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Follow Me on Twitter

January 31, 2011

Very rare updates happening here anymore, but follow me on Twitter, where I’m somewhat active: http://twitter.com/adamjusko

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Cleveland Startup Weekend

November 23, 2009

I dropped in last night for the finale of the first Cleveland Startup Weekend, which brought together a motley crew of developers, marketers, finance people, etc., to hatch and prototype a potential startup business in just one weekend. In short, certain people brought ideas in on Friday night, pitched them, then the attendees decided which projects they’d like to work on. Then the teams spent the weekend doing as much as they could do bring the idea to the prototype stage, or at least to create a presentation that might interest potential investors.

It was a very well-attended event — sold out initially, then seats were added to get to just over 100 attendees at the Idea Center on Playhouse Square. Definitely a dudefest, with the man/woman split about 90%/10%, maybe even a bit higher on the guy side. Between local corporate sponsorship and the moneys from attendees, Cleveland Startup Weekend generated the highest revenue of any of the Startup Weekends so far developed by the national Startup Weekend organization.

Some of the ideas seemed fully formed, some a little pie-in-the-sky, some a little unrealistic, but all were pretty creative concepts for a weekend’s work. And the teams made their presentations fun with a lot of enthusiasm.  Here’s a quick synopsis of the 9 groups that presented last night.

1. MoonDog – Online marketplace to bring together entrepreneurs and technical people for one-off projects. Good presentation and the prototype actually appeared to be a finished product ready to roll. Interesting pricing idea — entrepreneurs pay less at first and then scale up for techies whose work they like, and techies might take lower pay initially or even company equity (these programmers may be moonlighting from day jobs and willing to work for lower pay initially).

2. LocalFood365.com – For what you’d guess to be a techie crowd, a very un-techie startup — a company that would build greenhouses on currently vacant land to grow food that would be sold and consumed locally. Unlike a farmer’s market or urban garden, the greenhouse and hydroponics would allow year-ground growing in large quantities, and the distribution method would be through wholesalers versus direct to the public. The idea has good PR potential, because the idea of keeping more food dollars circulating locally versus shipping food in from elsewhere is a newsworthy concept.

3. MyCle.tv – Hyperlocal news delivered online by volunteer citizen journalists in the community. By “hyperlocal” you’re talking about down to neighborhood level versus local news stations that only cover your ‘burb if there’s a fire or a murder. I live in Lakewood & this made me think of our newspaper the Lakewood Observer, which is completely volunteer-run. It’s a bit uneven in quality and choices as to what is newsworthy, but it definitely does cover the city in a way no other outlet does. [UPDATE: I should've mentioned that the MyCle.tv site is for video content only, not print.]

4. Sync System – This would create a “digital wall calendar” that a family could use as their central calendar to keep up with what’s coming up, where the kids have to be and when, etc. Basically the same concept as an online calendar that group members can update to have a central calendar for projects, but the difference would be that this “calendar” would be on the equivalent of a digital picture frame, and family members could access it directly from its place within the house without having to go to a computer or mobile phone to access it (although they could access it in those ways as well). Personally I really liked this one, because I have plenty of experience in my own home trying to schedule events that fit into the schedules of my wife & kids.

5. Gracie – A household energy management system that would use predictive modeling to control the energy usage in your home to drive down costs — the obvious example being to lower your home’s temperature in the winter when you are not there and raise it when you are. Although present thermostats can be programmed to do something similar, the Gracie team’s argument was that people either don’t use it or they program them based on when they THINK they’re going to be home and away, but often get it wrong. Gracie would use actual activity patterns to guess more accurately.

6. 140match.com – Twitter matchmaking. The site would basically parse your tweets and the tweets of those you follow (plus the tweets of those THEY follow) for keywords to make matches. If you tweet about your poodle a lot, there just may be some other dog lovers out there among your extended Twitter universe. This concept was a crowd-pleaser, the team seemed to think their big challenge was Twitter’s rules on usage of their API.

7. Copernicus Listening System – I was a little confused on this one. My impression was that it was a speaker system; I’m not sure what the technology or concept was that would make it competitive in the marketplace.

