Category Archives: Uncategorized

Amazon Owes Me an Apology

Last week, I was presenting Dynamic Yield to some acquaintances in Palo Alto. When I wanted to give an example of good personalization, I fired up Amazon, which is known to do a pretty good job in recommending relevant products.

To my horror, this is what showed up: testicle self-test, male bladder catheterization model, UFO detectors and cheap romantic novels:

Amazon-Recommendation

What the heck?! I didn’t know where to hide, I was so ashamed. It can’t be! What in the world made Amazon think these items are relevant to me? And how can I save face in front of these serious gentlemen, who were just bursting with laughter? To add insult to injury, the ‘inspired by browsing history’ shows a bunch of Lenovo notebooks, In a meeting in Palo Alto! I own a Mac since 2007… what an embarrassment.

What got really me really worried is that I was logged in to Amazon when seeing that. Was it some kind of identity theft? my purchase history seemed ok.

These recommendations continued to show up a couple of days more, and disappeared only after I deleted my cookies (I now get the recommendations I am used to getting – books about finance, entrepreneurship, etc.).

Strange incident. I assume Amazon had a bug that misidentified me. From now on, to be on the safe side, I’ll be using Target for demo purposes, although their personalization may lead to trouble as well.

How (Not) To Repair A Phone With Water Damage

True story:

A friend’s wife dropped her iPhone in the toilet. Following our advice she put the phone in a bowl of rice (it really works).

An hour later her mom came by, saw the rice on the kitchen counter, realized its there for lunch, and poured it into a pot with boiling water.

The iPhone didn’t make it.

The rice tasted ok.

Kleiner Perkins 2012 Internet Trends

KPCB’s excellent report is inspiring and scary at the same time.

That’s what I tell my students – pace of growth is accelerating so fast that you must innovate aggressively and take bigger risks or you’ll find yourself out of business faster than you would expect.

Practicing for Rio 2016

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What Applications Do I Use on my new Macbook Air?

It was about time to upgrade my 2009 Macbook Pro, and the new 13″ Macbook Air seemed just the right upgrade choice (with 256 SSD drive, 8GB memory and OSX Mountain Lion).

First impression: the Macbook Air is blazing fast and it’s screen is superb.

A new computer is always a good cleanup time. I never auto-migrate from a previous machine, but reinstall everything from scratch.

So, this is a good time as ever to list the applications that made it to the new machine. I may have forgotten to install a few, but this is the initial list:

General:

  • Google Chrome. The best browser in the market.
  • Apple iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote). I tried using Microsoft Office in my previous Mac, yet they were running so slow I switched to the Mac alternative. I mainly use Keynote, which beats Powerpoint; Numbers and Pages are ok apps that do the work for me.
  • Dropbox. For all my file sharing needs.
  • Kindle. The OSX version of Amazon’s reading app, where I purchase all my digital books.
  • Task Paper. A very efficient note taking app I’ve been playing with recently.
  • Skype. I hate their application, which is slow and bulky, but I still need it as a communication tool.
  • Team Viewer. For the 24/7 support when my grandma’s computer starts misbehaving.
  • True Crypt. Open source disk encryption software. I’m paranoid about my data.

Coding stuff:

  • iTerm2. Excellent terminal emulator (you probably don’t need it if you are not writing code).
  • Textmate.  An excellent text editor for coders.
  • Sequel Pro. MySql database management.
  • Balsamiq. The easiest sketching app in the market.
  • SvnX. Source control.
  • Base. SQLite3 database editor.
  • Various Ruby on Rails stuff.

I think the most interesting finding was just how few applications I really need. In fact, I could achieve almost all my daily tasks with browser based applications alone. Once, changing a computer took at least a full workday of copying documents, configurations and installing applications. Today, it takes less than two hours. Unless you blog about it.

A Kafka Art Story Involving an Oil Painting and an Eagle

Sometimes, inheriting a piece of art can cause you lots of trouble.

NY Times brings a catch-22 story about the heirs of a NY art dealer who inherited a 1959 work by Rauschenberg called “Canyon“.

The story goes like this: Because the work includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, it is a crime to sell it. So, what’s the value for tax purposes? Well, it’s illegal to sell it, so they heirs claim it is worth $0. And what about the US tax authorities? Well, it is a masterpiece by a famous painter, so they appraised it at $65 million and demand a $29 million estate tax payment.

My recommendation on solving this:

Option 1:
Sell only the Canvas part of the painting for $65 million, in a “buy canvas, get free eagle” deal. And there you have it – you sell the painting with the eagle, in a fully legal way.

Option 2:
Cut the painting in two (including the eagle), send it to the IRS. Claim that you overpaid your taxes (estate tax is 45%), and demand the 5% back in cash. You just cost the IRS ~$3M in tax returns. FTW.

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The Danger of Relying on 3rd Party APIs

A few weeks ago it was announced that Facebook acquired face.com - a face recognition startup founded and headed by the uber-talented Gil Hirsch.

Face.com’s was mainly a B2B company, with individual developers and technology companies building products that rely on their face-recognition API.

Alas, comes the exciting Facebook acquisition day, the new owners in the house decide to shut down API support (or, basically, kill face.com’s main product). The decision’s implications are simple: basically, Facebook and face.com are telling developers who relied on its technology to, let’s put it gently, get lost.

And that’s really the sad issue here (and in numerous other startup cases): As a startup, a company courts developers, partners and potential customers, creates a relationship of trust and gets them to rely on its products. These customers help the startup grow, gain power, revenues, and appeal for potential buyers.

But when the buyer comes in, it kicks out of the party all these people that made the party the success it was. The startup founders, doing what’s right for their bank accounts, give in to the decision of the new house ruler and start doing what their new bosses tell them to do.

In 2007, I was about to acquire a very expensive ($300,000) storage solution for my startup from XIV, a great Israeli storage startup. Sound rumors though it was about to get acquired by IBM made me decide to buy a NetApp machine instead (dire mistake, long story), because I realized that promises given to me by a startup become obsolete the moment it gets acquired.

So what’s the moral from the face.com story? If you need to rely on 3rd party APIs for your product, have a backup plan. Acquisitions, bankruptcies, new product directions, changes in terms-of-service (Twitter is infamous for that) –  your lifeline cord may be cut abruptly, leaving you very little time to change course.