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Wednesday, August 31, 2021

Part Three in my highlighting of features from September’s Florida Trend:

Which Costs More? pairs up dwellings in various Florida cities with comparable housing markets across the U.S., and shows the tale of the financial tape. For instance:

Naples, Fla. vs. Santa Barbara, Calif.

Naples: Wedgewood/The Vineyards area, 4BR/3.5B, 4,197sf, 7yo
Listing price: $1,295,000; Property taxes: $7,810

Santa Barbara: Mission Canyon area, 4BR/4.5B, 4,000sf, 2yo
Listing price: $1,549,000; Property taxes: $14,312

Of course, the Sunshine State doesn’t come out on top dolar-wise every time:

Tampa, Fla. vs. Raleigh, N.C.

Tampa: Tampa Palms area, 4BR/4B, 4,010sf, 4yo
Listing price: $1.1 million; Property taxes: $12,400

Raleigh: Cross Gate area, 4BR/3.5B, 4,065sf, 5yo
Listing price: $468,900; Property taxes: $3,172

All just gazing material until that bubble pops…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/31/2005 10:44pm
Category: Business, Florida Livin', Publishing
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The show ended 15 years ago, and the CGI revival movies aren’t coming until 2008. So to pay the rent, Smurfette is apparently working at Burger King.

She won’t be working there long, if she keeps giving out ten bucks’ worth of change for a five-dollar order. Math education must be a shortcoming in the Smurf Village Greater School District.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/31/2005 09:59pm
Category: Comedy, Pop Culture
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desperately measuredSo when I heard about the knockout Shay Todd dress/swimsuit worn by my most favorite of “Housewives”, Eva Longoria, at the MTV Music Video Awards, I knew I had to get a gander myself.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m wondering what all the fuss was about.

I mean, sure, it’s skimpy, and would raise eyebrows if it were worn to the Oscars. But essentially, it’s a bathing suit. She definitely looks great in it, but it’s not like she’s naked. I’m thinking MTV stoked a lot of the noise itself, because I really don’t see why this was considered so scandalous.

Still, I’m looking. It is Eva, after all.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/31/2005 09:36pm
Category: Celebrity, Fashion, Pop Culture
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With all the damage Hurricane Katrina has done, its impact on the sporting world is — and should be — very much a minimal concern.

Still, insofar as major pro franchises serve as mental identifiers for their home regions, you can look at the predicament of the Saints, in the wake of damage to the Superdome and to New Orleans in general, becoming a team with no home for the upcoming NFL season as one facet (albiet minor) of the damage inflicted.

Right now, options for “home” games include San Antonio (the Alamodome), LSU, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Houston (in the Texans’ Reliant Stadium), and even such far-flung locales as Los Angeles and Orlando. As bleak as any of those choices may be, at least there won’t be any serious whispers of permanent franchise relocation to go with it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/31/2005 09:08pm
Category: Football, Weather
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Apparently, today is Blog Day — or, if you prefer, Blogosphere Day.

So, uh… All of you, go out and read a blog! Oh wait, you’re already doing that…

Whatever it’s supposed to signify, I’m just spreading the Blog Day word. I would postulate about the current state of blogging, but the mood’s not striking me. Feel free to peruse the archives.

And remember: Here at PopStat, every day is blog day.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/31/2005 08:16pm
Category: Bloggin'
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Tuesday, August 30, 2021

en espanolThe next feature from September’s Florida Trend:

English-to-Spanish takes a look at the growth of Florida’s Spanish-language media outlets outside of traditional stronghold Miami, particularly in radio. In the last five years, the number of Spanish radio stations has gone from 22 to 50:

That boom mirrors Hispanic media habits. Arbitron research shows that Hispanics spend more time with radio than the general market — approximately 3.5 hours more per week — and are bigger consumers of radio than of newspapers and television.

