Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


The kitchen table, a borrowed projector and a bed sheet

I invited the team over to my place Monday night for our first boardroom meeting. Since we don't have a boardroom (or an office for that matter) I pulled together the dining room table and the kitchen table ... enough for a dozen or so guys. I borrowed a projector, put up a white bed sheet on the wall and the kitchen was transformed into a boardroom ... endearing in its crudeness. We'll laugh at this one day ... actually kinda laughing about it already. With the beer fridge filled (we're in Canada eh!), we were set to go.

I would have liked to do it in the garage because it would have given it that romantic "started in a garage" aspect to it but nobody starts companies in their garage up here ... too damn cold ... unless you're starting an igloo business which is getting renewed interest from VC these days. With the price of gas, sled dogs are coming out of retirement and you have to keep the dogs somewhere now don't you! Makes complete sense.

The guys all arrived and the energy in the place was palpable. There is a beautiful sound when a pile of really passionate people are having simultaneous discussions. We settled down to a presentation I put together with my wife's assistance. It's great to have a professional graphic designer in the house. She tends to push me aside and takes over, fixing things up and making it look 10 times better. I shared my vision, answered questions and delved into brainstorming on some key aspects such as demos. The evening flew by and by the time I checked, it was very late. As people were heading out to their cars, several small pockets continued the conversations outside even though it was windy and freakin cold ... nobody really wanted to stop (maybe moving to California is not such a bad idea). They're in!

There was a posting I wrote earlier this fall from San Fransisco as I was sipping on a cold brewski and watching some nut in a rowboat in San Fransisco bay. They should probably put breathalyzers on Pocket PCs. At the time, I was talking to a bunch of people about the concept hoping they would join but I was still essentially alone. That is definitely no longer the case and it feels great to be in the company of fantastic people that share the vision and feed me the red pills and blue pills as necessary.

I was talking with a local t.v. producer that is considering doing a piece on me and the start-up experience as it unfolds. There is a raw realness associated with telling the story as it unfolds, without the colored filter of time, success or failure. I was recounting how I got to this point (which is still pretty well nowhere and yet still going somewhere) and realized how crazy you have to be to do what I'm doing. I quit a great well paying job in the CTO office of a large company working with people I actually really liked and I prostitute my brain through consulting gigs to feed the three little birds in the nest. I didn't even know what the hell I was actually going to build for the first six months or so but knowing that I was going to figure something out like I always had in the past. And it was going to be really good! What a nut! Skypoint Capital had some faith and provided me a fantastic role as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) which has really helped me get to this point. You can't do it alone ... and so alone I am no more.

With the support of many people, a kitchen table, a borrowed projector and a bed sheet, the magic is beginning and we're captured it all on tape. Hmmm a reality show on start-ups ... nah ... would never work.


Allan Isfan
Nut with an Iron Ring

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


taking "the purple pill"

I've been flipping back through the book "The Art of The Start" by Guy Kawasaki. It is a really fantastic book for anyone trying to start a new company. If you are in this position, it is required reading.

I went back to the section entitled "Take The Red Pill" in which he refers to a scene in the movie "The Matrix". Morpheus presents Neo with the difficult choice between taking the Red Pill or the Blue Pill. The Red Pill takes him back to the harsh reality while The Blue Pill takes him back to the fantasy world. Guy recommends taking The Red Pill and getting a Morpheus on the team.

I'm happy to say I have some people that fit the bill in my team. They are experienced people that know what it takes and they force me to take The Red Pill while others are convinced it's a slam dunk. They believe but question most things forcing me to get back to reality. As for me, I regularly take The Purple Pill. I need to have enough reality to stay on my toes but enough fantasy to remain encouraged.

The company I'm launching will be fighting for your attention, Mr. and Mrs. consumer. You probably surf the web, listen to radio and CDs. You might have an MP3 player and possibly listen to streaming music. You might even have satellite radio and if you don't could get one if you wanted to. You have lots of choices but each has its own pros and cons and none provide the complete experience I'm looking for which compels me to create it. I think the team I'm pulling together can create something totally different and better ... but is it enough?

The real enemy is "good enough". This is where The Red Pill comes in handy. It is not too hard to make things better. However, incremental improvements are not the realm of startups. We need to make things 10 times better or cheaper or create an entirely different experience or paradigm. We have chosen the "entirely different" approach. Nevertheless, we'll be fighting for your attention and so in the end, you'll need to be compelled to come over to our side.

