Brian Ma's Blog (@zealoustiger)

Weekly insights from an Entreprenuer: To spend one year as a tiger is better than to live forever as sheep

Category Archives: Startup and Tech Reviews

Novelty of Twitter: Relationships, social capital, and eavesdropping

It wasn’t so a year ago, but now, with Twitter’s 300%+ growth per month and endorsements by celebrities like Shaq, Oprah, Ellen, and Aston Kutcher, it’s clear that Twitter has become mainstream and important enough to warrant some serious thought.  So what’s so novel about Twitter?

A quick google search on Twitter will find you countless articles on why twitter is effective – ease of use, marketing value, follow/fan structure, real time, recommendations, etc.  Even the big brands – Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, etc are taking a good look at how to leverage and capitalize on what Twitter has built – better recommendation systems?  better real time search?  better marketing presences?  The possibilities are endless.

I won’t regurgitate what any of those articles have said – they’re all good, but I’m going to argue that the most compelling thing about twitter is not real-time, not recommendations, or anything stated previously, but something much much more basic – Relationships and social capital.


Think about it.  Ever since we were in grade school, we’ve had an innate understanding of a couple things: 1) You need to make friends to play with at recess.  2) You make friends and get to know your friends by the stupid things they say or do  3) If you catch your friends or anyone saying something incredibly stupid, you can use it for many useful things – conversation starters, jokes, or even blackmail.

This is social capital at work.  The more you know about your friend’s likes, dislikes, quirks, pet peeves etc, the more you’re in a position to capitalize on that knowledge.  This is nothing new.  We’ve had the means to learn about our friends before through f2f conversations, IM, status messages, facebook, etc.  What twitter has allowed us to do is expand and scale that beyond the imaginable.  We can now not only talk to our friends, but also listen to our friend’s thoughts (things they may not say to us f2f) as well as expand beyond our friends to people or even brands that we may admire or find intriguing.  This is eavesdropping at it’s best.

Knowing everything there is to know about someone gives you power.  This power is social capital.  And twitter has made this both convenient and painless.  That is the novelty of Twitter.

Startup Visualization

One of the bigger challenges we had at Zillow was how to aggregate up house listings when you’re zoomed out on the map – like at the neighborhood or state level.  It wasn’t an easy task, and that’s why I was so impressed when I saw this:

Startups from Cruchbase on a map that’s easy to navigate and loads fast.  Very cool.


Iphone + Careerbuilder: Jobs on the Go

With the new Iphone 3G hype, Careerbuilder has decided to launch their own Iphone app to help you find your job on the go.

My opinion:  Nice try.

I’ll give credit to Careerbuilder for at least trying to be innovative, but seriously, how many people would want to search for a new job on the go?  They must be super super desperate.  You won’t be able to apply, or upload a resume, or anything.  And they try to make it sound even more innovative by saying they “use iphone’s built-in geolocation technology” aka GPS. I mean seriously.  How does walking around in a city make my job search any more relevant?

Please.  If everyone else is building a mobile app, it doesn’t mean you have to too.  Espiecially if it’s as useless as this one.  I feel bad for all the engineers who worked long hard hours to get this one out the door. Launches

I’ve been excitedly anticipating the launch of Glassdoor, partly because it’s led by my old mega boss Rich and partly because I knew it was going to be very close to what EggSprout is trying to do.

It is. And they’re definitely doing some really cool stuff. In their own words,

“Glassdoor gives you an inside look at companies from those that know them best – employees. You can see company ratings, reviews, and salaries – all for free.

We built Glassdoor for a very simple reason – because we believe that work matters.

At our core, everyone craves meaningful work. We want to know that all of our blood, sweat, and tears matter. We want to know that all of those hours away from our family aren’t for nothing. We want – we need – to believe that we are serving a higher purpose, and that the world is better off because of our work.

Amen. Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Techcrunch has great coverage about what they’re about if you want to know more.

Which still begs the question – Does this kill EggSprout? Actually, no. In fact, we think we’re pretty complimentary to each other. To explain why, I’d have to reveal a whole ton of secrets about our stealth startup.  I’m not quite ready to do that yet.  Soon… soon…

If you’re really dying to know, gimme a comment below, we’re going to be inviting some VIPs in to preview our beta soon.

Seattle Tech Startup Networking

I need to head over to the Seattle Tech Startup meeting in 10 minutes, so I’ll make this a quick post.  Even though all the presentations at the meetings are really informative, the best thing about these meetings is definitely the networking.  Every entrepreneur I’ve talked to has met someone through someone through someone else would eventually landed them a financing deal = $$.

The unpredictability of startups never ceases to amaze me.  And no, networking is not equal to Facebook.  Cause if it was, it’d look something like this:

IPhone beats me. All the time.

I’ve been stacking my IPhone recently with tons of cool games, but the one that I play over and over and over again? Chess. Cause I can never win.

Have you ever been in a conversation or meeting and it seems like whoever you’re talking to is always 3 steps ahead of you? It’s like they can read your mind. That’s what it feels like playing chess on the Iphone. Why can’t I win?! Argh.

Fortunately, there’s an undo move button. =) I’ve managed to win a couple of times… by cheating.


I got quotes!… now what?

Being a real estate agent, I’ve been around mortgages and know a little bit about how to work them.  Previously, I blogged about Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace here.  Well, I have an update.  I recently got some quotes:

So… it works.  Now what?  The monthly rates are substantially higher then what I’m paying now and so is the APR.  Didn’t the FED just cut rates by a ton?  I was expecting much lower.  At least the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace is working – now I just need a lender to step up and gimme something better.  C’mon.

I guess I’ll just wait and see if I get anymore quotes.

nPost: Startup Community

Been really busy the past two days, but didn’t want to leave my dedicated readers without a blog post. :) Yesterday was CRAZY busy. A house inspection, several calls with some startup guys, the awesome npost event, and then more startup work until late into the night.

Tired? Yes. Excited? Definitely.

There’s nothing more exciting then to realize that there are so many other people trying to chase their dreams as well and the npost event last night brought that all to the forefront. I signed up without thinking much about it, but I connected and re-connected with more people there then I would’ve in an entire month. I was amazed at how many people I actually knew from random places before and enjoyed myself way more then I expected. Among the great people I chatted with:

  • COO of Home Savvi – I’ve been wanting to chat with this guy for a while. Super smart
  • Some Zillow buddies who left to start FridgeDoor Inc – no site to link to, but excited to see what they’re up to
  • Another Zillow buddy and his great gang from Giraffe Labs – great idea btw
  • Old acquiantance of mine from college from TalentSpring
  • Several analytics people from Zaaz
  • A crazy smart PR guy who did some things for TeachStreet– I was hoping to see more of my Zillow buddies there at the event from TeachStreet, but they must’ve been crazy tired after a whirlwind of success with their recent launch.
  • A ton of other random startups that will make this list too long…
  • And of course, Mr. Nate Kaiser himself and his incredible wife

Big thanks to Nate for putting the event together. Great event, great host, and great community. Excited to be working amongst such pleasant and smart people.