Amazon buying Zappos

TechCrunch reports that Amazon is buying e-retailer Zappos (via: Shak). In a letter to Zappos' employees the company's CEO Tony Hsieh writes that Zappos will be run as an independent entity. Amazon's press release.

This is a big deal in e-commerce land as Zappos is both large (revenue of more than $1 billion in 2008) and still fast growing. Zappos primarily sells shoes and clothes.

Amazon will pay $807 million in shares for outstanding shares/options and an additional $40 million in cash and restricted stock to employees if the deal is approved.

Looking for a senior front-end developer

Piczo is looking for a senior front-end developer to join our team in Stockholm. Description in Swedish below.

Stardoll Network söker senior webbutvecklare/frontend med erfarenhet av UI & Design till en av Nordens största sajter!

Stardoll Network är ett företag i tillväxt och präglas av en stark entreprenörskänsla. Vi erbjuder stora möjligheter till personlig utveckling i en kreativ miljö. Stardoll Networkdriver sajterna Stardoll.com, Paperdollheaven.com och Piczo.com.

Sociala webbplatser är Internets snabbast växande område. Stardoll Network utvecklar och driver två av världens största internetcommunities.
Du kommer vara stationerad på kontoret i centrala Stockholm tillsammans med 80 kollegor. Vi jobbar i trivsamma, öppna och ljusa lokaler. Arbetsmiljön är kreativ och har fokus på att löpande släppa nya releaser. Du kommer att arbeta med kollegor med många års erfarenhet av webbutveckling.

Arbetet är utmanande och består av frontendutveckling där hög prestanda är viktigt. Uppgifterna inkluderar även utveckling av sajtens gränssnitt och viss grafisk design.

Du kommer att arbeta i ett team som vidareutvecklar både arkitektur- och frontenddelen av sajten. Arbetet handlar både om att utveckla existerande plattform samt att bygga nya funktioner.

Vem är du?
Vi söker dig som tidigare har arbetat med liknande arbetsuppgifter och helst har erfarenhet av stora publika sajter med många användare och hög belastning.

- Mycket djupa kunskaper om HTML/XHTML, CSS & JavaScript. Gärna erfarenhet av jquery.
- Mycket djupa kunskaper om cross-browser-utveckling och webbstandarder enligt W3C:s rekommendationer
- Känsla för UI/design.
- Goda kunskaper i svenska och engelska, både i tal och i skrift.
- Erfarenhet av utveckling/design av communitysatsningar är meriterande
- Dina personliga egenskaper är teknikintresserad, ansvarstagande och flexibel.

Skicka din intresseanmälan till:ulrika@stardoll.com. Har du frågor är du välkommen att kontakta Ulrika Hallqvist på telefon: 070-716 40 04.


Startup summer reading

After having heard SoundCloud's Alexander Ljung raving about The Four Steps to Epiphany by Steve Blank, I ordered from Amazon awhile back. Now I've had some time to do some reading, and I'm echoing Alexander's words that it is a really good book for entrepreneurs, startup employees, investors and other parties in the startup world. Add the book to your summer reading list!

Steve's blog is also a very good read, so feel free to head over there before you buy the book.

It is all about the money (and smarts and hard work)

It's great to see that Dagens Nyheter writes about Kreditor, which definitely is one of the best run Swedish Internet-related companies with roughly 120 employees, about 200 million SEK in annual revenue run-rate (up 100 % from last year) and profitable (20+ % margin last year). The combination of scale, growth and profitability is very impressive.

It is also somewhat unreal to realize that it is only five years ago I met with Sebastian, Victor and Niklas when they had just started Kreditor. Great work, I'm thoroughly, thoroughly impressed! And I'm sure you're far from done.


Teenagers' media usage

Morgan Stanely had a fifteen year old intern write a note on teenagers media usage and got quite some media coverage of it. I think Swedish 14-year-old Gustav Holmström's blog post (sv) on the subject about Swedish youth's media habits is at least as interesting.

Gustav's article in short: people use SMS + Bilddagboken + MSN, free is good (only pay for World of Warcraft), and the mobile (SonyEricsson, no-one has an iPhone) is really important.

