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Venture Capital Jobs Blog

Curated by John Gannon and Team

Archive for October 2008

This is how to treat a customer

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I decided to try Zappos for the first time this week and see what all the hype was about.  When I ordered I wanted the shoes delivered to me at work, not home and so they emailed me and said they needed some additional information to verify my credit card.  I sent them the information and didn’t think much of it.

Today, I got this message:

Although you originally ordered Standard (4 to 5 business days) shipping
and handling, we have given your order special priority processing in
our warehouse and are upgrading the shipping and delivery time frame for your order.
Your order will ship out today and be given a special priority shipping status so that
you can receive your order even faster than we originally promised!

Now that is how to treat a customer!

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Written by John Gannon

October 9, 2008 at 10:51 pm

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Get creative!

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One topic that’s on every venture firm’s mind is the declining state of the economy, and how it will affect both existing portfolio companies and potential new investments.  The consensus seems to be that the investment pace will slow down and that good deals will be priced more attractively.  Also, firms are beginning to think about their capital allocation strategy (how much $ for new investments vs existing investments) and how they may alter their deal sourcing and screening process.

One thing that I’d like to hear people talking more about is how we as an industry can get more creative in the types of deals we’re doing and the opportunities we’re pursuing.  For example, there are some great secondary market opportunities out there and although there are secondaries firms that focus on those types of deals, there is no reason that more traditional VCs couldn’t play in that space.  Or maybe there are some undervalued startup company technology assets and intellectual property that could be aggregated under one roof and operated as a new company.  I’m also curious as to how alternative venture models that were born prior to this market downturn (like Betaworks, for example) will fare in this choppy market.

I don’t know the answers and as you can tell, I’m just thinking out loud.  However, I think that necessity will probably breed some innovation as VC firms try to figure out their next move and explore some paths that are slightly untraditional. I’ll keep my eyes peeled…

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Written by John Gannon

October 8, 2008 at 6:17 pm

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LinkedIn – Let me have a sig file

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Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

Here’s a feature request for one of my favorite services, LinkedIn.

I’d love to be able to have a signature attached to the end of my InMails and introductions.

I realize someone can mouse over my name and see the basics of my profile and click through to get more detail, but a signature lets them get the key contact information plus anything else I want to quickly share with them – right then and there.  Plus, they can’t mouse over or click through on the email version of the request for contact – they’d have to go onto the LinkedIn site.

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Written by John Gannon

October 7, 2008 at 10:11 pm

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Must have Mac add-on – Quicksilver

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An entrepreneur just turned me on to a great tool for Mac OS X called Quicksilver.  The plugin provides a very fast Spotlight-like search function but with a more slick and speedy interface.  It does a bunch of other stuff too, but right now that basic functionality is great and meets my needs.

Now my control (Quicksilver), option (Ubiquity), and command (Spotlight) keys are all taken!  Hope I don’t need to install any more plugins that need those hotkeys :)

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Written by John Gannon

October 6, 2008 at 6:31 pm

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Monetizing your file cabinet

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Recently, I heard about a startup called Pixily that allows individuals and businesses to mail their documents to a central location and have them scanned, indexed, and uploaded to a secure web portal.  This service, if it works well, may render (most?) file cabinets obsolete since everything is safely uploaded and stored in the cloud, and is readily searchable and sharable.

Although the main use case for the system (reducing the amount of paper you’re keeping around and making your personal ‘paper’ files easier to manage) is a great one, I think there could also be some interesting monetization opportunities for the company or for individuals who store their documents on Pixily.

For example, I bet the credit card companies would love to see the (anonymized) spending habits (revealed through our credit card statements) of my cohort to help figure out what kind marketing programs would be effective within that cohort.  Why wouldn’t they pay to get this information, particularly if they could get it in bulk, and if end user privacy was protected (by users opting in to show a subset of their transactions)?

Or, what about employers who negotiate bulk discounting for their employees?  At my last job, we received all sorts of discounts on computers, gym memberships, etc.  What if my employer could approach vendors (with credit card data I’ve permitted them to view/share) and say “2000 of our employees bought Dell computers last year.  HP, what say you?”  I’m willing to bet HP would come calling with a nice discount.

Credit card statements are one data source, but you might also think about the rich insights one could obtain by analyzing a large number of…

  • Bank statements
  • Utility bills
  • Car insurance bills
  • and on and on…

I really get excited about the opportunities in this space because the technologies can really help remove inefficiencies in markets and help consumers get the best deal possible.

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Written by John Gannon

October 5, 2008 at 10:45 am

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Back from Bootstrapper Conference

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Yesterday I was at the Bootstrapper Venture Summit and spent the day networking with local investors, service providers, and early stage companies.

There were a bunch of familiar faces (including a bunch of my Columbia compadres who are now in the VC business) and of course a bunch of new ones.  Here are some of the companies that made an impression on me:

Kidos – These guys make a kid-friendly computing environment (written in Adobe AIR) that lets your kid have a safe Internet experience AND prevents them from breaking your computer :)  My kids are still too young for the Internet but I can see why both the former and the latter would be useful.

MediaMorph – This company makes a system to better track and monetize Internet video assets.

CarZen – This site is meant to help car buyers directly communicate with car dealers.  Ultimately the company hopes to build a reputational engine which would help drive business to the dealers who were viewed as the most helpful.  I think this would be great for the used car market in particular, as there is a great deal of seller mistrust and information asymmetry in that market.

Safeguard Guaranty – Divorce insurance.  Seriously.  I thought this was a great idea, and it means you can avoid that awkward pre-nup conversation with your spouse-to-be. ;)

RmbrMe – This startup is trying to address the waste and inconvenience associated with transfer of business cards.  I’ll probably sign up and try this service out since I’m generally swimming in business cards after networking events and would appreciate an elegant solution.

Zen Burger – Not a tech startup, but a purveyor of veggie burgers and other healthy fast food.  They catered the lunch and I must say that I greatly enjoyed my popcorn “shrimp” and “chicken” wrap.  Not a traditional venture capital type of company, but one that has a big vision and could do really well if they can find an investor that’s a good fit.

Allen Stern has some coverage of the event on his blog CenterNetworks which you should check out as well.

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Written by John Gannon

October 3, 2008 at 4:25 pm

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At the Bootstrapper Summit tomorrow

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Just a quick note that I will be at the Bootstrapper Summit tomorrow (here in NYC) listening to a group of early stage companies pitch and networking with local VCs and entrepreneurs.  I’ll report back after the conference.

Written by John Gannon

October 1, 2008 at 7:34 pm

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