Category Archives: Conferences

Thoughts on Techcrunch Disrupt: Day 1

Mike Arrington at Techcrunch DisruptThe first day of the Techcrunch Disrupt conference definitely had its share of “disruption”, but I don’t think any of it was the type of innovative product and company disruption people were expecting.

I won’t cover the whole event since you can see the whole day webcast here as well as read about each session’s summary individually on Techcrunch.

Super Angels vs. VCs
The disruptive fireworks started early with the Super Angels vs. VCs panel that was very anticipated for anyone who had been following the AngelGate controversy that Arrington started with a blog post earlier in the week on Techcrunch that alleged there was a conspiracy of Silicon Valley angel investors who were looking to collude and do various nefarious things. This led to a public denial from Dave McClure who was on the panel, along with “private” emails from Ron Conway and Chris Sacca getting leaked on Techcrunch as well.

Arrington prefaced the whole Techcrunch event with a blog post that discussed how this specific panel and the whole event would not be about AngelGate, but then proceeded to ask his first question about it and made a few jokes that actually started the whole panel off on a somewhat hostile and uncomfortable foot.

The panel didn’t get much smoother from there due to there being too many panelists (7) and various panelists cutting each other off. Arrington also was fairly aggressive in changing topics, cutting people off, and jumping around. It was entertaining, but I’m not sure anyone learned anything from the panel except that there are still some hostilities to be worked out among those involved.

Peter Thiel
One enjoyable session to me was Clarium Capital and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel’s fireside chat. Thiel is a known contrarian, which made for an interesting discussion to see how he’s currently seeing things differently from the rest of the silicon valley.

His most notable comment of the day was that he thinks Facebook is relatively undervalued at $30B (see my recent post about Facebook’s valuation), and that he would be long Facebook over Google if given the choice. As an investor he benefits greatly if this occurs so he’s obviously biased, but it’s interesting for him to say it so publicly.

Another comment that stuck with me was Thiel talking about how many companies in Silicon Valley are just building iterative products that really only serve the early adopters living in Silicon Valley. We have a recession/depression occurring throughout the country and people are building products in a bubble for the technology elite. He said if you drive 30 miles out of Silicon Valley people don’t care about most of the products people are building. As someone who lives outside of Silicon Valley, I can relate to that. There’s not too many people in Eugene, OR using a lot of the newer iPhone applications for example. Thiel was really trying to remind all the entrepreneurs in the audience to try and change the world with their companies instead of just building a “me too” product.

Startup Battlefield
The next set of disruptions came in the Startup Battlefield which was three sessions filled with companies demoing for 15 minutes to the audience and a rotating panel of judges that mostly consisted of well-known investors. The disruptions were not so much from these companies though, but the fact that almost every demo had awkward pauses as there were almost always troubles switching between screens for the video portions of presentations. It really killed the flow of many of the presentations. If someone wants to build a truly disruptive technology, design conference presentation equipment that works.

The general feeling I got from all the presentations is that there is a whole batch of new companies that are focusing on check-ins to different things, gamification, and rewards. Most of the startups were heavily focused on these, and it became to get repetitive to the audiences and the judges.

I have to give the companies credit though, it’s not easy to stand in front of a smart panel of judges and a very smart audience and do a presentation of your new product and then get questioned and criticized by the judges and the press in attendance.

I won’t go through every company, but here’s some quick thoughts on a few of them:

  • Qwiki – This company led off the first session and a had a very impressive presentation. It was polished, had humor, and showed off their product well. It basically builds an interesting visual presentation that mixes pictures, videos, data graphs, and audio on any subject. One judge called it “search with a voice” which they took offense to, but it was definitely very cool. Gina Biachini did ask what the use case for this was, and I find myself also wondering if this cool product ever will get used by a large amount of users, but one of the best demos and it was cool technology.
  • Storify – An interesting product that lets you quickly add tweets, youtube videos, flickr pictures, and other pieces of social media together to create a “story”. They presented this a bit as a journalist tool, but I think that was the wrong approach. It seems more to be something useful for WordPress bloggers and social media junkies.
  • Gifi – There seemed to be some positive buzz out there on Gifi, which was a product built internally at payments company Venmo as an example of their API. Taken in that context, it’s a very nice use of their API. The concept of leaving money for your friends in different spots they can check in is very cool in theory. However, I don’t see this getting that much traction. When you realize that the number of people out there actively checking-in to places is still quite small (although growing), and then you see how many of them actually want to leave money for friends and will remember to do so, I think that number is pretty low.
  • Badgeville – A startup positioned to take advantage of the growing game dynamics on the web, Badgeville is a service that publishers pay for to add what’s essentially somewhat custom game dynamics to their site. Users get points, badges, and rewards for doing things like reading a story, tweeting a story, etc. It was nice that the publisher had a lot of control over what their game is like. I agreed with Joe Kraus when he was judging this though that it feels like this space may get overcrowded and people may get tired of game dynamics. Or, we’ll see a couple of clear winners that come out of this space but that it’s hard to tell who that might be. They also are already generating healthy revenue from selling this service to publishers. Always nice to have good revenue in a very young startup.
  • OneTrueFan – Built by members of the MyBlogLog team, OneTrueFan takes some of those features and also combines it with game dynamics to have a competition among website visitors to become the “one true fan” of a website. The idea is similar to being the mayor of a place in Foursqure, except there are more things that help make you a one true fan such as reading an article, sharing an article, commenting on an article, and more.
  • CloudFlare – Usually when I see the word “Cloud” in a company’s description my eyes glaze over and I wander off. However, CloudFlare’s founder was very energetic in a controlled way and did a really nice job showing the value propositions of the service. It provides a lot of the benefit of having your site hosted on a cloud as far as speed and reliability combined with added security and analytics. There’s a good free option as well as paid options for more advanced features. I set this blog up on it in under 5 minutes and was really impressed with the signup process and the obvious usefulness. This may was my top startup of the group.

