The Only Two Questions Founders Need to Answer

By Jason Calacanis

Every day a couple of dozen folks email me asking me to tell them what I think of their products.

When I have the time, or interest, to respond I generally ask myself a battery of questions:

a. Is the logo iconic?
b. Could you tell me the domain name over the phone once and have me type it in correctly?
c. Is it clear within 10 seconds what the purpose of this product or service is? Does it matter if it is clear?
d. Is the design world-class?

Those are tactical questions that let me know the person has skills. Everyone can pass those tests with a couple of months of hard work.

My two brutal questions, which you can't simply pass with a couple of months of hard work, are how recommendable and unforgettable your product is.

Here is how I ask them:

1. Would I recommend this product?
2. Will I remember this product next month and next year?

If you run an amazing product like...
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The Cult of Amazon Prime

By Jason Calacanis

There are two types of people in the world: those with Amazon Prime and those without.

How you think about consumption, commerce and your personal time is radically different depending on if you've join the cult -- yet.

And to be clear, Prime is a cult you will be joining.

At dinner parties and business meetings, I'll frequently ask who has Prime and what they think of it. The number has grown from one or two in seven to three or four out of seven folks over the past five years. My circles tend to be people like you, which is to say more technically sophisticated (and good looking).

Prime is at a tipping point.

Amazon is doing so well with Prime it will not say how many Prime members it has acquired since the program launched in 2005. Prime launched in three other countries -- the U.K., Japan and Germany -- in 2007.

It's around 5M according to the folks debating the issue on the interwebs. My guess is it doubles every 18 months or so.

One in three American households will have Amazon Prime (or have access to Prime) in the next four years.

This is a lock because
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Founders Define Reality (& Give Hope)

By Jason Calacanis

I recently had author Warren Bennis on "This Week in Startups" and he said something that struck me deeply:

"Leaders define reality."

The interview was so long we broke it into two parts. It's a commitment, but if you watch it I think you'll get a lot our of it. Part one & two.

The origin of the quote seems to be Napoleon Bonaparte: "The leader's role is to define reality, then give hope."

The challenge is that as a founder, you're going to be faced with brutal reality after brutal reality.

Looking back at my three big startups I can recall each of these "reality defining" discussions, and there is some advice I can give on them.
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Forget Lean Forward and Lean Back -- It's Curl Up

By Jason Calacanis

For the better part of the last two decades we've compared the lean-forward experience of computers with the lean-back experience of television.

At Mahalo today, as we were brainstorming new apps, we discussed an idea I had for a new app. Our president Jason Rapp asked, "Well, do you see it as a lean forward or a lean back experience?"

I thought for a minute and said, "Neither, it's more of a tablet experience. What would you call that? We need a name for that."

Then it hit me. Duh?

"It's the curl-up experience!" I blurted out.

Everyone nodded in complete understanding.

In fact, the most important experience in media is no longer...
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Am I Happy about the Gowalla and Facebook Deal?

[ Gowalla co-founder and CEO Josh Williams on "This Week in Startups" in December 2010. Episode here. ]

By Jason Calacanis

Since the leak on Dec. 2 that Facebook was buying mobile social startup Gowalla, which I was lucky enough to invest in, I've been getting a constant stream of questions.

-- Am I pleased with the outcome?
-- Did the founders do an end run around the investors?
-- Did Facebook do an end run around the investors?

In the words of Facebook's status feature: "It's complicated."

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Amazon Has a Ton of White Label Products and Is Hiding Them! (and Why Bezos Is the New Jobs)

By Jason Calacanis

Amazon has white-label products -- but it's hiding them.

Following up on my piece last night, Dan Gillmor [ @dangillmor ] told me that Amazon had started creating its own products under the "AmazonBasics" brand. I was shocked, as every week five Amazon boxes come to our house with everything from soy milk to batteries, and obviously tons of electronics.

It turns out that one item I just ordered, a slick car charger with two USB ports, is being offered by Amazon under its own name.

