A Conversation with Michael Eisner and Mark Cuban at SXSW

mark cuban, michael eisner at sxsw

There's a packed house to watch Mark Cuban interview Michael Eisner: two billionaires in the room:

"This is a joint panel session for both SXSW Film and SXSW Interactive registrants, and will be a one-on-one interview with the founder of The Tornante Company and new media studio Vuguru, will feature the former head of Disney turned media mogul discussing his past, present and future endeavors, as he builds new companies and models for entertainment consumption. Interviewing Eisner will be former SXSW Interactive Festival keynote speaker Mark Cuban."

Michael wanted to see if the time had come for story-driven professional content to be monetized on the Internet. Can contnt owners make money from content? It's almost the time, but pretty soon this distribution channel will explode and it will be like what's happened before: one plus one will equal three. He has seen this numerous time in his career. For example, the addtion of movies and television was bigger than either one alone.

Michael would like to say he has a research group figuring out what to do; he doesn't. They're trying things out. For example, he talked to Chrysler, who put him in a Nitro and said "go to SXSW and look young"!

The people working in online video will be the Spielbergs of the future. Michael says he has a talent for finding such talent.

Why do we see so many changes in business models by content producers on the net? Partly it's because they know it will be huge and they want to get as big a slice of the pie as they can. This happened to Prom Queen, where distribution deals were renegotiated after it went big. There is no unique business model. That's why all you can do is to find the people who are doing interesting things and raised $5 from family and friends to make their video.

What type of approach should content producers take? For one thing, Michael says, "Stay away from media moguls like me". Those who get in a band with two other people, stay in a Day's Inn and work on a shoestring see media moguls as a last resort. Then there's the 12 year olds in the user generated arena, and you can sometimes see something pretty good. Michael is not interested. But the group that's very interesting are those youth studying film production in schools: they are educated, smart and professional.

Of what you see online, 99% is awful and 1% is good. The intention is not to do crap, but it's hard to know this before the fact. Lots of bad movies are made, but no one intended them to be bad.

Michael thinks that within 5 years, content on the Internet will be as important as content on television or cable. Already, content is a huge deal.

Will this be primary content or secondary content? It will be both. Nothing will be different, just the distribution channel. This will be media over broadband. Mark Cuban disagrees, though. People are rushing out to buy HDTV more than they are PCs. There are no standards. (Michael agrees that 90% of America that has TV on their PC are sitting in this room). Eisner says he doesn't dwell on the technology. If there's a story that makes you laugh or makes you cry, somebody else will want to see it and there will be a way to distribute it online. If you have the patience and you are interested in dealing with new people and new ideas, this is the place to be.

Question and answer

How will Eisner acquire a large volume of cool content? How will Michael upgrade the quality of content in volume?
The point is to make a good show and you can have millions to perhaps a billion people watching it. If you know how to monetize this, then you have a business. Michael's skill is in identifying good content. But talent agencies are looking for talent as well. This is becoming a business. As long as the cost is low enough, the talent acquisition and management business will grow.

Every new technology predicts the demise of the movie theater. Artistic decisions need to be made if you're shooting something for HD ... there's way too much detail. Should content creators be making these decisions at the beginning of the process if they're filming for the net? Yes and no. What's hard to do is the emotion. If you have good emotional content with heart, it will work on any screen, including the big screen. So it's a matter of cost and budget, during the production process. One of the best things of producing on the cheap is that you can redo it, if it works.

What's Eisner's take on Creative Commons and the remix culture?
Michael says he's conflicted, because he has a long history of defending copyrights. What sets this nation apart is paying people for intellectual work, which is just like paying people for physical work.

What about the growth of product placement as an advertising mechanism?
It's very important. In the creative process, it's very important to have it done right, because bad product placement can ruin good content. Eisner objects to 30s pre-rolls. There's a lot of experimentation going on, but the combination of sensitive insertions and voice overs can work. We're used to advertising in entertainment, because most would prefers ads to paying a subscription. If you have common sense, you will understand what's annoying.

