Archive for February, 2008

Seattle Startup Weekend – SkillBit

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Last weekend I participated in this thing called Startup Weekend in Seattle. Basically, there were over 100 people attempting to create a startup company (basically a web app) going from concept to launch in just over 50 hours. It was pretty intense.

The weekend started Friday evening with everyone sitting at tables of 5-6 people. Each person shared their idea with the table. They were then written down and one person took the ideas and pitched some of them to another table. The other table decided which 1 or 2 ideas were worthy. These ideas were collected at the front in paper form then randomly distributed to different tables. Each table read the idea on the paper separately and voted either yes or no to the idea. Only about 5 ideas made it past this stage. My theory is that ideas on paper in a sentence or two don’t get people nearly as excited as if someone else was pitching it to them. We ran through that again to get a different set of about 5. So, 10 ideas total. Each of these 10 was pitched to the entire group by the person who originally suggested it. We took a vote on all 10. You could vote either yes or no to each one by either raising or not raising your hand. There were about 4 that made it past this round. Next, there was discussion about each of these 4, and different people talked about the merits of each. Then, a final yes or no vote from everyone and we came out with a clear winner. We were going to build a RideShare that actually worked and that people actually used.

So… now to figure out exactly what we are building, and who else is building similar stuff. An hour or so into this, and the business development people come back with their findings on the competition. They determine that there are some strong competitors in our area, namely Goose Networks. They are doing a lot of the stuff we would be doing and it would be difficult to differentiate ourselves. So, we took a vote if with this new information we should switch ideas. Most people thought we should switch, and so we decided on the “ for Enterprise” idea.

Basically we would create a web application that would allow small to medium sized businesses get a better sense of what skills their employees had to better utilize these. Each employee in the business gets a profile which has basic information plus their answers to certain questions the boss had asked. So, the boss could ask something like “What languages are you fluent in?”. Each employee would answer this question and their answer would show up in their profile. Then, later you could search through the system to find an employee fluent in Spanish to talk with a new client. This is just an example. I’m sure there are plenty of questions you could ask to get useful answers to help in finding skills in your organization. What are we going to call this? We call it SkillBit. The skill part is easy to understand. The bit part represents the simplicity of the software and lack of features I suppose. As with any good web application, it does one thing, and does it well… hopefully.

We have yet to launch SkillBit publicly, but you can sign up on a waiting list to get an announcement of when it launches.  If you want more details about how the weekend went, you can read the Seattle Startup Weekend blog which was posted two by two people throughout the weekend.

Yahoo Falling

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Over the last year or two, Yahoo hasn’t been doing so well. Their CEO, Terry Semel, stepped down last year. One of the founders, Jerry Yang, took over and embarked on a 100 day review of the company looking for ways to improve the situation. Recently he announced that they had evaluated priorities and will be laying off a good chunk of employees. Just after Yahoo’s most recent earnings report, Microsoft announced an unsolicited takeover bid. Microsoft is definitely taking advantage of the fact that Yahoo’s stock has recently fallen significantly recently. The offer is more than twice their current stock price making it seem like its a really good offer. We’ll see what happens. Will Yahoo accept the offer? Will Microsoft be able to acquire the company without breaching any laws?

Public Transit on Google Maps

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I don’t know exactly when Google Maps added this, but now you can get directions from point A to point B using public transit instead of using a car in certain major cities. This works pretty well. You search for directions between two street addresses, and click “Take Public Transit”. It then gives you three options coming up in the next few minutes to take a bus. It shows you if any transfers are necessary. It shows you how long each option will take and when you have to leave and when you will arrive. It of course shows you the route on the map and which bus numbers to look for. I’ve started to use this pretty much every day. I don’t always leave work at the same time, and I want to avoid waiting at the bus stop for too long. There are a couple bus stops near where I work, so I have to choose the right one to minimize the waiting time. I use this new feature pretty much any time I want to go anywhere because, like I’ve said before, I don’t have a car. I use Flexcar when the bus just won’t do.

MacWorld 2008

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

I watched the MacWorld 2008 Keynote by Steve Jobs, and frankly wasn’t as impressed as I’ve been by the last few. I guess its hard to follow the announcement of the iPhone.

The MacBook Air is pretty cool, but how much value is there in getting a laptop that small? I consider my current MacBook to be thin and light enough to not worry about it. The screen and keyboard looks to be the same size, so the amount room it takes up hasn’t really changed. The extra multitouch gestures are again cool, but with the current applications, don’t appear to be that useful. Maybe I just don’t use the right applications. Maybe it will enable entirely new applications that we haven’t seen yet. That would be cool.

I think the movie rentals on the Apple TV will be a game changer, especially since you don’t need a computer anymore. But, since I’m a technology guy, I’m not that impressed because I don’t see any new technology here. It’s all about the content deals with the major movie producers. I’ll bet that it was the content deals which was causing Steve Jobs to keep saying that Apple TV was Apple’s hobby project. He couldn’t say anything about what was in the works, so he was putting off the fact that Apple TV wasn’t doing that well.

Time Capsule I think was a smart move for Apple. People really need to backup their stuff. It needs to be really easy to do. I think that adding a hard drive to the home router is a good way to go. I personally don’t need it because I bought a Drobo and hooked it up to the Airport Extreme. So, I have two redundant 500 GB hard drives in there so that if one dies, I don’t  loose any data. So, I can use it not just as backup, but for primary storage.


Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

A lot of stuff has happened since I last posted, both in the world and in my life. I’ve been hesitant to blog about it mostly because I have to spend time doing it for, what seems to be of little benefit. I’m not even sure who really reads this. I know my family reads it, some of my friends might read it, other folks out there interested in Google Maps stuff might read it, and maybe some other random people out there might read it. I’m going to try to post more often, and am going to do a few quick posts right now.