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Why Earth Hour Was Lame

Wow, we turn off some lights for an hour in some giant empty office buildings in downtown Chicago (which should be the case every night) and people lose their minds.

If people were truly energy conscious, wouldn’t they want these lights to be off in these empty buildings every night, all night? Wouldn’t that do something actually meaningful? Have we gotten to the point where the American media is so incapable of independent thought that a completely meaningless story like this gets way too much attention? It appears so.

It’ll be a real story when all of these empty office buildings have these lights completely turned off in the middle of the night, every night.

Why isn’t this the focus? It should be. 

Others are even more critical of the event.

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Tom Churchwell Venture Capital Speech at University of Chicago GSB

The following are high level notes of Tom Churchwell’s speech discussing venture capital at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (Chicago GSB). This talk took place in Chicago on January 22, 2008. I’m posting it today in celebration of this week’s Midwest Venture Summit.

Typical Fund Structure
– Management Fee 2.5% of committed capital
– Carried Interest – after losses offset by profits
– 80% Net Profit – Investors
– 20% Net Profit – General Partner
– 50-70% desired return…
– Vesting occurs over 5 years

– Experienced, successful entrepreneurs abound throughout the country
– Start-up companies have access to abundant early-stage venture capital
– Skilled attorneys, accountants, consultants are readily available
– The majority of start-ups can result in successful IPO’s within 2-3 years
– Increasingly hedge funds are an alternative financing source
– Angel capital is more available in Chicago than it used to be

– The space a VC plays in is extremely important – industry sector, growth

– Tom has changed management 3 times on average in the 60 companies he’s invested in

– Buckets of entrepreneurship seed entrepreneurs, beta stage, scaling skills

– Discipline = Success

– Proprietary product or service
– Sustainable competitive advantage
– Viable business model
– Large markets
– Experienced management team
– Appropriate use of funds
– Target 10-15x growth 5-7 years
– Objective: Sale of IPO in 5-7 years

– The most critical resource
– More important than all other elements
– Stage appropriate, later stages may require different management
– Must have a significant stake in success
– Tom says “Management experience is management experience, big company experience is just as good as small company experience in his view.” (Note: I actually find a *mixture* of both sizes in your experience to be of high value)
“We don’t make money on IPO’s, we make money selling to the Baxter’s, Motorola’s etc.”

“Nothing succeeds like revenue, it’s the cheapest form of capital.”

In 60+ company investments, I can only say that once it was the technology that made the company fail. It’s about getting the product in the marketplace.

What makes you say yes?
Passion. A product I have to get on the marketplace that solves a real problem. Management discipline which means they can step back and say realistically this is how long it will take, this is the team you will need, etc.

Revenue is an outcome, it’s not a driver. What is going to cause the business to scale? It’s business model testing. I don’t care about year 5, I care about what will get us more proof of concept and closer to a success.

The first screening process is where did this plan come from, if another VC sent it to us, we pay attention more. I ask, “Do I want to have a beer with this guy? You shouldn’t be there if you can’t say yes. ”

60% of the time we at least get our money back.

Scientific Board of Directors (compensated with a point of equity +/- a bit)
– Should be at least equivalent in stature to the scientific founders
– Like the Board of Directors, should have complementary skills
– Used properly, play a vital strategic role
– Typically meet semi-annually

Tom never signs an NDA.

The Business Plan
– Executive Summary is most important
– Shorter is better
– Assume the full appreciation of the technology will come in the due diligence
– Avoid jargon
– Avoid the hockey stick
– Focus on the revenue model
– Have a realistic exit strategy
– IPO’s are rare – most VCs are quite happy with a nice M&A exit
– Nobody reads the full business plan – I care about the executive summary
– Cashflow is more important than revenue during this phase

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Finally…Real Proof That Brands Affect Search Choice…Ginger and Mary Ann

Yahoo Buzz had this interesting tidbit…

What was Mary Ann thinking?
Though Spitzer rode roughshod over most of the week’s news, a few other stories still managed to slip to the top of Buzz. One of them was a Yahoo! News article on Dawn Wells, the actress best known for her portrayal of Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island.” The aging star was caught in a pot bust, fined several hundred dollars, and slapped with six months of “unsupervised probation.” But the indignity didn’t stop there.

