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Why Rafe had a bad Webware day

Advice: Stay away from orgies, dumb money, and small ideas.

If you follow me on the nanoblogs (Twitter, Plurk, Friendfeed, etc.), you may have seen me complaining recently about getting pitched on new Web apps that I find either derivative or confusing. Or both.

Now, in any entrepreneurial ecosystem, a big proportion of the ideas that people come up with will be bad, and many of those bad ideas will become actual products. But at the moment, the ratio of bad Web products to good (or even interesting) products is worse than usual. Here are few reasons why:

First, there are two big product launch shows coming up in a month (DemoFall and TechCrunch50), and the good entrepreneurs accepted to present at either of those events are in radio silence until then, leaving a press vacuum. Since bloggers need things to write about, in the absence of good stories, the pointless ones will have to do. PR companies have to know this.

"Quick start?"

Second, thanks to the favorable economics of the Web development, almost anyone can build and launch a product these days.

Third, venture capitalists, who need to put their money to work, are having trouble finding companies that actually need significant funding to build things, which means they're putting money into companies they otherwise would pass on. Entrepreneurs who get this money think that it validates their business' worthiness. It doesn't.

Fourth, since it's easier to get funding for bad ideas than it should be, entrepreneurs are getting lazy and releasing products that could use either a lot more development or a wholesale re-think.

It's a vicious cycle of mediocrity, leading to the incomplete, unoriginal, and confusing products I'm seeing right now.

I'm not afraid to name names. To the entrepreneurs behind these products I'm about to slam: This stuff sucks! Go back and do it better. I'll still be here and I'll give any good product a fair shake. The Web's users will be here, too. Waiting.

This week's losers:

SearchCloud. My colleague Josh Lowensohn covered this one this morning. It's a search interface that lets you adjust the weighting of each term in your query. Not an utterly terrible idea, but using the weighting tweak feature makes a simple three-word search query take five times longer to enter than just experimenting with multiple queries on Google.

Broong. This is a service that allows you to create little Web notecards with URLs and pictures that you send to your friends, or collect in your own account. For it to work as advertised, it has to be ubiquitous in the browser, and it has to be easier to use than just sending out URLs. It is neither. A mobile app might make the service useful, but it's not available yet.

Spendji. This is a tool for creating and tracking budgets. But it buries the user in options once they sign up, and doesn't link in to any real-world financials the way online banking services like Mint and Buxfer do. Spendji is a collection of record-keeping items for personal financial projects, but it feels more like a database (yawn) than an actual financial or collaborative application.

You know what isn't on my rant radar this week? Cuil. Yes, it flopped badly at launch. But it's a real business. Search is monetizable, and there are real engineers at the company trying to do something hard. It's not just a can of Web 2.0-colored spraypaint on a tired old concept.


    • It's hard to stand out in an orgy.
    • Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.
    • Dumb money will cost you.
    • To win big, bet big.