Opinions about the added capabilities that digital brings to content (interactivity) and do these need to be integrated into the content creation process? This is the one thing that makes the internet totally unique. Eisner likes to have control over the content, but he likes the interactivity. It's clever, compelling and works. He is adding interactivity to content, and admits he is not clever enough to think of all the ways to take advantage of interactivity. Mark mentions there are problems with interactivity. On the advertising side, there are no standards, so if you have different distribution channels, you need to encode each one specifically and think about how the players are different, so you can adapt the ads. Cables and satellite are gearing towards interactivity now. Mark is putting emphasis away from interactivity on the net and is moving to digital cable and satellites.

What about the published written word in the digital landscape? How do big media companies adapt? Michael says he has no idea. He says his Kindle died after about three days. He says the written word is the essence of everything he has ever done. It's hard to go out and shoot and get lucky. He doesn't believe the days of the written word is over. Mark thinks we're approaching screen fatigue, and there will be a resurgence of book reading ... rather than reading stuff on the screen. And there's an excitement to getting out of the house and into the movies. So these media are not going away.

mark cuban at sxsw

March 11, 2008 in Starting up | Permalink | Comments (2)

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Bootstrapping through Entrepreneur Collaboration Networks panel at SXSW

This turned out to be one of the more interesting sessions of the conference. Here's a loose transcription of the bootstrapping your startup panel at SXSW. The points covered in this session are the nuts and bolts of the business, as important as the balance sheet.

Kevin Koym   Founder/CEO,   Enterprise Teaming LLC

Bruce Krysiak   Principal,   Leonid Consulting

Allen Beuershausen

Edward Cruz   Founder,   Melior Technologies

Nancy Schill   Founder,   Executive Intelligent Coaching

"Are you building a business, a non-profit, or artistic endeavor? Through building their businesses together, entrepreneurs can get to success faster. We will share examples of how entrepreneurs can use less financial capital and more social capital to make their businesses successful, drawing upon our experiences with BootstrapAustin.org, and other "enterprise tribes". Our panel's diverse backgrounds will show how this way of building businesses is having an impact on artist, non-profits, and startup businesses."


Panel discussion

The basic phases are pre-ideation, ideation, Valley of Death and growth. The "inner path" are the changes you need to make at the relevant times as you grow.

In the pre-ideation phase, start to put into language what you like, what you don't like, etc., in the spirit of "know thyself". Where will you spend your mental time to create something you will love.

In the ideation phase, you start to commit to the business. What you develop in the ideation phase is your commitment to your idea and its place in the world. The other aspects here are imagination and creativity.

When you're in the "Valley of Death", your primary objective is to stay alive. Do whatever it takes, get consulting contracts, so you can sustain your project. During this time, you will learn alot about yourself, and this will give a good sense of your and your project's identity. Ask yourself three questions:

- Are you trying to build a sustainable organization?
- Is your team willing to push the limits during this period?
- Are you ready to use everything in your disposal in order to make it?

Unless you're Superman, you will face and live with fear. You must put the fear aside, because it paralizes you and keeps you from doing the things you need to do. It reduces your openness and flexibility. You must be open to everything that comes your way that will help you build a sustainable company.

"Growth is a biological unfolding of events involving changing an organism from simple to more complex." Growth is that place where you become more dangerous, because you are stretching in new directions. The most important thing right now is not to build your bank account, but to reinvest your profits. Teach and reinforce your purpose, your vision, your values and your strategies. So just feeding your business more capital doesn't work. You have to do it based on your purpose, vision, values and strategies. No doing so can throw you back in the Valley of Death.

Dring growth, be careful of hubris and don't get too full of yourself. Hubris reduces your openness and flexibility, because you think you know everything (ie., I did this all myself). Cultivate humility and gratitude.

Question and answer

How do you manage the transition from your day job to your project? To cross the threshold, you need to jump. There's a point you'll feel inside where you know you need to take a leap of faith. You will feel that push. It's like going into labor. And when you make that leap, you will find resources, because you are looking for opportunities and because you're hungry.

When do you stop bootstrapping and look for funding?
You can take funding and still continue bootstrapping. It's not mutually exclusive and it is part of the process. After growth, you re-boostrap. Even Apple does it. When you stop innovating, you stop being viable.

