Google Acquires Feedburner

It turns out that the rumors are true, Google has acquired Feedburner. Sounds like a great outcome for all involved. Congrats to the guys at Feedburner, they worked hard and created a great company. They’re good people.

Techdirt Insight Community Steps Up To Public Beta

Techdirt, a company I’m an investor in and board member of, today launched a new version of their web site and more importantly, launched the public beta of the Techdirt Insight Community. From the announcement:

The Techdirt Insight Community is a network of expert bloggers, who we’ve brought together to collaboratively help companies get the insight and analysis they need in order to make important decisions. Over the last few months, we’ve grown the network of expert bloggers in the program, while having them work on all sorts of interesting challenges and issues raised by our corporate customers — from designing a strategy for developing a mobile application to understanding the potential for Google to enter the CRM space to understanding how the enterprise software world is changing. Today we move the Techdirt Insight Community into public beta, and open it up to a much wider audience.

Think of the Insight Community as the eBay of analyst research. I think it’s a huge opportunity and I think Techdirt’s doing a great job.

Back to the Future!

Marc Hedlund has a great post up talking about how many Internet startups are just rehashes of old UNIX commands. Marc’s absolutely right; in fact he’s just given away my secret to success! Damn you Marc Hedlund, damn you to hell! 🙂
Ahem. Anyways, ONElist was LISTSERV reincarnated, and Bloglines was rn re-imagined. And while Marc was kind enough to point to my latest venture, Startupping, he doesn’t draw the obvious parallel with that service. As a web forum/wiki/blog site dedicated to Internet entrepreneurs, Startupping is, like numerous other web forums, the modern day equivalent of a BBS. Which means that I’ve come full circle in my computing career.
From the first day I played with a computer, I knew it was my future. Back in 1982, when I was in seventh grade, my parents bought me an original IBM PC. My friend down the street had had an Apple IIe for about six months before that, and I had taken some summer school classes to learn BASIC programming. But when I got my PC, it was over. I spent countless hours every day on that machine, through junior High and High School, coding up all sorts of BASIC programs and games. Soon after they got me the PC, they got me a modem, a Racal Vadic 1200 Baud modem (it could only talk to other, non-Racal Vadic modems at 300 Baud, however). It was this massive, flattened brick. With that, the new world of computer bulletin boards opened up to me, and I was hooked. My parents were never pleased with the phone bills I’d ring up calling boards in Walnut Creek and other, non-local places. But, like any addict, I couldn’t help myself.
Soon after, I decided it’d be even more fun to run a BBS. So, I wrote one, in BASIC (I think I later compiled it using Microsoft’s first BASIC compiler for the PC). I don’t remember the name of the BBS, and I can’t find any traces of it at the excellent TextFiles site. The heart of the BBS was the message board. The other aspect of the BBS was the chat with the SYSOP feature. I didn’t have a hard drive, so I didn’t really have any space to store downloads. I watched and tweaked that board all the time, trying to build my own little community. I didn’t run the board for very long, so it didn’t become very popular. But it was great training for my later, community-based efforts. (For years after I stopped running the board, the phone line I had used would get calls at random times from computers.)
So now, 24 years later, I find myself running a BBS again. I’ve gone full circle. But at least now I don’t get woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of a modem screech.


Today, Wesabe announced the closing of their first round of financing. I’m one of the investors, along with O’Reilly’s AlphaTech Ventures, who was the lead. Wesabe, after launching only a few months ago, is currently tracking $300M in transactions, over 135,000 merchants in the system, and has over 1M tags applied to those merchants. Marc and Jason are great guys, and I really like the team and culture they’ve built. I believe that Wesabe fills an important roll in financial planning, something that has been unmet until now. If you haven’t checked out Wesabe, I urge you to do so.

