Must you ‘know’ your market, really?

One of entrepreneurship’s great maxims is that it is vital that a founder know his/her market.
But I’ve recently met a couple of really impressive entrepreneurs who have very little–if anything–in common with the markets their businesses purport serve.
One of them is a cool Denver-based startup called Zwaggle. Live since August, it’s a community exchange where parents swap toys and clothing for their children, for free. The two guys who founded it, Andrew Hoag and Adam Levy are both single swashbucklers with no parenting experience.
This might give pause to a weak-spined VC. But these two guys are smart as all get out, and–based on the response from my own friends and family who are parents and have checked out the site–Zwaggle has the potential to be very successful.
It’s really expensive to raise children: you have to buy all this high-priced stuff that the kids outgrow in a matter of months or weeks. Which is why parents have always recycled the big-ticket baby gear with one another, like car seats and cribs, and of course, clothes. It’s usually a friends and neighbors sort of thing.
But as Andrew put it to me recently over a dinner:

“Zwaggle just helps parents do something they’re already doing, only much more efficiently. We’re pounding the ebay model.”

Zwaggle makes it possible for parents to exchange car seats, cribs and much more — even a breast pump, which sounds gross, until you realize that this model costs upwards of $280 and likely won’t be covered by insurance. And as a durable good, it gets very little wear by each user. So why not extend the life of the product by passing it on? Best thing here: certain of the plastic pieces (tubbing, nipples, etc.) have to be replaced by each user for hygienic reasons = a nifty peripherals market for Zwaggle.
I think an efficiency model looks especially smart in a lagging economy. Who says you have to be a parent to comprehend a parent’s needs?
Zwaggle isn’t the only example of a founder demonstrating insight into a market he or she ought to know next-to-nothing about. (If you know of others, send us a note.) For now, this notion prompts our

Question of the Day: How important is it–really–for a founder to “know” his market? Under what circumstances can this old adage be abandoned? How do you know, when you “know enough” about a market? And if you’re like Andrew and Adam, who do you position this as an advantage to potential investors?

(Re-)building the dream home with Live Interior 3D

Although I’ve been fortunate, many of my neighbors here in San Diego are now finding themselves without homes because of the wild fires raging through Southern California. Live Interior 3D is a great tool for floorplanning and interior design, whether you’re rebuilding the home you just lost or you’re converting a spare bedroom into an in-home office.

3D Elevation Live Interior 3D provides nearly all the features needed to plan out spaces in two-dimensional blueprints, as well as instantly visualize those floorplans as three-dimensional elevations complete with furniture, carpeting, lighting, and just about anything else you can imagine.
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Apple iPhone App SDK Coming in February

From the mouth of Steve Jobs himself, Apple wants third party native applications on the iPhone and is developing an SDK for Developers, to debut in February, 2008. Steve notes, in a post on Apple’s Hot News site, that the company is both trying to enable an iPhone platform, while at the same time, protect users from potential viruses and malware.

He also notes the tumult in the blogosphere and developer community about not hearing anything to now, asking, “We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones.”

Applications written for iPhone will also work on the iPod Touch.

See more: Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Apple Launches iPhone Web Apps Directory

As the company has with its Dashboard widgets page on, Apple introduced a new directory for Web applications compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch, announced through the company’s Hot News page (deemed by many to be Apple’s quasi-blog).

As anticipated by AppleInsider and others, the directory includes icons, screenshots, and short descriptions of the applications. Many, including applications from Facebook, SmugMug and Digg, are labeled as “Staff Picks”.

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, Apple encourages you to visit on your iphone or iPod touch, browse the library, and bookmark the web apps you enjoy.

VMWare Fusion On Mac Delivers My Best Windows Experience Ever

There’s something a little messed up when the most anticipated and intriguing application I’ve used on my new Intel-based MacBook Pro is one that lets me run Microsoft Windows, but it’s an absolute fact. 24 hours into my VMWare Fusion experience, I can easily say I’ve never been so excited to use Windows, to send e-mail from Outlook, to run Internet Explorer, or even rack up a new high score on Minesweeper. While I had already expected big things from Fusion, its ease of installation, display quality and application speed have me vowing to never be burdened with a non-Apple laptop again.
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eMusic: Now it’s universal

eMusic The big news this week is undoubtedly Apple’s announcement of the new iPod product line and the lower price of the iPhone. With new iPods comes a new version of iTunes — 7.4 in this case — but despite The Steve’s Thoughts On Music and NBC’s very public departure from the iTunes Store, iTunes purchases are still heavily bolted to the floor with DRM. Even iTunes Plus purchases are watermarked, if not rights-managed.

Fortunately, there’s eMusic, the next largest online music retailer behind the iTunes Store. All songs at eMusic are available in pure MP3 format, encoded with the LAME variable bitrate (VBR) encoder, completely unrestricted by DRM. If your musical tastes are like mine, you’ll find eMusic to be indie music heaven. Many artists available there are unsigned or self-promoted through IODA, the Independent Online Distribution Alliance, but eMusic’s catalog of popular names is formidable as well, including the only DRM-free online version of Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full.

