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TechCrunch Giveaway: Sound Blaster Roar

Follow this link http://virl.io/zajwkzt

TechCrunch

The folks at Creative Labs are giving away four Sound Blaster Roar wireless Bluetooth speakers to four lucky TechCrunch readers. What is this Sound Blaster Roar device, you ask?

This compact 5-driver speaker setup consists of 2 amplifiers and 1 built-in subwoofer, and is about the size of a dictionary. The NFC-compatible device also has a voice recorder, speakerphone and is powered by a 6000 mAh Li-ion battery with 8 hour battery life. A $130 value.

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And it could be yours. Simply enter by clicking through to the box below, or following this link. You have until Wednesday, December 24 11:30PM PST to enter. For an extra entry into the giveaway, follow Creative Labs on Twitter and share across social channels.

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How Clear Is The Future Of Google Glass?

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Frank Palermo is the senior vice president of the Global Technical Solutions Group at Virtusa.

Some ideas are ahead of their time.

There is no question that the wearables market is taking off with the proliferation of health monitors, pedometers and activity trackers like Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Fuelband, etc. And next year the Apple Watch will likely make the wearable watch the next big thing. Gartner boldly predicted that companies using Glass and similar wearable gadgets could save up to $1 billion a year within the next three to five years.

However, the consumer electronics space can be a funny thing. Consumers tend to buy in herds. They will buy the next best gadget, only when they actually see others with the gadget. One of the problems with products like Google Glass is that it was released in limited fashion as part of the “Explorers

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BitTorrent Tells Sony It’s Happy To Release ‘The Interview’

TechCrunch

Many have called for Sony to release ‘The Interview’ online. However, Sony CEO Michael Lynton stated earlier that there has not been a major video on demand service, “that has stepped forward and said they are willing to distribute this movie for us.”

Several major movie chains pulled out of the scheduled Christmas Day release of the film after hacker group Guardians of Peace threatened to attack any theater that decided to show the film. The studio said it was forced to then cancel the release, blaming theaters. “We do not own movie theaters. We cannot control what is shown,” Lynton said.

Sony has confirmed it was looking for alternatives to release the film. Some have suggested Netflix as an alternative. Sony’s lawyer David Boies later confirmed Sony was looking into an alternative way to present the film when he called the theater cancellation a “delay” on Meet the Press.

“Sony has been fighting…

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North Korea On Sony Hack: It Wasn’t Us

TechCrunch

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Here is the latest twist in the ongoing Sony hacking story: after the FBI alleged that North Korea was indeed behind the attack on Sony, North Korea today categorically denied having anything to do with it. According to a BBC report, North Korea’s foreign ministry went as far threatening “grave consequences” and demanding a joint investigation into the allegations.

North Korea isn’t exactly the most trustworthy of rogue states and many experts dismissed the early references to North Korea as misdirection by the actual hackers. Now, however, many security expertsthink the country’s cyberwarfare troops could indeed have been behind the Sony attack and subsequent leaks. As security expert Brian Krebs reported yesterday, the investigators now believe that most of the attackers, which call themselves the “Guardians of Peace,” are indeed from North Korea, though some of them apparently now live in Japan.

At first, the Sony hack (which apparently wasn’t all…

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The Art Of An MMO That Was Cancelled After NINE YEARS Of Development

This April, the long-awaited multiplayer game World of Darkness was cancelled. Ian G Williams explores how bad management hubris wasted nearly a decade of work

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For the video game industry, Monday 14 April 2014 was just another day of layoffs and wasted creative energy.

The massively multiplayer online game World of Darkness had spent nine years in development but was being cancelled, and its production studio CCP Atlanta slashed to a sliver of its former size. Fifty-six people lost their jobs.

Insiders could barely muster a collective shrug. A few wondered if anything could be done about the increasingly sorry state of the business, about developers like Irrational and 38 Studios closing and constant downsizing, but not many questioned how it had all happened this time. This was a project with a promising pedigree – based around one of the most popular table-top gaming franchises since Dungeons and Dragons.

How did it fall apart after almost a decade of work?

