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Archive for October, 2007

Legend Homes LogoI’ve avoided the entire “Chicken Little” the sky is falling on the housing market to pump up my blog stats. But, I’m sooooo tired of the constant whining about the mortgage crisis and especially annoyed at a naive article from Matrix Development (Legend Homes) CEO, David Oringdulph on Sunday, October 21st that Ryan Frank wrote in The Oregonian. They ran a “5 Questions” snippet interview where Mr. Oringdulph RANTS about the media as the main culprit behind the housing recession.

He states:

“There’s really nothing wrong with the housing market from the standpoint of economics. The loan rate is low. The income level is doing about 11/2 percent this year as far as income increase. We also got a population growth of close to 2 percent a year. If you look at all the numbers and you look at how everything else is doing, why isn’t housing doing well?” He goes on to say: “Why? The media. We blame it a lot on the media. Where else would someone get the idea that there’s something wrong with our housing market when it’s not?”

So, if we are to believe Mr. Oringdulph the housing recession doesn’t exist and is only a perception of the media making a big deal out of nothing. Well sir, not to be disrespectful, but you are full of hot air!

Mortgage companies were greedy and made loans to people who shouldn’t have qualified. It’s commonly known that in Portland, any real estate broker you chat with had a saying — if you could “fog a mirror” then you could get a loan. No money down, 110% financing, low-single digit ARM’s, — no problem — and any other “creative” financing method you want — now it’s no shirt, no shoes. This flies in the face of common sense sir and if something is too good to be true then it likely is.

Mr. Oringdulph/Legend Homes wants us to feel sorry for their reduced revenue while they whine about how the market recession isn’t REAL? It’s a fabrication of our over active imagination which the media created and continues to foster. If only the evening news would stop talking about all those foreclosures the market would magically be robust again. What planet did he just beam down from? Good grief! Just today BofA quits wholesale mortgage business laying off 700 jobs and shares of Countrywide plunge to $13.07 which is the lowest in more than 4 years. Oh yeah, it’s just our imagination Mr. Oringdulph!!

Many of us have gone without the double whip carmel machiotta so we can make mortgage payments and have made hard financial decisions to purchase a home with out being enabled by “no money down” predatory promotions from the “mega” builders and/or their cooperative lending divisions.

Mr. Oringdulph needs to step down off his Lake “O” perch and talk to the people in foreclosure about how this is the media’s fault and is only imagination.

I’m annoyed at his attempt to dismiss the whole crisis as psychological trickle-down economics. He obfuscated facts after trends were well established. And, I for one don’t want to subsidize financial mistakes of others or the lending institutions that recklessly loaned money to people who clearly were at risk. Hey David, here’s an idea…lets have the mortgage company or builder reward the home owners that have purchased homes responsibly and continue to make their payments. Now there’s an idea!

Mr. Oringdulph statements were offensive to those of us who work hard to be responsible and his PR team was very foolish to allow a public peek into his philosophical views and executive prowness! The Oregonian (that’s you Mr. Ryan Frank) should have been more assertive in challenging his thinking vs. providing him a soap box to evangelize his incorrect perspective. No, I don’t work for or in the media, but I know “spin” when I see it.

The housing market will run its due course with out any artificial stimulus that he or others may want to wish up on it!

If you feel the same as I do then email Ryan at: ryanfrank@news.oregonian.com and tell him what you think. Maybe the power of the blog-O-sphere will force a follow up article with some balance.

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Is this a bad dream? Imus coming back to the radio dial? Not to satellite radio, but to AM radio…didn’t he just leave? Didn’t the broadcast exec’s learn anything? I previously blogged on this HERE.

For nearly 3 whole weeks the offensive Imus statement focused attention on offensive rap lyrics. So called “leaders” leaned on the music industry officials to work and/or eliminate racial words from their artist gig list, but that has since faded…we’re right back to the same ‘ol same old with Gangster Raper T.I. (born Clifford Harris) arrested in Atlanta for buying a machine gun. He’s a convicted Felon buying a machine gun? Stick to rapp’n rythmes T.I.!! He has quite the “rap” sheet.

