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Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

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At the Dublin Web Summit there's an ever expanding group of successful entrepreneurs that have founded great companies and won very large exits. There's also many founders who have floundered but are back in the game, more than willing to try, try and try again.

Mary Coughlan, the Tanaiste, or Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, is in Redwood City this evening announcing a deal between Ireland's innovative telecommunications company Cubic Telecom, and Qik, the popular cell phone based video blogging service.

Cubic Telecom is founded by Pat Phelan, one of Ireland's top entrepreneurs. Cubic Telecom provides the MAXRoam service, consisting of Travel SIMs that can be used with any cell phone and provide users with local call rates no matter what their location.

The deal with Qik will enable MAXroam enabled cell phones with cameras to stream live video from more than 160 countries without the high charges from roaming fees. Their slogan is "Go mobile, not broke."

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Please see:

Here is a quick 3 minute interview with Pat Phelan when he was in town last September.

The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

MAXroam is my kind of company, a disruptive mobile telecom firm from Ireland. Founded by Pat Phelan, one of Irelands top entrepreneurs.

I caught up with Pat Phelan on Sunday at a house he's renting in San Francisco for the week. He's in town for the TechCrunch50 conference.

Here's a quick 3 minute chat with Pat:

MAXroam saves you a lot of money on roaming charges and now it can even save you on data roaming charges too. Here's a great way to pull the plug on the fat Telcos. Pat tells me that he is winning some big deals with financial services companies trying to cut costs.
Here's how it works:
About MAXroam: Global Roaming SIM - Get Cheaper International Roaming
Here's what's new:
MAXroaming: The MAXroam Blog » Blog Archive » MAXroam launches V2 with data roaming and USA roaming

I popped in to see Pat Phelan and pals on Sunday evening because of the Techcrunch50 (TC50) conference this week. Pat is one of Ireland's top entrepreneurs and CEO of Cubic Telecom and the MaxRoam service, a disruptive mobile company (new info tomorrow). Pat and a few others have rented a house in San Francisco for the week and had a bit of a house warming with a few dozen people.

In addition to TC50, the DEMO conference also starts start this week. And although DEMO is in San Diego and TC50 is in San Francisco, there are a lot of people in town because of these events, and a lot of chatter about the merits of the two conferences.

Some people say that it's not right that DEMO, which selects presenting companies, as does TechCrunch50, charges $18,000 per company for the opportunity. But if you factor in travel costs, accomodation, and tickets to the conferences for your teams, there is probably little difference between the two when each company's costs are summed up at the end of the week.

My opinion is that there is room for both conferences and this rivalry is just plain old link baiting and tiresome.

Also tiresome is Robert Scoble's attack on the web sites of nearly all the companies presenting at DEMO. He criticized their web site design and thus their marketing.

Startups: your web site sucks

I visited each website from the list of Demo finalists.

Boy, do they suck. Really, really suck.

This is just Robert trying to be controversial and it seems to be backfiring badly. The people I met with yesterday and today were universally disdainful of his approach. He spent much of the weekend trying to put out the fires online.

Scoble’s rant reflects badly on him, not the 72 companies — Alec Saunders SquawkBox

Moving to San Francisco: Gabe Rivera who runs the popular Techmeme news aggregator is now living in San Francisco in the "Dog Patch" neighborhood in the south of the city. He moved up from Menlo Park about three weeks ago. I'm trying to persuade Gabe to host a loft-warming party.

200809072145.jpgAlso new to San Francisco is Bobbie Johnson, from the UK newspaper The Guardian. He is living South of Market and trying to decide on which neighborhood to live in. "Our closest correspondent is in Los Angeles, which is not close enough for covering Silicon Valley," he said.

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Please see:

The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

I'm a big fan of Pat Phelan, one of Ireland's top entrepenuers and also one of Ireland's top read bloggers. Pat just set a cat among the pigeons in one of his latest posts: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

Pat is of the opinion that blogging will be harmed if bloggers don't disclose who pays them to post. I agree (my money currently comes only from Intel.)

