Alexa Question

Let’s say you have a site present in tons of countries –,, etc. Would any of you know of a way to have Alexa aggregate all the traffic on

Needless to say using is not an option as locals would not go for it…

Actually, while I am at it, I might as well ask another question 🙂 What if also owns Anyway for both traffic to show up under on Alexa without changing the URL of


A Star is Made – Part 2

After the recent article in the New York Times by the Freakonomics authors arguing that high performance is due to “deliberate practice” rather than innate talent, further evidence is emerging. The most recent issue of Fortune had an entire section on what it takes to be great, supporting the case for deliberate practice.

As it concludes: “The striking, liberating news is that greatness isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”

If you are willing to practice relentlessly to improve for years on end that is…

Read the entire article:

To new beginnings!

Yesterday, as I was reflecting on this new beginning, I was overcome by great feelings of joy, pride and ambition.

In many respects, this moment is the purest moment we will experience on this adventure. It is untainted by legacy, history, setbacks and deceptions all of which are bound to happen, even on the way to an amazing destination.

And so right now we feel this beautiful amalgam of dreams, hopes, fears and ambition.

Those are the moments we live for.
Those are the moments people dream of.
Those are the moments that shape our destiny.

So let us to take a step back and be grateful for the opportunity available to us and hopeful about this amazing journey that awaits us.

Turkey is amazing!

Last August, as part of a business trip, I spent a few days exploring Turkey. I had an amazing time. The country is beautiful with an extremely rich history, the food is great and the people are friendly!

In Istanbul we stayed at the Ciragan Palace Hotel which is a beautiful hotel on the Bosphorus. On Saturday we started at 9 am, drove to the Sultanahmet area to visit the Roman Hippodrome. It was built in the 2nd century AD by Septimus Severus and extended to its colossal dimension by Constantine the Great. Today it is adorned with historic monuments including an Egyptian Obelisk and a Serpentine Column.

We then visited the Blue Mosque built between the years of 1609 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmet I. It is known as the Blue Mosque for its 20,000 hand made blue Iznik tiles that decorate its interior. From there, we went to the Hagia Sophia built by Justinian the Great in the 6th century AD. Today it is regarded as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

We then visited the Basilica Cistern, a beautiful piece of Byzantine engineering. It was largely emptied to allow visits and in the process discovered two amazing Medusa heads at the bottom of two of the pillars.

After lunch at a local restaurant we went to the Topkapi Palace. Built in 1479 it was the center of the Ottoman Empire where the Sultans and their court lived, ruled, and governed for hundreds of years. We then went to the Spice Market built in 1660 as part of the New Mosque complex before returning to the hotel to relax by the pool.

The next day we went on a tour of the Bosphorus on a private yacht. We got off in Bebek a lovely town on the Bosphorus and drove to Taksim, the center of today’s Istanbul which had a lively pedestrian street. We had lunch in a great local kebab house run by Kurds.

From there we drove to the airport. On the way, we stopped by Pierre Loti’s House for tea. There we learned that Pierre Loti was a French writer who came to Constantinople as a navy officer in 1879 before falling in love with a local and with Istanbul. Today his former home is a very pleasant coffee house overlooking the Golden Horn area.

We then caught a flight to Kayseri and drove to Cappadocia. We stayed at the Museum Hotel, an amazing cave hotel. We had to wake up at 4 am the next morning to take a balloon ride to watch the sunrise and fly over the entire region.

We then spent the day exploring the Cappadocia region. We visited, Goreme the open air museum, hiked in Zelve Valley, met pottery and ceramic makers in Avanos, visited an onyx workshop and explored the Kaymakli Underground City before flying back to Istanbul.

All it was an amazing experience that I would recommend to everyone! Both Istanbul and Cappadocia were exciting and interesting. Istanbul presented and amazing mix of the cosmopolitan energy of a city like New York with extraordinary historical richness! Cappadocia offered a beautiful panorama and rugged history with natural appeal!

I highly recommend using a guide – the experience is all the more enjoyable as you understand the historical significance of every monument. I highly recommend the guide I used – Mahir Pasha ([email protected]) – he is smart, extremely knowledgeable about everything, speaks perfect English and is well traveled.