I think the exec’s learned that Imus makes money. He brings large national advertisers and his core audience is older, affluent and highly likely to rejoin. Lots of blog buzz about WABC-AM being his new home where several other syndicated hosts: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity reside. The “I-man” gracing WABC with his presence would only add to the Arbitron ratings.

I suppose the backlash could become very intense. After all it’s getting old news reporting on the home loan bubble and market crash. And how many times do we have to listen to “nanny-gate”, the Rita Crosby double top secret phone recordings of bribes?!

As I’ve stated before I’m not an I-man fan. He seems determined to take WABC’s money and rejoin the trash talk AM dial — absent thousands of angry people gathering outside ABC HQ.

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tek logoThey have something in common now that the grand-daddy of Oregon’s high-tech will be sold to a Washington, D.C., conglomerate called Danaher Corp. (DHR) for $2.8 billion in cash. They offered $38 per share prior to the NYSE opening bell and Tek gained 33% to a five year high. And to think the Tek alma mater were never consulted on this Danner acquisition. It smells fishy.

tek stock graphic

I remember the heady days of the 80’s when Tek employed 24,000. I remember the founder Howard Vollum and Earl Wantland, and the Ferrari days of Norm Winningstad. Some other notable people who worked at Tektronix: Tom Bruggere; Gerry Langler; and Dave Moffenbeier all co-founded Mentor Graphics in 1981.

Danaher is a diversified manufacturing and technology company known for superior business processes and outstanding shareholder value.

Danaher is also known as the maker of Sears’ Craftsman tools which I seem to use most every weekend in the garage. Speaking of garage…having built an HBO “Folgers-Can” receiver back in the day, I hope they don’t want to reconcile the outstanding special stock inventory spread out all over my garage.

I’m heading home now to hide that stash of Gallium arsenic High-Frequency tranny’s….

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coolsw page

There was joke floating around a few years ago about “What’s the difference between Intel, Inc. and Jurassic Park?”  As the joke goes one is a high tech dinosaur park and the other is a movie! 

Well, these days Intel is firing on all cylinders and the latest activity from the semiconductor company is not typical…they launched a new Web 2.0-inspired Web site to engage with the community and solicit feedback from the public on software companies and technologies.  Huh?!

CoolSW is a web site or forum where people — from software developers, gamers and tech enthusiasts — can submit and vote for their favorite software company or products. The site taps into the collective intelligence of the community and, much like the popular site Digg.com, uses user ratings to assign levels of importance or relevance to each company or product. Aside from the entertainment value, the data will provide a growing list of software companies with which Intel or others could potentially engage.  

In addition, CoolSW provides a forum where Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) can raise awareness for their product and/or services. It may well even provide smaller companies an opportunity to share their solution with potential investors or partners.

Very cool!

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LeahyThe hi-tech industry is rediscovering the value of intellectual property rights with a major legislative win on Sept 7th as the House of Representatives approved the first significant overhaul of patent law in 50 years.  Most hi-tech companies are at minimum watching, but many are actively engaged in the effort to overhaul the U.S. patent laws.  Although couched in terms of the importance of patents and patent quality. The thrust of many of the measures are clearly directed at “limiting litigation abuses.”   You can get a download of the bill at: 

The Patent Reform Act of 2007 (S 1145) is designed to improve the quality of patents issuing from the Patent Trade Office, allow for more rigorous reexamination of patents that may have been issued in error, and remedy imbalances in the law that encourage patent speculators to file speculative patent infringement suits against good-faith innovators and manufacturers. 
Hatch
Unfortunately many “paper patents” that never built trade in the marketplace created an environment for patent speculators to buy these patents and file infringement suits against F500’s based on ambiguous descriptions of what is patented. The speculators often demand a royalty of somewhere between one and five percent, which literally can mean billions of dollars.  

Sadly, the current state of the U.S. patent laws fails to discourage this practice, a practice that exists nowhere else in the world. And when a multi-billion dollar demand isn’t enough, they then argue to the court that employers are “willful” and should be punished by having the damages trebled because somehow the employer knew of the patent before the lawsuit was filed.  Most often, these charges are based on a brief letter that merely mentions the patents and its possible applicability to unnamed products with no explanation.  

