Let’s go! – by Stefanos Vasdekis A blog about entrepreneurship, the web2.0 world, and life.


Remember Webcrawler, Netscape, Infoseek, Prodigy, Compuserve, Primenet, and Well?

You should remember these sites if you were online in 1996. They were among the top brands on the web. Where are they now? They do not exist. Now imagine that in 10 years Google, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube might not exist... Impossible? Yeah, ok, what would you say in 1996 about Webcrawler's, Netscape's and Infoseek's future?

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Intra-EU trade is domestic!

On Sunday we had a brainstorming session about Global Enterprise Week and it's relation to Young Entrepreneurs of Europe goals to prepare for the World Entrepreneurship Congress for GEW Hosts in Kansas City next week. In the first minutes of our discussion we found we had a problem... It was a problem to define if intra-EU entrepreneurship should be considered international or domestic. I'll give you some examples: A company based in France sells goods to a company in Germany, is this international or domestic trade? A services company based in Italy opens a new office in Spain, has this company expanded internationally? If we were in US, selling from New York to California would be domestic. But in Europe it's different. Ideally it shouldn't be any different... Intra-EU trade should be considered domestic.

Of course, the problem is not the wording. We could use a word like "inter-state" that would resolve the problem. But the problem is that Europeans do not understand EU as one country. If they did, they would understand it's power and that EU ranks first at the list of countries by GDP... Yes, USA is in second place, didn't you know that?

I wonder if EU will ever manage to become one country not just in papers, but in reality. Especially now, that some members act as if they promote the interests of foreign countries and not EU's interests. I'm sure that the current financial crisis will act as a catalyst, but I don't know in which direction. I hope it will help EU-States unite and not separate...

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And mobCommerce is born

After two days at Athens Startup Weekend (#asw) and a few hours before presenting, it is time to launch the website, www.mobcommerce.com . These two days we went from idea to fully working prototype, we created a business plan and had many interesting discussions with other teams and professionals who visited Microsoft Innovation Center, the building that hosts the event. Today we were not very productive as yesterday we did 80% of all the work we wanted to get done... Very good experience so far that proves that in Athens a lot of creative people can sacrifice a weekend to try to build a startup!

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A failed bank is the new safe haven for cash

UK's Northern Rock, failed and nationalised in February, is now very popular among worried savers who want to take advantage of a government guarantee on their deposits. Actually it's so popular that had to remove a number of savings products as it might reach its deposit limit soon and stop taking money from new customers. How much things can change...

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An ecommerce battle in a small European country

In a small European country 10 teams build 10 new ecommerce stores selling similar products. All of them believe that their store will be a huge success, but only one will be a big success and another two will survive three years later. There will be some consolidation down the road, but no more than 3 teams will ever merge as the market is small and no team is interested to give up control and settle for a tiny percentage even at the most successful store. All teams have a different strategy, let's have a closer look:

#1 is the typical retail store that wants to start selling online. Their strategy goes like this: "We know the customer better than anyone else, we know how to help him choose the best product for him and we're experts at customer support. Now we'll bring this level of service to anyone who is far from our store."

#2 is a wholesaler who wants to avoid conflict with his customers, the retail stores, so they build their online store under a different brand and never admit publicly that it belongs to them. Their strategy goes like this: "We'll sell online at the same prices we sell to our retailers, so we'll have the best prices in the market. We might not know the end customer so well and we might also not know a lot about marketing, but people will find us and buy from us because we'll have what they're most interested in: the best prices."

#3 is a team of three marketing experts who have a good understanding of the industry and have just left their jobs in big companies to build this ecommerce store. Their strategy goes like this: "We'll find the best name for our store, the best slogans, the best colors, etc... We have so many contacts in the press and the bloggers community that everyone will be talking about us when we launch. We'll also use all known tools like cross selling, up selling, limited discounts, coupons, incentives, etc... and our creativity will make the difference."

#4 is an established ecommerce store selling different products. Their strategy goes like this: "We might not know the industry, but we have learned so many valuable lessons on selling online that we can apply them to any industry. Time to grow and become an ecommerce giant."

#5 is an established ecommerce store based in another European country selling the same products in some European countries. Their strategy goes like this: "We will hire someone to do the translations and the support and add more people as the business grows. We will offer our new customers a wide range of products they cannot find in their country at very competitive prices. Shipping cost is not a big deal. Anyway we have already applied this model to other countries successfully."