“Radio is the most accessible free source of advertisement that the Hispanic person can get, be it radio and music or other formats,” says Pedro Perez, co-owner and a vice president of Nuevo Advertising Group in Sarasota, which specializes in marketing to Hispanics.

Lots more Hispanic consumer data accompanies the article.

Most telling is the rapid conversion of many traditional-format radio stations to Spanish. Stations with weak ratings in overcrowded markets now have the option of going after Hispanics (albiet at more expense for conversion, with having to hire Spanish-language talent, etc.).

As far as print goes, Central Florida has proven to be fertile ground, and a launching pad to these parts:

Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign that included the posting of billboards, television ads, radio ads and a kickoff festival, the Orlando paper has achieved a circulation of about 27,000. [General Manager Jaime] Segura says El Nuevo Dia also is building a steady stream of regular advertising revenue, mostly from car dealers, real estate companies, lawyers and healthcare companies like Humana.

Segura hints that a Tampa edition could be down the road. The newpaper’s main office is in Orlando, but with printing operations in Lakeland, “Tampa is a natural for us,” and although the Tampa [Hispanic] market is not as big as Orlando’s just yet, it is growing.

Gaining mainstream mass media exposure is a sure sign of validation. It all comes down to where the audience wants to go; and where the audience goes, the money will follow. Miami’s multinational experience served as an example that the rest of the state is now emulating.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/30/2005 11:29pm
Category: Business, Publishing, Radio
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they bottled it
I’m still abstaining from caffeine, opting to ride it out for as long as it’s not a hassle.

So why did I buy the above bottle of mega-caffeine, no-sugar Bawls Guaranexx? Hell, just look at the thing. It’s got to be the most appealing product packaging I’ve ever seen on a supermarket shelf. The bottle could have been full of air, and I probably still would have paid the dollar-fifty for it.

So taken was I by the pretty container, I didn’t even get the double entendre in the name “Bawls” at first; it only sunk in later. Frankly, I think it’s a fairly incongruous match: Award-worthy container design and juvenile product name.

As for the taste test… That’ll have to wait until my caffeine embargo is over. Hope it’ll keep!

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/30/2005 10:34pm
Category: Food
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Is the iPod killer arriving by way of… Apple? The long-rumored iTunes Music Phone, developed by Apple and Motorola, is ready to debut from Cingular Wireless, prompting murmurs of a sea change in the digital music player market.

Apple’s move is a signal that it’s covering the bases in portable devices. Obviously, combining a high-capacity music player with the phone cuts down on the personal clutter. Given the choice, most people would choose the phone as their one essential device.

I haven’t been sold on the merger of music player and phone, for one big reason: Battery life. When phone batteries still can’t hold enough power to function for longer than a couple of hours, guess what: People aren’t going to fritter away that precious juice on music playback (or pocket videogames, or TV, or any of the other mobile phone applications they keep rolling out). Until battery performance allows for several hours of performance, the extras aren’t going to fly.

Still, this new offering is intriguing. I’m really curious about how you’d load up songs:

It was unclear whether the new phone will allow users to download music directly over a cellular Internet connection or if they would have to download songs to a computer and then transfer them to the handset.

One of the restrictions on the iPod is the inability to transfer songs off it to a computer, or to another iPod (there are hacks that make this possible, but realistically, no one but the geekiest of geeks utilize them). Breaking this pattern for an iTunes phone would be a big step, and raise concerns about easy distribution of audio files (i.e., piracy). But it would seem to be a natural to enable song purchases via a mobile handset. I suppose copy restrictions could be built into the whole thing, from the AAC files through to the phone’s firmware.

Anyway, this comes at a time when my own phone’s battery is slowly dying, and my contract is getting close to early-termination-without-penalty status. So I’m tempted by every shiny new toy that comes along. (Actually, the bigger feature priority in a new phone would be a higher-quality camera than what I’ve got, maybe with video capture too.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/30/2005 09:11pm
Category: Tech, iPod
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If the meanings of ‘true’ and ‘false’ were switched, then this sentence wouldn’t be false.
-Pete Maclean

Confused enough yet? If not, read further for more self-referential wordplay.

