The first thing you learn as a second time entrepreneur is that the half-life of your insight is consistently decreasing.
When we started Topix and pitched the three biggest newspaper companies on what we thought about the future of news, they were impressed enough to invest less than a year out from our launch at a $60M valuation.
The contents of that pitch would get – at best – a stifled yawn today. Our understating of how to build a site focused on SEO and search technology was great for that time and place, but we needed to keep moving and keep up, in our case by focusing on commentary and interaction. We’re not the only company to figure that out, but locking into the “local” sector, it was hard for others to follow. We’ve been able to build a profitable, ad-driven news business that’s not overwhelmed by giants like Facebook, Apple or Google.
The current challenge for all of us is mobile, specifically, how to drive online revenues to mobile’s reduced screen sizes, lack of retargeting and many other issues. We’re all flying blind around this, making it up and trying to figure out the insights that will keep us growing (or even surviving). As Instagram proved, even Facebook is keeping watch over its shoulder.
However, being based in Silicon Valley provides access to resources that despite social media, and the plethora of new entrepreneurial communities all over the world, are unique.
One of those, for me, has been Debbie Landa and her Under the Radar conferences. Luckily, I used to live across the street from her and have presented, judged and attended Under the Radar. Intimate, curated events like these have become key for finding and talking to people who are going through similar issues. I also get to hear from guys like Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA about the directions agencies are going, which is strategic to how I run my business and tell me how much I don’t actually know about the state of mobile and monetization.
It’s is a tricky time for entrepreneurs. It feels like we’re between a social land-grab and a huge shakeout around mobile.
With the state of the industry rapidly evolving and the difficulties posed by mobile in an already cutthroat market, hearing that little insight or anecdote sometimes is the difference between a good quarter or a bad one — or a series A or shutdown. This is a good time to take advantage of living here (or getting here if you can) to get the living picture of what’s going on.
I know I will.
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