(Founder Stories) Kayak.com’s Paul English: On Hiring Athletes, Design Simplicity & Angel Investing [TCTV]
In part II of his Founder Stories interview with host Chris Dixon, Kayak.com’s co-founder Paul English discusses why job applicants will be hard pressed to find job postings on Kayak.com, relays the lessons he learned from Kayak’s mobile app and tells Dixon the traits founding teams need to possess in order to impress him as an angel investor.
Having helped grow the company to roughly 150 employees, English says Kayak is somewhat unorthodox when it comes to hiring talent. “We don’t hire for open positions but we are looking for athletes, we are looking for star performers and then when we find someone great, we make a spot for them.” He adds, “I am always recruiting.”
In addition to beefing up staff, Kayak has expanded into mobile, which accounts for “almost 20-percent of our traffic” says English. Initially weary that its mobile platform would be a watered-down version of its website, English’s fears have been swept aside. “The team that we hired to build our iPhone product actually found a way to build the version of Kayak that has all the same power of Kayak but is expressed in way that was actually more simple than our website.” He adds, “I think the design experience we have learned on the iPhone, which is to force simplicity, because you have less real estate, has caused us to rethink how we do design on the web.”
English wraps the interview by telling Dixon key lessons he’s learned as an entrepreneur and offers what he looks for when investing in startups.
Make sure to watch the entire video to hear all his insights, and watch episode I of this interview here.
Past episodes of Founder Stories featuring founders ZocDoc, Charity: Water, Turntable.fm, Bump, Birchbox and many other companies are here.
- PAUL ENGLISH
Kayak is a travel search engine. It indexes hundreds of global travel sites to help you find the right flight, hotel, rental car or cruise line. Once you’ve found the way you want to travel, Kayak allows you to choose from which site you want to make your purchases.
The company was formed in January 2004 by co-founders of leading online travel agencies, Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia. The company co-founders include Steve Hafner (CEO) a co-founder of Orbitz,…
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I’d like to be an optimist, like Matt Burns. I really would. Like Research In Motion itself, I was born and raised in Waterloo, Ontario. Like its former co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, I studied electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo. I’ve seen RIM transform my home town over the years, giving it new parks, new buildings, huge bequests for the university, and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. I’d love to see it survive its current dire straits and somehow thrive. But I just can’t see it happening.
I guess it’s still just barely possible to maintain optimism. This was the first quarter since their rise that they’ve reported a loss; they can still spin that into a Rocky-esque down-but-not-out narrative, as long as they rearrange a few deck chairs. But as Paul Graham recently pointed out, “revenue is a lagging indicator in the technology business.” Revenue down 25% year-over-year, for a tech company of RIM’s size, in one of the hottest markets in the world? That’s not a setback, that’s a catastrophe.
Realistically, what are their possible futures now?
- They mount an Apple-like comeback;
- They limp on, maintaining a 5-10% market share;
- Somebody buys them, or at least, their crown jewels;
- They slowly diminish into distant irrelevance.
Any other options? Not that I can see.
We can write number 1 off immediately. Apple did it! people say. Yes, but that’s the exception that proves the rule. Even if BB10 is to RIM what OS X was to Apple, that won’t be near enough. OS X alone wouldn’t have turned Apple into a winner. Apple transformed itself from doormat to behemoth by creating not one, not two, but three megahit brand-new markets — iPod, iPhone, and iPad. It’s hard to imagine RIM coming up with even one new game-changer. I suppose it’s possible, just, but I sure wouldn’t bet on it.
Limp on with a 5% market share? How? They’re not even the third choice any more; Windows Phone is. Their only bright spots are emerging markets, where cheap Android devices will be eating their breakfast, lunch, and dinner before long, and those businesses so security-conscious that they still see RIM’s private secure network as an advantage rather than a liability.
But secure email, even if it’s the best secure email in the world, just isn’t enough to be competitive these days. You have to be able to do more, and to do it at least as well as the competition. RIM’s most fundamental problem is their technical ineptitude. Remember when they released the PlayBook? I do: my very first TechCrunch post was about its inevitable doom. How sadly right I was. Remember David Pogue’s NYT review?