Could there be some relationship here with the works of Rene Magritte and Michel Foucault? There certainly seems to be a common intellectual thread throughout.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/30/2005 08:22pm
Category: Creative
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Monday, August 29, 2021

political trendNot that I’m hurting for material to post here, but for my own edification, I think I’ll devote a post a day to the September 2005 issue of Florida Trend and its collection of cover and feature stories that impresses me so. Since there’s five articles in the roster, that will take me through this workweek.

Disclaimer, of course: Florida Trend is my employer. So I guess I’m a bit biased. But I wouldn’t bother writing about this stuff during my off-hours if I didn’t think that this month’s product was especially good.

Up today: Congressional Holdings, a ranking of Florida’s 27 U.S. Representatives and Senators, based upon their Federal Election Commission financial disclosures. South Florida’s Rep. Clay Shaw (R) is the Sunshine State’s big-money frontrunner, with an estimated $10.2 million to $43.5 million.

As usual, Katherine Harris made things interesting. The Republican from Sarasota/Manatee needed an extension for filing her information, so that her data didn’t make Trend’s print deadline. In fact, she managed distinguish herself by being one of the last four House members to file.

Not exactly a glowing track record to point toward for her fledgling U.S. Senate run.

We did get Harris’ disclosure in time for online publication, though. For the record, she measured up as the second-richest Congressperson representing Florida, with a net worth as high as $36.9 million.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/29/2005 11:33pm
Category: Florida Livin', Politics
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First it was the anti-Rupert Murdoch MySpace protesters. Now it’s Flick Off‘s turn to act hysterical. A contingent of Flickr users are grousing about new rules under acquirer Yahoo!, and plan to snuff their accounts in protest.

Perhaps noticing a trend, a psychological rationalization is developing:

Small in context, the opposition to the change illustrates the attachment many feel toward their online identities, according to professor Sherry Turkle, director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on Technology and Self and author of Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet.

“So many of us don’t have a gathering place that feels comfortable and communal,” she said. “For those who found that on Flickr.com, its transformation into a ‘service’ on Yahoo is a loss; they are losing something important to them.

“It is a harbinger of the greater sensitivity we need to show in the future as we take more seriously the psychological importance of our digital lives.”

I don’t doubt that people form strong bonds with their online playgrounds, and from there grow them into personas. When you spend so much time in front of the computer screen, you invest a healthy chunk of your soul into it.

But really, my advice to the disgruntled Flickrs is the same I gave to the renegade MySpacers: Get over it. Flickr wasn’t built to be a clubhouse; it was formed as a business enterprise. If they’re so gungho on having an online home for their images, they should buy a domain name, find a host and start loading up.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/29/2005 10:52pm
Category: Business, Internet, Society
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start selling
When you’re fairly low on the American sports radar, and then you skip a season over labor issues, guess what — you need some help in getting the word out that you’re still alive.

So the National Hockey League is turning to not one, not two, but four ad agencies to announce the resumption of puck-play:

The agencies are Conductor, specializing in entertainment and brand marketing for advertisers like Coca-Cola, Ford Motor and LucasArts video games; CarryOn Communications, a public relations agency; PHD, a media planning and buying agency that is part of the Omnicom Group; and Rogers & Cowan, an entertainment public relations agency that is owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies. The league previously worked with various agencies on a project basis.

As good a lineup as you can get. My advice to Gary Bettman and the rest of the league’s brass: Stay the hell out of the agencies’ way, and let them do their jobs. You’ve proven time and time again that you don’t know how to market your game; let the pros do it right.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/29/2005 10:11pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Hockey
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cold soberloaded
Who knew that the well-known sea shanty “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?” was “closely associated with football”? That’s the story out of Toyota and ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, when they got some flack for using a tune about drunkenness to sell cars.

