August 5, 2009

Final reflections on the Traveling Geeks trip

Craig & Karyn

JD LasicaIt has been one month since the Traveling Geeks kicked off our trip to London and Cambridge with a Tweetup at JuJu in Chelsea. (I was the chief organizer of trip.) From this distance and vantage point, here are a few random impressions:

• I think too much can be made of the differences between entrepreneurship in the UK and in the United States. While it’s true that Silicon Valley nurtures a spirit of innovation marked by the mantra “Fail often, but fail fast” — an axiom that permits experimentation without demanding an immediate return to investors — it’s even more true that the businessmen and entrepreneurs I met along the way have the same fire in the belly — a burning desire to build something of great value.

SeedCamp was a high point of the trip to many of us, and apart from the well-done, compact presentations, it was fascinating to watch tomorrow’s young business leaders mingle with each other and exchange ideas and contact information. Cross-pollination at its best. Spotify, Huddle, Skimlinks, Zemanta — these are names that may grow into notable consumer brands in the coming years, and Moo arguably already has. (Here’s my writeup; and here’s my video interview with Skimlinks founder Alicia Navarro.)

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July 15, 2009

Seedcamp winners meet the Geeks


JD LasicaOne of the real highlights of the Traveling Geeks trip to the United Kingdom last week came when we were treated to “speed dating” session with the top start-ups of Seedcamp.

seedcampThis, after all, is one of the chief goals of the Traveling Geeks: to suss out young or little-known start-ups hear their stories, and throw a spotlight on the ones that resonate with us.

So we were thrilled when Sherry Coutu and Reshma Sohoni of London-based Seedcamp (Twitter: @seedcamp) arranged for us to meet their top start-ups, both collectively and one on one. Every one had a compelling consumer-facing service. Here are the ones that particularly struck a chord:

Twitter: @huddle
Email: [email protected]
Site: offers a collaboration, sharing and project tools platform for getting stuff done. Specifically, Huddle provides secure online workspaces where users can share files, collaborate on ideas, manage projects and organize virtual meetings. P&G, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nokia and Unicef are among the customers using Huddle.

In February, Huddle partnered with InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing provider, to provide services to their 1 million-plus customers. And last month BusinessWeek named Huddle one of their “50 most promising startups” around the globe.

Heady stuff for founders Andy McLoughlin and Alistair Mitchell, who gave me a five-minute rundown of the site’s services. While I’ve been impressed by Basecamp‘s recent improvements, I saw enough in my session with Andy and Alistair that persuaded me to try out Huddle in an upcoming project with one of my clients or co-conspirators.


Twitter: @zemanta
Email: [email protected]

zemantaAndraz Tori (pictured at top), CTO of Slovenia-based Zemanta, sat down and gave the company’s six-word pitch: “Zemanta is an author’s best friend.” Turns out that it’s not just a marketing pitch.

zemanta siderI just started using Zemanta today and can see why it’s so addictive. As a blogger on WordPress who uses the Firefox browser, I’m perfectly suited for Zemanta’s services. I had previously come across Zemanta only on other bloggers’ posts and didn’t pay much attention to the link at the bottom of blog posts that would summon up related posts.

But Zemanta offers a slick and convenient way to spruce up your blog posts.It looks over your shoulder while you’re crafting a post (or even an email) and suggests images, related articles, links and tags to use. A simple click and the image or link now becomes part of your post. Zemanta draws from a large pool of available images, many of them carrying Creative Commons licenses. That’s one of the coolest features — mouse over the image and you’ll see its terms of use (generally free).

“I just love Zemanta,” said fellow Geek Meghan Asha. “It’s just cool to be able to have those images right there, all free and legal to use.”

Well put. I’m a believer now .


Twitter: @spotify
Email: [email protected]

spotifyIn my book “Darknet” I wrote about the ongoing clash between the music companies and music fans who just want easy access to digital music. Spotify is one of the first companies to come along with an answer.

Through its simple-to-use interface and licensing deals with the major music labels, Spotify offers music fans instant access to their favorite music. The service enables on-demand streaming of tons of audio content through a free, ad-supported model and a premium paid model. London-based Lastfm and US-based Pandora are two similar music listening services, and SoundCloud is a great way to share music and audio files (see Robert Scoble’s video interview with One of Europe’s brightest startups: SoundCloud).

Scoble has been a big fan of Spotify, and I can see why.


Twitter: @overheardatmoo
Email: [email protected]

mooI’ve been a fan of Moo cards for years — they’re a staple at Silicon Valley events — but didn’t realize, until founder-CEO Richard Moross laid it out for me, just how many kinds of business cards and stickers Moo offers.

A lot: the company prints of cards a month for customers in 180 countries. Their customer base consists of 40 percent North Americans, 30 percent from the UK and 30 percent from the rest of the world, chiefly Europe. The best part: The cards are completely personalized. In the past, I’ve uploaded 50 different images for a stack of 100 business cards at a cost of about $20. Crazy-cheap.

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July 14, 2009

World Technology Summit & Awards


JD LasicaI had hoped to attend the World Technology Summit & Awards taking place Wednesday and Thursday in Manhattan, but between last week’s trip to the UK and next week’s trip to Los Angeles, I couldn’t manage another long trip right now.

