I have been observing that for a while hesitating to publish the thought, but today, i decided to push the button. Since i am the web industry (nearly 10 years) i realized that very few companies are really innovating. They basically drive the industry which is simply following up, creating variations or simple copies of the original model. Yahoo invented the portal, ICQ instant messenger, Amazon e-commerce supermarket with their famous tab structure, Google re-invented search (Inktomi and Altavista were the pioneers)...Sometime you don't invent a practice but you set a standard: Facebook for example with social networks or Skype for Voip
The same goes with smaller companies but also with blogs. I have just read an article of ParisLemon on ArsTechnica copying other blogs (there are many other examples like this). Since i started with Techcrunch, i have seen around me this happen so many times, including people that are trying to follow the same path as i did, by writting for big blogs or just taking what i do on techcrunch france and replicating it on their own blog. I have no problem with that (i also "copy" when the idea is good). This is how it works. Other get inspired by others.
I have no problem with that unless you don't mention the credit to the original model or standard, and unless it starts to hurt your own business.
There are clear cases when the law can interfere to stop someone from copying what you do. That's what copyrights law are made for. There are also some cases when it is not so clear it is worth launching a legal war and sometimes an email/ conversation can solve the issue. I see that happens all the time: a logo that is too close, a website design to similar.
I'll give you an example of the copy/paste nature of the web with a company we have invested in. Outbrain is providing a rating system with a block or related posts for bloggers and readers. You can see that block in my own blog at the bottom of most posts (You can also see it on VentureBeat, CenterNetworks and other big blogs). Here is a screenshot below
It was launched about a year ago. I discovered less than 6 months ago that a startup called Zemanta was offering exactly the same feature, with the same design, in the same real estate. It is hard to believe they did this without copying Outbrain's model. Here is below a screenshot of Zemanta's widget you can see from Fred Wilson's blog (note Fred Wilson has nothing to do with that of course).
I hope Zemanta will change that in order to avoid user/partner's confusion. Again i don't care if someone get inspired by someone, as long as it is done correctly without a clear intention of ripp off and of course without consideration for legal rules but also for respect for users and business partners. Doing business honestly is important on the web also.
Technorati Tags: zemanta outbrain copycat copy blogs
Here is the reason i am taking a few days off: i am invited by Alfa Romeo to test a new upcoming car called Mito. This is why i posted the teasing the other day. I am not sure why they picked me (along with a few other guys). Probably because i write TechCrunch France which is one of the biggest blogs in Europe and maybe because they are and will use strongly the web and its ressources to push this car smartly to its potential users as you may see from their website.
I any case, this is going to be fun. I will report a few details as i can connect to the internet
There is a lot of negative press in France around Nicolas Sarkozy. Too much in my opinion. Actually there is always negative press in France when you try to change things and in France a lot of things need to be changed. However in Israel, some people think he's pretty sexy and make very strong declarations. Below a video collected by a friend of mine that is quite "refreshing". Maybe he would have stayed a little more had he seen it? :) See for yourself below.
I attended today the conference for entrepreneurs in Jerusalem in the presence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. It was a fantastic place for networking and met many friends i have not seen for a while. He spoke in French and i had the idea the record it in a podcast you can listen below (he spoke in French). He spoke very directly and clearly said that business relations between both countries are not enough.
I am not sure he is aware of my small contribution to this: TechCrunch France (one of the top french blogs i am writting) is written from Israel neither than Gemini and LightSpeed invested in 2 French startups (Wikio.com and Bahu.com) but i am sure there is something right about his observations. Too many entrepreneurs still think the US market is the gold mine. It is a crowded one, with a weak money. Europe is not so crowded with a strong Euro..Make the maths..
Laurence Parisot, president of the MEDEF (corporate organization in France) also delivered a great speech. She came with 100 french SMBs ( a first in the history of israel) that were impressed by the israeli creativity and dynamism. One quote to remember "In israel believing in Miracles is being realistic". Inspiring
Technorati Tags: sarkozy israel parisot jerusalem conference
Very often i meet startups and do not "connect" with their services. This leads me to give an opinion on why this cannot be successful.I always try to justify it rationally (adding this is my opinion). Most of the time i think i can do that. the problem is that many times i am wrong. Of course i am not always wrong otherwise my employers would have fired me by now.... One of the thing i am trying to learn through my job as a VC is keeping track of the thing i was wrong about, understand why and improve the way i evaluate things and people.
About a year ago, when i first heard of Dopplr, a travel sharing service, i thought this would never catch up because the service was based on a simple declaration of your trips. But then they introduced sharing with your friends and improved dramatically the user interface. In my last trip to Korea i updated my dopplr account and i got instant information of a good friend travelling there the same dates. I would have never known that otherwise. Dopplr proved to bring a strong added value. Now this will be part of my every trip. I admit i was wrong about Dopplr (but right in the way it was originally built).
I could give a long list of services i would have never bet on and that are now succeeding or starting to succeed (and a longer list of cases where i was right). I think it is important to admit you are wrong even if the exercise if painful. Put your ego aside, analyze your own biais, and correct it.
For example i have been saying for a couple of years there is no web2.0 bubble. I still think i am right and that most people that are trying to explain do not have solid backup (most of the time journalists). I could be wrong and a bubble will happen. I will then admit it, publicly but will try to understand why. And make sure next time i have a better evaluation.
Same thing goes with evaluating people. This is why a second chance is important.
Admitting you are wrong can only work on a dynamic basis. A one off is close to useless.
France will be well represented next week in Israel. President Nicolas Sarkozy is coming for a visit of State to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel. He will be accompanied by many personnalities and startups.
I will have the opportunity to meet him and a delegation of companies next Tuesday in Jerusalem.
For those who don t know: i am French but live in Israel. Lot of political encounters lately. More soon also. keep track
Technorati Tags: france israel nicolas sarkozy
I am very excited by my upcoming trip to Seoul and Tokyo. I was invited to join a delegation of business men by french foreign trade minister Anne Marie Idrac. I ll spend a couple of days in Seoul and Tokyo for several interviews and meetings with key local business men, politicians and trade organizations.
I have travelled a few times in the past for business to China and Hong Kong but this is my very first time in those two countries.
Right now i am trying to find out how to get a 3G phone there. Neither my blackberry or iPhone are working there (nor the collection of nokias or LGs i have at home)
I will have close to zero connection to internet and cellphone. Funny for countries where very high speed internet is years in advance of our old countries...
If you have any special tip, please drop them in comments
Technorati Tags: korea, japan, trip, france, annemarieidrac
Zapping on my TV i stumbled upon Boaz Mauda singing at the Eurovision 2008. Beyond the fact i think the Eurovision is one of the poorest musical programs ever created on TV in terms of musical quality, i was really wondering why Israel chose Boaz and chose this song (Fire in your eyes) .
Boaz is a gracious guy, and probably has a nice voice although i cannot fully appreciate it. But the young kid, winner of the israeli Pop Idole, does not have the charism of a great singer. He cannot stand right without making me feel uncomfortable. He does not have the presence and the magnetism you expect from a star.