YouTube and Lockups

This Google stock registration statement is being talked about today. It lists many (all?) of the YouTube stock holders and how many shares of resulting Google stock they wish to register. There’s a total of 4,204,215 shares listed, and the 3 YouTube founders are registering a combined 1,525,617 shares, or 36% of the total. This roughly matches what has been reported in the past as their percentage of the company, which was founded almost exactly 2 years ago.
Typically, when a startup first raises venture capital, the founders agree to subject part of their stock to a repurchase agreement. The amount of stock that can be repurchased by the company decreases over a period of time (3 to 5 years, typically). This means that if a founder were to leave after a couple months, they’d end up losing some chunk of their stock in the company. Investors do this as one way of protecting their investment.
What I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is whether the YouTube founders (at least the two still working at YouTube/Google) were subject to such an agreement, and if so, did it carry over after the acquisition by Google. My guess is that the answer is yes to both statements. Assuming a 4 year vest, they would only be able to sell about half their holdings right now. Which of course is not bad, any way you look at it. But budding entrepreneurs should keep in mind that when you hear about these exits, what’s not often mentioned are the continuing lockups, and the resulting risks (what if Google’s stock fell to $10/share before they had a chance to sell any more stock, for example?).

Founders at Work

I just received from Amazon a copy of Founders at Work, a collection of interviews with entrepreneurs. It’s by Jessica Livingston, one of the Y Combinator folks.
Here’s the list of interviewees, which includes myself. In the interview, I talk about the early days of both ONElist, which became Yahoo Groups, and Bloglines. I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet (hey, I just got it a couple hours ago!), but I’ve got to believe that this is a great resource for people interested in starting their own Internet companies. And if nothing else, it’s got a picture of me with a shaved head in it.

Techdirt Raises Angel Round

Today, Techdirt announced the closing of an angel round of funding. I led the round and will be joining their board of directors. The money will go towards building out and promoting their new Insight Community system, which I wrote about here. They’ve had an amazing response since announcing the Insight Community service; if you’re a blogger I suggest you check it out.
I originally met Mike Masnick, Techdirt’s CEO in 2003. He was one of the first users of Bloglines and had several great suggestions for improving the service. Since then, I’ve watched Techdirt continue to grow, in terms of readership, reputation, and actual paying customers of their Corporate Intelligence service. When Mike told me they were thinking of raising money to build out and promote their new Insight Community service, I immediately asked if I could participate. The combination of an innovative new web service along with the excellent team that Mike has assembled made the decision a no-brainer.
As many of you know, I worked at several startups before taking the plunge and starting two of my own companies: ONElist, which was sold to Yahoo in 2000 and is now Yahoo Groups, and Bloglines, which I sold to Ask Jeeves in 2005. Since that time I have been focusing more of my time and energies on helping other entrepreneurs. A year ago I became an angel investor in One True Media and joined their board of directors (the company recently raised a round from Kleiner Perkins) and I am now doing the same with Techdirt — angel investing and becoming a board member. I love the energy surrounding startups and feel fortunate to be able to lend perspective based on my experience starting and growing web service companies and I hope to do more of the same in the future.


My friend Marc Hedlund’s startup Wesabe launched today. It’s a web-based social light-weight financial management system. I had a chance to preview it before they launched, and I was very impressed with everything they’ve done. They’ve really thought through things, including having a very funny panic button for when things become overwhelming (it’s pictures of kittens, for those who don’t have an account). Marc’s a great guy and I hope Wesabe is a huge success.

Techdirt Announces the Techdirt Insight Community

My friends at Techdirt today announced the Techdirt Insight Community. The idea is to create a marketplace and enabling technology for companies to consult with bloggers. I think it’s a great idea that has the potential to disrupt several markets (Gartner, I’m looking at you). And hey, it’s a (non-advertising based) way for bloggers to get paid.

OTM Funded By KPCB

Today, One True Media announced that they’ve raised $5MM from top-tier venture firm Kleiner Perkins. In addition, Randy Komisar will be joining the board. I became an investor and board member of OTM last year; as part of this funding I will be moving from the board of directors to the advisory board. This funding is a great next step for OTM and I couldn’t be happier for Mark, John and the rest of the team!
For a good overview of OTM, see this article on TechCrunch.

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