Posts Tagged ‘fred wilson’

Ode to True/Slant: First year of a news startup in rhyme

Posted by andreaitis on April 8, 2010

One single year has come and gone
Since the Alpha launch of
Launches tend to be crazy, that’s the default
Ours was no exception courtesy of Mossberg-comma-Walt

But let me back up, start with some history
Of how True/Slant first came to be
LD had the idea, he needed a check
He got the first round with a powerpoint deck


We sat in an office;  year 2008, month July
Just three of us then: Lewis, Coates and I
In the back right corner we commandeered our space
Our office christened once the whiteboard was in place

We talked, we drew, we diagrammed and graphed
We walked to the corner for lunch at ‘Wich Craft
We posted on Techcrunch for a CTO
Enter SMcNally; he had us at “Hello”

Like speed-dating we interviewed for UI and Design
Surely we met with at least eight or nine
Then James rolled in, the last one to show
With his Williamsburg skinny jeans and glasses; he had us at “No”

He was smart and clear but he did not hob-nob
J argued back.  As LD says, “That’s what got you the job.”
With the Athletes on board we could really begin
The beat was on: No Sleep Til Brooklyn

During this time I came to realize
A VC’s Fred Wilson was very nearby
Up one floor, in fact, and me a big fan
That’s how my Fred Wilson Watch began

Read the rest of this entry »


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Time's Person of the Year is Ben Bernanke: Who cares?

Posted by andreaitis on December 16, 2009

US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testi...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

By now we all know Time selected Ben Bernanke as Person of the Year.

Raise your hands for me, please, if you care.

No one?  Shocker.

It’s not about Ben Bernanke, although that certainly warrants a “Really?”.  It’s about Time.  I simply don’t care who Time thinks should be anointed person of the year.   Now more than ever it seems like a cheesy gimmick circa 1992.   I’m not even all that interested in a single person of the year.

I’d rather hear who Matt Taibbi thinks has been influential this year.  Jon Stewart,  Fred Wilson,  Sarah Silverman, Elie Mystal.  These are people whose perspectives are interesting to me.   I may agree with them, or disagree, but they are filters for how I absorb my world.    Their opinions are relevant and thoughtful and at times unexpected.  What’s Time’s perspective these days?  I dunno.  They no longer have a distinct voice, they’re  no longer a relevant filter for me.

So, uh, Time?  Get over yourself.   Your time has passed.

Posted in Business, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

8 techies who would be better American Idol judges than Ellen DeGeneres

Posted by andreaitis on September 10, 2009

Ellen DeGeneres at the 1987 Emmy awards

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I heard Ellen DeGeneres would be replacing Paula Abdul as the fourth judge on American Idol.  I thought it was a joke.  She’s a comedian.  It’s a pretty  ridiculous idea.  Yeah, good one, Simon Cowell.

But this morning, to my horror, Matt-Meredith-Al…one of them said it and I knew in that instant it must be true.  Still, like any good journalist I did some googling fact-checking.  The American Idol website confirms:

As the new judge, Ellen will offer her own unique perspective to the contestants throughout the competition.

Now, I like Ellen.  I’d totally enjoy having dinner or brunch with Ellen and Portia.  But I saw her as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance and it was awkward and  forgettable.   It was like she won the big audience raffle to be Judge for the Day.  Sure, I’d like to have that seat, too, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to sit in it (though I do still recall dance steps from a couple of recitals).

Anyway, Ellen should not be a judge on American Idol.  We must correct this horrid mistake immediately. Here are my suggestions for a fourth judge, from the tech world.  American Idol is all about start-ups, after all.  The human kind.

calacanis small8. Jason Calacanis.  Successful serial entrepreneur.  Founder and CEO of Mahalo.  Self-marketer extraordinaire, which is why some refer to him as Calacanus.  Would twitter constantly so we’d get behind-the-scenes scoopage.

lindzon7. Howard Lindzon.  Hedge fund manager, mega-successful digitial media entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of StockTwits.  Crude, rude, very funny and very smart.  Understands how to make it or break it in business and will challenge Idol contestants.  Did I mention crude and rude?  He’d be the anti-Paula.  Plus which, he’d likely lead the charge on a profitable cable spin-off,  American Porn Idol.

caterina fake 9-10-2009 10-23-19 AM6.  Caterina Fake.  Co-founder of Flickr and founder of new consumer advice site  She knows all about images and image, and that’s 50% of any Idol.  Lots of good Ryan Seacrest pun possibilities with names like Fake, Flickr and Hunch. Caterina will respond, showing Ryan’s name minus the letter ‘e.’