When do you get business and medical insurance? Do it when you can afford it. Here too there is a threshold that you'll have to cross. You have to weigh the risks when you can afford it.

How do you know which opportunities to pursue while you work on your project?
For as long as you possibly can, keep focussing on your core and growing that core. Keep feeding this core until it sprouts something you can't avoid. During the ideation stage, don't define the project too strictly. Keep considering new options. But when you're in the Valley of Death or growth stages, then you have to focus and make your project work.

How many months should you have in the bank while you're growing?
A goal of four and a half months is good, but hard to achieve. The closer you get to four and a half months, the more your business will suffer. So a rule of thumb is to take your employee expense and double it.

When is it appropriate to start looking for talent? What are the best ways ... should you use a recruiter?
The recruiting process works best when you align values. Get someone that is curious, hard working and shares your values. These are more important than qualifications. Make it an objective to consistently interview people. For example, interview six people per week. You have to keep feeding that pipeline so you get choice selections for your organization.

How to manage work life balance? Should I get a partner or an employee? Look into getting an intern from local schools, they can be invaluable. Look for people with complementary energy, so they bring new talents to your organization. Regarding time management, scrap your todo lists and put what's necessary into your calendar. This way you have a central place and a strict daily reminder of what needs to happen by the end of the day.

March 10, 2008 in Starting up | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Moving on

Time has flown by and so much has changed since I first joined Scrapblog as Director of Community. At the time, we still hadn't launched our service. Since then, we've grown by leaps and bounds, in the US, in Brazil and other countries. There's still much to accomplish, but Scrapblog is now on a solid growth path and I have reached my objective of building an engaged and active community across various countries.

I am now moving on from Scrapblog, and will retain them as a consultant.

It has been great fun working at Scrapblog and I will miss my colleagues, partners and suppliers. We will remain in close contact, I will advise Scrapblog as a consultant and of course will remain an active community member.

What's next

I have been focused over the last year on building communities online and offline. I am an avid user of social media, and am passionate about using social networks, blogs and other platforms to bring people together.

I have been involved in consulting, in teaching and in building the local web community. I am an Adjunct Professor of Social Media at the University of Miami, I've organized the first two BarCampMiami events, I co-organize RefreshMiami meetups, and, more significantly careerwise, I consult to companies on social media strategies, tools and platforms. These activities have increased in importance over time, and I will now focus on these areas.

While I define my new role, I am committed to continue working in an area that combines my technical and social media knowledge, my business background, and my passion for community; I want to use my abilities fully in these areas.

If you have any suggestions, I’m always open for your ideas. My email is alex at decarvalho dot net

Update: Carlos Garcia's, Scrapblog CEO, blog post about me.

March 6, 2008 in Starting up | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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Scrapblog launched this morning!

I'm pleased to announce that after years of work, the team at Scrapblog, which I recently joined, has officially launched their awesome service!

From Carlos:

An exciting journey starts today, and you are in the driver’s seat! Scrapblog is live for the entire world. After over two years of hard work, we finally have a version online that is faithful to our vision. That said, what we are launching today is only as far as we could take Scrapblog on our own. Now, it is up to Scrapblog’s growing community to define where we go from here.

Shel pitches in:

Scrapblog works bets when shared with family and friends, and now is the time to start sharing. Anyone is now free to use it and anyone can create whatever they want with it.

And from David, our PR guy:

Whatever the designers and coders came up with, it’s nothing compared with what you, the community, will show us with what you can do with our tools. Go at it and enjoy.

However much work into getting this version out, it's just the beginning. Over the next few weeks and months, we'll be stabilizing the new version and ensuring our content delivery network is robust; we'll be adding new features to the Builder; we'll be creating and getting new themes; and we'll be improving the functionality on the site, to make it more social. We hope you'll check back with us regularly and most importantly, tell us what we're doing right and what could be done better. Our feedback email is feedback[at]scrapblog[dot]com


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April 2, 2007 in Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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RefreshMiami March 2007 - tonight!

Between travel to Austin, my hard drive crash and the launch of Scrapblog, I haven't had the occasion to talk about RefreshMiami. The easiest is to post this e-mail, from Brian. By the way, I think this will be a great Refresh meeting:

Hey folks,

Your friendly organizer here, just wanted to give you all a heads up on the exciting stuff we have planned for [tonight], one of our biggest yet.