Enough is enough!!  S 1145 is an attempt to “balance the playing field” and improve the system for all users. It will:  

  • Establish new and more balanced procedures for calculating damages and determining “willful infringement”;
  • Improve tools within the Patent Office for reconsidering patents that may have been granted improperly;
  • Create new venue rules that will help ensure that cases are brought in districts that have a real connection to the parties and to the alleged acts of infringement.

The cost of frivolous patent litigation approaches billions of dollars a year and if the Patent Reform Act doesn’t pass, it’s expected that these expenses will continue to rise and will require companies to operate differently.  The impact likely has “off-shore” ramifications on ability to compete, and drives up the costs of innovation.  

How can you help?  Go HERE and look up your congressman, then write them a letter.  To help expedite a sample letter follows.    

Dear [recipient/senator name here], 

I’m writing to ask you to support the Leahy/Hatch Patent Reform Bill (S 1145). We have been actively engaged with other major hi tech companies and many other industry groups in this effort to overhaul U.S. patent laws for the past five years.  

Here’s some background information that I hope will help you understand why I believe its so important to support this bill.  The Patent Reform Act of 2007 is designed to improve the quality of patents issuing from the Patent Trade Office, allow for more rigorous reexamination of patents that may have issued in error, and remedy imbalances in the law that encourage patent speculators to file questionable patent infringement suits against good-faith innovators.  

The current patent litigation costs have a significant impact on anyCompanies bottom line and exist nowhere else in the world. The cost of frivolous patent litigation approaches billions of dollars a year. If the Patent Reform Act doesn’t pass, we expect that these expenses will continue to rise.  This has a real impact upon the ability to compete against foreign based companies, and drives up the costs of innovation.  

Please help enact S. 1145  into law this year!!! 

Sincerely,[Your Name]  

Important to note is the implementation of “logic puzzles“. A few Senators are not responding to emails unless they come from their Senate website. Be assured that your email messages are being received by their office and they’re being tallied and counted. The message you may get back from a Senator who cannot respond is – “he/she will not send a personalized reply to anything that does not come from his/her website”.  If you receive such a response this means that your email was received and will be counted. 

Send your letter today.

Senator Leahy/Hatch pictures courtesy of Wikipedia.

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TC MC'sI recently attended Techcrunch 40.  A new conference hosted by TechCrunch and Jason Calacanis with the support of many sponsors.  The format was dead simple — give 40 of the hottest startups from around the world an opportunity to announce and demo their products at a conference. The companies didn’t pay anything to do this.  A group of 100 additional companies demoed their products in a DemoPit.  The conference was originally called “TechCrunch20” but too many startups applied making it difficult to select down to only 20. 

Summary:

  • Sun Microsystems was the (looked exclusive?) hardware sponsor.

  • Looks like a Web OS, smells like a Web OS…but, wait it’s now called a “media sharing platform”

  • Facebook launched FB Fund with a $10 million (coming from Accel and Founders Fund) fund to be used as grants for college students who submit company/application proposals.

  • AOL – launched a new collaborative multimedia story telling service BlueString

  • Google – launched “Presently” – A power point presentation tool

There were many interesting and cool companies – “Top 10” from my vantage were:  

  1. Mint – a Quicken/MS Money for the web2.     

  2.  MusicShake – mixing music tracks and sound effects (Korean Co.)

  3. PowerSet – natural language search 

  4. Viewdle – video search and facial recognition

  5. Tripit – unique share, search, and trip planning aggregator

  6. Xobni (inbox spelled backward) – this is a hot product and likely MSoft will acquire. Improves the way users organize, search and navigate their email.

  7.  Xtr3D – an awesome demo!  A tool for game developers enabling computer based hands and body movements with one web cam.

  8. Yap – say into your phone what you want in your twitter message board or other IM apps.

  9. Kerpoof – a “Web 2.0 Broaderbun” site for children.  Kids can create art, stories, and animated movies using a simple 3D interface.

  10. GotStatus – community driven systems management and monitoring tools.  They are “google analytics” for the server side.   

Conference Details:   Jason Calacanis and Michael Arrington made intros.  Stated there were more than 750 applications/companies submitted.  It was difficult to pair down 150 and even more difficult getting to 60.  They decided to change the format to 40 of the hottest companies and included a DemoPit for the companies that didn’t’ get selected to demo. 

