Google Indexes URLs Posted in Gmail Chat Status

August 22nd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

I’ve been working on SEO and studying search engines since 2004.  It’s been a while since I last had a real serious ‘wow’ moment related to search engine behavior.  Today I had one such moment.

While doing some work-related searches in google, I stumbled across a URL that I 100% know isn’t linked to from any public web page.  I dug around to make absolutely sure of it, but couldn’t uncover a single link or mention anywhere of the URL in question.

Then I remembered something small, which I nearly dismissed, but am now almost certain is the cause of the unwanted URL in Google’s index.  A colleague of mine set his Gmail chat status to the URL in question in order to share it with a select group of people.  Two weeks later, the URL is in Google’s search index.  The URL is now disabled, but frankly it’s a little alarming in my opinion that Google would grab a private URL that is only shared between a small group of people, and include it in their index.

So take heed, if you don’t want Google including a specific URL in their public search index, don’t share it via Gmail chat (at least don’t set it as your status, even if it’s only shared with a few people).

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NYU Stern Ranks Among the Top 5 Most Selective MBA Programs

August 13th, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

Stern recently published its MBA profile for the class of 2012 which will matriculate this fall.  The major admissions statistics remained similar with an average undergrad GPA of 3.5 and an average GMAT of 718 (up from 717 last year).  The stat that jumped out to me is that Stern’s selectivity is now down to an acceptance rate of just 13% of all applicants (down from 15% in 2008, and 14% when I applied in 2009).  While not all schools have released updated admissions statistics, based on a spot check of several top MBA programs, and a look at BusinessWeek’s B school comparison tool, Stern is now the 4th most selective MBA program in the U.S.

  1. Stanford GSB: 7% selectivity
  2. Berkeley (Haas): 11% selectivity
  3. Harvard: 12% selectivity
  4. NYU (Stern): 13% selectivity
  5. MIT (Sloan): 14% selectivity

Selectivity is a factor in most MBA rankings, which is likely part of the reason why Stern continues to rise in the MBA rankings.  Of course, this creates a virtuous cycle – as Stern ranks higher, more people apply, which makes it more selective, which helps it rank higher – round and round you go.  There are obviously a hundred other factors at play, but this is a good place to be for Stern (and for Sternies like myself).

Methodology Disclaimer: This is only directionally relevant as it’s somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison.  This analysis is based on a mix of data – some schools have reported their most recent class profiles, while others have not yet.  To compare Stern against other top programs, I looked at data for other schools in the top 15 rankings.  I checked the BusinessWeek tool, though that data is from 2008 and 2009, so it’s not completely up-to-date.  In order to try to get more recent data, I then looked at each individual B school website and updated the numbers for any schools that had more recent data.  After doing both, Stern came in at #4, though it could change when all of the schools update their most recent class profiles.  Other schools within striking distance include MIT Sloan (14% in 2009), Yale (18% in 2009), and Tuck (19% in 2009).  I would be surprised if Yale or Tuck displace Stern from the top 5 this year given the 5-6 percentage point differential from their acceptance rates in 2009 compared to Stern’s in 2010.

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Contour Venture Partners – Venture Capital Internship

August 3rd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

Contour Venture Partners is a terrific early-stage VC firm based in New York City led by Bob Greene and Matt Gorin.  I first met Bob when he spoke to InSITE last fall about his career in the venture capital industry.  I later corresponded a few times with Matt via email when I applied for their internship last fall.  Fortunately/unfortunately, I had to later bow out as I accepted an offer to intern for Canaan Partners just before receiving the invitation to interview with Contour (I say fortunately because I was lucky to get the offer at Canaan, I say unfortunately because Contour is a great firm too).  About six months later, I had the uniquely interesting experience of later putting on my entrepreneur hat, and sitting on the other side of the table delivering SkillSlate’s pitch to both Bob and Matt.  While the meetings didn’t result in a check, they were extremely valuable as both Bob and Matt were extremely insightful, both asked great questions as well as offered welcome advice.  Based on my experiences with Contour Ventures, I would highly recommend this internship opportunity at the fund.

Position: Venture Intern (part-time during academic year)

Contour’s Profile: Contour Venture Partners is a New York based early stage venture capital firm that works with companies that provide technology enhanced products and services in the financial services, digital media and internet sectors.  The principals at Contour have a long and successful track record, having directly supported over 50 companies through numerous market cycles since the late 1980s.

Job Description: We are looking for a first or second year student to work with us during the academic year as a venture intern.  This is a great way to learn about the venture capital industry as the intern will have exposure to many aspects of the venture capital business.