8. Pricefixr.com – A Web site to find the lowest prices on individual groceries in your area without having to go the stores first. If I understood correctly, this would be crowdsourced, so in theory you are not just a taker, but you also would hop on occasionally and tell how much the Crest is at your local supermarket.

9. Makerbot – A three-dimensional printer. Connected to your computer it can actually make plastic objects based on your on-screen design. It already is a workable concept, its owner (whose name I missed, update: it’s Rick Pollack) is looking for others with interest in the concept.

Two prizes were given based on the presentations, with voting done by both the teams and others in the audience  — one was a $5000 prize from Microsoft for the best concept using Microsoft technology, and the other was a $2500 prize created based on the better-than-expected revenue from the event (originally there was only the $5000 prize).

140match.com took the $5000 prize from Microsoft. In the voting for the $2500 prize there was a tie between LocalFood365.com and Pricefixr.com. After toying with the idea of a rock-paper-scissors throwdown to break the tie, the teams, in the spirit of the event, decided to split the pot and take $1250 each.

For a first-time event, this really seemed to exceed all expectations, and showed there was a ton of bottled-up interest in this sort of thing.  My guess is they’ll need a bigger venue next time to accommodate all those interested.

Congrats to all the organizers & everyone who committed their weekend to make it a success.

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Summer’s Ending

August 20, 2008

The last time I blogged here it was the start of 2008 and now we’re finishing up the summer. My kids are back in school Monday, so I consider “unofficial” summer to be done at that point, regardless of the solstice action or the temperature.

It’s been a productive year thus far, although I don’t think anyone ever gets as much done as they hoped they would when a year began. It can be a slog, especially if you’re trying to build something via bootstrapping, without the resources to do as much as fast as you’d like. In business, I’m talking about Bessed, but of course life in general is like that, too. You look back and see that the things you wanted to fix still haven’t gotten fixed because some things absolutely needed to get fixed. It’s the eternal struggle between getting things done and putting out fires all day.

This summer’s been a big one in our family, with kids learning to ride on two wheels, learning to read (and loving it as much as I did when I was a kid), and learning to do some other things for themselves so Mom and Dad aren’t in constant servitude. We also had a couple of big events, with back-to-back trips — a vacation to Kiawah Island, South Carolina and then a trip to Niagara Falls for someone’s big birthday (no numbers mentioned). There was much fun, but in some ways I’m looking forward to the structure that comes with school and cooler weather. (I’ve drank a lot this summer, too; scaling back on that wouldn’t be a bad thing.)

I’ll be 40 in about 16 months, and I’ve been spending a good amount of time trying to figure out where I want to be at that point, and what to do if I don’t get to where I want to be. Yes, 40 is just a number, but it doesn’t hurt to use it as a benchmark to take stock of where you are, where you’d like to be, how likely it is you’ll get there, what to do if you can’t get there, or even what you’ll do if you do get there. The “there” is different for everyone — for me, it’s to use this end of summer as the jumping off point for a concerted effort to fill a niche with Bessed and make it a worthwhile endeavor for myself and those who use it. Can I find the people, pay the people, and create the path that will make a somewhat amorphous blob into a useful, focused site, or will it be time to move on?

Well, summer’s not over yet. While I ponder, I think I’ll have a drink out in the sun.

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Not Really Getting Wikia Search

January 7, 2008

As a participant in the human-powered search field, I’ve been very interested to see what Jimmy Wales and his for-profit Wikia Search would add to the mix. Presumably the legend of Wikipedia would have something new and exciting for us as he attempts to “fix” search. Well, giving us results 11-20 on the same page as the first 10 results is maybe a little exciting. Otherwise, I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s not fair to judge a project that begs for human participation but launches with almost none. After all, Wales has said that when Wikipedia launched, the “Africa” page’s content consisted of the line “Africa is a continent.” On the other hand, Wikipedia launched with no eyes on it; not so for Wikia Search. For such a high-profile launch, this should have been left to bake a while longer so people could get a better idea of the vision.

