All posts filed under “Entrepreneurial

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The Rural Alberta Advantage (special thanks to Songkick)

A couple weeks ago I became a die-hard fan of an awesome Canadian band: The Rural Alberta Advantage. How did it happen? I heard that they were playing in London, thanks to Songkick, and it was simply a brilliant show. You should all buy their album NOW.

The Rural Alberta Advantage

I first heard of them on Fred Wilson’s blog: AVC.com. (If you haven’t heard of him, Fred is a famous venture capitalist who blogs on startups, venture capital and music.) The band ended up hearing about making his top records of 2008 list, and ended up inviting him to a show in New York, which sounded awesome. Links to his posts here:
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2008/12/top-10-records.html
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/01/the-joys-of-mus.html
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/01/the-avc-music-meetup.html
http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/06/kickstarting-a-7.html

So when I heard they were going to be in town, I bought tickets, and put their album into heavy rotation the week or so beforehand to really get a sense of what they were about. The album was really good, but that doesn’t mean they were great live.

Well, it was a tiny club where I saw them, and the band is only three people, but they completely filled up the room with their sound and energy. Each song was different and distinctive, partly because the singer (Nils) explained briefly some of the more obscure Canadian stories and landmarks that are behind the songs. (ie, a tragic landslide that buried Frank, AB; the lyrics then make more sense and the song has a lot more soul.)

I find it tough to explain how awesome it is to see a great band in a small venue. But I did find a few videos on YouTube that have decent sound, so I posted them here so you can check them out.

Frank, AB

Edmonton

Eye of the Tiger

Please, go and buy The Rural Alberta Advantage’s album “Hometowns” NOW. (Click here for Amazon MP3 link.)

Songkick

I’d be remiss in this story if I didn’t tell you about Songkick. I’ve been a member since they were just coming out of beta. If you love seeing live music, don’t walk but RUN to register on Songkick.

Seriously… do it now.

It’s simple, but brutally awesome. You tell it what music you like and listen to (either through connecting it to iTunes or selecting manually), and then Songkick lets you know when those bands are going to be in your city. Most importantly, they only tell you about the bands you’re interested, and they tell you before tickets go on sale.

Before Songkick I had to subscribe to a bunch of mailing lists just so I had a *chance* of hearing about when bands I like were coming to town, let alone getting tickets. Now I just check my e-mail, figure out what I’m going to and when tickets go on sale, and GO.

Plus, for live music nerds like me there’s stuff like setlist archives, photos, videos and a whole bunch of other stuff for each concert that people can upload. You can also learn more about specific venues, specific bands, festivals and more.

If you want to see what I uploaded and wrote about The Rural Alberta Advantage concert above, just check out this link and explore Songkick:

http://www.songkick.com/concerts/4417566-rural-alberta-advantage-at-lexington

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A week of awesome tech/startup/cool stuff in Cambridge

Surfing_40_17250739.jpg

The week of 25-29 January 2010 is going to be absolutely awesome in Cambridge. There are three great events that you need to attend.

Of these, it’s most important that you come to the Cambridge Tech Meetup. We’ll be kicking the year off with a bang and six “wicked awesome” technology demos, from people/companies based in Cambridge.

Tuesday – January 26th – Enterprise Tuesday

Time: 6:30-7:30pm lecture (registration from 6pm, networking afterward)
Location: Lecture Theatre 0, Engineering Department, Trumpington Street
Speakers: Neil Davidson, Co-Founder and joint CEO, Red Gate Software; Steve Barlow, Co-Founder, Alphamosaic; Alex Mehta, Communications Director, Judicium

Enterprise Tuesday is a great event, and the topic for next week is “Building a Dream Team.” I recommend this specifically because I think incredibly highly of Neil Davidson, who co-founded Red Gate software and continues to serve as co-CEO. (In addition to founding the Business of Software conference, serving as Chairman of the Cambridge Network, and starting the Springboard programme at Red Gate.)

Link: http://www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk/programmes/enterprise/timetable.html

*** Wednesday – January 27th – Cambridge Tech Meetup ***

Time: 6:30pm doors for 7pm start of demos (additional Q&A and discussion afterward)
Location: Lecture Theatre 1, Judge Business School, Trumpington Street

If you have to pick one event, come to the Cambridge Tech Meetup! (Yes, I started it with the help of many, many others.)

Six products will have has seven minutes to demo their technology/product; all of them developed in Cambridge! Everything from new display technology to cool video search technology to audio analysis and 3d model building via webcam will be demo’ed.

Demo companies/technologies are:

Link for info and to RSVP: http://www.meetup.com/Cambridge-Tech-Meetup/calendar/12221063/

(The sharp-eyed among you will notice that this takes place shortly after the big Apple announcement on the 27th. I’ll be sure to have the screen tuned to a live-blog or tweet-stream until the demo’s kick off.)

Thursday – January 28th – Cambridge Business Lecture: Dan Pink

Time: 6pm start (networking afterward)
Location: Robinson College, Grange Road
Speaker: Dan Pink, best-selling author, writer, speaker

This event is a Cambridge Business Lecture, hosted by the Cambridge Network. Dan Pink is a great author/writer, and I think it’s just fantastic he’ll be speaking in Cambridge. If you’re in town, go.