Techcrunch Being Sold to AOL?
The last disruption of the day was the story Om Malik published that sources were saying AOL is on the verge of buying Techcrunch. Obviously this was a tad distracting, as Mike Arrington was absent from his own conference for the 2nd half of the day.

We’ll see what happens on Day 2, could be big news?

Going to Blog World Expo

Blog WorldI’ll be at Blog World Expo in Las Vegas on Thursday and Friday checking out this first time event aimed at the world of blogs. We have a Yahoo! booth that will staffed by members of Right Media’s Direct Media Exchange team as well as a few representatives from some other Yahoo! business units like MyBlogLog, Yahoo Search Marketing, and others.

Drop by the booth and say hello, and yes, I am also wondering how awkward the opening reception Pajama Party at the Hard Rock will be with a bunch of bloggers in their pajamas.

Panel Proposal for SXSW 2008

I’ve got a proposal in the panel picker for SXSW 2008 called “Maximizing Ad Revenue for Online Publishers“. The title explains it pretty well, but if it’s voted in as one of the panels at the conference I’ll put together a panel of industry experts to go over the core methods today that publishers can maximize their ad revenue.

I think it will be educational, great for beginners, but also provide some nuggets of wisdom that even experts will benefit from.

If you’re interested in this panel idea, please go vote for it by giving it a star rating. Note: You do need to sign up for a free account to register, they promise to not spam you.

Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Avinash Kaushik and Testing

One of the most interesting sessions to me at Web 2.0 Expo was fellow analytics blogger Avinash Kaushik’s session called “Click the Big Red Button : Tips & Techniques for Optimizing Conversion and A/B Testing”. I was looking forward to it because even though I’ve been big into testing for years, I still feel like the majority of the web world is so far away from embracing testing to improve web results.
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Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Jeff Weiner of Yahoo! Interview

Wednesday’s keynote at the Web 2.0 Expo was Yahoo’s Executive Vice President of their Network Division. Jeff first covered what the network division consists of:

  • Email/communications
  • Media business so we package and program content
  • Search business
  • We tie it together through the front door of Yahoo.

    Then the following is a paraphrased version of the discussion between Jeff Weiner and John Battelle.
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Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Built to Last Panel

Yesterday at Web 2.0 Expo one of the main keynote sessions was the “Built to Last” Panel which consisted of John Battelle asking various questions to a few entrepreneurs who have built companies that have sold or were worth selling. The participants in the session:

John Battelle – FM Publishing (moderator)
Mena Trott – Six Apart
Jay Adelson – Digg
Joe Kraus – Jotspot/Google

The following is a paraphrasing of the conversation, so don’t quote me on it.
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Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Venture Capital 2.0

A popular and very funny session today was the session entitled “Venture Capital 2.0: Bright Future or Broken Forever?”. This session was moderated by Mike Arrington of Techcrunch who is a former VC himself and current angel investor. It appeared like it could be boring listen to a bunch of venture capitalists talk, but Arrington did a very nice job spicing it up with well-timed insults and jokes. Mike also took the time to hype his new conference the Techcrunch20, check out the link to find out more.
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Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Transitional Media 2.0

I posted a liveblogging entry over on the Right Media Blog about the Traditional Media 2.0 session. The session was kind of all over the place with what was discussed, but check it out if you’re curious.

Liveblogging Web 2.0 Expo: Starting Up 2.0

My first session here at Web 2.0 Expo is “Starting Up 2.0: Strategies for Pitching, Financing & Growing Your Web 2.0 Startup” with Jeff Clavier of SoftTechVC and Rob Hayes of First Round Capital.

Rob started up by asking how many people in the room had started a company in the last 5 years, and about 80% of people raised their hands. He then asked how many people would be starting one soon, and I think teh other 20% raised their hands.
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Going to Web 2.0 Expo

webex2007_logo.gifI’ll be at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco early this next week and will be spending time manning the Right Media/RMX Direct table at the Long Tail pavilion. So please stop by if you’re looking for a demo of RMX Direct or more information on what Right Media does.

Additionally I’ll be checking out sessions and blogging on anything interesting.