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The WSJ (subscription) has a good article this morning on a new set of networking sites for investors. Techcrunch separetly has a review of stockpickr.

We’ve seen a few of these stockpicking sites over the last little while. I think that there is a risk of a conflict of interest in touting stock picks, although if people are truly your “friends” and not just people you met on the site, this might get mitigated. Otherwise, it seems like a happy hunting ground for stock tip spammers.

The best remedy for this to my mind is to use real data. Stockpickr lets you see Warren Buffet’s actual portfolio – not much opportunity for “gaming” that system!

If there were a way to verify people’s “stock picks” – say by tying into brokerage accounts with permission to verify that they really do hold those stocks or really did make that trade, then you’d have some very interesting data. As Seth and Fred have said in the past, implicit data is much more interesting (as well as painless to collect if given permission) and truthful than explicit data.

Imagine being able to see other users’ actual accounts and trading history, and being able to tell the real trading superstars from the ones who weren’t willing to put their money where their mouth was. Would active traders be willing to pay to get real time access to the transaction flow of the top traders? People already do this for Jim Cramer. A subscription model like this would potentially generate enough money to incent top traders to open up access to their real time trading and their portfolios. They would be able to earn a nice secondary income stream and it actually HELPs their positions if others follow them. But if these active traders start gaming the syste,, people will stop following them and they run the risk of losing their own money.

I’d like to see someone take a shot at this!

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Happy New Year everyone.

It seems to be the season for consumer internet predictions, so here are mine:

1. Ecommerce 2.0 arrives. Google‘s search revenues continue to grow at 70-80% growth rates. Yet the public ecommerce companiesrevenues are growing at “only” 25-30% at best. But almost every Google click is going to an online transaction somewhere – people still aren’t using search advertising for branding purposes. So what is filling the gap? Some of it is the multichannel retailers coming on strong, Walmart, OfficeMax, etc. But a lot of it is from the next generation of ecommerce companies, still private but doing revenues in the $10s and sometimes $100s of millions that have quietly been growing at 50-100% per year through the last few dark years. Companies like Zappos, Art.com, Mercantila [a Lightspeed portfolio company], Netshops, CSN Stores, Backcountry, Bodybuilding.com, Toolking, US Auto Parts and dozens more have grown up, mostly away from Silicon Valley, and many without the need for venture capital. Those that have taken investments have often been at scale and profitable when they do. Watch this space as the next generation of ecommerce sites ride people’s growing willingness to buy online, use search to acquire new customers and focus on verticals rather than trying to be an all encompassing department store.

2. Social Network widgets find a business model. Pete Cashmore and many others have proclaimed the rise of the widget economy, but there hasn’t been too much money floating around this economy to date. Widgets have been primarily a marketing tool, used to drive traffic to a destination site, with Youtube being the most obviously successful at doing this. Once there, monetizing traffic on your own site is uncontroversial. But few others have been able to build a browsing destination on the back of widgets, which begs the question as to how widgets can be directly monetized where they are embedded, and what sort of revenue splits will be struck between the three relevant parties; widget owner, social networking site, and user. I don’t know the answer to this, but have some ideas (syndicated advertising, sponsorship, micropayments for bling, freemium models etc). I think we’ll see more clarity emerge in ’07.

3. Lead generation breaks into new categories. You rarely see ads for mortgages, online education, new autos, credit cards and other financial services products anymore that don’t lead you to a form to fill out to get free quotes. CPC and CPM banners for these products, as well as search engine ads and optimization, all drive you quickly through a form-fill process so that you can be sold as a lead to vendors of these products. Vendors prefer to pay for leads as it makes their marketing costs much more accountable. I think we’ll see similar principles applied into other categories that also have high customer value, can sustain a sales persons costs, are infrequent purchases by consumers and have complexity in the decision making process. Possibilities include wedding photography, plastic surgery, LASIK, cosmetic dentistry, eldercare, even business purchases.

4. Social Networking finally becomes a feature. I think it will be hard for new broad based social networks to emerge; the existing networks are strong and good and are serving their users reasonably well. But social networking, like message boards, is now getting baked into vertical content sites as a mechanism to help drive user generated content. Yelp uses a core of social networking to incent its Yelp Elite and other core users to write local reviews which then benefit any user of the site. Youtube absolutely uses social networking to reward video contributors. Tripadvisor reviewers get compliments and get told how useful their reviews are, as do Amazon book reviewers. Flickr has always had a core of social networking and profiles for regular photo contributors. Others are doing this in other verticals, including Flixster [a Lightspeed portfolio company] in movies, Kongregate in flash games, and many more. These are not social networking sites per se – they are city guide sites, or video sites, or travel sites, or book sites, or photosites. You can enjoy the specific content without ever joining the network, or even being aware of it, but the social network reward mechanisms are incenting the power users to contribute the content that we all benefit from. Watch this space.

5. News of TV’s death is greatly exaggerated. There is no question that people are watching more video online then before. But a Media Life report from earlier this year suggests that people are acutally watching more TV, not less. It is radio, magazines and newspapers that are suffering the most from increased internet usage. Even if TV usage does decline, don’t expect the massive TV ad budgets to wash into online video right away. Looking back a few decades, you can see how long the lag was between viewers switching from broadcast to cable, and ad dollars following them. Broadcast still commands a premium CPM to cable during prime time in most instances. Look for technologies to emerge that help TV increase their CPMs as viewers start to defect. Spotrunner is a fine example.