You read that right. R.I.M. has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do e-mail. It must be skating season in hell. (R.I.M. says that those missing apps will come this summer.)
Note that last line. That review was written in April 2011. When did those “missing apps” finally arrive? That’s right: last month. Let’s not even talk about the ongoing debacle of their third-party apps. How about the BlackBerry Colt, the new BBX – I’m sorry, BB10 – device that was supposed to have launched by now? Oh, that’s right; it was cancelled.
So when will those BB10 devices arrive? In the second half of this year. Maybe. You know, just in time to compete with the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. Meanwhile, bring-your-own-device policies grow ever more popular, and Android/iOS enterprise solutions get better and better. Every passing month feels like another nail in RIM’s coffin.
I keep hearing people talk about RIM as if a management change, or a strategy change, might be enough to save the company. But I believe the reason their products are vastly inferior to their competitors, and are regularly crippled by huge schedule delays, is that RIM’s technical braintrust is simply not up to the job of competing with Apple and Google. It’s not a question of direction, or focus; it’s a question of ability. And that’s a predicament no new CEO can solve. “BlackBerry cannot succeed if we try to be … all things to all people,” he says — but their real problem is that they’re well on their way to being nothing to anybody.
So forget about them coming back like Apple. Forget about them maintaining third-choice market share; Microsoft — which knows a thing or two about selling to businesses — is busy elbowing their way into that role while RIM dithers, swoons and languishes. So we’re left with survival option 3, someone buying them. But who? Their patent trove, sure. But their operations? Who wants to splash out billions of dollars to catch this falling knife, especially after HP’s WebOS debacle? Samsung apparently kicked the tires and walked away. Who else? I can’t think of a single name.
Which leaves us only option 4: softly and silently withering away, until they’re small enough for carrion eaters to pick over the bones of the carcass. It’s a damn shame, but it now seems to me inevitable. You had a great run, RIM. Thanks for all your good work back home. Sorry it couldn’t last.
Image credit: Dodo bird, by mwanasimba, on Flickr.
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The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, John Taschek, Rob La Gesse, Kevin Marks, and Steve Gillmor — rode out of Dodge and straight into an ambush. Well, no, but in service of the OverAggregator Lord here are our talking points: Microsoft trembles at the alter of irrelevance, Google doesn’t get TV but may sneak into the tablet market by giving them away, and HTML5 still can’t get a date.
I snuck in the usual mentions of Mad Men and push notification, the first a reference to the return of the mesmerizing prequel to Seinfeld, and the second the technology that ensures that you don’t have to watch the stream all day to stay up with what’s going on. Combining delayed gratification theatre with premature notification will produce the next big hit of the iPad Age.
@stevegillmor, @scobleizer, @jtaschek, @kr8tr, @kevinmarks
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
- STEVE GILLMOR
- ROBERT SCOBLE
- ROBERT LA GESSE
- JOHN TASCHEK
- KEVIN MARKS
Steve Gillmor is a technology commentator, editor, and producer in the enterprise technology space. He is Head of Technical Media Strategy at salesforce.com and a TechCrunch contributing editor.
Gillmor previously worked with leading musical artists including Paul Butterfield, David Sanborn, and members of The Band after an early career as a record producer and filmmaker with Columbia Records’ Firesign Theatre. As personal computers emerged in video and music production tools, Gillmor started contributing to various publications, most notably Byte Magazine,…
Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. He is best known for his popular blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft.
Scoble joined Microsoft in 2003, and although he often promoted Microsoft products like Tablet PCs and Windows Vista, he also frequently criticized his own employer and praised its competitors like Apple and Google.
Scoble is the author of Naked Conversations, a book on how blogs are changing…
Rob La Gesse evangelizes Rackspace Hosting through building43.com, Social Media, event sponsorships, and customer advocacy.
Rob joined Rackspace in April 2008 as the Director of Software Development for their Cloud Computing Division and moved to a PR role after hiring Robert Scoble and Rocky Barbanica in February of 2009.
