Monday, December 18, 2006
Interview with David Cohen, earFeeder
David Cohen is creator of earFeeder (www.earfeeder.com), the Boulder, Colorado-based web service that was sold last week to SonicSwap. We caught up with David to talk about earFeeder, its rapid sale, and how it relates to the whole Web 2.0 world. We also talked to David about the "TechCrunch" effect, and also about his widely read blog, ColoradoStartups.com (www.coloradostartups.com) focused on high tech startups.
Techrockies: Tell us a little bit about earFeeder--what's the story behind the site?
David Cohen: Earfeeder started out as a pet project, just something that I needed. I used to be a developer, became a development manager, and am now a technology investor. I wanted to keep my programming skills sharp--so why not build something you need? I'm a heavy user of RSS, and rather than checking iTunes to see what was new, I decided to create this tool to grab the iTunes RSS feed, map that to artists I have and like, and create my own custom feed. I started to use it a lot, showed it to a couple of friends, who told me to make a web site out of it. It only took ten to twelve programming days--and that was earFeeder. It worked, but it was really ugly. I brought in a buddy of mine to do the user interface and put it out there, and showed it at the New Tech Meetup in Boulder. Just ten days later, it showed up on TechCrunch and Lifehacker, and in just 39 days it was acquired.
Techrockies: It sounds like you were able to put together the project very easily and cheaply---could this almost describe a prototypical Web 2.0 project?
David Cohen: Really, it is. It does one thing, and it does it really well. It's a really simple tool, but one which people found useful. Once it hit TechCrunch it showed up on hundreds of blogs overnight, and people started using it like crazy. I was then approached by three to four companies about business relationships, and one said we'd like to just acquire it.
Techrockies:How did the sale occur? Was that something you thought about, or did it just happen?
David Cohen: I hadn't contemplated ever selling it. I knew it wasn't a business, and I'm not in startup craziness mode now--I'm more into investing in those companies. So I never envisioned selling it, I was just hoping people would like it, and it would stay alive, and pay for itself. It generated affiliate marketing revenue, when some buys a tune on iTunes or a ticket, it delivers some revenue--I was hoping it would just pay for hosting costs. It was something cool to share with people. I like it now that I was able to sell, knowing that it will be improved and turned into something bigger.
Techrockies: Give us some of your background--what's your story?
David Cohen: I'm a CTO/entrepreneur type. I started a company here in Boulder originally called Pinpoint Technologies. I sold it to a public company called Zoll Medical in 1999, today that is Zoll Data Systems in Broomfield. They sell public safety software solutions--dispatch, billing, data collection in the field and in vehicle systems. That's my first thing. Once I got out of that, I got into startup advising and coaching, and did another startup, called iContact, that did not work. My main occupation now angel investing and startup coaching at this point--my strength is technology and how to get it to market.
Techrockies: Colorado has quite an active angel investment community now, doesn't it?
David Cohen: It's pretty large, whether it's investments through CTEK or other investment done outside those organized angel groups. There are fifty to 100 really active angels in the state, and probably five hundred around it.
Techrockies: Let's talk a little bit about ColoradoStartups, your blog--our readers would probably be interested in it....
David Cohen: ColoradoStartups.com is a blog based around my passions--early stage software and web/tech startups. As I have been doing this investing, companies come to me and tell me what they're doing. I just write about them in the blog, add my opinions, and it's read by other investors and entrepreneurs in the area. It has grown quite a bit lately, and helps to promote my own brand. Colorado Startups is my investment fund.
Techrockies: It seems like you're almost the TechCrunch of Colorado...
David Cohen: Kind of. But I don't think I do nearly a good job of it as they do. It's meant to find stuff people don't know about yet. I like to let people know they're out there, because there are people out there interested in helping out or investing in a company--and perhaps the mainstream press might pick it up and give them a little publicity. There are really great things going on, as you know, in Colorado, and this is my little way of helping companies get out there.
Techrockies: It's interesting how easily you were able to create earFeeder and sell it. Does the ability to create companies on the cheap like this make it difficult as an investor?
David Cohen: While some businesses can be naturally bootstrapped, there are lots of businesses that certainly need some investment, in particular, in many companies where there's a bit longer road to market and with no money coming in. However, I'm a big fan of bootstrapping--if you can do that, you should.
However, it's true that it takes less money and time for a startup these days. If you're an investor in early stage companies, that's a good thing. You meet them when they're really young, and you bet on them and the people involved, and you won't need to raise a lot of money but can turn it into something big. However, to reach a huge national or worldwide audience you'll most likely need to look for funding. As an angel investor, I'm looking for companies that can do something substantial, and don't need a lot of capital upfront.
Techrockies: Thanks for the interview!