Revolution and Death in Silicon Valley

I took my Tapestry story on the road this week, speaking at DEMO Fall in Santa Clara Convention Center.

Here is what I said:

The Valley of Death

Charge+of+the+Light+Brigade+Cavalry+ChargeThis poem seem particularly pertinent to the current state of Silicon Valley. Incubators on ones side of the valley. Nothing in the Valley. Growth Capital on the other side.

Most startups are dead as soon as they exit their 3 month stint. The exceptions are rare yet notable.

WHAT HAPPENED TO VENTURE CAPITAL?

The Charge of the Light Brigade

by Alfred Tennyson.


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honor the charge they made!
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

 

Cloud based services – the future of the Internet

Fred Wilson has a response today to Eric Schmidt’s declaration in Edinburgh that Google+ is an “identity service”. He asks and answers his own question.

“whom Google built this service for? You or them. And the answer to why you need to use your real name in the service is because they need you to.”

Of course Facebook is also an identity service. Facebook Connect is the means of distributing it. And of course Facebook too is built using real names because “they need you to”.

At this level FaceBook and Google have much in common, and both are vying for us to use them for online authentication. Facebook is far ahead of course.

Late yesterday I posted an opinion piece as a guest author on TechCrunch. It is about the uncertain future of web services as mobile devices proliferate globally. We will soon all have awesome identity machines in our pocket. They will be capable of being used to authenticate us (even using 2 step authentication). Any cloud-based 3rd party identity system will be unnecessary.

The future of identity is distributed, under user control, and owned and managed by the user from their device. It will be capable of supporting anonymity and real names and will be able to be trusted by sites requiring you to authenticate. The idea of any 3rd party dictating how you can present yourself online will no longer be applicable. Of course, it still has to be built…..

Having said that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Google and/or Facebook building an identity system that dictates how we present ourselves. Our choice is to use it or not…..We don’t have to.

Deportalization and Internet Advertising II

Glam hired a new guy today. Techcrunch, VentureBeat and PaidContent all posted about it.

All of the reporting on this hire focus on Glam’s coup in getting their man, and on their profitability heading into Q4. There is little in the way of analysis, which is probably quite reasonable on a news-filled Monday morning here on the West Coast..

As TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid reports:

Glam Media has scored a major senior hire, landing Josh Jacobs, Yahoo’s Vice President & GM Advertising Technology Platforms who currently runs Yahoo’s entire display ad platform and previously ran the portal’s publisher network. Jacobs will be joining Glam as Senior Vice President of Brand Advertising Products & Marketing, where he’ll run all of Glam’s brand advertising products, as well as marketing and communications. This is a major win for Glam, which has shown strong growth through the economic downturn as it eats away marketshare from the likes of Yahoo, MSN, and AOL.

However, there is a more strategic conclusion to draw from Glam’s recent trajectory and from this hire in particular. Glam is unique in having successfully built a new model that is far more focused on the evolving landscape of publishing and reading habits than any of its competitors. Samir Arora – Glam’s CEO – grasped very early that the growth in the number of publishers on the Internet would lead to a changing landscape for advertisers. By grasping the trend early he has succeeded in building a most impressive business. A woman’s content site, with virtually no original content, where the majority of the traffic is not on glam.com, but is on the several hundred publisher sites that make up the Glam network. By realizing that the audience is already there, and that the business is to take advertising to it, rather than to seek to capture it for a destination portal, Arora has figured out how to grow a large business, even in hard times.

I wrote about deportalization quite some time ago, and spelled out its implications. As we move from the era of deportalization into the new era characterized by the real time stream, Glam are positioned to continue to grow. Display advertising is a major element in Glam’s strategy and rightly so. High value audiences are found clustered around all major topics. Ad networks typically fail to realize the value of those audiences, or adequately facilitate a brand from engaging with them. Glam is simply a small indication of the potential for passion-focused distributed advertising.

De-portalization and Internet Revenues I

I am re-posting this from the edgeio blog. Mainly because I think it has current relevance and will in future have historical value.

I’m not certain the edgeio blog will continue to exist, so this is the new home for the post. Since it was originally written we have seen the rise of Adbrite, Glam, Sugar Publishing, Digg and other businesses based on understanding the proliferation of publishing, reading habits, and advertising away from the big portals. I also note that Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame commented on the post, something I failed to notice originally. So, here is the original post

This post is a little more philosophical than most that you will see here. It provides a little bit of background as to why edgeio is in the business of bringing together, organizing and distributing listings to the edge of the network. In short it is because we believe that the Internet is moving away from big centralized portals, which have gathered the lions share of Internet traffic, towards a pattern where traffic is generally much flatter. The mountains, if you will, continue to exist. But the foothills advance and take up more of the overall pie. Fred Wilson had a post earlier this week about the de-portalization of the Internet which is essentially making the same point when seen from the point of view of Yahoo.


Update: 11am Pacific, Sunday 10 December

Several commentators are seeing the word “de-portalization” (first coined by Fred Wilson) and reading “end of portals”. To be clear, and apologies if I wasn’t already, de-portalization represents a change in the relative weight of portals in a traffic sense, and the emergence of what I call the “foothills” as a major source of traffic. This will affect money flows. Portals will remain both large and will continue to grow. But relatively less than the traffic in the foothills. The foothills will monetize under greater control of its publishers and the dollar value of its traffic is already large and will get much larger.


The following 3 graphics illustrate what we believe has happened already and is likely to continue.

The first picture is a rough depiction of Internet traffic before the flattening

2004 and all that

The second picture is a rough depiction of today – with the mountains still evident, but much less so

The rise of the foothills

The third picture is where these trends are leading. To a flatter world of more evenly disributed traffic.