mossberg 9-10-2009 10-25-35 AM5.  Walt Mossberg.  Principle technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and co-founder of All Thing D.  In 2004, Wired called him ‘The Kingmaker.’  Knows how to review products, and isn’t that what we’re looking for on Idol?  The next great music machine.

mitchell 9-10-2009 10-29-23 AM4.  (Winifred) Mitchell Baker.  Chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation.  Affectionately called the “Chief Lizard Wrangler” at Mozilla.  Easily spotted by her asymmetrical haircut.  Trained as a lawyer and a trapeze artist.  Need I say more?

fred wilson 9-10-2009 10-33-53 AM3.  Fred Wilson.  Co-founder of Union Square Ventures, active VC, avid blogger and extreme music fan.  He has a great track record for picking investments (Twitter, Etsy, Feedburner, our T/S partner Zemanta).  Also, his musical tastes are in line with mine so maybe we’d get some indie sounds.

steve jobs 9-10-2009 10-12-27 AM 2.  Steve Jobs.  Who can imagine and deliver a product better than Apple’s main man Steve Jobs?  He’s just back after the liver transplant, but still looking pretty thin.  This job requires a lot of sitting down so he’d also get a bit of a rest. Oh, and there’s already an Idol-iTunes relationship.  Ka-ching, anyone?

mark cuban 1 9-10-2009 10-42-59 AM1. Mark Cuban.  Known as the Dot-Com Billionaire.  Self-proclaimed Blog Maverick and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.  He has reality TV experience from his Dancing with the Stars stint.  He says what he means and means what he says.  Loudly.  He’s an entertaining know-it-all who will  give Simon a run for his money.

Who’s missing from this list? Let’s Idol up, people.

Posted in Entertainment, technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Can Twitter learn from AOL's mistakes?

Posted by andreaitis on September 9, 2009

Biz Stone

Image by Joi via Flickr

When a business’ growth chart looks like a hockey stick, it’s sometimes hard to keep up.   In the case of Twitter, co-founder Biz Stone describes the incredible upswing as  “growing like gangbusters.”   I like that description.  There’s inherent joy and wonder in those words, and the Twitter team certainly deserves to revel in their 20 million users (according to ComScore) for at least a minute or two.  As they do, though, the revenue chant continues to grow.  A business is, after all, a business.  And it goes to reason that 20 million users oughta translate into some kinda cash flow.

Yesterday,  Stone announced that Twitter plans to add services for businesses to generate revenue in Q4 ‘o9.

The products might include an “analytics dashboard” to help companies monitor Tweets about their business, or verified corporate Twitter accounts, Stone told reporters yesterday at an event in Mexico City…  Companies using the service to communicate with customers may be willing to pay for added features, Stone said.

The paid services would probably be offered on a limited basis at first, Stone said. He didn’t say how much they will cost or how much revenue they could generate.

via Twitter to Generate Revenue as Site Grows Like ‘Gangbusters’ –

Fair enough.  The Twitter team strikes me as a smart and thoughtful bunch.  When they first started growing and fail whale sightings were far too frequent, Twitter  bought the Summize team to increase their development prowess.  I’d be skeptical of a knee-jerk revenue plan.   I think this steady progress is encouraging.

Three points in the story caught my eye, though.

1. Stone said the company has a goal of expanding from about 65  to 100 employees this year. Sixty-five employees.  Sixty-five!  That sounds like a lot to me.   Summize had 5 employees, so that purchase didn’t increase their Twitterage by much.  And a when the Guardian reported from Inside Twitter HQ six weeks ago, the staff number was 52.  Sounds like some explosive growth is happening inside the company, too.

2.  Twitter has 20 million users.  Not all of them actively engaged, but in Dr. Evil terms that’s still 20 meeeellion users.  When I joined AOL in 1997, they were just hitting 10 million.  I remember because I was a contractor at first, and I didn’t get the 10 Million Member plaque.  At its peak, AOL had 30 million members, and in 2007 it was back down to 10 million.   I think entire college courses can be taught on the rise and fall of AOL, and the continuing revisioning.   Communication was AOL’s initial and longstanding core; Twitter might learn a few things about how to handle their future by looking at AOL’s past.

3.  Stone also said they’re “working on a project to help new users discover others who might have similar interests or who live nearby.”    That gave me a Wayne and Garth back-to-the-future flashback:  AOL. 2002.  Match Chat.

