Pinterest gets into the ad “Real Estate” Business

AdTech, CEO Succession, photography, PHP, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

Pinterest as we know it could be a thing of the past. Beginning January 1, 2015, Pinterest will start putting ads on its site. Real ads in the form of promoted pins. I have mixed feelings about this – I respect their right to do this and I’m happy for them to be able to get a piece of the enormous revenue stream that Google and Facebook dominate, but it will also take away the purity of Pinterest and lessen the experience a bit.

Overall, I say congratulations, you’ve earned it, Pinterest! They will now move up the food chain significantly as Fortune 500 companies can develop more formal relationships with them and build “serious” ad campaigns. All other ad industry professionals and component niches will also take a big step closer to Pinterest. This is like opening up a whole new giant beautiful piece of the web to advertisers.

But there is a cost to this for users. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to go on the Internet, one of my favorite apps. It’s an oasis in the ad strewn desert of social media. There are many indirect ads there already, especially clothing sold by affiliates, but not very intrusive to the experience.

Pinterest is a constant river of pictures, and mostly very high quality pictures, undistracted by ad text or flashing lights. It’s a respite from the rest of the web, with its rectangular boxes of advertising or the sidebar of Google ads – the high value real estate of the web that is rented to the highest bidder.

As a major fan of photography and imagery I like to go over to Pinterest to get away from all that. It’s almost like a relaxation lounge on the web. I’ve slowly built and curated my collection of pins over the past 3 years, with a bit of an eye towards social validation, but mostly to see cool photos. I’ve been pleasantly surprised thousands of times by images I’ve seen. How many products can claim that?

One of the best parts of Pinterest is that it’s participatory, a gamification of looking at photos (and memes and infographics). As you browse build and organize your collection and it shows running totals of several statistics. And there’s minimal social interaction, almost like a library where people tend to be quiet and leave each other alone. A relaxing experience. I even have a board called zen relaxation that I can go to for quiet inspiration.

Pinterest no doubt developed one of the most fascinating products of the last decade, almost as powerful as Google, facebook, and Twitter. It’s addictive, stimulating and makes you smile. Hopefully that won’t change but it could.

The best part of the product is its design. Pinterest pioneered a new type of web page, now referred by everyone as a “Pinterest style”. It’s hard to remember now, but 3 years ago it was revolutionary. That single innovation was more influential than almost anything prior on the web.

Pinterest will do this with a lot of style – use a native ad approach with the Promoted Pin, but it could change them if they’re not careful. They are playing with the big boys now. Giants corporations will have a more formal dedicated part of their ad budget and marketing team focused on Pinterest, like they do now with Google ads and Facebook. Giant corporations will want to “help” Pinterest figure out how to change. Giant corporations will want to acquire Pinterest.  Let’s hope they keep their independence as long as possible.

Billions of dollars will be diverted from other ad channels to Pinterest. It could easily tarnish the brand. The fact that they have waited this long to monetize in this way and have built such great brand equity is quite encouraging.

It will also be a great opportunity for advertisers of all sizes, even the little guys. Buying real estate on Pinterest? Awesome!

No matter what happens, I’ll always be a big Pinterest supporter (is there a name for that? Pinterevist?) I hope they don’t hire a thousand lawyers or get acquired, but I trust them to handle this change with the same style they apply to everything.



Silicon Valley Uber Alles? I think so… Some of their Secret Weapons.

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, Drupal, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Jobs, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, Uncategorized, venture

Can any other region “catch up” to Silicon Valley, or be the next Silicon Valley? Statistics show that it’s probably kind of futile to even try. Many have tried, but must be content with their small market shares. How can other regions will ever match the MACHINE: Stanford, Andreesen, Draper, Valentine, Doerr, Facebook/Apple/Google Millionaires, 4 Generation VC firms, Hardware/Software partnerships, over 100 Billon $ market cap cos.