Why didn't I see that when I searched for it?
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Rumor: Amazon Retail Stores Coming & Predatory Pricing Channel Destruction

[UPDATE as of 11:41am PT on Thursday: Amazon Has a Ton of White Label Products and Is Hiding Them! (and Why Bezos Is the New Jobs) by Jason Calacanis. ]

By Jason Calacanis

Just heard an interesting piece of gossip from a very credible source: Amazon is going to open retail stores and will start making its own branded merchandise.

That would seem absolutely insane if we hadn't witnessed Bezos doing the following insane -- and wildly successful -- things:

1. Explode the tablet space by offering a below-cost $199 tablet.
2. Explode the video space by giving Amazon Prime subscribers instant streaming of 10K+ free movies and videos.
3. Explode the book space by giving Amazon Prime subscribers 5K loanable ebooks for free.
4. Explode the shipping space by offering folks free, unlimited two-day shipping for an Amazon Prime subscription of $79.

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Never Give up, Never Surrender

By Jason Calacanis

A year ago SNS (social network service) launched as the anti-Facebook. With odd product choices like a 50-person friend limit and an iPhone-only release, the service created a lot of discussion.

I became a huge fan of the privacy-first Path because, as many of you know, I've had a slight problem with the way in which Facebook has flipped user privacy, with opting folks in to features they would never embrace.

The government had a problem with Facebook's approach as well, and just last week Zuckerberg admitted his track record was a disaster.

Facebook agreed to a 20-year, third-party audit.

It's worth reading the settlement.

Back to Path. The service was considered dead.
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Google--errr... Motorola -- Launches Awesome Nike+ Competitor

The world is going to be a lot different if all of these interesting Motorola devices start having Google branding. Imagine if this device was integrated with Google Health -- oh wait, they shut that down didn't they?

Motorola debuted its new fitness device that will compete with Nike+, the MOTOACTV, today at the Motorola Droid RAZR event in New York City.

So, just imagine if the MOTOACTV was hooked up to Google+ to syndicate your workouts and help you find friends...
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Stepping Back From The Angel Bubble

[ Photo courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via Creative Commons License ]By Jason Calacanis

Everyone is talking about the startup bubble popping today thanks to a Wall Street Journal story that Fred Wilson responded to. You can read about all this on the awesome Techmeme aggregator here:  

No one can call a top to the market, but VC Mark Suster did last year, and I was right there with them letting folks know that I'm taking a "pause" on angel investing right now.

Why am I taking a pause and what do I think of this market?

A couple of reasons, and some related observation
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By the Way, What Have You Done That’s So Great?

By Jason Calacanis

1. Unrelenting attention to detail.

2. Impeccable taste.

3. Indefatigable passion.

4. Absolute conviction.

5. Unwavering vision.

6. Boundless curiosity.

7. Mercurial motivator.

One or two of these will help you make a living.

Three or four of these will make you successful.

Four of five of these will make you a legend.

Five or six of these will make you iconic for all time.

All seven will make you Steve Jobs.
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Be the 1%: Chamath, Airbnb, Occupy Wall Street and the Choice Millennials Should Make

[ A girl gets arrested as part of the Occupy Wall Street protests on Saturday, Oct. 1. Photo by Adrian Kinloch. ]

By Jason Calacanis

Last week my old AOL friend Chamath, who is now the hottest VC in Silicon Valley, unintentionally took a stand against, essentially, the way the Gen-Y founders of Airbnb were pulling $20M out of their startup.

At the same time thousands of the disenfranchised -- from fatigued Marines in fatigues to mid-level execs to mommy bloggers to pilots all dressed up with no where to fly -- occupied Wall Street in protests.

The white-haired White Shirts of New York's Finest lost their cool and pepper sprayed the innocent. Sad shades of a Kent State to come?

These baby-faced, well-spoken and highly intelligent millennials marched around Wall Street leading their parents into the fight of the 99% against the 1%.

