Best place to host an academic blog?
I received the following email from a reader:
"I am reading your Google Idiot's Guide. My husband teaches in the Legal Studies Department at a local State College. We want more students to find OUR program. Should he create a blog specifically relevant to his own department's page, or does the blog need to be associated with the college itself through the home page? He is prepared to blog several times a week, maybe even every day if we can help to guide students to his program directly!"It's an interesting question and points to one of the most fundamental challenges in corporate and academic life: is your association with your organization a tight one or a loose one?
If you're a Fortune 500 company, for example, do you want to have your employees blogging under the corporate banner (which therefore risks them saying things that might not be in alignment with the corporate stance on specific topics) or would you prefer them to be independent, blogging on blogger.com, Facebook, etc (where you have no idea what they're saying and where they can criticize your company or even deny a relationship)?
Academia is even more nuanced because it's widely accepted that individuals are free agents, moving from teaching position to teaching position, college to college, as it best helps their career. Get too tightly associated with a single academic institution and it's going to be very difficult to ensure that your reputation travels with you when you take your next job at some other college.
In a large organization, departments can often end up being analogous to individuals too: do you promote your department, possibly at the cost of the entire company being promoted, or do you throw in your lot with the mothership?
Which brings us to your dilemma.
The first question I have is how autonomous are departments within the college? If there's an existing culture of doing your own thing, then it's considerably less of a big deal than if it's a tight, insular organization.
I'm also curious whether the tone in your query of "winner take all" is consistent with how you see this? If you're blogging on behalf of the student, then the win is them finding the right class and department of study, not them necessarily finding your program.
Without further information, I suggest that you aim for the compromise of having a blog in your own department, but ask the school to link to it from the institution's home page or other more visible pages.
Let us know what you decide and how it goes!
How I upgraded my iPhone and made $100
I know, this is going to sound like one of those stealth underground tricks or, worse, a come-on to some sort of buyers club, but it's true: in the last fortnight I got tired of running out of space on my 16GB iPhone 4, upgraded it to a 32GB model, and actually made $100 in the process.
Here's how it happened...
A week ago I was having dinner with my pal Klaus at the California Pizza Kitchen in Broomfield and when we were done I asked if he'd like to tag along to Radio Shack since I'd been hearing that they were offering $50 discounts on iPhones and I wanted to price out an upgrade. "sure!" he said, so we braved The Mall in mid-December to go into The Shack, as they now prefer to be known.
As with any cellphone upgrade, the key question was whether I was "eligible" for an upgrade. Without that eligibility, cellphones are ridiculously expensive and a 32GB iPhone 4 would run about $699 or even more. Way more than I'd pay for an extra 16GB of space. But why not ask?
The store manager was on hand and she punched in my cellphone number and said I wasn't eligible for an upgrade, but that - to her surprise - there were notes on my account that I was eligible for an "early upgrade" with an $18 AT&T transaction fee added.
We priced out the 32GB iPhone 4 and as we did she said "check it out, there are only 92 left in the entire region" (which encompasses Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, etc). The phone priced at $450 with the $50 'Shack discount, plus that $18 fee. Do I want it?
Since they had a trade-in deal where they'd buy iPhone 3gs units for $175 or thereabouts, I figured I'd ask about the price of a pristine iPhone 4 trade-in. $350, after she did a bit of research: no-one had tried to sell back an iPhone 4 as of yet.
$450 for the new phone minus $350 for the trade-in? I could do that. Yeah, running out of space was worth $100 to me. Klaus said "Do it!", I said "Let's do it!" and she punched something else in on the computer to reserve my phone
"Just in time. There are now only 8 left in the region!"
When we completed the transaction, however, somehow AT&T priced my new phone differently and the final cost, including tax and, presumably, the $18 fee, was actually $398.00. Meaning that the upgrade, if I were to sell my 16GB iPhone 4 to Radio Shack, would cost me $48. Yeah, that's a good deal.
They didn't have phones on hand, so the 32GB iPhone 4 was going to be shipped to me. In fact, I received it three days later, quite painless.