From the New York Times‘ Stuart Elliott, in his weekly email newsletter:

According to Wade Hoyt, Northeast public affairs manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA, part of Toyota Motor of Japan, the company and agency know the tune by the title “A Golden Boy Again,” under which they licensed it from N.F.L. Films.

“It’s used on ESPN and in the John Madden video games and is said to be closely associated with football,” Mr. Hoyt says, “hence its use in the August sales campaign with its football theme.”

In discussing it with a couple of the journalists who previously inquired about the song, “they conceded that only older listeners might be familiar with the sea chantey,” he adds. “I’m 62 and, although the tune in the ad seemed to ring a distant bell, I could not put a name to it.”

“Obviously, no one at Toyota or its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, recognized any similarity to the old sea chantey,” Mr. Hoyt says, “and we doubt that many listeners will, either.” The campaign is scheduled to end Sunday, he adds.

Am I crazy, or is “Drunken Sailor” not more closely associated with hockey? I can’t ever recall hearing the tune at a football game (or any other sporting event), but I’d bet it’s been played at every single NHL game I’ve ever attended (it is a natural on the electric organ, after all).

Could it be that the NHL’s recent lockout also took out the memory of “Drunken Sailor” at the big-league rink?

Beyond that, I vividly recall it being part of the limited soundtrack of the old EA Sports NHL Hockey videogames of the early and mid-’90s. If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Madden football game developers adopted the tune from the hockey games.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that either hockey or football is a natural fit for a ditty about abusing a passed-out, seaborn drunk. But it’s a spritely melody, nonetheless.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/29/2005 09:21pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Creative, Football, Hockey
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If you’re a big Elizabeth Hurley fan, be sure to pick up the September issue of Shape magazine. Not only is she looking good on the cover, she’s looking good on a two-page Estée Lauder ad spread just inside the cover, and on an editorial page promoting a “Win Liz Hurley’s Cover Look” contest, prompting raised eyebrows over the rampant editorial/advertising synergy.

All involved are denying any shady dealing, of course. But whether it all came together intentionally or not, it’s an further, uncomfortable step toward blurring the lines. Not that Shape or parent company American Media is a bellwether for the industry, but every little bit, no matter from where, has a cumulative effect.

Hey, wait a minute. I’m a Liz Hurley fan! How can I resist: Brunette, killer bod, British accent… I’d better run out and grab my copy.

UPDATE: Sheesh. Despite having the cover image right in front of me, and reading the article a couple of times, I boneheadedly flubbed the title of the magazine — from the actual Shape to Self. My only defense: Ms. Hurley’s distractingly pretty figure obscuring the title on said cover. Still, I think my fixation on a cutesy headline for this post overrode my eye for detail.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/29/2005 08:45pm
Category: Celebrity, Fashion, Publishing
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Sunday, August 28, 2021

wiki trendIt’s not often that I pimp for the magazine I work for on this blog. Fact is, I don’t think it needs my help.

But as quality as the content is most months, I really think the current issue of Florida Trend (September 2005) is especially outstanding. If this issue doesn’t haul in a bunch of awards, I’ll be shocked. It’s not often that I’m completely blown away by every feature story, as well as the cover piece.

Speaking of which: The profile on Jimmy Wales and his fast-growing Wikipedia empire offers up an enlightening look at the origins and future direction of the ambitious collaborative knowledge well.

I’ve known about the Wikipedia-Florida (specifically, St. Petersburg) connection for some time now. But it’s still neat to get the background on Wales, the proclaimed “God-King” of Wiki enthusiasts everywhere. His plans for expanding the enterprise, mainly through the for-profit Wikia Inc. and its Wikicities community sites, suggests an intriguing monetization prospect for the entire come-one-come-all content-creation concept.

