links for 2009-11-18

  • Google’s stepping up its social networking efforts with new features for Friend Connect today, and the features provide some clues as to how Google thinks social data can be used to make money.
    Friend Connect provides a way for website owners to give their site social features without having to build an entire social network from scratch. This type of add-on social network tool has been increasingly popular in the last year and a half–Friend Connect competes with offerings such as Facebook Connect, which was announced around the same time, in the first half of 2008. Google says that about 9 billion web sites use Friend Connect, and that the service receives about half a billion unique page views each month.
    The new Friend Connect features collect more data about a site’s visitors and provide several ways to use it. A polling gadget gathers information about visitors’ interests, which is then shared between sites.
  • Cybercrooks may have tried to nab as much as $100 million from small and midsized U.S. businesses in payroll scams over he last year. Now the FBI is talking about how to protect yourself from this automated threat.
    The automated clearinghouse (ACV) con as described by the FBI hits small and midsized businesses, as well as school, local governments and other organizations where they live — in their bank accounts, and particularly their payroll accounts.
    Noting “a significant increase” in ACH fraud targeting small and midsized bsuinesses recently, the FBI says the ripoff typically begins with a spear phishing expedition that delivers malware via either e-mail or a link to the business’s computers.
    Once the malware takes up residence, a keylogger harvests the company’s financial information.
    Armed with legitimate banking credentials, the crooks establish new payroll accounts, the recipients being themselves of course, and authorize transfers of thousands of dollars.

  • Mission statements are like corporate Hallmark cards. Often written in a bland cursive font and plastered conspicuously at headquarters, these aspiring epigrams are pretty words in Air Supply — like rhythm. Sometimes they’re created at a retreat in the woods, between the trust fall and the passing of the speaking stick. Vigorous fights over semantics last for hours, even months. Then you end up with some variation of the jargony quasi-poetry above.
    For three years, I sat on an advisory board at my alma mater that helped shape the university’s entrepreneurship program. At every board meeting, someone would say, “So why are we here?” Then someone would read the mission statement (it was packed with words like “commitment” and “empowerment”), and even the most dramatic James Earl Jones — like vocal effect couldn’t help motivate us to think more clearly. Because it was neither clear nor useful — and if it wasn’t useful, why the heck were we arguing about it?
    (tags: leadership)
  • I just celebrated my 30th anniversary. One wife, three kids, 10 business start-ups, five business successes, five business misfires. I started my company the year before I got married, right out of school. I have come to realize over the years that I have not had a normal life. That’s because I am not normal; I am an entrepreneur.
    It took me a long time to figure out that I am different from most of the people I know. I have never had a full-time job, a savings account for my child’s education, or anyone to answer to besides the bank and 50,000 or so customers. I am also a recovering entrepreneuraholic. Starting a new business can be intoxicating. As with anything intoxicating, moderation is key.
    First of all, I am not having a midlife crisis. My whole life has been a series of crises — from hiring the wrong people to not getting paid to running out of cash to running out of customers (something new in 2009). They creep into your personal life, if you have a personal life.
  • Leadership is not as mystical and magical as many make it out to be. Whatever else you might believe about leadership, the bottom line is that leadership becomes manifest in behavior – things we do and say. Our behavior follows patterns, those patterns are driven by our assumptions, and our assumptions are learned.
    Want to learn how to behave effectively when you are given the privilege to lead others? Learn how to behave effectively as you engage with those that you grant the privilege of leading you.
    How you follow is exactly how you will lead. We learn our assumptions as followers about the roles and responsibilities of leaders and followers. The assumptions about what is acceptable and not acceptable drive what we do and never dare to do as we interact with our leaders. When we become leaders we impose those learned assumptions on our followers by sending them clear signals about what is acceptable and not acceptable as they interact with us.
    (tags: leadership)
  • Today, I was asked through AskTheVC the following question:
    ‘”Why don’t VCs tell you the reason why they don’t invest? Any feedback would be useful. It’s just plain rude.”
    I figured that this is really a personal question, so I thought that I’d post on my personal blog, as I certainly can’t speak (or even guess) the response for the entire VC industry.
    I say “no” all the time. (My partner Brad talks about “saying no” in a great post here). In fact, I say no to over 90% of what I’m invited to invest in immediately. On top of this, I get several to many emails a day regarding investment opportunities.
  • The iPhone gets a lot of attention—its users consume a lot of advanced mobile content, and are more likely than others to remember mobile ads, according to Brightkite and GfK NOP.
    Q3 2009 data from Nielsen shows that Android users are actually more likely than iPhone users to use video, apps and the mobile Internet. Users of both handsets are well ahead of the average smartphone usage, and the average usage among all subscribers.
  • When I was little, I heard about “executives.”
    “Executives at Mega Corp have denied rumors of misdeeds.” “Executives at Giganta Corp could not be reached for comment.” “Executives at Humongo Corp have promised double digit growth despite concerns about recent developments.”
    The mystery around exactly what an executive did intrigued me, and I wondered if someday I could achieve my way to being one.
    In 1974, my father gave me a tour of the IBM plant where he worked as an engineer. We passed smoky grey glass panels, guarded by assistants at three-sided desks. They concealed, in his words, “the head honchos, who don’t like to be looked at by passers by.” My sense of mystery increased. Did they have an extra arm that retracted? Were they too important to be bothered by gawkers?

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