The story stirred a tremendous amount of interest in Search—but not about Dawn Wells. Instead, lookups skyrocketed for Tina Louise, the va-va-voom redhead who played Ginger on the show. We registered an astonishing 13,076% rise in demand for her name (compare that to Wells’ 5,860%). Just the thought of Mary Ann triggered all these luscious old memories of Ginger, Ginger’s photos, and Ginger’s legs. Searchers also boosted “tina louise news” and “tina louise now.” What would the Professor say?








So TV character Mary Ann(Dawn Wells) gets into some legal trouble and Ginger’s (Tina Louise) traffic more than doubles the increase of Mary Ann’s. WOW! That is the first time I can recall a vivid example of a news story about one topic creating a massive increase in search volume for another topic that was not mentioned. In other words, it clearly shows the power of brands.

For those of you who say it’s due to another word starting with the letter B, I’d offer this picture of a young Dawn Wells to show in conjunction with the picture above that the scripts and wardrobe selection shaped Ginger’s superior brand recall when it came to their search of choice this week.


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So Anil Dash Wants WordPress Users to Change to Moveable Type…

Anil Dash has put up quite an intriguing post arguing the case. Matt Mullenweg are you listening?
I’m gonna add a few more reasons to his list of reasons why it would be wise to do so, but before I do that I thought I’d tell Anil why I’m not doing that…YET

1) I don’t know of any Six Apart family of product users that are overwhelmingly happy with the spam message filters. Akismet is still king of spam deletion. Though lately Akismet is showing cracks of vulnerability.

2) Trackbacks, I have yet to see Six Apart products reliably and consistently accept my trackbacks. This highly unfortunate and unacceptable as trackbacks are a major foundation of the blogoshere. Until you fix this, across both Typepad and Movable type, I will likely continue to be tempted yet decline your offer. UPDATE: I sent a trackback to Anil’s post and it did not immediately post to his blog. 🙁 

3) The duplicate, make that often triplicate, content problems that pollute the blogosphere from Typepad are repulsive and show a complete disrespect to all members of the blogosphere. It makes it hard for me to respect Six Apart as an organization as much as I respect it’s wonderful individuals such as yourself, Andrew Anker, Mena Trott, etc. The situation is simply unacceptable creating inaccurate Technorati link counts, duplicate and even triplicate content and is blogosphere pollution, plain and simple. I met a Typepad representative at last year’s Forrester Consumer Forum and she stated that this area was “not a priority to fix”. I was dumbfounded and confused by this response. Worse, she said Six Apart was working with Technorati to come up with a fix. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Technorati lover, but why the heck should they write a kluge in their code to fix your massive flaw in your Typepad software? That’s right, they shouldn’t spend a minute on it, they should be fixing the death of blog search. Six Apart should immediately fix this mess and show you respect user’s time by cleaning up this duplicate and triplicate content that inflates Typepad users link counts. I’ve made a note to revisit this issue on May1st, 2008.

4) Your post URL ( is well, really kinda lame. How about dropping the .html extension on the end? I mean I know of the warm, fuzzy feelings for 1999 era, but this would be so much cleaner (and better for trackback extension convention standards).

OK, onto WordPress.

1) Anil in my opinion did a fair job in communicating the current state. In fact, many WordPress users will consider this status generous.

2) The plugin problem jumps out at me as the one that is the largest laughing stock, the continual disrespect of the user by not creating a professional backward compatible process in both themes and plugins is NOT sustainable over the long run. Anil should have ranked this issue at the top of his list in my opinion.

3) The widening feature gulf between the and (self-hosted) is becoming absolutely embarrassing and needs to be addressed. It also creates massive potential new blogger confusion as to what is what.

Alright, WordPress I love you, but that love is not blind. Anil is right you need to do much better, in fact Anil didn’t go far enough in where you need to go. My number is on the bio in my blog if Anil or Matt care to reach out about the issues I’ve raised in more detail. I will be watching your progress and wish you both good luck!