The origins of World of Darkness

The story begins 25 years earlier at the peak of the tabletop roleplaying games industry. Back in the 1990s, a company named White Wolf loomed over this arcane landscape with a hugely successful series of games about vampires, werewolves, and wizards lurking behind our mundane reality.

Years before Twilight and its sulky undead hordes, World of Darkness mixed punk-rock rebellion and gothic style into the vampire mythos, grabbing the 90s zeitgeist by the throat and selling millions of books in the process. There was even a short-lived Aaron Spelling television show.

But the good times didn’t last for tabletop gaming. Over-confident expansion, rising printing costs and the growth of video games brought the sector to its knees. And White Wolf wasn’t immune.

That’s when Icelandic studio CCP Games swooped in. Founded in Reykjavík in 1997, the company launched its ambitious sandbox spaceship game, Eve Online, six years later. Boasting a complex player-made economy and dramatic space battles, it was like nothing else out there – a living, breathing sci-fi universe. By 2006 it had attracted 100,000 subscribers. Flushed with success and confidence, the company was looking to expand.

White Wolf was a natural fit. There was plenty of desirable intellectual property locked up in its range of board games and trading cards, especially World of Darkness. And CCP was effectively White Wolf for the MMO era: hipper than the competition, punching above its financial weight, and flirting with wider mass market attention.

Disorganised management
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In November 2006, the two companies merged, with White Wolf becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of CCP. Immediately, work began on a massively multiplayer online game based around World of Darkness, featuring all of the unpredictability and openness of Eve Online.

CCP, to its immense credit, offered to keep on most, if not all, existing White Wolf staff. It was, according to those involved, a smooth transition; artists stayed on as artists, accountants as accountants. The existing staff who needed to transition to new roles were quick to learn fresh skills in areas like coding. However, plans for a swift ramp up to full production on the World of Darkness MMO faded as the pre-production and training phase dragged on.

There was another problem. Several members of the WoD development team told the Guardian that this early bump in the road was exacerbated by extreme disorganisation on the part of CCP’s Icelandic management. Very shortly after initial development began, the company started blurring the lines between the World of Darkness and Eve projects.

Repeatedly, staff were shifted over from the former to work on expansion projects for the latter. At times, our sources say, the entire WoD staff was put onto Eve, particularly during the development of 2009 add-on Apocrypha.

“On many different occasions throughout the years I was there, CCP would often ‘poach’ WoD staff for expansion projects,” recalls Nick Blood, a former developer and game master at CCP.

“There were plenty of developers who would get redirected to create Eve content for three to six month cycles… During these times, World of Darkness development was significantly slowed down. I remember the upper management often exasperatedly trying to figure out what to do with the remaining staff for a six-month period while their artists and programmers were busy elsewhere.”

‘There was very little of the core game in it’
This constant yo-yo effect contributed to a development cycle in which planned features were partially completed and then dumped numerous times over. There seemed to be no clear vision on how the various parts would create a cohesive end product.

Sources report that, over the nine-year period, the game effectively reached alpha – the stage at which all the major features have been implemented – three times, only for each version to be scrapped.

“I tested it myself, on two different occasions out of those three,” says Blood. “With the first playtest, I was amazed at how little of the core game was there – at this point the game had been in development for over half a decade. I mean, there was just nothing, literally nothing, for someone like me, a complete outsider to the WoD IP, to appreciate.

“Other testers who were familiar with it thought it was great that they could finally see their avatars ‘diablerise’ – or consume – other player’s corpses, for health, or something. I just kind of shook my head and wondered how this would ever draw in anything other than die-hard fans.

“On the second play test, quite some time later, I was struck by how much had changed – and yet remained unfinished. The flagship achievement was a new movement system, made after scrapping the old one, which was similar to the Assassin’s Creed gameplay – with mantling walls, etc. But it was very basic in comparison. CCP was quite self-congratulatory on achieving this much, and the internal propaganda was that this kind of movement system would revolutionise MMO gaming.”

‘Coders had to throw work away again and again’

For the coders there was a constant state of flux. “Almost every system in the game was designed, built and tested at least once, most of them multiple times,” says one gameplay programmer. “Some of the systems were reportedly pretty cool; they had never been seen in MMOs before. The problem was that, without a cogent vision, none of it gelled. There was no clear path towards ‘done’.

