Thursday, September 4, 2008

One Of The Coolest Homepages I've Seen

Last week my friend David Rose's company Angelsoft launched a new homepage for their website and I have to say it is one of the coolest homepages I have ever seen.

To summarize, Angelsoft is a platform that almost every angel investor group, and many VCs use to manage deal flow. It is an automated system that allows an entrepreneur to submit information to one or many early stage investors in one application process. Its a very cool idea that I think one day could make early stage private equity a much more fluid market.

But today I am not focusing on the company, but on the homepage. I hope to do a more in depth review of Angelsoft, but for today, my focus is just skin deep.

Go check out the page and then come back.

I'll wait here...

Welcome back.

The thing that is cool to me is the idea of seeing in real time, in a really visual way what is going on at the site.

I am reminded of a story I heard many years ago about the launch of Amazon. Jeff Bezos installed a bell in their office so that every time something was sold on the site the bell rung. As I recall the story, every time the bell rung was incredibly exciting. And of course we all know the sound of the bell became more and more frequent. Giving Amazon's employees a visceral sense of what is going on at the site must have been quite motivating.

I personally love the idea of feedback into what a service is doing. Exposing information in this kind of a way is like giving a site a pulse -- of bringing it to life. And so with the addition of the living map (if you haven't looked I you'll just have to guess at what I am talking about), Angelsoft really brings their site to life.

Congratulations David.

41 comments:

  1. Hank sorry...

    The web page is nice, but it is far from being the best you have ever seen, judging from your background. It is a nice idea. But let's not turn into Steve - Jobs hype - like tactics even if in a much smaller scale. There are many web pages that offer the content in the same way you propose, they are just not vocal enough about it.

    Cheers,

    John

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  2. John,

    Ok, if there are lots of such pages I will take it back... can you point me to a few?

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  3. i have a totally different POV from John yet i basically come to the same conclusion. Hank first let me say your "experiment keeps this Brotha from another mother -DOS hehee" inspired i look forward to all your posts and i try to immediately send out a twitt about your posts to my technophiles but while i think the concept of Angelsoft is hot back in DOT COM world here in nYC there was NYNMA.org and some other site i cant remember that created a similar site without a Google map but a feedback site that was more like a craigslist of VCs and Angels.

    I am not really a hype type of guy and i feel a kinship towards you in that arena so when i went to the site i was definitely expecting a Pure CSS HEAVEn type of site or something better than that and i am not a designer my biz sites have been called boring, static, but at the end of the day i get money and my clients are happy with the end results.

    I am looking forward to seeing your further posts about this company.

    Ps. I am the host/producer of the only African AMerican Technology Talk Radio show on FM in the New York/NJ/CT Market for 6yrs would you grace our studio at 137 and Convent pleaseeee - http://www.whcr.org/SHOW_PROFILE/technocolor.html - my email is Kulturefirst at Yahoo.com - My name is Martin Johnson. We just had http://www.twitter.com/waynesutton on last week we had Xobni before anyone knew of them the same with Hotwire and Vonage i am good at spotting a trendsetter...So do please accept my invite to join us any Monday @7pm on 90.3 FM on TECHNOCOLOR RADIO Show on WHCR

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  4. Hank,

    I do not find anything that is breath - taking in a website that combines a google map with current activities being done in a location that is flagged on that map. This does not have a breathtaking new approach into combining dynamically generated content from different websites into a single "aggregation page". The only thing that is relatively under - used in the webcrowd is the map thing.

    Note that I say underused. Lot's of people use maps with content like that albeit in a limited fashion. On the other hand, since we came to the question of design I will note the following:

    1) Right now, it fails W3C validation on XHTML Transitional 1.0, CSS 2.1 (why is somebody mixing things from CSS3 as well right now?)
    2) There is no javascript failback mode. This means that the site does not display the cool idea it is selling when javascript is not available. Do you know how many tech - savvy administrators block that in the workstations of the end users?
    3) Credit to the typography selected. To the point, offers proper visual queues.
    4) I am not finished yet with maps. Lots of people use google maps (as that site does) to display real - time information. From opensource communities, to major companies. They just do it on their own limited scale, mostly within an intranet. What this service does is to aggregate these things into a single - relatively easy to use - bundle. It is good, but it is not impressive. By the way, does this service display the under the off the record deals and meetings as well?

    I still don't understand why design - wise or technology - wise this is one of the coolest pages you have ever seen. I don't doubt that it is a good idea, but I doubt that it is "one of the coolest homepages" ever.

