Fin.

October 27, 2008

Today – more suddenly than anyone would have liked – matchmine came to an end. I got word of the decision on Friday, and told the team here this morning. We are shutting the company down immediately, though a few of us will stick around to try and support our partners through a transition, and notify others affected by the closing of our doors. If you’re a partner or a prospect and haven’t gotten a call from us, expect one from Shawn or myself soon.

Interesting Times

I think it’s safe to say these are are unprecedented financial times. While the nature of our financing meant that the financial market crisis overtook us more abruptly than most, in the end it’s my responsibility that we hit the wall like this, and I accept it. To my team and their families, our vendors, network partners and prospects, I can only say that I am deeply sorry for the way this comes to a close. And I don’t mean “press release sorry;” I mean really, personally sorry. Please know that I could not have imagined this last Thursday, let alone earlier. It is one thing to be failed, quite another to have been deceived.

For what it’s worth I still beleive in what we were trying to do here, in most of the ways we tried to do it, and in nearly all of the people trying to get it done. It’s been a privilege to chase this massive opportunity with these great people, and among the most painful parts of this experience is that it ends just as we are breaking through, having worked so hard to get here for these past 22 months.

Close only counts in bocce, though, and it’s taken us too long to reach this point. Rather than share my no-doubt-partly-delusional musings on how this came about, I’d like to do what little I can to help the people we let down today take the next step toward an inevitable future triumph. So…

ATTENTION TECH COMPANIES SMART ENOUGH TO BE GREEDY WHILE SO MANY ARE SCARED:

Here are links to reach the best people on this team. I suggest you hire them, en masse, while you can.

First, our best Architects, Engineers, and Project Managers. Dr. Jim Butler, Rajan Desai, and Brian Connor – our CTO and his great architects. Yury Faktorovich and Alvaro Cruz – The leaders of our engineering team; great people, coders and managers. Our fantastic Software Engineers: Irina Berdichevsky, Joachim Martin, Sarah Valentine, Aravind Damodharan, Christopher Huyler, Gary Moh. You guys are all great. Our dedicated PMs, Leigh Krastin, and Kathy Teehan. And our tireless and dedicated QA folks, Bob Ingalls, and Srini Velagapudi. Thanks for the late nights, guys.

Our incredible Science team… the brilliant and practical Dr. Scott Oddo, our VP of Science, and the person most responsible for turning our recommendation approach into something that worked in the real world. His truly outstanding team, rock star Domain Manager Susan Ciatto; Science Engineer Dean Cerrato; Dave Walend, Software Engineer; and Gary Kadet, Domain Expert.

The Product Managers who kept us all on the same page and focused on the external reality: Scott Centurino, our VP, Product Management, and quite frankly my best guy, again. Erik Holm, a truly great Sr. Product Manager, and Adam Rosenberg, our Product Specialist and consummate team player.

The Marketing team who helped shape our brand identity, explain what we did to the world, and put our daily adds on a slope we were becoming proud of: Michelle Heath, a great VP of Marketing and spiritual leader within the company; Nathan Burke, power blogger and Web Community Evangelist, and Tom Boates, our massively talented Graphic Design Manager and part time Johnny Knox impersonator.

Our Business Development team who came so close to bringing our partner network from zero to 12 Million average monthly unique visitors. Shawn Yeager, our VP, Business Development and my accident prone partner on more trips than I care to remember; Ken Gellman, our great East Coast Director, Sales; and the big man, Steve Caroompas, our top guy out west. Thank you for the hard work, guys.

My good friend Tod Amazeen ably built and led our Partner Services team, which rose to a whole ‘nother level with the addition of rock star Senior Relationship Manager, Denise Gibbons. Technical Consultant and future CEO Craig Blum stepped up every time we asked for 110%, and Rob Eaton was our Tech Lead in Client Services.

The Operations team that kept us all running was led by Director of Ops/IT Eric Paul, and manned by Systems Engineer Keith Barnes and Systems Administrator Bill Norris.

And finally, our G&A team led by my friend and 3-time CFO David Chapman, HR superstar Amy Cohn, and truly fantastic Executive Assistant, Jess Mollet.

Last but not least, our Founder & Chief Innovator Trent Adams. It remains a great idea, Trent – I’m sorry I couldn’t make it real for you.

There is not a single person on this page I wouldn’t gladly work with again. And be forewarned… I will actively seek out most of them when I figure out what’s next for me.

What about the IP?

If you’re interested in building on what we’ve built, let me know. We’re open to selling the IP and patent portfolio, and just as willing and able to protect it.

If you want to reach me for that or anything else, you can do so here. We’re going to do our best to settle our outstanding obligations, and you can call me at 781.433.5302 if you have specific concerns or gripes. I’ll continue to post on my personal blog, at least after a stiff drink and some time to figure out what I should learn from this.

I guess that’s it. Thanks for your interest, faith and support, and good luck to you all.

Mike

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The Balancing Act

September 3, 2008

Great article here by Jeff Bussgang at Flybridge, on what it takes to win:

…I have come to realize that the true question corporations need to ask is: “How do I get my employees to think like VCs but act like entrepreneurs?” In other words: What’s the best way to impose the challenge of complex, competing priorities on employees who must, in effect, be adroit at living with split personalities? This new frame of mind requires the corporate manager to extract the best from both worlds—entrepreneurs with a bias for action, and VCs with a bias for analysis. Elements of both are required.

Says easy, does hard.

As I’ve said before, for me the basic tension of a new venture is between the two defining characteristics of most successful startups:

  1. Commitment to a process of iterative refinement, engaging the marketplace open to the truth, and being mercenary about doing more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
  2. A team that executes with conviction, almost unreasonable in its commitment to overcome inertia and do something that hasn’t been done before.