Still, I’m honored to be among the nominees for the 2009 World Technology Award for Media and Journalism:

Timur Aitov, ITAR-TASS
Josh Bernoff, Forrester Research
Keith Cowing, NASA Watch / SpaceRef / OnOrbit
Rene Daalder, American Scenes Inc
Rebecca Fannin, Silicon Dragon & AVCJ
Dan Farber, Cnet
Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California
JD Lasica, writer
Steven Levy, Wired
Charlene Li, Altimeter Group
Jared Lipworth, Thirteen/WNET New York
Dan Medovnikov, Valeriy Fadeev, and Irik Imamutdinov, Expert Magazine
Michael Rogers, The New York Times
Jim Romenesko, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies
Paul Steiger, ProPublica
Kinsey Wilson, NPR Digital Media

This year’s theme is “How to save the future.” Other nominees include Thomas Friedman, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Rod Beckstrom, Dean Kamen, Olympia Snowe, Julius Genachowski, Ben Stein, Tim Berners-Lee and Matt Mullenweg.

I had heard about the Summit and awards program in past years, largely because I know some of the past winners and nominees, including Craig Newmark, Dewayne Hendricks, Ted Cohen, Tim Westergren, Chad Hurley, Jeff Skoll, Al Gore, Elon Musk (all 2006 honorees) and Dan Gillmor.

The gathering is put on each year by the World Technology Network in association with Time magazine, NASDAQ, Fortune magazine, the Mayo Clinic, Science magazine and New York Academy of Sciences, among others. The two-day summit at the Time & Life Building concludes with a black-tie awards gala ceremony to honor “the most innovative and impactful people” in the worlds of science, technology and tech media.

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July 13, 2009

Meghan Asha on highlights of Traveling Geeks UK

Meghan Asha on technology & the Traveling Geeks from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘m back from my trip to London and Cambridge with the Traveling Geeks — I was the chief organizer of this second annual event — and I’m still going through withdrawal pains after all the amazing encounters we had.

One of the people I most enjoyed spending time with was the amazing Meghan Asha, founder of, whom I interviewed last fall at a very loud TechCrunch 50. If there’s not a Meghan Asha fan club out there, I just may form one.

On Saturday afternoon, at the conclusion of the trip, I chatted with Meghan for 8 minutes as she sat on a lion statue outside the Fitzwilliam Museum. Topics included technology and women, privacy issues and highlights of the Geeks’ trip.

Watch the video in Flash on Vimeo (embedded above)
Watch the video in H.264 QuickTime on Ourmedia
Download the video at

Three of the Seedcamp winners we met with six days ago today resonated for both Meghan and me:, Zemanta and Skimlinks. I’ll write about them in more detail tomorrow.

I’m going to borrow an idea by fellow Geek Tom Foremski and blog about the trip a week after each event. On July 5 we had a Meet the Geeks Tweetup at JuJu in London’s Chelsea district; kudos to Ted Shelton of the Conversation Group for organizing the event and a hat tip to all our sponsors, especially Intel for donating a Netbook and MID as raffle prizes. Soon I’ll post two Flip video interviews I did at the Tweetup, with Anatolie Papas of Symbian and Kate Arkless Gray of the BBC’s Save Our Sounds.

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May 19, 2009

Introducing Traveling Geeks London


JD LasicaOne reason I’ve been overstretched for many months is that I’ve been working since last August as the (unpaid) chief organizer of the second Traveling Geeks expedition to explore cutting-edge technologies in a hotbed of innovation. Last spring it was Israel. This time around: London!

On Sunday we launched the website using WordPress, and I think it has some cool features, such as a widget that captures real-time conversations.

On Monday most of the Geeks got together over lunch at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco to hear how to use Nokia’s Ovi Maps (see above) on our mobile devices. Nokia is loaning us N79s for the trip while in London and Cambridge July 4-11, and Jorg Malang, Head of Ovi Maps, and Maria Rakusanova, Product Marketing Manager — who are in the area for Where 2.0 — walked us through an hourlong live demo.

Jeff Saperstein, JD Lasica, Ken Kaplan of Intel, Christine Ngo of Ogilvy, photo by Susan Bratton

Jeff Saperstein, JD Lasica, Ken Kaplan of Intel, Christine Ngo of Ogilvy. Photo by Susan Bratton

We have a great lineup of Geeks for TG2: Howard Rheingold, Craig Newmark, Robert Scoble, Sarah Lacy, Meghan Asha, Sarah Austin, Tom Foremski, Sky Schuyler, Susan Bratton, Renee Blodgett, founder Jeff Saperstein and myself.

Here’s our still-developing Agenda — pretty impressive! On tap: a “speed date” with Seed Camp winners, a podcast at the Guardian on the future of news and media, talks and sessions at the 2gether conference, meeting with Accel startups, participating in an Econsultancy Roundtable with tech startup winners, hitting the TechCrunch Europe Summer Party, then participating in a Roundtable on Open Innovation at Cambridge. We’re also trying to arrange an afternoon tea with Tony Blair and hope to spend a little time relaxing — say, punting on the Cambridge.

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