PandoMonthly’s Fred Wilson Talk

One of my new favorite things to do is watch the PandoMonthly videos.  They are really long – usually over 90 minutes – but it is a super in-depth interview with one of the internet’s big dogs.  My favorite one so far is a 2-hour video with John Doerr who worked early on at Intel and sits on the board of Google and Amazon. 

Last night i watched Fred Wilson’s interview.  Some highlights:

  • He talked about how it was a huge loss for Twitter to not buy Instagram.  He thought that with the trifecta of tweets, images and video, Twitter could challenge and possibly unseat Facebook.  But Twitter didn’t have the assets that FB had of pre-IPO shares or valuation to be able to offer them the amount they needed, thus they lost the sale.  He remarked on how it was just genius for Zuckerberg to recognize that possibility. 
  • He talked about CEO’s of his portfolios such as the Twitter trifecta, Etsy and Tumblr.  How Twitter is like the Beatles in that it had multiple creators who were all vital at different stages: Jack at stage 1 in building the product, Ev at stage 2 in building the company and Dick at stage 3 in building the business.  He also points to this terrific post about how Tumblr is all about David Karp and is really a one-person product. 
  • On that he told a story about how at Etsy, they were promoting the #2 guy to the CEO position and he went to the board and said, “hey, you’re promoting the wrong guy. That guy down the hall is beloved by the company, runs the biggest business unit and bleeds Etsy.  You should promote him.”  Pretty cool story of something putting the company’s interest above theirs. 
  • Hating Saas: he talked about why he hates investing in Saas companies (1:18 mark) because they get commoditized too easily. 
  • About bitcoin: he talked about how it is the closest thing he’s seen to a replacement for cash money and that’s why he’s investing.  He’s also investing there because he’s burnt out on social. 
  • About SnapChat: It’s not a replacement of instagram, but rather the text message (or WhatApp).  It’s not a photo service but rather a messaging service.  (see my thoughts on Snapchat here)
  • About blogging every day:  He hates how media distorts his message so he’s taken it on himself to create his own media so he can control it. 

All in all, some good stuff.  The full video is here:

Babel Tales by Peter Funch

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This is pretty cool.   A Danish photographer, Peter Funch, who lives and works in New York City has created a photo series called “Babel Tales” which consists of pictures of people passing New York City street corners.

Every photo is an edit of several photo’s he took at exactly the same spot in a period of two weeks. He then Photoshopped the images he captured to create the Babel Tales series.

The pictures are all pretty cool.  As a former New Yorker, i think these do a great job of catching the energy of the sidewalk.  People doing their own thing and creating a dynamic piece of art every second of the day.

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For a view of the whole series check out the Flickr photos

Real Thugs and The Wire


Many of you know of my love of The Wire.  You can imagine my excitement when i heard from BroncosRule about the NY Times running a series where a reporter sat down and watched Season 5 of The Wire with real-life gangsgters.  Columbia University sociologist, Sudhir Venkatesh, who has a new book “Gang Leader for a Day,” sits down and watches “The Wire” with a group of New York-area gang personnel.

  1. Part one: betting on who’s going to get it
  2. Part two: Being “a fly” meaning co-oping a cop and they all do it
  3. Part three: Butchie is very authentic and real thugs do cry
  4. Part four: The old days make you stupid. Prop Joe took his eye off the ball and paid for it.  Very real and very raw.  And the importance of The Greeks.
  5. Part five: Being “a coin” and politics.
  6. Part six: nobody keeps their word
  7. Part seven:
  8. Part eight:
  9. Part nine:

I couldn’t read 7-9 as i’m not yet done with Season 5.  I love these articles.

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New Media – What Will It Look Like

Toby and i have been debating and discussing what new media will look like.  His post today inspired me to lay down some of my thoughts. A lot of my thinking stems from this article in The Atlantic and Fred’s Post about his reading habits.

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The Atlantic post described how the NY Times is dead.  With $1 billion in debt, a $400 million dollar loan due in May and only $46 million in cash on hand, it is going down.  Even with the $250 million it got yesterday, it cannot continue to exist the way it is.  No newspaper can.  My beloved Star Tribune declared bankruptcy last too and that’s the beginning of the trend of all papers.