Paul Scrivens - CEO - 9rules.com

Paul will be talking how as the rise of independent content on the web climbs and the ability for anyone to make an impact on the medium it becomes more and more important to find ways to filter through the content. Everyone is given a chance to voice their thoughts on the web, but only some people are able to stand out above others due to the quality that they bring to the table.

Free Stuff!!!!
So we've decided whats better than great conversation, meeting new people, and having a good time? all of the above + free stuff!

Dan Rubin has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of Pro CSS techniques to one lucky winner tomorrow.

Nick Dominguez has also offered to giveaway a few CDs from his record label Pop Up Records ( http://www.popuprecords.com )

Also the fine folks at Ad:Tech are giving away a 50% off coupon to the upcoming Ad:Tech Miami conference this june. Thats a $400 savings.

When? Where? Why?
Wednesday March 21, 2007 7:00PM

University of Miami Wolfson Building
5100 Brunson Drive, Coral Gables, FL
directions: http://refreshmiami.org/address-directions/

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March 21, 2007 in Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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Getting ready to launch Scrapblog

This is another placeholder, I'll repost the Scrapblog slideshow I created when we open up our firewall again in a few days.

March 21, 2007 in Miscellaneous Stuff, Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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SXSW: Turning projects into profit panel

I'm sitting at the "Turning Projects Into Revenue Generating Businesses" with Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Oberkirch, Adam Darowski, and Lionel Menchaca.

Jeremiah is live blogging this event as well here.

The speakers are:

Ted Rheingold, Top Dog, Dogster Inc, panel moderator

Tara Hunt  , CoFounder & CMOCitizen Agency

Gabe Rivera, CEOTechmeme

Shanalyn Victor, Owner/DesignerPixelgirl Shop

Ryan Carson , DirCarson Systems

Ted gave a 5-minute walk-through of the many ways people are making money online. Microsponsorship stands out as one of the truly new ways for people to cover costs and start making money online.

Ted: did you all plan to make money or how did it happen?

Shanalyn started Pixelgirl Shop as a free site but had to start a shop in order to pay for the hosting fees, that were exploding. For Tara and Chris, they needed to support their passion, the work that were doing, because rent is definitely not cheap in San Francisco.

Ted: did anyone study business before running a business?

Ryan encourages everyone to keep trying to get funding for side projects, it is doable.

Ted: how much can you find out on the internet or do you need to seek mentors?

Tara and Chris seek mentors to get new perspectives and may eventually hire a CEO to run the business. Shanalyn found that the "mentors" she found were thinking too small and she was shooting higher. Before your site is popular, people wlll forget about you, so it's a constant effort to get top of mind. Ted's mentor urged him to spend 50% of time selling, if not, "you're going to fail". Tara agreed: everytime you post to a blog, when you post pictures, when you travel and meet people, all these things keep you top of mind in the community.
In fact, you have to be part of the community you serve, and luckily it comes naturally to some. But you need to find ways to get involved, not really in a "selling" way, but in a "learning" way, with your peers.

Ted: how do you determine the pricing of what you're selling?

For Ryan, the only way to know is when you see people buying the stuff. The worst thing to do is to offer too much for free, because people will take it and not pay. So there needs to be a balance. Tara: do your research to see what the market will bear. Shanalyn had to raise the pricing of everything to lighten the amount of work she was doing fulfilling the orders. For Ted, it was about getting a first good sponsor. Once you have that, you understand where the floor is, and it makes it easier to get the next sponsor. But he's gotten the price point wrong many times and has had to adapt and experiment.

Essentially, the best pricing model is to open an excel sheet and figure out how much you need to make to quit your day job. 

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March 10, 2007 in Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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MIT Enterprise Forum Florida Web 2.0 Event

MIT Forum hosted at UM
MIT Forum hosted at UM,
originally uploaded by alex*c.

The University of Miami Business School hosted an MIT Enterprise Forum Florida event on the Web 2.0. (http://www.mitforumfl.org/events/calendar.cfm?id=35).

