Jason Ball's TechBytes

Technology & Venture Capital. Early stage venture capital news mixed with personal views and comments

ESADE Ranks Top International MBA

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My alma mater, ESADE, has been ranked the top International School again by the Wall Street Journal.

I can’t really say that I put that much stock in having an MBA, or rankings for that matter, but it was useful training for gaining an overview of a company’s workings- which is pretty useful as a venture capitalist.

One thing I would say if you are considering an MBA- location is everything. Now that I work in London, I wish I had attended London Business School… The education you get will be largely the same- it’s the network that makes all the difference.

Filed under: Other

Persistent Search

This morning’s FT suprisingly focsed on two vertical, persistent search engines. An article on Monitor110, a US-Based version of Magpie, which apparently has attracted funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Monitor110 will be launching in spring of 2007 according to the article. Also, Zibb.com wascovered deeper in the paper.

I posted about our own persistent search company, Magpie a few days ago. There are clear parallels between Magpie’s offering and Monitor110, however they are targeting different markets with different approaches. Magpie have signed some exciting deals that will be announced shortly which will make the differences even more apparent. Vertical, persistent search is getting really interesting.

Filed under: Software, Technology, Venture Capital

Investor Allstar Awards

logo.gifLast night was the annual Investor Allstar Awards ceremony. We (London Business Angels)won the Best Private Network of the Year award for the second year in a row.

London Seed Capital was edged out of Best Equity Gap Fund by CREATE, but I’m glad to see Boyd and Matt take the prize- I know they’ve really been cracking away this year… I was up for Young Personality of the Year as well, but David at Oxford Capital Partners took the prize. There was some stiff competition this year- I would have liked to see Max Bautin of GEIF win. He’s been extremely active and has a new ECF under his belt as well.

Filed under: Venture Capital

Interesting Business Models

Briefly:

1) SpiralFrog- Allowing users to download music for free, with advertising inserts. They have signed up Universal and are currently in beta.

2) Niche job advertising. 37 Signals blog- these guys have taken in $100,000 since April charging between $200 and $250 per ad for a 30 day listing. OmMalik’s site has also launched job listings.

3) YouTube’s revenue share announcement with Warner

I highlight these because they are online revenue models that are not dependent on Google Adsense. Obviously, as spending time online takes more of our (and younger generations’) time, these will become even more significant. Theresia Ranzetta talked through some of the online demographics in a PodTech podcast late last month.

Filed under: Technology, Venture Capital

Personalized search investment

As I mentioned in the Swicki post earlier, we completed an investment into an enterprise search service, so this is a space that I’m watching carefully. The company we’ve invested into is Magpie, with their Search and Alert technology.

Magpie Search and Alert offers deep, focused searches, much like Swicki or Rollyo, however optimized for the enterprise. One of the key differences is indexing both internal sources and external sources, which includes both public sites and private or subscription sources, e.g. Factiva, for clients.

Another twist that Magpie Search and Alert offers is letting users leverage personalized search to deliver relevant, timely alerts. Most customers are in financial services (think hedge funds) where there is a need to monitor obscure websites as well as information streams to keep on top of what’s hitting the market. The fact that Search and Alert has a high velocity spider, these clients can receive *very* timely alerts (think google alerts on steroids).

There are some cool applications that can run on top of Search and Alert as well- those will be introduced later this year (think mash ups for enterprise). A leading consumer electronics brand is monitoring the online conversation around the launch of one of their new products- they are monitoring 17,000 websites and blogs using this technology.

Paul Kedrosky posted about perpetual search, referencing this WSJ.com article. The US competitors mentioned have a very similar target market to Magpie, albeit targeting different financial centers.

This follows on to my post below, where I argue for intelligent systems. How is it possible for a human (or team) to monitor 17,000 sites? The only human input is into the site selection (i.e. the library or sources), then the software monitors and adjusts the results presented based on users’ behavior. Also, similar to a Swicki, Magpie users can promote a site to the top of the list if the software ranks it too low…

Filed under: Technology, Venture Capital

Social News Sites vs Personal News Sites

In my last post, I mentioned my migration to Feeds 2.0 as my personal feed reader. One of most frequent substitutes for personal feed readers is social news sites. I have never found them to be of any use. This comment from Red Herring regarding Digg illustrates why:

The site’s top 100 users control some 56 percent of the stories that eventually appear on the home page. Of all the stories that appear on the home page, some 20 percent come from a group of the top 20 users.

In some cases, one out of every three stories submitted by a top user reaches the home page. Digg does not hide this information, displaying it under the stats section of the site. However, it contradicts the popular impression that Digg is a site whose contents reflect the opinions of its large user base.

Even for more niche social news, such as Personal Bee, that offer a Venture Capital page, they can’t match the relevance of a personal news reader that makes suggestions from the 1,000 stories across the 100 feeds I’m subscribed to based on my previous reading habits.

Now, perhaps my friend C.K. over at Netscape would argue with me, but I’ve tried both and vastly prefer “intelligent” systems because a series of rules can be applied to a vastly larger set of news sources. Information overload is a huge problem that only intelligent systems can handle -it’s Yahoo! vs Google all over again…

Filed under: Software, Technology

Rojo gets acquired / using Feeds 2.0

So, Rojo was bought by Six Apart according to VentureBeat. I begrudgingly migrated to Rojo after SearchFox was purchased by Yahoo. Rojo wasn’t perfect, but it was much better than Bloglines, et al. I’ve never been a fan of social news sites – the wisdom of the masses doesn’t really cover VC interests.

So now that Rojo’s been taken over and Six Apart have little plans for it, my next feed reader will be Feeds2.0. I’ve been trialing Feeds 2.0 for a while, but could never make the switch because it (oddly) couldn’t mark feeds as "read". That’s been fixed now, so I’m going to start using it as my primary RSS reader.

Feeds2.0 promises to use AI in the same way that SearchFox was a "smart" feed reader. The key thing that I’ve been looking for is a reader that’s smart enough to show me the top 20 post that are most relevant to me based on my personal reading habits (using both implicit and explicit learning). SearchFox was a master at this before it’s demise (I won’t mourn it’s passing again Jeff). The key is the "ranking" or in Feed 2.0’s case, the article’s score. The other new addition to Feeds 2.0 is related articles drawn from my own feeds:

Screenshot_3

In addition to monitoring your reading habits, you can manually train the system based on like (heart) and dislike (arrow). If Feeds 2.0 has a really good AI  in place, then the system should be giving me excellent results in about a weeks time. I’ll report back in on it’s progress.

Filed under: Software

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