general — avner on June 25, 2007

before i got a boxee credit card i ran many boxee expenses on my personal credit card.. since i am not very good about keeping a record of my expenses i looked for a tool to help me figure out how much i actually spent.

the citibank website didn’t give me a good tool to do it, and i don’t use something like quicken of microsoft money.

then i stumbled upon wesabe. i uploaded all my credit card statements in a few minutes, and then used tagging to mark all the boxee related expenses.

it was quick, easy, and now i can even print all sorts of irrelevant graphs of the way the expenses split.

not sure about all the social features around it. can’t see myself use any of them at this stage. it seems it is a heated space, but i am not passionate enough about it to start exploring the other sites.

anyway. cool little tool. very useful.

open-space vs. offices

general — avner on June 21, 2007

we will soon move into a new office in israel. there is a philosophical question regarding the layout of the office. whether it is going to be an open-space or are we going to have separate rooms for people.

it is probably a theoretical debate since the budget we are allocating for the rent will probably just get us one small room… still as we are building our corporate boxee culture we get do discuss these issues, and people have firm opinions.

i found this short summary of benefits of open-space vs. offices:

Summary of Benefits of Open Space

  • Most appreciate the sense of community an open spaced work environment instills in them
  • Space allows for better communication and exchange of information among co-workers. It is easier to ask each other questions in an open environment
  • Some preferred being among other people, not wanting to feel “closed in” or “all alone”
  • The open work environment also allows some to know what’s “going on” in the office – being “in the know”

Summary of Benefits of Closed Space

  • 9 in 10 state that privacy is the number one benefit of a closed space/work environment
  • The idea of having walls around you, keeping roving eyes from drifting over to your work and “your space” makes some feel more secure
  • Another key benefit of working in a closed space is the reduction in noise
  • A closed space can also translate, for some, into more room/space. It usually connotes an office or larger work/office space

i personally think that in an early stages of a company there is no question that an open-space is better. everybody should be working together, all the time. i believe that open-space encourages creativity and collaboration and keeps everyone on the same page (i also find the egalitarian aspect of it to be appealing).

i am not sure when comes the time that having private rooms starts to make sense. maybe never.

the dip

general — avner on June 19, 2007

a good friend recommended that i read "the dip" by seth godin. as i wrote before i am not a big fan of "business" books, but my friend promised it is very short and worthwhile. so i went on amazon and got it.

it is very short (80 small pages with big font..).

the dip tries to explain that in certain situations quitting is good (rather than sticking with something hopeless). he calls these situations "cul-de-sacs". and that real winners know when to stick and when to quit.

it sounds kind of obvious. and it really is. i think the only advantage to reading the book is that it make you think about whether you are currently facing any dips or cul-de-sacs.

i guess by definition any entrepreneur that moved beyond a certain stage (quitting his job, risking his own money, etc.) has made it through a dip that most people will quit. i hope we’ll be determined enough to move past future dips and smart enough to quit cul-de-sacs we come across.

like in many other business books it is very repetitive and could be summarized well in an article. but then it would not make as much money for the author… (i think The Long Tail is another example of monetizing article material into a best-selling book). to seth godin’s credit he kept it down to quick 80-page booklet, when he could easily made it into a 300-page book.

the commute to israel

general — avner on June 10, 2007

got seat 25E (in the middle seat in the middle row).

opted-out from the hindu food. figured it will send me to the restrooms and didn’t want to bother my neighbors.

had an old lady sitting on my left. she was very nice, though kept tapping my shoulder to ask question. her favorite question was what time it is. she wanted to get the answer in san francisco, new york, and israel time-zone. then she’d ask how long before we arrive.

watched a bad movie ("crank") on my laptop. the old lady kept peeking, she was most interested in the sex scene..

rented a car from avis. they gave me a car i never heard of before, Nissan Micra. it looks like a SMART car with a severe allergic reaction. i believe i drove lawn mowers with bigger engines.

trip summary

general — avner on June 8, 2007

we spent a few days in the west coast. had meeting with our designers, potential partners, potential investors, friends and potential friends :)

a few observations:

starbucks - while i make an effort to avoid it. there are really no alternatives in downtown san francisco. it is bad coffee served in over-sized cups. to my surprise our morning starbucks served a ’small’ size (which in every other country would be considered regular). a major improvement. now they only need to have better coffee beans, better grinding, not over-heat the coffee, not burn the milk, and learn how to make proper foam..

motivating music - first time that i rented a car that had XM built in. took us a long time, but finally we found a station we liked. not sure what the number was, but it was playing all kinds of electronic music. it felt good. charging us up before our meetings.