The Radio Shack in the Flatiron Crossings Mall was also out of printer ink -- they were waiting on a new print drum from corporate, unable to just buy one at an office supply store because of the unique printers they have, but that's another story I suppose -- so I walked out with zero paperwork, just trust and optimism.
Next morning, I went to Boulder Open Coffee Club [FB] and in the midst of a room of 60 tech/geek types announced I had a contract-free iPhone 4 for sale, asking $500. My friend Alan spun around and said "I'll buy that off you!" and we had a deal, though we needed to wait for the new phone to arrive.
When it did, I popped into the AT&T store for initial activation (though I suspect I could have done so myself) wherein they popped out and swapped SIM cards. I walked next door to Peet's, did the fastest music download onto an iPhone ever (3000+ songs), and had the new 32GB iPhone 4 up and running with all my favorite apps, music and photos within the hour.
By the end of the day Alan was the proud owner of his new iPhone 4, destined to be unlocked and used on T-Mobile once the hacker community figures out how to do that with iOS 4.2, and I even had my favorite iFrogz case on the new phone.
Net cost: $500 sale price on the old phone - $398.00 for the new phone = $102.00 profit!
A tidy sum for understanding how the system works, getting a bit lucky on the upgrade pricing on the computer and having a friend who was looking for an unlocked iPhone upgrade of his own.
Thanks, Klaus, Alan, Radio Shack and AT&T!
The Cost of Marc Andreessen's $100mil investment
Just read a thoughtful article by Connie Loizos entitled Marc Andreessen: We'll Invest Up to $100M in One Deal. Sounds awesome on the surface: I mean, if you're a growing business looking for investment money, more money is always better, right?
Turns out that's not true and since it's possible you'll be surprised by this sentiment, I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about valuations and venture capital investments.
The most important math with investments is percentage of ownership. That is, how much of your company you are willing to sell to investors, be they your parents who are fronting you $10K so you can demo your brilliant idea at a trade show, or a venture capitalist.
To understand, let's posit that we have a startup called BizX and that the two of us have created it, from idea to implementation to paying customers. Ostensibly, we've split it 50/50, but since we're trying to raise $250,000, we realize that we're not going to end up with that percentage of ownership after the investment, known in the biz as "post money".
What we'd like is for the investor to buy 1% for $250,000, but here's where the math turns out to be important: if 1% is worth $250,000, that means that the company has a market value of 100*$250,000 or $25 million dollars. That's a whole lotta money, far more than the two of us can justify to even the daftest investor.
Instead, the investor says "You have 25 customers paying $10/year, a nice code base, a pending trademark registration and an early beta of an iPhone and Android app. That's not worth $250,000 in total, chaps, sorry to say."
And so the dance begins, a dance quite common with any valuation event, be it an acquisition or investment. The seller wants top dollar, and the buyer wants to lowball and pay the very minimal amount possible, or even a bit lower than that.
If we can justify a half-million dollar valuation for BizX, then the question of how much would $250,000 buy is easy math: post-money is $750,000 and $250,000 then represents 33% of the company stock. But most startup founders are loath to sell that much equity, afraid that they'd lose control of their destiny, so 15-20% is more common.
Which leads us to Marc Andreessen, his VC firm Andreessen Horowitz, and that fabled $100 million investment. Can you see the problem? Let's say that a company is willing to give up 20% of its equity for this investment, figuring that the injection of so much available capital will help them become The Next Big Thing.
That means that the company has to have a defendable valuation of $400 million dollars. That's quite a company, and far beyond any sort of startup. In fact, well known companies that you interact with on a daily basis don't have that sort of valuation in the market.
For example, in June 2010, Foursquare raised a $20 million investment, bringing its total valuation post-money to $95 million. That means that the company was worth $75 million prior to the investment and that $20 mil represented the purchase of 21% of the stock.
As I said in the beginning, it sounds terrific to contemplate a $100 million investment in your startup, but when you really put two and two together, precious few companies are large enough to justify the sort of valuation that could absorb this level of investment. That's why if you're building a company, smaller investments earlier in the game are far more likely to be a good deal.
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