribution in Porter Five Forces model is this:

We have moved from physical goods to digital goods, from physical delivery to digital delivery.  Whats MOST interesting about whats happening now is the disruption in discovery and distribution of information and services, esp. in online entertainment and games.  The same disruption that happened to physical entertainment to digital delivery (i.e. CDs to iTunes, DVDs to Netflix) is happening to digital distribution.  We are no longer reliant on going to a "portal" -- in essence a "trusted aggregator" of digital goods and services to find and discovery quality games and entertainment that we once did with portals like Yahoo Games, because of the proliferation of social networks and virality, people discover and adopt more and more games because of invitations and notifications from friends.   Distribution is now baked into the game mechanic, in essence, your distribution channel effectiveness and scale is correlated to how well you are able to acquire customers -- and in turn amplify their voices though systematic viral engineering to spread your services/goods across the network.  

Posted via email from Albert Lai's Quick Blog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Sad Day: Why I sold RIM and Traded it For Microsoft.

So today I sold all my RIM stock & traded it for Microsoft. I feel quite sad about it. Not only because I lost a boat load on RIM, but because RIM is one of my favorite companies.

I have used RIM devices since its very first interactive pager system that I won at a TED conference ages ago, and while I'm still a fan of its current devices, it has IMHO lost this round of the mobile wars.

How things have changed in just a couple of years. Just 2 years ago, I would have been caught saying that MSFT had to have tried REALLY hard to make their UX on WindowsMobile as bad as it is, and I would have started this posting as a blog post. Now this posting is a result of a tweet that I made, that was syndicated to facebook and is inspired by a reply from a professional analyst where I made a reply to in the thread which I am now cross posting into this blog.

That and I'm now I'm voting for Microsoft and ditching RIM. 2 years.

Its not every day I get asked by a real analyst why I make certain trades as an arm chair, small time, armature investor. So here's my 2 cents worth rant as a long time observer of the space mobile market:

There are several reasons why I dumped RIM for MSFT:

1) I've already loaded up on Apple at some great prices, and have some Google.

2) Unlike Google, Microsoft directly profits from WinMo7 phone sales. Which is actually a pretty good platform for game devs. The devices and UI is pretty good. (I just saw a prototype in person for the first time recently).

3) MSFT has great distribution and OEMs. They will take share from RIM for sure -- as RIM is peaking out. I'm seeing switches from RIM users to Android on a regular basis.

4) MSFT will get some good OEMs that will create win7 phones with keyboards+touch that will compete well with RIM.

5) RIM's OS6 (and torch w/ its lowrez LCD screen) is lipstick on a pig. Plus RIM didn't ever take advantage of so many opportunities that I thought they would with their leadership and M&A with their LBS deal w/ Dash.

6) As a 3rd party developer your options are: #1/#2: Apple/Andriod (andriod is picking up as a good alternative to apple due to clutter and BS w/ apple and momentum of Android), #3 *WILL* be WinMo7 -- esp -- for hardcore XBox Devs. The WinMo7 platform is tightly spec-ed and is less prone to fragmentation over the long run vs. Andriod, which even with its potential for hassles as a non-completely open platform, has its advantages.

7) Nokia is welll, out. At least for "this round." Just as it is for RIM. (this round = this generation or so of phones) I'm sad that Nokia, which was one of my fav companies in the past just can't seem to get their UX out of the the 90s to win new and now much more savvy smartphone customers.

8) While sadly, I can't buy Windows as a pure play mobile company -- but even so, Win7 on the desktop is SOLID, the company's P/E is at 11.5 (vs. almost 2x that w/ Goog and Aapl), the company has a big ass warchest, Bing is gaining some ground, and while office is probably going to die a painful death -- my hope/guess is that they can't be entirely stupid about migration to the cloud (or will they?).

9) Lastly Xbox rocks PS3. And its new motion capture thingamabob looks really promising.

As a Canadian, and as someone who carry's *2* RIM devices (one for US phone number and one for Canadian) -- and a huge BBM addict, today is a sad sad day for me. I hope RIM makes a come back in the "next round" of mobile wars. But right now, I have no choice but to let it go.

RIM please get it together and put up a better fight!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Innovative Thinking in… Teaching Math.

This video rocked.

I wish I was taught math and problem solving this way.

I actually did have a really good teacher that did something similar for me in high school for problem solving.

But I wish I had Dan as my math teacher.