I’ve been critical of Wikipedia in the past. Specifically, using it as a reliable and sole source of information strikes me as the equivalent of citing a piece of graffiti. I still feel that way, and certainly wouldn’t accept it if it were submitted in a story or argument. Certainly, it can be used as an initial pointer toward deeper research — a role that most people negelct — but that’s it.

Still, I can separate the merits of the product from the merits of the business model. And just taking into consideration Wales’ former life as an options trader, he certainly knows how to make money. It doesn’t hurt that he’s been annointed, financially and professionally, by none other than Internet cognoscente Joi Ito:

In addition, Wikipedia has become a powerful, attractive brand, says Joichi Ito, an internet leader in Japan and the CEO of the venture capital firm Neoteny. Ito, who has helped Wales raise an initial $1 million for Wikicities, believes Wales has created enough consumer loyalty to make a for-profit Wiki model work. “Jimmy and Wikipedia are THE Wiki brand.”

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/28/2005 11:38pm
Category: Business, Florida Livin', Internet, Publishing
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U.S. federal agents have raided the Maryland home of Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.

Does this mean they’ve finally found the culprit behind all those Nigerian spam scams?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/28/2005 07:00pm
Category: Comedy, Internet, Politics
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Do men with blue eyes live better lives? This hard-hitting report — citing Jude Law, Brad Pitt, Adam Grenier, and even the late Frank Sinatra — argues that blue-eyed gents use their peepers to score more with the ladies and glide to professional success.

Amy O’Connor, deputy editor at Prevention magazine, recalled her first date with her husband, [New York] Observer food writer Bryan Miller: a picnic along the Hudson River.

“He reached over to pour me a glass of wine and took off his glasses, and the sun was shining in his eyes, and they were so intensely blue-aqua, actually,” said Ms. O’Connor, 39. “I remember thinking, This is a beautiful man. I don’t think that that would have happened if he had brown eyes. They look like jewels. Women like baubles… I think the same thing that makes us like diamonds makes us like blue eyes.”

Ms. O’Connor suggested that Mr. Miller’s eye color had given him more breaks in life. “He never had to work very hard,” she said…

At least one man bragged that a sultry blink of his blue eyes greases the wheels at restaurants and nightclubs, sending him flying miraculously to the front of the line-like a genetically built-in, folded-up $20 bill.

Perhaps a 33-year-old (hazel-eyed) hedge-fund analyst named Ken put it best: “Blue eyes are like boobs for guys.”

Hmm. I wonder how Sinatra would have reacted to being called, “Old Boob-Eyes”?

From personal experience, I have a friend, Tom, who has very striking blue eyes, and he was certainly never hurting for women during his bachelorhood. Wasn’t too bad in business, either. So maybe there’s something to it.

If word of this gets out, get ready for some major copycatting:

Fuck the new black. If you want to be just like Jude Law and Brad Pitt — that is, score yourself some prime ass outside the confines of a committed relationship — go grab your color contacts and your sky blue Lacoste polo.

This brown-eyed guy is sold. I’ve already got the Lacoste shirt, so I’ll get me my colored contacts tomorrow! (Actually, I’d be curious to see just how they look…)

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/28/2005 05:27pm
Category: Fashion, Society
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Congrats go to Sticks of Fire for making the St. Petersburg Times’ Blog Spotlight. Well-deserved recognition.

I wonder if being in that Spotlight gets you a spike in traffic. I haven’t seen any increases since the blog directory went live, which is something of a surprise (but not a huge one, since they haven’t run any stories to promote it). I seem to be getting a few visitors because of it, and I’m glad to, but it hasn’t been the big rush I was expecting.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/28/2005 05:01pm
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Media
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Don’t look now, but the intelligent design debate will likely crop up in Florida next year, when the state’s educational science standards come up for regular review.