The speakers were:

The event started with a 7-minute presentation by each speaker followed by a moderated panel discussion and Q&A session.

Jason Baptiste presented Publictivity. Frank Aster is the Co-founder and David Cann the lead developer.

The four pillars of Publictivity:

- a beautiful interface
- collaboration
- web 2.0 grows up
- PR specific functions

Jason gave the first public demo of Publictivity. This is a hosted enterprise collaboration platform which includes the following features and functionalities. This is not an exhaustive list:

- calendar system with links to contacts and parsing of dates
- to-do system
- file uploader and storage
- internal chat system
- collaborative word processor / wiki
- social bookmarking with bookmarklet for the browser
- RSS subscriptions on search terms
- graphical representations
- clipbooks : results of PR campaigns

The user interface is indeed very nice and there is ajax everywhere. Publictivity is coming soon and is due to launch in the next 60 days. They will offer a 2 month free-trial period. The idea is to make it affordable to everyone

Carlos Garcia presented Scrapblog*, a free, web-based service that allows everyday people to create and share multimedia scrapbooks. Users can mix their photos, videos, audio, text and a bunch of creative elements in an environment that is truly drag-and-drop easy. Scrapblog has been developed using the latest Flex development tools and has been self-funded for the last two years. Carlos completed the first round of financing yesterday with Longworth Ventures.

Leonard Boord introduced The Gorb in a very compelling presentation, where he ran through 119 slides in 7 minutes! Caleb from uSnacks helped put the presentation together, which was about “You, Bob and The Gorb”. In a nutshell, “our imperfections make us unique” and The Gorb leverages the power of anonymity, community and consensus to provide the reputation of individuals. The Gorb’s team focused on creating a very clean interface, with a “monster algorithm under the hood”.

How do you rate someone? All you need is an email address. Note that everyone has optional and non-optional e-mail addresses. Generally, non-optional e-mail addresses, such as the ones provided by your workplace, often follow the same format with the domain name. So by aggregating the ratings of everyone in such domains, it is possible to compare the reputation of one company versus another.

The Gorb may have a significant impact on local search as well. Currently, local searches are based on proximity. If you’re looking for a dentist, for instance, you will get the location of them on a map. However, you may want to visit the best dentist in your area, and not just the one that’s closest to you. The Gorb’s reputation system is ideally suited for this.

How about negative criticism? Well, if you receive negative criticism, you may respond to it. Generally, the way you handle criticism reveals more about who you are as a human being. Also, the community can reject negative criticisms. Finally, the monster algorithm eats up people who give too many negative criticisms ;)

Peter Pezaris spoke about Multiply as well as his earlier successes. Most significantly, he had started Sportsline with 4 other developers who invested $2,000 each, bootstrapped it, then sold it some years later for $46m to CBS Sportiline.com. Multiply is about sharing stuff with those you know, and not with the whole world. The Multiply social network has grown to nearly 5 million users.

Jason Gorham presented CareerMetaSearch.com, a passive candidate search technology that allows employers and recruiters to find the best-qualified candidates, faster and more cost effectively than conventional methods. They provide a system that targets passive candidates who may not even be looking for a change and converts them into job applicants. This provides hiring managers with fewer but much better qualified candidates.

Overall, this was a good event. More pictures here.

*NB: I work at scrapblog.com

Cross-posted to refreshmiami.org

March 8, 2007 in Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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BarCamp Miami Memories and Recap

BarCamp Miami came and went but the memories remain excellent.

Before talking about the event, though, a very well deserved round of gratitude is due:

So how did the event go? Douglas Hanks from The Miami Herald wrote about us in the Business section:

So it goes at BarCamp, a sort of viral convention with no schedule, featured speakers, or agenda until the attendees themselves create one. For South Florida's first BarCamp, organizer Alex de Carvalho posted a notice on blogs he and his friends run, as well as a collaborative ''wiki'' Web page dedicated to BarCamps held around the world.