So what are you really looking for you fickle customer? I'm going to eventually find out but I could use some help. Share with us and you'll probably be rewarded by a new experience that will finally satisfy you. Tell us what you like, dislike, love, hate and what really drives you crazy about:
-AM/FM radio
-MP3 players
-Satellite radio

I'll seed this a little without leading the witness too much:
-I feel like listening to a specific song right now and I don't own it ... tough luck
-I get in my car in the middle of a great song ... tough luck
-The local stations cover only hockey but I'm also interested in basketball ... tough luck
-I heading towards the main highway but I just missed the traffic report ... tough luck

I could go on and on. There are lots of problems and things that drive me crazy. How about you?

I promise I'll take The Red Pill ... but for now, The Blue Pill tells me there are lots of problems that need to be solved and that I can do it. Perhaps I need The Purple Pill.


Allan Isfan
Entrepreneur with an Iron Ring

Feel free to email me directly at

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Thursday, November 23, 2006


Radio is going where tv is

I'm sitting here before singing and piano lessons composing this blog while listening to Radio Total from Romania (where I was born) . I'm streaming through the internet and it works quite nicely. This whole Internet thing may be here to stay ... not the fad I thought it would be:). It definitely brings me back and it's a good feeling ... until they play Back Street Boys!! AAGHH ... wish I could skip forward ... but of course I can't because it is a radio station. The motto is "Muzica buna se imparte cu prietenii" which translates roughly to "Good music must be shared with friends".

I guess you can't account for taste. Somehow the Romanian DJ, sitting in some building in Bucharest doesn't seem to know what I like. Shocking!!! Just for fun, do some searches for internet stations being broadcast from different provinces, states or countries and listen in a bit just for fun. This is especially cool if the station is based in a place you have some ties to. There are so many of them, it is incredible and overwhelming. Getting to any decent ones that actually work properly and that are good takes forever and it is frustrating but it is pretty neat to listen on all these different societies and get a totally different experience ... I'm going to try to listen in on some Jamaican stations to see how that goes ... should be interesting.

So where am I going with this?

As you start to exploring what the world has to offer on line, you realize how much great stuff is out there. My daughter walked in to my office the other day and listened in on one of the songs that was streaming through pandora. She said, with surprise "I've never heard that song before ... it is really good!". We've all gotten so used to radio pushing us the same stuff over and over, it is a surprise when we hear something new! I used to fill in surveys from Chez 106.9 The Bear (Ottawa Station) but now that I'm checking out different streaming services and radio stations from around the world, I'm literally pissed off at the local stations (except for Live 88.5FM ... a breath of fresh air). They are doing a crappy job of filtering stuff for me. I imagine satellite will do a better job but 150 channels is still a puny drop in the content bucket ... and it is still filtered.

TV went through this phase several years ago. It had a few generic free channels and then came cable with the subscription fees and hundreds of niche channels. That was a welcome improvement as is satellite radio for many people. However, we've already entered the TIVO/PVR world and Video On Demand (VOD) that allow us to have much better control of what we watch and when we watch it while even adding some mobility with portable video players. Radio is following a couple of steps behind. If you want to figure out where radio is going, look at where tv is. A major disruption is happening and earcandy will play its part.

BTW, incorporation has begun.

Before I go, I promised you something cool. Check out, potentially the next skype.


Allan Isfan
Engineer with an Iron Ring

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


The power of passion

Trying to kick off a start-up is crazy. I knew this before jumping in but it took a while before I found something I really truly and categorically wanted to do ... the type of stuff you sneak out of bed late at night to work on or wake up in the morning thinking about. It is wild, stressful, exhausting ... the only way to make it work is to believe in it otherwise there's no way you can keep going. I've passed on many great ideas and opportunities that I was convinced were going to make it but it just wasn't turning my crank.

I saw this kind of passion and excitement Saturday night at the Senators hockey game against Buffalo (beat them 4 to 1!). I saw it in the players but especially from the crowd. I saw it in my oldest daughters who were jumping for joy after a great goal. The excitement was so raw and honest it even caught the attention of the camera man who ended up capturing the moment. They ended up on the live broadcast and in the news!! If you saw two sweet girls with ringlets, faces painted and sens jerseys bouncing up and down just behind the Sens bench ... those were mine. How much more exciting can it get!! Oh yeah we got a few pucks and my brother in law got a signed hockey stick from Ray Emery.

