Author Archives: Nandor Fejer

By Miiko Mentz

Given that readers/viewers are highly tech savvy, I will take the liberty to assume that many of you are broadcasting your life on the Web and following and interacting with your friends using lifestreaming services such as FriendFeed and Seesmic. I enjoy both services so it was great fun catching up with Seesmic Founder Loic Le Meur and FriendFeed Co-founder Bret Taylor recently where we turned over the mic to Bret and had him interview Loic.

The two are speaking at a MIT/Standfor Venture Lab (VLAB) event at Stanford tonight where Kara Swisher, co-executive editor of All Things Digital, Wall Street Journal, will be moderating the “Lifestreaming: The Real-time Web” panel. Softtech VC Founder Jeff Clavier and Pownce Co-founder Leah Culver will be joining Loic and Brett on tonight’s panel. Tonight’s VLAB event is sold out, but there are a limited number of walk-in tickets available. For more information visit: VLAB Lifestreaming: The Real-time Web.

By Miiko Mentz

These days it’s all about building and promoting your own brand, meaning yourself, while along the way also promoting your company’s products and services. 

We are an always-on community, building, sharing and promoting for what hopefully is the betterment of us all. Whether its new connections or new apps that we discover daily, what’s important to remember is that each touch point, connection and application should bring us and others value.

The video team recently met up with one highly creative individual who understands the importance of building, sharing, and promoting across the social landscape. He was so good at it that it actually landed him a job with BitGravity, providers of next-generation Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) for interactive broadcasting, where he is a web developer focused on building interactive user interfaces (UIs).

Brian Shaler, along with his BitGravity team, is delivering a better online video experience with high quality HD and fast delivery of online video. Customers include Tom Green with his online video show Tom Green’s House Tonight!, CollegeHumor, and many others. The BitGravity team is at the forefront of online video’s future — interactive broadcast video — where we the users are in control of what we see, hear and experience. As a video producer and consumer, I welcome this and am excited at what the future of online video holds.

In addition to his work at BitGravity, Shaler is also highly active across the social landscape and knows a thing or two about word-of-mouth marketing and using social media for promotions. But it’s not just about promotions, as he explains in the interview, you also have to have substance behind what it is that you are promoting. It has to bring value or people won’t care.

Value is exactly what he hopes to bring participants at the 2009 SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin next March. Shaler is vying for two speaking slots at next year’s festival and shares with us his thoughts on the voting process and talks to us about one of his proposed sessions.

For those of you who have not had a chance to check out all of the 1,268 proposed SXSW Interactive sessions, do so before August 29 when voting closes. If you’re interested in Shaler’s two sessions, they are the Future of Video on the Internet: Interactive Experiences and Distributed Computing: Let the Client do the Work. If these topics are of interest to you, please vote.

And don’t forget to vote for the proposed session, Against All Odds – A Media Literate World, where our very own Brian Solis is on the panel, along with Chris Heuer, Alex De Carvalho, Howard Rheingold, and presenter Howard Greenstein.

Check out our interview with Brian Shaler when we spoke to him recently in Phoenix:

words by Ryan Hupfer, pictures by Brian Solis

James Hong, the co-founder of the highly addictive website HOTorNOT educated and entertained me and the rest of the Startup2Startup attendees with his somewhat unbelievable and unique startup experiences tonight at the Sheraton here in Palo Alto. For all of you who aren’t familiar with the Startup2Startup event, it’s an idea that was hatched directly from the brilliant mind of the Master of 500 Hats himself, Mr. Dave McClure. He describes it as “A group of Silicon Valley geeks, entrepreneurs, & investors dedicated to educating and helping the next generation of internet startups” and the event has become a great way for Dave to give back and help foster the entrepreneurial community that he’s been so very involved in for so many years.

“So before I start I wanted to let you all know that I tend to be really informal when I present and it usually leads to me blabbering and cussing a lot.”
- James Hong on presenting

As a team of A/V gurus worked on getting James Hong’s Powerpoint up and running he continued to prep his upcoming presentation by taking a few swigs of his beer and biting off a few last bites of the standard banquet hall dinner roll that he was holding. He was calm, cool and collected and to me he seemed more like a guy you’d pull up a seat next to at the local bar as opposed to a scrappy and highly successful startup guru. But, don’t let his laid-back approach fool you, this guy is definitely no slacker and the story of how he grew a simple idea to a multi-million dollar business is nothing less than inspirational for any would-be entrepreneur.

“I was drinking one night and started thinking how cool it would be to let people post pics and rate them from a scale of 1 to 10 – it just seemed like a natural fit for me.”
- James Hong on starting HOTorNOT

The creation and practically instant success of HOTorNOT is something that Silicon Valley legends are made of. In October of 2000 James Hong co-founded and launched the unknown ranking-based website by emailing the a link to 40 of his closest friends. In less than 24 hours the site had been visited by over 40,000 unique visitors and by the time the site was barely a week old it was pushing 2 million+ daily pageviews. Needless to say, they had something special on their hands.

