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Dropbox: disruptor or flash-in-the-pan?
After Dropbox made it easier to move digital photos from smartphones to the cloud on Friday, the debate as to whether Dropbox itself is the next big disruptor or just a feature to be acquired or co-opted flared anew. The debate boils down to whether the web needs a neutral storage service that works pretty well with all the major technology platforms or if ease of use and synching is paramount.

By all accounts, Dropbox provides a slick way to upload and store digital paraphernalia in the cloud. From there, users can access their stuff from any device and sync files across devices. The service has been hugely popular: As of four months ago, Dropbox claimed more than 45 million users. But the success of the five-year-old company has bred imitators and competitors, including the biggest companies in tech.

The new private camera upload feature will let users take their photos as always but then easily move them from smartphone, tablet, camera or SD card to their cloud data trove using Wi-Fi or their cellular data plans. Dropbox uploads the photos and videos in their original size and full resolution to the user’s camera upload location. The feature is available now for Android phones with Windows, Mac and iOS support to come, Dropbox said.

Hardware makers hedge with Dropbox
This is one example of how Dropbox is trying to stay ahead of the curve and make itself an indispensable tool for connected consumers. In that, it has some formidable partners. Just this weekend at the Mobile World Congress, HTC said buyers of its new HTC One phones will get 25 gigabytes of Dropbox storage free for two years. Handset makers like HTC see Dropbox alliances as a way to combat Apple’s iCloud initiative.

Dropbox’s popularity has certainly been noted. Companies from Microsoft to Apple and (probably) Google are trying to mimic its capabilities. “Everyone wants to be Dropbox,” Andres Rodriguez, the CEO of storage specialist Nasuni, told me recently. Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, reportedly wanted to buy the company. When that didn’t work out, Jobs called Dropbox “a feature, not a company”  and launched iCloud.

That “feature versus company” meme has dogged Dropbox ever since and cropped up again this weekend when PandoDaily’s Farhad Manjoo weighed in on Jobs’ side of the debate:

Dropbox is a great little file-syncing app, and founder Drew Houston and crew are already making some nice money out of it. But is it a $40 billion company? I doubt it. And when I hear folks like Benchmark’s Bill Gurley suggesting that it might be, and calling Dropbox “a major disruption,” I wonder if they’ve simply been blinded by the thrill of using an obviously well-crafted utility.

Dropbox is slick, and it supports nearly all the relevant clients. But in Manjoo’s experience, that support is uneven. Dropbox is often flummoxed by OS- and application-level problems, he wrote.

But any neutral party without access to Apple’s native hardware hooks will be somewhat stymied. Plus, that only takes into account some of Dropbox’s value, argues Posterous co-founder and venture capitalist Garry Tan. On his blog, Tan writes that the tech giants (Google, Apple, Microsoft) that make their own OSes and applications have no incentive to make them sync well with others.

What are the odds of Apple getting their sync client right for PC’s? Just about zero, considering what they’ve done in the past with MobileMe sync.

Same goes for Microsoft writing sync software for the Apple platform. Arguably Google is in the best shape to provide a seamless multiplatform experience . . . well, except for iOS! The odds of a viable multi-platform option emerging from one of these big three seem slim to me.

Those who forget history . . .
The cautionary tale for Dropbox is that the best technology doesn’t always win. (I would insert the Betamax vs. VHS argument here, but no one remembers it anymore.) Should Microsoft, Apple or Google offer at least reasonably good cross-platform file storage and sync capabilities, Dropbox will be in trouble. Working in Dropbox’s favor is that CEO Drew Houston appears acutely aware of history.

According to this Forbes magazine account, when Apple announced iCloud, Houston shot off a memo to employees, reaffirming the company’s status as one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. Then he listed several other once-fast-growing companies: MySpace, Netscape, Palm and Yahoo.

Photo courtesy of Dropbox
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@CNN  Andres_Rodriguez  Android  apple_inc.  Bill_Gurley  Cloud_Storage  computing  Drew_Houston  Dropbox  Farhad_Manjoo  Garry_Tan  HTC_Corporation  Mobile_World_Congress  nasuni  smartphones  Steve_Jobs  from google
february 2012 by ilicco
“Twitter 是不是社交网络”引发争论
美国风险资本专家 Bill Gurley 最近在自己的博客上发表了一篇名为 “You Don’t Have To Tweet To Twitter”的文章,主要观点是“要使用推特,你不一定得发推。”

Bill Gurley 拿 Facebook 来比较,来阐述他心目中“社交网络”的概念:

