How Canada's Plans to "Own the Podium" Failed

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This year at the 2010 winter Olympics, Canada made moves to shed its humble image just a bit with a program they titled "Own the Podium." China was successful with a similar program called "Project 119" during their 2008 Olympic hosting, in part because of their willingness to invest heavily in relatively unpopular, but highly medalled categories.

But, Canada has largely failed to win medals, and Nate Silver suggests it has to do with their investment strategy. A quick graph illustrates this nicely:

Canada has over-invested (relative to the medal count) in its "heritage" sports like curling and hockey and under-invested in sports like biathlon and cross-country skiing -- sports that would be good targets both because they are medal-rich and because they are not professionalized.

You might expect to see an investment strategy based on those two criteria:
  • High medal density: each dollar spent will increase the odds of winning several medals at once
  • Lack of professional financial support: each marginal dollar spent will have a greater impact

That's just not what we see in the graph. Instead, it appears that they're just trying to avoid the embarrassment of losing in their traditional areas of strength. Ironically, by setting less amitious objectives, Canada increased the chance that it could all go sideways with a single loss.

It looks like "Own the Podium" was more about avoiding embarrassment than dominating the competition. How Canadian.


VCs' blogs do not appear to drive web traffic to their funds

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A classmate of mine from HBS, Rob Go put up an interesting post yesterday about the relationship between venture capitalists’ website traffic and blog traffic. In short, he found that there was very little correlation between the two. I thought a graph might clarify the data:

It appears that most VCs are tightly clustered around 10,000 hits/month to their websites (Sequoia and First Round Capital standing as outliers, but excluding those, the standard deviation was ~2,000 hits). What Rob (and I) found surprising was that while blog traffic varied widely, it didn’t appear to affect website traffic.[1] If we assume that website traffic is a loose proxy for entrepreneurs’ interest in a fund (as opposed to blog traffic, which seems to indicate interest in the person writing), that seems to indicate that blogs may be building independent brands for the entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t (from this data) appear to be increasing deal flow.[2]

This really isn’t enough data to draw a conclusion, but it does raise the question for me: “If not increasing interest in their fund, what value do VCs’ blogs deliver?”

1. The best fit trendlines are all negative (i.e., a negative correlation between website and blog traffic), and statistically insignificant (R-squared<.1). This remains true even when removing the sites with zero blog traffic or when removing the website traffic outliers.
2. Yes, website traffic is a *very* loose proxy. Yes, the blogs could be delivering value by helping entrepreneurs focus on the funds more suited to them, lowering website traffic, but increasing lead quality. But, website traffic still seems like a very preliminary step in investigating a fund; I’m surprised there isn’t a stronger correlation.


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