As it is, you get poor results coupled with empty “mini-articles” and the opportunity to use social features like photos, profiles, “friends”, etc. Not exactly cutting edge, and personally I still don’t get why anyone thinks people want social features baked into their search engine. While we offer commenting on Bessed, we have no mechanism for people to open accounts and share among each other because we can’t see the purpose in it, or at least we don’t think people will use it to any extent. It seems to make more sense for a Facebook or Myspace to start a search engine than it does to start a new search engine and then try to add the social features. But then again I don’t have a lot of time to make “friends” on the Web, so maybe I’m not representative of others’ feelings about this.

It will be interesting to see what kind of participation level Wikia will get, whether the Wikipedia “magic” will rub off on a project that has a very different purpose. Of course, Wikipedia has been taking its lumps lately for becoming an insider’s kingdom, but I’m sure Jimmy Wales would be happy to have such a problem with Search Wikia. Better to have a smaller, more arrogant group snatch the keys than to have no one be interested at all.

Time will tell, but the initial take is that rushing to meet a deadline for getting Search Wikia off the ground has left it open to easy criticism.

UPDATE: Not getting the love from TechCrunch, either. I would add that I’ve been on the mailing list for Wikia and this morning Michael Arrington accused Wales of giving the New York Times permission to publish its review of Search Wikia while asking all other media to hold off. Wales denied the permission was given and said NYT jumped the gun.)

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Scaling Versus Scoring

September 6, 2007

Jason Calacanis has a very interesting new post up that talks about the tension between building out infrastructure to scale a business and introducing features that make people want to use your product/service in the first place.  Calacanis discusses it as the CEO wanting to announce cool new stuff while the CTO is not sure the infrastructure can handle the crush of people wanting to use the new feature—he uses Twitter as a possible example.

But I think this could be a post about the tension in general when you run a business—how much you promise vs. what you can deliver right now.  On the tech side, the question is whether your software/hardware will hold up.  But think about very non-techie businesses and a similar theme emerges. For example, a small ad agency pitches a big client, gets the work and quickly realizes it doesn’t have enough people to do the job.  In addition to the problem of finding the people,  there will be the issue of paying them, as the new project might promise mounds of money in the future, but will completely drain cash flow today. From the outside you see an agency that just landed a big client and is going places. From the inside you see an agency that might go broke before it ever gets the work done that would catapult it to a higher level of success.

It’s sort of the classic entrepreneurial bootstrap story—overpromise and then stress out on how to deliver. If you deliver, you get the rewards. If you don’t deliver, you’ve disappointed users/clients, and you might destroy your reputation before you even have one.

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about being my own boss is that I no longer feel that dread on Sunday night that I have to work the next day.  I think the entrepreneurial tension is something that drives you to want to work, because it’s an exciting challenge, even if it’s more stress than might be healthy.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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My Week as Michael Arrington

September 5, 2007

When you’re small and want attention, sometimes you do silly things.

After reading a post last week at TechCrunch called “Attack of the Fake Bloggers”, I got an idea. A wonderful, awful idea. How could it be that TechCrunch was chronicling Fake Steve Jobs and the like, yet no fake Michael Arrington (TechCrunch’s founder if you don’t know) existed?

So I started thinking about a day in the life of Michael Arrington and my first thought was Arrington sitting at breakfast analyzing a banana as if it was a Web 2.0 company. That thought turned into this post, and CrunchFood was born. Arrington himself was nice enough to mention the site, which spurred blog mentions from Fortune, Wired, WSJ’s All Things D, Valleywag and a number of other sites. Much traffic ensued, to my amazement and delight.

It was a lot of fun, but, alas, I have a day job, and I liked the eight or nine posts so much that anything more seemed as though it would ruin the fun. I could’ve come up with dozens of more titles like “Turkey, A Chicken Clone” and had a good time creating fake IMs in which Arrington gets annoyed at Jason Calacanis for saying Mahalo all the time, but, really, what was the point? As a reader, you got the joke; no need to belabor it.

If you happened upon CrunchFood last week, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If all my work was that much fun, I’d never feel like sticking a pencil in my eye.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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Where is Search Broken?

August 23, 2007

I wrote a guest post on AltSearchEngines.com yesterday asking the question “Where is Search Broken?” Please stop by, give it a read and offer your thoughts.

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