The OWS protesters see a corrupt system filled with greed. I wonder if they see the fact that there are two different types of massive wealth creation:
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And That Maniac Is.... Jeff Bezos!

[ Photo of Jeff Bezos by Doc Searls via creative commons license. ]

By Jason Calacanis

Four days ago I wrote:

    How to Beat the iPad?

    If Microsoft, Sony, Google, HP and Samsung want to make an impact in the tablet space, there is a very, very simple solution: lose money.

    If I was running any of these companies, I would simply create a $99, $199 and $299 tablet and lose $10B getting 100M of them out there. Seriously, Apple will lower the cost of this overpriced device only when some maniac enters the market with a stunning price.
Well, that maniac has arrived, and his name is Jeff Bezos.
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Amazon Inks Deal with FOX to Bring More Movies and TV Shows to Prime Members


Transcript of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' letter to Amazon customers:

"Dear Customers,

I have big news for Amazon Prime members - we've just signed a deal with FOX to add a broad selection of movies and TV shows to our unlimited instant streaming service later this fall. The new additions from the FOX library include 24, Arrested Development, The X-Files, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and - available on digital video for the first time - The Wonder Years...

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What's Your Primary Consumption Device?

[ Photo of cat as iPad stand by Veronica Belmont via creative commons license. ]

By Jason Calacanis

For the past month I've been asking anyone with an iPad the following question:

"What’s your PCD?"

After explaining that PCD is short for "primary consumption device," almost everyone said, "My iPad."

There were two outliers.

One is the 50+ year-old CEO of one of the largest print media companies in the world that has transitioned to almost 50% digital revenue from a cold start a decade ago. He said the iPad was equal to his print consumption.

The other defector was
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The iPad Has Changed Everyone, Let's Talk About It

[ Photo courtesy of Juhalhalainen via creative commons license. ]

The iPad has changed my life radically over the past 17 months, and I’m so enamored with it that I’m going to host a one-day event on October 21 in Mountain View dedicated to tablet revolution. 

What’s Changed in My Life? 

1. Over 50% of content I consume is now on my iPad.
2. I watch an equal amount of video on my iPad as I do on my television set.
3.  On business trips I use the iPad as often as I use my laptop.
4. My 20-month old daughter and I use my old iPad one to read interactive books together, to learn her A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s -- literally!
5. When away from my desktop, I use my iPad to read email more often than I use my Blackberry.
6. I download five to 10 apps a month -- most of which are paid (in other words, I spend $25 a month on apps, or $300 a year).
7. My father has never used a computer before, but he now uses an iPad.
8. While on vacation in Paris and Venice this year, my wife and I used the stunning Zagat iPad app to quickly find two of the best meals of our lives.

In my opinion, tablet computing will be a greater revolution than the smart phone or laptop were.

If you have an iPad, you are nodding your head right now.

If you don’t own an iPad right now you’re saying “Yeah, whatever, Jason’s just an apex geek.” You couldn’t be more wrong if...

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DIOTD: Apple Paying a Cash Dividend to Shareholders!? Here's a Better Plan for $70B

[ Tim Cook, after Macworld Expo 2009 keynote. Courtesy of Valery Marchive via creative commons license. ]

By Jason Calacanis

The award for “dumb idea of the day” goes to Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty for lobbying Apple to pay a cash dividend to shareholders. 

With over $70B in cash on hand, and massive profits piling up at a rate of around $6B a quarter, it makes sense that short-term greedy analysts would want a quick pay day. 

However, there are three important things to keep in mind...

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Apple Stock down Only 5% in After-Hours Trading on News Jobs Leaving CEO Post

Perhaps as a testimony to how strong a foundation Steve Jobs has built -- or an indication that shareholders saw this coming -- Apple stock (Nasdaq: AAPL) has declined only 5% in after-hours trading on news that Jobs is stepping down as CEO.

Softening the blow are numerous factors. Apple has a strong leader in COO Tim Cook, the company has been planning for this moment for some time, and...

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