Fortunately, our escapade was as a result of a Molson Canadian contest my brother in law won at Local Heroes in Kanata. The prize included a return limo to the game which was pretty cool too!! VIP all the way baby!! For most of the other pore saps, it cost them a bundle ... hundreds of dollars in many cases. It is unbelievable how many pay stupids amounts of money to be there ... but when the main lights go down and are replaced by spotlights and the crowd is getting ready for the team to come out or in the last ten seconds of the anthem when the crowd goes crazy ... there is nowhere else you want to be. You forget everything else and get caught up in the excitement ... it is worth it!

So what does this have to do with start-ups and cool stuff? Listening to the coverage before and after the game, you realize that the passion of being at the game does not translate to most professional broadcasts. There are lots of smart people talking about the technical aspects of the game but most are missing the raw emotion present in the people at the game or even watching it on t.v. (no website yet ... hang in there) will aim at giving the people a voice so that the raw thoughts and emotions come through. When you experience what we will create, I think you might find it unpolished but extremely engaging and hopefully addictive.

BTW, my brother from another mother, Rolly "Rokpig" Renaud has just kicked of his own blog. Check it out and give him some words of encouragement ... he is very shy!

I have a few cool things to share with you but I'll save them for the friday post so please check it out later in the week. Gotta go make some money.


Allan Isfan
Engineer with an Irong Ring (and two new NHL game pucks)

Thursday, November 16, 2006


cool stuff part deux

Before getting going, I would like to remind people that I've included a way for you to subscribe to this blog by entering your email into the appropriate box on the right. You'll receive an email with the blog post when the blog is updated.

Bienvenue aussi a mes amis de la France, la Belgique, Espana (bunos dias), si de la Romania (buna!) , India, Australia and people from all other countries checking out this blog.

During my last post, I provided some short descriptions of a few companies I discovered at the Dow Jones Consumer Technology Ventures conference a couple of weeks ago in San Jose, California. I couldn't go through all of them in one post so I'll include a few more here. If you discover some cool stuff you want to share, shoot me an email or post a comment.


Revver allows users to post their videos to the internet and get paid for it. You upload your video to their site, they clean it up and allow the video to be distributed anywhere on the net, such as YouTube. They attach ads to the end of the video on the fly, track when and where your video is viewed and share the revenue with the individual that posted . They are more of a user generated content distribution and monetization service than a destination like YouTube and they absolutely do not allow any illegal video to get distributed.

Having read about and heard the CEO speak several times, I can tell you that he is a pretty special individual. You'll be hearing alot more about Revver in the coming months and years.

Turn Here Productions

This company has a global network of amateurs or independent film makers, who generate short documentary like videos and ads shot by a team of one. They focus on capturing the essence of neighborhoods and associated small businesses as well as travel destinations and often use real people in the ads. One of the ads I saw was for a very high end hotel in Asia in which they used the hotel concierge as a tour guide of the city ... very compelling. The ads are of very good quality, not the shaky grainy stuff you would expect, and their "realness" really comes through which I think makes them very effective. You kinda have to see it to get it.

The thing that is very interesting about this is that they end being able to make really effective ads for small and large clients at a very small fraction of the cost of traditional ads that require dozens of people to write, produce, shoot, edit and market. Not only does this allow very small businesses like bakeries and restaurants to get very good ads for a few hundred dollars but it changes the economic equation in a HUGE way. This is one of concepts we'll be using at earcandy.

Micro Optical

They have developed some technology and products (myvu glasses) that project a large screen into what appear to normally be narrow glasses. These are not the only guys doing something like this and they are definitely not the first. However, the key difference is that the devices use some optical magic which projects from the side onto what looks like clear glass. This allows you see around you and in front of you while also getting a great image from devices such as video iPODS. The image is pretty good and you don't feel like you're in a cocoon which is the problem with other solutions that I've seen. They naturally have some military applications as well.

Everybody wonders how effective small screens on iPODS and cellphones are really going to be. With a solution like this, you can be on a plane or a bus, watching a big screen tv for less that a few hundred dollars. It could be a game changer.