The venture intern will work closely with the partners and will be responsible for various projects that relate to deal sourcing, company diligence, industry and sector research, financial modeling and database management.

Qualifications: 3+ years experience prior to graduate school at a startup, technology operating company, venture capital firm or management consulting firm
- Strong operational and entrepreneurial mindset
- Ability to work independently
- Strong work ethic and self-starter
- Excellent written, oral communication and analytical skills
- Exposure to startup and emerging technology companies
- Detail oriented
- Strong modeling skills
- Intellectually curious and strong ethical character
- Deep interest in venture capital
- Strong investment judgment

Contact: Matt Gorin, matt@contourventures.com

Good luck!

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The Impact of Groupon on Small Businesses

July 22nd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

I have been a huge fan of Groupon since I first discovered them late last year.  A couple days ago I bought this Groupon for 51% off house cleaning.  I just called the cleaning company to try to book an apartment cleaning, but they are completely booked until the end of August – that’s 5 weeks from now.  Whoa.  Beyond some mild frustration of not being able to have my apartment cleaned sooner, I was completely blown away that one day of promotion on a website could fill a company’s entire bandwidth for more than a month.  The company even said they’re trying to hire more cleaning crews in order to handle the excess demand.

There was an article on TechCrunch the other day that highlights the role of social media in small business marketing and the impact that Groupon seems to be having on small businesses.  One of the case studies in the article focused on a restaurant in San Francisco called Stone Korean Kitchen (coincidentally, one of the owners of the restaurant, Robby Kwok, is a former colleague of mine at Yahoo!).  From the article, here’s another example of my point above:

But what really tipped the scales for Yoo was Groupon.  Yoo says that restaurant saw significant traction in both sales and traffic to its Yelp sites and Facebook page when the restaurant signed up for a Groupon deal in April. Stone Korean Kitchen sold 2600 groupons in one day, and saw a packed house for two months for both lunch and dinner. Now Yoo says that they see around 5 to 10 Groupons per day instead of 30 or 40 but the restaurant is still seeing a good number of repeat customers from the Groupon deal, says Yoo.

One effect of the Groupon deal, besides increased sales, was that there were a flux of Yelp reviews. It took the company six months to accumulate 80 reviews on Yelp and after the deal, the restaurant accumulated 90 reviews within three months. Yoo also says that he’s seen a steady increase in Foursquare check-ins following the Groupon deal.

So Groupon not only generated an instant influx of sales (albeit at a discount), but also drove tremendous ripple effects from the promotion:

  1. Repeat customers
  2. Influx of Yelp reviews – likely increasing exposure on Yelp, leading to more future business
  3. Increase in Foursquare check-ins – again, more exposure

It can be very difficult for new small businesses to stand out from the crowd and get the flywheel going so to speak.  While it is likely hard to measure the value of these ripple effects, they are no doubt beneficial to the business.  Beyond the direct sales and social media benefits listed above, the Groupon model provides other benefits to small businesses:

  1. Favorable cash cycles – the businesses get paid before they have to deliver the service.  That can be pretty powerful for small businesses.
  2. Redemption rates – not everyone who buys a Groupon will redeem it before it expires.  That’s cash directly to the small business’ bottom line.  I would bet that the unredeemed Groupons just about pay for the fee that Groupon takes from the promotion.

In summary, beyond being a great consumer product, Groupon is an exceptional marketing vehicle for small local businesses.  Anytime you can satisfy the needs of both consumers and businesses (and make money in the process, lots of money), you have a great business on your hands.

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Yahoo!’s Conflicting Stance On The Local Space

July 16th, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

Today, Yahoo! announced a local ad partnership with Gannett.  Without knowing the details of the partnership, it looks like Gannett and Yahoo! can cross-sell each others’ ad inventory, and Gannett will use Yahoo!’s APT ad technology to target and serve ads.  From ZDNet “Yahoo! Gets More Local, Cuts Deal With Gannett, as well as the Yahoo! press release:

Local advertising continues to be an important area of focus for us, and Yahoo! is committed to helping local businesses reach high quality target audiences,” said Hilary Schneider, executive vice president of Yahoo Americas. “This partnership significantly expands our local offering and gives advertisers the technology and scale they need to reach online consumers.”