“So the team just ended up building stuff and throwing it away, over and over again. It’s something I saw on Eve and Dust as well – the teams would build a feature, then be told by management to make ‘small changes’ which necessitated a full, back-to-square-one rewrite.”

One manager couldn’t answer questions on gameplay or focus. I remember him standing over the shoulder of a programmer putting his finger to his lips and saying ‘No – make it more… psssshhhh

This constant build and rebuild approach meant massive issues in the development process. Features that were good enough to retain in one build had to be redesigned from scratch for the next because so many other interconnected parts had changed. Even when there was enough to play, internal testing revealed a confused and unfocused experience.

Most of the sources spoken to for this piece identified the same problematic CCP manager, who had little vision for what the finished game would look like.

“Not once could he answer any question about moment-to-moment gameplay or areas of focus,” says one source. “Instead, he preferred to deliver buzzword-laden rambles… It was not uncommon for him to communicate in onomatopoeia.

“I once saw him looking over the shoulder of a programmer at some bit of User Interface the poor guy had hacked together. He straightened up, put fingers to lips and said, ‘No, this isn’t it at all. Make it more… psssshhhh’ He hissed on his fucking fingertips, like the air coming out of a bicycle tire, and then just walked away.”

A blame culture

Former staff claim that the management team charged with creative oversight on WoD did not accept responsibility for the increasingly chaotic game development. “When things started turning sour in 2010, it was categorically not the fault of management, executive or creative,” said another source. “The line employees were blamed.

“One email sent on the eve of the company’s 2010 team-building trip stated that all teams had to work through the weekend – and that this necessary overtime was the fault of the teams, that it was their failure to plan and scope their project accordingly. Never mind that management insisted on changing requirements and designs on a weekly basis, without pushing the schedule out to accommodate the changes.”

Design meetings were decidedly robust affairs. Lead designers piled into what was known as “The Sweaty Room” and yelled at one another. “It was very alpha-male, whoever shouted longest and hardest would dominate the meetings,” recalls one developer. “This didn’t seem to spill out into the rest of the project until later.”

Budgeting problems

The budget for the game was also affected by the lack of oversight. While no one interviewed for this article was in a position to quote exact numbers, all were under the impression that CCP dealt with one unified research and development fund, rather than allocating money by project. Former staff claim this explains why teams shifted regularly between WoD and Eve.

CCP lusted for relevance, the expectation that it should do more than its peers. It constantly attempted to recreate the buzz that followed a favourable article in the New York Times

This unusual state of affairs meant that any development on WoD was extremely reliant on the success of CCP’s other projects. When it was just WoD and Eve, WoD development could be theoretically funded indefinitely without much worry. This remained true even as Eve’s subscription rates appeared to plateau, becoming more reliant on players with multiple accounts. The sensible thing would have been to concentrate on Eve, while settling on a single vision for WoD in an attempt to get the latter out the door.

That wasn’t how things turned out. Spurred by Eve’s status as a unique brand in the MMO space, CCP developed an odd internal corporate culture which insisted on what CCP refers to as a “War on the Impossible“, an idea that the company should do more and expect more than its peers in the industry. This mission became tangled up with what Nick Blood calls CCP’s “lusts for relevance” – its constant attempts to recreate the buzz that followed a favourable article in the New York Times. There was a growing sense of hubris.

Dust to dust

But the company’s ambitions grew. In August 2009, CCP announced Dust 514, a multiplayer shooter for the Playstation 3 which was set in the Eve universe. Players would even be able to affect the main Eve Online universe via their planetary battles in the console spin-off. It was a hugely innovative endeavour and once again, staff were pulled off World of Darkness to help deliver on the promises.

When Dust was finally released, however, reviews generally praised the concept, but savaged the well below par execution. It flopped.

The beginning of the end for WoD predictably didn’t have anything to do with that project at all. In June of 2011, CCP launched Incarna, one of Eve’s regular expansions. Incarna was primarily focused on allowing players to interact with the world as their character avatars, rather than just their ships, for the first time.