Because high tech and software industries are now being seen as lucrative, job creating, imperative and oh so sexy, many regions are trying as never before to get in on this – mobilizing their governments, old school industries, universities and grandmas to unite to be the next Silicon Valley, calling themselves Silicon- Beach, Forest, Plains, Alley, Prairie, Coast, etc. These towns are setting their expectations way too high while the real Silicon Valley giggles at the sight.

Here are some of the secret weapons that make Silicon Valley stronger than any other “region” and act as its barriers to entry:

1. Silicon – Uh, yeah, that word? It’s what started all this. Silicon Valley launched and was launched by the mainstreaming of the Silicon chip over 50 years ago, which is now part of everything. There was no other part of the planet where anything close in innovation, design manufacturing, equipment, marketing and sale of semiconductors has emanated from. This foundation still drives the area and the world, even thought it gets less attention now than the software side.

2. 100 Years of Growth – It all began with military electronics, low cost housing, lots of empty land and Stanford University. It has spread way beyond to the east bay. San Francisco, over 50 universities and trillions of dollars in revenue. The growth has had bumps but over time has increased more steadily than any other economy in history.

3. Recruitment – Most of the leaders in SV are from elsewhere because Silicon Valley aggressively acquires the best from all over the world. Why not? Via Stanford, Berkeley, Facebook, Google, recruiting Harvard and MIT undergrads, their wonderful PR machine, advertising free meals, free car washes, free dry cleaning, free day care. $150,000 salary right out of college. Unlimited vacation. Where else can you gat all this?

4. Stanford – Not sure this even needs explaining, but Stanford has been a wole new entity in the past 20 years, beyond anyones imagination in wealth creation, funding, computer science, a recruiting engine into SV then on to local companies, pride, confidence, location.

5. Money, money, money – There are so many giant sources of money in SV that it’s staggering. VCs of course, Angels, they invented the term Super Angel, San Francisco, Real Estate leverage, IPO millionaires, corporate funding, Asian and European money, and on and on.

6. Tolerance for Weak Links – Here’s one most people don’t know – most people in SV aren’t stellar; I know several weak players who fake it well and are millionaires or millionaires-to-be just because they’re in the right zip code. The public tagline is everybody has a high IQ, but in reality there are lots of dwebes running around – I know, I’ve managed plenty of them. SVs leaders smartly realize the win ratio can be pretty low if you have a few enormous winners. Most SV projects die, most SV companies die, but if you build the algorithm to plan for this you’ll put more possible winners in play. So what if a few totally unqualified employees that snuck in make a few million. Like any organization, there are several who skate by or get by on good politics. That’s OK if you plan for it, “engineer” for it.

That’s just 6, there are plenty more reasons why there will only be 1 Silicon Valley for along time to come. The best answer for any other local economy is to just make the most of who you are, embrace your own identity, partner with Silicon Valley. And don’t use the word “silicon” in your name. Take Boulder, Colorado as a model, they’ve successfully created their own very strong economy for startups. There’s a startup for every 50 or so people there. They have all the pieces and they are heavily connected to Silicon Valley without envying them.


CASH IS KING — C-A-S-H — Friction Cost Reduction — Accountants, Attorneys and Consultants

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Uncategorized, venture

Most startup entrepreneurs focus on one thing throughout the lifecycle of their company: bringing in CASH. C-A-S-H. Cash through investments, revenues, borrowing from F&F, VCs, convertible notes, deal terms, angels, etc. All of these things are magical words to early stagers. I attend and host many meetups and conferences for startups, and consult to several startups, and every founder is inevitably talking about Cash. Cash on Hand, The next Round, we just need $XXX,XXX. Cash, Cash, Cash.

A different way to improve your cash situation is the indirect one – reduce Friction Costs in your ecosystem with peripheral influencers.

In Silicon Valley, Boston, Boulder and a few other places, the growth of the startup world has vastly been enhanced over the past 10 to 30 years by professionals who are not VCs or developers or entrepreneurs – they’re the Accountants, Attorneys, Consultants, Professors, Marketing firms and others who have tremendous influence over VCs, Angels and prospective customers. They are trusted, fairly impartial, focused, big picture and practical. They’re also critical to the processes of business.