But does this really signal Yahoo!’s commitment to the local space?  I personally don’t think so, particularly when you compare Yahoo!’s investments (or lack thereof) in its local properties with other major players in local.  When I started working at Yahoo! in 2004, Yahoo! Local was the hot property and the top local destination online.  It was hard to walk by a hallway conversation without hearing the word ‘local’.  But relative to Google, Yahoo! invested far less in their maps product, which I believe hurt their top spot in local search, which they ultimately ceded to Google.  While Yahoo! Local still sees a ton of traffic, new entrants like Yelp also chipped away at their lead.  Ultimately Yahoo! Local was outgunned by competitors (mostly Google) willing to invest more (both manpower and acquisitions, ie: Google’s offer to buy Yelp) and not run these hugely strategic properties as profit-centers, but rather as means for driving other behaviors (search).

Using more recent examples, Yahoo! has either sold, or sold out, of several major properties that I consider to be local in nature.  This year they sold Hotjobs to Monster, outsourced Y! Personals to Match.com, and outsourced Y! Real Estate’s property listings to Zillow.  I would argue that it simply doesn’t get any more local than real estate, so does selling out the channel make sense if in fact “local advertising continues to be an important area for [Yahoo!]“?  Is this a shift away from O&O sites to a partnership ‘strategy’ (I use the term loosely), or more of Yahoo! not knowing what they are?

Disclaimers: Thanks to a former colleague (if you read this you know who you are) for planting the thought. I worked on Y! Real Estate for 4 years so am a likely biased against the Zillow deal.  It sucks to see your baby sold off (but then again it sucks to see it not get any attention either).

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SkillSlate’s New Home

June 22nd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like; I’ve been buried under a rock lately working on SkillSlate.  While starting a company is a ton of work, it is also one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever undertaken.  I’m actually excited to get into the office every day.

Speaking of our office, I thought I post a pic of SkillSlate’s new home now that we’re finally just about settled.  It’s a great space in the Chelsea/Flatiron area with plenty of open space and sunlight.  It’s a pretty cool feeling going from working on SkillSlate from my apartment on the side, to having an actual space to call our own.  Here we are cranking away!

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Pocket Zoo – Cool App for Kids

June 3rd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

I just came across a cool new app called Pocket Zoo™ that was created by Robleh Jama, his wife, and a few other folks from the old Sneakerplay team (site that I acquired last year).  As a huge animal lover, I was intrigued by the concept of a zoo in your pocket.  The app is really neat – you can browse a ton of animals as if you were perusing the zoo on a weekend afternoon.  You can click on any animal and see more information about the critters, along with multimedia such as photos and audio clips to see what they look like, and hear what they sound like.

The coolest part by far is the live video feeds of each animal that displays directly in the app.  You can literally watch a feed of Pandas, Lions, Bears, or other animals in real-time!  This is a great app, both for grown-up animal lovers, but even more so for kids. The team has gotten some great recognition already. Pocket Zoo™ was chosen as the runner-up in the 2010 App Star Awards (Entertainment & Fun category) and as a result received pre-launch mentions from Techcrunch “Wikipedia for animals” and Readwriteweb “an adorable (and educational) app for kids”.

I am definitely buying this app for both my little cousins, I know they’ll love it.  Get yours on iTunes here!

In the meantime, here’s a video that shows some of the functionality of the app.  Congrats to RJ and the rest of the Pocket Zoo team!

Pocket Zoo™ with Live Animal Cams from tiny hearts on Vimeo.

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SkillSlate Seeking Developer

May 24th, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

My start-up, SkillSlate, is seeking a talented and energetic developer to join our core team.  If you know of anyone good, please spread the word.  Job description is below:

We’re a VC and angel funded local start-up looking for a driven developer to build a product that has a meaningful impact on the daily lives of New Yorkers (and beyond). We’re based in Manhattan (Chelsea/Flatiron loft office), and the ideal candidate can start ASAP.

Must Haves:
• Belief in vision of individual empowerment
• Ruby on Rails (RoR) experience (min. 1 year experience) or equivalent (e.g. Django)
• BS/MS in Computer Science
• Entrepreneur-at-heart – thrives in a fast-paced startup environment and has the hunger to succeed and build a product that changes the world
• Demonstrated leadership ability and self-starter mentality
• Passionate about writing agile, elegant, DRY code

Nice-to-Haves:
• Experience with search/vertical search
• Experience with automated testing / continuous integration frameworks
• Experience with database optimization (my.cnf, EXPLAIN, indexes, replication)
• Experience provisioning and managing cloud resources (Engine Yard, Heroku, App Engine, or equivalent)
• Strong user experience design / interaction design reasoning skills

Compensation: Competitive mix of salary and equity. This is a full time, permanent position.

About SkillSlate.com
SkillSlate empowers the 16mm+ individual service providers in the US to market their services directly to consumers. A SkillSlate profile provides detailed professional and personal information including pictures, fees, and reviews, all with the aim of not only showing what the person does, but who the person is. SkillSlate puts these profiles into a searchable directory where consumers can find service providers that fit their specific needs.

