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September 1 2009
by Scott Johnson

The Ad Dollar Tug-of-War

The often sited truth in advertising states that half of all ad dollars are wasted, but you can never tell which half.  Well, that is changing, and everyone is excited about all of those ad dollars moving to measurable media instead of being flushed down the wasteful “old media” toilet.  But what if, instead of […]

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August 31 2009
by Scott Johnson

The imperfect VC process

Picking companies to invest in is not that different from running the admissions process at Princeton.  The likelihood is high that you will admit some problem students and deny admission to the next Michael Dell.  This is how the process was described to me by an unnamed college admissions professional: There is a set of […]

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August 26 2009
by Scott Johnson

Postcard from Seattle

I just returned from Seattle, and things there are really great, particularly in August. The sun shines, the fog lifts in the San Juans, the Mountains are out an visible and provide a great backdrop. And the economy appears to me to be in great shape.  Seattle has Microsoft, of course, which actually layed a few […]

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June 30 2009
by Scott Johnson

What makes a great early stage CEO?

About eight years ago I asked Charlie Lax (Grandbanks Capital), who is a very successful venture investor and colorful guy, “what is the primary thing you look for in a company.”  He responded that assuming the company passes the standard screens (strong technology, large market, customers thirsting for it) the thing that makes him reach […]

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June 22 2009
by Scott Johnson

Local Search Is Getting Interesting

We are seeing a great many “local search” companies seeking investment these past few weeks.  “Local search” in this context means companies that are using location-aware devices to find stuff – an appartment for rent, a person you know or would like to know, a deal on a cup of coffee or a slice of […]

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June 15 2009
by Scott Johnson

Bing – the next Huggies?

The search business reminds me a bit of the diaper business.  Hugely profitable for the winner, you can’t live without it regardless of economic times, and once you pick a brand you pretty much stick with it.  But incumbents are not 100% secure.  Prior to 1978, there was no Huggies.  Pampers ruled the disposable diaper […]

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May 15 2009
by Scott Johnson

Why I Say “No” to a good opportunity

I have to say “no” very often to people I like with really good business opportunities.  It is the nature of any buying job that you say “no” a lot more than “yes.”  And often I can’t enumerate the reasons for my decision not to invest.  I can list a few, but I try not […]

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May 13 2009
by Scott Johnson

The downturn feels different this time

Tonight is the MIT 100K finals.  So I thought I would muse on why I feel so much better today than I did in the aftermath of the last downturn. The 2001-2004 VC nuclear winter was brutal.  Valuations fell so far so fast – it was like being on a bullet train that suddenly stopped. […]

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May 13 2009
by Scott Johnson

EU Competition Committee – Time for another tea party

I suspect that, at the heart of Intel’s terrible offense of paying for buying decisions in their favor, are a bunch of folks they hired on the ground in Europe who know that the best way to get something decided in your favor in a timely way in the EU is to pay an expediting […]

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May 5 2009
by Scott Johnson

Paying Attention

There is a very interesting article in the NYT today about how the brain concentrates.  (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/science/05tier.html?emc=eta1) There is one quote I found particularly provocative by Winifred Gallagher.“Multitasking is a myth,” Ms. Gallagher said. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.”Now, as someone who […]

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