“I guess that it’s kinda like potato chips, ya know? You can’t just go on and rate just one person’s pic, which made the site’s numbers grow like crazy.”
- James Hong on the growth of HOTorNOT

After the incredible growth began and due to the expensive costs of bandwidth back in 2000, James had to get pretty creative with how he dealt with cutting costs to a bare minimum. A few of these tactics included:

  • Leveraging Yahoo’s Geocities platform for image hosting until they got kicked off for good
  • Creating a strategic partnership with Ofoto(now Kodak Gallery) for their photo hosting
  • Borrowing bandwidth from a UC Berkely office by plugging in the server overnight
  • Making a deal with the then up and coming Rackspace which resulted in never having to buy one single new server

James Hong didn’t take these measures due to the fact that he wanted to, he did all of this because he basically had to. With no money to spend and no funding in site, he was forced to get creative with his business tactics and each time they seemed to do the trick.

“We basically came up with a price that two beers would cost someone in the Midwest and that’s what we charged for user subscriptions…it just seemed appropriate to do it that way.”
– James Hong on determining subscription price

As with any startup, there has to be a point where the idea goes from being something that people want and enjoy to something that someone is actually willing to pay for. James quickly realized that he needed to convert the millions of people who were using HOTorNOT into millions of people who are paying for HOTorNOT and his strategy for doing this went well beyond the traditional advertising-based model that so many web startups rely on today. He made the decision to actually have people pay for certain privileges on the HOTorNOT network. These privileges were:

  • The ‘Click to Meet ME’ Feature: A way to connect up HOTorNOT members if there is a mutual desire to meet. It’s free to browse, but to connect you have to be a subscriber – with the payment of $6 most likely coming from the guy. James likens this to the a guy buying an interested girl a drink at a bar, which made pretty good sense to me.
  • The Selling of Virtual Goods: Another way to display even more of an interest in another HOTorNOT member is by buying them a virtual flower with you own hard-earned cash. The $10 red rose will cost you the most cash, but it will also show that special someone that you’re seriously interested.

Of course, we all know how this ‘too good to be true’ fairytale story of a startup ended. HOTorNOT turned into a multi-million dollar generating network and very profitable business that eventually ended up getting acquired to the tune of $20 million. So, what wise words does James have for any startup that’s wanting to follow in the footsteps of HOTorNOT?

“Running a successful startup isn’t a jousting match, it’s a street fight and you you need to be lean and mean to survive. You have to stay hungry and continue to think of innovative new ways to get your idea up and running no matter what kind of funding you have. It keeps you moving in the right direction and will keep you focused on what’s most important to you – your survival.”

For more photos of the event, visit Brian Solis’ album on flickr.

Gabe Rivera of Techmeme

Mario Sundhar of LinkedIn

Jessica Mah

Daniel Brusilovsky

Miiko Mentz of

Sanford Barr

Katherine Barr of MDV

Dave McClure

Brian Solis

Connect with Brian on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, Plurk or Facebook.

words and pictures by Brian Solis

The team that produces the industry-defining DEMO conferences wanted to say thank you to those who have presented at, supported, and also succeeded through the DEMO conferences.

What better way to express appreciation than to bring everyone together at a great place with incredible people on a beautiful SF summer evening. In fact, it was such a well-received token that over 600 people decided to join in the fun.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

Nathan Gold and Steve Larsen

Harry McCracken and Marie Domingo

Tom Foremski

Shaherose Charania of Women 2.0 and Rebecca Weeks of Real Girls Media

Nigel Eccles and Thomas Griffiths of Hubdub

Phil Libin and Andrew Sinkov of Evernote

Nagaraju Bandaru of BooRah

Salim Madjd of CrazyMenu and Myles Weissleder

Sanford Barr of Social Dynamics and STIRR

Tyler Willis of Inolver

Dawn DeBruyn of WeMeUs

James Yu of Scribd

Alex Ross and Miiko Mentz of FutureWorks

Lily Balfour, Anne Donker, Chris Otto, Sanford Dickert

Robert Sandie of Viddler

Brian Caldwell

Rafe Needleman

Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat

Kristin Keuter and Cathy Brooks

Don Clark and Off the Record

Chris Shipley and Neal Silverman

Ash Damle

Ryan Hupfer and Karen Hartline

Ben Pollack

For more pictures from the DEMO Alumni Party, visit my album on flickr.

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, LinkedIn, Pownce, Plaxo, FriendFeed, Tumblr, or Facebook.

Currently in private beta, Xoopit’s core product turns the inbox into a rich social media browser for your stuff inside the inbox and across the web. Powered by Xoopit’s personal indexing technology, the product not only finds and organizes attachments, but also crawls the media shared to users as links from the photo sharing sites and social networks such as Flickr, Picasaweb, Kodak, Shutterfly, etc.

Xoopit’s newly released GMail Media Search, enhances Gmail’s standard message search by adding media results to the right side of every Gmail search query. Users will be able to immediately access the files, photos, video, and people returned from their Gmail searches.

The company is initially focusing on Gmail and iGoogle. Users can also go to to view their media outside of Gmail using Xoopit’s new search tool.

This represents a new genre of search, creating an online social media browser that turbo charges the formerly localized search experience for the large webmail services as well as the social web to help people discover, organize, and share media.

Historically, mail is one of the first and important social applications using the web. To date, it boasts over one billion users – perhaps the greatest social network of all.

Social networks have seen the value of extending social functionality beyond text, which has evolved into a plethora of creative applications and induced new economies along with it. They’re flourishing – lead by the likes of Facebook and Myspace.

So the question is, mail providers, with your billion users, when will you open up to innovation and bring your users into the 21st century?

In the meantime, the first 500 people to click this link will receive an invitation to join the private beta.