SAN FRANCISCO All eyes are on Facebook Inc., which is on the verge of a $100-billion initial public stock offering./pp But the people to watch are an elite group of former company insiders. Already loaded, or soon to be, thanks to the looming Wall Street payday, these Facebook pals are furiously building the next generation of Silicon Valley companies./pp And they’re doing it together./pp Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, the world’s youngest billionaire at 27, has teamed with Facebook alumnus Justin Rosenstein on Asana, which makes online software that helps people work together more effectively./pp Adam D’Angelo, Facebook’s first chief technology officer, is working with Facebook pal Charlie Cheever on Quora, a website whose aim is to connect people to information./pp Former Facebook executive Matt Cohler is now a venture capitalist bankrolling his old co-workers, including Dave Morin, who runs a mobile social network called Path./pp “Very few people get to change the world with their friends. Now we are setting out to do it again,” said Kevin Colleran, 31, Facebook’s first ad sales guy, who’s now an investor handing out money and advice./pp Whether these Facebook friends, most still in their 20s, can deliver on these youthful ambitions remains to be seen. Silicon Valley is littered with the wreckage of onetime meteors that burned through all their hype and cash./pp What’s clear is that it pays to have friends like these in Silicon Valley, where it’s all about whom you know and whom you work with./pp Innovation, researchers have found, is an inherently social act, owing as much to these tightknit networks as the garage tinkering of individual entrepreneurs./pp “The basic unit of innovation in Silicon Valley is the team,” Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo said. “Innovation is an irrational act, and the only way to get through that irrationality is to surround yourself with other people as crazy and obsessed with changing the world as you are.”/pp For decades, these networks have seeded Silicon Valley with breakthrough ideas and ventures. It all began with Frederick Terman, who, as a young Stanford faculty member in the 1930s, encouraged his engineering students William Hewlett and David Packard to start a company. Terman brought together young entrepreneurs and local industry, giving rise to a powerful and wealthy high-tech community to rival the East Coast./pp Interlocking social networks were forged in cubicles across Silicon Valley. In the 1960s the “traitorous eight” defected from Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to start a competing company./pp Fairchild Semiconductor quickly surpassed Shockley and became a training ground for engineers. When it began to stumble, the original eight founders moved on to new ventures. Eugene Kleiner became one of the region’s most important venture capitalists. Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce co-founded Intel Corp./pp The most famous social network is the “PayPal mafia,” a high-profile band of executives who sold the payments company to EBay Inc. They then built and backed some of the hottest companies in Silicon Valley, including Yelp, YouTube and Facebook. Facebook’s first Silicon Valley investor was Peter Thiel of Founders Fund, who was PayPal’s chief executive and co-founder./pp Now it’s the Facebook pals’ turn. With social networking wired into their brains, who better to out-friend the PayPal mafia?/pp “We have all been through the experience of building something that had a massive, massive impact on the world. Going out a second time and starting a new company, nothing short of that is very interesting,” Moskovitz said in an interview in Asana’s San Francisco headquarters. “Everyone is mission-oriented. They want to do something that will touch everyone on Earth.”/pp He and Rosenstein are building software that breaks down communication barriers so that people can collaborate more effectively. It’s a labor of love that dates back to their days at Facebook. As the company grew, it became harder for Moskovitz to keep tabs on what various teams were doing./pp So he built a tool to help Facebook employees organize and discuss tasks. He and Rosenstein bonded over their shared desire to create ways to work more efficiently. In 2008, they left Facebook to concentrate on building a tool to help any group of people be more productive and stay on track./pp “We are focused on building a company that will last. We expect to be a $100-billion company,” said Rosenstein, 28. “We run the company with the intent and the expectation to be the next in that lineage.”