Without the time or resources to properly do so, many things were left half-delivered, to be iterated upon later – which never happened. CCP has an extensive track record of promising to return to features and never doing so

One of the key new additions was the “Captains Quarters”, which allowed your avatar to leave their craft and wander around a limited section of the game’s space stations. The system was underpinned by CCP’s Carbon framework, a technology designed to allow the sharing of code between games; this would facilitate the transfer of WoD’s character movement technology to the Eve project.

But development of Incarna was not going smoothly. “As little as a few weeks out from launch, the lead designers were still trying to add features to the Captain’s Quarters,” says Blood. “But without the time or resources to properly do so, many things were left half-delivered, to be iterated upon later – which never happened. CCP has an extensive track record of promising to return to features and never doing so. There was little discipline to the process.”

Worst of all, according to Blood, the entire point of the expansion (walking around space stations) was let down by the Reykjavic office’s art team; it took them nearly the entire development time to create one faction’s Captains Quarters. Yet again, the WoD team was asked to cross over in order to bail out an Eve expansion.

Our sources say it took them a fraction of the time to create the one room station interiors for the other three factions. Blood recalls the friction between the teams on this point. “While it certainly vindicated the WoD artists in terms of work ethic, I remember it was a sore point between the offices that the much vaunted Icelandic crew had been so demonstrably shown up.”

Microtransactions and ‘monocle-gate’

The development difficulties were only part of the Incarna problem. According to sources, CCP management had decided to introduce microtransactions, unbeknownst to most of the rank and file, charging real money for cosmetic items with which to customise character avatars. This is a familiar feature in online games, but usually a new outfit for a player character will cost $15-20. CCP decided to charge much more. The most notorious example was a monocle costing $70. The price tag infuriated fans kick-starting a major pricing controversythat would go on to become known as Monocle-gate.

The CEO had members of the fiction writing team put the apology together – he was either so out of touch, so arrogant, that he couldn’t find the words himself

The management response was elusive. In June 2011, senior producer Arnar Gylfason delivered an ambiguous statement, comparing the pixelated monocles to $1000 jeans and questioning whether people should buy clothes in real life at all. Eve subscriptions declined sharply and precipitously, and there were actual in-game riots in protest.

Eventually CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson issued an apology to the players. But even this short appeasement wasn’t what it seemed; according to Blood, Petursson didn’t actually write it.

“He had members of our storyline team – a group responsible for writing in-game content and fiction – put it together,” he says. “He was either so out of touch, so arrogant, or perhaps both, that he couldn’t find the words to say himself. They bailed him out big time.”

Darkness descends

Even after Monoclegate blew over and CCP backed away from the cash shop, the bugs in Incarna remained. The main feature, the Captain’s Quarters, just didn’t work very well. It was buggy and a major system drag, killing performance on older computers. Eventually, CCP added an option to disable the feature entirely.

The damage was done. The subscription numbers would eventually rebound, but player trust in CCP was strained. As WoD dragged on with its constant reboots, as Eve Online began to decline in the wake of Incarna, as Dust sucked the oxygen out of the development process, even the high end employee benefits, the main selling point for American CCP employees, began to disappear.

“In Atlanta, the first benefit – the cantina – has been dramatically cut with no compensatory salary increase,” says Blood. “Meals used to be a fantastic benefit, and even included dinners at one point, but the ‘culture of frugality’ as they put it, has resulted in cut after cut and the current quality is simply not worth the lowered salary. The medical benefits have similarly been cut. Previously CCP had a very good coverage plan, but they swapped that out in 2011, and again in 2012, for plans with less coverage options. Again, there was no commensurate increase in salaries to make this loss up.”

Late 2011 spelled the real end of WoD as a viable project. CCP had to shed costs and 20 percent of its overall workforce was laid off, with the bulk of the cuts coming from Atlanta. WoD was slated to continue, according to the press release, but “with a significantly reduced team.”

Shockingly, given the turmoil, a flythrough video for WoD was released at Fanfest 2012, CCP’s annual fan convention. At barely over one minute long, it showed an impressive grasp of the World of Darkness universe – but it also displayed no moving NPCs or collision, the hallmarks of a developed product. Reviews were predictably mixed. Plenty of fans expected things to begin to look up from there; the video was proof that something was being worked on. Lots of others, particularly those with experience in the industry, sensed smoke and mirrors.

