E073: with Larry Drebes



about this episode

Jason Calacanis hosts This Week in Startups with guest Larry Drebes, Founder of JanRain.

00:02:00   What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer

00:03:25   Tyler is moving on to start his own company. Tyler “it’s a little nerve racking” and bitter sweet for Jason.

00:06:00   Pre-taped show will air Friday with Razorfish’s Craig Kanarick

00:06:30  Following the holiday we will have Steve Huffman, Founder of Reddit and Hipmunk

00:07:30  Ask Jason – Sam Bensalem – I started a bootstrapped startup and to pay for it I started a small project which is now becoming a hit. I can’t do both, do you have any advice on which to go with?

00:08:30  Answer – Do you remember Andrew from Groupon (TWiST #52), he said he was doing an internal project and it was failing and watched his users use his platform for something different. Be sure to do something you are most passionate about but if the side thing is paying the bills build it up and get someone to run it for you or sell it. You can take the proceeds for your passionate project but passing on a winner is tough. Use it as a means to an end.

00:13:15   Paul Graham’s Tweet

Trada is a crowdsourced pay-per-click marketplace, leveraging the skills of more than 500 certified paid search experts. Mention TWiST and get $100 worth of PPC marketing FREE for every $1,000 you spend on Trada (Max $3,000 spend or $300 bonus). On average, advertisers who start working with Trada reduce their CPA by 10%!

0017:00   What does Janrain do? We concentrate on user management, it’s a SaaS product for identity management. We have three products Engage, Federate, Capture.

00:18:45   Engage is the log-in service. How long does it take to learn each APIs to set-up? It takes a couple weeks and it’s quite complicated and always changing. We have a lot of gaming sites, LA Times, etc.

00:20:00   How much does it cost? We have several tiers from freemium to an enterprise class, which is bases on unique users.

00:21:15   Federate is the other product, which is the other side which you sign-in on one site and it allows you to not have to resign-in to sister sites.

00:21:50   Why is this such an issue? First it’s a security issue because you are on separate domains. Log-ins tend to be company specific.

00:22:45  Who do you compete with? It’s mainly Open Source and large providers that do it themselves.

00:24:45  What happens when everyone logs in with another providers info? Are you commoditizing the space? Not really, I think the ecosystem will even things out. Most people think Facebook is sufficient but Google is actually the number one sign-in choice. Site go through a life-cycle. MySpace used to be “the site” now it’s not with Janrain you buffer yourself from this.

00:26:00   Let’s talk social graph, Facebook allows you to take out your info and store it. What are people doing with that, that is interesting? It feels like some companies are storing the graph and then when friends join I get alerted is this what we can expect? yes, connecting them local can be advantageous for some sites?

00:27:00  Should we worry about privacy? We believe the user should approve the use.

00:28:45  What percentage of people put in fake info.? On legacy systems I think it is high but on Facebook I think it is low. Their is a value add to give your real information.

00:29:50  What do you think about Googles plans for Google Me? I think it’s great, I think their is plenty of room to innovate.

Provides fully hosted / managed Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps e-mail

00:30:30  What could LinkedIn do with their API? I think it caters to utilitarian type things, very professional type stuff.

00:31:45  What is the most interesting social implementation out side social networks? HuffingtonPost is great.

00:33:45  What do you think about how aggressive some site are with auto-posting etc.? We consult most of our customers that you shouldn’t hide anything from the users but it’s ok to be aggressive. If it’s great content they’ll share it and if you are sneaky it will be short lived.

00:36:30  What are the problems in this space, are the spammers up on this? I think it’s just starting because it’s a social graph it’s a little self policing. One thing that you can watch for is masking the url of companies like Facebook.

00:39:00   Public Key is the combination of public and private key is the combination of those on separate systems is what works. SSL is the best example.

00:42:15  Why haven’t we seem more biometric systems? I think we need a standard but also systems will be built upon that standard.

00:43:30  Are all sites moving toward single sign-on or socially enabled of some sort? I think eventually you’ll carry around some sort of digital identity.

00:44:30  How many startups have you done? This is my third, my first was four11 an email directory which was purchased by Yahoo.

0048:00  What was the other one? Desktop.com

00:51:00  What was the lesson you learned from that? I think we grew really aggressively, I would mush be more scrappy.

00:52:30  How do you assure companies you are not going away? First we use open standards that doesn’t lock someone in. We have a lot of grown up and run a stable company.

00:54:45  How important is culture to you? It’s very important you can set the pace but you can’t demand it. You do influence it by your hires, we look very hard for the right people.

00:57:30  The News with Lon Harris

00:59:00   TechCrunch vs. Joojoo

A Northern California judge has made an initial ruling on TechCrunch’s ongoing lawsuit against Fusion Garage, makers of the Joojoo pad. The result is that almost all of TechCrunch’s claims against Fusion Garage, which had collaborated with the blog on what had initially been called the CrunchPad but had never actually signed a contractual agreement, were thrown out of court, including the charge that Fusion Garage had “misappropriated business ideas.”

The only allegations not dismissed by the ruling are that TechCrunch and Fusion Garage were, indeed, business partners, and that TechCrunch may be able to claim “breach of fiduciary duty” against its one-time collaborators, who have since released the product to little fanfare or acclaim. TechCrunch as given 20 days to amend some of its other claims. If the case goes to court, TechCrunch will now have to prove Fusion Garage violated its duty by releasing the Joojoo on its own.

