Welcome to the world, Fleur.
Welcome to the world, Fleur.
After many months of careful legal review, we’ve now officially spun PeekAnalytics out from PeekYou LLC into a new company. As of today, I am CEO of PeekAnalytics Inc. This spin-out will allow us to better focus resources and deliver to the market what has become an incredible product. I can truly say there is nothing else like it. Stay tuned.
Much of the same can be said for PeekYou, which has now recovered from Hurricane Sandy setbacks. PeekYou is in good hands and won’t skip a beat, with long-time employees Tom Lynch and Lane Gillespie stepping up to man the day-to-day operations. We still believe PeekYou should be one of the top-100 sites on the Web. The good news is we’re climbing back up those rankings. I’m stepping back from day-to-day business, yet will continue to advise the company as a Director.
What happened in 2012?
My resolution for 2013: no excuses.
Here’s how we describe the company:
PeekAnalytics delivers enterprise-class Twitter analytics that help marketers understand their social consumers. By identifying where Twitter users exist elsewhere on the Web, PeekAnalytics offers an unparalleled level of demographic and psychographic insights from consumer data aggregated not just from Twitter, but from over sixty social sites and every major blog platform. What Nielsen® did for television and radio audiences and ComScore® did for web traffic audiences – PeekAnalytics does for social audiences.
And so we’re off and running. I’m also looking forward to adding audience analysis on other platforms later this year (e.g. Facebook).
For the past nine months, Kejda and I (but mostly Kejda) have been working on a new start-up venture. Even though we just launched today, we’re already experiencing a positive ROI. We’re in this one for the long-term but we definitely expect rapid growth.
Her name is Rosamund Louise Hussey and after we pulled an all-nighter, she was launched at 2:51 PM today, weighing in at a healthy 6 lbs and 15.8 ounces. And we love her very much.
In May, we celebrated PeekYou becoming a top-500 US website. We said we’d throw another party when we hit the top-250….and we just crossed that threshhold this month. In five months, we’ve halved the Quantcast rank and doubled our office space. Additionally, we successfully launched into beta our first B2B offering, PeekAnalytics. All-in-all, it has been a great year.
I covered what I could in two minutes…which isn’t a whole lot.
The data for this report came out of our development work for the upcoming PeekAnalytics.
Kejda and I recently returned from ten days in Costa Rica. For the majority of the trip, we stayed at a resort named Rancho Pacifico, in the coastal town of Uvita. While Kejda was not a fan of the capital city of San Jose, just about everything at Rancho Pacifico was awesome.
Here some of the photos I enjoyed taking. Click the photo for the full resolution images.
Andrew Keen interviewing me on May 23, 2011, backstage at Techcrunch Disrupt.
Questions Andrew asks:
1) What does PeekYou do?
2) What’s different about a web indexed around people rather than today’s Web or yesterday’s Web?
3) So it’s a more effective or more sophisticated Google search?
4) How does your platform fit into the real-time social web of Twitter and Facebook?
5) What about people, perhaps like myself, who don’t want to be Peeked at?
6) What does your company tell us about the way in which the Internet is changing? Is it becoming, as Sean Parker told us in the Social Network, is the place we really live now?
Last night, our team celebrated the ascension of PeekYou into the ranks of the top-500 US websites (according to Quantcast.com).
Many fellow startup entrepreneurs, partners, advisors, investors and members of the press turned out for the event. The most common and gratifying compliment I heard from the attendees was in reference to just how nice the people on our team are. We’re a tight-knit group and everyone genuinely gets along with each other and I am proud to see that shine through.
And for those who couldn’t make it this time, we’re planning to do it again, only bigger, when we become a top-250 website (this fall?).
It is hard to describe what I felt watching The Social Network. I knew going in that much of the account it presented of Facebook’s founding was fictional. Certain things, however, hit too close to home not to make me at least a bit sentimental and a bit embarrassed as well. Why should I feel anything? It was a just a movie, right?
I sometimes pride myself with being one of the first people ever to have been friends with a personal computer for their entire conscious life; although this experience is a commonplace among today’s children. And so, I often wonder — how does my experience compare to that of Mark Zuckerberg and other Internet pioneers? How different of a person am I?