 

 

This was the last the general public were ever to see of WoD. Behind the scenes, morale was shot. A source who was in the Reykjavik office at the time recalls, “The 2011 layoffs incited a lot of anger. A lot. I heard it was worse in the ATL office, and most of the folks I know down there have never forgiven CCP’s management.” CCP announced a fourth project, a game for the Oculus Rift tentatively titled Valkyrie. This stretched resources even further. Even staff with secure positions began to leave for other studios or to get out of the industry altogether.

And so it went. Fifteen more employees were let go from the Atlanta office in late 2013. Then finally in mid-April 2014, the World of Darkness MMO was canceled, with 56 redundancies – among them numerous staff who had been with White Wolf for 20 years.

The Guardian approached CCP for comment on the details this feature and were directed to the company’s statement on the closure of World of Darkness. We then contacted the company’s US PR department again, detailing the specific allegations, and received no response.

As a bizarre postscript to the saga, the Georgia state legislature announced a fresh round of tax cuts for the video game industry within hours of the official announcement of WoD’s cancellation. It was, perversely, a fitting conclusion: a tax incentive meant to reward and spur job growth in an industry notorious for shock layoffs, while what was clearly the state’s video game studio crown jewel was announcing a new bout of job cuts.

The industry that closed its eyes

Perhaps the real scandal is that there’s nothing truly unusual about what happened here. Earlier this year, Disney announced 700 job cuts, many from its casual games division; Sony Santa Monica made redundancies, Irrational Games shut down. Partly it’s the economy, of course, but a lot of it is just down to the games industry not functioning as well as it should, on outdated production methods and sky high budgets.

In the US, for example, video game company layoffs are twice the national average. “GameJobWatch tracked 73 layoffs in the first ten months of 2013, totalling more than 3400 jobs lost, not including studios among those 73 that they didn’t have a head count for. That’s almost two studios with layoffs each week,” said Darius Kazemi, a former developer and once a board member for the IGDA.

“A layoff-heavy strategy means that people burn out of the business quickly. Last I heard the average time spent in games is seven years. You get tired of being treated that way and you realise that you can probably work somewhere else doing more boring work and get a lot more money and stability. Or you try your hand at going independent, where the odds are low but at least you control your own destiny.

“When experienced people leave the industry entirely, we lose institutional memory. Our games stagnate. I think AAA is in extended death throes. I think it’s going to look like the comics industry in a few years: a couple of huge corporations that dominate the mainstream attention, and then an enormous number of very small indies. Actually, it looks like that today.”

Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun during the annual Eve Fanfest in May, CCP CEO Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, showed some acknowledgement of the company’s mistakes over the past few years. “I would say we’re re-focusing on simpler strategies and smaller teams,” he said. “I think that helped make us successful: EVE was made like that. And maybe we scaled up our teams and our ambitions too rapidly.”

But for the staff we spoke to it’s too late. Only one remains in the industry, working as a designer at a small studio. The others left or were made redundant.

“I wasn’t laid off,” points out Blood at the end of our interview. “I left voluntarily, out of disappointment at what the industry is increasingly becoming.”

He has no intention of returning.

Source: theGuardian , Kotaku

 

 

 

 

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Snapchat Adds Ephemeral Text Chat And Video Calls

TechCrunch

Snapchat is slowly adding features on top of its highly successful ephemeral messaging platform. Today’s two new features are a good old chat interface and a new FaceTime-like video calling feature. Text messages could greatly change the nature of the app.

While ephemeral photos are a great way to send something funny and start a conversation with your friends, many users sent multiple snaps back and forth just to chat. You ended up taking a crappy photo and adding a caption. The fact that it was ephemeral and limited when it comes to the number of characters were quite charming, but sometimes infuriating.

But all of this is past now. You can swipe right on a friend’s name in your Snapchat inbox to enter a new chat screen. It’s a regular chatting interface. You can write and send text messages, send snaps, and send photos or videos from your camera…

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Five ways to build a $100 million business

Some time ago my friend (and co-investor in Clio, Jobber and Unbounce) Boris Wertz wrote a great blog post about “the only 2 ways to build a $100 million business”. I’d like to expand on the topic and suggest that there are five ways to build a $100 million Internet company. This doesn’t mean that I disagree with Boris’ article. I think our views are pretty similar, and for the most part “my” five ways are just a slightly different and more granular look at Boris’ two ways.