Why are they failing?  Because the business model is wrong.  They are trying to do too much.  They cover things that are commodities.  It’s as if every online music service tried to build an mp3 store to compete with iTunes and Amazon.  They don’t because those work great.  Newpapers try to cover every story: national and international news, sports, entertainment, etc. The local newspaper doesn’t need to cover most of they reports on today because their paper is not going to be the place where the public finds that information. When user’s get online, all of this news is available in other places, for free and in a better, deeper format.  For instance:

  • National and International news: this is covered by AP, Reuters, and CNN.com
  • Entertainment news: this can be found online (RottenTomatoes) or from national news and reviews from individual columnists (Ebert)
  • Sports: ESPN.com and bloggers will cover this

If a paper is covering any of these on their own, it is a losing proposition.  What’s left? The only thing is see is local news. I think local papers should focus on local news because everything else is a commodity.  Even bloggers will be able to fill the gaps left by major journals.

Toby talks in his post about the Huffington Post which i think is a piece of the puzzle but it’s only interesting because they are trying to be a news portal.  And i agree.  In my mind, most “papers” will shift online and instead of reporting the news, they will be filtering it. And if they don’t, they will die.  They better hurry up too, becuase places like the HuffPo are trying to get there first. You can already see how this is happening.  Filters are already part of people everyday lives the same way a paper used to be.  Technology aggregation and filtering is done at Techmeme, sport aggregation and filtering at ESPN, and news filters like CNN can replace almost any newspaper’s news coverage.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way.  More evidence came yesterday when ESPN announced a partnership with TrueHoop to place NBA blogs in their site because they know that they can’t cover everything.  You can see how techmeme is the “paper” of choice for Michael Arrington from TechCrunch.  He writes:

Image representing Techmeme as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

TechMeme is another four-year favorite. It is the blogosphere’s daily newspaper, and one of the sites we use most often in seeing how stories develop.

Will papers become local news sources?  I think that’s all that’s left for them.  But they better hurry up because local blogs like LAist.com and DCist.com are already attacking this niche and doing a better job than they are.

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Welcome to the Jungle….

As Axl Rose purportedly makes final preparations to put out Chinese Democracy any minute now (we hope!), Stephen Davis, the rock biographer behind 1985’s classic Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, is releasing his long-awaited Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N’ Roses. In it, Davis traces GN’R’s illustrious history all the way back to Rose’s origins as a disaffected Indiana kid named Bill Bailey. Here’s an excerpt from the book’s introduction:

Some think the legend of Guns N’ Roses began in the nighttime Los Angeles of 1985, a distant echo of West Hollywood’s neon-lit Sunset Strip. Others think it should begin ten years earlier, at the confluence of two Indiana rivers, the Wabash and the Tippecanoe, in the 1970s. But in this telling, the GN’R saga begins in gritty New York, in upper Manhattan, on a sweltering, run-down street in the late afternoon of a summer day in 1980

Continue reading Welcome to the Jungle….

The Ways Cities Talk

A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off.

I just moved to a new city and i couldn’t agree more with this statement. Over the past 10 years, I’ve lived in Palo Alto, Boston, New York, Hanover and most recently Washington DC and each one was a completely different experience. The people, the structure, the transportation, and the values all contribute to the conversation.  There is a feel to each city.  It’s very real

The article written here is called Cities and Ambition. It’s a great little essay and it argues that Cambridge is the intellectual capital of the world. He also comments on Los Angeles and it’s culture, saying:

The big thing in LA seems to be fame. There’s an A List of people who are most in demand right now, and what’s most admired is to be on it, or friends with those who are. Beneath that the message is much like New York’s, though perhaps with more emphasis on physical attractiveness.

Only a few weeks in and i can already tell that LA is a place that has several languages. The people “in the industry” have one culture and everyone else has another. One thing i have noticed is how entreprenurial people are in LA. One person remarked that this is because people have to be self-promoting in the entertainment industry. I’m not so sure. I think it’s because of two things in LA. First, there aren’t alot of steady, traditional jobs. Sure there are lawyers and consultants and bankers but most people in entertainment and “the industry” do not have a salary but instead or work for hire type people. Second, it’s cheap to live in LA. You can get a cheap apartment right in the middle of the city. So you mix lots of jobs that people can try for with an affordable surroundings and you get lots of people trying new things to make a buck or become famous.

The article also talks about ambition in general. Saying:

So far the complete list of messages I’ve picked up from cities is: wealth, style, hipness, physical attractiveness, fame, political power, economic power, intelligence, social class, and quality of life. I’d always considered ambition a good thing, but I realize now that was because I’d always implicitly understood it to mean ambition in the areas I cared about. When you list everything ambitious people are ambitious about, it’s not so pretty.

It is interesting to think about and makes you wonder which is worse, ambition of something ugly or no ambition at all?

