I've been listening to TWIST (This Week in Startups) since episode 3. I was hooked straight away, using the itunes podcast to listen to or watch the episodes I missed or those I couldn't make live on a Friday night. Watching live is a whole different experience, with the fantastic Ustream.TV technology being deployed to give a really interactive and engaging user experience.
In fact, for budding entrepreneurs the live forum is a great networking opportunity, as from time to time you connect with someone who may be of value to you. I have built a good number of contacts through the lively and informative Ustream.TV chat room banter, including Ian Thomas, an entrepreneur who pitched Jason in the Shark Tank in episode #20 (the one with Joe Essenfeld, from TechCrunch 50 fame, LocalBacon) and I recently met up with him at a Sprout Up event in London with another TWIST favourite and arguably the best guest to date, the" Wine Guy", Gary Vaynerchuck (the Crush It book launch).
This episode featured a strange Shark Tank presentation, preceeded by the usual drawn out explaination to the guest about Jason's horrifically disrespectful ordeal at the hands of the "incompetent" Shark Tank production team, in particular, Mark Burnett (who, even though he talks about it every week, Jason manages to conveniently forget his name).
The presentation itself, whilst a little monotonous and monotone, maybe a sign of being overly well rehearsed or well-scripted, was OK (got a ave score 7 out of 10) but it was both a lack of understanding of the actual product and the strange name/url selection that got the fingers typing in the chat room. To be honest, I still don't know what the business idea was so I won't try and explain it in too much detail here.
Every TWIST show features a special guest and there have been some very special guests to date. This show gave the stage to Shawn Gold, CEO of Cocodot. In general, he was incredibly insightful when he could get a word in edgeways. My favourite comment, which he made literally 2 seconds after I posted the same thing in the chat room, was the importance of API integration for the enhancement of a core product or platform and not to create a single point of failure as a business by building the whole product on an API that could be swept from under your feet on a whim. The reason I liked this? It reconfirms my strategy for our Fidgetstick/ 2.0 launch in February.
The business he presented, a rival to evite, was appealling for a number of reasons. In my opinion and from experience in bespoke printing software platforms, with invites in particular it's easy for templates to look tacky and there is actually considerable skill involved in producing an "off the e-shelf" design that can be bespokely personalised and still look authentic, original and inviting (after all you don't send invites out not to be inviting, do you?). I liked the examples we saw in the show and I think that what is a fairly straight forward business model and technological play, can be enhanced through eloquent execution such as this.
My favourite part if this episode was due to a combination of it's relevance to me right now and the skill involved in securing corporate sponsorship, or pre-emptive advertising before you've even got a product to market. A product that's delivering the first thing every 10 a penny brand or marketing manager will ask - how many hits does your site get? That's right, not how many uniques?, not how relevant is your site to me and my job? Not how can your site make me look good and enable me to reach the people I'm supposed to be reaching? In which lies the key and we were given a fascinating insight into the incredible Biz Dev techniques used by Shawn, to generate funding, income and profit to a fledgling startup with big ideas.
I used to really like the News feature, but I'm sorry Lon, I think you are losing your touch. I don't think you've really recovered from the "I didn't really read it, I just printed it out and ran to the studio without any preparation" escapade. If you read Techcrunch or Techmeme, which you really should if you're considering a career in technology and internet business, most of the stories are a tad "old hat". Maybe it's a little unfair to say that but unfortunately a sign of the times that the news moves so fast. Groupon and their big investment coup was interesting last week and there was nothing new there to talk about. Maybe you could spend a little bit more time on a Friday morning researching the latest interesting stories? Perhaps again, that's unfair, it is a weekly digest after all. Maybe I'll eat my "old hat" for saying so.
This show seemed to run on for quite a while, but didn't feel too long. I think Jason was on fine form today and gave some interesting and contentious subjects their place in the limelight... I mean, how many shows have covered porn ("the porn industry has been dessimmated by user submitted free content!"), lesbianism ("was it BrokeBack?"), Hitler, Stalin, Kim Jong Il, Nazism, Politics ("stupid people make stupid decisions, like voting for George Dubya twice in a row!")*, how Facebook's arrogant CEO Mark Zuckerberg is going to secure the demise of the web. I mean come on! Fortunately for Jason, Scientology got skipped over, as if he had any bridges left to burn!
Overall, this episode got a solid 8.5 from me. Condense it a little, so I can go to bed before 11pm (especially as you convinced me it would be a good idea to write a blog straight after - roll on 1am!), as I'm off kayaking the River Stour early in the morning (that's right, UK fan club here!) and it would be a 9.5 every time. Keep up the good work #TWIST
PS Thanks @Ustream, @Webspy @DNAMail @Audible_com, you rock my world!
*quotes were from memory, probably not wholly accurate, but close enough!