The way I look at it can be nicely illustrated in this way:

The y-axis shows the average revenue per account (ARPA) per year. In the x-axis you can see how many customers you need, for a given ARPA, to get to $100 million in annual revenues. Both axes use a logarithmic scale.

To build a Web company with $100 million in annual revenues*, you essentially need:

  • 1,000 enterprise customers paying you $100k+ per year each; or
  • 10,000 medium-sized companies paying you $10k+ per year each; or
  • 100,000 small businesses paying you $1k+ per year each; or
  • 1 million consumers or “prosumers” paying you $100+ per year each (or, in the case of eCommerce businesses, 1M customers generating $100+ in contribution margin** per year each); or
  • 10 million active consumers who you monetize at $10+ per year each by selling ads
Salespeople sometimes refer to “elephants”, “deers” and “rabbits” when they talk about the first three categories of customers. To extend the metaphor to the 4th and 5th type of customer, let’s call them “mice” and “flies”. So how can you hunt 1,000 elephants, 10,000 deers, 100,000 rabbits, 1,000,000 mice or 10,000,000 flies? Let’s take a look at it in reverse order.Hunting fliesIn order to get to 10 million active users you need roughly 100 million people who download your app or use your website. This is of course a gross simplification, and the precise number depends on various factors like your conversion rate, how active your users are, churn, etc. But it doesn’t change the take-away: To get to $100 million in ad revenues, you need dozens of millions of users. I know of only two ways to achieve that (plus one mega-outlier which breaks all rules, Google). The first one is to have a product that is inherently social and has a high viral coefficient (Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp). The second one is a ton of UGC (user-generated content), which leads to large amounts of SEO traffic and some level of virality. Good examples of this second option include Yelp or our portfolio company Brainly.

Hunting mice

To acquire one million consumers or prosumers who pay you roughly $100 per year, you need to get at least 10-20 million people to try your application. This is – again – a gross simplification, but I believe it’s order-of-magnitude correct. To get to 10-20 million users you almost certainly need some level of virality, too – maybe not Snapchat-like virality, but some social sharing or “powered by”-virality. Great examples of this category include Evernote and MailChimp. If you’re an eCommerce business you might be able to acquire one million customers using paid marketing, but it requires huge amounts of funding.

Hunting rabbits

Most SaaS companies that target small businesses charge something around $50-100 per month, so their ARPA per year is around $1k. To acquire 100,000 of these businesses you need something in the order of 0.5-2 million trial signups, depending on your conversion rate. Let’s assume that your CLTV (customer lifetime value) is $2,700 (assuming an average customer lifetime of three years and a gross margin of 90%) and that you want your CLTV to be 4x your CACs (customer acquisition costs). In that case you can spend $675 to acquire a customer. If your signup-to-paying conversion rate is 10% that means you can spend $67.50 per signup (assuming a no-touch sales model where your CACs can go entirely into lead generation).

So how can you get one million signups for less than $70 each? Most SaaS products aren’t inherently viral, there usually isn’t enough inventory to make paid advertising work at scale, and cold calling usually doesn’t work at this ARPA level. There’s no silver bullet, but the closest thing to a silver bullet is inbound marketing – besides having a fantastic product with a very high NPS (net promoter score) and being obsessively focused on funnel optimization. I’ve written about this in more detail in my “DOs for SaaS startups” series: Create an awesome product, Make your website your best marketing person, Fill the funnel, Build a repeatable sales process. Another option is a an OEM strategy (i.e. getting your product distributed by big partners), which can work but comes with its own challenges.

Interestingly, hunting rabbits looks much less straightforward than hunting flies or hunting elephants. Why we have a strong focus on rabbit hunting SaaS companies nonetheless is something for another post.

