10 Things That Made Me Say, 'Hmmm...'

Things are going really well for me right now, and I hope your 2013 is rocking!

Plans for Inside.com are humming along, and the nine shows we're doing for YouTube are crushing it so well that we came up with a slate of 15 new show ideas, and I think we're going to sell 7-10 of them -- perhaps even all 15.

This means in the second quarter I'll be running a TV studio. Like a real TV studio with 15-25 shows including my own ‘This Week in Startups.’ Crazy huh?

Anyway, I'm off to CES for a bunch of meetings with cool ad agencies, portals, content companies and TV marketers, but I had some things I wanted to share.

Here are 10 seemingly random things I've been tracking and thinking about. There is a thread inside there.

1. Video Game High School Infographic
Freddie Wong runs the 6th most subscribed-to YouTube channel. He makes action-packed short films based on video games, and a year ago he decided to run a Kickstarter (one of two of the most important startups) campaign for a TV series called "Video Game High School." He raised about $250k on Kickstarter, and I'm assuming made a bunch of money from advertising and distribution.

He spends $600k on the series, which is nine episodes of about 15 minutes each. That's about $5k a minute for a show with a massive amount of special effects.

Question: How soon before someone like Freddie and his team make a show as good as ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Battlestar Galactica’ -- for the web?

2. Andrew Sullivan creates subscription-funded blog with Tinypass
Legendary blogger Sullivan can't be bought any more. Instead of getting media companies to write him one big check every year, he's asking his audience -- which was built in large part by those big media company checks -- to write a lot of small checks.

Over $300k in subs came in on the first day, and Sullivan needs $900k to make it work. He'll easily get there. You can be sure a bunch of New York Times writers are thinking, ‘Why should I be walking out of the building and fighting for a pension when I can just start my own thing and work from the beach for three months a year?’

Some company called Tinypass is powering all this. Note to self: Invest in that company.

3. Windows 8 hardware is inspiring -- enough to make me buy?  
After playing with Windows 8 a couple of times, and seeing all these sexy new touch screen laptops and convertibles (tablets that turn to laptops), I'm thinking of taking the plunge back into Windows. I know, crazy, but I love the idea of a 27" touch screen desktop like the Lenovo IdeaCentre ( http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/06/lenovo-new-ideacentre-a730-and-c540-desktop/ ).

Not to mention the ThinkPad Helix, which let's you flip the screen. Why didn't Apple do that with the MacBook Air, or perhaps I should say "when will apple do that with the MacBook Air."

Seriously, the new phones from Samsung and HTC are better than the iPhone 5 on a hardware basis, and these new Windows 8 machines are stunning. Apple has a huge lead in apps, but can that last?

I actually think Windows can catch up on the app front, and that Android is almost there. Of course, writing three Apps is not sustainable--or is it? Perhaps the app space is so global and huge it's not too much for companies like Dropbox and Evernote to support three or four platforms.

In fact, having to support three or four platforms makes things like Dropbox, Gmail and Evernote MORE defensible from startups that can only build for one platform due to resource constraints.

4. Steve Jobs was wrong about something: the 7” tablet is awesome.
Since I bought my iPad mini I've picked up my retina, full-sized iPad exactly twice: once to turn off the Verizon account and once to power it down and put it in a drawer.

I'm never going to use the full-size version again: it's dorky, heavy and simply not worth it. The winning size of ALL devices is 7”. It's better than a smartphone for reading and playing games, and you can take it everywhere unlike a full-sized tablet.

I was speaking with folks from the tablet industry and they all agree: the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 are the winners.

5. I think I'm going to cancel Netflix
Never thought I'd say this, but I think I'm done with Netflix. I'm discovering better films for free from Amazon Prime, and when I'm looking for something targeted I really like buying a series on iTunes or Amazon. Plus, DirecTV let's me do VOD now -- and it's getting better and better (the UX is still ganky, but useable).

Finding myself  just never opening Netflix. It's over, I think. Teardrop. You?  

6. My car has received five OTA updates in as many months
Every month, on average, my Tesla Model S has gotten an over the air (OTA) update. Every time it's some awesome new functionality, like live traffic from Google on the GPS or the ability to click on the phone number of a GPS location and call them (awesome).