#6 is a local web development firm. Their strategy goes like this: "We build ecommerce stores for our customers for years, we know internet better than anyone else and it's time we built our own store. It will have the best user interface, it will load fast and will have many useful features that will amaze our customers and make them want to use our store more than once."

#7 is a local search engine optimization firm. Their strategy goes like this: "We'll dominate organic search results and will bring to the site thousands of free clicks when our competitors will be paying each and every click. Because of SEO we're also experts at tracking, so we'll track all our visitors activity and get the industry knowledge that we now do not have."

#8 is a team built by a serial web entrepreneur backed from angel investors and venture capitals. Their strategy goes like this: "We know what an internet startup needs and we have done this before, so we will do it once again. We'll try to make some strategic deals to cover our weaknesses."

#9 is a team built by a very wealthy individual who sees an oportunity and does not want to invest in another company. Their strategy goes like this: "We'll offer the best wages, so we'll attract the best people. We do not care about making a profit the first years, so we'll sell at cost and throw a lot of money on advertising to make this store a success. It is also a matter of prestige to make this store look like a success."

#10 is an established local brand who has already expanded to several industries and also owns an advertising company. Their strategy goes like this: "The easiest way to enter a new industry is online. Our brand is strong and people will want to buy from us from day one. But this is not our only advantage, we know that consumer products all they need is advertising and through our advertising company we can buy at the very best prices in traditional and new media."

Who will be the winner? In my opinion the only sure winner will be Google, as all teams will spend heavily on Adwords. The other possible winner will be the team who uses Magnet Commerce as their ecommerce solution (self promotion). No seriously, all strategies look promising, but they're not enough to succeed, it's people, execution and some luck that will make the difference...

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Presenting our applications at Facebook Developer Garage

This is my first presentation in English after a long long time, so I can embed it to my blog. It is also the first presentation of our Facebook applications. We had to wait until our 5 apps reach 300.000 Greek members in total (153.000 the most popular one) before presenting them... And this was not a planned presentation, folks at the Garage wanted us to talk about the most used Greek application, "Kerasmata". This is the only Greek word used in the presentation and means drinks offered from a friend to a friend. Special thanks to Nicolas and Jose for hosting the event and to George for broadcasting it live.


Building social apps on top of social apps

It's the next logical step. Super Wall has replaced Facebook's classic wall. The same has happened with poking and sending gifts. Facebook's classic messaging application lacks common features that come standard in other email applications, like search, forwarding and attachements. Similarly the classic groups application and the status updates are inferior to other independent services. Maybe Super Groups and Super Messages applications could replace the classic ones. And later Super Super Groups with more features could replace Super Groups. But I don't think this is the best path.

What if a developer could build a feature on top of any application. One developer could build the forwarding functionality in messaging and another developer the attachements functionality, not necessarily hosted on facebook's servers. And maybe another developer take the existing groups functionality to build a groups version targeted to a certain industry.

The opportunities are endless. It's not just Facebook's classic applications that one could extend. There are also 15.000 more applications and soon with Opensocial even more will be built.

I also think that OpenSocial, Data Prortability project, Google's Social Graph API, Facebook's Platform Licensing, Facebook's Open Source JavaScript Library and other projects that will be announced in the next months will make developers and companies invest more time and money on social apps, as they will have more control and a broader audience. And the next generation of applications will definitely be more feature-rich and less isolated. It's an interesting game not only to watch, but also to participate!


Offline programs replaced by online apps

I usually format my laptop every 4-5 months. Next time I format, I'll need less time to get it working again. The reason is that I will install less than half of software I have now.

I already use online applications to do most tasks that I needed software in the past and by next format I will do even more online.

First of all, it's MS Office. I'm using Google Docs and Spreadsheets more often and I'm confident I don't need Office anymore.

Part of MS Office is Outlook. I've almost replaced it with Gmail. It allows me to read my emails on mobile with one click and search is much faster than Outlook's. I use email less anyway as a lot of my communication has been transferred to Zuni and Facebook.

Then it's Visual Studio and MS SQL Server and related software. Well, I don't program on .NET environment anymore, so I don't need them. Now, I only write PHP code and use MySQL.

I also have Wamp Server installed so that I can test code I write for Zuni when I'm offline. But I haven't used it for months as I'm never offline.

Next software I don't need anymore is EMS, a MySQL manager. After some changes we are making at our databases, they work fine at phpMyAdmin, so I will not miss EMS.

Two programming tools that I haven't found an online replacement for are Windows Grep that allows me to replace code in multiple files and WinMerge that allows me to compare two files.

