Chomping At The Bit: How To Find iPhone Apps

Australian serial entrepreneur Ben Keighran is starting to make waves in Silicon Valley again with his new venture Chomp. With fellow Aussie co-founder Cathy Edwards and funding from Ron Conway, Blue Run Ventures and other Valley notables the business is aimed at enabling iPhone users to find apps.

Chomp has received some solid coverage on TechCrunch and an interview with Robert Scoble (embedded below) in which Ben explains their value proposition:

Four People Is All It Takes To Change The World

I have a huge amount of respect for Robert Scoble. His intellect, his dedication to his task of curating trends and his personable approach make him a stand out in the Silicon Valley community…, no wider than that: globally!

That’s why I wanted to share with you his talk at Stanford University last month. In it he talks about how people like Scott Monty are humanizing the brands they work with, how new Zappos employees are forced to tweet to connect them to their brand and the concept of doubling pennies.

He finishes in true Scoble style with an understated truism – we all have a burning desire not to connect with thousands of ‘friends’ that we hardly know, but with just four people, the right four people…and that is all it takes to change the world, just four connected, passionate people.

Connect the dots – the right four people who have cracked the formula for building doubling pennies – an extremely powerful combination.

Definitely worth watching:

TechCrunch5(2) Reductio: “Sell to Google, Never!”

This was definitely drinking-from-the-fire-hydrant week in California for high tech startups. Three days of TC50 demos, parties with Scoble-Mooregate verifying the echo chamber effect is alive and well in both Silicon Valley and Hollywood (if you believe Valleywag, that is) and Jason Calacanis venting steam while still miked up for all on uStream to hear.

As I tweeted yesterday, while the event may have been marred with a few second year mishaps, all in all kudos to the organisers (aka Tyler and his team) for providing an excellent tech showcase.

Two questions emerge – firstly, what will the landscape look like next year. Can Chris Shipley and Calacarrington kiss and make up in time for the first DEMOCrunch event. Or will a professional competitor come in from left field and clean up the space?

Secondly, what was the final set of take outs from the three days. I’m sure we all filtered the event in different ways but for me here are the salient points:

* Product placement as an up and coming business trend ran through the conference as a theme — highlighted by a comment from prolific angel investor, Ron Conway: “it’s a multi billion dollar business emerging right before our eyes”;

* Yossi Vardi once and for all categorized business plans: “as a great sub genre in the science fiction section”;

* Collaborative venture capitalist Peter Thiel defined the holy grail of creating business value: maximizing optionality. He felt that Facebook’s $15bn valuation is justified through the company’s extensible optionality. This is a theme to explore more in the coming months;

* And lastly fellow South African and Sequioa venture guy, Roelof Botha urged startups to “trim down their aperture and focus on key user pain points”.

The rally cry for the event though had to be one startup founder’s response to the question of whether he would sell to Google: “Never!”

Flushing The Data Portaloo: The Looming Portability Squareoff With Users

How close are we to true data portability? It depends who is asking the question as to how it gets answered.

As one of the chief catalysts for the current wave of discussion and (some) action, Chris Saad, points out none of the current high profile implementations are completely true to the overall understanding of portability.

Writing on his blog, Chris sees Facebook Connect, Google’s Friend Connect and MySpace’s Data Availability as important first steps. They are the first shots across the bow to the industry that a data portability battle is coming.

That battle will involve a squareoff between the user: me, you – and the networks collectively.

I like Chris’s address book analogy:

DataPortability is about a different social contract – a contract more closely resembling the one found in the email address book.

My address book is my own. When you email me, or when you communicate with me, you are revealing something about yourself. You define a social contract with me that means that I can use your information to contact you whenever and however I like – I could even re-purpose my address book for all manor of other things.

If, however, you violate that trust, either directly or indirectly, you break the social contract and I will tend to not deal with you again. We can not perfectly engineer these sorts of contracts into systems – we can try, but in the end social behavior will be the last mile in enforcing user rights.

Also, the dichotomy between who ‘owns’ the data is false. In my mind there is shared ownership. While you use a service, it is a shared custodianship of the data. By giving the service your data you’re getting something else in return – utility. In many cases free utility.

You personally, however, have shared (and overriding) ownership over your data. This has been declared as universally true by all the vendors I’ve spoken to.

The question is not one of ownership though, it’s one of control. If you own your data but can’t control it as you choose then ownership is a mute point. Further, the question is not one of if you own it, but rather how much of it you own.

For example, do you own your friends profile data since you have access to it via the social tool you are using? Or have they only granted you access within that social context and under that social contract. These considerations blur the analogy of the purely personal address book.

So where does this leave us. The industry continues to engage in discussion and analyse the meaning of both data portability and the current implementations. As long as this dialogue continues the looming squareoff will remain just that – looming. We are in a honeymoon period in which users are coming to grips with their rights and freedoms and comparing the various networks to determing whether and to what extent they are being violated.

For now, data portability continues to have relevancy and I do not believe our rights have been flushed away. However, I would encourage all players to listen very carefully to the conversation going on.

As I’ve said many times: the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away – and it can do both with blinding speed. This is especially relevant for Facebook, given the current meme around its intentions started by Umair Haque.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble has a sound analysis of the situation, after an initial misunderstanding on his part. Have a read, the best part is him putting his participation on the Gillmor Gang on mute, having a shower and then coming back on the show. I know it’s been hot in the Bay area the last few days, but this is hilarious and about all the GG seems good for – cooling off.

[Picture courtesy of willgrant]