My concerns with Youtube (it’s not the business model)

I don’t worry too much about the business model for Youtube – after all it’s pretty clear they could be making a lot of money selling pre-roll or post-roll ads on the site. With 100 million daily videos served they could probably get a CPM of $1 on low quality content playing 10-15 second post-roll ads and much more than that on premium content. At $1 CPM that’s $36.5 million per year in revenues with 95%+ gross margin. At $10 CPM that would be $365 million making the acquisition price extremely reasonable.

What worries me most about Youtube are copyright issues. It’s not just that people are uploading clips from TV shows, but copyrights are infringed in much subtler ways in a much larger portion of the content. If two teens are singing with music in the background – it’s a copyright violation. To some extent Youtube is protected while it’s not profiting from the content but monetizing it with ads. In order to start monetizing the site they are going to have to cut deals with many copyright owners – and there are many more of those than you might think. In many cases in music alone it’s unclear who owns the publishing rights for a song… It’s a non-trivial problem and not one that Google has ever truly faced before on this scale. It’s going to be interesting to see how they play it.

My second worry revolves around faddishness. Online video, like social networking, is here to stay. However, switching costs are low and teenagers are fickle. It could very well be that some site takes over from Youtube – or MySpace for that matter – as those sites “grow up.” Then again they could become the MTV for the new generation, but as trends change ever more rapidly, it’s hard to believe that any company will be able to keep its pulse on teen taste for 20 years as MTV has done so far.

I suppose for Google most of this is irrelevant. Youtube adds AdWords inventory and gives it a shot at being more than a one-trick pony. In fact given Google’s lofty valuation, I would go on a shopping spree buying valuable real assets.

Mobile Content: Bullish on the Market, Bearish on the Startups

I suppose I am better placed than most to evaluate the mobile content market having built and sold one of the premier mobile media companies in the U.S.

Let me start by saying that I am extremely optimistic on the mobile market and mobile media market in general. Cell phone penetration is continuing to increase around the world. Phones and bandwidth are improving, with 3G phones starting to reach the mainstream and the industry starting to think about 4G. Consumers are increasingly comfortable using data services on their cell phone. As a result, the already large (multi-billion dollar) ringtone and mobile gaming markets will continue to grow and new services such as mobile video will start to reach the $1 billion revenue level on a global level.

Conclusion 1: The mobile media market is large and growing.

Unfortunately for the startups in the market, the underlying market dynamics do not play in their favor. One of my nine business selection criteria is never to be in a business where there is a risk of margin compression and/or disintermediation by customers and/or suppliers. In mobile media, all those risks are present. The carriers have all the leverage: you need them for billing, they can block you if they want to and it’s good to have them promote you. In the U.S. the top 5 carriers will account for 95+% of your revenues. If you are in ringtones, music licenses from the top 4 music labels will account for the majority of your costs. Such cost and revenue concentration is both inherently risky and gives tremendous leverage to both suppliers and customers. All the on-deck ringtone providers have at the very least seen their margins squeezed in the past few years and in some cases have been fully disintermediated with the carriers taking over the label relationships directly. All this explains the recent stumbles of Infospace in the past few weeks as Cingular has gone direct.

This risk is the sole reason I sold Zingy. Arguably I sold too early as I had not expected the revenue to ramp that much in 2004 and 2005, but better to sell too early than too late! That is not to say that all intermediaries fail. HBO and MTV essentially started out as small aggregators of third party content selling it to the cable companies. The movie studios, labels and cable companies wield almost as much power as the labels and carriers do today. However, HBO and MTV today owe a large part of their success to the brand they built and the content they now create. A few companies can succeed in transitioning from being content aggregators to content creators, but the transition is costly and fraught with risk. It’s much easier to do if you are owned by a media company with content and deep pockets. As such, Jamba makes much more sense as part of News Corp than part of Verisign.

It’s also important to note than in the early days, the margins can be very good. For instance, the carriers did not pay much attention to the ringtone market until it got big so at first the business was very lucrative.

Conclusion 2: The market dynamics favor the carriers, you can make money in the early days but if the market gets big they will compress your margins or disintermediate you.

Conclusion 3: Ringtone companies have to transition to becoming brands and/or content creators or they will be relegated to being low margin aggregators for small labels.

