Dustin Curtis

Villain. Founder of Svbtle.

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Dr. Koop and The Bubble

In early 1997, an ambitious healthcare startup called Dr. Koop, which was founded by former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, went online. It was during the era when internet portals reigned, and the company spent its first year struggling to gain exposure. By the end of 1997, with no traction and zero revenue, it was running out of money.

On April 6th, 1998, the company closed a respectable $1M Series A financing. It wasn’t enough, apparently, because just 22 days later, it closed another $6.8M Series B round. By the end of 1998, Dr. Koop had taken about $8 million in financing, made just $43,000 in revenue, and suffered a net loss of $8.997 million.

Nine months after the series B money was in the bank, and in desperate need of more cash, the company raised another $3.5M. It was January of 1999, at the height of one of the largest valuation bubbles in history, and Dr. Koop was

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Just say “No.”

Yahoo has just announced Axis, a browser extension thing and mobile app that “redefines what it means to search and browse the Web [sic].”

• A group of people at Yahoo, including engineers, designers, and product managers had to conceive of, design, and build this product, which works basically identically to browser toolbars from the early 2000’s. It does have a sync feature, but it requires that you use a new custom, dedicated browser on your mobile device.

• A group of people at Yahoo had to make the marketing website, which describes the product ambiguously and does not actually contain any real screenshots or information.

• A group of people had to write, design, direct, and edit the advertisement on that marketing website. It’s an advertisement of a man punching 15-foot-tall transparent glass websites, followed by a giant pepper tree growing out of cement in an empty

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Exploiting reality

This morning, I received a LinkedIn message from a man named James Holm, who identified himself as a corporate recruiter with Weyland Industries. Weyland is the corporation that funded the the Prometheus project in the upcoming Ridley Scott movie of the same name.

This message was clearly tailored specifically for me, and I think it’s pretty awesome. But it does raise some interesting questions about the divide between so-called viral marketing and reality. Mr. Holm has a complete profile on LinkedIn which documents his career. But he does not exist.

Because these kinds of campaigns have to exploit existing reality, marketers have to find places where the benefit of advertising revenue for a distribution, content, or platform company (like LinkedIn) outweighs the cost to that company of sacrificing user trust in their experience. In this case, LinkedIn was probably paid a bundle

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Warren Buffett on IPOs

“It’s almost a mathematical impossibility to imagine that, out of the thousands of things for sale on a given day, the most attractively priced is the one being sold by a knowledgeable seller (company insiders) to a less-knowledgeable buyer (investors).”


Congratulations to $FB.

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Twitter is tracking you on the web

In a blog post today announcing Twitter’s new tailored suggestions system is something that has left me shocked: an overt admission by Twitter that it is transparently tracking your movements around the web. Othman Laraki, on the Twitter blog:

These tailored suggestions are based on accounts followed by other Twitter users and visits to websites in the Twitter ecosystem. We receive visit information when sites have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets, similar to what many other web companies — including LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube — do when they’re integrated into websites. By recognizing which accounts are frequently followed by people who visit popular sites, we can recommend those accounts to others who have visited those sites within the last ten days.

Basically, every time you visit a site that has a follow button, a “tweet this” button, or a hovercard, Twitter is recording

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GM pulls ads from Facebook

Joann Muller, at Forbes:

Just days before Facebook’s historic stock offering, General Motors said it plans to stop advertising on the social media site, concluding that its paid ads don’t have a big impact on consumers. […]

The news comes at an awkward time for Facebook, whose $105 billion IPO is scheduled for Friday.

“Awkward?” No. For someone, strategic. (Or, maybe, vengeant).

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Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft

May 15, 2012. You can call Steve Ballmer many things, but you cannot call him the “the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today,” as Forbes’ Adam Hartung did in a recent article. It’s easy to see Microsoft as a bumbling fool of the tech world, but when you look closely at its business, the company’s core competencies, and Ballmer’s decisions, a coherent picture begins to form. It’s a picture of a company being run from a very rational and respectable set of philosophies.

While Microsoft is no disruptive force in tech today, the truth is that it has never been. The company’s core competency is a process it uses for entering and consuming existing industries. After it enters a market, it rides off the innovations of its competitors, uses its existing brand power and sheer size to tackle a large surface area at the bottom of the market, and then, finally, it develops a

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Quora’s $50 million

The question and answer site Quora just announced that it recently closed a $50 million series B financing which valued the company at $400 million. Usually, the purpose of a large funding round like this is clear; Square, for example, raised a bundle of cash because they’re attempting to accelerate growth with expensive marketing and by giving away hardware dongles. With Quora, the purpose is less clear. There are only so many things you can do with raw cash to accelerate the growth of a question and answer community. So why would they raise so much? How could they raise so much?

Shayndi Raice, at The Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Heiliger said one of the key reasons he invested in Quora is because of his friendship with Mr. D'Angelo and Mr. Cheever when they worked together at Facebook several years ago.

“I know Adam and Charlie and think highly of both of those guys,” Mr. Heiliger said

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Why HBO’s president panned internet streaming

In an article published a couple of days ago, Forbes writer Erik Kain suggested that HBO’s president, Eric Kessler, called internet streaming distribution a “temporary phenomenon,” and then he blamed HBO’s supposed incompetence for causing the extremely high rates of piracy for its original content. It was a very misleading and shallow article.

Who would believe that the president of HBO is so dense that he would make such an absurd comment? It’s so unbelievable that I went to the primary source, a 40 minute video interview with Mr. Kessler, which draws a fascinating picture of HBO’s business strategy. After listening to the entire interview twice, I could not pinpoint where Kessler actually said “temporary phenomenon.” He hinted at the opposite, in fact, and then he articulately rationalized HBO’s position from a business perspective. (He did mention that the depressed economy was

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Facebook’s App Platform

One of Facebook’s biggest strengths is its web platform, but with the evolution of hardware-tied mobile app stores, that platform is slowly (very, very slowly) becoming irrelevant. Today, Facebook announced its App Center, presumably to compete more directly with the Play Market and the App Store. Aaron Brady, on the Facebook developers blog:

Today, we’re announcing the App Center, a new place for people to find social apps. The App Center gives developers an additional way to grow their apps and creates opportunities for more types of apps to be successful.

In the coming weeks, people will be able to access the App Center on the web and in the iOS and Android Facebook apps. All canvas, mobile and web apps that follow the guidelines can be listed. All developers should start preparing today to make sure their app is included for the launch.

This strategy has the potential to be very

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