Some quick thoughts:

* Teenagers have a lot of time and little cash. Spending time to get something for free makes a lot of sense.
* Local language matters
* Goods/one off-payments is most of the time a better way than services/subscriptions to get paid


Sometimes a billion is a really large number

Facebook reported that they grew with 50 million accounts in the last three months and now have 250 million accounts. That is an amazing growth rate, and probably means that Facebook passed Wikipedia and now is the fourth largest global web site. Reporting the news, TechCrunch asked when Facebook will hit the 1 billion 'milestone' and if it will beat Twitter to it. I'm not sure that is the right question.

In May roughly 1.1 billion people had access to the Internet globally, according to Comscore. Reaching 1 billion users is having a little of 90 % of all Internet users coming to your service. According to InternetWorldStats global Internet users are around 1.6 billion, which would make reaching one billion easier but in no way easy.

How big would Facebook be relatively to other large sites if it had a billion accounts? Comscore doesn't measure accounts but rather use a panel to estimate the number of unique visitors (and other metrics) per month to sites. In May the global top 5 web sites measured in unique visitors were:

1. Google sites incl Google.com and YouTube: 840 million
2. Microsoft sites incl MSN and Bing: 682 million
3. Yahoo: 570 million
4. Wikipedia: 317 million
5. Facebook: 316 million

Twitter had 37 million unique monthly visitors in May making it a medium-sized web site. (Even if you use Tweetdeck or a similar application to update Twitter, I suspect that you would visit Twitter.com at least once a month and thus the monthly unique visitor number is not unfair to look at.)

Twitter might, for good reasons, be TechCrunch current focus of attention, but the relevant question isn't when Facebook or Twitter will pass one billion monthly users and have become the largest web site in the world. It is when Google will do it.


Lost spoils don't warrant corporate welfare

The big news media conglomerates and their smaller cousins hate that the Internet has provided alternatives to their cozy monopolies. But instead of adapting their operations, the media barons cry foul when complementary companies like Google succeed and ask friendly politicians to give them back the spoils of broken monopolies.

If the newspapers don't want parts of the population to read them, they can easily choose to be hard to find. If they feel that Google is violating their intellectual property rights or not paying enough, they should tell Google not to crawl their sites or negotiate an agreement. But enlisting politicians to achieve what business negotiations couldn't is unworthy a free press.

The media chiefs should heed to the words of Jan Stenbeck and recognize that this is a case of technology beating politics. Shaking a few dollars out of Google, which seems unlikely, doesn't change the fact that the aggregator is a new, legitimate and often strategically strong actor in the news media industry.


Eric & co just don't like Microsoft

As the strategic value of controlling the desktop operating system is declining, the main upsides of Google's coming launch of Chrome OS seem to be to put margin pressure on Microsoft and settling old scores.

If investing a few hundred million dollars in a branded Linux distribution with a decent browser on top can give hardware OEMs leverage in negotiations with Microsoft, Microsoft's cash flow could decrease with several hundred millions of dollars per year. A less profitable Microsoft is good for Google when the companies go head to head in capital intensive areas like data centers.

In addition tying the browser (which is really about being the default search box and to a growing extent about Apps) with an operating system gives additional distribution strength, which can actually help drive revenue.

And as Niki Scevak writes, hurting Microsoft is probably something many Google executives enjoy in itself, as quite a few of them got their butts kicked by Microsoft in the '90s. Niki:

"Eric Schmidt, a.k.a Squirrel Boy, has spent his entire career getting bitch-slapped around by Microsoft, first at Sun and then at Novell and now he is in a position to inflict damage. My problem isn't that there isn't a positive in Google pursuing a OS/Browser strategy, it's just that the majority of the effort seems to be about the negative it can inflict on Microsoft's entrenched territory in Windows. And that seems more about Eric Schmidt than Google."

Update July 15th: clarified that Microsoft's cash flow could decrease with hundreds of millions of dollars per year, not hundreds of dollars


Spotify dominates TechCrunch Europas Awards

Congratulations to Spotify for being the big star at the TechCrunch Europas and picking up the awards for Best Web Application Or Service (EMEA), Best Startup Founder(s), Best New Startup, Summer 2008-2009 and The Europas Grand Prix. Also big congratulations to SoundCloud for winning Best Entertainment Application or Service (EMEA). Five of 15 awards to Swedish-related companies.


Game on!

