Tech Coast Review
The startup and tech news weblog for Southern California

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

San Diego based, Divx, best known for the popular mpeg4 licensing business, today announced that they are shutting down their Stage6 video sharing website. This has rightly gotten a good bit of play in the blog technosphere (see Techcrunch, Gizmodo, GigaOM, Webware, Mashable, Etc), as Stage6 was a pretty popular service. I personally used Stage6 all the time as it was a good source of content (both original and piratted), and felt quite superior to your typical Youtube knockoff, both in terms quality and speed.

According to their official blog response the reason for the shutdown was "that the continued operation of Stage6 is a very expensive enterprise that requires an enormous amount of attention and resources that [they]are not in a position to continue to provide." Of course as Techcrunch and some of the other blogs have dug into, when they passingly mention that "there are a lot of other details involved" what they really mean is that a rediculously stupid power trip originating from the Divx board over how to properly spin off the new company was a huge problem.

As Arrington put it, "throwing the baby out with the bath water" was certainly the case here. Stage6 had impressive funding to branch off and a business model that was actually working. Throwing out the revenue that Stage6 was making, as well the positive consumer impact it had on the Divx brand because they didnt have the resources to devote to it or the stomach to pound through the internal politics is amazingly short cited on their own. Even just considering Stage6 as its own entity its pretty easy to see that they come out of the gates with great traction and a semi niche, both of which any one of the new video sharing sites we see pop up daily would kill to have.

Overall on the business end this whole thing just exemplifies bad leadership and decision making. Plus as a consumer, I have just got to say I'll be sad to see Stage6 go.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The hype and popularity of sports is something I may never understand but that being said I hear coworkers, friends, strangers, family, and the guy who sits next to me at the bar drone on and on about their favorite sports team. Moreover it seems that everyone of them can give me a detailed analysis why Shaq going to the Suns is a good/bad trade, comments on Joe Torrey's weight, and a strong opinion with reasons why Rodger Clemens should/should not be let into the hall of fame. So needless to say I realize this market is huge and there is a huge potential for growth with anything that allows sports nuts personalize, customize, and shout out their opinions to the world.

Jacked is taking a stab at this by making customizable widget pages so you can keep your eye on all of the sports games going on. The widgets vary from play by play to you tube videos of the teams playing. They are VC funded with at least $6.5 Million and are based in Santa Monica, CA.

The Good: There web site is about a slick as it gets and even better than that the whole site is very easy to use, navigate, and customize. Also to their credit they have a ton of money and make it apparent that they have more sports related offerings (besides the widget platform) on the way. Most importantly the widgets they offer are rich in information and gave me more than I ever wanted to know about the games I was widgeting in on.

The Bad: I understand that this is supposed to be something you look at in addition to watching TV but why does it have to be that way? I would find Jacked much more useful if they had a live stream of the game(s) you are receiving information on. My idea here is that when I am watching a game on TV I really do not want to be checking my computer for other information, however if I am on my computer watching sports (ie no TV) I would gladly watch the game on my computer surrounded with the loads of data that all of these widgets can give me. Bottom line is that I want to see the actually game live broadcast along with the widgets!

Also there should be some sort of communication with other fans that getting the same information so there is a meaningful interaction going on. Let everyone share their so called sports knowledge and see what unfolds. This seems natural to me, most people have strong opinions about every aspect of sports so let them let loose, I could see a very dedicated (and violent) community developing from connecting sports users.

Overall: There is certainly room for some money to be made in this arena and might just be the one to do it, but until they add more user interaction and live streaming videos I do not see their idea gaining significant traction.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

is what I would call an enhanced social Q & A site, the idea is that you ask questions to the community and get answers back. They are based in Santa Monica, California and are part of parent company Demand Media. If Demand Media does not ring a bell their CEO Richard Rosenblatt has had a hand in some major internet acquisitions in the last 10 years including but not limited to Myspace and iMall.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a site with an extremely active community dedicated to answering one another's questions? It is a great idea that answerbag is executing as well as I can imagine but that being said answerbag is far from perfect.

The Good: Well if you are an investor or just a speculator Answerbag has just about everything going for it, they have money from their parent corporation, strong management (see above), and a very strong growth pattern. As for the site the utility is high, they do a nice job of letting everyone rate both the questioners and the answerers so you get a sense of who you can trust on the site. More importantly they only archive unique questions with good answers which means that you do not have to sift through 15 similar posts to find the best answer. Finally the community responds to most questions rather efficiently (however I have been waiting over and hour with no answer to my question).

The Bad: To harness the power, energy, and utility of their many thousands of users there will be some evil and this evil takes the form of endless opinions. One thing I do not want on a site dedicated to answers are endless opinions about religion and politics. If there is factual information that one can contribute to a political or religious question that is great but there is a whole lot of annoying (and useless) opinions on the site about democrats, conservatives, immigration, and everything in between.