/pp D’Angelo, 27, and Cheever, 30, have similarly lofty goals. Over Chinese food in Facebook’s offices in the fall of 2008, they began discussing QA sites that enabled users to answer one another’s questions. The services were wildly popular. But the answers were often wrong or useless./pp D’Angelo and Cheever decided they could do better, so they started work on Quora in 2009. They rented cramped offices over an art supply store in an old building in Palo Alto, hired programming and design prodigies, and got experts to weigh in with thoughtful, authoritative answers to hundreds of thousands of questions./pp Traffic grew quickly as Quora won over fans with answers that were not only smart but entertaining:/pp “What’s the best way to escape the police in a high-speed car chase?” A former Missouri police officer responded that it’s easy if you pick a jurisdiction where authorities are bound by strict pursuit guidelines to avoid liability./pp “If you injure a bug, should you kill it or let it live?” An entomologist responded that insects don’t feel pain the way that vertebrates do, so there’s no need to put them out of their misery./pp Quora landed $11 million in funding and an $86-million valuation via Benchmark Capital’s Cohler and now has 33 employees./pp Like others in the Facebook network, D’Angelo and Cheever seem to read each other’s thoughts and finish each other’s sentences. The depth of these friendships is unusual even in Silicon Valley. These Facebook pals don’t just call on one another for money and advice, start companies together and sit on each other’s boards. They also hook up to celebrate life’s big moments./pp Ruchi Sanghvi was Facebook’s first female engineer and one of the first 10 hired at the company. She and her husband, Aditya Agarwal, were Carnegie Mellon graduates who came to Facebook as a couple in 2004. In 2010 when they wed on a beach in Goa, India, dozens of their Facebook friends joined them for a weeklong family celebration. Among them was Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in a long silk sherwani jacket./pp “With this network, you are never lonely,” said Sanghvi, who with Agarwal last month sold their start-up Cove to San Francisco’s Dropbox. “It’s not just a work fabric. It’s our life fabric.”/pp /pp Each winter a couple of dozen of them pile into a house at a Colorado ski resort that belongs to the family of Facebook executive Sam Lessin. This snowy retreat hundreds of miles from Silicon Valley is the gathering place for the “Lothlorien Life Conference,” or LLC for short. Named after the forest realm in “The Lord of the Rings,” LLC is the event no one misses, a time for friends to slice down the mountain and swap advice./pp That’s where Morin, 31, decided to turn down a $125-million offer from Google Inc. for Path. It was 2010, and he had just launched Path and didn’t want to sell it, nor did he want to help Google take on Facebook. But he was under pressure from investors and employees./pp Morin huddled in a quiet corner of the living room with Moskovitz and Founders Fund’s Brian Singerman, both investors in Path. They talked late into the night and all the next day. Moskovitz reminded Morin about how Zuckerberg wrestled with the $1-billion buyout offer from Yahoo Inc. in the early days of Facebook./pp “I told Dave he simply didn’t need to do it and, even if he subsequently failed, that would be OK,” Moskovitz said. “After that it was clear that a huge weight had been lifted.”/pp Morin said he couldn’t get by without that kind of help from his friends. Path has raised a new round of funding that values the company at $250 million, and it has more than 2 million users, including Britney Spears./pp “We built Facebook, and it’s ingrained in how we think. I think in networks now,” Morin said. “It would be hard for me to think any other way.”/pp No one in the Facebook network has any intention of cashing in his or her chips any time soon, Colleran said. Facebook’s employee No. 7 left the company in July. He just signed on to a new gig as a venture partner with General Catalyst Partners in Boston./pp “I believe after Asana, after Path, after Quora, there will be another company, and then another one, and another one,” Colleran said./pp “If we are all going to be hanging out anyway, why not be productive and change the world? It’s a whole lot better than sitting around and saying, ‘Remember that time at Facebook?’ We’re all way too young for that.”
Barely a year into Google’s social initiative, Google+, the company has decided to re-imagine the user interface. But while Google says the focus is on a simpler, less cluttered approach, the refresh speaks volumes about where social as a whole is headed: It’s about the widgetization of social.