Education officials doubt it’ll make the state’s curriculum. But parties on both sides of the ID debate are sure to make a lot of noise before it’s all done. And it appears the campaign has already begun, on a grass-roots level:

[Bob] Orlopp, the Pinellas science supervisor, said over the past year he has received calls every two or three weeks from parents who object to Darwin’s theory. For years, he received none.

The assumption seems to be that Florida, with a Bush in the governor’s mansion and its red-state pedigree, would be ideal for the intelligent design agenda to make inroads. And the general dissatisfaction with the public school system, which is perennially underfunded and institutionally set to remain that way, would lead to calls to challenged to the established system.

However, there’s one fly in the ointment that might prevent Tallahassee from welcoming the debate. Jeb Bush has staked a lot of his legacy on the incentivized arrival of the Scripps Research Institute to the state. The major selling point for offering Scripps millions of dollars is that its presence would spark the growth of a huge biosciences industry in Florida, establishing the state as a leader in that sector for the rest of this century. That, along with NASA’s established space program, is supposed to make Florida an attractive destination for scientific professionals and their higher-than-average stand of living.

Given that, how appealing would a state that teaches intelligent design be to scientists with families? Basically, the Governor would be working at cross purposes by advocating intelligent design in the classroom, while trying to persuade the best and brightest to plant roots here.

There are always stealth ways to achieve both objectives: Jeb can publicly remain neutral on the issue, while making sure his allies in the Legislature and in other channels do the grunt work. But it doesn’t seem like there’s much to gain, and there’d be a whole lot to lose on the Scripps halo effect, whether the state government was peceived to have pushed for intelligent design or not.

So for a number of reasons, it seems unlikely that Florida will be the next hot spot for ID nonsense. But you never know.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 08/28/2005 02:12pm
Category: Florida Livin', Politics, Society
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Saturday, August 27, 2021

Plenty of people have climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. But not many of them were blind. Sam Atwood and Craig Kiser are, and are setting out next week to climb the African peak, their latest climbing escapade.

It’s interesting how you approach climbing without the benefit of sight:

For sighted climbers, going down a mountain is usually easier than going up. The opposite is true for blind climbers, Kiser says. “When you’re going up, you can put your foot up and try several rocks. When you’re going down, you put your foot down and you’re committed.”

I also liked this anecdote:

Dealing with bias and misconceptions is part of their job. “It’s less about prejudice than about people loving us to death, thinking we can’t do anything for ourselves,” Kiser says.

“I was having dinner in a restaurant once with my wife, and the waiter says to her, “Is he b-l-i-n-d?’

“And my wife says, “Yes, but he’s not s-t-u-p-i-d.’ “

Atwood and Kiser plan to chronicle their trek, via podcasts (I’d rather they type it out, but I’m sure conditions may call for different means), on a State of Florida Department of Blind Services-hosted webpage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/27/2005 04:32pm
Category: Other Sports
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Feel like you missed out on the late-90s orgy of venture capital-fueled tech startups? You have a chance for a second go-round, and you don’t even need to dream up that can’t-miss idea yourself. Business 2.0 coralled 11 VC chiefs to present their ideal technology business concepts, and are fronting anywhere from $2 million to $8 million for the right team with the right plan.

Let the pitching begin!

Maybe it’s the jaded cynic in me, but what struck me most was just how retreaded half these ideas are. Consider:

Mobile ID for Credit Card Purchases
Concept: Fraudproof credit card authorization via cell phones and PDAs; also designed to thwart identity theft.
Advanced by: John Occhipinti of Woodside Fund
Another attempt to jumpstart the broad non-interest in utilizing mobile devices for purposes well outside their core functions. As neat an idea as it seems to be able to use your cellphone as an ID verifier (or to make retail purchases, further down this list), the American market has proven to be resistant to all come-ons in this area. And really, digital attempts at solid verification just never work long-term — dedicated hackers crack the code within months, leaving institutions scrambling.