Calacanis

More than a third were unfunded or had less than $250K angel funding and about a third were outside of the US (2 from Korea).  Originally had space for 400 people, then expanded to handle 800 attendees, but with last minute registration went over a 1000 attendees.  Sessions were space limited and had standing room only over the two day sessions. 

Conference attendees were given two chips – one to give to their favorite company in the DemoPit on Monday, and your favorite company on Tuesday.  The company with the most “chips” at the end of day 2 would get an opportunity to demo in front of the audience.  Kaltura was the winner. 

This conference was an excellent format for rapid fire demo’s and company intro’s. 

There were a large number of VC’s (like sharks circling the raft!) and industry luminaries, along with Web 2.0 “rock stars”.  The conference intermixed time to make company introductions and exchange business cards. 

Mint was chosen as the best presenting company and won the $50K grand prize. 

Session#1 (Search and Discovery)

  • PowerSet – natural language search, supposed Google killer.

  • CastTV – video and facial search, (Marc Andreessen is angel investor)

  • Cognitive Code – Cross platform product that can understand human conversations. The website provides a cryptic explanation about what they do. AI (Silvia)

  • Faroo – P2P search engine, each searcher also gets a crawler, indexer, ranking engine on their machine to contribute back to the search engine. Good idea? Their reasoning is that search engines require 10,000+ servers and billions of dollars. Will consumers cares?!

  • Viewdle – video search and facial recognition 

Session#2 (Mobile and Communications)

  • Cubic Telecom – looks like a voip company to solve high cost of cell phone roaming.

  • Yap – (or at yapinc.com) say into your phone what you want in your twitter acct or other IM type apps.  A lots of GSM phone issues during the demo, and hotel was a blackhole for cell coverage.  It’s a J2ME lightweight app.

  • TruTap – social life for your universal mobile service (any phone any network any place.  Download app for staying connected.  Will have a developer API.

  • Ceedo – software that allows you to bring your software with you on a thumbdrive or any mass storage device for virtualizing windows.

  • LoudTalks – combines voice and IM; push to talk – a button and talk to friends. 

Humble Beginnings Panel:  Sequoia Capital’s Michael Moritz interviews Netscape founder and Ning co-founder Marc Andreessen, Yahoo co-founder David Filo and YouTube co-founder and CEO Chad Hurley.  They discussed “humble beginnings” that each could recall about the early days of their start-ups, before all the hype and money. 

Chad – Art school background and told a story about selling picts in his yard during elementary school. Dumb and painful to watch!  Talked about how he got started in building web pages and trying to solve problems.

Panel

David – Started in HS with basic programming, studied CS ungrad; chip synthesis in the computer aided design at Stanford.Marc – from WI, didn’t know about VC back then.  Went to the Univ IL.   Need to have sufficient or crazy lunatic ideas as 99 out of 100 are no good.  If it isn’t a crazy idea then the established companies will do it.  Looks at what might people like, what products do I like to use, etc., does it solve a problem that you’d like to solve..don’t look at it as a biz. 

Session #3 (Community and Collaboration)

  • StoryBlender – online collaborative video production platform where people can work together to “blend” their content into a new multimedia show. StoryBlend’s online editing tool lets users create videos by “blending” images, sound, text, and video clips.  CEO founded CyWorld.

  • Tripit – share, search, and find trip planning info from plane tickets, hotel, itinerary, etc. One of those useful ideas that made you wonder why someone didn’t think of before.

  • Story Blender – took video mashups to the masses.

  • Flock – Social browser that integrates blogging, flickr, some other fluff.

  • MusicShake – mixing music tracks and sound effects. Tracks are recommended by “Nuba,” the intelligence behind Musicshake.  Stated there are 170K royalty free music tracks looking to get 1 million. Also a biz model for creators to make music and sell it on the 50/ 50 rev share.

  • 8020 Publishing – takes about anything off online content and puts in print magazine format. 

AOL – launched a new collaborative multimedia story telling service called BlueString.  A flex application that allows you pull in all your images, videos, and audio content from across the web and mix them together into a multimedia slide show presentation. There are many user generated content sites out there for pictures, videos, and music. 