I do agree with most of Pat's post but not about this:

If you receive one cent you must disclose you must go public otherwise we are all tarred with the same brush.

I don't think anyone can be influenced with one cent.

How about drinks, how about a meal? I often disclose in my posts that I just had lunch or dinner with a company. I get T-shirts, and backpacks, and pens, and I almost always leave them on a street corner near my apartment or use the T-shirt to wash my car. I don't think a single one of my reader's will be judging my coverage by how clean my car is from the use of those T-shirts.

Companies cannot buy me with lunch, it would take far more than that, and then I would disclose it anyway.

Should readers of newspapers and magazines be informed about every tsotchke or meal anyone receives? I see journalists from Fortune, Forbes, WSJ, Businessweek, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Chronicle etc, all the time, drinking and eating and carting off backpacks filled with pens and T-shirts. Should they be disclosing all of that?

I've written about Pat's company before, and he bought me several drinks. That wasn't why I wrote about Pat's Cubic Telecom. Please see: The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

I often meet with companies and there are usually drinks and meals involved and yet I don't write about them. I only write about companies if I feel there is something to say. It's about the content of conversations and the meeting not how good the dinner was.

A year ago I was at one media roundtable at a posh restaurant with top journalists from leading publications and one of the top VCs at the table didn't like where the conversation was going and he stopped everybody and said "Let's get back to discussing XXX I believe the journalists are getting their dinner for free."

I was livid, I reached into my pocket and was ready to throw my money onto the table and walk out before being stopped by a colleague at CNET. I don't go to evening events for meals or drinks, I can eat and drink at home, and often in much better company.

I and other journalists turn up to evening events for the content, for the potential story that can come out of such events. It is insulting to think that we turn up for food and drinks.

I think payments should be disclosed and that bloggers should disclose every tsotchke and meal they receive only if they feel they were influenced by that gift. Otherwise just disclose the payments.

Take a look at Pat's post and see if you agree: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

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I'm a big fan of Pat Phelan, one of Ireland's foremost entrepreneurs. [Please see: The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"]

Pat recently introduced an application that has received rave reviews from the Twitterati. The Twitterfone application allows you to post a Twitt (I call it that but others call it a Tweet :-) by calling a phone number. Voice recognition software translates your message into text and posts it on Twitter.

Here is what Jeff Nolan, over at Venture Chronicles, said in his post: Twitterfone, Simply Perfection

It works. I have no way of testing it against dialects, etc. but for my California english, it works flawlessly.

Simplicity. You sign up, get a confirmation code via SMS, add your Twitter account details, and it’s ready to go. You call the number, record your tweet and hang up. It’s a 3 minute process.

Amazingly viral. There are two aspects of the way this service is designed that make it incredibly viral. The first is really just the way Twitter is designed, the tweets include a status line indicating what client the user is using. The second is more important, for every Twitterfone tweet the service includes a tinyurl link back to the Twitterfone page that include an audio recording of your tweet.

. . . The WOW Moment. Every product and service has a moment in the first 60 seconds of use that an impression is formed which will shape all future interactions. This is the WOW Moment and it’s binary, you either have it or you don’t.

Twitterfone is in private beta but Pat just sent me a handful of invites. I'm going to release them individually on Twitter over the next day or so, so look out for my Twitt with a Twitterfone access code-- the first one to see it gets to use it. I will send out the codes starting Tuesday morning (late :-)

I am tomforemski on Twitter if you want to look out for the code. But please don't ask me for one directly!

This week is so busy with conferences: Salesforce's Dreamforce conference. TechCrunch40, Intel Developer Forum, and all in San Francisco, all within a block or two of each other.

I got to stay at home Monday and wrote five posts. Why go to events that are being covered live by dozens of journalists and bloggers? That's the beauty of blogging - if someone else is covering the event you don't need to. There is no sense in adding to the noise, it is better to concentrate on original, exclusive stories, imho. (But I did have my colleagues at TechOne covering a lot of the shows plus I'm at Intel Developer Forum Tuesday speaking on a panel.)