Facebook 是一个多对多的交流网络,用于与朋友分享信息及个人近况。它的重点在于互动:你加我为好友,我加你为好友,然后我们互相分享信息。
Twitter 是一个一对多的广播网络。它不是让每个人都去“发推”,而是让每个人都去关注。我不需要我关注的人关注我,我甚至不用注册,就可以到Twitter上获取我想要的信息。就像我不需要大鲨鱼奥尼尔加我为好友,我就能获取他所分享的信息,了解他的近况。



所以,他认为 Twitter 并不是一个真正的社交网络,它面对的竞争者应该是其他的“信息工具”“发现引擎”,而不是 Facebook。而 Facebook 毫无疑问是与朋友分享信息的第一平台,它的竞争对手应该是 email,即时通讯工具,以及其他对称的社交网络比如 MySpace。

这篇文章的结论“Twitter 跟 Facebook 并不同属社交网站的范畴”引起了广泛讨论。在大众媒体的眼中,Twitter 跟 Facebook 一直被称为社交网络的引领者。此刻突然有个人出来说:“其实 Twitter 不是一个社交网络。”你的反应估计会是:“什么?你在开玩笑吧?”

看完这篇博文后,TechCrunch 的编辑 Robin Wauters 就是这样的反应,于是他写了一篇文章 “Twitter,There Is Nothing Wrong With Being A Social Network”作为回应,意为“推特,毫无疑问是一个社交网络”。

Facebook 与 Twitter 确实有明显的区别,并且两个平台用处不太一样。但这并不代表 Twitter 不是一个社交网络。

多年来我一直把 Twitter 当成一个社交网络来使用。通过发推或者私信,我与我的朋友,同事,以及从没见过面的同行进行交流,分享资源。我把Twitter当成一个为大量第三方应用及服务提供身份认证的角色。

Twitter 的单向关注并获取信息的特点也不能说明它不是一个社交网络,事实上 Facebook 也在做同样的努力——在今年九月份 F8 大会上,Facebook 推出了类似Twitter,Google+ 的单向关注功能——订阅。

Twitter 并不只是看音乐家分享他们的旅途经历和工作,并不只是看政客分享他们的观点,也并不只是从新闻组织(或者记者,专家)处获取新闻以及独特见解。在 Twitter 上还有大群用户在自己的圈子里进行交流,这部分用户不应该仅仅因为 Twitter 不想与 Facebook 直接竞争而被忽视。如果 Twitter 不是社交网络,那么试想如果 Twitter 去掉给其他用户发私信的功能就因为发私信是一种固有的社交活动,你能想象吗?用户肯定会反抗的。

关于这个问题,Robert Scoble 在 Google+ 上也写了篇文章来回应。“Is Twitter a social network?Wrong question. Here’s why”

那么为什么 Twitter 本身和 Twitter 的投资者都不愿意去承认 Twitter 是一个社交网络呢?最大的原因在于社交网络这个领域里有 Facebook 这个大巨头。大多数的公司都不愿意跟 Facebook 硬碰硬,典型的例子有当初 MySpace 费尽心思证明自己不是像 Facebook 一样的社交网络,而是一个个性化的娱乐中心。但事实上 MySpace 就是一个不折不扣的社交网络。

其实 Twitter 是不是一个社交网络的争论并改变不了什么。尽管 Twitter 管理层和投资者们不肯承认,但这很明显无法掩盖 Twitter 和 Facebook 在本质上有众多功能性的重复。所以,承认吧,Twitter 和 Facebook 就是社交网络的引领者,这并没有什么大不了的。与其费尽心思证明自己不是一个社交网络,不如迎难而上,毕竟Twitter 还大有可为,特别是在广告业方面。

谈及 Twitter,很自然地想到中国的新浪微博。毫无疑问,新浪微博上信息的爆炸量、时效性以及传播速度已经超过了中国其它的 SNS 网站。那么有多少人真正问过:“我上微博干嘛?”


答案之二:无论你想不想,“推荐用户”那一栏里总会出现你的家人、朋友、同事,或者跟你有共同关注点的陌生人…… 与他们分享近况,交流想法的社交活动便水到渠成了。


(题图来自 this lyre lark )

王 崇旭

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Facebook  业界趋势/Trend  观点  Bill_Gurley  f8  Google  Robert_Scoble  Robin_Wauters  techcrunch  Twitter  from google
november 2011 by herrick5
Will China’s 1999 Moment Bail-Out Some Valley VCs?
Yes, China is taking over the world. Or at least the Internet. No, this is not like the WE’LL-ALL-BE-WORKING-FOR-JAPAN-oh-nevermind scare of the 1980s. Why? Because China has more than 1 billion people. It already represents the largest online audience in the world and is less than 30% penetrated and has Internet spending per capita that’s less than one-third of the United States.

