Jul 21 2009

Shinkaze.com -> AutoStream.com

So I was looking at the analytics today and was very surprised to see so many people coming to Shinkaze.com.  I’m very flattered, and want to let you know that I am changing things up a little bit.  I am moving all of my automotive blogging to my other website, AutoStream.com, and Shinkaze.com will focus more on my personal life and the trials and tribulations of start-up life.

I’m begining to surface again and will try to be a little better about providing updates moving forward, but please be sure to check out AutoStream for the latest stream of videos that I am either producing or happen to admire.


Feb 11 2009

Syndication fail, FrugalMechanic & Amazon’s exhaust fan


I quickly admit I have a massive chip on my shoulder about Techcrunch….which is why I read it every day of course..  Why the chip?  Hmmm, I launched a video sharing site 9 months ahead of YouTube who copied us screen by screen, and a white label video site 12 months ahead of Brightcove. Neither of which was worth reporting by his Royal highness Mike Arrington. When we exchanged emails about it in 2005 I think he said in an email to me “Oh, you’re in Georgia and who are you funded by?  No one?  Yup don’t care”  Sure we haven’t gone on to YouTube success (because we actually tried to respect people’s copyrights) But we didn’t exactly experience Revver failure either which has had massive amounts of exposure on Techcrunch. So I guess I should be at peace that Techcrunch actually doesn’t matter after all. Fuck’em I’ve got over 7Mmu anyways.

So why did I post an “exhaust fan” and go on a Techcrunch rant?  Because Techcrunch has finally reported on an automotive start-up! (gasp! those NorCal hippies know there is an automotive community afterall).  Well Congrats to the FrugalMechanic crew.  You’re about 12 months behind Digital Performance. But competition improves the breed so I wish them luck (PS I have no affiliation with DPI other than a shared snubbing by Techcrunch apparently)…..okay, calming down now, its not FrugalMechanic’s fault that Arrington is a snob and I do actually wish them well.


So I check out FM, cool looking design.  Super Nintendo logo might need some work, but I dig the big clear calls to action.  So I look for something to fit my 2009 Nissan GT-R….and there is nothing there.  Okay, maybe too specialized, so I’ll look for an old car I had, my ubiquitous 1998 LS1 Trans Am.  I enter in 1998 Firebird scan the results, instantly chuckle that they’re offering me distributor caps for a car that hasn’t sported a distributor since optispark killed it in 1993.  Okay, I’ll cut them some slack, try something easy like cat-back exhaust…..arguably one of the most basic modifications you can make, what do I get?

…Some amazon syndication fail…..Wow, Looks like Edelbrock is making a whole new cat-back based on radiator fans.  Now in FM’s defense, this is Amazon’s fault.  Crap in = Crap out.  Boy do I ever know that, you should see our video moderation que some time.  But this just illustrates the huge challenge that FM and DPI are both facing.  Forget millions of parts, you have millions of applications.  In 1992 there were 6, yes no-shit 6 V8 engines available in the Firebird.  Don’t believe me?

  • 5.0L TBI V8 M5/A4
  • 5.0L TPI V8 A4 (single cat)
  • 5.0L TPI V8 HO M5 (dual cat)
  • 5.7L TPI V8 A4 (dual cat)
  • 5.7L TPI V8 M6 – Firehawk
  • 5.7L TPI V8 M6 – Aluminum block Firehawk

And yes the two Firehawks were stock cars, not “tuner cars” as you could buy them under RPO B4U, just like you could get RPO 1LE or RPO WS6.  Now to make this even more of a PIA, those 6 V8s were only available under some, but not other trims.  for example you couldn’t get a manual 5.0L TPI V8 or 5.7L in a convertible Trans Am, but you could get a M5 5.0L TBI V8 in a convertible Firebird.  You really have to have an educated consumer to choose something as simple as a cat-back that is a proper application, and the multi-threaded hell of what parts fit on what makes, models and trims is a huge problem that some smart people are trying to figure out.

