Rubber band Model of Universe : Winner of 2008 Stanford Innovation Tournament.

Last week, I wrote about the Stanford Innovation Tournament . Every year, Stanford sponsors a tournament where the participants are asked to “add value” to a common, everyday item. This year, the item chosen was a rubber band.

I had my simple and complex ways of adding value to a rubber band. But despite my involvement in the “Talk Like a Physicist” campaign, I did not think about using a rubber band to demonstrate a physics concept! :-(
One of the winning entries is by Michael Fisher, demonstrating a rubber band model of the Einstein’s Theory of special relativity. As a true business school major and a marketer, he titled it as ” a model of the Universe”, let’s not quibble about that.

My favorite entry was the Artweb 2.0


However, the most educational and enlightening example was that of “failure”.


Which taught them “Fail early - fail fast!” and just because you build it, people won’t necessarily come.

Entrepreneurship 101 - Value add to existing items

Since the last year, Stanford has been sponsoring Entrepreneurship week contest of being creative and “adding value to existing items.”

And, the drum roll please; this year’s secret item to add value to is: Rubber Band.


The 2008 Innovation Tournament is open to teams of Stanford students, as well as students around the world. Teams can be of any size. Your challenge is to create as much value as possible using rubber bands. You can use as many as you want, of any size, shape, or color. Value can be measured on any scale you choose. Remember, value comes from actually implementing your ideas and delivering results. To be successful, challenge assumptions, seize opportunities, be creative, and Make it Happen!

Last year, the secret item was Post-it Notes. And some of the entries were creative and business worthy.


My favorite entries from the last year were: Braille Note - A Braille Navigation System for Sight Impaired; selling ads on the Post-it was obvious, most sustainable and probably fundable idea; and selling the preemptive prize of the event on Ebay was gimmicky, but a cool thought.

You can see the complete list of winners for 2007 here.

Here are my ideas for the rubber band:

High tech ideas:

  • Rubber band with a ring tone built in. There is already a strip of paper available that can be made to hum any tune. Use the rubber band instead to create a ring tone. Perfect for a packaging for a ring tone card or for birthday card.
  • A rubber band rocket launcher. It might be possible to launch less than 2 lb rocket with rubber band canon. Do it right and win this competition and the Lunar X prize at the same time! :-)
  • Rubber band to monitor the temperature of your computer system. This should be easy to implement. If the temperature goes up, the band becomes softer and stretches more.
  • Use rubberbands to generate energy while you are walking. Essentially, it stores a part of the energy when you are walking and then delivers it back when you need it.

Low Tech Idea:

  • Make a rubber band music video (either as a story to existing number or create music using rubber bands.)
  • If done right, rubber bands can be used as a filteration device. Additionally, they can be self cleaning. After using a bundle of rubber bands as a filter, stretch and release the bundle to auto clean.
  • Rubber band with writable sleeves (ready for ads or customization) would be too obvious, but I think it will work. Printable friendship bands are all around so that doesn’t count.
  • Make crossed rubber bands. I find that to secure something, I need to use two to four rubber bands and attach them in two different directions. A pre-arranged rubbers cluster might be helpful. Also, I hate those metal twist ties on bags. I end up using rubber bands to secure those bags any way. A custom designed rubber band suited to tie bags would be nice. Or, make adjustable rubber bands. When I want to use rubber band, they are never of the right size and don’t provide the right amount of force.

So what can you do with a rubber band? You have a less than a week to come up with an idea, implement it and document it.


Leave a comment if you can think of any other ways to add value to a rubber band. raises $50M, valued at (guesstimated) $150M.


HealthCentral has a network of about 30 sites on specific health topics, such as migraine, pain management, Alzheimer’s and they also own, websites, among others. The websites that they own, tend to have very long names like,, and

Traffic numbers are: $7M unique visitors with 30M page views monthly.

From PaidContent, we hear that they have raised $50M led by IAC (InterActice Corp, a public company listed on NASDAQ), and carried forward previous investors like Sequoia and Carlyle.

IAC acquired, and I quote:

a major (though still minority) stake in HealthCentral.

A major, but minority stake: could be anything from 25% to 49%, I guesstimate that it is closer to 35%, giving the guesstimated valuation of Health Central at $150M, with an error bar of 50M.

You probably think that I am going to crib about the valuation again or try to contort arguments to justify the valuation. Nope!

Healthcentral has launched a series of TV health specials, hosted by Dr. Dean Edell and now syndicated on over 70 TV stations including major market stations like WCBS-New York, KABC-Los Angeles, and WLS-Chicago) with a potential viewership of over 60M.

So it seems that the investment is made to implement some of the multimedia strategy of Web, radio and TV, and considering that it is number two health related network (after WebMD), the numbers seem to make sense.

The HealthCentral Network was acquired in 2005 by Polaris Ventures, Sequoia Capital, The Carlyle Group and Allen & Company, so it is a nice turn around.

Via AlarmClock

Slide valued at $500M+, half a billion dollars


From Today’s NYTimes:

Slide, the maker of applications for social networks, has raised another round of funding - $50 million from the private equity funds at Fidelity and T-Rowe Price, two major Wall Street investment houses. The firms have taken a 9 percent stake in the three-year-old, 64-employee Slide, valuing it at $550 million.

Most interestingly, the investors are Fidelity and T. Rowe Price.

I guess one could argue that Slide is not a widget company but an ad network.

Here is what Max Levchin said in his interview a few months ago:

Think of Slide as a giant media network for people to transmit information. The content that’s in there now has been provided by users — it’s whatever they want it to be.

But my issue with that argument is that the slide is not hosted voluntarily by MySpace and FaceBook - users put it there. It is unlikely that MySpace will let Slide monetize their presence on their pages and Facebook looks kind of dicey too. The point is that Slide is not in control of their visitor count - they rely on other networks to get the audience.

How much is a Facebook application worth? Face book is valued at $15B which equates to $250 per user. There are some, who argue that an application on Facebook is worth $250 times the number of users. That is just wrong!

Facebook applications are like little antenna balls for the car. Don’t tell me that the goofy antenna ball is worth as much as the car. Some have argued that each install of an application is worth $3 to $0.30 for each install, which is high but at least in the ball park. Again, the number is per install, not per application view.

Slide is not saying that they have 150M registered users or 150M installs - just 150M visitors. They might have 25M to 35M install base. With $550M valuation, they are valuing it at $20 per install. Also, the widgets have a short lifespan; they come and go, so active install base might be smaller.

And then there is the Facebook "tax" (rev-share that Facebook will demand), which further reduces the value.

Some may argue that the basic fallacy in this valuation calculation is that you are looking at current numbers - extrapolate to 2011 and then calculate the valuation. Its the growth potential that demands a much higher premium. I don’t fully agree with it but the argument has a certain conceptual merit. One should calculate these numbers by examining the forward flow and not the current numbers. Not sure if I can stretch my imagination to 2011, but if Fidelity with deep pockets can see farther than I can, more power to them.

This sort of reminds me of the BlueMountain network, it was valued at $780M when @Home acquired Excite for $6.7B (at $400 per user) during the period of last exuberance.

But I am glad that deals are happening, and the developers are creating more applications. And if widgets are being valued highly in the marketplace, I am giddy, incredulous but giddy nonetheless.

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