Microsoft Zune

Microsoft .... you may have heard of this company. You know ... the one you swear at several times a day. The have just launched an "iPOD killer" called the Zune. I've checked it out and quite frankly it leaves me entirely cold. The only semi-cool feature is that it has WiFi. You would think ... great, it will automatically sync up with my music collection from any WiFi hotspot.... no more docking to your PC. Of course you would be wrong ... it is only used to beam up to three songs to another Zune owner which are going to be as hard to find as Stanley Cups in Ottawa. Furthermore, microsoft has also launched a proprietary service like iTunes, that will sync with the zune.

I predict this product to be a massive failure. There is nothing compelling about it relative to the iPOD and other players like sandisk and creative. Apple had a huge advantage because they are... well .. Apple. You knew without even touching the iPOD that it was going to be really cool, beautiful, easy to use and reliable. I was absolutely delighted when I opened the beautiful box and ever more delighted when I started playing with the click wheel. I got a must have, luxury item that everyone wanted for a few hundred bucks (well .... actually ... the honey bunny bought if for me as a present so it was technically free :).

I guess earcandy and apple will have to split the market after all .... gotta go raise some $$$$!!


Allan Isfan
Entrepreneur with an Iron Ring

Monday, November 13, 2006


pretty cool stuff

During my last post, I promised I would identify some companies with cool technology I discovered at the Dow Jownes Technology Ventures conference I attended in San Jose last week. I suspect many of you may be interested in checking out some of these services. I share these without my VC hat on, just pure consumer perspective. Some of these companies may be trying to raise money but not all of them are.

Before, I get to that, I would like to signal a change to this blog. I have used this blog to share some thoughts on start-ups and to give people a sense for how I plan on building my new company and make it successful. Not everyone is interested in start-up topics and I have found many great resources/blogs written by others that do a great job of that (I've included link at the right of the page). As I find new ones, I'll share them with you but won't elaborate too much. A new blog I started reading is:

Note that I've also added a feature to my blog that allows you to type in your email and you will receive new and exciting posts from me in your inbox saving you the trouble of going to the web page or setting up an RSS reader. Look just below my profile. You barely have to lift a finger. Am I nice or what!!

I'm going to be migrating the topic to more cool topics in the space of music and video services, cool multi-media gadgets and evolution of multi-media. We all listen to radio, music, news, watch tv and go to movies and view movies at home. This space is experiencing dramatic changes. On the surface, things may still appear the same with people mostly watching broadcast t.v., listening to broadcast radio or reading newspapers. However, people are increasingly moving away from broadcast and spending time and effort to pick and choose what they want, when and where they want it. Add to that people's interest in more reality based content and people's desire to be heard and you get a major shift in how people will be entertained. The one thing that became clear from the conference is that there is a MAJOR shift in advertising dollars from broadcast to online services going on right about now. So ... hang on ... cause things are about to get interesting!

Cool stuff and companies:
-this is the URL for my new company. There is no website yet (just bought the URL last night). I'll let you know when the site is up and running
-will definitely be looking for $$

-have developed technology that puts you in real commercials
-the demo consisted of the presenter taking a picture of someone in the crowd and uploading it to their server. He then played a pepsi commercial (the one with the guy from SNL dancing on the car) and his face was automatically replaced with the picture of the guy in the crowd, complete with moving eyebrows and lips!
-the idea is that commercials become much more interesting when you're in them. It was really funny and they figure you'll forward the commercial to all your friends
-profitable and looking for investment in first half 2007

-allows you to upload your personal videos, easily edit them and tag different sections so you can find the sections of interest later and search your library of videos
-also allows you to pick certain selections of the video and share those with others. For example, I filmed the hockey game and I share with you the times when your kid was on the ice
-these guys have done a very good job of making the interface ultra simple to use

-have developed algorithms that allow certain types of services, such as music, to figure out what you might like next
-this doesn't seem very exciting on the surface but the applications that come out of this can be very powerful. There is just so much information out there that figuring out what you might be interested based on your history and preferences, together with others like you could be huge. Basically like search (google) but more proactive.
-one product that has popped out of this base is called partystrands. This is a system aimed at bars and clubs that allow people to text the music they want to hear ... essentially a social jukebox. Their requests and other messages and pictures go up on the various big screen tvs throughout the club together with advertising.
-launching in US and Spain (CEO is from Barcelona)
-unsure if they are raising money