I watched The Social Network in the middle of a packed New York City audience — and each time a familiar experience was depicted on screen I felt self-conscious, or something like it — as in, how could this audience, seeing this, genuinely understand the excitement over Mark Zuckerberg’s achievement? I felt it acutely because it tasted so much like my own formative years — and I realized how much I would probably like Mark if he were even 50% like the caricature painted in the movie.
|Mark had an overnight success with Facemash.com at Harvard (20K hits in the first day, according to the movie). He was forced to shut it down by Harvard.||The summer 1999, between my junior and senior year at the University of Maine, I launched RateMyFace.com (the precursor to HotorNot – referenced in The Social Network), generating over 100K hits in the first weekend. I shut it down because it was too popular and I had to graduate. I later launched RateMyFaceOff.com (Summer 2000) – which was exactly the same concept as FaceMash – and for the same reasons cited by the Zuckerberg character in the film.|
|Course Match – an application Mark developed to help identify who else was in your class at Harvard||RateMyProfessors/RateMyTeachers – In 2001, I developed a ratings platform which millions of students have used to date – revolutionizing how students choose their courses and still among the most popular education websites ever created.|
|Conceived of Facebook (November 2004)||Conceived of IMConnected (Nov 2001)|
|Plenty of crazy people trying to leech away his creation||Plenty of crazy people trying to leech away my creations|
|The Social Network portrayed Mark as someone who walked quickly and/or jogged around campus, so as not to waste time getting from here to there. Not sure if this was the actual Mark’s habit.||This sounds minor – but it was one of the most curious parts of the movie for me. I used to be laughed at by my friends for doing the same thing at UMaine. I hated wasting time between locations and hated wasting time getting where I wanted to be.|
|Worked with Peter Thiel, the main angel investor of Facebook||I only once met Peter Thiel at a lecture here in New York and consider him a business hero of mine. Peter invested in an early and inferior competitor to PeekYou, Wink.com, and more recently in a legitimate competitor, Rapleaf (a similar data company with a different approach). I’ve wanted to work with Peter for years, certain he’d appreciate my take on the future of the Internet.|
|Net worth: X billions, liquid||Net worth: X millions, but almost entirely tied up in the net worth of PeekYou and RateMyTeachers.|
Did I waste 2002-2003, when I was sitting on business plans, some of which were foundational blueprints for Social Networking? I still am unsure of the answer. My fit-all excuse is that the Internet economy had crashed and investment dollars were scant, to put it mildly – and everyone I presented IMConnected to asked the same question, to which I did not have a good answer: How will it make money? Had I known then what I learned over the following years, I’m certain I could have gotten it off the ground for less start-up capital than I thought I needed but I was afraid to enter into the project without sufficient resources for scaling up immediately (I’d been through that with RateMyFace before and didn’t want to experience a failure to scale again). When Friendster launched in 2003 (as well as AuctionDrop – a copycat of another business plan I spent a lot of time developing) – I was starting to feel sorry for myself (the worst possible thing for an entrepreneur to do).
The lesson learned was that great ideas are often obvious – and even if they weren’t, someone else will probably think of them eventually and set about their execution. I had a two-year head start on Social Networking (I called it “affinitology”), but failed to execute. Despite knowing full well how important an innovation it was, there was always an excuse to put it off until tomorrow (when I would have the resources to “build it properly”).
In 2004, after Friendster had essentially failed to scale (my own biggest nightmare come true) and had come and gone from popular public consciouness, MySpace and LinkedIn were ascendant, and Facebook was on the rise (and, I assumed, destined to overtake MySpace by virtue of its well-structured architecture) – I began to obsess over the opportunity lost, but I also wondered about the fate of a site like Friendster, which had all the promise in the world, only to see its opportunity slip away overnight. I wanted to create something eternal – something that would change the way people think about the Internet forever. It was too late for that something to be IMConnected – but I knew I had it in me to think of something else, potentially better, and with the ability to make it happen. I also knew that when it hit me, I wasn’t going to waste a day. I thought about this at least every week for the next couple of years. It was an ongoing obsession and I enjoyed the thought process.
A couple of years later in April 2006, I woke up in a semi-conscious state of mind, with the crystal-clear concept of re-indexing the web around people almost fully formed in my head – perceiving right away that if I could identify the actual individual behind any given URL, I could create a database that would not only be relevant 100 years from now, but might rank as the most important web database since Google’s. I vowed not to waste a day — and three months later, I had a prototype of the database ready to go. … After much deliberation, I named it PeekYou.