Hunting deers

If you’re a deer hunter and want to acquire 10,000 customers paying you $10k per year each, most of the rabbit hunting tactics still apply. An ARPA of $10k per year usually isn’t enough to make traditional enterprise field sales work, and you likely still have to get 100,000 or more leads. The main difference is that when you’re hunting deers you can use an inside sales force to close leads, potentially also to generate leads. It also means that you can pay VARs and channel partners an attractive commission, although I’ve rarely seen this work in SaaS.

SaaS companies sometimes start as rabbit hunters and expand into deer hunting over time. This can work very well and we’re very excited about these types of businesses, but to successfully execute this strategy, SaaS founders with a product/tech/marketing DNA usually have to bring in an experienced VP of Sales who has built an inside sales organization before.

Hunting elephants

Like it or not, most of the biggest SaaS companies derive most of their revenues from selling expensive subscriptions to large enterprises. Workday, Veeva, SuccessFactors, Salesforce.com, you name it. Jason M. Lemkin, another friend and co-investor, once said (I’m quoting from memory) that if you have a good solution for a significant problem experienced by large enterprises, building a $100 million business is relatively straightforward. After all, you only need 1,000 customers, and the $100k you need from each of them is less than they spend on the salary of one executive. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

The other part of the truth, though, is that it may take you several years and millions of dollars to find out if you really are solving a problem (a.k.a. product/market fit), and once you’re at that point, you still need tens of millions of dollars or more to finance the enterprise sales cycle. This does not at all mean that elephant hunting isn’t attractive. It just requires very different skills, which usually means a founder team with enterprise sales DNA.

That leaves me with the million dollar – sorry, one hundred million dollar – question: Which other ways to build a $100 million business are there that I’ve overlooked? Let me know!

Source: Christoph Janz

Note: Don’t forget to commend me.

25 HTML Speed Tips

Jatinder S Mann

net244feathtml5

From minifying your JavaScript to using image sprites, here are 25 top tips for high performance web apps. My article on 25 HTML5 speed tips originally appeared in .Net Magazine Issue 244.

For the past few years I’ve been part of the IE team at Microsoft looking into ways to improve the online experience. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about web performance and developed an in-depth understanding of what goes into making sites and apps fast.

Creating high-performance web applications is essential for every web developer, whether we’re talking about websites that run on a standards-based web browser or apps for the Windows Store. The goal of the developer is to improve web performance by reducing the following factors:

Display time

The most important objective is what we refer to as ‘Display Time’. This has many names across the industry including ‘time to glass’ and ‘primary paint’. Display…

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Taylor Swift’s Marketing Strategy: “Shake Off” Perfection

Have you heard the new Taylor Swift song making the rounds? Yes? Good. I don’t care if you like the song or not, but you have to watch the video. Do it on mute it if you have to, but the video’s important to see. Your company’s branding depends on it.


Swift’s Success

At first glance, “Shake It Off” doesn’t strike the average marketer as anything revolutionary. It’s a catchy, repetitive pop song with Taylor attempting different dance genres. The lyrics are her typical faire, with self-references that fans will eat up (“I go on too many dates / But I can’t make ’em stay!”) and an overall positive vibe.

Typical, sure, but she’s doing something right. Billboard reports that the single premiered at #1, something only a handful of other artists have ever achieved. (Actually, “Shake It Off” is only Taylor’s second song to reach the top of the charts, the first being “We Are Never Getting Back Together.”) As of today, the song’s been streamed 137+ million times since its debut a month ago on YouTube alone.

You could argue that sure, she’s got the money and the team behind her to make this video successful by default, even if the song and production were terrible. But if you ask me, I think there’s something more at work.

Dare to Be Vulnerable

Watch the video again, and pay close attention to Taylor’s interactions with the various dance troops. She’s a far cry from the choreographed, sexualized pop sensations from the days of Britney Spears. In fact, her performance reminds me of a baby giraffe, with its writhing mess of limbs and awkward timing. The poor dancers backing her up seem to spend as much time avoiding Taylor’s attempts to mimic their performance as they do showing off for the camera.

But Taylor’s lack of perfection works, and that’s the “X Factor,” as it were, to her performance.

