Jia Shen of RockYou at Community Next talking about Viral Grow-the-business experience

RockYou is a 14 people company, builds widgets for self expression. All spread virally with their widgets, which they promoted in Forums. Now they are on all major social networks and now seen by 1 in 4 net users daily today.

Zombies seems a cool one, worth checking out.

Jia Shen co-founder of Rock You is speaking at Community Next’s viral marketing experience. Ro Choy (bizdev guy) is ready to talk to any startup interested in RockYou building widgets (ro at rockyou.com)

RockYou – Launching Viral Widgets
1. Know your User:
– Understanding your users is No.1. Founders are all guys, social networks are lots of females.
– Go Online and surf at where your target demographics interact online. Subscribed to all teen magazines like Cosmogirl.
– Do not think of the guy next to you as your user, thats the biggest mistake by many Silicon valley startups.
– Facebook is 50% guys and 50% females.
– Took us a year to get into the mindset of our target users.

2. Make a simple Use Case to replace something that exists.
– Quiz are huge on Myspace, find low hanging fruit.
3. Create Viral Channels
– Myspace – user bulletins, In page profile
– Facebook – Minifeed, Invite (only 10 a day now), 14 effective viral channels found by experience
Think of what the users are doing, make it easy to send to the right people with right messaging.

How do you market test?

We do lot of user studies. Find active users and get their feedback. We are grassroots and find users from our database. Do a Webex on how they are using it and see understand usability. We got 9Million users in the last Month and half.

Ben Pashman of Gigya has joined him, as Gigya has been RockYou’s partner that helped them scale. Perfecting technology for widget distribution. Started with consumer focus then focus to become the services for widgets as an intermediary. They have partnered with 200 companies, have more 300 partnerships waiting ti go live.

It takes 30 minutes for startups 30 minutes to embed your content into Wildfire to be live with their tool. Competition is Cursemind, Stickbox. Wildfire is platform agnostic, fash or javascript or anything you choose.

Slide, Rockyou, PictureTrail, Photobucket, BunnyHerelabs, Poqburn Brightcove, Musicplaylist.com – all the top content sides are their partners.

Their product is called wildfire which gives users an interface to use simple code which will embed embeds into multiple social networks, keeping users to just focus on sharing content. It is a piece of Javascript or Flash.

Ben Flashman’s viral experience is B2B so a different experience.

1. Keep it simple, super simple.


Google Developers Day 2007 Jeff Huber’s Keynote

I am at Jeff Huber’s keynote. Its been slow so far, bringing everyone upto speed on all of Google’s developer tools and API.

One interesting one is mapplets = google gadgets API + google Mashups API. I’d love to see real cool Apps, the demos were just ok.

Here is Google Gears – sounds promising. I maybe seeing big dreams because of my background of the big vision to make all Applications Mobile with my first startup Coola in 99.

Othman Larakin, the product manager is presenting.

– Access to Apps online and offline.
– Google Reader Offline allows you to download last 2000 RSS feed messages for offline access.
– Adobe has been everywhere, I saw Kevin Lynch last week at Saleforce Developers Day. He is here now showing Apollo and Gears.
I already love Apollo and Flex. Kevin’s demo is very indepth, better than all the Google demos before him, more by his passion, tempting us to develop on Apollo. Kevin is promising to integrate their APIs with Google Gears API.

I am a tech entrepreuer and involved as advisor of many cool tech startups. So I look at every event and presentation from that perspective. So look for an opportunity for your startup in all this to create differentiation, take you closer to other smart startups to collaborate and make even smarter products and services and have fun through it all.

Silicon Alley 2.0: Its Emerging Shape, Impact and Future Directions


Here is outline of what happen. If you want to read a 5 bullet summary, look to the bottom.