Today the company is growing by leaps and bounds – month-over-month increases in revenue throughout the past year – we’re hiring great new people, and the markets we are entering into fit as a glove within the original vision. The sometimes ridiculous challenges I’ve faced in building this company are eventually worth writing separate stories about – but we’ll see how things stand a year from now. I’m thankfully surrounded with good people who share my vision for this database and we’re in that period of rapid growth all bootstrapped start-ups dream about.
The Social Network induced me to reflect back on the past decade. Here are some final thoughts on what I believe I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong.
Some big mistakes I’ve made:
Best things I ever did:
A few months ago, Kejda and I were perusing Dewolfe and Wood’s bargain book bin. We came across a gem of a book – The Arts by Hendrik van Loon (published in 1937). I’ve much enjoyed reading van Loon’s honest and very personal account of art history, spanning all ages and all types of civilizations.
Included with the book was an original perfect condition bookmark, which I wanted to scan for preservation. I don’t think van Loon would mind me sharing it here with you.
Ron Gallagher just dug up some hilarious code we wrote back in the days designed to induce people to look at and ultimately click on our banner ads. Note, this is not recommended or even legal with most ad networks (e.g. Google Adsense) today. This code was written ten years ago when things still a bit more wild west and before we gave much thought to click-quality. If you are a decent sized publisher, inducing or creating false clicks will ultimately hurt your earnings, as the best ads are those that result in a sale on the advertiser’s site. If you encourage bad clicks, you’ll end up with bad advertisers that don’t convert real customers for your sponsors — and your eCPMs will ultimately adjust downward because of it.
That said, these click inducements are still hilarious. Good times.
rmf=# select * from lines;
id | list
1 | God commands you to click on this banner
2 | If you hate hair in your mouth, click on this banner
3 | If you like kittens, click on this banner
4 | God would want you to click on this banner
10 | You cannot buy love, but you can click on this banner
11 | Clicking on this banner will not help you, but it will make us like 4 cents or something
12 | Do not click on this banner
13 | If you have rats in your home, clicking on this banner will make them nicer
14 | Banners are… well… you know the drill
15 | If you like paper hats you are a dork. Click the banner
16 | Our advertiser [above] wanted us to tell you that their product is really good
18 | Don`t think of it as clicking a banner — think of it as `button sex`
19 | The above ad has been tested for fun and scored a 10!
20 | People will think you are cool if you click on this banner
21 | Your mom might stop putting poison in your milk if you click on this banner
23 | No trees were destroyed in the making of the above banner
24 | No animals were harmed in the creation of the banner above
25 | If you think that we are cheap putting banners up on every page, teach us a lesson and click the banner so hard it breaks
26 | If you wear glasses, DO NOT click on this banner. It is for non-dorks only
27 | If you click on this banner, your penis will get bigger. [IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are a girl, DO NOT click on this banner!]
Our office is in an old fashion district building at the edge of Hell’s Kitchen (West 37th St). In the back of our building, a fire escape opens up to what has to be a uniquely New York City vista. This photo was taken on the 6th floor, between 37th and 38th St, looking from west to east (from 8th ave to 7th ave side).
To see this photo in the original 1.4 gigapixel resolution, click here.
Kejda and I just returned from Albania, where we spent two weeks visiting her family and touring the southern half of the country. We keep a separate blog dedicated to our Albanian trips, where we’ll soon describe our daily activities in greater depth.
For my birthday, I bought myself a Gigapan robot it is safe to say I am slightly obsessed with it. What is the Gigapan?
The GigaPan Epic and Epic 100 make it easy to capture incredibly detailed images and works seamlessly with the GigaPan Stitcher and GigaPan.org. The Epic allows your camera to take tens, hundreds or even thousands of photos. These images are combined into a single gigapixel panorama by the GigaPan Stitcher. You can then view, share and explore the incredible detail of your panoramas at GigaPan.org.
Here are some of the panoramas we composed during the trip. Click the images to access the full resolution shots (some as large as 5,000 megabytes).
