This is a guest post from Gary Sharma (aka “The Guy with the Red Tie”), Founder & CEO of GarysGuide and proud owner of a whole bunch of black suits, white shirts and, at last count, over 40 red ties. You can reach him at email@example.com.
“I think I just ran into Michael Stipe!”
“Get outta here. Srsly?”
“Well it looked like him.”
“Wait, who’s Michael Stipe?”
“The lead vocalist for R.E.M.”
“Hmmm, are you sure you saw Michael Stipe?”
“Well he was bald and looked familiar.”
“Maybe you saw Moby. You sure it wasn’t Moby?”
(We all peered into the crowd gathered at the Hard Candy Shell party scanning intently to see if we could spot a familiar, bald rockstar.)
Welcome to Internet Week 2012, y’all! Where the young & the restless mingle with the bold & the beautiful mingle with the rich & the famous all brought together by the seductive beauty and power of this thing we call the Internets!
With over 500 companies and 40,000 attendees, Internet Week (now in its 5th year) is billed as a celebration of the city’s thriving Internet industry and community. As festival co-chair David-Michel Davies (a.k.a. dmd) pointed out, it’s the web, not TV, that is driving the conversation today and is the hub of all things pop culture. And New York is very much a big part of where innovation on the web is happening. “New York is an exceptionally entrepreneurial city,” Mr Davies pointed out. “People come here for opportunity, and it’s been like that since the city was founded.”
Well, you know what they say. Mo’ innovation = Mo’ Companies = Mo’ Money = Mo’ Jobs! Yes, I can get behind that. (Also it’s been two months since all the partying + boozing + schmoozing + debauchery of SXSW and things have been a tad slow lately. Internet Week, you’ve arrived just in time!)
My journey began outside the aptly named Internet Week HQ, a 50,000-square-foot space at 82 Mercer. As I patiently waited in line to get in, a couple of girls behind me were chatting excitedly about their startup. “So what’s it about?” I asked, unable to resist poking my nose in their bidness. “It’s called Picksie! It’s an awesome-new-iphone-app-for-location-and-proximity-based-discovery-service-for-things-to-do-near-you!” Their enthusiasm was charming and infectious and I agreed to check it out.
There were a ton of panels and keynotes all through Internet Week. Here are some highlights:
Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore sat down for a fireside chat with Mr. Davies and reminisced about starting Mashable at age 19 back in Scotland in 2005 out of his bedroom and bootstrapping it all the way through. (Interesting factoid: Mashable was hosted on WordPress instead of TypePad because it was too expensive at $10 a month!) Mr. Cashmore pointed out how the lines between consumer and producer are rapidly blurring as users are not just passively consuming but also activately creating and publishing content. Mr. Cashmore also noted that the value of social media is how it becomes our personal filter to the world around us helping make sense of it and making it more personal and relevant. (Personally, I’d have loved it if Mr. Cashmore shed some light on when/how he stumbled upon the goldmine that is Top 10 Lists )
In an hour-long conversation, the New York Times‘ David Carr and Brian Stelter explored the fast-changing world of media consumption, discovery, reporting and business models. “It was scary when it was first announced with all of us there in the newsroom,” noted Mr. Carr, regarding the Times‘ decision to erect a subscription paywall. “We all held hands and jumped through the wall!” “Nobody should ever break news on Twitter,” continued Mr. Carr. “There is certainly value to breaking news, but not to kidnapping it.” Both Mr. Stelter and Mr. Carr cautioned against getting sucked into the Twitter echo-chamber. “Don’t mistake Twitter heat for real heat!” (Okay, I get it … Mr. Carr looks at Twitter the way a mouse looks at a rattlesnake
Then there was the “Future of Media” panel, where folks from the media industry gathered to discuss–you guessed it–the future of media. Reuters social media editor Anthony De Rosa and recently elected Yahoo board member Michael Wolf opined on the continued relevance of smaller local newspapers and Warren Buffett’s recent purchase of 63 newspapers. Jezebel‘s Jessica Coen gave a thumbs up to the tactile feel of glossy magazines that just can’t be replicated digitally quite yet. And Buzzfeed‘s Jonah Peretti noted how Facebook was by far their biggest traffic referrer, surpassing Google.
IAC chief Barry Diller announced at the Federated Media CM Summit that they will be launching an offline component to Match.com. So what does that mean exactly? Well, it means Match.com will be organizing more face-to-face, curated, in-person events. This seems to have disaster written all over it, but I do give Mr. Diller points for trying!
There was video blogger Shira Lazar chatting with new age spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, who has a new YouTube channel The Chopra Well and is working on his 65th book, Spiritual Solutions (talk about prolific!). We waited breathlessly for Mr Chopra to impart one of his trademark enlightening comments and he didn’t disappoint. “We are but a speck of dust in a huge infinite void somewhere in the junkyard of infinity.” Yes we are!