Overall, the new Google+ look is cleaner and seems to make better use of the real estate. But the most telling revision is the relocation of the widgets — Photos, Circles, Hangouts, Profile, etc. — from a static position at the top left corner of the screen to a dynamic “ribbon” flanking the left side of the page. Now you can even re-order and effectively ”hide” them in a place called “More,” which reveals its contents when you mouse over.
Right now, reorganizing the widgets isn’t that big a deal because there aren’t many of them. So expanding the place where they live, and giving us more control over their arrangement, is a pretty big clue that Google+ will be adding something else: Apps.
Google didn’t say this, exactly. But infer what you will from this statement by Google SVP Vic Gundotra in a blog post on Wednesday:
“A critical piece of this social layer is a design that grows alongside our aspirations,” Gundotra says.
Social products (or ones with a social emphasis) like Facebook and Spotify are moving towards becoming app and widget platforms in and of themselves; Facebook at its F8 developer conference last year revealed the ‘open graph’ to the world for the first time, which allows developers to more fully integrate their applications with the Facebook platform. No more than a few weeks afterwards Spotify became a music platform for third-party app developers.
In a way, this is Google playing a subtle game of one-upsmanship with the world’s largest social network it is trying to dent: Facebook, too, has a section devoted to widgets and user apps on the left-hand side of the home screen, where users can organize their apps according to preference. But Facebook’s UI is clunky. It isn’t readily apparent that it can be reorganized. And unlike Google’s app ribbon, it’s not drag-and-drop. As Facebook integrates more apps into its platform, I would assume their UI wil improve as well (at least, I hope so).
Google is smart to get the jump on this. The future of social platforms depends in large measure on the ability to wrangle a growing number of services and features than can be referenced on a user’s home page. The more you get people to use applications that integrate well with your platform, the more chance you have of increasing user engagement. More user engagement means more ads, the bread and butter of Facebook and presumably Google+ (though Google+ currently does not feature display ads prominently like Facebook, ads that users have +1′ed in Google search results will appear in the +1 section of a user’s Google+ profile).
While it’s only one part of a many changes — more emphasis on full-bleed photos, the creation of an entire section dedicated to Hangouts (Google’s group video chat feature), among others — the it’s the most future-focussed, as Gundotra seems to hint at in the blog post. ”We’ve also built the ribbon with the future in mind, giving us an obvious (and clutter-free) space for The Next Big Feature, and The Feature After That,” he writes. “So stay tuned.”
Photo: The new Google+, as seen through staff writer Christina Bonnington’s upgraded profile
The new Android app from Instagram, which was recently gobbled up by Facebook, has racked up 5 million downloads.
Matthew Shaer /
April 11, 2012
Earlier this week, Facebook announced the acquisition of photo-sharing hub Instagram. The price tag? A reported $1 billion in stock options and cash, a hefty chunk of change even for a company that could soon be valued at $100 billion.
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In a message to users, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintained that although Facebook and Instagram offered very “different experiences, that the two platforms would “complement each other.”
“This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.”
But today comes news that Facebook may have been prescient in gobbling up Instagram. According to VentureBeat, the new Instagram Android application tallied up a million downloads in the first 24 hours it was available. And it wasn’t just a quick burst of interest, either – over six days, downloads of the Android app topped five million. “Insta-growth,” VentureBeat called it. (30 million users already reportedly access Instagram through Apple’s iOS.)
The question now is whether Instagram can continue to thrive under Facebook control, points out Mike Isaac of Wired.
“Upon any relatively small startup being absorbed by a larger company, there’s almost always change in structure, workflow and even long-term product goals,” Isaac writes. “While both Mark Zuckerberg and Burbn CEO Kevin Systrom both promised that Instagram would continue as the standalone brand and product it is now, it’s difficult to imagine that the social giant’s influence won’t affect Instagram’s evolution at all.”