Today we submitted an extensive utility patent with the goal of securing many of the database and web technologies we are pioneering at PeekYou. It has been a privilege over this past year to work with the excellent team at Patterson, Thuente, Skaar & Christensen. I’m very excited about the next stage of our company — much more to come throughout 2009. Stay tuned.
Here it is the patent text in full:
For the most part, I try to keep my atheism and libertarianism private, as most people are rightly sensitive about religion and politics. While I hold strong views on the role of the State and am averse to mysticism of all stripes, I get along with people from all walks of life. My best friends are libertarians, socialists, evangelical Christians, anarchists, atheists, republicans, democrats, and more. I’m also a busy person, having spent most of my time since 1999 focusing on building new web technologies and businesses, some of which have marginally improved the lives of millions of people across the globe.
About a year ago, in response to a troubling vibe I felt emanating from the Obama presidential campaign, I created the following video under the pseudonym cakesecret. I utilized a song from one of my favorite bands, CAKE, to compare the Obama movement to a religious movement (I wasn’t necessarily the first to note this analogy, but I was certainly ahead of the curve). The video became viral almost immediately, quickly generating over 100K views before YouTube/Google censored it (details here).
Last summer I created a Twitter account under that same pseudonym to help draw attention to what Google/YouTube had done. Due to my video’s success, my Twitter account attracted thousands of followers. After some consideration, my wife eventually convinced me that it was foolish not to take credit for a video that clearly struck a chord with so many, and for which I have nothing to be ashamed. I’ve changed the twitter account from @popcontest and @cakesecret to @husseymichael so you can follow me there, if you like.
Here is the video:
For the record, I did not vote in 2008 (first and last time I did was in 1996, for Bill Clinton). I subscribe to the Peter Thiel view that technology is the greatest practical force for freedom in the modern world, but the underlying philosophical ideas supporting individual rights matter the most.
“I’m very much in favor of free market economics; probably quite a bit more liberal on most of the social issues; and I believe basically that individual freedom is very important, and that we live in a world in the 21st century where there will either be a lot more or a lot less; and that the politics matter and ideas matter because the choices people make will be of decisive importance in determining, you know, how the 21st century is gonna shape up. You know the 20th century was sort of a great and the terrible century at the same time. And I think the 21st has every indication of being far greater and far more terrible.”
Patrick Nagle and I have agreed to partner up to re-focus and build RateMyTeachers.com. Patrick is well known for buying RateMyProfessors.com, improving it, and selling it to Viacom/MTVu. He is also the creator of Swooks (originally Switch Textbooks), a used textbook swap and sell service.
Stay tuned, for good things to come.
Kejda and I were married today in a small ceremony at my sister’s house.
An ode to the sad life of Hillary Clinton backed by the famous Abba song, The Winner Takes It All.
The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all
I enjoyed this interview with Alt Search Engines.
Is there a website he hasn’t joined?
Early this morning (after a couple of all-nighters), we launched the latest PeekYou product – a Google search that displays the owners of the websites directly next to the search results (or the people referenced within them). The search results are generated with Google’s Custom Search engine — so you get the same exact results as you would expect from any Google search — but you get the added bonus of seeing the people behind those search results.
Update: Mashable says “PeekYou Makes People Search Worthwhile with Google Integration“
I recently won first place on an AltSearchEngines essay competition. Charles Knight asked readers of his new blog to contribute ideas on how alternative search engines can increase their collective market share. Here is my entry.
Google and Yahoo currently have a stranglehold (75%) on the search market for one simple reason – for the past six or seven years they have offered users the most relevant search results. Through long-term success these two have achieved mindshare, thus significant path dependencies exist within their core user base. MSN, AOL, and Ask, own the next 20% of market share. This means that 95 out of every 100 Internet searches are owned by five companies (actually four companies, if you consider that AOL now displays Google results). This exercise asks us to consider the remaining 5% of alternative search engines as being one general entity and we are tasked with increasing the Alt’s market share to 7% or beyond.
Nearly every alt engine has its own unique quirks, positive or negative, and a considerable number of these engines do indeed offer quality of output that rivals most any search result from the major 95% market share holders. Yet most Internet users have never heard of nearly any of them. Before making direct suggestions on how to compete by creating a better search experience, it is more important to consider the products that already exist in the alt search market, and understand what drives the 95% of search users to the big five engines.