If you want to make money rain from the sky, nurture these people with sincerity over long periods of time, not just when you need them. They decrease the friction in doing business by connecting the right people, finding the quickest path between 2 points, making warm vs. cold introductions and telling entrepreneurs when “it ain’t gonna happen”.

So find some of these people and get to know them – here are 10 things you can do:

1. buy them a cup of coffee

2. be real with them, when you don’t need anything.

3. Help them out with something they’re working on.

4. Read What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis.


5. Join my meetup group; you’ll find many of them there and can connect no matter where you live:

6. Invite them to speak at an event you’re hosting.

7. Contact me and I’ll help you find and meet the right people.

8. Create something very cool, nothing gets attention like that.

9. Be a connector. Connect 2 people without any self interest; I do this almost daily.

10. Become an authority on the flow of cash in startups, a very valuable skill.

Tom Nora

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Startup Workshops Update

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Hawaii, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup CEO, Tom Nora

This group is 8 months old, 400+ members, gaining nice momentum every week. I see people connecting and getting things done and real relationships building. And I’ve met some amazing people. L.A. is a funny place but I love the startup scene here.

For 2013 I’m trying to figure out where to go next. One guiding premise of mine has been to spend minimal time on this; it’s just a meetup group, not a company.

However, it keeps growing growing on its own, and I am seeing more of what’s needed to make people in this group successful – sessions on SaaS/Cloud Computing, better software technologies, focused consulting, API training.

Thursday Night Meetup with Consulting giveaway – “How can SoCal Startups Leverage Silicon Valley success?” at ROFL. We’re giving away 2 consulting packages for 1 month. Cost is $10 plus food cost. Only a few spots left.

Next Year – Many possibilities – basic web design training, a 2 day conference in April, another 2 day conference in Hawaii in May. If you want to be involved in any of these please contact me. There’s no pay but many other benefits.

Venues – This is always a pain for organizing events. We discussed starting our own little venue company in this group. Anyone interested in this also please contact me. The critical piece, as always would be a full stack developer (see next topic).

Job Board – I come across jobseekers and jobs several times a week. Thinking about starting a very simple list of startup/tech jobs. any thoughts?

I’ll see some of you Thursday and Happy Holidays to everybody! tomnora2020 (at) gmail


To visit Startup Workshops, go here:

“It’s a Feature, Not a Company” – Build a Company

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, Uncategorized, venture

This is a line that was pretty common in Silicon Valley until recently. Steve Jobs even (ab)used that line on Dropbox when trying to buy them out of the market (They turned him down.)

Now that’s all changed, for the moment. The threshold for “company” status is very low, including the following list of minimum pieces at their lowest cost.

1) a url – $10     2) incorporation – $200      3) Internet – free      4) build a website – free      5) development tools – free     6) office space – free – home, starbucks, hipster coffee shop

In other word, the barriers have dropped if you’re willing to do most things yourself, which is a good thing. You still need an amazing idea , business model, some focus from a developer (critical!). You can create a single feature “disposable” company, nothing wrong with that, it’s a learning experience, fail fast, etc., it might even create some value and get acq-hired. And It’s a lot better than talking to folks for a year about an idea that never materializes.

But that’s not the way to create a company that can live and grow for years. In doing that you have to be honest with yourself, make some sacrifices and seek continuous enhancement of your entity. In the world of easy startups, everything is a startup, people drink their own koolaid too much.