Until recently, though, the eMusic Download Manager has been available only as a PowerPC application, and ran a bit sluggishly under Rosetta on Intel-based Macs. But that has all changed. Meet the brand spankin’ new eMusic Remote 1.0 — available for Windows, Mac (PPC, Intel, and Universal), and Linux.

The new eMusic Remote is built atop the Gecko engine from Mozilla and integrates a browser window with the download manager, allowing eMusic customers to browse, preview, and download all from the same application without having to open a new window or tab in Safari, Firefox, Camino, or other browser.

So for all you readers who are already eMusic subscribers, go download the Technology Preview of the eMusic Remote; I’d like to hear your thoughts on it! Do you like the integrated experience, or would you rather have a slim application that just does the download? Is it just me, or does it actually run faster?

If you’re not an eMusic member, you can get 25 free downloads when you sign up at the website, or if email me at tab (at) paXoo -dot- com, I’ll send you a link to double that for 50 free downloads when you sign up.

Hazel 2 Now Available

Hazel 2Noodlesoft’s Paul Kim has released Hazel version 2.0 today. While this version has been in semi-private beta (you had to register in the forums) it is now feature complete and officially released for public consumption. Hazel 2.0 will cost new users $21.95 for a license, but the best news is that 1.0 license holders get the upgrade for FREE. It’s a very generous move for any developer to offer free upgrades on major update releases – and Hazel is immensely powerful too!
So what’s all the talk of Hazel 2? Well a couple of the features I really like:
Preview – You now have the ability to preview the files that your rules will affect. This is huge so you can avoid moving/deleteing/whatever, files that you didn’t intend to handle in the first place.
App Sweep – OS X handles application installation pretty simply – You just Drag and Drop the app icon onto your hard drive and it’s installed. But there are some programs that go beyond that and install on different parts of your system. In fact, even the drag/drop apps can create support files elseware on your hard drive upon first use. So now Hazel has a clean way of deleting un-used apps. Similar to AppZapper, once you send a program to the Trash Can, Hazel will round up all the related files and make a clean removal, in an attempt to rid your system of unnecessary artifacts.
There’s plenty more too. From the Press Release:

Hazel 2 brings a multitude of new features to allow users to easily create more powerful workflows to organize their files. Users can now create rules to rename files or sort them into subfolders based on any file attribute. With Hazel’s improved Spotlight integration, rules can filter on any metadata in the system. Hazel’s new App Sweep feature allows Hazel to watch for thrown away applications and give the user the option to throw away its support files. Hazel 2 also provides Growl support so users can receive notifications on their Desktop. Other improvements include a new menu bar item and a preview feature.

If you’re one of those who are still scratching your head and wondering what Hazel actually does, a quick explanation for you.
If you’ve ever attempted to use OS X’s built-in Folder Actions, they can be powerful, but if you’re unfamiliar with Apple Scripting, the confusion may outweigh the usefulness. Hazel is more or less a tool that everyone can use to apply Folder Actions (on Steroids) to anything on your system. You can set Hazel to apply Spotlight Comments, Color Labels, Move, Delete, Copy, etc, etc, etc. The potential that Hazel has is seemingly endless. And you can export your rules to share with others (or use others’ ingenius rules yourself).
We’ve written about Hazel here, and here, and about half-way down the article, here. I highly suggest you give it a try with the 30 14 (Sorry, my mistake on the length of the free trial) day free trial if you haven’t already.

Video encoding apps go head-to-head

Macs having the reputation they do for creative endeavors, there are as many (or more) video and audio encoding tools for OS X as their are file formats in which to encode your media. Some of the tools available are free and open-source, but many of it are shareware, donationware, or fully commercial products. How is a Mac user, especially one switching from another platform, to know which of them, if any, to use for encoding video from one format to another? Keep reading for a comparison of the key players.
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Snapz + Skitch = Jing

Jing projectAlright, so while the title of this post is more or less accurate, the polish and full suite of capabilities are not there. But Jing certainly does a nice job of combining the power of Snapz Pro X‘s video capture abilities with the simplicity of Skitch to grab screen captures.
Jing’s image editor is lightyears away from being as awesome as that of Skitch, so beyond the ability to grab a screen capture, there’s little similarity. However like the MySkitch service, you can quickly upload your pictures and video to an online storage service. The video capture function seems slightly limited, in that you select a part of your screen, and [from what I could tell] it doesn’t allow the option to follow your cursor around. Additionally, the video is compressed into a .swf Flash format. That’s ok for embedding in websites, but limiting if you want to do much else with it.
Limitations aside, Jing is a really nice collection of tools and services for those who want to produce screencasts and take screen captures to share easily. Jing is available for both Windows and OS X. For now it’s free, but based on this quote,

It’s something we want to give you, along with some online media hosting, to see how you use it. The project will eventually turn into something else.

I’m weary of a bait-and-switch down the road. Ok, maybe bait-and-switch is a bit of a harsh term. Likely this method of product offering is just a good way to determine product and service placement for future projects. But I read it as the service not remaining in this format forever, but only for the data-collection period. Anyway, my conspiracy theory be darned, it’s worth a try.
On a side note, I’ve got a handful of Skitch invites if anyone wants them. Email me. I’ll post whenever I get more, but for now they’re all gone.
Oh, and incidentally, I still used Skitch to grab/post the Jing graphic for this post.