-not launched yet (can put in your email and they'll contact you when the service is available)
-allows you to pick a song and synchronize pictures and videos to it
-they have over one hundred songs you can use, including lyrics.
-the founder showed pictures of his kids acting out the ABCs to the song ... very cute
-adding the music to a slide show makes it much more compelling, especially if you can synchronize it
-looks very easy to use
-currently trying to raise $1M

-service that allows people to play music together, over the internet
-target is amateur and professional musicians, music education ...
-key trick is a timestamp based system to synchronize everyone since delays through the internet can be variable and mess things up
-you can use MIDI based instruments (like keyboards) or convert analog to MIDI using a small box so that you can plug in microphones, guitars ...
-with the scheduling challenges I see with "Funding Bad Habits", the dudes that play in my basement, together with the challenges I have scheduling keyboard and singing lessons, I could certainly see myself using this
-I spoke with the founders and execs of the company and you could not find a more passionate group!
-they are currently trying to raise an A round in the next few months.

I'm going to leave it at that for now. There are a few more cool companies I'd like to share but you've probably had more than enough by now.


Allan Isfan
Entrepreneur with an Iron Ring

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Thursday, November 09, 2006


are angels really angels?

My 10 year old daughter still believes in the tooth fairy. I give her about $5/tooth and a note written with my left hand so that she doesn't recognize my hand writing. She has whispered to me a few times that she knows the tooth fairy is not real and I don't try to convince her otherwise. We both know it's a game and since it benefits both sides, we continue to play it. She gets money and I get to have fun writing the note and giving her an incentive to keep her teeth clean since the cleaner they are, the more money she gets. You have to know how to play the game such that both sides get something out of it ... a basic win-win.

The same goes for the start-up & VC game. I saw lots of games played over the last few days. I just returned from a few days in Silicon Valley where I attended the "DowJones VentureWire Consumer Technology Ventures" conference. This is a great conference and a fantastic learning opportunity I strongly recommend for anyone considering a start-up, although the turnout this year was weak due to a Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco happening at the same time. The conference is small, but very well run. Each day starts with a keynote followed by panels and interviews with key people. The rest of the day is broken up into eight separate rooms and companies have 50 minutes to do their pitch. There were quite a few VCs attending, sharing their thoughts and advice. I'm definitely going to shoot for presenting here in the next year or two. If you're interested in knowing more, I would be happy to share more details.

The overall pitches and presentations were weaker than I would have expected for the valley, although there certainly were some that were excellent. There are some well documented things you need to cover and many missed major components which was shocking to me. There was too much focus on the idea itself and little on the management team and how the company was actually going to make money. Many of these companies need very experienced leaders, consultants or advisors with deep VC knowledge to help them raise money. A good idea simply isn't enough.

As a consumer, I saw lots of things I would probably use but with my VC hat on, I left many of the presentations being unconvinced they were real VC opportunities. Many were too small to be real standalone companies that VCs would invest in and would be better off sticking with angels, bootstrap like crazy and get profitable in a hurry to survive before flipping their companies to a bigger player. Some of these thoughts were echoed my many VCs. Having said that, there certainly were some that have significant merit and will hopefully get funded. I'll provide a summary of the highlights for my next post on Monday. Be sure to check it out because I'm convinced you'll find some services you'll want to use.

If you'll need VC money, start early

Many companies were of the right size and scope for a VC but started off with angel money, typically a few hundred thousands but sometimes more. They stretched the money extremely well and I was amazed by what they managed to develop with so little money. However, they now need VC money to take it to the next level and the lack of early engagement and experience with VCs showed. Because they haven't been talking to VCs up to now, it is a little late to start learning when you need money in a few months. Things just don't move that quickly. The way I figure it, if you're going to need VC money eventually, get involved with VCs as soon as possible and ideally even at the seed stage.

I know it sounds like I'm biased because I'm an EIR with a VC firm. This is really not the case. I've been considering looking at angel investing as well but as some of you know, I don't do things on a small scale. I think big and I know I'll need significant investment that will have to come from VCs. It is super critical to never ever lose sight of that, even if you do get a bit of money from angels to get things going. Getting money from VCs is RADICALLY different from working with angels in nearly every respect, including timeline, so the sooner you start talking with VCs the better.