Beware the cyclists in SF

I was waiting to cross the street over to Saleforce's party Monday evening. The guy in front of me suddenly yelled, "Hey, he's got my Blackberry!" just as a cyclist swept past us and continued along the street, without speeding up, but moving fast enough that discouraged pursuit.

Watch what you hold in your hand as you cross the streets in San Francisco.

TechCrunch Party

The TechCrunch40 conference party was at Fluid. I was surprised at how crowded it got because it didn't start until 9.30p. Usually conference parties start at 6 and end by 9pm, so it was a grueling long day for a lot of people. Especially Mike Arrington, I told him to go home, he was really dragging.

I got to meet Don Dodge, which was a real treat, and also Denise Howell, another favorite blogger of mine. Also local lads: Brian Solis, Chris Heuer, and Gabe Rivera.

And Pat Phelan, from Cubic was there too, and very happy with his presentation. I think Pat's company Cubic Telecom is outstanding. Please see SVW: The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

don_dodge_web.jpg Here is some of Don's coverage of TechCrunch40:


dhowell_105x110.jpg And here is Denise Howell:

IP and the user generated economy at TechCrunch40

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Pat Phelan and his company Cubic Telecom are coming out of stealth mode this week with a killer service that will break the back of the Telco Cartel.

I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Phelan on Friday evening. I can't talk about the details of Cubic's launch but I can say that I'm extremely impressed with Mr Phelan and his startup. It will break the Telco Cartel and about time too.

My readers know that I'm no fan of the Telco Cartel. How is it that over the past ten years that the Telcos have managed to increase my telco bills while investing in technologies that have dramatically decreased the cost of telecommunications services of all types?

Much is spoken about the "digital divide" but we still have a global "voice divide" where making an affordable voice call is beyond the means of most of the world's population.

Cubic has a wonderful voice and data solution that captures the cost savings and gives them back to the user. I will write more when the service launches later this week.

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Pat Phelan's blog: Roam4free - Notes from the edge of telecoms

More clues on Cubic's launch can be found here:

Free VOIP Solution Free calls Worldwide: Cubic Telecom to offer Free international calls?

Please see SVW:

Why Silicon Valley has to break the Telco/Cable Comms Cartel

The Trojan Horse iPhone: How Apple will Break the Back of the Wireless Telco Cartel and Trigger Silicon Valley's Next Boom Cycle


I, Cringely . The Pulpit . The $200 Billion Rip-Off | PBS

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Here is an interesting wrinkle in the battle over the Public Internet (PI) in San Francisco. The proposed Google/Earthlink "free" WiFi could take up all the available bandwidth on the WiFi radio frequency.

Here is Tim Redmond from Politics Another problem with Googlink Wifi:

Sarah Phelan gets into it here. Sasha puts it this way:

The network will be exclusive. Although the network is not an explicit monopoly, it will essentially take up all the bandwidth at the frequency wi-fi uses, so it would be difficult or impossible to have a competing network without using a completely different (and likely more expensive) technology.

Think about this for a second. San Francisco is full of all sorts of little (and not-so-little) wi-fi networks. SFLAN, for example, is building a free wifi service with a rooftop-to-rooftop backbone. Lots of people have smaller wi-fi setups that let them, for example, sit out in their backyards with a laptop and check their email. And if Googlink puts up its private wi-fi cloud, all of those other networks will run into interference.

I'm not an expert on the technical details here, but Tim Pozar, who runs United Layer, is, and here's how he explaned it to me:

"The type of spectrum we're using is interference-prone. There's just not that much space on the spectrum. The number of access points that are required [to set up citywide wi-fi] could mean one every block. That's a lot of radio frequency energy. It will significantly impact others who are trying to use that same part of the spectrum."

Once a Googlink system is up, competitors couldn't come in because there would be too much interference between WiFi networks.

The same problem would be caused by a San Francisco owned and operated WiFi network which would cost about $20m to build with annual operating costs of $1m. But better to have a public "monopoly" than a private one.

Also, having one municipal network would mean a level playing field for the many online  service providers. A level playing field is something which GOOG lobbyists have argued for in Washington.