Here are some great ways to maybe move into higher ground:

  1. Seek outside criticism and listen to it. Put on your flack jacket and let ’em rip you up. Be open to changes but don’t be a wimp either. You may see something nobody else does, but listen.
  2. Pay those you ask to help you – money, equity, trade services, something meaningful. Give them incentive to help you think straight. Make sure you pick the right mentors with track records. Never ask for something for nothing, you’ll get what you pay for and a bad reputation fast. Better yet, pay it forward. This is an area where strong developers actually have a lot to trade these days, but usually try to do everything themselves. Not likely to succeed.
  3. Diversify – get people difeerent than you involved as team members – different genders, races, ages, expertises. Here’s a great 3 minute talk on this by Stanford prof Kathy Eisenhardt

So look for the opportunity to build a company, share the wealth, and seek higher ground.

follow me or DM me @tomnora

A Million Failures

Angel Investor, audio, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, Hawaii, Launch, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora

About a year ago, during a speech I was giving for a Hacker News group, someone in the audience brought up the notion that “Failure Is Good”, i.e. Fail Fast, Fail Often. This is a major change in thinking from the past, due to many factors, and it makes a lot of sense. Rapid prototyping of web apps and mobile apps now means rapid prototyping of startups.

Since everything in life is becoming an app and MVP is good enough to actually attract revenue and/or funding, you can actually try something and throw it away within a few weeks. The cost for this is from $0 to $5,ooo.

The problem is when someone tries this over and over with the same result – junking it. I see a lot of this in my circles There is a price for doing this; you wer yourself out, lose credibility, waste peoples money and time, lose friends, etc.

A better option is to vastly improve your odds each time by getting smarter, refining, capitalizing on mistakes, getting help in the areas where you’re weak, have less ego and more focus on not accepting failure.

If you add up all the attempts to launch startups over the past 2-3 years by all participants, there are probably at least a million failures. Many of these were stepping stones to better things and/or a quite valuable learning process, maturity, personal growth. But over half were probably unnecessary ego bursts and fleeting ideas where deep down inside the founder knows it ain’t gonna happen but keeps going for many reasons.

Most people are very good at one thing at a time, not five so pick ONE and try that role and let as many others as possible help prevent failure number one million and one. @tomnora

Updates on Startup Workshops and the Startup we’re launching

Angel Investor, Business Development, CEO Succession, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

I started a new group 2 months ago in Los Angeles – Startup Workshops – #SUWSLA to teach startup success concepts and try to launch new startups.We have over 100 members now, have had a few meetings and are in the process of launching a new startup with some of the members. Below is my update to the group today. Please feel free to join (it’s free to join) even if you’re not in LA, you can get involved in the discussion and we travel to many other places. And if you are in So Cal, please join us for one of these events. The next one is a Happy Hour Thursday night in West Hollywood.

Message to group 5/14/2012:

This group now has over 100 members, with minimal exposure – pretty cool.

I never had a goal of maximizing overall # of members, just to provide tools that can be used immediately as well as a network where members actually help each other to start and grow startups. So far, so good – we have some pretty amazing people in the group and we’ve (almost) started a startup.

HAPPY HOUR – looking forward to this, 16 rsvps so far plus a few more I know of. The goal of this is to make connections and hear about the startup we launched together in April. There’s a lot of frustration in trying to get a business going, especially when it relies on technology to succeed, so please come if you can and bring a friend who is interested in the startup thing.

STARTUP #1 “LAUNCHED” – WE’RE STILL EARLY EARLY STAGE – Last week we had our second meeting, this week we’ll have our third, with home work assignments, so it looks we may be actually doing something here. It’s an experiment so stay tuned. We have a strong team, but we’re still looking for more development skills.

NEXT GENERAL MEETINGS – I’m getting ready to announce this, leaning toward Funding The Startup as a topic. I’m trying to finalize sponsors and the venue. Not sure if we should try to launch another startup after this one, what does everybody think? Starting to look like an incubator here. Also working on an Orange County meeting for late June, details coming. Also looking at Palo Alto, Scottsdale, Boulder, Austin from inquiries there.

Hopefully I’ll see/meet you Thursday night or soon after.    @tomnora

Cloning Startups: Blackmail, Duplication, 11 Pinterest clones, Overnight Cloning.

Angel Investor, Business Development, early stage, founder, Launch, Revenue Growth, Scalability, startup, startup CEO, Tom Nora, venture

Cloning Startups: Blackmail, Duplication, 11 Pinterest clones, Overnight Cloning.

And we’re not in a bubble?

Original startups are so Unoriginal that of course they’re getting ripped off…