John Taschek is vice president of strategy at salesforce.com. He is responsible for corporate product strategy, corporate intelligence and market influence. Taschek came to company in 2003, bringing over 20 years of technology evaluation experience.
Taschek currently is also the editorial director for CloudBlog – an independent blog run as an adjunct to salesforce.com’s web properties. He occasionally is on Steve Gillmor’s The Gillmor Gang enterprise web video-cast.
Previously, Taschek ran the testing labs at eWEEK (formerly PC Week) magazine….
Kevin Marks is a software engineer. Kevin served as an evangelist for OpenSocial and as a software engineer at Google. In June 2009 he announced his resignation.
From September 2003 to January 2007 he was Principal Engineer at Technorati responsible for the spiders that make sense of the web and track millions of blogs daily. He has been inventing and innovating for over 17 years in emerging technologies where people, media and computers meet.
Before joining Technorati,…
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Editor’s note: James Altucher is an investor, programmer, author, and entrepreneur. He is Managing Director of Formula Capital and has written 6 books on investing. His latest books are I Was Blind But Now I See and FAQ ME. You can follow him on Twitter @jaltucher.
Ken Lang could perform miracles. In 1990 we would head off to a bar near where we were going to graduate school for computer science, and we would bring a Go board. Then we would drink and play Go for five hours. At the end of the five hours, after a grueling battle over the board, I remember this one time when magically Ken would show up with two girls who were actually willing to sit down and hang out with two guys who had a GO BOARD in front of them. How did Ken do that?
Fast forward: 1991, CMU asks me to leave graduate school, citing lack of maturity. The professor who threw me out still occasionally calls me up asking me when I’m going to be mature enough.
Fast forward: 1994, one of our classmates, Michael Mauldin is working on a database that automatically sorts by category pages his spider retrieves on the Internet. The name of his computer: lycos.cs.cmu.edu. Lycos eventually spins out of CMU, becomes the biggest seach engine, and goes public with a multi-billion dollar valuation.
Fast forward: Ken Lang starts a company called WiseWire. I was incredibly skeptical. I read through what the company is about. “No way,” I think to myself, “that this is going to make any money”.
1998: Ken files a patent that classified how search results and ad results are sorted based on the number of click-thrus an ad gets. He sells the company to Lycos for $40 million. Ken Lang becomes CTO of Lycos and they take over his patents.
$40 million! What? And then Lycos stock skyrockets up. I can’t believe it. I’m happy for my friend but also incredibly jealous although later in 1998 I sell my first company as well. Still, I wanted to be the only one I knew who made money. I didn’t think it was fun when other people I knew made money. And, anyway, weren’t search engines dead? I mean,what was even the business model?
Fast forward: the 2000s. Almost every search engine dies. Excite, Lycos, Altavista. Before that “the world wide web worm”. Lycos got bought by a Spanish company, then a Korean company, then an Indian company. To be honest, I don’t even know who owns it now. It has a breathing tube and a feeding tube. Somehow, in a complete coma, it is being kept alive.
One search engine, a little company called Google, figured out how to make money.
One quick story: I was a venture capitalist in 2001. A company, Oingo, which later became Applied Semantics, had a technique for how search engines could make money by having people bid for ads. My partner at the firm said, “we can probably pick up half this company for cheap. They are running out of money.” It was during the Internet bust.
“Are you kidding me, “ I said. “they are in the search engine business. That’s totally dead.” And I went back to playing the Defender machine that was in my office. That I would play all day long even while companies waited in the conference room. (See: “10 Unusual Things I Didn’t Know About Google, Plus How I Made the Worst VC Decision Ever“)
A year later they were bought by Google for 1% of Google. Our half would’ve now been worth hundreds of millions if we had invested. I was the worst venture capitalist ever. They had changed their name from Oingo to Applied Semantics to what became within Google…AdWords and AdSense, which has been 97% of Google’s revenues since 2001. 97%. $67 billion dollars.
Don’t worry. I’m getting to it.
