Shape up or shut up

25 July 2008

The rule of engagement for bloggers is: add value or go home.

Often people that should have gone home blog anyway. That’s because blogging is cheap, easy and global. Read Hugh Macleod‘s thoughts here. And, of course, because the meaning of ‘adding value’ differs considerably!

Lacking inspiration, I thought I’d show you some respect and go home (nothing to do with the fact that it’s Friday afternoon and sunny in London) but at the last minute decided a little aggregation rather than originality would suffice as adding value today. And since Snagsta is all about gathering cool things here’s a list of inspiring and amusing speeches I’ve collected.

  1. JK Rowling – Harvard Commencement Speech 2008

    Wow!

  2. Kurt Vonnegut – ‘alleged’ Commencement Address at MIT
    Tips for life – uplifting stuff. (Actually written by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune)
  3. Steve Jobs – Stanford Commencement Speech 2005
    Truly inspiring.
  4. Will Ferrell – Harvard Commencement Speech 2003
    At his usual best.
  5. Conan O’Brien – Harvard Commencement Speech 2000
    Funny but with a message about the value of failure.
  6. Larry Ellison (CEO of Oracle) – ‘alleged’ Yale Address
    It wasn’t Larry but it was funny.
  7. John Cleese – Eulogy for Chapman
    Classic Cleese. (this is the version that includes ‘Always look on the bright side of life’)

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Cover versions are never better than the originals

18 July 2008

I just experienced first-hand one of the things Phil talked about in his TechCrunch pitch (by the way, the event write-up is now online!), when I tried to book a hotel earlier today.

I know, I know. Phil has said it already, but I want to do my own “cover version” because it just happened to me and besides, I am sure I have a better singing voice than he does.

I was browsing AsiaRooms, with TripAdvisor open in another tab for reference, but just got tied in knots trying to get to grips with making my decision based on the reviews. In Asia Rooms, I had back-to-back reviews that were as different as “The room itself was horrible…” and “Good hotel, with huge rooms…”.

And TripAdvisor didn’t help at all either, with their 6th best hotel in Manila displaying the review “Biggest Hotel Disappointment I’ve ever experienced!”.

Eventually I managed to find a hotel that seemed to have a fairly consistent set of reviews. Hooray!!

Of course, when I tried to book it, the rooms were all gone…

I’ll finish with an extremely tenuously-related list of interesting cover versions that you can see on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXbgSMT-0j4
London Bridge – such a great version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-8nkkOA_AM
Hey Ya – the original is great, but this is as good in an oh-so-different way

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DctCyO-E3s
Living on a Prayer – not such a great original, but mad skills in this cover

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMB6YOWzQMY
Umbrella – surprised at how good Mandy Moore sounds

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMmu41UQHAs
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – I just wish a bit more of a Japanese accent came through

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCplsXu1HRk
The Godfather Theme – not sure what Brando would make of this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlbFJANujaU
Feeling Good – but are they?

PS So maybe I don’t have a better singing voice than Hofmeyr, but that’s okay. He needs a good voice to go with his rock-star looks

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Chasing the Dragon

11 July 2008

TechCrunch Pitch

We chalked up a major milestone this week and replaced our blackboard pre-alpha site with the real thing. Chalk you can rub out but now we’re committed. We’ve only given access to a handful of people so far – we want to spend a week or two tarting ourselves up first. Because you’re worth it.

The other really exciting news is that we were selected ahead of several startups across Europe to present at Mike Butcher‘s inaugural TechCrunch Pitch event last night. The event was hosted in St Anne’s Church in Soho – a misleadingly peaceful venue considering the somewhat hostile audience that included the likes of Doug Richard (ex Dragon’s Den) cast in the Simon Cowell role, London’s top VC’s (DFJ Esprit, Atlas Ventures, Balderton Capital, etc) and some other interesting people like the co-founder of Bebo, Paul Birch (who has incidentally shared his list of favourite business books with Snagsta).