That means two things are true that aren’t usually true at the same time: It’s a monster now and it’s barely gotten started. The Internet– more than any other industry– is about building huge, mass audiences. China wins at that. Accept it. You can’t spend 15 years arguing size and eyeballs matter and not be impressed by what is happening in China right now.

Chinese Internet companies make up two of the five largest Internet companies on the planet. And if Alibaba can wrestle away from Yahoo, and take Taobao and Alipay public, it may have three of the largest in the near future. (Especially because Yahoo’s value would plummet.) No other country aside from the US has come anywhere close to achieving that level of business success online.

Three giants would be impressive enough. But it’s not just Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba. If you need any more evidence that the hub of  Internet returns has shifted from Silicon Valley consider the interplay of these three macro-stories.

One: Nearly every outspoken Valley-centric VC and super angel is blogging and Tweeting about strategies for surviving this “bubble” of seed investing, whether it’s Ben Horowitz saying Andreessen Horowitz is looking more at later stage deals in this over-priced climate, Fred Wilson saying that he’s seeing “storm clouds,” or Mark Suster getting applauded for his defense of relationship-driven venture capital, as opposed to hopping into a deal with no due diligence at any price. Ladies and gentlemen, there is an early-stage pricing bubble in the Valley, and we are past the point of inevitable carnage if this many people are sounding the panic alarm.

Two: The Valley is largely a bubble that doesn’t actually have returns yet. Exits have mostly been confined to a bunch of industry insiders selling for less than $100 million and employees cashing out shares in the secondary market, and yet prices are going up insanely. Huh? That is like a purple unicorn. It shouldn’t exist in nature. It is purely a function of supply and demand, a scarcity of good deals and a glut of willing capital. Of course, there are companies that will make huge amounts of money when they chose to go public like Zynga and Facebook and, I’d argue, the comparatively reasonably valued Twitter. But no one actually has and best case there are only a few names you can put in that category.

Ok, Bill Gurley, we get it. IPOs are increasing, and there is an appetite for more. But there are a few important points the Benchmark GP and defender of the not-totally-dead IPO market makes in this post. First, the reason companies that have gone public like OpenTable are soaring is because the giant Valley companies do not want to go public right now. For years now, people have been talking about this great backlog of companies. Guess what? It’s still a backlog mostly.

“A good year” relative to 2009, isn’t the same thing as good when you have an industry investing between $15 billion and $20 billion a year in startups. That math does not work on a macro-level, no matter how badly everyone in this ecosystem would like it to. Gurley argues the bar for “a good year” also shouldn’t be 1999. That’s true, but if there’s this much money going into startups, the bar can’t be pre-1999 when the asset class was a fraction of its current size either.

The last important point Gurley makes is that the bulk of the IPOs that are happening are from companies outside Silicon Valley, partially because of this shift in the Valley’s cultural desire to lead a public company. Which leads me to…

Three: Five trips to China ago I met with a wide array of startups. They were all pretty much blind stabs in the dark of who might be an up-and-coming Web company. Three of them that I wrote about at the time have filed paperwork to go public or priced right in a row: BitAuto, Tudou and YouKu. I am just not that good at picking startups in a country where I don’t speak the language and didn’t know a single contact. No one is. Chinese IPOs are just huge right now– both in the Internet and in other “old economy” sectors as well.

Chinese companies generally are making up about one-third of US IPO activity this year, according to Peter Astiz, co-head of DLA Piper’s global technology sector practice. Most high-growth Chinese companies–especially in technology–are choosing to list on US exchanges, Astiz says.

Part of this is that culturally there’s a massive preference for an IPO over an acquisition in China. That’s the exact reverse of what Gurley aptly describes as going on in the Valley. You think China is still a “communist” country? Get. On. A. Plane. It is authoritarian, sure, but it is capitalism gone wild. “I’ve been in this business 25 years including when everyone was saying we should learn Japanese, and it’s clear to me China’s cultural model towards entrepreneurialism is the closest to the Silicon Valley model of entrepreneurialism I have seen anywhere,” Astiz says. I haven’t spent 25 years doing this, but I have spent more than a decade in the Valley and half of the last two years meeting with entrepreneurs in eleven different countries, and I couldn’t agree more.