Another application I think I still need to install is Skype. For all other IMs I can use Meebo.

And I also need CDBurnerXP, Paint.NET and SUPER. I'm not sure if I can live without Filezilla, but I can try. And I forgot to mention Firefox.

Finally, I need iTunes that automatically keeps my iPod always updated with fresh podcasts.

Did I mention that next format will be the last one that I'll install Windows?

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Next time think twice

On one hand there is this super event that happens once a year at the city you love and you don't want to miss it for any reason. On the other hand the last months you're travelling very often for business and your girlfriend is not very happy as she stays alone at your apartment for long periods. You think of a solution that looks perfect: you'll go to the event and take your girlfriend with you. Of course, she is not interested at all in the event you'll join, but you think she can go shopping and sightseeing in the morning until the afternoon and spend the rest of the day together.

What sounded like a perfect plan turns out to be a disaster. Why? Well, at the event you met people with common interests with whom you had a lot to share. And the best time and place for networking was at the bar while drinking a beer with your new friends. You also got invitations for meetups that took place during the event and you also needed some time for meetings to discuss possible business opportunities. You had to say "no" a lot, so that you could spend time with your girlfriend as you had planned and like. But there were some networking opportunities that you just couldn't reject, so you did not spent all afternoons and nights with your girlfriend. You're also a cool guy, so your new friends want more of your time. You explained her and she said she understood. That doesn't mean that she was happy with it. And there is more. She also asked you not to attend the event from early morning so that you could have normal breakfast together or go together to a shop to give her your opinion on whatever she was thinking to buy. You're as passionate with your girlfriend as you are with your business and there is a morning you don't want to wake up and you are late to a meeting you had. Again you have to explain.

As an entrepreneur, you're by nature a creative guy. This time, no matter how much energy you had spent to figure out how to get the most out of your trip, you returned home unfulfilled. You feel that you have missed a lot from the event, at least you didn't enjoy it as much as the previous years, when you were fully living the event. Your girlfriend tells you this monument was full of couples and you know she is indirectly complaining for being neglected. And you didn't even think to write to your blog or run a people search for your new friends when you were returning to your hotel at night. So, you brought extra work home and the worst of all is that you learn from other blogs what happened at the event and you're wondering: where was I? You also find your relationship strangely is worse than before the trip.
After some thinking you conclude: "Next time I'll go alone! And when I'm back, or before, I'll travel somewhere else with my girl."

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What was missing from Athens OpenCoffee VI

Yesterday afternoon I had a cup of coffee at Athens OpenCoffee sixth meetup, the Greek version of OpenCoffee Club: a regular, open and informal meeting place for people involved in startups to meet.

It's nice to be in the same room with like-minded people who love startups and it's amazing what the Greek OpenCoffee has accomplished, but that's what everyone talks about and you might have already read on other blogs.

What I'd like to contribute is my feeling when I left the room. I've attended many official and unofficial business meetings abroad and I remember how excited and full of energy I was after they were over. I would visualize this feeling as a strong desire to run to my hotel and do any task that would help my project succeed, no matter how boring the task is.

Yesterday it was not the same. I left the room with lower energy than I entered. Well, maybe I was disappointed from the presentations. I don't mean that the presentations were bad. It's just that I thought wadja was doing much better and learned that it's not. Or that Stefanos Karagos, an experienced publisher and entrepreneur, advised talented people to leave Greece. Maybe I already know most of the people and don't have the motive to get to know everyone as at the first OpenCoffee meetup. Maybe I don't like to listen to people who project their limiting beliefs to others and try to transform them to "excusers" as well. You know the most popular excuses: "I cannot have access to money", "it's difficult to start a company here", "I know nothing of programming", "I'm still analyzing my idea because I don't want to fail", "I need another master degree before I begin", e.t.c.

I would prefer to listen to people who say "there is plenty of opportunity out there and I act as fast as I can", "I don't have a solid business plan, but I'm in a good team and we're flexible", "I deal with business and marketing issues during the morning and I'm programming during the night", "I'm doing whatever it takes to get to my goal", e.t.c. And I believe that this is what we will listen to more, if we invite really successful IT serial entrepreneurs from other small European countries or non-IT but innovative entrepreneurs from Greece. I have some people in mind and I'll invite them. It's so nice this is an open event by nature and I don't have to get anyone's permission.

Anyway, OpenCoffee is still the best place to be in Athens the first Tuesday of each month!!