EDC (NYC’s Economic Development Corporation) Introductory Comments:

  • Urges the audience to keep talented people from our educational system in NYC
  • Suggest that the city is doing a lot of attract and retain talent within in NYC and is working with university to make that happen.
  • The economy in NYC has never been better and the unemployment rate is very low.
  • NYC is still one of the top choices for graduates to want to look to enter the workplace.
  • They are here to help make the process or straiting, locating, or expanding businesses within NYC easier. (for Tech. Contact Saul Shaporo).
  • tech stats
    • Leading Hub for domestic and broadband networks
    • Twice the Internet capacity v. next city on the list (balitmore/D.C.)
    • More Fiber Optic infrastructure than anywhere else in the U.S.
    • Financial Services spent over 80 Billion Dollars last year on Technology services.

There was a speech given by Jerry Huiltin, President of Polytechnic University emphasizing that we are back. That Silicon Alley is alive and well in NYC.  A funny quote in the middle of the rant that everything is well is that he would get phone calls everyday where people would say things like “Jerry, I got a 100 Million Dollars, tell me what you got that I could invest in. Jerry, I got 3 Billion Dollars, Find something I could buy.” I don’t know if this is true or not but I seem a bit skeptical that there is that much money going around here in NYC, ready to be taken by the Web 2.0 startups.

Nina D. Ziv, Academic Director for PolyTech was the moderator for the panel. She did an ok job in asking poignant questions and left the rest to the crowd. She spent a few minutes talking about the history of Silicon Alley and how the money was flowing and everything was great in the Alley until the bust occurred. She says through her discussions with various entrepreneurs, that most of the people who were active in the Hay day’s of the late 90’s just went underground for a few years and reemerged with new companies within the last 2-3 years. A lot of the questions being asked by the crowd on a variety of topics which I will go through next:


Steven Spencer        CEO, Upoc Networks
Alejandro Crawford    CEO, Nolej Studios
Charlie Federman      Managing Partner, Crossbar Capital
Kenneth Bronfin        President, Hearst Interactive Media
Jason Rapp              Senior VP, Mergers and Acquisitons InterActiveCorp

Nina pointed the first question at Charlie about the VC viewpoint if anything is different now than in the 90’s in NYC, and are VC investing more in NYC now v. West Coast.


  • He started right off the bat by saying New York is still unproven. It hasn’t generated a consistent success of forming software companies like other parts of the country.
  • He wonders if a Youtube could have happen in NY with no revenue model, and if the NY VC’s and management would have let it grow its “audience” when bandwidth costs alone would have been 2 million a year.
  • He says that California VCs will take the risk at growing equity value while East Coast VCs will seek to grow businesses.

Nina talked to Ken about why is a big company like Hearst in this space?


  • talked about how Hearst invested in 50 ventures in the last 12 years.
  • He suggest that corporations have a lot of benefit from investing in the space and that Hearst tries to act like other VC firms when offering hands on help in their ventures.

Nina then opened up the floor to the crowd and the first question asked by Donold Swurtz from ImageLink was about the commitment of investors/corporations to investing in unproven technology ventures. Specifically Donold cited  NYU’s  attempt to create  an interactive media program that tried to commercialize the projects. The funding by the corporation/investors of that program was cut after a short while.


  • Hearst since it is a corporation is risk averse, and the mentality isn’t the same as the west coast. They want to see the plan and the revenue model.


  •  pointed out that in 1999 there were 2 dozen venture firms in NYC. Now there are only a hand full at best in the region.
  • There are more angel investors but it still not as much as needed even though there are at least 3000 Internet companies in NYC.


  • talked about the scrapiness of NYC entrepreneurs and the ability of us to be fiscally responsibly and creative to find a way to keep the company going.

from IAC talked about the tension of shareholders of a public company wanting results v. the long term commitment to new innovative companies. He suggest they are doing that at IAC.

Question from the crowd: One Person said he has raised millions of dollars over the last 10 years for companies in this space and relates a story that he has never taken money from a NY VC since other VC’s have outbid them every time. He questions the aggressiveness of NY VC’s.


  • doubts youtube would have happen in NYC either. Companies like Youtube and Skype took time to grow their user base which would not have happen if they were put through a filter of fiscal responsibility.
  •  Steve’s companies also have worked in the same way.
  •  Steve says that he sees a lot of companies within Silicon Valley that will make great complimentary partners with bigger companies that will take the vision of the startup and push it to its next objective.
  •  NY is so diversified that everything is under the covers (Many startups work in lofts or apartments and its more decentralized V. Silicon Valley).


