Patently Absurd

Priceline’s Litigious Founder Jay Walker: I Am Not a Troll

Mr. Cohen, left, and Mr. Walker, right, under the image of Mr. Walker in 1999.

In Connecticut in 1997, Jay Walker, inventor, created the idea for a “demand collection system,” which is how he describes the mechanism behind Priceline.com. Priceline, of course, lets customers name their own price and other conditions, input their credit cards and agree to rent a hotel, flight, car or whatever, typically sight unseen.

At the time, the New York Times called Priceline a “reverse auction,” a term that has stuck around long enough to work its way into the consciousness of moderator and adjunct professor Aaron Cohen, who made the mistake of employing it during an interview on Tuesday night at NYU for a series called Inside the Internet Garage produced by NYU Steinhardt.

Priceline is not a reverse auction, emphasized Mr. Walker—a slight, grey-haired man with dark eyebrows and a sense of righteousness—before an audience of students. “Saul Hansell, who was the journalist for the New York Times, was lazy and stupid,” he declared, “and I told him so numerous times.”

The quibble was the beginning of an at-times contentious look back at the history of Priceline, now one of the most valuable Internet companies based in New York with a market cap of $37.21 billion, and whether Mr. Walker’s numerous lawsuits over patent infringement constitute a tax on innovation. Read More

Memories

Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg Talk All Things Digital at NYU

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Last night, two journalism veterans in a very young industry took the stage at NYU for the first installment of “Inside the Internet Garage,” a series of interviews wherein titans from the various corners of tech will reflect on the last 20 years of the Internet. Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg have chalked up many firsts in their careers: Mr. Mossberg was one of, if not the first, mainstream columnist to write about personal technology in plain English; Ms. Swisher was the first person to tell the Wall Street Journal that it needed to launch a blog.

Moderator Aaron Cohen, an adjunct professor and the former CEO of Menupages, guided the merry pair down memory lane–and they were merry, teasing each other and their moderator. “Walt’s texting me right now,” Ms. Swisher announced at the start of the program. Read More

the startup rundown

Startup News: Startups Are the New Grungy Nineties Garage Bands

Walt Mossberg with Steve Jobs in 2007. (Source: Wikipedia)

DIA DE TECNOLOGIA. New York Tech Day was full of NYC based startups—from the established to the unfunded—all stages in the NYC tech lifestyle were represented. The companies that follow really stuck out to NY Tech Day Judges. Best use of Location – BiteHunter, Best Design – Chartbeat, Best Educational Startups – Three Ring, Best Social Startup – GiftSimple, Best Booth Design – Cannonball, NY Tech Day Staff Choice – Snakblox, Best use of Data – Hoppit, Best Mobile App – Uber, Best Business Model – Temboo, Best Enterprise Startup – SendGrid, Best Unfunded Startup – Unroll.me.

KICK BUTT. Everything Butt Art, the adorable drawing app for iPad, just launched a Kickstarter campaign. As of this writing, the founders have raised just over $1,000 and still have a ways to go towards that $20,000 goal. Read More

Kickstart This

We Are All Aaron Cohen! Film About Aaron Cohens Written, Produced and Filmed By Aaron Cohens, Hits Kickstarter

The ACs.

There is a scene in the movie American Splendor in which the main character, Harvey Pekar, played by Paul Giamatti, riffs about other Harvey Pekars whose names disappear and reappear. “Who are these people? What do they do? What’s in a name?” he begs of the camera.

But while Mr. Pekar was too timid to ever pick up the phone and find out, Aaron Cohen was not. “I looked up my name in the phone book and there were eight Aaron Cohens living between 72nd Street and 96th Street, just on the Upper West Side, you know, just between West End Avenue and Central Park West,” Mr. Cohen told The Observer in 2009, and in that same year, he met a gaggle of nine AC’s, as he calls them, at Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side. From there, he plotted out a documentary about Aaron Cohens around the world, finding and friending them through Facebook (he is now friends with 132 of the 1,000+ AC’s on the social network). Last night he launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film around 10 p.m. from the Salt Lake City airport, after his redeye flight back to New York was canceled.

The campaign has raised $1,519 of its $50,000 from 10 backers, half of whom are named Aaron Cohen.

Mr. Cohen spent most of his career as an entrepreneur (co-founder of Concrete Media and Bolt.com and CEO of Menupages and Anyclip). He teaches a class called the History of Internet Media at NYU. “Twenty-five years ago, Woody Allen, Spalding Gray, and Ross McElwee sparked something inside of me. The Aaron Cohens is that thing,” he says on the campaigns Kickstarter page.

Mr. Cohen spoke to Betabeat via Gchat from the plane (edited slightly for punctuation) about the film, Kickstarter, Facebook, and being Aaron Cohen. Read More