Friday, November 22, 2013

The Future of Startup Capital is in Resource Partnerships

[My response to a post, "Why Startups are Leaving Nashville"]

I believe that the VC and upper capital markets across the country are in transition. Likewise, the capital needs and timing issues of tech entrepreneurs are changing. They need less, but quicker, and without distraction. Long capital raise processes that distract from operations and business validations are death.

But for all too long those with capital fell into one of two categories: either they operated by themselves as an island, or they were part of a good-ol’ boy network – neither of which effectively recognizes the larger startup eco-system.

The reality is that the biggest thing a startup or growth-stage company needs is “continuity of resources”. This includes capital, but also includes so much more. Early stage companies need resource partners. Ones that allow them to focus on operation, validation, and growth without the distraction caused from running out of resources, whatever the resource may be.

Wouldn’t it be cool if an end-to-end network of capital and more emerged to provide real resource partnerships so that every company that deserved capital never went without? (ok, that might be a reach, but it sure as heck is am awesome direction)

Without giving away the secret, the best thing I can say is “stay tuned Nashville”, there are some really big things happening directly related to this discussion in all of the South East – anchored by Nashville and resources in between, all the way down to the tip of Florida. This is not occurring because of outsiders coming in, or insiders stepping up… rather because of ALL OF THIS and recognition by like-minded folks of the opportunity that results from truly supporting the talent resources around us.

--Steve Repetti
CrunchFire Ventures

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Data Gravity, or the theory that Data has Mass.

There’s an interesting article on TechCrunch today entitled “How Authoritarianism Will Lead To The Rise Of The Data Smuggler.”

While the article itself is interesting, and discusses a level of data portability far beyond what most people think about today, it also makes reference to the concept of “Data Gravity” posited by Dave McCrory. Dave’s rather unique concept is wrapped around the following statement (excerpted from the TC article by Alex Williams):
“Data has its own mass. When data gets stored it becomes harder to move. The more data stored, the greater the mass.”
Intriguing – and very cool. Check out the Data Gravity website for lots of details:

Filed under: thinking outside the box with Data Portability.

--Steve Repetti

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The State of Data Portability in Social Media, Part I – A Closer Look at Facebook

View the original post on

[The following is not a commentary on data portability policies at Facebook --- that will be a follow-up to this series. Instead, this article attempts to document the current state of data portability within social media, and in this case, Facebook in particular]

Every day, Facebook consumes billions of snippets of people’s lives in the form of freely-provided pictures, comments, messages, and more and stores them away in server facilities scattered throughout the world. This information is added to the tons of other information they already have and then used to render details of our lives upon request. But beyond the Facebook website, how can a user interact directly with their information?

Facebook’s Personal Archive

Accessing your Facebook information is as simple as visiting your Facebook page, or that of your friends. This structured format is constantly being tweaked to provide what Facebook believes is the best way for you to interact with all of this information. But they also provide a mechanism for you to take your data “offline” through the downloading of a “personal archive”, as in:

Getting to this result starts easily enough, simply access your account settings from your Facebook page and select “Download a copy of your Facebook data” at the bottom of the GENERAL ACCOUNT SETTINGS tab.

After a bit of security validation, the process begins. Facebook starts gathering your information into your personal archive and emails you when complete. Not all of your information is provided, however, particularly things that involve activity with others. Specific information includes:

Now, I believe that I am a moderate to light-weight Facebook user. I do not use it every day, although I do have several hundred “friends” and my twitter feed auto-posts to Facebook. Still, it took almost a full hour to gather my information and package it up with neatly organized directories into a 44MB zip file ready for me to download.

And here’s the content of the zip file representing my personal archive from Facebook:

Now that I have my data on my own computer, I can browse through it without having to be connected to the internet. I have successfully downloaded a copy of my data Facebook allows me to access offline. There were some issues browsing the data, the biggest being no “pagination” for the data, hence when I tried to view all my messages the browser locked up trying to render so much information.

From a pure data portability perspective, this process is more of a “backup” of data than true data portability. The information provided is pre-formatted into html documents that make it easy to interact with IN THE FORMAT CHOSEN BY FACEBOOK, however much of the underlying data is unavailable to non-programmers.

I had hoped to see additional formats to the archive, or even just one, other than formatted HTML. JSON would have been my first choice, and, in fact, there was a time when Facebook did provide this option, but alas no more.

Facebook’s Graph API

Programmers have considerably more options through Facebook’s extensive SOCIAL GRAPH API and related tools and resources, but this is not for the average user. Most applications today that integrate with Facebook are doing so in one form or another through the API interface (or one of its related components or plugins).

Interaction with graph data is extensive. From the Facebook’s Developer pages:

“The Graph API presents a simple, consistent view of the Facebook social graph, uniformly representing objects in the graph (e.g., people, photos, events, and pages) and the connections between them (e.g., friend relationships, shared content, and photo tags).”

Facebook has also provided public access to the GRAPH API through the use of its RESTful interface. This makes it extremely easy to gather specific information from the social graph simply by referencing a web address, as in:

3rd Party Alternatives to Facebook’s Personal Archive

Facebook itself is not the only option for users interested in extracting their information. One of the most interesting alternatives is a site called (with an accompanying Facebook App), built by assistant professor of art Owen Mundy of Florida State University. It essentially provides a user interface to many of the programmatic aspects of the Facebook Graph API.


A variety of other options exist that can help users access and interact with their information, but ultimately Facebook has the biggest opportunity, as well as responsibility, to see these initiatives through.