Alex M and I met some really cool entrepreneurs and investors. It was a great night despite the fact that we didn’t win Mr. Butcher’s contest. That honour went to Raphael Arbuz’s fun site: WhatZatSong.

Jan Andresen from weblin, who travelled all the way from Hamburg, stood his ground impressively despite the roasting Doug gave him.

Evgeny Shadchnev has started a great community site for scientists called Kappa Prime.

We met Jay Adair whose business connects his two great passions: photography and motorbikes.

And also Alfie Dennen from moblog, an awesome site that puts mobile video & photos on the web in one easy step, who managed to capture our presentation (be warned the phone video is a little jumpy – but then so was I!).

Today’s list comes from Mike. Concerned by the fact that some start-ups struggle to get their point across, he set up this event to strip things back to basics and get startups to answer the following fundamental questions in just 10 slides (and only 5 minutes!):

  1. Problem: what is the market pain, size and how are you measuring it?
  2. Your solution: You have opportunity to be “the Google/eBay/Skype/iPhone etc of what”?
  3. Business model (and potential for revenues)
  4. Underlying magic: Technology / What you are trying to build: how much and for how long?
  5. Marketing and sales: How will you get distribution?
  6. Market: Drivers & dynamics / Your positioning and sustainable advantages
  7. Competition
  8. Team
  9. Milestones so far and projections
  10. Funding requirement & potential exit routes

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Summertime and the searching ain’t easy

4 July 2008

The sun doesn’t always shine here in old London town but when it does, this city sparkles. Today is one of those days.

Spending summer in this place certainly has its advantages. The biggest problem for me is choosing where to go and what to do and with the limited amount of spare time I have right now.

Before I had Snagsta to play with, finding new things to do in London was always a bit of a hit or miss affair. I might read something in the Evening Standard or pick up Time Out Magazine but most of the time I’d rely on a recommendation from a friend or take a peak online and roll the dice.

Search engines are a great place to research things but only if you know what you are looking for.

A search for “good London restaurants” on Google for example, will return an impressive but baffling 963,000 results: that’s several hundred thousand different opinions from people you may, or may not agree with.

Review sites can also be equally frustrating to use as they often contain conflicting opinions. Trip Advisor often delivers vastly different opinions on the same hotel.

A bloke named Win Wenders once said, “The more opinions you have, the less you see”. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Now that Snagsta’s database is filling up with great lists, it’s much easier to discover new things via recommendations from friends and like-minded people.

I just searched for London pubs on Snagsta and the following list from friend and pub aficionado Andrew Rogoff magically appeared.

I now have some new places to check out on my way home tonight where I can enjoy some early evening summer sunshine and perhaps one or two beers. Oh happy day!

My favourite drinking spots in London

By Andrew Rogoff

1. The Lansdowne

This pub in Primrose Hill is laid back, unpretentious and attracts quite a cool crowd. The food’s nothing amazing but I’ll let it off.

2. The Ebury

This bar is just about the only decent place in Pimlico (where I live) so I absolutely love it for that reason.

3. The Mitre

Holland Park Avenue – if you’re sick of poky little pubs where you’re constantly jostled by other punters then this place is big enough to swing your elbows (unless it’s packed of course).

4. Builders Arms

Little pub off the King’s Road that has a good atmosphere and does pretty good food. Watch out for the toffs though.

5. Windsor Castle

Notting Hill. This is a great place to be on a hot summer’s night in London. The trouble is, too many people know that!

6. Troubadour

Earl’s Court. Very atmospheric live music venue with a great history.

7. The Engineer

Primrose Hill. Another great spot in Primrose Hill. The only thing is that the bar area is quite small. Great if you want to eat.

8. The Endurance

Probably the best pub in Soho.

9. Pigs Ear

Old Church Street, SW3. There’s something about this place that I really like – just can’t put my finger on it. Does great food too.

10. The Abingdon

Off High St Kensington. Great bar/restaurant – nice big sofa and excellent food.

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