For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter.
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Last week, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) called President Barack Obama stupid.
Using Twitter he wrote, “Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof of con law.”
Now, first of all, I think if you’re going to go out on a limb and call the President of the United States “stupid” — especially one educated at Harvard — you should be really careful about writing something like, “Bcause Am ppl r not stupid.”
Actually, if you are going to call anyone “stupid,” you should be really careful about writing something like, “Bcause Am ppl r not stupid.”
Actually, if you’re going to call anyone stupid, period, for absolutely any reason at all, you’re probably best advised not to use as your outlet something whose root word is “twit.” However, if you do feel utterly compelled to tweet and convey to the world that you believe someone is stupid, it’s probably a good thing to craft your thoughts beforehand and try really, really hard to make it sound thoughtful, credible and substantive. “Bcause Am ppl r not stupid” sort of backfires on you.
Secondly, if you’re a U.S. Senator and want to address philosophical differences with the President of the United States, you’re really doing yourself and your constituents a huge disservice by limiting yourself to 140 characters. There are perfectly good reasons to use Twitter if you’re a Senator (like maybe you saw Justin Timberlake at the restaurant you’re at and want voters to think you’re cool). But name-calling the American President isn’t one of them. It’s the equivalent of a 12-year-old texting, “Becky is so mean. I hate her.” (Or, as Mr. Grassley would put it, “Bcky mean i h8 hr.”) If you’re a U.S. Senator and you have serious, valid issues with the Leader of the Free World, you actually have far better options at your disposal than most seventh graders.
For starters, your local TV station would be thrilled to do an in-depth interview with their senator. Or you could call Fox Friends, who would fall over themselves to have an actual senator willing to slam President Obama on air. They might even turn it into a primetime Sean Hannity Special. But if you didn’t want to go on television for fear of having to extemporize, then simply lay out your charges on your personal website — all U.S. senators have them, free of charge. It’s one of the job perks. Or better yet, if you want to seem hip (as you surely do because you have a Twitter account), put your presidential blast on YouTube — maybe it’ll go viral! Or just write something for Facebook. You can not only criticize the president, but actually take the time to explain why you think he is stupid and do so in a contemplative way that can be scathing in its details and show u to b a gr8 thinker. That’s the thing about limiting your whining to 140-characters — it pretty much suggests that you don’t have anything meaningful to say.
But third, though, there’s this. That pesky matter of perspective. The always-problematic “Consider the source” kind of thing. After all, if you’re going to go on record stating that the “Am ppl r not stupid” but the President of the United States is — then you probably don’t want to be on record trying to terrify those same Am ppl by suggesting Your Government is trying to kill old people.
He wasn’t even being metaphorical about Death Panels™: Charles Grassley (R-IA) told an Iowa town hall meeting in 2009, that you should be actually scared. “You have every right to fear,” he fearfully insisted. And then added, “We should not have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma.”
To be clear, we don’t have a government program that determines if you’re going to pull the plug on grandma. And anyone who thought we did is, actually, really stupid. And you don’t have to be an “x prof of con law” to figure out why.
Mind you, unlike Charles Grassley sniping at President Obama, I don’t think the Republican senator is stupid. I think he was shamefully pandering to that town hall crowd and pandering with his tweet. But ultimately, when you’re a United States senator and claim that Americans should fear that the government is going to pull the plug on grandma — and then insist, “Bcause Am ppl r not stupid,” you’ve not only ceded the high ground, you’ve started digging a hole to get as low as possible.
It’s the same pattern we see as Republicans try to rile their party by attacking any word out of Barack Obama’s mouth for the sole reason that it’s out of Barack Obama’s mouth. There’s no attempt to offer any thought or explanation. It’s the political equivalent of having the Terrible Two’s. Stomping your feet, pouting and crying, “No!!” just because someone else said “Yes.”