Seems like Google's and Microsoft's relationship is not getting friendlier with the upcoming launch of Chrome OS and Google Apps coming out of beta. The operating system and office productivity software areas are among the few in software/Internet that can make a meaningful contribution to Google's overall sales and are the lifeblood of Microsoft, so this will be really interesting to follow.


When it makes sense to first focus on product

Less than 140 characters as my personal tweak to a comment by Daniel Ek on Twitter on first building to scale and then nailing sales.

"If you out-execute on product (and get funding), it can make sense to out-execute on monetization later (and you can afford it)."


5 good posts to read elsewhere

Lightspeed Venture Partners: New Media companies should emphasize "media" over "new". "The new media companies that are doing the best in this recession have taken a similar approach. Companies like CafeMom, Flixster (a Lightspeed portfolio company) and Glam have focused on creating highly valuable inventory for endemic advertisers, and on building excellence in sales execution." Agree, it is an important insight if you're building an company with an advertising-driven business model.

A VC: Freemium and Freeconomics. "I like to keep my posts short, so I'll end here with the observation that the Internet allows an entrrepreneur to enter a market with a free offering because the costs of doing so are not astronomical. And most entrpreneurs who take this approach will maintain an attractive free offering of their basic service forever. But that doesn't mean that everything they offer will be free. That's the whole point of freemium. Free gets you to a place where you can ask to get paid. But if you don't start with free on the Internet, most companies will never get paid." Hear, hear! Freemium is not about free, it is a strategy to get paid.

Futuristic Play: Matt Humphrey of Bumba Labs on User Retention Curves. "Let me state, for reality-checking purposes, that retention rates over 90% are unrealistic, but are useful for discussion purposes because they bring out the extreme cases. More realistically, the numbers I've seen are generally much closer to 30-60% revisit rates after the initial registration. Similarly, the typically retention rates are not linear ? you see the most churn initially, but then the cohort usually settles and becomes much more loyal." Good intro if you're into subscriptions, transactions and memberships for your service.

Andie: Some thoughts on the iPhone single-task magic. "This is key - the operating system gets the hell out of the way, because it doesn't need to be anywhere on the screen. On a device that is in many ways too small and powerless to do multitasking well, the iPhone OS just gives center stage to the current app and gets out of the way, letting the apps transform the iPhone into just what you need for performing the task or entertainment at hand. The best apps are the ones that use this paradigm to the fullest - they do one thing, with a super polished experience."

Steve Blank: Convergent Technologies: War Story 1 ? Selling with Sports Scores and Agile Opportunism ? Entrepreneurial DNA. Steve's blog posts are among the best ones on startup life. The first one is on sales, always helpful to understand, and the second one on getting ahead in corporate life when you start working (showing up counts, a lot!).


An idea becoming the publisher

Alex Schulman, who leveraged his position blogging at Aftonbladet to become a media personality, writes that blogs are unnecessary and that "the Swedish blogosphere is uninteresting and completely meaningless". My gut-feeling is that Alex is knowingly provoking bloggers and the mass media, as my guess is that he understands the notion of power and media much better than the article indicates.

A few thoughts.

* Trying to prove that blogs are generally uninteresting because not everyone read blogs, that the subjects blogs cover are niche or that not every Swede blog show a lack of understanding of the notion of power. If opinions on niche subjects, read by few, were uninteresting, DN Debatt would be utterly powerless as an institution. Who's blogging and who's reading matter as much as that people are blogging.

* Bloggers' views can be amplified by mass media, which is one way bloggers can gain power. I find it interesting that new voices can establish the credibility or relevance to get amplified by mass media by blogging.

* File-sharing and privacy might be uninteresting to many Swedes, but they were important enough to get a representative of the Pirate Party elected to the European Parliament.

* That he choose to write for DN Kultur, and that DN Kultur choosed to publish, is obviously very fitting the article's main idea.


WTF of the week - stunt or poor judgement?

I've been trying to understand the potential acquisition of The Pirate Bay, but now I'm leaning towards it being a PR stunt (Global Gaming Factory gets international press, but don't think they'll raise the funds) or being a poor business decision (no sense about ad sales nor about getting content licenses and likely being sued out of existence if non-licensed material is available and if it is not users will leave and The Pirate Bay site loses its value).