  • throws in his theory on how this is the age of creativity and long tail markets. There may not be another blockbuster company like Google because of the environment.

Question from the Floor: Bill Sobo from NY media information Exchange Group says by running his group that there is a difference between East and West Coast mentalities. He wanted to propose creating a game plan on how we can use what makes NY unique and start having meeting with people in Silicon Valley, LA, Seattle, Atlanta.

No response from the panel.

Howard G. from Social Media Club says that getting everyone together is hard. There are at least 5 organizations in this space in NY and they all don’t communicate with each other. How do get all the great entrepreneurs and investors together then?


  • responses by saying he is optimistic about NY’s future. In the bubble days, there was only 1 metric used: CPM (Cost per Million). A lot of startups were capital intensive and the U.S. had a majority of connected Users on the Internet. All those things have now changed.
  • There are niche companies in every space in NY. He believes that successful companies will attract capital.

Nina then starts a new topic. She asked Steve about his challenges in attracting talent, and running his business in NY?


  • Its hard attracting the right type of talent. It is hard to find financial capital but even more is the amount of time and money it takes to find new talent in NYC.
  • He wants Universities and the city to step up in helping lower the cost of acquiring the human capital necessary to run great companies.
  • Space also is really expensive. Everyone wants to be in the city even though logistically you could move to NJ or elsewhere, no one wants to go there.
  • His  company has moved their offices many times due to the feel of committing to long term leases.
  • There is a challenge to losing talent to the big corporations.


  • thinks the biggest challenge is getting people from bigger companies to go to his type of company because it is cool. He suggest that there needs to be an atmosphere to be creative and to be connected together throughout the company.

Question from the Floor: There is an incredible population established corporations in NYC and there are not enough big companies having conversations with entrepreneurs to find synergies between the two communities.


  • There are big corporations at the meetups. All the big media companies are trying to find their way into the web.


  • There are bridges in place but they need to be stronger.

Question from the Floor: There hasn’t been any mention of media or Madison avenue from the panel. At what point does Media/Advertising companies enter the question in this space?


  • Madison avenue will pay apart of that. The indicator for the potential of media in this space is the time spent in media v. the advertising spent on this medium.
  • There is a lot of competition for talent in these big media companies to find people who can lead them into this space.


  • This is just the beginning of a sea change. Media properties will be collapsing and becoming more integrated.
  • NY is great because the entrepreneurs are scrappy. You might be able to do what some of the West Coast but there is still great stuff happening here.


  • My companies work with media companies in the mobile space. We’d like to sell/buy adverting but traditional media companies don’t know what to do with it on the web.


  • There are programs in place in Big media companies to buy and invest in startups.


  • Its hard to innovate in a space you don’t know. thats why the bigs will buy new properties to help them innovate. We grow different types of companies, so we can’t do exactly what is done in the west coast.

Question from the Floor: I believe that the Ad agency/Media companies are the biggest obstacle to the flourishing of small startups since they are not organized to take advantage of the collaboration that the should have with startups. Everyone is in Silos. How do the Media companies need to change?


  • In my company, Screaming media, when it got acquired by CBS (2003), we asked a bunch of people in Viacom if they were aware that we were a new property in their corporation, they didn’t know… They were all in Silos.
  • But now they have an  executive who is in charge to fixing that type of problem.


  • We are silo-ed. Just approach me and I’ll try to help bring the introduction to the right type of company that might need your services.

In Conclusion.

NY has

  • A lot of money in Corporations, Media/Ad companies, Finance, publishing that all need technology/innovation from the NY tech. community.
  • The Tech community is decentralized and doesn’t communicate well with the government, universities and this also creates a barrier for Corporations to find talented startups to work for.
  • There is a lot less VC/Angel money here V. West Coast.
  • A lot of complaining about how hard things are and only fragmented leadership in different areas to fix it.
  • There is a need to attract/keep the talent within NY and let them know that there is a startup community here.