Session #4 (Crowd Sourcing)

  • Cake Financial – lets you check out the actual portfolios, watchlists and real-time trades of everyone from proven top investors to your trusted family and friends. Plus you can see how you’re doing across all of your brokerage accounts and how you stack up against others.

  • DocStoc – a free online document exchange database and social networking site that allows users to store, search, and share virtually any type of document (word, excel, powerpoint, pdf, illustrator, etc…).

  • Teach the People – Social Network for learning… members can make a public space to share knowledge and then put up a separate private one and start charging.

  • CrowdSpirit – using the wisdom of crowds, they create a consumer product based on ideas the community selects. Members can invest in the product, submit ideas for specs/features, and share in the revenue.

  • Ponoko – Have an idea? Ponoko will turn it into a product. Unclear what kind of products (websites? electronics?) UPDATE:Just a quickie response as you were confused as to what ‘type’ of products you could produce with Ponoko – it’s physical products, at present limited to laser cut, but we perceive in time to be pretty much any physical product you desire, with small fabbers in every home (much like how we all have printers today) and then your local fabber shop for the bigger jobs. Is a pretty exciting future! We’ve just opened up to open beta within NZ, and will be open globally soon. So do encourage anyone who thinks this is a ‘bit of them’ to register on http://www.ponoko.com and we’ll email you when we’re open beta in your part of the world! Cheers!! Nic, Ponoko Online PR Chick. 

Fireside Chat With Facebook Founder

Michael Arrington chats with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg announced a new entity called FBFund with Accel and Founders Fund. The size of the fund will be $10 million (coming from Accel and Founders Fund) with anywhere between $25 to $250 thousand in grants available for each selected startup dedicated to developing Facebook applications. Zuckerberg wanted a way to help fund the most innovative, coolest, and disruptive software applications being developed on its own platform. 

Founders Fund and Accel will get the right of first refusal for the first round of financing of any company in the fund. Peter Thiel of Founders Fund and Jim Breyer of Accel will be involved in the fund. Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital, founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman, Rajeev Motwani of Google, and Mark Zuckerberg will be on fbFund’s board of advisors. Chamath Palihapitiya, VP of Product Marketing and Operations of Facebook, will be handling FBFund internally for Facebook   

Session #5 (Productivity and Web Applications)

  • Xobni (inbox spelled backward) – this is a hot product. Improves the way users organize, search and navigate their email. Xobni creates an information profile for each person a user communicates with, and provides historical information that is relevant to what users are working on. Xobni displays contact information, threaded conversations, attachments, related people, email usage statistics, and information from the web.

  • Orgoo – a web based “personal communications cockpit” that is a one stop site for email accounts, IM accounts, video chat, video mail, SMS and voice. Orgoo is free, requires no downloads, and can be accessed from any web browser or mobile phone.

  • App2You – a custom web application creator that lets users create web apps without doing database coding or designing.

  • Mint – a Quicken/MS Money for the web. Mint tracks bank, credit union and credit card transactions and alerts users to upcoming bills, low balances or unusual spending.  Seems centric to US for broadband always connected usage model.  Acount aggregation done Yodolee – pulls bank date thru XML feeds, but then leverages a number IP elements.

  • Kerpoof – Krista Marks, CEO – intent to become a leading destination site for children through a suite of activities that are enriching as well as entertaining. On Kerpoof, kids can create art, stories, and animated movies using a simple 3D interface, and when done, can save it to their gallery, share it with others, and vote on their favorites.  50% decline in people persuing CS caused the team to get involved in developing a browser based application.  Trying to be as rich as a client base application of days gone past.  Not designed “down” for kids, but simplistic UI.  Doesn’t have the Club Penguin social network aspect.  

Session #6 (Revenue Models and Analytics)

  • Spottt – free link exchanging.  Similar to the days of when every website had a link exchange page.  Phil Caplan founder of Adbright.  In ’96 had 30K sites for using link exchange – ’98 had a 1M sites. Tony Hsieh was co-founder linkexchange.  Now is founder of Zappas.com. Simple model, 1:1 exchange model. Same as original link exchange program bought by Microsoft.