And from this "viral" word of mouth, about  60 people showed up.  The format of BarCamp is "open-source" in the sense that anyone can present and indeed everyone is encouraged to participate. We had three areas with projectors and four time slots to present, and of these twelve slots, 11 got filled in:

  1. Mike Gibaldi talked about Businesswire.com's new "social media" and search engine optimized press release offering
  2. Michael Froomkin presented the security and privacy challenges of getting municipal wi-fi in Miami-Dade. Now's the time to get involved to avoid restrictions on your access to wi-fi!
  3. Ruben Duque created digital graffiti with a laser pointer!
  4. David Hoff drove from Naples to present IMified, which helps you manage everything through your IM client (and then he drove back!)
  5. The Calleiro brothers demoed ourscene.com
  6. Leonard Boord presented The Gorb reputation manager
  7. Nick Dominguez and Ant Bryan spoke about an enhanced download standard for bittorrent, metalink
  8. Donald Llopis presented python and pygame for rapid prototyping of video games
  9. Caleb Elston spoke about usnacks.com, which helps busy college students buy their snacks
  10. Tim Hoyt showed us picturemarketing.com while Cortney Mills took our pictures
  11. I gave a live demo of  Scrapblog.com. We offer a rich, enhanced photo and video sharing experience and will launch in three weeks

Update: Blaine Zuver presented as well. He spoke about ArcticTropic Blog and Metroblogging Miami

Besides the presenters listed above and people mentioned earlier, I also met and spoke to Benjamin Li, Jason L. Baptiste, Francisco Martin, Maria de los Angeles Lemus, Danay, Jackie Paz, Caleb Elston, Blaine Zuver, Denise R. Jacobs, Jorge Barroso and Eduardo Henriques.

We are also grateful that some venture capitalists showed up, including from Longworth, Aurora Ventures and H.I.G. This is very reassuring and I hope we'll see you participate in future events.

What's next? We hope to do another BarCamp soon. How soon? It's up to you. And who's "we"? It could be anyone. BarCamps can be run on any theme and anyone can take the initiative. And if anyone would like to do another BarCamp Miami on web/tech/design, please do so. The BarCamp wiki is open to all and the BarCampMiami blog is open to more authors.

We would also like to create a more formal conference, called webpl.us. Why more formal? Because we would like to have speakers from across the US, from Europe and from Latin America present, and when you fly in people and pay for their hotels, you need to ensure attendance, cover your costs and provide your speakers with a forum.

Which brings us back to running a BarCamp. The experience is exhilarating and there is a definite adrenalin rush to organizing one, and it stays in your system. Why? Because after all the preparation, you really don't know if anyone is going to show up ... and BarCamps are all about people.

And everyone that showed up have each other to thank for making the event so enjoyable.

See you soon, I hope!

Here are some links:

Cross-posted to tapio.com, RefreshMiami, BarCamp Miami

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February 23, 2007 in Marketing-Advertising, Starting up, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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BarCampMiami Coming Up!

Kim Grinfeder from the University of Miami, Nick Dominguez from Autonation ADP and I are organizing this event and would like to thank Manola and MiamiBeach411, Brian Breslin, Monica "Geektastik" Betancourt, Brent Ozar, Critical Miami and Lorelle on Wordpress, among others, for helping to get the word out and our sponsors for helping to make this possible.

BarCamp Miami Feb 21, '07

BarCamp is your opportunity to present your company, your startup or your idea of the next big thing. Everyone is welcome to present and all presentations are scheduled upon arrival.

The first BarCamp “unconference” was organized in California in August 2005. Since then, BarCamps have been held across the globe, culminating last year in the first anniversary Barcamp Earth, held the same day in multiple locations worldwide. Barcamp is a great place to meet people and learn about your online community in your home town.

BarCamp Miami was designed for people in South Florida to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from an ad hoc gathering of entrepreneurs, technology developers, designers, web enthusiasts, students and anyone else who’s interested in learning about new projects underway. It’s a way to ‘get everyone together and see what happens’. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the schedule wall.

You don’t have to present anything but we do encourage you to just come and listen and share ideas.

Sign up here: http://barcamp.org/Barcamp-Miami

When: February 21st, 2007, from 6:00PM - 9:00PM

Where: University of Miami School of Communications- Wolfson Building, Brunson Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33124-2105

Cost: FREE!

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February 15, 2007 in Starting up, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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