Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Love New York

I'm in New York City this week with Ted Guggenheim. Once again we've scheduled a number of meetings with people in the entertainment industry - artist management firms, attorneys, software developers, etc. It has been cool, sometimes wet and mostly gray during the two days we've been here so far, but as always seems to be the case for me the pulse of this place, the rhythm of the streets and the buzz of the traffic and the people, raises my heart rate and buoys my spirits. I like it here. There was a time I actively planned to buy a place somewhere in Manhattan and see what a life lived in the heart of the city might be like. It never happened. Instead, I've popped in from time to time - usually staying at the Algonquin, but recently using the Guggenheim family's condo as home-base instead. And what's not to like, it's in the same block as Carnegie Hall! I walk a few feet down the street, and see posters for Mitsuko Uchida, one of my favorite pianists.

And the next time she plays Carnegie Hall? Mon February 25th 2008, performing Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Boulez conducting. An excerpt from Andante's site on Boulez:

Pierre Boulez is one of the most important musical and intellectual figures of the twentieth century. As a composer, he wrote a new chapter in the history of music in the fifties, particularly with Le Marteau sans Maître. As a conductor, he gave contemporary music its rightful status and renovated many masterpieces of symphony and opera (Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok and others). He taught musical analysis, composition and conducting. He was for several years a professor at the Collège de France (Paris) and is a highly valued lecturer. As a researcher, he organized IRCAM, l'Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (the Institute for Acoustical/Musical Research and Coordination). He is also the author of many books and essays.


Ah, but that's New York. There are people like this on every street corner. I probably jostled a literary genius or two on my way through the crowded aisles of the marvelous Carnegie Deli during lunch, and as I glance out the window of the coffee shop, I see office workers mingling with Tony award winning composers and actors. That's what density - um, I mean population density - will do for you.

In any event, I love this place. Maybe one of these days I will bite the bullet and buy a place here. For now, though, I'm just happy to visit as often as I can, and I'm grateful that this business - iggli - has NYC as one of its gravitational centers. That's a wonderful thing!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TechStars

I'm impressed. I just spent the morning at the ATLAS building on the campus of CU checking out presentations of several of the companies that are participating in TechStars. A program begun by David Cohen with help from Brad Feld, Jared Polis and David Brown - and the support of the local entrepreneurial community - including entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capital firms - TechStars rocks.

This morning's presentations included Eventvue, Intense Debate, SocialThing, J-Squared Media, MadKast and Searchtophone. One of the remarkable things about these presentations was how consistently good they were. Not that there were no holes or flaws. But we're talking in most cases about two or three founders/entrepreneurs working their tails off for the past three or four months and coming up with results that are quite extraordinary. Kudos to the entrepreneurs. Kudos to David Cohen and the rest of the mentors and support that made this possible. I figure David Cohen must be exhausted.

Another amazing thing that seemed to impress everyone in the room that was a little older than 40: wow, these folks are really young! One friend, another entrepreneur, remarked, "I feel old. And expensive."

Finally, I'm quite stunned at the traction that at least one of the companies has been able to generate through its Facebook application. J-Squared Media reports revenues of $30K a month. They are already cash flow positive.

Again, congratulations to the entrepreneurs and to David Cohen et al. for putting all this together and pulling it off! And now I've got to go, I'm late to the afternoon session!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Facebook

Facebook

Wow! I just checked out iphone.facebook.com today. If you've got an iPhone and a Facebook account, you'll be absolutely amazed. Check it out (iphone.facebook.com)

Extraordinary use of the iPhone's features with Facebook's basic functionality. So far, it doesn't seem possible to access applications, but most everything else is readily available - photos, the Wall, profile, friends, etc. Just an outstanding job.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Yes, I got the iPhone too . . .



It was a week before the iPhone was scheduled for release, and I was hard pressed to decide whether I'd go with the Blackberry Curve or the iPhone. I've been a Blackberry user for a long time. I still like them. More than that, I've been a Verizon customer for years. I like the quality of Verizon's network. I can connect from almost anywhere I happen to be, nearly any part of any city in the country, and I seldom had dropped calls. I wasn't wild about switching to AT&T's EDGE network.