The Valley is not anything like 1999 right now, no matter how much term sheets and deal negotiations look like it. In 1999 the deals were driven by the fact that you could take a company public at inflated values in 18 months and exit. To date, only YouTube has had a $1 billion-plus exit and Web 2.0 has been going on for about five years. And the truth is, China isn’t just like 1999 either. Companies aren’t exiting at the same speed, some have spent years building their companies and a lot of them are making money. But unlike the Valley, everyone in China wants to go public, and it’s hard to argue some values aren’t getting inflated as investors grapple for position in a market that is going to be huge and one where US companies have not proven they can succeed.

And yet, when I travel to other emerging markets, I always get questions about why all the big Web companies still come out of the US. The world needs to wake up. Value-judgements aside, the Internet will be transformed as more of the aggregate Internet market value flows east. Just like when new-world AOL suddenly bought old-world TimeWarner, one of these Chinese companies will be smart enough to leverage their inflated position while they can. (And an ensuing good v. evil media/political brouhaha is going to explode.)

I’ll tell you who isn’t surprised by anything I’ve written in this post: Valley venture capitalists who started investing in China eight-to-ten years ago. Are many of these companies over-valued? Yep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not lucrative for VCs who got in early and a huge wave of Chinese entrepreneurs. And like our own Internet bubble, it doesn’t mean there aren’t real fundamentals and lasting companies buried in all that hype.

You remember those bumper stickers spotted in the early 2000s that read “Please, Lord, Give Me One More Bubble”? Well, hallelujah, Sand Hill Road, if the flurry of recent Chinese Internet paperwork, pricings and rumors of both are any indication, your prayers might be answered. Only a few years ago there were widespread worries that VCs investing in China were throwing their money down a black hole. This week several firms have told me their China funds might out-perform their US funds– at least in the short term.
TC  featured  Venture_Capital  China  BitAuto  IPOs  Bill_Gurley  Fred_Wilson  Mark_Suster  Ben_Horowitz  Tudou  asia  YouKu  bubbles  from google
november 2010 by gigajeff
The Top Ten VC Blogs (New And Improved)
Every so often, venture capitalist Larry Cheng puts out a list of the top VC blogs. Previously, he ranked the blogs by how many subscribers they have on Google Reader. But now he’s changed his methodology and is ranking them by average monthly unique visitors, based on Compete data. He just came out with his new global ranking for the fourth quarter of 2009. Below are the top ten blogs from that list.

If you compare this list to the last one, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures is now the top VC blogger, followed by Guy Kawasaki of Garage Technology Ventures (who previously was No. 1). Now, the always-provocative Paul Graham of Y Combinator is No. 3, whereas he wasn’t even in the top ten on the old list. Other new entrants to the top 10 include Mark Suster of GRP Partners, Dave McClure of Founder’s Fund and soon to launch his own seed fund, and Bijan Sabet of Spark. Some VCs who dropped out of the top ten include Marc Andreessen and David Hornik of August Capital.

Four VC blogs in the top ten are new under the Cheng’s method, which better captures which ones are capturing attention since it is based on an average of the last quarter’s audience. Of course, this method does not capture people who read the blogs via RSS. So pick your poison. You can subscribe to the Top 10, Top 25, Top 50, or Top 100 on Google Reader, if that’s your thing (can someone create corresponding Twitter Lists for these VCs?).

Cheng is a managing partner at Volition Capital, which was Fidelity Ventures until it was spun off on Monday. His own blog, Thinking About Thinking, ranks No. 12.

Top 10 VC Blogs (Average Monthly Uniques, 4Q09)

Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures, A VC (100,279)
Guy Kawasaki, Garage Technology Ventures, How To Change The World (82,838)
Paul Graham, YCombinator, Essays (71,924)
Brad Feld, Foundry Group, Feld Thoughts (45,633)
Mark Suster, GRP Partners, Both Sides of the Table (39,389)
Bill Gurley, Benchmark Capital, Above The Crowd (23,084)
Dave McClure, Founders Fund, Master of 500 Hats (21,462)
Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital, Redeye VC (12,972)
Bijan Sabet, Spark Capital, Bijan Sabet (12,451)
Jeremy Liew, Lightspeed Ventures Partners, LSVP (12,097)

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.
Web_2.0_News_&_Ideas  bijan_sabet  Bill_Gurley  Brad_Feld  Dave_McClure  Fred_Wilson  Guy-Kawasaki  Jeremy_Liew  Josh_Kopelman  Mark_Suster  paul_graham  from google
november -1 by doughamlin

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