Most VCs I know work much slower than you would think. If things go well, you'd be lucky to close anything within 6 months of first contact. The reality is that you'll start pitching to VCs and it will take many months before you'll get even a small nibble from a couple of them. Start-up teams often believe so much in their concept that they think it will sell itself and VC will immediately sign on but it is so much more complicated than that. I'll share a few tidbits to think about although it is definitely not a complete list.

Thing to think about when going down the VC route:

-do you have a fundable team, and especially a credible CEO
-the idea is great but probably wrong ... need a team that will adjust as necessary and have strategy to penetrate the market
-I have heard the following comment many times "good idea but they don't have a CEO"
-what is the exit strategy? M&A, IPO?
-it's fine to make piles of money but if the VC can't pull it out, it doesn't help much
-I would contend that you need to think big and be able conceive of an IPO in 5 years or so. If that is clearly never an option, that's a really bad thing
-is there is a history of IPO and M&A in the space you are entering and if so what were the valuations?
-VCs often start with the end in mind. Basically ... the VC needs to have a sense for the value of the company in 3-5yrs (i.e. what you could sell it for or raise in an IPO) and work backwards from there. Examples of similar companies that were acquired or did an IPO are very useful. YouTube is probably not a good example!
-timing timing timing
-you need to hit the market with your product just before the hockey stick inflection. The timing of the investment will depend on many factors. If it is S/W, you can fund closer to the inflection, perhaps 1-2 years. If it is hardware & software, you need to invest at least 2-3yrs. If it is silicon ... god help you. You need to invest at least 3yrs ahead in my opinion and need huge $$$
-VC partners often decide by consensus
-it is extremely important to find a champion and you therefore should do some research to find the right partner to pitch to initially but keep in mind that the others will need to be convinced as well.
-are there other companies in their portfolio that are in a similar space? That can work for you and against you.
-people like to place bets in a variety of different markets and types of opportunities
-does the VC have experience in the space you are pitching?
-if the answer is no, they will have a hard time with the due diligence required to make a big decision. Furthermore, they won't help open the doors you need. You may also get steered from one play to another. For example, they'll steer you from a consumer play to an enterprise play simply because it is closer to their experience, even if the market is not nearly as good.
-who are the other VCs investing?
-chances are, you'll need multiple VCs and working with VCs that have a history of working together is important (not absolute requirement though)

There is much more I could say here but I hope you get the point. Getting money from VCs is possible and new companies are successful in getting funded all the time but it is extremely complicated and takes a huge amount of time. You really need to know what you are doing and getting people with direct experience and contacts to help is absolutely crucial. I'm not such a person yet but am learning the game with the help of many people and personal perseverance. It has already highlighted major holes in my own initiatives that I know I need to sort out before I have a chance in hell to get funded.

If you have opinions to share on this topic, I'd be extremely interested to hear your thoughts. If you are willing to post these in the comments so that other readers can see them, even better.

Next Monday's post will include a summary and links for many of the cool technologies and services I discovered over the last few days. Don't miss it!


Allan Isfan
Entrepreneur with an Iron Ring

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Monday, November 06, 2006


California Dreamin!

Sorry for the late posting ... was travelling to California

I'm sitting here near the heart of the VC action. I'm grabbing a bite at "Neptune's Palace" in San Fransisco's Fisherman's Wharf (average meal btw). I'm watching a lone guy in a rowboat paddling against the wind near Alcatraz in San Franscisco Bay. Its a huge bay and yet he is moving along very nicely ...much better than when I tried crossing the Ottawa river in a canoe ... my wife nearly killed me!

I feel like that guy sometimes. Still mostly alone in my quest moving into windy challenging waters. Many cheering me on from the sidelines but not yet willing to jump in and start rowing. I'm looking forward to some serious company on my voyage.

I've managed to assemble quite a crew of merry men waiting at the wharf to decide if they are ready for the voyage. They are a fantastic bunch and we're going to kick ass. I guess it's up to me to let them know where we're going. That time is coming very soon ... must stop getting distracted by shiny objects.

At this very moment, I have to find a Starbucks cappuccino to keep me company as I travel down highway 1 along the coast on my way to San Jose. Should be a great sunset. Just picture it ... convertible Mustang, tunes blaring yo, shades cause the future so bright and all that, sun going down ... you get the picture.

Fast forward a few hours.

