A Year Later: The Companies I Wanted To Profile (but didn't exist)

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Reader Response: Holiday SPECTACULAR

It’s Christmas today, and there is very little actual startup or technology news happening. So I took a look back at a post I wrote a year ago titled “Companies I’d like to Profile (but don’t exist)” to see how many of the ideas turned into actual startups or products. It turns out many of them are now out there in the world, standing the test of users. Others, not so much.

Here’s what I found:

1. Better and Cheaper Online File Storage

A year ago, Xdrive charged $10/month for 5 GB of storage. GoDaddy charged $10/year for 1 GB. That was too much to get mass consumer adoption. I asked for 500 GB for $20/year.

I may have asked for too much, but online storage prices have dropped dramatically in the last year. The big change came in March, when Amazon launched it’s S3 back-end storage service for application providers. The cost of storage went to $0.15 per GB/month, or $15/month for 100 GB. They also charge $0.20/GB of data transferred. This effectively reset online storage pricing.

Xdrive dropped its prices and now gives 5 GB away for free. A ton of specialized storage companies launched that offer much lower prices than last year as well. Carbonite , for example, will back up a hard drive of any size for $5/month.

And 2007 will bring a new batch of online storage providers. Both Microsoft and Google have products in development.

We still have a way to go. We need more storage. We need easier storage. And it has to be cheaper.

Score: Half Way, but still a long way to go

2. Blog/website Email Lists

A year ago I said I’d pay as much as $20/month for a decent RSS-to-email product. The only product available at that time was Feedblitz, and it didn’t offer much in the way of stats or customization.

Today we have a number of excellent option. Feedblitz is a significantly better product and handles 80,000 or so feeds. And Feedburner launched a free product in April that integrates nicely into their other RSS products. We now have over 7,000 email subscribers to TechCrunch.

Score: Done

3. Portable Reputations

Last year I mentioned eBay’s Feedback system and said it was arguably their biggest asset. Even with its flaws, I said, it is one the biggest drivers of trust between two people buying and selling who’ve never met and never will. But it’s a closed system, usable only within eBay and only for eBay transactions.

We needed an internet-wide identity and feedback system that any reputable application can tap into, both pulling and pushing data.
At the time we had taken a look atiKarma, but they seemed to have missed the boat by ignoring the portability aspect of reputation.

Rapleaf launched in April. And while it’s still quite early, it does exactly what we need it to do – provide a good off-ebay reputation system. eBay banned Rapleaf in May (They learned their lesson with PayPal it seems), but the company is still chugging along.

Score: Done

4. Tailored Local Offers (via RSS)

I think there should be a service where you sign up, give it as much demographic and personal information as you like, and get a personal RSS feed in return. Local merchants can send you coupons and special offers via that RSS feed.

Zixxo launched a coupon-to-RSS service back in April, although they seem to have gone somewhat quiet. I still think this is a great idea, but it will be hard to hit critical mass. Existing Yellow Page companies and Citysearch are in the best position to win.

Half Way

5. Facebook, in other countries

Done. Many times. And there are lots more, and will be lots more.

Score: Done

6. Free Music

AllOfMP3 is still hanging in there, but it would be a big stretch to call them “legal.” And they aren’t free, just close to free. BitToreent is free, of course. But it is far from legal. This was and always will be a stretch, but there are encouraging signs out there that at least DRM may be going away.

Another positive sign: the rise of sites like Amie Street, which offer DRM-free music for free at first, and the price starts to rise as downloads increase. The highest priced songs on the site are also the most popular, by definition.

And there is also Spiralfrog, which has partnered with a couple of labels and will distribute music for free. However, the DRM wrapper appears to be a nonstarter.

Score: Not even close

7. Open Source Yellow Pages

I said last year that we need an open source Yellow Pages. With Tagging. And open APIs. Google and Yahoo are dabbling in this space, but the only ones that can make a full on open source Yellow Page happen is one of the incumbent offline players. And they don’t get the space, so Google and Yahoo are going to eat their lunch.

Score: Nada

8. Podcast Transcriptions

Amazon launched Mechanical Turk, which makes it possible for a startup to do this as a service without worrying about finding translators. A site called Podtranscript launched but has since died and is now pointing to an expired domain landing page. CastingWords, another service, seems to be going strong. They charge $0.42 per minute.

Score: Done

9. Decentralized Review Aggregation

People review stuff all the time on their blogs, and there’s a need for a search engine to aggregate those reviews. Kritx launched to do this, although there’s little activity on their site today. Microformats can play a part in this as well as people structure their review data properly. And of course, Yelp, Judy’s Book, Insider Pages and Riffs are all creating their own review sites, with decentralized aspects, such as user blogs and RSS.

Score: Independent sites are doing well.

10. Build Something Cool with SSE

SSE? What’s SSE?

Score: Big Zero


My overall score suggests that it is a good thing I am a writer and not a venture capitalist. A couple of hits, and lots of misses. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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