I was managing AOL’s community products in those days, and we were trying to make it easier for AOL users to discover others who shared their interests.  Sound familiar?  We created Match Chat, allowing people to search in real-time for other users chatting about specific topics, along with relevant chat rooms.   Instantly connect with others who share your interests.   Here, I dug up a pic from  my files.


You could search on usernames, keywords or topics;  schedule a Match Chat and receive an alert or reminder; even invite others to Match Chat.  All in real time.   Pretty cool, right?  Epic fail.   Oh, it all worked and did what we said it would do, but no one was really interested at that time.  Of course, there are things I would try today that we didn’t do back then.  But seven years later, people  are much more adventurous and outgoing in their online interaction in large part thanks to Twitter.   We had a good idea but bad timing.

As Fred Wilson said in his post today,

“Don’t hide your failures. Wear them as a badge of honor. And most of all, learn from them.”

So, @biz, @ev and @jack: I learned a few things from AOL and Match Chat.  I”ve got some more screenshots and notes lying around.  Maybe even a PRD.  DM me if you want to (match) chat.

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startup’ing, month 8: thinking inside the box

Posted by andreaitis on February 26, 2009

i call this our macgyver period.

it all started with a not-so-little office drama.  we had a funny feeling about our nice digs in union square (yes, one floor below fred wilson!).   we were subletting, had carved out the space in the back right corner as our own…but noticed that, uhhh, the rest of the place was getting emptier and emptier.  so we huddled and quickly decided we needed a new place.  and then our landlord decided he wouldn’t continue renting the union square office at all.  since you can’t sublet if there’s no one to sublet from, the building decided to pleasantly evict us.  of course, all of this coincided with our alpha release #4.

within 48 hours our fearless leader announced it was done:  a new office that was bigger, cheaper and had seven windows, available march 1st.  unfortunately, it was january 27th.  we had another product release coming up, and a board meeting, and no place to work.   enter: the box.  we took a temp office in the helmsley building.  sounds nice, right?  join me for the trip to the box:

it was, in essence, an alice in wonderland office.  or something out of being john malkovich.  i actually didn’t mind it at first…until the connectivity problems.  and the loud day-traders next door.   and the game of musical chairs that meant the last person who arrived had to use a small file cabinet as a desk.   and the loose electrical outlet that sparked and sizzled.  and the lack of any windows which, ultimately, made it feel like we were working at a casino.  and the random electrical shocks from just, y’know, sitting down and touching a laptop.  pretty sure our cto got some free electro-shock therapy.

but, now that it’s my last day in the box… i might actually miss it a little.   it was cramped and crazy, but while we were there we released alpha #5 on time, and made it through another energetic board meeting.

oh!  i was also reblogged by fred wilson.  that’s like a rite of passage, isn’t it?  a blog mitzvah?  it was paul westerberg singing Waitress in the Sky.  after westerberg’s hit by a beer bottle in the middle of the song, he smoooothly slips in some improv lyrics without missing a beat.

i guess that’s kind of what we did in t/s month 8…improv.   minus the flying beer bottle.

improv-ing-ly yours –

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dude, where’s my journalist?

Posted by andreaitis on January 13, 2009

a couple of things happened over the last few days that got me thinking:

1.  i was on a call to prep for a digital breakfast panel on the future of news and information.  it’s put together by gotham media ventures, and will be at the harvard club.  fancy.   the call was supposed to be a quick intro but lasted twice as long because, rather than just prepping, we got into the actual conversation ourselves.

2.  fredwilson wrote avoiding the big yellow taxi moment, a post about newspapers, journalists, reporters and the yet-to-be-solved business model.  it prompted a lively and insightful discussion with  over 150 responses — including a comment  from our ceo.

3.  i spoke to a sportswriter who is now teaching journalism at loyola college in maryland.   i asked her:  how do you teach journalism today?   she said she is asked that question more than any other.

it occurred to me this morning that there is a correlation between what’s happening in the video world and what’s happening in the print world.   we used to watch tv by network — must-see-tv on nbc — we were loyal to the network.  now, i can watch tv on my pc or when i’m mobile using hulu, or i can use boxee and watch anything i want on my tv.  i become the network.   my loyalty is not to the tv networks of old, but to the shows and personalities.    i watch house and  jon stewart and true beauty.    (btw, ashton kutcher and tyra banks might be geniuses.)