I know this sounds crazy, but Apple or Google should buy Tesla now before it becomes a $20B company. Seriously, it's got the sleekness of Apple's products combined with the functionality of Google's. It's a no brainer for these two cashed-up technology companies to buy a majority stake now.

Owning the living room is important, sure, but how about owning the dashboard? That's the next best thing.

7. Why hasn't someone made an Android Blackberry?
And by that I mean, why hasn't someone combined an awesome keyboard with the booming Android operating system? Some folks think RIMM should do this, but I'm waiting for some clever person to realize that most executives want and love a keyboard -- the other thing Steve Jobs was wrong about!

I've noticed that since the Blackberry has declined, the quality, spelling and intelligence in emails sent from the road have plummeted. I'm hoping that someone puts an Android Blackberry on Kickstarter--or that the new Blackberry 10 offering is awesome.

8. AngelList microfunding with SecondMarket
If you didn't hear about this, AngelList -- the other startup I said was the most dangerous in addition to Kickstarter -- is now doing funding starting at $1k for startups. You have to be accredited right now, since the SEC can't seem to get their sugar together WRT crowdfunding.

I was thinking of putting $1k into every company that tries on AngelList. This gives me a "spray and pray" approach and builds relationships with the "best of" Naval's offerings. I'm not crazy about investing in startups I haven't met, but for $100k a year, this seems to be a no brainer, right?

It might dilute my brand, but it would also get me closer to the winners because in order to do the microfunding you have to hit a certain benchmark (i.e. like $100k+).   

9. Google in North Korea
If Google agreed to make 100M smartphones and tablets in North Korea a year in exchange for them shutting down their prison camps and starting other reforms, would that be a good outcome? I say this because some folks in our government are saying Eric Schmidt going to North Korea is "not helpful."

If you ask the folks in those prison camps if they would trade it for making tablets and being treated like humans, I think they would say that was "very helpful." Any corporate development could help in my mind.

We need to set a goal of knocking out the last dozen major dictators through straight up economics -- horse trading -- in the next 10 years. We should just buy democracy for these regions, as it opens up new markets for our products and services, and -- you know -- it's the right thing to do.

10.  QZ.com and ESPN's new Sportscenter Feed are real-time news done right
Obviously I'm getting very, very absorbed into real-time news with the stunning success of the LAUNCH ticker (www.launch.co). I've got four folks writing for it at ~$10k a year each. It's making $3k-$4k a month in advertising and subscription revenue without too much trying. 4,000 folks get the email daily, and many folks are telling me they leave it up all day long (and that it's much less cluttered and noisy than TechMeme).

QZ.com and ESPN Sports Feed are both taking my concept to the next level with their tablet-y designs. I really need to refresh the LAUNCH Ticker to copy this "tablet on the web" design. It's awesome, well done.

Anyone know who designed QZ and Sports Feed? Would like to get inside their heads for a bit--so to speak. ;-)

all the best @jason

PS - Some quick updates on the LAUNCH Festival (March 4-6th) + Hackathon (March 2-4th):

-- A second angel, Dharmesh Shah, has put up a $25k investment prize for the LAUNCH Hackathon! This makes two $25k investment prizes for a $50k purse -- the largest in hackathon history.

-- New partners for LAUNCH Festival include (thank you so much on behalf of the startups!):
 * FilePicker.io (http://filepicker.io)
 * NewAer (http://newaer.com/)
 * OnStartups (http://www.onstartups.com)
 * Plantronics Developer Connect (http://developer.plantronics.com)
 * Sequoia Capital (http://www.sequoiacap.com/)
 * TokBox (http://tokbox.com)

-- @JoseCaballer made some awesome new stage and banner designs. Your company's logo would look good up here, no?

-- Do you know any 1.0 or 2.0 companies? 1.0 is a new company with a new product no one has ever seen (and that's AWESOME). 2.0 is an existing company with a new product -- or new version of an existing product -- that no one has ever seen (and that's AWESOME). Please apply here or intro me to the founders and cc Kirin@launch.co.

--- We have 300 scholarships left for builders (e.g., designer, developer, etc) to the Festival. Apply here.  

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