My comments are not specific to the ringtone market. Unfortunately for mobile game companies similar dynamics play out. In the early days of the mobile gaming market it cost $50,000 to make a game, licenses were cheap and most of the games make money. In many ways this was reminiscent of the PC gaming industry in the 1980s. However, as the devices grew in complexity and the market grew, licensing and development costs increased dramatically moving the market in a hit-driven direction. It made perfect sense for Jamba to sell themselves to EA – EA was in a strong position to obtain mobile rights for many properties in light of the copyright licenses it was obtaining. Moreover, you need deep pockets to survive in a hit driven environment – which EA has.

Conclusion 4: The mobile gaming market is just as tough for startups as the ringtone market as development and licensing costs are increasing as devices increases in complexity and the market grows attracting the traditional large gaming companies.

Unfortunately the same analysis is largely true in video and other content driven business where the content owners and the carriers are also best positioned to capture the economics.

Conclusion 5: In general, if you depend on branded third party content where the suppliers are concentrated your margins will be compressed and you might be disintermediated.

The obvious conclusion might be to focus on user generated content. However, a mobile only user generated content play may not work given that the offline user generated content companies are going mobile:

  • The mobile advertising market is not large yet making it hard to be free if you are a mobile only play
  • Established players like MySpace are aggressively looking at getting into the market limiting the opportunity for mobile only startups: MySpace already has a community and they may choose to be largely free to extend their brand and reach (they don’t need the revenues from mobile)

Conclusion 6: Mobile only user generated content ideas will face many challenges if they compete head-on with online user generated content sites going online.

All that is not to say that there is not a lot of money to be made in mobile media. Many startups have done well and had successful exits. Jamba may be transitioning successfully to a HBO/MTV model. I am sure a few startups will come up with amazingly compelling mobile products we have not thought of and be incredibly successful. All I am saying is that the market dynamics inherently make the market difficult to operate in and near-impossible to create a mobile-only multi-billion dollar startup.

Conclusion 7: Given all of the above, I will personally be focusing on online opportunities that will use mobile as an important distribution channel but will not be pursuing mobile-only opportunities.

Top ten geek business myths

Ron Garret, an LA based venture capitalist, recently posted a hilarious and very true analysis of the top 10 tech entrepreneur myths:

Myth #1: A brilliant idea will make you rich.
Myth #2: If you build it they will come.
Myth #3: Someone will steal your idea if you don’t protect it.
Myth #4: What you think matters.
Myth #5: Financial models are bogus.
Myth #6: What you know matters more than who you know.
Myth #7: A Ph.D. means something.
Myth #8: I need $5 million to start my business
Myth #9: The idea is the most important part of my business plan.
Myth #10: Having no competition is a good thing.

Special bonus myth (free with your paid subscription): After the IPO I’ll be happy.

Read the full article at:

The Departed is awesome

This is Martin Scorsese’s best movie in years. With an all star-cast that includes Jack Nicholson, Leonardo Di Caprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen, the movie was amazing. It builds such palpable tension that a mere phone call between two characters puts you on the edge of your seat. It’s dark and gloomy and feels so real and gritty. In case you need a reminder of why not to be an undercover cop or a criminal, this is it 🙂

Hollywoodland is good if a bit dark

I was pleasantly surprised if a bit shocked to see that Ben Affleck can actually act, showing sensitivity and vulnerability instead of being the invulnerable action pretty boy he usually plays. He may have just revived his career with this movie! Adrien Brody is great as always.

It was very interesting to see the various scenarios for George Reeve’s death. Brody’s detective work was intriguing. The movie projects an aura of despair and darkness that reflects the reality for most aspiring actors. We normally only see the glamorous lives of the lucky few who have made it. In a sense George Reeve had achieved success as Superman, but he could not deal with just being Superman. He wanted to achieve more, but that was no longer possible…

The Illusionist is great

I might be on the way to earning the reputation as the nicest amateur movie critic in the world – not a single negative review – but you need to realize this is due to selectiveness – I only see movies I think I will enjoy. Moreover, my standards are different from most critics – if I am entertained, I will give the movie a good review regardless of its cinematographic quality and plot intelligence.

After this brief non-sequitur, let me return to the topic at hand. Ed Norton and Paul Giamatti are excellent. The topic is interesting as it plays off the idea of magic versus illusion in the little known (for me at least) setting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Go see it!