Personal Comments:  I think NY needs to stop having this delusion of trying to be like Silicon Alley. There is a different infrastructure here which makes it challenging to do the same things in the west coast. There also isn’t communication among all the small startup communities and its a pain for people outside of the space to know what is happening and what events are happening. I hope in the future that there will be more transparency of the community, so there is more awareness in the general public on what is happening.

Interview with Eric Goldstein of Clipmarks (Part 1)

Eric Goldstein, a proclaimed non-technologist, wanted to create an easier way for users to digest websites other recommend to them as well as making the content relevant for their personal use later on by “clipping” that particular website. Eric took his idea, found a team, and is now dedicated to making his idea come to full light in Clipmarks.


Follow Eric’s Startup story and learn about Clipmark’s formation, pressures of investors when Clipmarks changed its direction, and how the development cycle for a service like Clipmarks has changed in it’s history.


As I got off the subway in midtown Manhattan, I was puzzled as I looked up at the address written in my notepad. Yes, I was on the right street and in front the big number signifying I had arrived at the headquarters of Clipmarks, but it was a skyscraper? I walked in and asked the security attendant that I was here to see the CEO of Clipmarks, which only lead to confusion as I wasn’t saying the right words. At that moment, Eric Goldstein walked toward me and explained that they are working on a floor with a Big Music agency which owns all the offices on the floor. He explains his good fortune to have great “family and friends,” who have helped him along the way. New York start-up companies are usually hidden away in flats in Soho or Chelsea but their influence is expanding all over New York City nowadays. Go figure.

So what is Clipmarks? I researched very quickly and found a simple video explaining the basic feature of “clipping.”


I sat down in one of the offices and just jumped right into the interview:

Creation/Formation of the Company:

You are business person. You don’t have a technical background. What made you want to create an internet technology company?


I don’t know what I am. Whether I am a business man or a technology developer, I’m not sure. My background is that I was a finance major in college, and then I went to law school, and became a lawyer. I never practiced [law though]. When I got sworn in I realized I didn’t want to be there. And then I just started messing around with some up and coming internet companies. Learning and meeting people. And when I used the internet, I consistently found myself wishing that there would be some way to capture the “moments” within web pages that mattered to me. And I’d read magazines and I’d read newspapers or as a student I would read textbooks and I would highlight or clip really pertinent pieces of the pages yet I would go to the web and it was just bookmarking.

A bookmark makes sense to me either when you need the entire page for online banking or to check your stock quotes or whatever, but when you find an article or you find a blog post or whatever it might be that really matters to you. If you bookmark the page, I think 9 times out of 10, you end up forgetting why you bookmarked it. And so I really wanted to create a solution for people to get a positive experience when they find something interesting on a webpage and feel satisfaction from being able to do whatever you want with that information whenever they might want.

So you have this idea and desire to make information relevant after viewing it, what made you take the next step and what was that step for you?


Well, prior to this, something I had done is I had started a fantasy sports company with a friend of mine, and we actually got a big deal with one of the major media companies. After we closed the deal, their internet division was closed so we lost the deal. And I spoke to some of the guys who built the back-end of that fantasy sports engine about my new idea and they introduced me to Derek Krzanowski [CTO/Co-founder]. Derek was living in Florida at the time and so I call him and I explained to him what I was looking to do and he and I started working together and been working together for about 5 years now.



Many people have difficulty getting the first few members on board. What was the hooking point to get Derek on the venture?


At first it was a consulting opportunity where he was committed I don’t remember but I think it was 6 months or so to do some contract work for us. He and I got along so well and he really fell in love with the project that he ended up coming on board full time. Prior to Clipmarks we built Amplified. I don’t know if you have heard of Amplify but Amplify let people clip pieces of web pages and aggregate their clips into a collage. So you could have all these pages and see all the clips in them. It got a nice buzz and it won an award from PC magazine and that was just me and Derek and it was just a little too much to handle. So we trimmed it down a little and tried to simply what it is we offer people and the product of that is clipmarks. So he and I go back a bunch of years back to Amplified.


So was that you had a really big Idea and you had to scale it down and simplify it for it to be executable?