the secret for more effective networking - i found a way to improve my networking skills. alcohol. it works even better if the other people drink too…

designers are magicians - we really enjoyed the time we spent with our designers. i can’t understand how they do what they do. to me it feels like magic.

we finally decided on our logo, colors, etc. will publish it here soon. (together with a new design for this blog and our the boxee.tv site page)

more about PR

general — avner on June 1, 2007

techdirt is one of those places every start-up wants to be featured on. so it’s no surprise that they have to deal with many emails spam from PR people.

from time to time it annoys them enough to post about it. like this post from a few days ago (there are also links to previous posts they had about PR abuse).

we view blogs as a great way to get the word out about boxee (we and everyone else), but if it was not obvious by now there is no way we are going to use a PR agency… we’ll do it ourselves and keep it real.

PR firms

general — avner on May 26, 2007

i stumbled upon guy kawasaki’s blog post "The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work". he asked Margie Zable Fisher who runs theprsite.com why so many start-ups are "burned" by their experience with PR firms.

i think Margie’s 10 reasons mostly miss the point.

in my previous startup i have been "burned" by PR firms. worked with small, mid-size and very large firm on the same project.

i think that from a tech startup perspective there are 2 main issues when working with PR firms, and why most startups will be "burned".

  1. it’s the story, stupid. in most cases the size of the PR firm, and the type of relationships they have does not matter. what matters most is whether the company has a story to tell. where most PR firms fail their clients is on this basic point.

    no good story, no ink.

    when there is no good story than the PR firm will tell you about their "relationship building efforts", the slow gradual process of PR, and other excuses for making you pay retainer fees.

  2. PR firms take away rather than add credibility. it’s a different media world, the Internet has made it much wider and accessible. PR person picking the phone and calling is relevant only for main stream media, and in today’s world it is rare that they break out a story. the stories first gather momentum in blogs, then the mainstream media calls you.

    having your PR firm approach a blogger is probably the best way to make sure you’re not going to get coverage.

i think that start-ups should hire a PR consultant that will help in building the strategy, and share experiences. that should be a quick engagement (no retainer), at the end of it the startup should handle the PR itself using in-house resources.

much cheaper and much more effective.

small advice for Margie regarding her website.
it really begs for a new design.
kill the pop-up.

founders at work

general — avner on May 21, 2007

i usually find it hard to read "business" books. i tried several times, but i find it hard to stay engaged with most of them.

made an exception this time and i am reading Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston. a collection of interviews with founders of various startups about the early days. figured i could learn a thing or two.

so far i went through craigslist, paypal, tivo, reasarch in motion, tripadvisor, firefox, flickr, blogger, webtv and hotornot.

most of the interviews are with the more "techy" founder, so there are a lot of stories about non-stop coding, nights without sleep, cold pizza, etc. reminds me more of my days in odigo (my previous start-up where i did some of the early coding). this time i am only using writing in excel, word and PPT.. i still find lots of bugs, and i still create most of these bugs when i am writing in questionable states of consciousness… so i guess not much has changed.

most of these startups became successful by doing something completely different from what their original idea was. which is probably a good testament to the fact that the success of a company is more dependent on the team than on the strength of the idea.

another important ingredient that relates to the previous point is ‘persistence’. being relentless. constantly making changes and adjustments to find a way to succeed.

just found this quote in an email i received today. could not agree more.

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will
not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius
will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not;
the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination
alone are omnipotent."
- Calvin Coolidge

“let me wash my hands first”

general — avner on May 9, 2007

i am spending a good part of this week in a conference in half moon bay, ca (amazing scenery, crappy weather).

the sessions are pretty good, but a big reason for people (me included) to come to such events is networking. i don’t think i am too good at it, but i am getting better over the years.

anyway. i believe that i had just witnessed the bottom in terms of desperate attempt to engage someone in a conversation. it was in the restrooms…

the target was finishing taking a leak at the urinal when this guy approaches him saying something like "i really liked what you said about…" and reaches for a handshake. the target answered "let me wash my hands first. i think it will be best for both of us"..

i seriously doubt that their conversation will result in anything beyond this blog post

keeping costs down

general — avner on May 4, 2007

every start-up is fighting to keep costs to a minimum. here’s how we’re doing it:

office space:

in new york we have friends that gave us a room at their office.
in israel people are working either from home or at tom/roee’s place..


mobissimo, priceline, and redeeming lots of miles..


try to use skype, jajah as much as possible

conf calls:


microsoft office:

trying to move to open-source alternatives (like neooffice)


everyone agrees to a reduced salary for the seed stage..

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