Fast forward. Overture, another search engine company that no longer exists (Yahoo bought it) files a patent for a bidding system for ads on a search engine. The patent office says (I’m paraphrasing), “you can file patents on A, B, and C. But not D, E, and F. Because Ken Lang from Lycos filed those patents already.”
Overture/Yahoo goes on to successfully sue Google based on the patents they did win. Google settled right before they went public but long before they achieved the bulk of their revenues.
Lycos goes on to being a barely breathing, comatose patient. Fast forward to 2011. Ken Lang buys his patents back from Lycos for almost nothing. He starts a company: I/P Engine. Two weeks ago he announced he was merging his company with a public company, Vringo (Nasdaq: VRNG). Because it’s Ken, I buy the stock although will buy more after this article is out and readers read this.
The company sues Google for a big percentage of those $67 billion in revenues plus future revenues. The claim: Google has willfully infringed on Vringo – I/P’s patents for sorting ads based on click-throughs. I remember almost 20 years ago when Ken was working on the software. “Useless!” I thought then. Their claim: $67 billion of Google’s revenues come from this patent. All of Google’s revenues going forward come from this patent. And every search engine which uses Google is allegedly infringing on the Vringo patent and is being sued.
Think: Interactive Corp (Nasdaq: IACI) with Ask.com. Think AOL. Think Target which internally uses Google’s technologies. Think Gannett, which uses Google’s technology and is also being sued. Think, eventually, thousands of Google’s customers who use AdSense.
Think: “willfully”. Why should you think that? Two reasons. Overture already sued Google. Google is aware of Yahoo/Overture’s patent history. The patent history officially stated that Ken Lang/Lycos already has patented some of this technology. What does “willfully” mean in legal terms? Triple damages.
Why didn’t Lycos ever sue? After Lycos had its massive stroke and was left to die in a dirty hospital room with some uncaring nurse changing it’s bedpans twice a day, Google was STILL Lycos’s biggest customer. Why sue your biggest customer? Operating companies rarely sue other operating companies. Then there are countersuits, loss of revenues, and all sorts of ugly things. The breathing tube would’ve been pulled out of Lycos and it would’ve been left to die.
Think: NTP suing RIMM on patents. NTP had nothing going on other than the patents. Like Vringo/Innovate. NTP won over $600 million from RIMM once Research in Motion realized this is a serious issue and not one they can just chalk up to a bad nightmare.
Guess who NTP’s lawyer was? Donald Stout. Guess who Vringo’s patent lawyer is? Donald Stout. Why is Donald Stout so good? He was an examiner at the US Patent Office. He knows patents. They announced all of this but nobody reads announcements of a small public company like Vringo. It’s hard enough figuring out how many pixels are on the screen of Apple’s amazng iPad 3.
Well, Google must have a defense? Even though their AdWords results are sorted by click-throughs in the way described by the patent maybe they sorted in a different way (a “work-around” of the patent), and didn’t infringe on the patent.
Maybe: But look at Google economist Hal Varian describing their algorithm right here in this video. And compare with the patent claim filed in court by Vringo. You decide. But it looks like the exact same to me.
Maybe: But does Google want to risk losing ten billion dollars plus having all of their customers sued. The district the case is getting tried in rules 70% in favor of the plaintiff in patent cases. Most patent trials get settled on the court steps.
Maybe: But then there’s still Microsoft /Yahoo search which, by the way, sorts based on click-throughs and has not been sued yet.
Guess what? Google’s patent lawyer is Quinn-Emmanuel. They are defending Google. Oh, and here’s something funny. Guess who Yahoo’s lawyer is? Yahoo is suing Facebook for patent infringement in the search domain. Quinn-Emanuel. So the same lawyer is both defending and accusing in the same domain. Someone’s going to settle. Everyone will settle. If anyone loses this case then the entire industry is going down in the same lawsuit and the exact same lawyer will be stuck on both sides of the fence. I’m not a lawyer but that smells. The trial is October 16 in the Eastern District Court of Virginia and will last 2 weeks. An appeal process can take, at most, a year.
I’ve known Ken for 23 years. I’ve been in the trenches with him when he was writing what I thought was his useless software. I watched his company get bought and we’ve talked about these technologies through the decades.