How do you think this will all shake out? Do you think TechCrunch will ever seen any real money from this lawsuit, or is this a matter of principle?

01:000:45   Feedback – Mike in all their dealing would never sign an agreement. When they broke up he said you can never prove anything. His position was I’m a lawyer and I have the upper hand. Jason said yeah your a lawyer and you played me but I’m the Michael Jordan publishing and won’t hesitate to come out of retirement to take you down. I’ll not get in a lawsuit with you but I’ll settle. Irony of ironies is, that same argument is what he is claiming with JooJoo. He screwed me and he’s probably screwing them.

01:04:45  Insights From Tyler – I find it that people have a hard time listening to their gut with their head up their ass.

01:06:00   Digg Revolt

Digg pushed out Version 4 of their popular social news aggregator last week, and ever seen, the site has been inundated with protest submissions – many of them linking to competitors like Reddit – most of them aimed at the site’s new focus on professional, published content over public submissions. Digg temporarily blocked manual submissions Monday morning, though it’s not 100% clear whether this was in response to the criticism of “source diversity” or whether it was to correct some of the other small changes and bugs that have so angered the community. Aside from the changed focus on relationships with celebrities and media outlets (at one point, Mashable stories nearly dominated the entire “TopNews” section), frequent Digg users have complained about error messages and other bugs.

In response to the criticism, Founder Kevin Rose has already made some tweaks to the new system and has brought back some of the Version 3 features, including RSS feeds, more visible info about user backgrounds (such as when a specific user joined Digg) and the “upcoming” section that highlights newly-submitted stories. Other changes – such as the elimination of the “Bury” option – seem to be more permanent. This comes just as Digg confirmed that Amazon executive Matt Williams would join teh company as new CEO, replacing temporary fill-in Rose, who has served as CEO since the ouster of Jay Adelson in April. Rose will now be the site’s “Chief Architect.”

What sort of responsibility does a site like Digg have to its long-time hardcore fans? Think this is the sort of issue that can be adjusted, or that Kevin Rose can talk his way out of on Twitter? Was it inevitable that such sweeping changes to such an entrenched community would cause this kind of backlash?

01:06:20  Feedback – This is a big issue and it shows their is passion for the site. It proves the audience this juvenile. Adding RSS feeds is more efficient. I think the changes are brilliant and the experience is better. It means Digg is still relevant. Kevin is the leader in pioneering social news and he still has a ways to go. Congratulations to him and his team.

01:12:00   Americans Don’t Care About Location

According to the New York Times, only about 1% of Americans use location-based services, and this may not change any time soon. Despite $115 million poured into location-based startups last year by venture capitalists, only 4% of Americans have ever even tried to use one, and the concept remains far outside the mainstream. The article contains a lot of anecdotal evidence and quotes from “average Americans” who, despite an interest in social media, remain skeptical and even paranoid about updating people about their location. The article contains a few other interesting inures…80% of people who have used location-based services are men (possibly because women have increased native fears about being stalked, attacked, etc?) and 70% of those who use location-based services are between the ages of 19 and 35. An executive at Loopt postulates that those born after 1981 seem to be overall less protective of their location info than older folks.

Is this a trend that is just still developing? Or is the industry’s intense focus on “checking-in” really that out of step with what mainstream consumers want?

01:12:45  Feedback – You just described all technical revolutions, it’s the classic anti-story. The value these products supply is invaluable

01:16:00   Google Buys SocialDeck

Google purchased Canadian mobile game developer SocialDeck this week for an undisclosed sum. SocialDeck games, including Shake & Spell, Color Connect and Pet Hero, had been downloaded about a million times in 2009. As well, SocialDeck has some non-game-related applications, including Spark, which provides social integration across BlackBerry, Facebook and iPhone platforms. SocialDeck’s founders are Anish Acharya (formerly of Amason) and Jeson Patel (formerly of Microsoft), and the CEO Dan Servos used to head up casual game developer NeoEdge. The company had raised $250,000 to date from BlackBerry Fund.

So this could have something to do with Google attempting to build a broad platform that will extend across the Web and to mobile devices, and will be compatible with a wide variety of other platforms. Any more clues as to what Google has up its sleeve from this deal?

01:17:00   Feedback – The Google game platform will be across all platforms, they need social games to compete against the iPhone and Facebook. We are going into a Golden Age of M&A.

01:19:00   Chartbeat Raises $3 Million Round

Real-time web analytics startup Chartbeat closed a $3 million Series A round of financing this week, led by Index Ventures and including Ron Conway’s SV Angel Fund, Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital, Chris Dixon’s Founders Collective and…Jason Calacanis! It marks the first batch of external financing Chartbeat has taken since its founding by incubator Betaworks, the same group that brought us link-shortening service Bit.ly.

Chartbeat says it is tracking more than 1.2 million concurrent visitors to various websites, and has a customer base that includes Gawker Media, Time Inc., The Chicago Tribune Starbucks, AOL, ThisWeekIn and Mahalo. The company offers its services for $9.95 per month and plans to use the investment money to expand internationally.

What about Chartbeat appealed to you? How big do you see this company getting? What specifically are you hoping they spend this money on?

01:20:00   Feedback – I fell in love when I saw it, I begged to be an investor. It’s my opinion that if John’s betaworks incubator isn’t trying to raise money for a company it will be a success. I’m proud that I was the first Angel Investor.

01:25:00  End

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