    Other than that, your post is a good one.

    Regards,

    John

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  5. I figured what was happening would jump out at people but perhaps since I posted in the middle of the night the site was less active and it was not obvious, so I will break it down.

    Every time someone comes into the site to do *anything*, that activity is pushed to anybody on the homepage. The map updates in real time to show where that activity has happened. So when things are popping, the map is flying around showing the markers in real time on the map. The map comes to life as an animated expression of where and when there is activity and gives a real sense of what is really happening with the site.

    My view is not about CSS or beauty, but about seeing into the human activity at a site. I don't believe I have ever seen another site do such a thing, but if I am wrong I would love to know who else is, because I do think it is an important potential future trend and I would love to see more people do it.

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  6. me thinks they were by twittervision.com

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  7. heri,

    Indeed you are right!

    I had seen twittervision once before, but because I am not a serious twitter head I suspect seeing tweets round the world didnt resonate as much as investors and entrepreneurs.

    That said I have to agree that I have seen the idea before at twittervision. But I still think this is better for being attached to something thats actually useful :)

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  8. You got your answer from heri, on where such sites may be found. Bypassing the question by asking a seemingly relevant question (of which people in your business know the answer) does not qualify as an answer but it is more reminiscent of Arthur Schopenhauer's "The Art of Always Being Right". I know you have seen _several_ pages like this.

    Let's get down to a simple fact then. For a site that wishes to do something useful, unlike twittervision which you imply that does something pretty pointless, shouldn't there be a javascript fail mode? Without that, the home page is pretty missing the selling point. Therefore, it misses the coolness because there is _no_ _direct_ _impact_ of the main feature. That's all I am saying, among the rest.

    Regards,

    John

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  9. Hi

    French music webradio www.lagrosseradio.com has the same feature: visitors can rate the music, write into forum, comment on new bands etc... and all the activity is depicted in real-time in a horizontal bar (called the bigbrother and sporting a flashing red light, just below the menu bar). Clicking on it lets you see the last 30 or so actions... quite addictive indeed ;)

    Fran├žois

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  10. Thanks for the review, Hank (and thanks to everyone else for their comments. We'll look into the Javascript fail-mode question!)

    While the idea of a location map is not new, as others have mentioned, it's the *reasoning* behind why we did it that I think is the interesting issue.

    As folks here may know, there are many, many web sites out there which purport to connect, or 'match', entrepreneurs seeking funding with potential investors. By our own count, there are probably three or four dozen, and that's without looking very hard. The reason there are so many is that it's like shooting fish in a barrel: how many starving entrepreneurs wouldn't want to come to a web site that promises them cash?!

    The sad reality, however, is that while it is extremely easy to get hungry entrepreneurs to list their plans, it is well-nigh IMPOSSIBLE to get investors to show up on the other side of the curtain...for the simple reason that (a) the ratio of investors to entrepreneurs is about 1:1000, and (b) investors are so deluged with opportunities that they simply don't go out LOOKING for plans; plans come to them!

    So, here we are, having built the world's first VIABLE platform connecting the two worlds. Our challenge: how do we create a home page to differentiate ourselves from all of the pretenders, EACH OF WHOM IS MAKING THE SAME CLAIMS...while in reality, Angelsoft is the only legitimate site of the bunch. (As a matter of fact, while the 1:1000 ratio is probably accurate for most of the other sites, ours is actually about 2:1 in the other direction!)

    We ultimately came to the conclusion that since there was absolutely nothing we could SAY to differentiate ourselves, the best thing we could do is SHOW everyone *exactly* what the truth was! So the map shows the real-time activity on the site, and then if you click to angelsoft.net/industry, you will see real, live statistics about exactly how many investors, plans, events, etc. there are on the platform.

    We are now watching with interest to see what the reactions will be!

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  11. You're full of sh*t.. That pages sucks as bad as your rep has been damaged by making stupid claims such as "I have to say it is one of the coolest homepages I have ever seen."

    this is the first and LAST time I waste another nano-second on you and your blog - which is the crappiest blog I've ever seen.

    YEAH.. you just got flamed!

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  12. Regarding your story about Amazon / Jeff Bezos: I believe that Netscape used a similar approach. A pistol firing sound to mark every browser download made. As the browser got viral, the sound transformed into more like a machine gun firing.

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  13. Check out the home page at 200nipples.com (SFW)

    It has the same kind of real-time info display you're loving here.