The good news is, I spend a fair amount of time with SEMA and their member companies and they recognize the problem and need to fix it, especially since it’s a $38B/year industry that can’t lead gen for this very reason despite the fact that most people are researching and buying their parts online.

I have a fairly janky solution to this whole mess that I think would work quite well, but I’ll wait till I have the patent cleared before I open up on that one ;-)

PS, I am happy to see that Amazon and I agree that the best way to upgrade the computer in your car is to slap in a carbureted V8…..Got to love those Data entry interns,

Jan 30 2009

I lost a friend, the world lost a star, RIP @Martin

I might be offline for a little while so my apologies if I don’t update the blog much over the weekend.

From Morten Lundxy.com blog

The recent crash of a Private plane on Wednesday has really struck home for me.  My friend Martin Schaedel was on the plane and I’m not going to see him again, he didn’t make it and the world has grown a little dimmer for me because of his absence.

It’s hard to describe Martin, a young man with more life under his belt than anyone I know.  I knew him only briefly, less than a year, but he really gave me a new perspective on how the world works and what “home” means.  My wife Carlisle questioned Martin for hours one night trying to understand how he could not have a home and live in once city for a few days, then another for a week at a time.  I think he enjoyed seeing Carlisle’s inability to come to terms with it.  I guess now I understand he wasn’t homeless at all.  He lived everywhere.  The whole world was his home.  If home is where the heart is, he brought his heart everywhere which might explain why he made friends so easily.

Last weekend I got a message (by Twitter of course) he was going to be in town.  We got together at Le Petit Four, a common hang out for me.  We had dinner, talked about work and life.  He flirted with the waitress as he always does, and was fascinated by the magic tricks the guy next to us was doing trying to pick up the girls.

Little Bar-Magic that Captivated Martin at Dinner

Little Bar-Magic that Captivated Martin at Dinner

We spent hours there talking about his recent flight into Malibu on Sunday and how he pulled 2.5 G’s.  I haven’t seen him this animated since we took my car up into Angeles Crest Highway to shoot some video.

Martin Driving my GT-R at Typical "Martin Velocity"

Martin Driving at typical "Martin Speed"

Another mountain cruise picture

Another mountain cruise picture

I didn’t know Martin well, but do I know anyone well?  I do know I feel sad right now because I am being selfish.  I was looking forward to a lifetime of friendship with Martin and now I only have this past year.  In life Martin taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to and to live life to the fullest.  In his absence I have screeched to a halt and realized I have to appreciate the people around me because I never know how fleeting our relationships with them may be.

Speed Safe Martin, you’ve impacted us all deeply.

Other people talking about Martin..

Martin’s Friends saying goodbye on Twitter
The Internet Says Goodbye to Martin Schaedel
@Martin RIP
Startup Advisor, Former VC Probable Plane Crash Victim
You Never Know
The Internet Says Farewell To A Friend, Martin Schaedel
Remembering Martin Schaedel
Goodbye Martin
The Internet Says Goodbye to Martin Schaedel by Peter Kafka

Jan 4 2009

Blogging to resume on Monday

Hello folks following my blog…..like 3 people and my Dad I think….. anyhow, I’ve been traveling between Florida, Georgia and now California.  On the road and not much time for posting video links.  Big stuff brewing though that I will happily post about in comig weeks.  Some things at StreetFire, some things at Vidiac, some things with other things.  All cool stuff.  Anyhow, hopefully Ill return to a more regular posting schedule on Monday. Till then, I hope everyone is having a fantastic 2009!  Cheers!


Nov 20 2008

Yikes! Blogging from the grave?

Crikey! I just installed this new “Feedjit” widget on the sidebar to check out where my visitors are coming from. Since I am the first person to see it, the widget placed me in SoCal (okay, yes, that part is right), zoom-in, and it has me located in a cemetery just West of downtown Los Angeles above the 10… Holy Crap! I know I’ve had a rough go at it the last few days, but dead in a cemetery off I10 is a bit extreme.

It will be fun to watch this widget over the next few days to see what other cemeteries are housing bloggers.