It’s fine to disagree. But actual leadership demands thought. Reasoning. The “why.” Without it, you’ll always come across like a twit. And the Am ppl deserve better. Because in the end, it’s true. The Am ppl r not stupid. It’s just that some senators keep treating them that way.
Betty White has joined Twitter, and why not? All the kids are doing it.
“Hello Twitter!,” she wrote Tuesday afternoon. “And they said it would never happen. Oh wait, that was me.”
Her debut on the micro-blogging site coincides with the premiere of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” her new hidden-camera show on NBC that will have senior citizens pranking the younger generation. Which suddenly makes us wonder if the whole Twitter thing is actually a … wait a sec … whew. The account’s verified, @BettyMWhite.
White then proceeded to flirt with Ryan Seacrest, whose longtime Fox ratings magnet “American Idol” is up against “Rockers” at 8 p.m.
“Hey @RyanSeacrest — my new show airs tomorrow and I hear we’re in the same time slot. I’ve always dreamed of sharing a night with you…”
Naughty Betty. But it’s working: With only three tweets, the “Hot in Cleveland” actress is at more than 135,000 followers and counting in less than 24 hours.
Let’s hope the feed grows to include more than clever show promotion, and lots of that wicked White voice.
Photo: Betty White at “The Lorax” premiere in Universal City on Feb. 19. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Perhaps acknowledging that iron-clad security isn’t always fun, RIM announced plans to allow users of its BlackBerry Messenger service to view updates from the popular social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.
It may come as a shock but loyal BlackBerry Messenger addicts exist in a corporate walled garden lacking a link to the engaging (or distracting) social media action their friends and followers are up to. That’s all about to change with RIM unveiling plans to add Facebook and Twitter sharing via their respective apps (Version 3.0) in the BlackBerry App World store.
If this news doesn’t exactly blow your socks off, well that shouldn’t come as a surprise either. RIM just managed to bring email to its struggling PlayBook
tablet with the PlayBook OS 2.0 launch in February.
Still, I’ve always said that RIM does hardware really well and the updated PlayBook paired with its new BlackBerry Mini Keyboard with Convertible Case is designed with care. It’s a shame the combo’s heart aches for the caress of loving and more useful apps.
RIM’s BlackBerry World show is right around the corner (May 1 to May 3) and they just may catch all the naysayers off guard by announcing some hot new BlackBerry 10 phones and tablets. I’ll be sweating it out in the Orlando heat to find out first hand.
But not everyone is on Facebook (really!), and Spotify would like many more users. This should help: Spotify is rolling out a feature that will let the rest of the Web integrate the service, via a “play button” widget, onto their pages.
So everyone from the Huffington Post to Rolling Stone to your average Tumblr user — Tumblr is incorporating the feature right into its main dashboard — can incorporate free tunes onto their sites. And Spotify gets a whole new set of promotional partners.
To read the rest of the post go to: Spotify Moves Beyond Facebook With a “Play Button” For the Rest of the Web
In the first ruling of its kind in the United States, Maryland’s General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting employers from demanding employee user names and passwords to Facebook and other social networks, the Baltimore Sun reports. It currently awaits Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature.
“We are proud of Maryland for standing up for the online privacy of employees and the friends and family members they stay in touch with online,” Melissa Goemann, legislative director of ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. “Our state has trail-blazed a new frontier in protecting freedom of expression in the digital age, and has created a model for other states to follow.”
Employers and colleges demanding Facebook passwords or other inappropriate access to social network profiles gained national attention last month after Bob Sullivan of msnbc.com’s Red Tape Chronicles first broke the story of this not uncommon practice. Since then, representatives in several states have been making noise about legislation similar to Maryland’s bill.
The ACLU got the ball rolling a year prior, when the ACLU state chapter posted a YouTube video featuring the personal account by Robert Collins, who was asked to hand over his password by his employer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), and was told this was standard procedure. Following the viral video stink, the DPSC dropped the practice, but the ACLU didn’t drop the subject.
