My 3 Favorite VC Bloggers

On October 24, 2009, in Biz, by Tac Anderson

I’m not involved in the VC world anymore but still love the field and find VC’s great BS filters for what’s happening in our space. I thought I’d share with you my 3 favorite VC blogs, although there are many more these three are the ones I would most recommend.

Most of you are probably familiar with Fred Wilson, and if your not you should be. Fred has some great advice I try and follow and every serious blogger should follow. This is from a Q&A he did with Technorati:

What’s your advice for aspiring professional bloggers?

Show up every day with something interesting to say and don’t be afraid to speak your mind.

Brad Feld with the Foundry group in Boulder has a great blog you should follow. He’s probably the single most intelligent VC’s regarding technology I’ve met. The guy’s a total geek and wicked smart.

Mark Solon with Highway 12Ventures is relatively new to the blogging scene but is already one of my favorite blogs to read. He is the single most trustworthy VC’s I’ve met and most startups that have worked with him will tell you the same. He’s also a total health nut and could kick my butt on a bike any day. Besides that he’s a great friend and it’s his birthday today. Happy 44th Mark.

The Highway 12 blog is especially relevant is you’re in the Rocky Mountain area but he covers topics every startup should read. Gems like this:

Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down | Highway 12 Ventures

“Who the hell do you think I am to tell you that your business won’t be successful?”

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Will RSS Ever Go Mainstream?

On May 4, 2009, in New, by Tac Anderson
@hwy12 demoing an rss reader to the gang
Image by Tac Anderson via Flickr

Will RSS Ever Go Mainstream?

One of my proudest moments at Highway 12 Ventures was when Mark Solon was demonstrating how he subscribed to RSS feeds in his feed reader to his partners.

But even as new people adopt RSS I keep hearing rumblings that some people are abandoning their feeds. Mashable even posed a poll to ask their readers if the were still using feed readers. It’s no surprise that their readers still overwhelming do.

Do You Use an RSS Reader?

Is RSS the best way to read news and blogs?

With the rise of social media technologies that provide alternatives to RSS, we have to wonder: what is the future of RSS? Is social media a better alternative?

I know many of you have expressed that thanks to Twitter and other social networks pushing content to you that you read far fewer, or at least don’t pay as much attention to, your RSS feeds. For me I know that initially this was the case for me, but now I find myself reading even more than before. In fact I find myself searching for, not just more, but more original content.

I think social networks and status style sharing accentuates the head but tends to bury the long tail. For some people RSS may not be important but I think for early adopters, trend watchers and anyone who wants to be at the front of their industry still has to actively subscribe to feeds.

Another case for RSS is this article by LifeHacker on 2 different ways to manage all your social networks. The problem is that the RSS solution would never be adopted by the mainstream worker. It’s just too much work for the average person. Messing with settings, filters and 3rd party applications is akin to low level programming. It will always be relegated to the hypo-g33k.

What about you. Do you find yourself using RSS more or less?

What I learned from HP about co-opetition

On April 30, 2009, in Biz, by Tac Anderson

What I learned from HP about co-opetition

We like competition. We thrive on it. We pit our children against eachother in near prehistoric rites of manhood called “Little League”. In all honesty without competition I doubt the human race would exist.

But what do we do when competiton doesn’t work anymore and we are driven to co-opetition?

HP (like most uber big companies) is complicated. Who doesn’t HP compete with? In the IT space there are very few companies that they don’t compete with on some level. While simultaneously there are very few of those competing companies that we don’t also partner with at some level. It’s very complicated.

As an example, my Samsung BlackJack 2. HP competes very heavily with Samsung on both PC’s, printers and phones (yes HP makes phones). After taking my first picture with my phone I was presented with three options: Send Multimedia Msg, Send to HP’s Snapfish and Cancel.

I was amazed that a company we competed so heavily with enabled their customers to send photo’s to the HP owned Snapfish. Snapfish had obviously worked their own deal with Samsung.

HP has always had a strong belief that each business unit was enabled to do whatever it took to grow that business, even if it meant working with a company that HP competed with. This is often referred to as co-opetition

Arguably one of the most profitable examples of co-opetitions is the HP LaserJet printer.  The LaserJet printer is HP’s most profitable product to date and was co-developed with one of HP’s biggest competitors; Canon. Canon still manufactures the engines.

