For those of you who haven’t been following this blog, in April I left my position as COO of Angelsoft.net after spending 4 years trying to meritocratize the early stage investment process. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but by June I had decided to build SetJam, the TV Guide for full-length TV shows and movies on the web.
Things have been going just like startups go. There have been ups and there have been downs. The end result however, is that I’ve assembled one of the most talented product teams I’ve ever worked with and together, we’ve built a product that will finally make online TV as easy (and I believe better) than traditional TV.
We’re set to launch our private beta next Tuesday on October 6th, and I believe it will be great. About a week ago though, I got an email from a Xoogler friend of mine asking if I’d seen a new startup that had just launched that day at TC50. I could tell from the link that my friend had just alerted me to the bogey man I’d been warning my team about–the big competitor I KNEW was out there, but couldn’t find. I knew because the URL of the startup–“clicker.com”–probably cost more than the life savings I’d put into SetJam.
What do you do in a situation like that? My decision was not to read the article. I had a marketing piece and some product work my team was counting on for that day, and I couldn’t afford to distract myself. Yesterday, I finally decided we were ready enough for launch that I could take a look. As this blog post indicates: I’m distracted.
I’m also more focused. I’ve been here before and competition makes me better. Back in the first months of Angelsoft.net, our goal was to become the official software provider to the Angel Capital Association. We pitched them and they declined. We decided to move forward anyway. We asked if we could do a focus group at their next annual meeting and they declined. We rented a suite in same hotel they were having the conference for our meeting. We asked for the attendee list (which they’d handed out the year before), and they declined. We created the most comprehensive list of angel groups in the world. The morning before my focus group, the ACA announced in the opening session that they were launching their own angel group management software and that they did not approve of other efforts. That evening I led a focus group of 30 of the most respected Angel group managers in the world to find out what kind of problems they were facing. Today, Angelsoft is the official software of the ACA and every other angel organization in the world.
So how do I plan to become the TV Guide for full-length TV and Movies on the web? By using the hard-won knowledge I gained at Angelsoft (sadly too often by NOT following the principles below) to compete:
- Let your community build your software: At TC50 Clicker demonstrated a product that has about every bell and whistle you can imagine. SetJam is stripped down to the bare essentials. I’ll let our users tell us what they need instead of deciding for them.
- Evaluate your competition honestly: At TC50 Clicker demonstrated how they were better than Hulu by showing that it was impossible to find the full-length episodes of Charlie Rose. They achieved this effect by choosing NOT to click on Hulu’s “TV Full Episodes” filter. Admittedly, we all fudge a little in demos, but really?
- Know your partners: At TC50 Clicker stated that they were focused on streaming video now, but would soon be adding downloads from sites like Netflix. Netflix streams their videos. Netflix is already part of SetJam and it works great!
- Live within your means: I was hoping to bootstrap SetJam. We’ll be launching with an affiliate model that enables us to be profitable on a per user basis the day we launch. Admittedly, having a competitor raise $8 million on a PowerPoint like it’s 1999 will probably force us to raise some capital to compete, but it won’t be $8 million and we’ll at least be live!
The point of this piece isn’t to bash Clicker. Their product looks very cool and their CEO, the former CEO of Ask.com, seems like a genuinely nice guy. The point is, if you know what you’re doing, and you believe you’re the best, competition should only make you better.
If you’d like to participate in our private beta, just go to http://www.setjam.com and sign up. We’d love to have you help us build the software you need.
If you’re an investor, I’m looking for a partner to help me make Clicker the Ask.com of online video guides. I think you’ll find SetJam is a real bargain!
Clicker demo video ($8 million in): http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2162433
SetJam demo video ($50,000 in): http://drop.io/setjam_video