“I am excited to know that our esteemed policymakers in Maryland found it important to protect the privacy of Maryland’s citizens,” Collins said in a statement after the bill passed unanimously in the state Senate and by a wide margin in Congress. “I believe privacy should not be an alternative in lieu of securing employment, but a fundamental right.”
In March, two U.S. senators asked federal agencies to look into whether employers and colleges that are asking for access to individual Facebook profiles are breaking the law. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., made the request along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who said he’s writing legislation that would outlaw employers from requesting Facebook passwords.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer on policy, recently decried the practice of employers asking for access to Facebook accounts. She went on to say that such requests are a direct violation of Facebook’s terms of service and “it also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”
BY HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
Facebook obviously has learned one lesson of the Internet bubble. If you have a $100 billion market cap and no way to make money, find a way to spend it.
We’re being mean. The $1 billion Mark Zuckerberg spent on Instagram is pocket change and the deal’s purpose wasn’t handwaving to convince investors he was finding a solution to Facebook’s profits challenge. He’s still trying to please users, God bless him, especially mobile users, who love Instagram to customize the look of photos they snap with their smartphones.
It’s nice that Mr. Zuckerberg continues to be mostly interested in the …
Dear readers: What do you expect from your hotel when you interact with its Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare or other social media accounts?
Do you expect your hotel to fix the excruciatingly slow Wi-Fi connection ASAP? Or hope you can get loyalty points to make up for an unwanted middle-of-the-night wake-up call? Or, most often, do simply seek some local information?
I’m raising this question after reading a piece on HotelMarketing.com that asks hotels, “What’s the problem?,” which indicates that there is a problem.
It seems that some hotels don’t do social media at all, while others are – gasp! – lazy about it, ignoring various accounts they’d set up to chat with guests or potential guests.
Facebook buddies weigh in
So I sought feedback yesterday from the experts – Hotel Check-In readers I communicate with regularly on Facebook.
Reader Bernard Grogan says he expects to learn about special deals and packages when interacting with hotels via social media.
Reader and technology expert Nan Palmero says he’d never considered most of the options I’d included on my Facebook post.
“It seems that people on Twitter and Facebook would know how to find all that info, so they’d just use the tools to reach out for help or to compliment when it’s not able to be Googled,” says Palmero, chief inspiration officer at Salesby5.
Shashi Bellamkonda, a social media expert and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, says he’s most likely to rave about a positive hotel experience when he “talks” to a hotel via social media.
He’ll also turn to a hotel’s social media channels when encountering a real-time problem in a hotel. But when it comes to a truly bad experience, he usually tells a manager or sends an email instead of broadcasting it via social media.
Like Bellamkonda, I recently like to share good news when I find it. About a week ago, I used FourSquare to digitally check into the Holiday Inn Express at John F. Kennedy International Airport the night before we flew to Park City, Utah. As part of my check-in, I wrote that a particular front desk clerk was making our check-in easy – though, honestly, I was hoping the info might prove useful to future customers vs. corporate headquarters.
Travel writer Carol Margolis says she sometimes uses social media to ask a hotel the best way to arrive from the airport, or she’ll ask a hotel brand’s account if there’s a location nearby that she couldn’t find online.
Bottom line: Hotels that take a lazy approach to social media are missing out on chances to impress their guests – and, perhaps, potential guests.
Readers: The following will take poll form shortly, but for now…
Q: What is your priority when you interact with a hotel via its Twitter, Facebook or other social media account? (Keep in mind that we’re limited to five options on the poll; if you don’t see your No. 1 priority, please write it in via Facebook.)
- Get tips about the restaurant/bar, local events, hidden gems, etc…
- Learn about weather/traffic/parking/taxis near the hotel
- Have an urgent problem in the hotel fixed ASAP
- Rant or rave about your hotel experience
- See/share photos of the hotel property and/or area