Subscription PCs For Seniors
Concept: Stripped-down, basic-function PCs tailored for senior citizens, who would rent the machines on a monthly basis.
Advanced by: John Zagula, Ignition Partners
Hello, yet again, NetPC. And iToaster, and every other foolhardy attempt at thinking less is more in computer functionality. No matter which demographic is being targeted for these so-simple systems, the pitch has always fallen flat. It seems consumers want all or nothing: The top of the line computer that covers all their possible needs, or else no computer at all. I’m not sure there’s ever been a middle ground, and I doubt grandma and grandpa are it.

An Even Smarter Smartphone
Concept: Cellphone operating systems that interface with RFID and infrared technologies to allow retail purchases with a wave of the phone.
Advanced by: Ryan Floyd, Storm Ventures
See “Mobile ID For Credit Card Purchases”, above. Silly VC — phones are for talking! The phone as a digital wallet just isn’t gaining any traction in the U.S., and despite its acceptance in Japan (which speaks more about how Japanese social patterns are well-suited toward such channels than anything else), I don’t see any signs of that changing.

Open-Source IT Center
Concept: Software development of open-source, corporate-grade applications. Apps would be free, but the maintenance services and client contracts would bring in the money.
Advanced by: Matt Miller, WaldenVC
Copycatting Linux service providers like Red Hat, basically. The companies already in this space would have a head start by virtue of being established, meaning startups would have an uphill battle. Plus, it’s not like open-source has been widely embraced by corporate users. So a startup would have to contend with existing competitors and the likes of IBM and Sun. Practically a blueprint for failure.

Social Networks Meet The Town Crier
Concept: Craigslist-type collaborative websites, super-localized to the neighborhood level, bolstered by engaged users who’ll post scribbling, photos and other sticky material.
Advanced by: Jim Lussier, Northwest Venture Partners
Newsflash: Blogs have pretty much given the counted-upon “busybodies” something to do, so there goes the vital content to fill up these webpages. And good luck in trying to supplant Craigslist, while keeping the postings from devolving into spam listings and messageboard-like nonsense.

Customer Service Over IP
Concept: Automating and customizing incoming customer phonecalls via VoIP.
Advanced by: Shanda Bahles, El Dorado Ventures
Everyone from Dominos to Best Buy is already doing this, sans the VoIP route. I doubt they can convince large-scale operations with entrenched customer service models to make this transition; the datamining gains will be minimal and probably not justify the necessary overhaul.

A Killer App For Convergence
Concept: Software protocol that allows any Net-connected device to communicate with one another and allow transmission and receipt of things like IM and streaming audio/video.
Advanced by: Randy Haykin, Outlook Ventures
Hello again, Java and Jini. It’s really not in the interests of various hardware and software providers to create products that work across one standard; they see money in establishing their own proprietary systems. Every time someone’s tried to unify the various digital strings into one rope, someone rolls out a new toy that won’t play nice with others, and the whole scheme collapses before it even begins.

I realize that failure that comes from rolling out an ahead-of-its-time idea doesn’t doom things forever. Pioneers are the ones with the arrows in their backs, after all. Perhaps at some point, cellphone multifunctions will gain acceptance with consumers, and that whole field will take off like crazy.

But at this moment, I don’t see any of the above as being worthy of multi-million dollar development investments. I don’t sense the climate change that makes any of them any more appealing now than during their prior incarnations.

Then again, all those sub-$10 million commitments aren’t huge stakes — pretty much pocket money for VC firms. I’m sure they deem it low-risk enough for a shot at cashing in big, in case the time is really right for any of them to bloom. But I don’t see it happening, and I see a load of hype preceding any of these fledglings (should they actually take shape).

More than anything, though, this lineup indicates that VCs prefer to funnel money only into ideas that have track records — even if those track records are spotty. Are the moneymen so risk-averse that they won’t veer from familiar-but-failed concepts? And what chance does a truly innovative concept have in such a climate?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/27/2005 03:43pm
Category: Business, Tech
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