The drive down hwy 1 didn't start so well. The fog was so thick I couldn't see the water or the sun. I nearly turned around but decided to persevere. Good thing I had Alice with me (97.3 FM ... Great radio station). I pulled over into a parking lot on the side of the road and decided to walk towards the water. As I got closer, I realized there were people on the beach with at least 30 people actually surfing in the fog! It was amazing and surreal! There's no way my camera phone would do it justice so I pressed on. By the time I reached Half Moon Bay, the fog had mostly lifted and I managed to catch the sunset, while kids played in the sand a flew kites. Quite a sight.

I can't help but to draw parallels between this experience and a start-up in the very early stages of formation, way before any funding or even a real business plan. You are mostly alone driving through the fog. You get distracted by one thing or another ... always wondering if you missed an ideal or opportunity.

Sometimes you doubt yourself and consider turning around ... but you persevere because you have a strong sense that you'll get through and what is waiting on the other side will be fantastic.

Just when you thought I got distracted and started writing about travel instead of start-ups, I bring it right back to the main topic.

Ahh .... California Dreamin!

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Thursday, November 02, 2006


Be a DJ

I just got back from singing lessons ......... ok now stop laughing .... I'm serious. My daughter had been dying to take lessons and I finally signed her up. My guitar playing, although still pretty rough, is at the point where I would like to start singing along. Only problem, the voice is as rough as the guitar playing so I figured I would take lessons along side my oldest daughter (while the other is taking piano). My teacher, Fran, the co-owner of Domenic's Music (on Hazeldean Road in Kanata) really knows what she's doing. She makes us do some strange exercises with different vowels, head position, breathing .... I was nearly yodeling today! Little by little, the sound in my head is starting to get closer and closer to the sound coming out of my mouth! I can literally hear the difference in my daughter and myself from the beginning of the lesson to the end and from week to week. It it going to take time and patience but we'll get there.

Sometimes you really need someone who has deep experience and really knows what they are doing. You probably don't want to go to a self taught gynecologist or proctologist. Having said that, I feel that we are in the thick of three key trends that when combined, can cause some interesting things to happen that pull away from traditional experts. These trends are 1) "Do It Yourself" 2) "reality" and 3) "express yourself".

Blogs are a perfect example that combine all three. YouTube is another. These two examples lack in polish and sometimes quality relative to real authors, reporters or producers but they make up for it in "realness", honesty and volume. People can say absolutely anything they want through these media which makes it real for both the creator and observer. There are so many people creating entertainment (arguably just like me right now) that there are bound to be some good things that pop out (and tons of crap). User generated content is extremely cheap to create and distribute and free for the end users.

I've been dreaming of publishing some children's stories for some time. I sometimes make up some pretty funny ones for my girls completely on the fly. It makes them giggle which is like ear candy to a parent. There are now services available that allow you to print your own very short run books .... who needs a publisher? I can create my own podcasts of the stories and put them on iTunes. As a lone dude up in my office in Stittsville, I can reach hundreds or thousands of people for almost no investment other than time. This is very cool!

I've been digging really deep into the audio space (radio, streaming music, mp3 players ...) and have realized that there is still very little user generated audio content. Radio is run by professionals and streaming music and mp3 players mostly provide music (ok ... many podcasts exist but many are professional too). I just know my brother in law would love to be a radio personality or play by play sports announcer. He has a radio face and is entertaining ... plus with a bit of computer magic we can probably make him sound good ... why can't he be on the radio?

He will but not the radio you're thinking ... no way that's happening. However, the service we're pulling together will give him and thousands of others like him that voice. After the game, or even during, people will have the choice regarding who they listen to. It won't be a handful of radio stations and tv stations ... it will be hundreds or thousands of people each with their own little show. The good ones will get heard and the crappy ones won't ... just as it should be. You want to do a morning show with your two other funny buddies? ... be my guest! You want to do play by play of your son's hockey game ... why not! And when the show is done, your radio automatically cuts to music you like ...

You get the point. Be a DJ.

PS. I'm going to be attending the Dow Jones Technology Ventures conference in San Jose next week (arriving Nov 6th and leaving on the redeye Nov 8th). If you're in the valley and want to chat, drop me an email and we can exchange contact info.

PPS. If you didn't get the evite for the big Halloween Bash at my place Friday Nov 3 in Ottawa and are interested in dropping by, shoot me a note and I'll get you the details.