SkillSlate is backed by prominent venture capital and angel investors including Canaan Partners, Jason Finger (founder/CEO of SeamlessWeb), Peter Lehrman (co-founder of Gerson Lehrman Group), Dan Ciporin (former CEO of Shopping.com), and other high-impact angels. Learn more at http://www.skillslate.com/about

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NYU Stern Rises to #9 in the U.S. News MBA Rankings

May 9th, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

NYU SternI try not to place too much emphasis on the MBA rankings.  For one, I think it’s extremely difficult (or impossible) to accurately force rank schools based on quantitative data that is unlikely to effectively capture how ‘good’ a program is.  To that point, choosing the right MBA program is an extremely personal decision, and includes numerous factors that cannot be captured in any ranking methodology.

With that caveat in place, I do admit to looking at the rankings when they’re published each year.  Every MBA does (and if they say they don’t, they’re lying).  People in business school have too much ego not to care, and it’s too great an investment of both time and money to ignore where your program ranks (at least in other peoples’ minds).

Last night a friend of mine informed me that NYU Stern rose to the #9 position in the most recent 2010 U.S. News & World Report MBA Rankings.  My MBA ego was pretty pleased to see that (in case it’s not obvious, I’m poking fun at myself).  Stern had been solidly ranked within the top 10 U.S. business schools by other ranking publications (#7 in both the Economist and the Financial Times) , but had been floating in the #10-11 spot in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings (arguably the most widely followed ranking) for the last couple years.

For me personally, the most satisfying aspect of the new rankings is that NYU Stern is now tied with Columbia Business School for the #9 spot.  Given that my girlfriend is at Columbia, and I work with a number of CBS students through my involvement with InSITE, it feels slightly better to be on more equal footing :)

2010 U.S. News & World Report MBA Rankings

1. Harvard

1. Stanford

3. MIT Sloan

4. Northwestern Kellogg

5. U Chicago Booth

5. Wharton

7. Dartmouth Tuck

7. Berkely Haas

9. NYU Stern

9. Columbia Business School

11. Yale

12. Michigan Ross

13. UVA Darden

14. Duke Fuqua

15. UCLA Anderson

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Canaan Partners is Hiring an Analyst

April 22nd, 2010 by Brian View Comments »

Canaan Partners is hiring a new Investment Analyst for their Westport Connecticut office (mostly covering NYC).  Those of you who have been looking for a junior VC job know they don’t come up often, and when they do, unfortunately they’re very difficult to get.  That said, this is an amazing opportunity to work closely with a couple incredible partners on the east coast tech team, and dive into all aspects of VC: sourcing, modeling, market sizing, diligence, entrepreneur meetings, investor meetings, writing investment proposals, helping portfolio companies – just about everything.  I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work with this team as an MBA intern for the last seven months or so, and I can’t say enough great things about the role, the people, or the firm.

A word of advice.  Make sure you actually fit the description and have demonstrated technology, entrepreneurship, and prior finance/consulting/vc experience.  I know they’re getting a lot of resumes without those matches and it’s unfortunately simply not a fit…

Canaan Partners – Analyst Position
Job Description: Canaan Partners is seeking to hire a Pre-MBA Investment Analyst for its Westport, CT office. The Investment Analyst role at Canaan offers a unique opportunity to contribute in all parts of the investment process: from screening potential investments, to leading diligence sessions, to ultimately working closely with our portfolio companies to help them succeed.  Note: The Analyst is expected to live in / near NYC and commute to Westport as needed.

Preferred Skillset:

  • 1-3 years experience in a technology Investment Banking role or Strategy/Management consulting role
  • Demonstrated interest in technology, entrepreneurship, and the NYC startup scene
  • Excel wizardry / modeling skills
  • Ability to thrive in an unstructured environment and take on massive amounts of responsibility
  • Prior entrepreneurial experience preferred
  • Graduate from a top undergraduate institution

Interested applicants who meet the job requirements may apply online via Doostang.
About Canaan Partners:

Canaan Partners is a $3bn global venture capital firm focused on IT and healthcare. Over the last 20 years, Canaan has invested in more than 250 companies, many of them going on to become leaders in their respective industries. Our investment capabilities range from $1 million to $20 million, and we have the ability and the team to invest in any stage of development, from seed financings to late stage investments.  Notable investments in the technology space include Match.com, DoubleClick, Associated Content, Tremor Media, and LendingClub. Canaan Partners has offices in Westport, CT, Menlo Park, India and Israel.

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