Nov 19 2008

The downside of starting a car company

Today is the LA auto show, and I had a blockbuster day lined up.  Through StreetFire I’ve met all sorts of great people from the designer of the new Camaro to the Product Manager on GT-R.  Today I had meetings lined up back to back and was going to be at all the great reveals.

Guess what?  Had to take a miss.  Started last night at 5:00 PM and 27 hours later I’m still at my desk, I literally just got back from having breakfast at 6:30PM.  Luckily I have great people working for me so we still got our coverage.  Alexis just rang me up and said he has a brilliant interview with the Product manager of the 370Z hot on the heals of the Mustang reveal I was supposed to be at last night, but I have to say i’ts just torture having to take a personal miss on this show.  Karan did a fantastic job lining up our partner coverage as well.  The Mustang footage from yesterday looks great too….

…it just sucks that yet again I’m stuck back at the desk getting deals done….*sigh*…..

Nov 12 2008

RiceBoyTV, and CarJunkieTV Fall on Hard Times

RiceboyTVThis is a tough one for me.  On one hand it always worries me seeing new VC funded car web sites come into my sector, but on the other hand, each is a validation of the space StreetFire is in.  RiceboyTV was really exciting because we figured out a way for both StreetFire and RiceboyTV to be successful working together.  Well, word just came down that their investors have gotten spooked by the market and are not fulfilling their financial obligations.  A real shame, and I have to wonder if other recent Vertical start ups are going to fall victom as well.  Anyhow I’m pullin gfor these guys and gals, I think they’re on to a great concept and hope they pull it out at the last second.

CarJunkieTV, RiceBoyTV

Oct 22 2008

Big StreetFire release today, New Features!

Big Kudos to the whole StreetFire product and dev teams, today was a huge day and I’m really proud of all their hard work.  I’m sure Chris Hartman is ready to kill me since I’ve been on him for some of these updates since last Spring, but here they are at last and they absolutely rock!

StreetFire Profiles Update!

We completely overhauled profiles, to make them customizable with a simple WYSIWYG interface.  You can add backgrounds, change fonts and colors.  You can move your content boxes around and choose what you want to display on your profile.  With the advanced features, we added the ability to directly access your CSS file, and you can also add boxes with pure HTML if you want to get really crazy.

Most impressive to me?  Finally a public mini feed system!  Looks like we’re finaly caught up to best thinking of 2007 now! ;-)  The cool thing is that Profiles underlies a lot of other media collections in the system (Rides, Groups, Events, Channels), and with the new modular system we should now be able to just make a custom module for each data type and rapidly release new changes!

Profile Page on StreetFire (Shinkaze)

Photos Update!

Ugh, I about went nuts when we rolled out Kudos but didn’t include photos.  Perhaps given the challenges in figuring out the right thinking with Kudos perhaps it’s better we waited until it was full baked…. I don’t know, but at long last, we give all the same viral sharing features on photos that we did on video, including links, favorites and Kudos.  The end goal I want to achieve here is create a way fr auto enthusiast to provide context for photos.  Any search engine can provide a photo of a Porsche, but with our kudos (links and favorites) we should be able to serve a GOOD photo of a Porsche as chosen by auto enthusiasts.

Photo Page on StreetFire

Vidiac Update

So, Vidiac has been the neglected child for a whole year while the team focused on improving StreetFire.  The good news here is we are going to make some improvements to Vidiac.com over the next three months to make it a better service.  Today  we have over a hundred car websites on the Vidiac platform (CamaroZ28.com for example), and over a thousand non automotive sites as well.  Last une we rolled out a new video player for Vidiac and over the past 5 months we’ve seen our unique visitors and page views double.  So there is obviously still a lot of enthusiasm there.  This week we just moved Vidiac to a CDN which will vastly help video serving, next we are looking at upload work flow and customer service.  Good things coming there.


Sep 22 2008

Deborah Meyer, Chrysler CMO talks at The MIXX conference

Deborah Meyer Vice President and CMO Chrysler

Deborah Meyer Vice President and CMO Chrysler

One of this year’s most anticipated speakers at The Mixx Conference in New York was Deborah Meyer, the newly appointed Vice President and first ever Chief Marketing Officer of Chrysler….well most anticipated by myself and the small StreetFire team that was attending.