  • Clickable – provides a control panel to manager ad networks, Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, and MS AdCenter.  Founded July 2006.  Have 30 employees. for creating and managing online advertising. Their technology provides campaign management tools.

  • GotStatus – in alpha, Andrew Taylor, CTO and co-founder.  Community driven systems management and monitoring tools.  Monitor – “google analytics” for the server side.  Has an API. $8B systems management market.  Open system, api driven.

  • PubMatic – advertising space that helps publisher make more $$ for online advertising.  400 publishers using tool.  Launch beta today. Its a meta ad server that between online publishers and online ad networks like Google AdSense, Yahoo Publisher Network and Value Click. Their service helps SMB publishers manage and maximize their advertising inventory by seamlessly communicating with multiple ad networks to help them find the optimal ad layout and the highest paying ad network

  • ZocDoc – tagline is Dentist and Doctor Appointments instantly.  It’s an online channel for scheduling doctor appointments. 

Panel: Getting Funding

panel2

Jason Calacanis moderated a panel discussion with Jay Adelson (Digg), David Sacks (Geni), Roelof Botha (Sequoia), Sumant Mandel (Clearstone), George Zachery (CRV), Hank Barry (Howard Rice), and Jeff Clavier (SoftTechVC).  Much of the discussion was about how companies raise funding and the panel provided recommendations and examples base on historical involvement. 

Session #7 (Rich Media and Mash Ups)

  • Xtr3D – a tool for game developers enabling computer based hands and body movements.  It integrates with existing virtual applications. Their real-time software analyzes 3D human motions using only one simple web cam. It will allow users to play games and interact in virtual worlds using natural human motions instead of keyboards, mouses and joysticks. Demo included moving around Google Earth by hand movements and “air” boxing, works well. One of the best product/ presentations of the conference.

  • Broadclip – media catcher for Facebook offers a legal way to find DRM free music.  A music discovery service.  A Conference First:  an application developed in F8 was shown as a standalone application…even though it relied upon Facebook to function.  More of this will be coming.  The DRM music issue is going to be trouble for this company.

  • mEgo – users create personalized avatars that carry their online network aggregation profiles and can be integrated into users’ blogs, social networks, websites, and IM clients.

  • Wixi – stores all your media in one place, and play it back where ever. Unclear if you need to download software to upload the data. To play your files they have a universal flash player.  They claim to be a media focused social network where users interact with each other by privately watching, posting, and sharing content of all media types, including photos, audio, and video.

  • BeFunky – provides users online tools for creating digital online representations of themselves for use in blogs, websites, and social networks like MySpace. The online tools Uvatar and Cartoonizer enable users to turn themselves into an avatar, cartoon, digital painting or comic.  

Session #8 (Entertainment for all ages)

  • FlowPlay – social casual gamer site aimed at teens.  Looks like Hobbo Hotel, Club Penguin, but with casual games emphasis

  • Areae’s – the Metaplace platform is a platform that will provide an open, easy-to-use interface which will allow users to create virtual worlds that can run anywhere. The Metaplace-created virtual worlds will allow users to play games, socialize, create content and conduct commerce.

  • WooMe – speed dating online and extends to let users meet new people live in speed sessions that are “fast, fun and free.”

  • Zivity – an “adult” social networking platform about “sexy models and nice photography.” A $10 subscription, members receive five votes that they can cast for models and photography they find appealing, with 80c out of every $1 vote cast being distributed to the model and photographer.

  • Demopit Wild Card – (demo oppty by number of votes).  kaltura.com earned the honor to present as the 40th company.  Kaltura is into collaborative media” and claims they enable users to do with video, audio, and animation what wikis have enabled them to do with text.

Panel: Exit Strategies

Heather Harde moderated the panel with  Michael Montgomery (Montgomery & Co.), Craig Walker (GrandCentral/Google), Raj Kapoor (Mayfield), Ted Wang (Fenwick), Michael Marquez (CBS) and Evan Williams (Obvious and Twitter).  They discuss exist strategies and the best way to sell your company for a lot of cash. 

TechCrunch 40 $50,000 Prize – Mint was chosen as the best presenting company at TechCrunch40. They are a provider of a personal finance application.

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