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  14. WOW- You're right. I haven't seen the new version of AngelSoft yet. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Great post.

    check my blog if interested http://ryanagraves.com

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  15. The web page is pretty, but the company's ignorance is obvious with the glaring misuse of the the word "ecosystem".

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  16. I like... dashboard as landing page.

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  17. I too have recently seen a homepage using a google map in the same way (some startup in the physical meet up area) and loved the concept. I was immediately struck, not because of the way it looks, but because of the function. It brings the website to life by showing the real time participation level. It's one thing to post what the latest commenter said or what video someone is watching right now, but that content is static unless you refresh the page. Having the activity update dynamically right before my eyes really conveyed that people are participating this very instant and made me want to jump in. The map from the startup I saw also made it feel like real people were participating because a picture from their profile popped up with their activity and location on the map. There are different ways that this function can be presented visually, but overall, I feel like this will grow in usage.

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  18. Hank,

    It looks like you've stirred up quite a bit of discussion with this post. As the person at Angelsoft who proposed the map on the homepage originally, I think it makes sense to understand the business case, as well as the aesthetic and technical issues that people have been discussing.

    We were facing a real business issue: There are dozens of sights that purport to have networks of investors. We know for a fact that we are the only one who really does. The business problem was how to we show that in a way that the pretenders couldn't copy.

    That's why we made the decision to display a live window into what's happening with our software on the homepage. There is no gloss on this. Sometime we look lame (like in the middle of the night or the fact that only 1.3% of applicants get funding). Sometimes it looks like our network is exploding with investors (most of the time or the fact that 1.3% of applicants actually get funding).

    Either way, we thought it was time to cut through the talk and let people see who we are and make their own decisions. I'd challenge any other purported network of investors to do the same.

    Ryan Janssen
    COO, Angelsoft

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  19. Great marketing tool. Gives the sense that there's real activity on this site and plays on people's natural tendency to want to be where the action is. Very smart.

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  20. Just a drive by comment ... Angelsoft has an interesting site .. but wouldnt put it in the category of coolest .. as there are many map mashups out there that update based on activity .. Looks like you've not seen a good Flash/Flex site or you're just trying to give Angelsoft a bump.
    Either way I think they have a cool business model, just not one of the coolest sites. But then hey, every1 has an opinion.

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  21. Can't say I'm really impressed with a flickrvision rip off...

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  22. I think your hot, no matter your taste in home pages.

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  23. The homepage is very enticing while it grabs your attention, you then realize what is going on. "Wow this is all taking place as we speak, I must be missing out!" However I then just think that this is some sort of flash show that will have the same results every time. (yeah I am that cynical)

    On a marketing front this is great. Free exposure and a captivating audience. Great work, design, and implementation. this along with mint.com are my favorite designs.

    Thanks for sharing the Amazon bell story, I want familiar with that.

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  24. @David Rose

    "...while in reality, Angelsoft is the only legitimate site of the bunch."

    Your own statistics say that only 1.32% of the entrepreneurs that post to your site get funded. http://angelsoft.net/industry/

    You can talk all you want about how many investors you have, but if they're not writing checks, you can have 5:1 ratio in favor of investors and it won't matter.

    Nice try David.

    FAIL!

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  25. Looking at the comments I can say "Welcome to the wonderful world of web site critiques."

    Having run WebPagesThatSuck.com for over 12 years, I can tell you that it's far less controversial to discuss good web design than it is to discuss bad web design - a fact you've discovered.

    In an upcoming article I state:

    Bad web design is objective: Dictionary.com defines objective as "...not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion." Bad web design is obvious. You know it when you see it.

    Good web design is subjective: Combining two definitions from Dictionary.com we can define subjective as "...existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought. Placing excessive emphasis on one's own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric." Good web design depends. People can argue about whether Amazon's web design is good; next to no one will argue about whether the International Glaucoma site is a really bad design.

    Just like I knew back in 1996 it was better to call my site "WebPagesThatSuck" rather than "WebPagesWithSomeProblems", your article title, "One of the Coolest Homepages I've Seen" is better than the more appropriate "Semi-interesting Web 2.0 Website."

    Oh. My initial reaction is the Angelsoft site wouldn't make WebPagesThatSuck.

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  26. Twittervision and Flickrvision are pointless. Watch them for 5 minutes and you want to kill yourself, overwhelmed by the utter futility of the world.

    Sure, Angelsoft uses the same trick, but here it serves a real purpose. It very elegantly visualizes what their platform does.