6. Software as a Service gets customer facing. When you think SaaS you typically think enterprise applications used by employees. Salesforce.com is the classic example. But increasingly we are seeing websites use customer facing functionality delivered on a SaaS basis. A few lines of javascript on a page gets you behavioural marketing, user reviews, live customer service, or collaborative filtering. Typically, these companies charge the website owner/enterprise a variable usage based fee for their services. Furthermore, the demands on your development staff are relatively low, especially compared to building this functionality yourself. Having run a business, I know that although your wishlist of features is two pages long, you’ll only ever get the first half of the first page done in any given year. SaaS allows you to get some of the lower priority features added quickly and easily without impacting your key focus areas. This will really help level the playing field for smaller publishers and e-tailers who can now add the same functionality that their top tier competitors have been able to build in house. It turns features into companies.

Update: My colleague John Vrionis has added his 2007 Enterprise Technology predictions here

Update II: In response to comments and other events, I’ve posted more on predictions #3 (Lead gen) and #4 (widget business models)

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I recently got back from a fascinating conference in Sydney which brought back about a hundred of us expat Australians to talk about the Australian diaspora and how we could continue to help Australia from overseas. Peter Costello, the Australian Treasurer, said in his address that there are about 750,000 Australians working overseas. For a country that only has a population of around 20,000,000 that is pretty remarkable. Unlike most other diasporas, this hasn’t been driven by turmoil or disaster at home, but rather by opportunity abroad, and as a result the Aussie expats have tended to do pretty well.

Aside from the self congratulation, mutual admiration and networking (which is always fun!), I also really enjoyed the discussion on how to drive more innovation from Australian companies. A number of Australian tech companies and tech companies with Australian founders have seen some degree of success, including Hitwise, Looksmart and Massive among the better known ones. Other Aussie tech companies that have come to the US more recently and are getting some press or conference coverage include Bluepulse, Minti, Veetro and In The Chair.. And Eurekster has its roots in nearby New Zealand. So I took the opportunity during my trip back home to meet with a number of the local Venture Capital firms to get a flavor of the market.

The VC Industry in Australia is still young, with most firms currently raising their second, or at most third fund. The early part of this decade was as tough for the Aussie market as it was for firms of the ’99 ands ’00 vintage in the US, and since this was the first or second fund for many of the Aussie firms, they are just now getting their portfolios into shape to be ready to raise new funds. The consensus of opinion seemed to be that the Israeli model of Venture was the way to go.

If you look at most Sand Hill Venture firms that have an office outside the US, they will be in one of four geographies; China, Europe, India and Israel. One of these does not look like the others… Israel, like Australia, has too small a domestic market to be able to nurture a venture backable company. From the beginning, Israeli startups have to look to a global market. That often means eventually moving customer facing components (sales/marketing/business development, and often the executive team) of the company closer to the markets, usually the US. Development can often stay at home, where often costs are lower.

There is a long history of Israeli companies making this progression, and the partners at Lightspeed have been investing in Israeli companies making just this transition for many years. Many Israeli Venture firms end up leading the first round of investment in Israeli companies, then look to a US based Venture firm to lead a later round and help those companies move their market facing operations to the US and fill out their management teams. One of the reasons that this is common may be that the Jewish diaspora has led to many partners at US VC firms with ties to Israel. When faced with a very long flight to look at a potential investment, and VC’s general preference to invest within the same area code, having some personal connection to the geography can help bridge the gap.

Which brings me back to the Aussie diaspora. As an Aussie, I would LOVE to be able to fund promising Australian startups and help them make the jump to the US. As far as I’m aware there are only two other Aussie partners at VC firms in the US (although I haven’t done an exhaustive search and stand to be corrected in comments), and hopefully as the Aussies diaspora matures and more Aussies expats find them in positions where they can help Aussie startups make the jump, we will see more Australian founded companies make it big on the world stage. This would be good for Australia, good for the founders, good for Aussie VCs and good for US VCs with ties to Australia.

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Allan Leinwand did an interesting guest column on GigaOm yesterday about VC’s providing some founder liquidity at early rounds. This picks up on a Venturebeat story from Friday about a related topic, “FF” class stock that is deliberately designed to …

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Lightspeed Venture Partners launched its blog this month.

What’s that?

Too many VC’s blogging already? Another example of VCs acting like sheep?

From our perspective the answers are clearly, no and no.

Ok. How about maybe and maybe?

The truth …

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I joined Lightspeed on February 28, 2006. Since then a few people have asked me how I got a job in Venture. As with most of my career, it was mostly serendipity. However, as a number of others have recently …

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The Cleantech Venture Network this week unveiled its Q3 cleantech VC investment results. Total equity capital invested in North America reached $934M, representing a 11% increase from the $843M from Q2 and capturing 14.3% of the $6.5B invested in VC …

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HOPKINTON, Mass. – November 1, 2006 – EMC Corporation, the world leader in information management and storage, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held Avamar Technologies, Inc., a fast-growing provider of enterprise-class data protection …

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Mountain View, CA, October 30, 2006 — Rhythm NewMedia, a pioneer in mobile advertising, announced that it has closed $18 million in Series B financing. Carlyle Venture Partners, the US venture and growth arm of The Carlyle Group, a …

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SHANGHAI, China, and SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., Oct. 9, 2006—Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc. (AMEC), an emerging Asia-based developer of innovative semiconductor processing technology and equipment, today completed its Series B financing, which raised $35 million. The financing will fund commercialization of …

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