I read a lot of books and as I said my background is not technology and I never really have run a company before. And so I read a lot of books about starting companies and also about trying to bring to market new technologies. Three that influenced me that I think are worth mentioning are in business is the book: Good to Great. To me it’s simply about the idea there is get great people on board and then figure out what it is you are going to do instead of figuring out everything you are going to do and then hiring people to do it and I’ve always lived by that. Another book is called Crossing the Chasm which really talks about how to market a new technology and make it appeal to early adopters and then adopt it to the more mainstream user base. And that was a key point in going from Amplified to Clipmarks because I found that Amplified was way too difficult, it was so supped up with features that it was just too much too soon and especially for a company that was just two people. So we followed the idea “simply it and solve one problem and grow into yourself as you have more to offer and that’s what we are looking to do now“. And the third book is called Inmates Running The Asylum. The message on that book is really that technology is a pivotal part of our economy and a big problem is that technology is developed by technologist who don’t necessarily relate to the rest of society in that what they think is clear the rest of society doesn’t. It was talking about the fact that you need people in the world whose professions are to make technology easy for the masses and that is something I hope I bring to this company because I don’t know technology, I’ve never written a line of html in my life and I maintain that ignorance on purpose because I always want to be in the position of someone who doesn’t feel conformable embracing new technologies. So that when we develop things, it has to go through me for it to get out into the public and I hope that I can represent a kind of layperson when it comes to what is or isn’t easy online.



The Main Office. Yes, its dark, but developers like it that way…



A lot of entrepreneurs are hesitant about launching their product or service but in the “web 2.0” space, it’s easier to get started. Do you think it’s just about starting and keeping it going when starting your company?


No, the last word I would use is easy. I think this has been very difficult and even more difficult than I would have ever expected. Planning and starting a company is a healthy blend of over thinking and not thinking too much. Because it’s easy to get excited and caught up in this wave of web 2.0 marketing term which is what I think it primarily is and think that everybody is successful and it’s relatively easy to build something from the ground and have it to become successful. I think the key is really to know whether you are solving a problem that people want solved and whether if you solve that and don’t make money and don’t get bought by Google but solve that problem will you feel satisfied like you accomplished something? Because I think if the answer to that is yes then you probably will make money and ultimately monetize your business. If you’re just trying to quickly get some hype, get some coverage on one of those tech blogs, and get out, my guess is you’ll have your 15 minutes of fame but it will be a hard landing when that 15 minutes ends and the next day, it’s someone else’s turn.


My Advice, its clique and other people have said it and I don’t think its all that original – you have to ask yourself whether you would be doing this if you weren’t going to get paid because the odds are that you won’t. Because most companies, the great majority of companies don’t end up successful financially and I think it’s the ones that are doing things that are because of the product that they are creating or the solution they are coming up with of the problem they are solving who will ultimately make the money. Because if you are in it for the money I just think you’ll probably be very disappointed and kind of just chasing your tail.



That is the end of Part 1. Part 2 will have more on development cycles, revenue models, and the business of things for Clipmarks.


Continue reading ‘Interview with Eric Goldstein of Clipmarks (Part 1)’

SV Web Builders Event – World Premier of Opera with video support

Attended SVWebBuilder meeting tonight at Yahoo offices in Sunnyvale. It was called Browser War: Episode II – Attack of the DOMs .

It featured a panel by Chris Wilson Group Manager of IE from Microsoft, Mike Shave founder of Firefox and Hakon Wium Lie founder of Opera and CSS.

Mike and Chris were very personable and presented a pleasant evening while we waited for Hakon Wium Lie to reach after 22 hrs of flight from Europe.

I’ll write again as I have lot of videos and the whole discussion is worth sharing.

Hakon dazzled us with an alpha preview of Opera showcasing his proposal to include videos in web browsers natively. He also showed Opera on a coola $1K PC.

Starting Startup Stories

We started StartupStories.com with the goal of bringing real, inspiring stories of entreprenuers.

Alexis Ohanian of Reddit offered a great, honest story. A user posted the story on Reddit on thursday. Now we are officially live! We love all the user comments.

We hope to hear from you about what other stories, startup topics you would like to hear from us.

We are building a nice pipeline of stories for you.

Flickr Photos