    It also doesn't distract too much from the navigation and the Investor/Entrepreneur Tools buttons. It really draws you in.

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  27. Wow,
    Harsh haters above. I like the site, and the excitement of seeing in real time how the service is being used.
    It is not totally original, but I like how the function is served by this design - you see that real things are happening with their software world wide. Will this help them sell the Angelsoft service to other investor groups - to be seen.

    Howard Greenstein

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  28. @Anonymous,

    1.3% would be about the industry average no matter what early-stage investor you are talking to. They are writing checks, the ratio of fundable deals to unfundable deals that investors receive is staggering. This is the reality, and we think its important for entrepreneurs to know what they are up against.

    Jason Schwartz
    Angelsoft Entrepreneur Community Manager

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  29. http://www.thisnext.com/activity/map/

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  30. Home page seems to be failing now...3:15 Thursday PST

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  31. @Jason Schwartz

    That's my point. You're not increasing the entrepreneurs' chances of getting funding.

    Why not offer entrepreneurs loans, factoring, etc. so their chances of finding money are increased -- in addition to your angel database. I know FundingUniverse does that. I'm sure there are others.

    Again, FAIL.

    On a positive note, I do like the real time activity charting on the front page. It just needs to have more actual "success" activities -- i.e. funded companies.

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  32. Mr. Anonymous above takes Angelsoft to task because our own statistics show that only 1.3% of deals receive funds. In fact, that is EXACTLY why we have put up the industry statistics in the first place! The reality of the early stage market is that there are many, many, many more entrepreneurs than there are investors, and thus it is MUCH more difficult to get a startup funded with outside equity than most people realize.

    A typical top tier venture capital firm will receive something like 5,000 - 10,000 business plans annually, and make perhaps five to ten new investments, meaning that their funding rate is roughly 0.1%. In contrast, angel investors invest smaller amounts of money, into many, many more companies each year in the US. But it is still a highly selective process (indeed, almost ten times more selective than getting into the most selective of colleges!)

    The Angel Capital Association, which is made up of the 144 largest and most active angel groups in the United States, recently completed a survey (http://tinyurl.com/5c89hb) which showed that on average these groups (the cream of the crop) funded roughly 2.5% of the companies that they bring in for screening. Since groups typically only screen a quarter of the companies that initially apply for funding (the exact rate at the moment, taken from the Angelsoft logs, is 24.72%), that means deals processed through Angelsoft are being funded at a rate of more than TWICE the rate of the BEST and most active angel groups in the country!

    While as an entrepreneur I would love to see money growing on trees, and funding for all who want it, as a realist (a very different thing :-) I am painfully aware of just how difficult it is to find financing...which is why I started Angelsoft in the first place!

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  33. erm...did anyone see a little website called flickr?

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  34. @David Rose

    No, the study that the ACA did proves that the groups that responded to your survey - a subset of the angel groups that use your software - fund twice as many companies as the total group. So, if you allowed entrepreneurs to post their business plan to the groups that responded to the survey, then, yes, they would have a 2.5% chance of getting funded. Don't try to twist the numbers, David.

    I don't dispute the fact that it is difficult to raise money from angels. It's exponentially more difficult to raise money from investors in angel groups. Angel groups have a ton of dealflow and are generally there to hang out with their rich buddies as much if not more than they are there to write checks.

    Why not provide other alternatives for entrepreneurs? Why not allow independent angels to see the dealflow? If angel groups are all you have to offer, you're never going to make a difference for entrepreneurs.

    As before, I maintain: FAIL

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    Replies
    1. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. bank rate cd

      Delete
  35. We can argue semantics all day most of what is posted here is nothing more than a difference in opinion, heck to be honest i'm reminded of viewing the news on my Nintendo wii for the first time. (which is great btw)

    on to a more positive note:
    While this may not be the most original website, the fact is its a clear sign that the internet is alive and evolving we may not be impressed with one homepage, but collectively its amazing that so many similar sites can accomplish such a dynamic experience for users.

    What a great post! thanks Hank

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  36. The coolest web page, no. One of the coolest, maybe. Thanks for pointing it out though because the concept is great!

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  37. Is it only semi-live ... I've refreshed a few times and still have the same feed come through with the same timestamps...

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  38. I think at 3am est there is not much traffic and so it may show older stuff. But during the day it is real-time and there is regular, immediate activity.

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  39. Thank you very much. I'm very happy to know about AngelSoft and the home page IS cool.
    Very best!

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