Coming up next: The State of Data Portability in Social Media, Part II – A Closer Look at Google.

-- Steve Repetti

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Google continues it's drive towards Data Portability...

Larry Dignan over at ZDNET wrote a post today entitled “Google ramps up its data portability as a weapon push” which discusses the further roll-out of Google’s Data Portability initiatives. Good stuff to be sure, and I hope it doesn’t end there.

My comment:

“Nobody seems to care about Data Portability until they need it and are denied access. Companies support Data Portability when it is good for them and it doesn’t conflict with their larger agendas, otherwise it is mostly ignored. And, of course, all of this changes on a moment’s notice and subject to the prevailing wind.

The real power of true Data Portability lies in its ability to extend and enhance not only existing services like Google and Facebook, but to facilitate entire ecosystems that reward innovation, value-add, and usefulness while chastising the walled gardens and private silos – or at the very least keeping them in their place.”

--Steve Repetti

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Data Portability Wars : Google and Facebook vs. YOU

Well, here we go again.

The big companies love to embrace data portability and the freedom it provides its users, not to mention the press and good will that comes with it, as long as it doesn’t conflict with their corporate agenda.

Let’s call it what it is: Facebook and Google both support “convenient” data portability --- at all times convenient for them, *sometimes* convenient for you.

Google and Facebook have both flirted with data portability and it was generally taken as a good sign when both hired leading open source/data portability advocates (Chris Messina and David Recordon respectively). Facebook’s APIs and social graph integration, as well as Google’s Takeout initiative, have been shining examples of the net result of this effort.

Still, despite these advances, both companies continue to “play” with your data – to your detriment. Back in February, Google removed an existing feature from its Android mobile phone operating system specifically to make it more difficult for users to integrate their Facebook contacts (Nexus S losing Facebook contacts sync as Google tightens data policy).

The latest salvo in this escalating war occurred while the US celebrated its Independence day holiday weekend: Facebook disabled a critical feature used to export your friends data (Facebook blocks Google Chrome extension for exporting friends). This appears to be a direct response to Google’s recent moves further into social networking: Google+ (Facebook blocks friend export tool in Google+ snub ).

The reality is that we gave both companies the right to monkey with our data. We accepted their terms of service when we joined their services and we continually agree when they make changes – for better or worse. And, while a few have left in protest, it is not practical to expect much more.

Let’s call it what it is: Facebook and Google both support “convenient” data portability --- at all times convenient for them, *sometimes* convenient for you. And maybe that’s ok. After all, they are commercial enterprises answerable to boards and shareholders and subject to their leadership within.

I get it. Information is an asset, and why would anyone fiscally responsible intentionally dilute or give away an asset?

And therein is the conflict. Us versus them, my data versus their monetization of it.

I hereby challenge Google, Facebook, and all other interested parties to sit down at a DATA PORTABILITY SUMMIT and figure it out together.

This is complicated stuff. If Google and Facebook truly want to be the global purveyors of information that they purport to be, they’ll figure it out – or leave opportunity for the next company to come along and get it right. But the first thing they need to understand is that they cannot do it alone. When crafting global policy regarding user’s data they must include the user, otherwise they are simply more walled-gardens of varying heights.

So, before this thing spirals any further, let’s talk about it.

As Chairman of the International non-profit Data Portability organization, I hereby challenge Google, Facebook, and all other interested parties to sit down at a DATA PORTABILITY SUMMIT and figure it out together. Name the place, name the time – or your users will. Now is your chance to truly show leadership on a global scale. But know this: that coveted asset of information you possess exists solely because of your users. It’s ok to be capitalistic, and its good not to be evil, but it’s time to make data portability convenient for us all.

Interested in the DATA PORTABILITY SUMMIT? Let me know:

Steve Repetti


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Google Unleashes New Data Portability Initiative: Google Takeout

Google today unveiled a new service that provides advanced Data Portability across its diverse platform. Google Takeout ( makes it easy to extract your data from a variety of Google Services including: Buzz, Contact and Circles, Picasa Web Albums, and Profile. The information is provided in a variety of formats, including vCard and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), and can be quickly downloaded onto your local computer.

In many ways this is not unlike the Data Portability initiatives over at Facebook, and it is certainly a welcome addition to the Google universe. And now that Google is moving more into the social networking space with its just announced Google+ project (, the value of Google’s Data Portability efforts to its end-users will likely substantially increase.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Data Portability Applauds US CIO, Mourns Departure

Today, friends of Data Portability lost an ally in their cause when the Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, announced he will be leaving his post in August. Mr. Kundra was the first-ever Chief Information Officer of the United States. During his tenure, Mr. Kundra championed the use of open standards, cloud computing, accessibility, and data portability through a variety of initiatives but lately saw his budgets slashed almost to the point of ineffectiveness. The irony of this is that his cost-saving initiatives netted the Government billions in savings, yet he was unable to save his own projects.

We are at a time when information is instantaneous and permeates every aspect of our lives. Data portability, privacy, and accessibility are the heart of the matter and leadership in this area is game changing on a global scale. If we screw this up we become second fiddle to those that do get it. Mr. Kundra was on the right path, and we at the Data Portability organization applaud his efforts as he re-enters the private sector. We wish him well at his new post at Harvard and hope his voice and passion never lose their strength.

Through this all, our Federal Government and politicians would do well to reassess the importance of the initiatives brought forth by real-world need and championed by Mr. Kundra, for failure to do so will be the real loss felt by the people and businesses of this country.

--Steve Repetti, Chairman,