Visually, Taylor shows us that she’s not good at dancing. I’d go so far as to say she flaunts her complete lack of talent, exaggerating it to the point of caricature. In this moment, when Taylor shows us this vulnerability, she becomes empathetic. Actually, her team has gone so far as to show these “behind the scenes” clips taken during production, showing Taylor in even more awkward positions than they picked for the final cut.

My personal favorite is the outtakes for the ribbon dancers. The ribbon seems to have it out for her, as it keeps wrapping around her throat. I had no idea dancing was so dangerous!

After the main video and the outtakes, you forget that you’ve never met her, that she’s a multimillion dollar entertainer, that the whole video was scripted this way. The moment Taylor becomes “less than,” she makes herself just like the audience who will never reach that sculpted moment of pop star perfection. “I am a terrible dancer,” she seems to tell us, “and you know what? That’s okay, because I’m really good at other things.”

Like singing.

Takeaways: Focus and Humanity

So let’s leave Taylor and get back to you and your company, shall we? I think there are two lessons here we can take away from the video.

First, your business doesn’t have to be good at everything. In fact, it probably shouldn’t! It’s the same idea as showing that Taylor can’t dance, but she can sing. By trying to be everything to everyone, you’ll do nothing well.

As a content marketer, I apply this lesson every day in what jobs I do and don’t take. See, I’m an excellent writer. I can write clearly, coherently, and have a knack for asking questions and making connections no one else would bother to do. That’s what I’m good at; that’s what I polish.

Do you know what I can’t do? I can’t make graphics, or professional edit or shoot videos, or take pictures. Sure, I’ve dabbled in all of these, and I understand the importance of visual content in a broader scheme, but that’s not where my talents lie. So my clients and my boss know what they can ask of me and what they need to recruit someone else for. Being upfront and honest about my limitations increases my trustworthiness as a professional, and the same holds true for you and your company.

Second, show a little personality and humility. When you make a mistake, receive bad press, or simply want to show the human side to your company, it’s okay to come forward and face the music as an individual, not an entity.

You know who did this really well? POM Wonderful. During his weekly satirical news show “Last Week Tonight,” comedian John Oliver slammed the American food industry’s misleading labeling practices, including POM’s claims that their pomegranate juice could help prevent prostate cancer in men. POM Wonderful responded by sending John a case of pomegranate juice and a letter, which he reads to his studio audience:

 

That’s right. You heard them tell John to give himself an enema with their product.

That response was not the typical press release protesting John’s treatment of the company. It wasn’t watered down through committees or tweaked for language. It showed that the folks at POM Wonderful thought their product was worth something, admitted its faults (“While the research isn’t conclusive…”), but stood up for itself.

As John said, “Bravo!”

In the same way that Taylor showed her faults as an entertainer and POM responded very personally to criticism by “Last Week Tonight,” I believe all businesses could benefit from branding themselves as people first, business second. Clients want to work with Joe, the guy they’ve been talking to over the phone and grown to trust, not mysterious, imposing, anonymous Major Company.

And so I ask you: How has your company shown its imperfect, human side to its clients?

(In case you’re fighting a sense of deja vu, let me put your mind at ease: You’re not in the Matrix! I originally wrote this article for Bryan Del Monte’s “Brand Media Studio” marketing and branding blog. Also, the top image is courtesy of Mark from OnePopz.com.)

Source: Linkedin

Configure turn server for WebRTC on Amazon EC2

Knoldus

As we all know, WebRTC is used for video communication.
In video communication, data packets are transferred from one place to another place, therefore a user is able to see other user’s streaming.

But sometimes, when there are some network securities like firewall, then data packet does not transfer and we do not get proper streaming of another user i.e. we get black screen as other user’s stream.

So for this solution, we use turn server.

The TURN Server is a VoIP media traffic NAT traversal server and gateway. It can be used as a general-purpose network traffic TURN server and gateway, too.

Here, I am going to explain you the steps of installing and configuring turn server on Amazon EC2.

First of all download these 2 packages :
libevent-2.0.21-stable.tar.gz (http://libevent.org/)
turnserver-2.6.5.2.tar.gz (https://code.google.com/p/rfc5766-turn-server/downloads/list)

then run these commands :
1. To install libevent package
$ tar xvfz libevent-2.0.21-stable.tar.gz
$ cd libevent-2.0.21-stable

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