So I hedged. I bought the Blackberry Curve the week before the iPhone was released, but only after someone at AT&T's retail store told me that if I wasn't satisfied with the Blackberry Curve I had 30 days to return it for a refund.

That clinched it. I bought the Blackberry, knowing that in just a week's time I would also have Apple's iPhone. That way I could effectively compare the two and make an intelligent choice.

As the date for the iPhone's release drew near, the hype was over the top. My friend Ted paid to have someone stand in line on his behalf. I ran into another friend, Brian, the day of the iPhone's release, and he told me that he had given several folks the day off so they could wait in line, buy iPhones, and hopefully sell them at a profit.

I'm not much for lines. I waited until I got a call from Ted telling me that the lines had subsided. Then I walked into the Apple store, walked straight up to the counter, and the new 8GB iPhone was mine.

It took me two weeks time to conclude that I wasn't really going to use the Blackberry Curve. In that time, I managed to snap photos - on the iPhone - of two babies, a family reunion and a concert at the Fox Theater. I also experienced the satisfaction of being able to get directions on the iPhone via Google maps. But best of all, I became addicted to accessing the web to read news, search, etc. Even with AT&T's EDGE network, the experience was vastly superior to anything I'd been able to do with my Blackberry.

I've been amazed at how many people I run into are immediately captivated by the phone. They want to touch it. I usually have them go to photos and open the latest camera roll. They pictures of our grandson, Aiden Christopher. Or photos of Howard & Elizabeth's baby, Oliver. And when I reach in with my fingers and exapnd them to zoom in for a closer look, they're utterly hooked. Great technology, great user interfaces are magic!

A few weeks ago, I'd had enough of the Blackberry. I took it back to AT&T for my refund. But I also transfered my Blackberry's phone number to my iPhone. The number that I received through Apple's iTunes activation process has to have been the most random number I've ever seen. The number I received with the Blackberry, in contrast, was quite memorable. But that's hardly surprising. I picked it, and I knew when I chose the number that I wanted to maximize the number of repeating digits or patterns of repeating digits.

A final word about the iPhone. For all its flaws, this thing is just amazing. Utterly remarkable!

LA & NYC - The Music Industry Continued

In the past two weeks I've taken 19 meetings in LA and NYC. Some meetings were with managers, some with management firms, some with live music promoters, still others with entertainment industry lawyers. The purpose of these meetings was to outline what we were intending to introduce in the marketplace and learn what we could about what the reaction might be to our services.

First off, a huge thank you to my friend and VP Finance / VP Business Development, Ted Guggenheim, who arranged these meetings. Ted has been in the music business for nearly 20 years. And it was clear from our reception that he has a lot of friends in this business. Our dance card was full, and people took these meetings expecting to hear that we are about to do something significant.

We described an approach to the market that began with our target demographic, the audience that will be our focus as iggli launches its service. We went on to detail the basic elements of the service and articulate something about why we think the things we are doing are going to be interesting to all of the key players in the industry. The best part about all of this: people got it. With the exception of the first meeting in LA - a meeting that was more diffuclt than the others because our arrival in LA was at least an hour later than we'd planned (thank you United) - our connections with everyone in the industry had people nodding their heads in agreement.

So what are we planning? Without spoiling the launch, I think I can say that a couple of things. We're focused on the consumer. We want to deliver surpassing value in the context of the consumer's experience of connecting to music online. We're social network oriented. And we're planning to offer music to our customers but do it in a unique way.

We hear, over and over again, that the music industry - particularly with respect to the recording industry - is awash in gloom & doom. More than one of the persons we talked with has said to us that they believe this coming holiday will prove to be the season that shows the industry that they have gone "over the cliff." Not, mind you, that they are about to go over a cliff. Rather, that they are in freefall after having passed the point of no return. As the CD sales, on which the industry still depends for roughly 80% of its revenues, plummet, there will be nothing to cling to, nothing to break the fall.

And that's where we come in. Not that we think we can be a net or a parachute. But we think we do have a solution to a few problems. And based on our 19 conversations, the industry seems to think so too.