I’ve read the patent case. I watched Hal Varian’s video. Also look at this link on Google’s site where they describe their algorithm. Compare with the patent claim. I have a screenshot if they decide to take it down. $67 billion in revenues from this patent. Imagine: double that in the next ten years. Imagine: triple damages.
Vringo will have an $80 million market capitalization post their merger with I/P. NTP won $600 million from RIMM using the same lawyer. RIMM’s revenues are a drop in the bucket compared to Google. And compared to 1000s of Google’s customers who will be embarrassed when the lawyer shows up at their door also. That’s why I made my investment accordingly. Is Google going to take the risk this happens?
I doubt it.
You can think to yourself: “ugh, patent trolls are disgusting”. But the protection of intellectual property is what America is built on. Smart people invent things. Then they get to protect the intellectual property on what they invents. Other companies can’t steal that technology. That’s why we have such a problem outsourcing to China and other countries where we are worried they might steal our intellectual property. Patents are the defense mechanism for capitalism.
Ken can perform miracles. But no miracle would save me. At the end of one evening of Go playing and beer drinking in 1990 we gave two girls our phone numbers. I don’t know if Ken ever got the call. I didn’t. But I guess I’m happy where it all ended up.
Google provides search and advertising services, which together aim to organize and monetize the world’s information. In addition to its dominant search engine, it offers a plethora of online tools and platforms including: Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Most of its Web-based products are free, funded by Google’s highly integrated online advertising platforms AdWords and AdSense. Google promotes the idea that advertising should be highly targeted and relevant to users thus providing them with a rich source of information….
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By AppleInsider Staff
Published: 11:57 PM EST (08:57 PM PST)
Apple. along with a number of tech industry leaders, took part in a discussion on Thursday to explore how a joint effort backed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and Department of Education can implement digital textbooks in the nation’s K-12 public schools.
Hosted by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the meeting fleshed out to transition all U.S. K-12 schools to a fully digital interactive learning environment within the next five years.
Attendees included representatives from tech heavyweights Apple, Samsung, Intel and Kno; publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill, News Corp. and Pearson; telecoms Sprint and T-Mobile; and governmental bodies the LEAD Commission and the Idaho Department of Education, among others.
Chairman Genachowski and Secreatary Duncan issued the group a challenge to develop a low-cost, high quality solution for interactive digital textbooks consisting of device, content, connectivity, and technical support for use in America’s classrooms.
According to an FCC-evaluated Project RED study, schools can save up to $250 per student per year if a digital ecosystem is implemented over the traditional textbook-and-paper used in classrooms today. Besides the initial cost savings, the prospect of upgrading to more current media in the future would be substantially less expensive than the current model which sees $7 billion spent in new textbooks each year. Digital textbooks would also enable a more uniform learning experience as new content can be pushed out nationwide at regular intervals.
A digital learning environment can reduce the amount of time it takes a student to learn a topic by up to 80 percent, said the Department of Education and a recent studies by the National Training and Simulation Association. A separate PBS study found that 93 percent of teachers believe that interactive whiteboards are positive learning tools, with 81 percent feeling the same about tablets.
iBooks textbooks are already available on Apple’s iPad. | Source: Apple
While technology in the classroom has been found to be beneficial in the classroom, getting a new ecosystem up and running will take some time. To that end, the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission was established earlier in March to facilitate the rapid adoption of new media content in the education sector.
In January, the “Digital Textbook Playbook” was announced to help teachers bring technology to the classroom by taking down the “major barriers to the adoption of digital textbooks, including the challenge of connectivity, both at school, in the community, and at home; the challenge of device procurement; and the challenge of making the transition from paper to digital textbooks.”
The Digital Textbook Playbook offers an outline of new media for the classroom. | Source: FCC
Apple has always been active in the education market, going as far as releasing classroom-specific computer models like the eMac and offering student and teacher product discounts. The company’s latest education initiative, iBooks textbooks, was announced in January and could be a strong contender for the FCC and DOE plan. Of the major publishers at Thursday’s discussion, three already offer content to through the iBooks store.
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