it’s the same with print.  i talk about andrew sullivan’s  ‘why i blog’ and michael hirschorn’s ‘end times.’ both are connected to the atlantic, but that’s not how i reference them.  i am aligned with the writer, not the publication.  my loyalty is to the human brand.  this isn’t 100%, of course.  there is credibility attached to certain media brands, tho that’s been impacted by an influx of fakes and phonies like jayson blair and stephen glass, among others.

which leads me to my next thought:  are journalists a dying breed?   to me,  ‘journalist’ was a word uttered with wistful reverence.  it was aspirational, something to work for and earn, almost like being knighted.   in all my years in news, i never called myself a journalist; i thought of myself as a storyteller.  but i know i did the job with integrity and ethics.  i know i was careful and thoughtful in my reporting.  i was never cavalier; the details mattered.

there are different pieces to being a journalist: the research, the angle, the hunches, the facts, the writing, the presentation….the parameters when you’re chasing the story, and the boundaries when you’re telling the story.   it’s the training, the skills that build solid reporting and credibility, that allow you to responsibly push those boundaries.

anyone can  ‘report’ today.  we all know that, and we’ve talked about mass quantity and the credibility spectrum.  but below the surface is this question: will the next generation learn the skills of basic reporting?  will they want to, or will they feel it’s unnecessary because they can instantly publish?  we learned so much of the craft from actually being in a newsroom, eavesdropping on phone conversations and hanging out in the bar.   every newsroom in every media company had such a bar.  we didn’t even use the name, just called it ‘across the road.’    i’m not sure digital communication can replace that physical presence.   and those bars?  some aspiring journalist would do well to take a tour of those bars and pubs.  there are stories to be heard and stories to be told, and they won’t be there forever.

it’s possible today to  be a ‘reporter’ without ever leaving your house.    i’m just not sure that’s a good thing.   the role of the journalist will be redefined and reshaped as the industry continues to change; we’re just at the beginning of that transformation.  and up-and-coming journalists?  i guess the ones who will make it will understand the steps they need to take along the way.  at least, i hope so.   because, content isn’t king anymore.  credibility is.

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startup’ing, the second trimester

Posted by andreaitis on December 9, 2008

there is a rhythm to the startup cycle, at least for us.  the first three months or so were the dreamy times: everything fresh and new, imagining what we might build and how it might work, all 3…then 4 of us conspiring together in gleeful anticipation.

then, in the fourth month, there was a noticeable shift.   just as we were launching our first bits of functionality, the mood changed.  personalities became…sharper.  not in a bad way, it just suddenly became simultaneously apparent that this is all real.  big, and real.  seeing some working parts pushed us along, and we each became intensely focused on our particular role, what we had to bring to the project.  for the guys, that meant they were grumpy at times.   i, of course, was a ray of sunshine.  as always.  ;-p

we’ve continued to launch other bits and pieces in a closed alpha, and that initial burst of intensity has eased into a good, constant buzz.  we’ve got a name, a tagline and a logo.  we’re working on site design now, and prepping for our second board meeting.  and, still, seeing signs along the way.   when we were at the jeff jarvis news summit a few weeks ago i happened to notice a display in the hallway: the new york herald tribune.   our tagline — “News is more than what happens” — is a quote from jock whitney, publisher of the new york herald tribune.  there’s more to that story for another time, but here’s a look at the display…

we’re finishing up our second trimester in a good place.  more after the board meeting…

buzzingly yours –

ps:  oh!!!  i saw fred wilson TWICE last week.  once in the elevator, and once when i went with our New Guy to the sandwich place around the corner.  i think i was a little less dorky, but fred wilson would have to confirm that.  of course, he doesn’t really know my usual level of dorkiness so it might be hard for him to judge…

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today is the day i met fred wilson

Posted by andreaitis on October 23, 2008

really.  i did.   and it happened through happenstance.

we attended the New Business Models for News Summit today at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.  the program, in its second year, is organized by jeff jarvis and had an all-star turnout.   andrew heyward, craig newmark, jay rosen,  larry kramer … so many others and … fred wilson.  but, it wasn’t just that fred wilson was attending the summit.  oh, no … fred wilson was also the leader of my break-out session.  yep.

all through the strange happenings of happenstance.

so, here it is.  i get to meet fred wilson.  and, it’s weird.  because, as it turns out, the moral of today’s story is this:  social media = social awkwardness.

