How much does that technology cost?

15 Feb

Portrait of entrepreneur Dave Morgan

Dave Morgan

I’ve written before about how Moore’s Law  and its corrolaries in the software world inexorably make web tech cheaper and simpler by the year. But don’t take my word for it. A comment and a software release last week make the point better than I can.

Serial entrepreneur Dave Morgan dropped an offhand comment during his talk at the Borrell Local Online Advertising Conference  in New York last week.

His first startup, Real Media, needed tens of millions in capital when it was started in 1995 just to cover technology costs.  His next, Tacoda Systems, needed single-digit millions to get launched in 2001.

His latest, Simulmedia, founded last year? About a million.

There’s a lesson in there for journalist/entrepreneurs – and it isn’t that you need a million bucks to do something.

“The cost of  building out a massive data storage capacity for ad targeting has dropped enormously because of much cheaper, much more powerful hardware, cheap data centers, open source software (Hadoop & MySQL) v. classic DB (Oracle, etc.),” Dave wrote in a follow-up email.

Moore’s Law in action: The cost of a major tech startup has dropped by almost 100x in 15 years.

 (For those of you who don’t follow ad-tech startups as closely as the Mets, a couple bits of data: Real Media merged with a couple others to form 24/7 Real Media, which was eventually bought by ad-agency conglomerate WPP for $649 million. Tacoda was bought by AOL for $275 million. Dave knows how to make this stuff work.)

Let’s take those forces out of the realm of VC-backed startups, and instead look at the world of independent journalism sites. Their technology needs are merely a fraction of massive advertising analysis companies – and so are the start-up costs.

The radical downward trend of those startup costs follows the same downward spiral, however. A few years ago, you needed a million bucks to get solid, automated content management. Today? Close to free.

I’m an unabashed fan of the blog platform WordPress, and of the easily customized themes produced by many different developers. Even a year ago, getting WordPress to do what you wanted it often required some code tweaks – simpler than building from scratch, but still not for the uninitiated.

Now? One of my favorite development houses, WooThemes, launched a highly customizable theme, appropriately named Canvas, this week. Want to change your site’s look and feel, dramatically? Punch size and color changes into simple menus. Beats opening the underlying PHP code.

One more reason journopreneurs should stop pondering and just launch. So a question, and a challenge, for those still pondering:

What’s stopping you?

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