Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ukash Deal &Spendon Open 500 More Access Points

Ukash has signed a deal with Spendon, a product of the Swedish Convenient Card AS company, which will make Ukash available in more than 500 additional new outlets in Sweden. Ukash vouchers, which allow consumers to shop online anonymously using cash, will now be available in over 300 Pressbyran kiosks and all 200 7Eleven branches found inside Shell petrol stations. Swedish customers who do not have access to credit and debit cards or those that are fearful of online fraud will be able to exchange cash for Ukash vouchers available in denominations of SEK 100, SEK 250, SEK 500 and SEK 1 500 and use them to shop, pay and play online. Ukash has an existing presence in Sweden, with over 2 000 points of purchase. Ukash vouchers are available through payment terminals in retail outlets across Europe, South Africa and Australia and are also issued online from the company’s website in selected European territories. Most recently, the company introduced its e-cash product on the Ukrainian market as a result of a collaboration with commercial bank PrivatBank.

Convenient Card is a company jointly owned by the PayEx group and Reitan Servicehandel, offering various payment services for the retail and service industries in Sweden.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Are Virtual Worlds Good Investments?

The short answer is NO. Any VC who invests in a closed, 1stop virtual world concept these days is wasting their money. The space is simply too crowded. Especially on the kiddie, youth, teen side. You would be better off throwing darts trying to predict the future than trying to pick the next big virtual world for teens or kids.

Why is that?

Simple, the industry is mature (virtual worlds are mainstream entertainment - Got it??? - and instead of their being 10 big virtual worlds with millions of users there will soon be hundreds of virtual worlds with 100's of thousands of users) and technology (any small group of devs can pop up a virtual world) cheap and available (think flash). So where are the investment opps in this massive space with 450mill+ users?

1. Platforms - think technology that is disruptive and can be licensed to devs to build stuff like

2. Payment Systems - the reliable tried and true proven to make money off web sites like Ukash, Global Collect and Wallie

3. Interactive Toy Manufacturers And Distributors - if Howard Ganz will not sell you any of Webkinz World, think startups like Shidonni

4. Mobile virtual worlds - Think MoiPal and .......hmmmmmmmm no one else comes to mind other than LOSER Bobba - thus the opportunity!
5. Mixed reality stuff - think Twinity Johan Brenner, formerly of Benchmark now Balderton, is on the Board. This is a mirror world with an augmented reality approach.
6. Virtual Currency Guru's - companies that can figure out how to consolidate, trade and sell all these weird and wacky virtual currencies under 1 system and across social networks (think Peanut Labs for example ... . Know any? Drop PG a line ...

Has Philip Rosedale Lost It? Linden Love Machine Launches

... all we need is LOVE! Well, for now only 2 guys, Philip Rosedale and Ryan Downey (both former colleagues at Linden Lab and also best friends in real life) need is each other in their new venture called Love Machine. This looks and sounds crazy. And it just may be perceived to be so by the business community at large. Clearly, the deliberately weird and unorthodox web presence and blog of Love Machine Inc. would probably not inspire many Fortune 500 HR VP's to launch a Love Machine Inc. product any day soon.

But there is more going on than meets the eye here. Linden's LOVE Machine as a tool is easy to do. It is pretty much just a simple hack. It is based on Jira; Are you familiar with Jira? You should be if your in IT. Jira is a product of Aussie Software House Atlassian Pty Ltd. Here are some links on Atlassian's Jira product and the Linden customized LOVE Machine application;

The Linden application is very straightforward. Users email thanks (LOVE) with a limited number of characters (PG understands it is 180 character maximum, about the size of a standard SMS - 160) to other Linden's at the LOVE machine site / Jira portal at Linden's Intranet. Both the sendor and receiver, and the message content are transparently displayed. However, the users statistics (ie, the amount of thanks / LOVE sent and received, and the details thereof) is only available to admins and the user him or herself.

In Linden's 1st version of the LOVE machine only details regarding the message sent and the identity of the receiver were public. But about a year ago the LOVE Machine was updated to show the identity of both sender and receiver. The most recent LOVE given and received, e.g.; top 50, are visible at a given moment. There have been more interations recently.

So as a tool this is nothing special. But as an employee recognition, reward, incentivization scheme, bonus process or way or working it s unique and potentially transformational. So what is the purpose of this venture? Has PR figured it out?

Well, PG will help him and Ryan out - they are only 2 guys after all. PG thinks this tool could comprise the economic engine for an internal virtual world for an enterprise or organization where points (LOVE) are the in-world currency (think points rewards for performing employees ... whatever you want to call them) and are accumulated based on the amount of positive feedback (LOVE or thanks) given and received. This would create a true transparent level-playing field merit based economy where the first employee "millionaires" are those most helpful and engaging and in turn those most admired and respected by their colleagues. And so an organization knows a) who is useful, productive, respected and valuable and b) thus who to promote - rather than the good looking wankers who show up at meetings and say nothing.

So not only has PR birthed his new Love Child, this could also be a decent business venture. As PR said in an interview; "We think the Love Machine is one of the most interesting cultural things that we've done, and I know that many other companies are going to adopt it. I eagerly tell people about it whenever I can. The Love Machine is built around the idea of generating a token of appreciation for any other person in the company. It is a horizontal, decentralized way for employees to give each other mini peer reviews, which in turn they can use when they go to do their own quarterly performance reviews. So, anyone in Linden Lab can send a little 80-character piece of email that says, for example, "Thanks for a great job this week," which makes both the receiver and the sender feel good. If the right people are thanking you for your help, you know you're doing the right things. It's a fun system to use, and it gives us a way of rewarding and encouraging collaborative behavior, which is important as you move toward a decentralized, distributed model where there's a risk that people will become really competitive with each other. Linden Love is something that counters that tendency by providing a positive motive for everything. It's an important part of the way we work. We also pay a small bonus for each piece of Love, so everyone gets a little envelope every quarter. It's not enough to really modify behavior, but it's enough to buy your friends a round of drinks!"

Sounds crazy? Yes. But does it work and have potential - absolutely!

Good luck dudes.