Summary: Although it can be a pain sorting through all of the opinions when I am looking for an answer they do a good job of having an easily searchable archive of questions and answers which can provide a high level of utility to just about anyone (I found out the best way to remove dog poop from a carpet in seconds!) so I will not be surprised if Answerbag's strong growth continues.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

So everyone seems to have recognized how hot funding green tech companies were in the venture capital space last year (and it looks to be continuing this year).  So how does that trickle down in to the consumer facing web 2.0 space?  Well what you get is, a Santa Monica based, aggregator site of all things environmentally friendly. hasn't been out long, but it's likely to become a leader in the emerging sector of an online green marketplace.  The audiences of tech savvy and green friendly are a very big overlapping demographic, so the business definitely makes sense, and Evo being one of the first in the segment, will probably  do well.  From just spending a bit of time with Evo I was pretty happy with the experience.  The site is laid out well (in of course predictable green color schemes) and their general technology platform seems pretty solid.  They programmatically scrape partner sites and assess a green rating on potential products based on environmental friendliness.  If the product makes the cut, it gets on their site, along with the evo score and the relevant details.  Pressuming Evo gets some traction they have a pretty good business model as well, in that they charges their partners a healthy sized referral fee based on the retail price of the product.  
Overall as someone who is trying to do my part in purchasing more eco friendly products, Evo's niche hits a personal itch for me, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one.



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Last week Santa Monica based announced that the received an undisclosed investment from General Catalyst Partners.  The site is basically an aggregation service for "how-to" type videos.  Apparently self-help 2.0 sites are all the rage right now, as TechCrunch just covered yesterday First30Days (not socal based) which similarly focuses on positive self help articles during "the first 30 days of a major life change".  And while the two companies don't exactly overlap, being funded at the same time, does imply that the venture community is recognizing the value in sites that focus on the self help niche.

So how is  It's actually pretty cool, and they definitely index a lot of content.  I ran across a few bugs while using the site, but nothing show stopping, and overall I was impressed with how thorough the indexing/aggregation of their content was.  
So far in the recent months since the site has launched, Wonderhowto hasn't garnered much traffic yet, but the NY Times recently did a profile of
 them (and their excentric founder), so maybe they'll pickup steam.  On the otherhand picking up steam maybe harder for this type of business, because although clearly their is a huge market for self-help related stuff (just browse a bookstore to see how much we Americans gobble the stuff up), the videos and Wonderhowto itself is not nearly as viral as other video sites.  Because lets face it, as lame as some stupid funny stunt video on Youtube is, people love to forward them around and thus they get a lot of play.  Companies like do really well with that.  But Wonderhowto doesn't have that growth advantage, I mean, who forwards how-to videos? 

 Of course the founder of Wonderhowto is known for his antics, so maybe we'll see some unuasual marketting strategies from his team to gain the viral traffic that they want.  And because of that, I'd be surprised to see Wonderhowto not pickup some decent traction.  Though I do have to say, guys couldn't you have picked a shorter name?



Wednesday, February 6, 2008

We are not a big fan of Los Angeles based social network king, Myspace.  Sure they helped take the social network world to the mainstream and are now the incumbent player in the space, but in the fast paced tech world, they are (at least from an innovation perspective) constantly being surpassed by upstarts as well as their key competitor: Facebook. But yesterday, Myspace finally made some huge strides to regain some confidence, by releasing their developer API.  

While the results of the Myspace development platform to consumers won't be available until the first of March, developers can now get a head start building widgets and apps for the social network.  This of course is great news for both consumers who will get all kinds of cool extensions to their social graph (ala facebook apps), and also great for developers who will likely be able to build a whole ecosystem of easy to make apps with a giant user base ready to get their hands on them.  

While Myspace is late to the game in terms of opening up their platform, they seem to be doing a few things better then Facebook's earlier API release.  For one thing Myspace is basically building their API over the top of Google's Open Social, meaning that developers can fairly easily port their apps between most social network platforms.  This increased interoperability is not only a show of good faith, but also means more developers are likely to contribute, which is obviously good for everyone involved.  Besides OpenSocial, the other thing that Myspace seems to have a better leg on is helping developers monetize their apps.  Facebook is basically hands off in this case, and more then a few developers have made high trafficked apps that have return very little money for their efforts.  Myspace seems to have an eye to help developers out in this area, which again is good for everyone involved. 

Overall it seems Myspace is doing many things right with this move.  It'll be interesting to see how things go with the full consumer release next month.


Monday, February 4, 2008

San Diego based Goowy is a virtual desktop for office productivity as well as widgets. They were founded in 2004 so they've been at it a while and it shows. Originally funded by Mark Cuban in a seed round, today they announced that they have been purchased by and will become a wholly owned subsidirary of AOL.

From the start Goowy, has delivered a great experience and received sold feedback from the users and press alike (Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, etc). Their widget platform is similar and useful to the mac widgets (though flash based) and the virtual desktop suite (also flash based) which includes email, calendaring, and more is surprisingly good. For a web app thats based on flash its impressive both how fast Goowy performs and also how good the UI is (it reminds me a bit of a cross-up of Outlook, mac Mail and iCal).

So what does AOL want with them? Well Goowy already provides widgets via the myAOL portal and as AOL continues to shift from a subscription based business model, to a media channel with revenue mainly from advertising, Goowy becomes a nice delivery platform. By using Goowy's technology, AOL can create a form of widget based advertising, that becomes more interactive (but hopefully not more annoying as well), as well as extend the myAOL services. How much, AOL guts the technology, versus lets Goowy continue on building what their virtual office productivity desktop out will remain to be seen, but regardless I'm sure this is great news for the Goowy folks who have ran a impressively lean operation.


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