Time Allocation Philosophy

Life is essentially a large prioritization exercise – how much time you allocate to work, your significant other, your friends, your family, etc. Even within companies as there is only so much a team can do, a manager’s single most important task may be setting the right priorities for the people reporting to him.

This is even more true when selecting business ideas. I am a big believer that we can only do a few things well. It’s hard to be fully committed to a project if you are working on five projects simultaneously. In other words, I would rather put my eggs in a few baskets and watch the baskets carefully than invest in many different projects.

That is why I am only an investor in 4 companies. Even then, 2 of the companies are complements and the other 2 companies are partial substitutes trying to solve a single problem. In other words, I only have two underlying markets to think about.

Within those 4, my capital and time is allocated in direct proportion to my perceived market opportunity and my personal opportunity (e.g.; at what valuation can I invest, how much of the company can I own). My time commitment is then directly correlated with the size of the potential outcome.

In other words, of the 4 companies I have 2 small investments where I help out a little on strategic thinking and business development, but spend no more than 5 hours a week total for both companies. I have one investment where I am large investor and chairman of the board. I defined the product specifications, managed the fund raising, hired the key team members and set the direction, but again, at this stage that requires less than 10 hours per week. Finally, I am co-founder and co-CEO of a new startup where I am spending the bulk of my time trying to get the company off the ground.

I already spoke of my small investment in Phanfare, I will speak of the other three companies soon especially as I need the community’s creative juices to crack two of the very difficult problems two of the companies are facing.

On another note, all of the above does not mean I would not invest in 1 or 2 more projects or be on the board of 1 or 2 more companies so keep sending me business plans and ideas! At the very least I will give you honest feedback. Besides I love the intellectual stimulation of meeting new entrepreneurs and talking through new ideas! However, it does mean that the bar is set very high. Good luck 🙂

  • Hi Fabrice,

    It appears that the site’s main differentiating factor is that where other sites indirectly get you to pay later for the service (via forced ads, photo frames and related products, etc), Phanfare wants upfront premium payment.

    It also notes on the press page that users have no guarantee that other services will keep their photos online, but this also applies to phanfare; there is no guarantee that the company will last, or if it does, for how long it will last to merit the current “lifetime” membership fee from a user standpoint.

  • Great post Fabrice. Jeff Clavier from SoftTech VC spoke on a pod cast regarding mashups and mirrored your sentiments with regards to the communities’ creative juices. His statement that we don’t innovate in isolation anymore, we now innovate in the open.

  • Geekette,
    You are right that Phanfare’s proposition is more straight forward than that of the online photo finishers or ad-supported plays. You pay us to host your photos and videos and that is what we do. Hence, our interests are well aligned with those of our customers.

    For the online photo finishers, the sharing is not the product and hence they actually don’t want it to be too good or it will cannibalize the sale of print-related products. For example, they don’t allow downloading of fullsize originals for home priting. We do.

    For the photo and video sharing sites that are ad-supported media plays, the issue is that the advertiser is also a customer, leaving the consumer with a space that is far too commercial to tell a personal story.

    Compared with the ad-supported sites, we can also afford to provide real support and talk to our customers. We realize that not everyone can afford to pay to host their media with Phanfare. Many will settle for whatever they can get for free from the media players even if it means that they lose their fullsize images when their local disk crashes. But photography and video are huge and we are content to be the premium site for a very large minority.

    Finally, there are significant technology advantages on the management side for Phanfare compared to other companies. We provide a downloadable thick client that provides the benefits of a local organizer (fast and immersive interaction) with the advantages of a network-centric system. You can download the Phanfare client on any computer and get access to your whole collection, including full-size original images.

    As for your final questions about guarantees around longevity, once again our business model increases the likelihood that your media will stay available online. For an ad-supported play, you have to ask yourself what incentives the company has to keep your media available if it does not draw traffic. And you have to wonder what happens in a bad ad market. We all know what happened to free sites the last time the ad-market retracted. For the printing sites that provide storage, there is even less incentive to keep your media up if you stop buying prints. In fact, Kodak specifically warns customers that they will take down your images if you don’t buy prints with some frequency.

    Andrew Erlichson
    Phanfare, Inc.

  • Fabrice,

    I believe its not all about allocating time. Every business have problems. Depending on the markets they are, problems change but generally they are all problems.

    So its much about problem solving. If you are capable of solving problems faster than the rest you can allocate your time to more companies than your rivals.

    Just to make this process faster you employ Board of Directors, now its not about allocating only your time but allocating others time too.

    In my opinion if the investor, backer or etc. (you name it) wants to enter into different businesses; the rest must focus on one subject only.

  • Fabrice,

    I agree. Life is about time allocation. But there are so many moments where you lose track of it: just like when after meeting Thomas Serval on a flight, I had dinner with Martin Schaedelin Copenhagen and both spoke about you!