The future pattern of web traffic

Some of the consequences of this trend are profound. Here are our top 10 things to watch as de-portalization continues..

1. The revenue growth that has characterized the Internet since 1994 will continue. But more and more of the revenue will be made in the foothills, not the mountains.
2. If the major destination sites want to participate in it they will need to find a way to be involved in the traffic that inhabits the foothills.
3. Widgets are a symptom of this need to embed yourself in the distributed traffic of the foothills.
4. Portals that try to widgetize the foothills will do less well than those who truly embrace distributed content, but better than those who ignore the trends.
5. Every pair of eyeballs in the foothills will have many competing advertisers looking to connect with them. Publishers will benefit from this.
6. Because of this competition the dollar value of the traffic that is in the foothills will be (already is) vastly more than a generic ad platform like Google Adsense or Yahoo’s Panama can realize. Techcrunch ($180,000 last month according to the SF Chronicle) is an example of how much more money a publisher who sells advertising and listings to target advertisers can make than when in the hands of an advertiser focused middleman like Google.
7. Publisher driven revenue models will increasingly replace middlemen. There will be no successful advertiser driven models in the foothills, only publisher centric models. Successful platform vendors will put the publisher at the center of the world in a sellers market for eyeballs. There will be more publishers able to make $180,000 a month.
8. Portals will need to evolve into platform companies in order to participate in a huge growth of Internet revenues. Service to publishers will be a huge part of this. Otherwise they will end up like Infospace, or maybe Infoseek. Relics of the past.
9. Search however will become more important as content becomes more distributed. Yet it will command less and less a proportion of the growing Internet traffic.
10. Smart companies will (a) help content find traffic by enabling its distribution. (b) help users find content that is widely dispersed by providing great search. (c) help the publishers in the rising foothills maximize the value of their publications.

Discussion

Kevin Burton
Techmeme
Mike Arrington
Syntagma
Keith Teare’s Weblog
Dan Farber at ZDNet
Mark Evans
Fred Wilson
Ivan Pope at Snipperoo
Tech Tailrank
Collaborative Thinking
David Black
Surfing the Chaos
Ben Griffiths
Dave Winer (great pics)
Kosso’s Braingarden
Dizzy Thinks
Mark Evans

Dare Obasanjo

Technology Blog Valuations – Getting to be Real!

Update 2:Rafat has a comment to this post pointing out that by just looking at paidcontent.org I am doing the valuation of ContentNext a disservice. Of course he is quite right. ContentNext has other sites and also events. It is also true to say – although Rafat doesn’t – that valuation has many variables, including the quality of the people etc. Rafat is very good at what he does and he has a great team. So … fair point Rafat.

In my own defense, this post is not intended to be a scientific analysis of valuation. I did a “back of the envelope” comparison. I didn’t take into account any of the other sites that GigaOm has, or TechCrunch, or ReadWriteWeb. I also didn’t take into account TechCrunch events. All I was saying is, there are probably (by relative comparison of the web sites) some pretty valuable businesses out there right now. Hope you agree with that Rafat.

Update: Kara Swisher is speculating who’s next. Jeff Jarvis is hoping she’s wrong. Now there’s a Techmeme discussion.

The news that Rafat Ali’s ContentNext, owner of PaidContent.org, has been acquired by the UK’s Guardian Media Group got me to thinking. What does this mean for the valuations of other Tech blogs?

I did a quick back of the envelope calculation based on the numbers published and the Compete.com stats for June 2008.

By this math PaidContent.org got something like $139 per unique reader or $56 per visit as an acquisition price. Of course the Compete stats will not be wholly accurate (although Quantcast has Paidcontent.org at only 40,000 unique visitors, so Compete could be high)

Using Compete.com for 4 other significant technology Blog services we get some interesting numbers. TechCrunch should be valued at between $200 and $450m; GigaOm at between $46 and $55m; ReadWriteWeb at between $63 and $65m and Venturebeat between $50 and $53m. I’d say a merger between these 4 would bring them collectively up to about $350-500m even without the synergies and growth prospects of being one. I also looked at the search analytics data from Compete.com. 4,563 keywords for TechCrunch, 585 for GigaOm, 913 for ReadWriteWeb, 581 for Venturebeat and 363 for PaidContent.org Interesting indeed.

I am adding some graphics from Compete.com (all from this URL).






Disclosure: I am a shareholder in TechCrunch – along with Mike Arrington.

I’ve been “tagged”

As the title says I have been tagged by Dave Winer.

The rules say I now have to tell you 5 things you didn’t know about me and then tag five others.

So, here goes:

1. I am currently in St James, Cape Town, S Africa. It is a small area between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek (see map).
Cape Town Area
2. I own a home here – on Jacobs ladder.

3. My wife is South African – Gené McPherson. Born in Jo’burg. Her parents and one of her sisters live in Cape Town today. Gené was a co-founder of Cyberia [free subscription needed] (the worlds first Internet Café – London 1994. She was also VP Marketing at RealNames. She is now a Mom – and a great one.

4. We have a new son – born 4 November. Luke Graham Teare. This is the first time his grandparents have seen him and he them. Then again, it is pretty much the first time he has seen anything :-).

5. I am the oldest son of 5 brothers and a sister. Two of my brothers died (one an his first year and one at 37). So there are 3 brothers and a sister remaining. My Mom is still alive  and living in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. She is 72 and I am 52. My brother Brian is CTO at cscape.com, which I started in 1983.

I am tagging Ivan Pope; Gabe Rivera; Auren Hoffman; Michael Tanne and Richard MacManus