But as we all know, while panels are great, Internet Week (like SXSW) is really all about the parties, right?!!
There was the opening day party at Internet Week HQ followed by the after-party at Tribeca Grand, where I ran into a bunch of people including the lovely Jennifer Laxmi from Picksie, Stylemusee‘s Karen Moon, Laughing Squid‘s Scott Beale, DotGo‘s Michelle DeForest, Interference’s Jessica Randazza and others. The founders of a new startup launching soon called Klooff (it’s Instagram for pets!) gave me an impromptu demo in the lobby downstairs. OMGPOP founder Charles Forman offered us strange orange tablets and encouraged us to mix them into our drinks. Which we promptly did. And that’s pretty much the last thing I remember from that evening. I kid, I kid! It turned about to be just some tangy, Vitamin C stuff that Charles had picked up somewhere. This wasn’t that kind of party, y’know!
There was the Time Inc. party to celebrate the magazine’s 10 NYC Startups to watch (ahhh top 10 lists again). The theme of the conversation was very much about ‘Why NYC’ as a place to start a company. Adaptly cofounder & CEO Nikhil Sethi mentioned how 99 percent of their customers were within a one-block radius of their offices. Sidetour cofounder & CEO Vipin Goyal talked about the breadth of amazing experiences available in the city including one of their more popular tours, “dinner with an investment banker-turned-monk in an East Village monastery.” Only in NY! Art.sy founder & CEO Carter Cleveland reiterated what we all know, that New York is pretty much the center of the art world. And Fab.com CMO Scott Ballantyne talked about trying to replicate online that experience of walking down SoHo on Greene Street with one’s friends on Sunday and discovering something in the shop window.
There was, of course, the much-anticipated Webutante ball (a.k.a. Nerd Prom a.k.a. Everyone Gets Laid Tonight) hosted by Richard Blakeley (Managing Editor at Thrillist) at Marquee, which had lines snaking around the block. I made a beeline to the bar where a young 20-something mentioned to me how excited she was to get away from her corporate cubicle world and finally dip her toes into the “NY tech scene cesspool.” Uh-huh. Another pretty young thing whispered in my ear how she loved my curls and proceeded to slide her fingers through them. I closed my eyes, downed the remainder of my drink and signaled to the bartender for an encore. Yes, this was going to be a fun night!
As I made my way thru the crowd familiar faces popped up everywhere. There was The Next Web’s Courtney Boyd Myers alongwith Storyful’s Erica Berger. RecordSetter’s Emily Meithener was there, as was Folio’s Niamh Hughes and Sailthru’s Aubrey Sabala. Thrillist founders Ben Lerer and Adam Rich and their posse were staked out in a corner. There was the hot (and poachable) Andrea Hong, who does bizdev for AOL, hanging with fellow bizdev cohort Steve Cheney of GroupMe/Skype. I got a hug from Perks Consulting’s Lauren Perkins, who’d just arrived with Zelkova Ventures’ Jay Levy in tow.
I ran into 360i social strategist Rosie Siman and MDC Partners’ Faris Yakob. Mr. Yakob’s dreadlocks are getting to be almost as crazy as my curls, if not crazier! I caught up with the lovely ladies of Morris+King – Chi Zhao and Elisabeth Maria. There was WeWork Labs’ Matt Shampine, excited about their recent expansion into SF and even more excited about a recent excursion to wine country in Sausalito. Next to him was our very own Betabeater Adrianne Jeffries chatting with frenemy Dick Talens of Fitocracy. Eventually, as all parties do, this one had to end and we all headed over to the after-party thrown by Charming Robot at Destination Bar. The crowd grew drunker, the voices grew louder, the night grew warmer and the party grew crazier.
There was TapRoot’s Make It Happen party at a sexy private loft + rooftop apartment in Soho. Taproot’s trying to connect folks who are interested in doing pro bono work with charities who could use their help. A worthy cause if there was one. I bumped into a bunch of people including TapRoot’s Wendi Sturgis & Robert Acton, Morris+King’s Andy Morris, DBG’s Chris Young (our gracious host), Social Innovators Collective’s Shana Dressler, NY Tech Meetup’s Dawn Barber, OMGPop’s Charles Forman and others. Inc.‘s Howard Greenstein regaled us with stores about the early, early days of Silicon Alley, of Mac User Groups and BBSs.
There was Nick McGlynn‘s always-happening Obliterati party at Sweet & Vicious, where we all downed copious amounts of margaritas in jars (a.k.a. jargaritas!).