let me explain.   i keep up with the must-read industry blogs.  including fred’s blog,   i follow the usual culprits on twitter.  including fred wilson.    between blog posts and twitter, you get to know someone. the music they like.  the sports teams they follow.  their perspectives and opinions.  the things that make them happy and the things that drive them up the wall.

these social media mechanisms create an intimacy with people you have never met.  i know stowe boyd wakes up every day and twitters ‘good morning edgelings.’   i know jeff jarvis was working on his book while on the acela train.   and i know fred wilson has currently been on an okkervil river kick.

so i know stuff about fred wilson.   and as i was about to meet him, i felt like maybe i’d rather not.   that meeting him after i already ‘know’ him was some strange social shift, going in reverse from personal to impersonal.

and let me be clear: i am not the socially awkward type.  i am typically the one who puts people at ease.  after all, i spent years convincing people to spill their guts on national television.

but the flow of social media meanderings – publicly available, open to all – creates this sense of intimacy.  our tech version of the celebrity syndrome, i suppose.   in our world, though, we have no paparazzi.  we control the flow of information.  it is, in many ways, a social experiment: what goes out, what comes back, what evolves…

and my little experiment still leads me here:  social media = social awkwardness.

the panel led by fred wilson was great – an active, open, lively discussion.  the meeting of fred wilson was okay.  slight to moderate awkwardness.   on my part, at least.   i really don’t know him well enough to gauge what he thought.   we’ll see if he swings by to check out our prototype.  i hope so.  i’d kind of like a do-over.

socially yours –

Posted in me, tech | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

fred wilson watch

Posted by andreaitis on September 20, 2008

i have not yet orchestrated the accidental bump-in.

and, shockingly, i haven’t even wandered up to fred’s floor to scope out the union square ventures office situation.  i deserve some kinda medal for all the restraint i’m exerting.  not to mention the embarrassment i’m not causing the rest of the company (all 3 of them).   unless they’re reading this, of course.

anyway, i just know the chance meeting with fred wilson will happen soon.
two close calls must mean something:

1.  i saw the back of his partner brad burnham’s head as he was leaving the building.
here’s a picture of brad burnham from the front, so you can imagine what he looked like from the back.

b. i saw this twitter message from fred:

60 minutes away from meeting fred wilson

60 minutes away from meeting fred wilson

i was at taralucci’s exactly one hour after fred wilson.

at that very same spot.  and it’s small, so i was probably even standing exactly where he stood.  ‘course, i was getting gelato instead of espresso.  but still!!!  surely this is a sign.  of what, i’m not sure, but a sign nonetheless.

so i asked lewis, our ceo, what he would say to fred wilson if he happened to see him in the elevator.  a possible scenario, requiring an actual elevator pitch.

“what would you say?” i asked.

“why do you ask me these things?” he answered.

and then, after the obligatory eye-rolling (which, yes, i get a lot),  he proceeded to give me the pitch.  it was good, and definitely do-able in 13 floors.

and now i know fred’s not a shine deli kinda guy.

the fred wilson watch 2008 continues…

unabashedly yours,

ps – i wonder if anyone ever calls him freddy.

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startup’ing, month 1

Posted by andreaitis on August 1, 2008

well, it’s actually month 1 + a day.  i’m on the train, all geeked out with my laptop and mobile air card and ipod and bleary glazed eyes.   i’m getting into a routine.  i know for sure because the guy at the shine deli knew what i was going to order this morning.  plus which, he smiled at me as if he remembered me.  i like that in a corner deli.

it’s been a good month.  we’re in an office near union square.  fred wilson is in our office building.  i haven’t met him yet, but i’ve been threatening to ride the elevator up and down and up and down until i do, um, accidentally meet him.   he’s a techebrity.  and i like his taste in music.   and he’s smart.  and it would be kinda cool.  i know what you’re thinking, but i won’t hit him up for funding.  we’re lucky enough to already have some funding.  besides, that would be tacky.  as opposed to, y’know, my elevator plan.

startup office plants

hello, office plants

there are just 3 of us so far.  until today.  it was a big day today.

we hired a cto and bought 3 plants for the office.
see?   i think i might have to name them.

we’re stealthy right now, but- to recap – here’s what i can tell you:   we have some funding…we’re building something in the news space…our office is near union square…we just hired a cto….we have one plant that needs water every day, another that needs water twice a week, and a third that needs water once a week.  and i can’t remember which is which so take a good look at the office plants now while they’re still green.

oh, and i think i’m officially a regular at the shine deli.   those are all the facts for now.

factually yours,

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