Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

May 5th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

This past weeken I was fortunate enough to attend my first boxing match, Mayweather vs. Mosley in Las Vegas.  It was a once in a lifetimeexperience; that I would highly recommend.

There are some interesting commonalities between boxers and startups.

Dedication:  In order to be a boxer it takes incredible dedication and restraint.  In the months prior to the fight your life is consumed with training and preparation.  This same dedication is needed in a startup.

Focus: Throughout the training regiment focus is key, but it’s also key in the ring.  Focusing on your abilities, the landscape, the competitor and the goal is important to win in boxing and business.

Strength: It goes without saying a boxer must have strength to go the distance and win.  A startup needs the same.

Agility & Speed: Boxing is not only about strength its about having the agility and speed to adapt and ‘roll with the punches’.  A startup needs to have the  same ability, while being focused.


How Much Klout do you have?

April 28th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

The social web is being built by people and their thoughts.  To date most analytics companies in the social sphere have focused on ‘their thoughts’ and few have focused on the people who brought you those thoughts.  I don’t want to downplay the value of thoughts, in fact we are investors in Crimson Hexagon, a leading tool analyzing thoughts… but today is about people!

We are very excited to announce our investment in Klout, the leading platform for understanding the ‘who’ behind the ‘what’.  Klout is about determining who people are providing data around them that can help people and companies make decisions.

Were excited about Klout because as the social web continues to grow among people and businesses the ability to identify, rank and sort people is going to be more and more important in getting thru the clutter.   Klout allows you to do just that determine who is important in what areas and is poised to become standard measurement of influence online.

Klout is arguably the leader in the space with some terrific partners using the platform, these include Co-Tweet, TweetUp and HootSuite, to name a few of the 200+.

We look forward to continuing to work with the team along with our investment partners, ff Asset Management, Bobby Yazdani of Saba, Allen Morgan of Mayfield Fund, of Lucid Ventures, Grape Arbor VC, , , Michael Yavonditte of Quigo Technologies, and Ofer Ronan.


Implementing Twitter @Anywhere

April 21st, 2010 by Barrel View Comments

Note: This is a guest blog post by the team from .

@anywhereWe added Twitter’s to the Zelkova Ventures website and blog over the weekend. We liked how @Anywhere enabled more engagement with Twitter without being overly intrusive and hope to implement it for other clients who’re active Twitter users.

There are three main things that @Anywhere offers:

  1. You can embed a Tweet Box, making it easy for users/readers to Tweet right from your site. You can customize the initial text in the box, so this might be useful if you’re trying to encourage people to RT something.
  2. The Hovercard brings Twitter data right to the page, making it easy to see and follow someone’s Twitter account info without leaving the current site. Also, any username mentioned on the page gets auto-linked to the Twitter account page.
  3. Connect with Twitter lets users log in to a site/app with their Twitter account. For the Zelkova blog, this wasn’t necessary since it already uses Disqus for commenting with an option for Twitter login.

We first checked out Add Twitter @Anywhere plugin for Wordpress and felt it was too limited for what we wanted to do. We wanted to go beyond just having Hovercards for @usernames and thought @Anywhere could be more integrated with the blog entries. Using the Insert Link Classes plugin, we created a “twitterlink” class that could be called right in the body of post. This way, it would be easy to activate Hovercards on someone’s name and also have that link go to their website instead of their Twitter page. We should note that Insert Link Classes didn’t work out of the box; we had to sift through the comments to find a way to get it to work.

Insert Class Link and @Anywhere

We set up Wordpress to make it easy to enable Hovercards beyond just @usernames.

Next, we added the Tweet Box to the sidebar, which was fairly easy. One thing to note was that because it’s in an iframe, the ability to style the Tweet Box is limited. We prepopulated the box with @ZelkovaVC to encourage a reply tweet from the blog’s readers.

Tweet Box

The rest of the Zelokva website runs on ExpressionEngine, which meant adding a few lines of code to the template files. One area where we found @Anywhere helpful was for the company portfolio pages. Each company already has a Twitter feed showing their three latest Tweets, so we were able to add Hovercards for each one.

ZV Portfolio

Overall, implementation was fairly straightforward. We should warn that @Anywhere does slow down the site a bit when it loads. And sometimes you’ll see a bit of a lag on the Hovercards as well, but we’re hoping this is something that’ll improve over time.


No Bullshit, Softball Questions

April 13th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

I recently had the honor of moderating a New York Entrepreneur Week panel entitled Raising Seed-Stage & Angel Investor Capital in Today’s Environment.

The panel consisted of four early stage investor: of 500 Hats/Founders Fund, Geoff Judge of NY Angels/Metamorphic Ventures, Owen Davis of NYC Seed and Brian Cohen of NY Angels.

We wanted to avoid the bullshits softball questions that are usually asked at these events and you already know the answers to; I think I was successful.

A few of the key takeaways were:

The market for early stage funds much more vibrant than 12 months ago and there is plenty of capital out there.

1) The biggest pet peeves of the panelists when seeing pitches were as follows:

a) Not explaining the problem you are solving and just focusing on the product/service.

b) Glancing over the competition and not looking at the entire ecosystem of competitors.

c) Lack of customer understanding and customer interaction

2) The inevitable question around how do I contact an investor came from the audience and while views were mixed on the best way, it was unanimous that an intro from a mutual friend, colleague, partner, etc is by far the best!  Some investors will look at ‘cold-call’ emails but increase your chance of getting thru the noise and get an reputable intro!

3) When posed the questions around what the panelists have learned from the one that got away (the investment they regretted passing on), the lessons learned included:

a) Don’t overly obsess with the concept if the team is kick ass and the idea decent they’ll figure it out.

b)Don’t drag your feet if you see something great don’t be afraid to jump in (this goes for investors and entrepreneurs).

Lastly, the topic of valuation came up and Dave McClure brought up a contrarian view on valuation; but it makes great sense. In essence the view was start low and get investors excited once you have a few that are interested (and vice versa) let them bid up the round.  This avoids the situation where your price investors out from the get go with sticker shock.


Audio Books

April 12th, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

Recently Jason Calacanis turned me on to audio books via Audible.com and I have to say i’m really enjoying it.  So far I have listened to two books First In Thrist by Darren Rovell and Trade-Off by Kevin Maney, and currently on my third.

I have been listening to the books on my commute to and from the office and I find that I no longer care if the subway is taking a little more time or if Bloomberg’s plan to make the city more congested is working.

The audio format is great for those books that you can continue reading if you skip a chapter or two.  For me they work great for biographies and general business overviews.  I don’t think the audio format is as good for highly technical books as if you space out the audio keeps going, unlike actually reading and you may miss important parts.

In the future I expect to see more interactive audio books including features like  search, sharing, graphics, commenting, etc.  All these features will help to improve the overall experience and grow the usage base.

Overall I highly recommend audio books for anyone who has a commute and doesn’t feel they have time to ‘read’ you will find yourself getting thru a few books a month and your blood pressure much lower!!!


About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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