Consider the three second-tier search engines, MSN, AOL, and Ask.com. MSN has the benefit of being Internet Explorer’s default homepage (used by more than 70% of Internet users), and they’ve spent many millions working on their search technology to catch up to Google, but it clearly isn’t there yet in terms of quality. AOL has the benefit being the country’s largest ISP, therefore able to place its homepage in front of millions of people every day – but they do not offer links to Google’s advanced tools (which require a Google login). Ask.com is a well-funded company with a simple domain name that continues to spend millions of dollars driving traffic, and though their search results have improved over the years, the results are still not yet generally considered superior to Google or Yahoo. The obvious question is why would 20% of the market utilize inferior search services? The answer is likely that less sophisticated users make up a greater percentage of this 20% than Google’s and Yahoo’s user base.
For more evidence of this, cross-reference Quantcast.com’s demographic information. It indicates that Google and Yahoo attract a larger percentage of users in the 18-34 age group (the most Internet-savvy age group), generally coming from higher income households.
There are two reasons why the quickest path to increasing market share is to focus marketing and education efforts on the demographics which make up 20% owned by the second-tier search engines. First, these users are likely newer to the Internet, and more open to trying new ways of surfing. Second, it is easier to demonstrate higher quality search results from an alt-engine over the second-tier engines, rather than Google and Yahoo, whose users are affected by stronger path-dependencies.
To attract this new audience, marketing materials must focus on how your alt-engine makes life easier and improves the online search experience; how it provides quicker and more accurate information, thus creating a more comfortable online experience.
Much can be learned from Ask.com’s growth over the page five years. Previous to their disastrous 2007 marketing campaign (“The Algorithm Killed Jeeves”), emphasizing simplicity and user-friendliness was precisely their approach. Ask created effective television commercials that in effect spoke the following message: “Go to Ask.com – type in any question in the world – and we’ll give you the answer.”
Remember, before your alt-engine acquires a Yahoo-sized market share, it has to first get an Ask.com and MSN sized percentage. Grab the users at the margin first – and then go for the big time.
-Michael Hussey CEO, PeekYou.com
Do not believe the excuses put forward by the teacher unions — demanding that internet censors protect teachers from cyber-bullying? RateMyTeachers is at the forefront of protecting teachers online by promoting the best and the most effective among them. Since our inception, RateMyTeachers has instituted rating rules to protect teachers from bullying. Any rating that crosses these rules is removed without question. A moderating force of over 5,000 individuals is constantly on the look-out for any ratings that do not meet these standards. Every rating is reviewed before it is posted live on the website.
See for yourself: http://www.ratemyteachers.com/info.php?type=RateRules
A tyrant demanding absolute control is the first to censor whatever threatens its power. Teacher unions recognize the threat websites like RateMyTeachers pose to their monopoly and use “cyber-bullying” as an excuse to enact censorship. The fact is, not all teachers are created equal and RateMyTeachers is making this plainly obvious to anyone with an interest in the education system (parents, students, administrators, taxpayers). Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, teacher unions by their very nature view every teacher as a cog in a great education machine.
Teacher contracts are negotiated so that every teacher, good or bad, is treated the same. Teachers who opt out of paying union dues are punished even though they are required by law to accept the union negotiated contracts. Tenure tracks ensure that horrible teachers will waste students’ time and taxpayers’ money; and in some cases, a bad teacher can seriously harm the education and mental development of a child. Pointing out to the public which teachers are creating an environment for learning (as most teachers are successfully doing) and which teachers are failing in that mission (a small minority), leads people to question a system that restricts choices.
The point issue, which the press always ignores, is that any pressure to allow school or teacher choice threatens the teacher union’s power. For a tyrant, choice is to be avoided at all costs — and censorship is always on the table when losing power is at stake.
The United Kingdom stands at cross-roads. By allowing its citizens to access websites and servers outside of the country’s borders, the UK has unwittingly granted incredible new freedoms to its citizenry, the implications of which were not foreseen. This freedom threatens many of the institutions that prop up the State apparatus; hence rumblings of this kind are not at all surprising. The choice at hand is between protecting citizens’ rights to access information freely and looking to China for inspiration in controlling people and the information they may consume. Sadly, considering the recent rhetoric ringing through the highest levels of the UK government, I would not be shocked to see the UK look east for inspiration.