There was The Art of Apps show at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art, which showcased the art and design behind some of the coolest apps such as Path, Mixel, Cameo, Paper and others. As event host (and gdgt founder) Peter Rojas noted: “Creating an amazing user experience for an app – one where the device itself almost melts away – requires a thoughtfulness and cleverness that can be hard to find.” Amen, brother.
There was the Stylecaster party, bringing a dash of fashion & style to Internet Week and attended by Fueled founder & CEO (& 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers honoree) Ramit Chawla (who I hadn’t seen since SXSW), Foodspotting’s Soraya Darabi, Chloe+Isabel’s Lindsay Kaplan, Hearst’s Head of Digital Marketing (and StyleCaster Co-Founder) Brandon Perlman, The Next Web’s Courtney Boyd Myers, Intermix’s Dani Axelrod and many more.
There was, of course, our very own Betabeat’s one-year anniversary party (they grow up so fast!) co-hosted with the Barbarian Group on their awesome Tribeca rooftop with a view to die for. As I arrived, I got a warm hug from Betabeat editor Adrianne Jeffries. Later I ran into Observer Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Spiers, who told me she loved my column. High praise indeed from the founding editor of Gawker and the high priestess of blogging! There was ex-Betabeater Ben Popper who recently jumped ship to VentureBeat and blink-and-you-missed-it jumped again to The Verge.
I bumped into Mr. Webutante Ball himself Richard Blakeley and girlfriend Lindsay Kaplan of Chloe+Isabel. They mentioned they were planning to take a much-needed vacation to Italy. Right on! VYou cofounder and man-about-town Rex Sorgatz was there with the Wall Street Journal‘s Monica Vosough. Mr. Sorgatz complained that people had been lately confusing him for Barbarian Group cofounder and angel investor Rick Webb. I looked at Mr. Sorgatz, then looked at Mr. Webb and then back again at Mr. Sorgatz. No, I didn’t see it–but then again, I was only on my second drink!
I ran into General Assembly’s Matt O’ Brimer and Jake Schwartz. GA has been on an expansion tear lately, first with London and then Berlin, and the pair were excited about their new online initiative, as well. Mr. Schwartz promised to connect me to their guy in London, where I’ll be headed to later this month to explore Tech City. I caught up with Alli Mooney, who I hadn’t seen a long, long time. Alli heads trends and insights marketing at Google. I met the lovely Nikki Durkin, the recent Y-Combinator graduate and 99Dresses founder, who bootstrapped her startup down under in Australia. We chatted about her experience at YC, the grueling interview process and the secret to acing it. (Yes, there is one. It’s called showing traction. PG loves traction! )
As the evening progressed, I ran into a whole bunch of acquaintances including Union Square Ventures’ Christina Cacioppo, Aviary’s Michael Galpert, Barbarian Group cofounder Benjamin Palmer, ABC’s Maya Baratz, NYC Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne and many more. Yes, this was definitely a happening party!
Later, a bunch of us headed over to the party at Hard Candy Shell’s new offices. Retro was very much the theme, with audio cassette tapes sprinkled everywhere and Mr. Webb snapping and sharing Polaroids all around whilst puffing on an electric cigarette. We ran into foursquare tech guru Harry Heymann at the entrance. He invited us in and encouraged us to make ourselves at home, which we did. The lovely Brooke Moreland from Fashism (there with her beau Joe Wiesenthal of The Business Insider) waved at us. I bumped into former Hard Candy Shell chief and now Charming Robot founder Dan Machharone. (Mr Machharone incidentally is also a co-owner of the aforementioned Destination Bar)
The lovely Bitsy Metcalf and I put on our sunglasses and hammed it up for the camera. A screen on the wall was playing YouTube videos of impossibly cute cats & dogs. I chatted with foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley, Laughing Squid’s Scott Beale ‘n Rusty Blazenhoff and designer Emma Welles. We all got excited at what seemed to be a whisky cabinet but upon closer inspection it turned out to be just a whiteboard inside. No hard candy for us
And finally there was the Internet Week closing party at IAC’s snazzy Gehry-designed west side digs and hosted by hot new streaming-TV startup Aereo. The event was teeming to the brim with celebrities and the city’s movers ‘n shakers, including actors Wilmer Valderrama, Tyrese Gibson, Carrie Keagan and Allison Williams, IAC honcho Barry Diller, Match.com president Mandy Ginsberg and others. Actor and Comedian Will Arnett was manning the DJ booth.
The final crowning moment of Internet Week 2012 came as Mr Davies, alongwith the city’s Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne and a bunch of others, rang the NASDAQ closing bell on a day that saw the exchange host the historic debut of the IPO of Facebook, arguably the most important Internet company of our lifetime.
“I’d love to get a time machine and go back to 2004 and invest in Facebook,” quipped Mr Arnett.
So would I, Mr Arnett. So would I.