Social media is all about sharing right? What about your competition? Aren’t you supposed to crush them? We all know this, but let me tell you something, competition is good.

What would PC’s be like if Apple didn’t exist? They’d probably be ugly, big and hard to use.

What does this mean to social media professionals? I’ve had an ongoing friendly relationship with Bruce Eric at Dell (one of the few companies we compete most fiercely with and don’t partner with).  While we’ve talked about family, life, travel, Web tools and social media we’ve never talked about Dell and/or HP.

While social media means we get to be human and share, you have to know what’s appropriate and what’s not. We were still competitors after all. At one point I was even invited to contribute to the Digital Nomads blog but declined because while I’m happy to support a cause I wasn’t willing to contribute to a site that was pushing competitive product.

Now that I work at Waggener Edstrom I find myself  “competing” with friends I’ve worked with at Porter Novelli (PN is an HP agency). I also find myself “competing” with people I respect and have learned a great deal from. But the fact of the matter is I don’t see myself as competing against them even if ouor companies are competitors.

Mike Manuel just posted
about how agencies (who all now do social media) are being asked to work with eachother by clients. This happened before the rise of social media but it’s almost becoming more common than not.

I for one welcome this. If you think you and your agency know more than any other individual or agency out there you are in for a rude awakening.

As with social media companies (especially agencies to begin with) need to embrace co-opetition. I garuntee you that your business will be far more profitable if you can manage this.

Even if you or your company culture isn’t ready for this (very few outside of tech are right now) you need to at least head the advice given by Mark Solon, managing partner at Highway 12 Ventures and respect your competition.

If you really want to know where this trend will lead I suggest you check out Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape by Henry Chesbrough. This is just the begining.

As a prelude to a forthcoming blog post I also believe this is another factor in why large enterprise companies are on their way out.

About Highway 12 Ventures

On April 1, 2009, in Biz, by Tac Anderson
Highway 12 Ventures
Image by Tac Anderson via Flickr

Many of you know that besides my day job at HP I do some work with Highway 12 Ventures, our local VC firm here in Boise, Id.  I wanted to take some time to explain a little more about Highway 12 and what I’ve been doing with them.

First some basic details. Highway 12 Ventures is an 8 year old firm that is currently on it’s second fund with about $100 Million under management.  The interesting thing about the firm is that they are a regionally focused firm, not a vertically focused firm like most.  They only invest in companies in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Montana and occasionally Oregon and Arizona. Their theory is that these areas have a lot of entrepreneurial activity and are under served by the investment community. They specifically don’t do deals in Seattle or California because start-ups there have lots of VC options locally.

Mark Solon is the founding and managing partner (you can follow him on Twitter @hwy12). Phil Reed, Glenn Michael and George Mulhern are the other partners. Phil and Glenn are both veterans of the start-up world while George was HP’s LaserJet Executive VP for several years (I forget exactly how many - lots).

One of the things that surprised me the most about working with these guys is how much like a start-up they are. They have to go out and raise money just like their companies. They are accountable to their investors just like their portfolio companies are to them. They have to build brand awareness and make there customers (investors and investees) happy if they want to stay viable.

What has really impressed me about working with these guys is how much they care about the entrepreneurs and the communities they invest in. They get it that helping to grow great entrepreneurs and great entrepreneur communities helps everyone, including them.

The fun thing about working with these guys is their willingness to learn. Since starting to work with them they have really gotten into social media. Mark joined Twitter. They are all on Facebook now. There are even talks going on for them to start a blog.

Besides educating them on social media I’ve also been able to advise some of their companies on social media and how it might be help them in their business. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do as much of this as I would like but hopefully I’ll be able to do more.

What has been the most fun for me is helping them find potential companies for them to invest in and then dig into their business plans to see if it makes sense to invest in. I want to point out that just because they don’t invest in a company doesn’t mean it’s not a good company just that it didn’t make sense for them at this time.

So if you’re in the region and you’re thinking about VC funding now or possibly in the future, let me know (especially if you’re in the social media space).

Their Web site
has more information on them and their portfolio companies.

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