Too much “1” and half-assed execution obscures what would work if done well; too much “2” and you miss the turn that would have made it all work.

I guess “think like a VC / act like an entrepreneur” is another way to put that, if it helps get the concept in more people’s heads all the better.

Which do you think makes the idea more clear?


Support Our SXSW Panel!

August 8, 2008

It’s that time of year again, time for the annual beauty contest that is the SXSW Panel Picker.

(Cooler than logo, links to SXSW site.)

(Cooler than logo, links to SXSW site.).

Here’s our pitch:

“Just For You”… Really?
Level: Advanced
Type: Panel
Category: New Technology / Next Generation
Presenter: Mike Troiano, matchmine LLC
Description: Personalization technologies are all over the web now, with applications everywhere offering recommendations for movies, music, video, blogs and most anything else we might like online. Do any of these systems work, and if so how? Is “Discovery” the next “Search,” or just an excuse for behavioral targeting systems that compromise privacy? Finally… If you’re a site publisher interested in adding personalized recommendations, how do you pick a partner to help you get there, or strike out on your own and get the feature built????

Interested? PLEASE CLICK HERE AND SUPPORT US!


Meat in the Machine

August 7, 2008

Don Dodge has a characteristically thoughtful post here asking a bunch of good questions about why there seems to be such a big gap between the promise and the reality of online ad targeting:

Lots of startups and VCs are pinning their hopes on this simple premise. It seems obvious, but there is very little evidence to support it. So what is wrong?

  • Is the ad serving technology not able to take advantage of all this new “attention data” to better target the ads?
  • Are advertisers not willing to pay higher CPM rates for the better targeting?
  • Has ad targeting been tried with all this “attention data” and the results are not much better?
  • Is there just too much ad inventory which is depressing prices?
  • Are we just too early in the game to get good results?

Collectively, kind of.

To be more precise, starting at the top, the ad serving technology has not yet made it sufficiently easy for advertisers and their agencies to better target the ads.

Joe Blow Media Buyer

Sometimes tech folk forget that at the other end of the digital tentacles reaching across the ad-powered web, sooner or later, is a person pulling the levers. Joe Blow media buyer – think pimply-faced state college graduate 2-years out of school making $18K/year and living in Queens – simply can’t keep up with the pace of innovation on the web. They learn a few of the biggest ad targeting systems, which incidentally are the only ones with sufficient scale for them to complete their buys and move on, and crank 90% of their ad budgets through them. Once in a while one of the better ad network sales guys buys them some really good sushi and makes a decent case for some experiment, and voila, that technology gets thrown a $10K “test buy” bone.

If it works as promised – “works” being hard to both define and measure given the current cacophony of competing measurement standards and conflicting data – Joe may up the ante, and pay more for it on a CPM basis than he’d been willing to up to that point. Still, the equation he solves in his head:

  1. What is the probability that doing this will make me a hero with my boss and/or client?
  2. What is the probability that said boss and/or client is going to smack me for wasting time on this $35K diversion instead of doing everything I can to “optimize” the $500,000.00 buy we already have in process on Yahoo?
  3. Is the potential upside of 1. materially greater than the potential downside of 2.?

Goop in the Tranny

My point is simple: The reason all these Ferrari-esque ad targeting engines aren’t driving the wheels as fast as it seems they should is that there are a bunch of messy, imperfect, easily bored and overworked human beings gumming up the transmission.

The pace of progress in the ad targeting business will NOT be constrained by the capabilities of the technology to deliver improvements. The bottleneck is elsewhere… namely in Joe Blow’s ability to identify, grasp, and fully leverage the capabilities of that technology. That’s the lag, Don, at least IMHO.

Good News on the Horizon

So where are we in that process? Don refers to a pretty comprehensive post on the subject by CNET’s Stefanie Olsen, where she opines:

The first wave of Internet investing dealt with commercializing the Web, helping companies like Amazon.com and eBay get on their way. The second wave has been about helping people socialize and connect through sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. The third, venture capitalists say, will be about making sense of all the data people create around the Web, and then searching for patterns in the data to improve the delivery of personalized content, search results, or advertising.

Amen. I think we’re getting there, glad some smart folks on the VC side seem to agree.


SXSW Panel?

June 10, 2008

SXSW accepting panel proposals today, and I’d like to propose this one:

“Just for You”… Really?

Personalization technologies are all over the web now, with applications everywhere offering recommendations for movies, music, video, blogs and most anything else we might like online. Do any of these systems work, and if so how? Is “Discovery” the next “Search,” or just an excuse for behavioral targeting systems that compromise privacy? Finally… If you’re a site publisher interested in adding personalized recommendations, how do you pick a partner to help you get there, or strike out on your own and get the feature built????

What do you think? Would this be valuable and interesting? How could we make it more so?


matchmine, Simplified.

May 20, 2008

New video explaining matchmine value prop. Goal was to make it simple… Did we go too far?


The Next Big Thing

April 9, 2008

Nice piece by Don Dodge on the matchmine enhancements announced today:

Today MatchMine announced new media partners, and improvements in the service. More on that later. First let me summarize what I think are the major leaps forward for MatchMine;

1. No more client download required. You can start using MatchMine with just one click on a partner web site.
2. Content partner sites can easily integrate MatchMine with a plug-in widget or by using their APIs.
3. The business model is a win/win. Free to consumers, and a revenue share from partners based on incremental revenue.
4. MatchMine preferences follow you to any new partner site. No more need to start from scratch building up your preferences for each new site.

Why is that important? MatchMine has lowered the barriers to adoption for both users and partners, and instantly increased the effectiveness of recommendations.

Spot on, IMHO… Thanks, Don!