I have loved living in the big cities of America. They are all different but great places that have changed my worldview. I’ve met very different and interesting people in all of them. I do believe it’s true that you don’t have to be raised in a city, and you don’t have to live in one later in life, but at some point you need to be surrounded by the conversations and the ambition that can be found in and about the bright lights of a big town. Or as the author says:

The Impressionists show the typical pattern: they were born all over France (Pissarro was born in the Carribbean) and died all over France, but what defined them were the years they spent together in Paris.

btw: please read the article. It’s good.

So long Santana

About 7 years ago, there was a “Free Johan Santana” movement in Minnesota that wanted the Twins to move the young left-handed phenom into the starting rotation. After Santana spent the majority of four years in the bullpen and another half-season at Triple-A, the Twins finally gave him a permanent spot in the rotation to begin the 2004 season. He immediately became the best pitcher in baseball, winning the AL Cy Young by going 20-6 while leading the league with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts.

In four seasons as a full-time starter Santana went 70-32, winning two ERA titles and three strikeout crowns while capturing a pair of Cy Young awards and deserving a third. It was an amazing metamorphosis. At 21 years old Santana was a little-known Rule 5 pick who showed some promise, at 23 years old he was an ace-in-waiting who dominated from the bullpen or rotation, and at 25 years old he was the best pitcher in baseball. Three years later he’d be the best pitcher in baseball and all of us in MN were pretty damn happy.

This week Johan was traded to the Mets for 4 prospects. While getting 4 unknowns for the best pitcher in baseball seems like a travesty, you can’t really think about it like that. Johan was going to be lost to free agency next year, so the Twins really were trading one season of the best pitcher in baseball for 4 prospects, which really isn’t that bad. The Twins have had great success in getting prospects and turning them into great players – in fact, that’s how we got Johan – so i’m not going to say all is lost

In a perfect world, we’d sign Johan and he’d be the best pitcher in baseball for another 10 years and he’d enter the Hall of Fame witha Twins cap on his head. The world just doesn’t work that way unfortunately, especially when you’re a small market team. So, all i can do is thank Johan for brightening my day every 5 games and wish him well.

I’m just happy he didn’t go to a Boston team, with Moss, Ortiz, and Garnett they’ve done enough.

Fortuitous Beauty of New York

According to Franz (the European academic) in Unbearable Lightness of Being

Beauty in the European sense has always had a premeditated quality to it. We’ve always had an aesthetic intention and a long-range plan. That’s what enabled Western man to spend decades building a Gothic cathedral or a Renaissance piazza. The beauty of New York rests on a completely different base. It’s unintentional. It arose independent of human design, like a stalagmitic cavern. Forms which are in themselves quite ugly turn up fortuitously, without design, in such incredible surroundings that they sparkle with a sudden wondrous poetry

Continue reading Fortuitous Beauty of New York

Mutual Appreciation: Not a Bad Indie Flick

This past weekend i checked out the uber-indie flick Mutual Appreciation. At first, i was completely bored, but then i began to notice that the film has some real brilliance.

The movie is about kids in the 20-30 year old post-college trying-to-figure-it out stage. The dialogue and self-awareness of the characters in the movie are dead-on. Most movies today over-narrate or even have voice-overs telling you exactly what’s happening every step of the way. This film instead builds scenes using awkward pauses, glances by the characters, and body language which is much more authentic and real.

The movie is about a recent college grad, Alan, who is a musician and leaves a busted-up band for New York. He tries to stay focused and fends off all types of distractions, including the attraction to his good friend’s girlfriend. There are some great scenes in the movie and some of the things i particularly liked are:

  • There is a strange series of events that occur when Alan stops by a party well after it has finished and hangs out with 3 drunk women. Normally this would result is a bizarre series of events that’s pretty funny but instead this film portrays how current gender relations have shifted and in today’s post-feminist era women end up completely dominating tentative males
  • The songs played in the film are really good. The first song, “Things are what you make of them” by Bishop Allen is a great tune. I tried to find out what the other ones were, but couldn’t. If anyone knows. please drop me a line (or comment below)
  • The movie is just raw and it is in a good way.
  • The dialogue is extremely accurate to what guys and girls age 22-30 would talk like. There are about 4 scenes in this movie that are exactly the same as my experiences in NY – the awkward and pompous dialogue of the over-educated and under employed sitting around acting sophisticated while drinking wine and staying up late.
  • In places you’d normally expect something to happen – like an event – nothing does. Instead, you see someone get verbally rejected or visually stimulated. This isn’t a movie about events but rather emotions. Depending on what type of movie watcher you are, this could be a great thing or a horrible thing.

(also, here’s a link (here) to an interview with one of the stars from the movie)