Link: http://www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk/events/article/default.aspx?objid=65628

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Location-based apps: Flook, Gowalla, Foursquare

A lot of people have been talking about and playing with location-based applications these days. I wanted to put my two cents into the debate, specifically on Flook, Gowalla, and Foursquare.

Flook

Flook is the least-known of these three apps, but potentially the most interesting. Users take photos (which are automatically geo-tagged) and then add captions and information about the photo. What’s cool is that if you go somewhere new, you can quickly pull up the interesting places nearest to you. That might be a pub, a cool shop, or virtually anything else. And of course there’s a comments section around each card, too.

For me, the current downfall of Flook is that it’s iPhone-only, and I’ve recently moved to an Android phone. It’s also difficult to find and follow people you know, unless they’re in the same area and you see their cards normally.

Fundamentally, Flook is a hugely rich source of interesting information, with a *fantastic* user interface. I highly recommend that you download it for your iPhone and try it out. (Disclosure: I know the founders/investors of Flook, and think highly of them.)

PS- They’re currently running a competition to win a MacBook Air by just making cool Flook cards… check it out by clicking here.

Gowalla

Gowalla competes directly with Foursquare, and I have to definitely give the edge to Gowalla. It’s a beautifully made application, and what I love about it is the metaphor that Gowalla uses: a passport. Users are encouraged to get “stamps” in their “passport” for visiting new places. You earn and collect cool items from commissioning/founding new places, and can drop them off and pick up other cool items anywhere you visit. It’s definitely helped me think about new and interesting pubs, restaurants, etc. near me. (And of course see where your friends are checking in, too.)

While Gowalla has an iPhone app, their Android interface is through a web application. (http://m.gowalla.com) It has 80% of the functionality; the only major thing it’s missing is the ability to see and drop off your “items”.

[UPDATE]: I forgot this in my original post, but Gowalla lets you add locations anywhere in the world, and not just in particular cities like Foursquare. For example, I was at a conference at a huge convention center in southwest Ireland recently and added that to Gowalla, no problem. (Unlike Foursquare.) Foursquare may be rolling out to new cities all the time, but Gowalla can be used anywhere in the world right now.

Foursquare

Foursquare is bigger (in number of users) than Gowalla and has top-flight investors (Union Square Ventures), but I just don’t care for it. Its design is good, but not beautiful like Gowalla’s. But the biggest thing is the metaphor of points & mayorships that Foursquare uses. Each week a user’s points gets reset, and you have to keep checking into places to get and keep your “mayorship.”

To me, the metaphor of “mayorship” is a recipe for stagnation. It encourages users to go back to the same places over and over, and the mayorship will likely only rotate amongst a small number of regulars. For me, I quickly became the mayor of places where few other people checked in, and was out of the running for mayor-ships where I went regularly but where others checked in far more frequently. In both cases, my incentives were to stop using it.

Now, Foursquare does have a native application for both iPhone and Android, and it has excellent advisors. The founders previously started Dodgeball, a similar application which was bought by Google (where it stagnated) a couple years ago. It will need some better execution to get over its current problems. While Foursquare might be popular now with early adopters, I think it will have serious problems if/when it goes mainstream.

Summary

So I’m a Flook user when I have my iPhone handy, and I’m definitely a Gowalla user. Gowalla is great to track cool places I’ve been and where my friends go, and Flook is great to find interesting stuff that I might otherwise miss. Definitely give both a try.

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A Marc Andreessen blog archive

I noticed a few weeks ago that Marc Andreessen had deleted virtually everything off his blog. The only thing that’s left is the post announcing the formation of his VC firm, Andreessen Horowitz.

I’ve been such a huge fan of Marc’s writing, and hated to see so many brilliant and incredibly helpful posts lost. So I went to the Internet Wayback Machine and copy/pasted all the posts they had (through March 2008). I had also subscribed to Marc’s blog via Feedburner e-mail, so grabbed all of the e-mails I had saved to fill in the gaps.

To be clear, I have no ulterior motives other than making sure that Marc’s posts can be found and useful to entrepreneurs everywhere. (And if Marc wants me to take it down, I would reluctantly do so… hopefully he won’t!)

blog.pmarca.comwas like a meteor from June 2007 through the spring of 2008. Here are a bunch of my favorite posts:

Click here for the full archive on pmarca-archive.posterous.com

Some quick cautions and warnings!

  • The link addresses aren’t changed, which mean they’re prefaced by the Internet Wayback Machine archive link. If you look at the link you’ll figure out which part to delete to go to the right address.
  • Some videos have been taken down, or I couldn’t find the embed code.
  • I tried to include every post he made and not filter anything. However, I may have missed a few. Please let me know (via comment below) if you have any that aren’t in the archive.

I hope this is useful to some of you out there. And Marc, if you read this, I’m a big fan and only mean for this to help the millions of entrepreneurs you’ve inspired.