2008 has been a horrible year for auto, and I wanted to hear how Chrysler was going to react to it given the Cerebus buy out. I’m beating a dead horse to talk about the themes in America’s auto industry…… High gas prices leading customers away from domestic products combined with a financial crisis creating the perfect storm of the worst year in auto in a long time. Deborah opened with how Chrysler is addressing it, by walking away from typical brand building and going where the users are. Bravo.

As a 14 year web geek and founder of an automotive web site it’s music to my weary ears to hear an Automotive executive climbing out of the primordial ooze and finally “getting it.”

First, 80% of all car buying, regardless of vehicle segment or niche, begins online according to Meyer. I’m happy to hear an automotive executive realize that not only are their products being chosen online, but that online buyers need a different format of marketing based on engagement and influencing opinion. Authenticity, deep information and taking a message to a pre-existing community. Agree on all points, and something echoed not just by me, but others as well.

What worries me is the execution of the vision. For example the upcoming RamChallenge.com minisite designed to create authenticity with the real America that will buy it….okay, sounds good.

“We need to be authentic here, no actors, real America and what they think of the 2009 Dodge Ram,” Meyer stated and I nodded in agreement, but the execution looked like a Jerry Bruckheimer Blockbuster with helicopters, explosions and a Rock and Roll Sound track.

Dodge to debut the RamChallenge.com

Dodge to debut the RamChallenge.com

Is this going to work? I don’t think so, I thought this was supposed to be Joe Average?…..unless Joe Average is hauling lumber through an obstacle course of trunk conkers while being chased by a helicopter through explosions… I think they missed something when they sent it off to creative. What I do think is going to work is their other initiative at Jeep.

Sorry I should have grabbed a snap of the new site, but Jeep is going to celebrate the photos and communities that have cropped up around Jeep with Yahoo Groups and Flickr communities….now we’re almost talking…. I say almost because I really don’t know any serious enthusiast that spends a lot of time on Yahoo groups. The real enthusiasts go to destination sites, like JeepForum.com with over a 160,000 Jeep Enthusiasts.

Okay, so the reality is that Chrysler spends a ton of money with Yahoo, and the tie into Flickr (owned by Yahoo) and Yahoo groups, is probably part of some larger Yahoo buy, but still I think Deborah could have built a massive amount of community credibility by giving a mothership endorsement to one of their largest fan sites. But credit where credit is due this is a step in the right direction and I’m sure Deborah had a board room full of people to please on both the Jeep site and RamChallenge.com, I hope a few more iterations will lead us closer to what really makes sense. Something they’re actually already doing…..

Dodge Viper SRT10 ACR Sets Nurburgring Record

You see, there are already groups inside of Chrysler, GM, BMW and others that get it, and that are moving in this direction. I believe the piece missing for Deborah Meyer, and other CMO executives is how do you makes enthusiast communities accountable to actual leads, which is why she has to try out things that directly lead to lead-gen like RamChallenge.com, rather than just directly tap the large Dodge truck communities already around. To her credit, given the economics of the day, Deborah is acting as a good steward of the marketing budget and making sure that every dollar is accountable. This is the lead gen flow chart for a typical initiative. I dare say it’s more complicated than the entire StreetFire video sharing service!

This is how a CMO thinks

This is how a CMO thinks

In summary I am optimistic that Chrysler is getting smart about how to create online marketing. They’ll need to iterate a few times to take out some obvious big-budget Hollywood agency pieces and create an authentic message. The fact that they sent a team to the Nurburgring to take the record in a Viper ACR shows they get online marketing and are trying to put it into practice. Deborah Meyer’s focus on accountable spending and funnel analytic analysis is right for this space, making her the right executive for the job. I just hope that Chrysler and the other manufacturers finally have the needed epiphany that enthusiast communities are their biggest untapped asset and that is the secret puzzle that needs to be figured out.