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Silicon Valley Star face-off: Kevin Rose vs. Jason Calacanis vs. Guy
Over the past month three Silicon Valley celebs have launched their respective services. Guy Kawasaki launched Truemors, Jason Calacanis launched Mahalo and most recently Kevin Rose launched Pownce. I thought it would be interesting to rate their ability to generate buzz and therefore traffic. There is no doubt that these startups would never have received the coverage they did if a non SV celeb launched them.
Guy Kawasaki – Truemors
Guy was first out of the gate with Truemors and Guy worked his connections to get some initial buzz. Checking Alexa you can see a huge spike on the day of launch. TechMeme shows a dozen or so sites who wrote about the launch including TechCrunch. I assume Guy approached Mike as Mike had an pre-launch post about getting in on the private beta. Compared to the other two below, Guy did the worst job of working his buzz power.
Truemors quickly became a joke across the blogosphere when his system immediately became overrun with spam. He then began to remove mass posts which called the site's credibility into question. The system was hacked in hours making it even more of a joke. In fact, in several conversations I had that first evening, many people I chatted with about Truemors thought it was a joke.
Another thing that I believe hurt Truemors after the initial buzz was Guy's post(s) about the cost to build Truemors. This type of post is great and very useful for other aspiring entrepreneurs but I would have saved it until at least 6-12 months after launch. Then you can demonstrate how great the app is today plus what it took to build. Instead it just came across as a cheaply built app with no QA.
Overall Grade: D+
Jason Calacanis – Mahalo
Jason apparently has the most overall "star power" among the three celebs listed. Jason received lots of press across the Internet when the Mahalo product launched. TechMeme shows a large number of posts led by Jason's TechCrunch20 partner. In addition, he has appeared in no less than 20 interviews including one on Al Jazeera. He was also able to get Kevin Rose to begin a Digg and as we all know any Digg Kevin submits goes front page. What's interesting about this is two of the initial comments on the digg. One comes from powerdigger Muhammad Saleem who states, "Very interesting to see that Kevin Rose would submit Mahalo (of Calacanis, ex-Netscape boss). We all know that Kevin-submitted means 100% FP. Is there something more going on here behind the scenes?" and the other from user BearOwned, "I submitted this first, but the Digg staff deleted it."
Looking at Alexa, Mahalo was a top site on day of launch, and has started to drop since but still appears out of whack. Of course I am a bit skeptical of his "real" ranking after his post last November in which he states how easy it is for him to "game Alexa."
Jason also used his CalacanisCast to bring in some of the "seo-haters" of Mahalo into a discussion. I would give the podcast a neutral rating overall but the generated buzz and links is a significant positive.
Overall I think Jason did an excellent job of working his connections. In addition, by moving the Greenhouse launch out a couple of weeks, this allowed him to get repeat buzz with his friends network. I am looking forward to meeting Jason one day as I think we can both learn something from each other.
Overall Grade: B+
Kevin Rose – Pownce
Kevin has the best tool possible to help Pownce grow. Digg has been Pownce Central since launch. If you search for home page stories about Pownce, there are currently 7 listed. While I want to believe that Pownce gets a special boost on Digg, my video review (the only one out there) was buried.
Kevin has mastered the art of creating "follower" apps. Digg is a follower app by nature and Revision3 also leverages Digg for traffic. Pownce also uses Digg for traffic but now Kevin has a new way to create followers. For example, Kevin posted that he dropped his iPhone on Pownce. Big freaking deal. Within minutes, 28 followers/friends posted replies. Kevin knows that people are interested in following his every move and Pownce gives him a great forum for the minute-by-minute following of his movement. I bet we will see 50-100 of his Pownce comments make the Digg home page within a two-month period.
I also believe Pownce helps Kevin get out of the youngster realm of Digg. So far I see an older, worker-type user on Pownce. I also see more women on Pownce. This is important for longevity and I am sure that Kevin realizes that as the Digg'ers get older, they are not going to be replaced by a new set of Digg'ers.
Interesting side note… Pownce has a Mahalo page. Is this some sort of payback for the Digg? I can't imagine Pownce is already a top 10,000 term. How many other startups which are live for years don't have a page but Pownce gets a page straight away? Is that my bias concern coming into play again?
Overall Grade: B+
Each of the three players used their contacts and their "star power" to light the fire. Now the challenge for each is to keep their startups "top of mind." Will the fire remain lit or will it slowly burn out? If I had to guess on which fire would be extenguished first, it would be Truemors. Of course all three startups have very deep pockets so I doubt any of them will go anytime soon. Here on CenterNetworks, we will focus on tips for the rest of us to succeed. No matter where you are from or if you aren't "known", your startup can be a success!
I wish all three much success with their apps and look forward to reading more about the updates as we move into the summer.