tale of two valleys
Bad news if you’re still clinging to the idea that Silicon Valley is some sort of marvelous Horatio Alger LARP. Reuters has done a deep dive on the question, and surprise, surprise: they found that you’re more likely to become an entrepreneur if you grew up in a household with wealthy, educated parents, and Silicon Valley investors tend to default to connected founders who fit a very particular mold.
We are simply shocked.
Quinn Norton speaks out on what life inside the Aaron Swartz investigation was like. “This will not be the final word on Aaron’s story, nor is it intended to be. Two years later, these are the events as I remember them, and the feelings as I knew them.” [The Atlantic]
Former dotcom millionaire Jennifer Sultan plead guilty to selling prescription drugs and conspiring to sell a firearm in exchange for four years in prison on Friday. Ms. Sultan, who sold her company Live Online during the first boom, burned through her fortune after becoming addicted to prescription pain killers. Let this be a cautionary tale for bubble 2.0. [New York Times]
Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz took to Rap Genius this weekend to decode Andrew Mason’s goodbye letter. Swag? [TechCrunch]
If you got an email this weekend from Evernote that it had reset your password, that’s because the company suffered a major security breach. [The Verge]
SpaceX Dragon has successfully docked at the International Space Station, which is great because we don’t really need any more griping from Elon Musk right now. [Ars Technica]
Your Name Here A Silicon Valley source had the pleasure of dining near Path cofounder Dave Morin and his wife, Brit.co founder Brit Morin recently. Mr. Morin spoke about the future of Path while Ms. Morin, a DIY enthusiast, used crayons provide by the restaurant to doodle on the paper table cloth, said the source. There were rainbows, flowers and balloons, but our favorite was a drawing of the Brit.co logo, with “Morin” written underneath and an arrow pointed towards Ms. Morin (just in case the restaurant staff didn’t recognize her). That’s one way to disrupt advertising, we suppose. Our tipster was kind enough to snap a pic on their way out.
Happy Internet, Mr. President Twice this week in conversation with tech types, Betabeat was asked when Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian was running for office already. The 29-year-old credited with helping to defeat SOPA/PIPA already toured the country (in a bus once leased for John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express”) running for president of the Internet. But with Sheryl Sandberg hot on his heels, isn’t it time to start campaigning for the real thing?
Real Genius Andreessen Horowitz invested $15 million in Rap Genius to help its Ivy League cofounders to annotate the Internet. But how much will they have to pay to rein in the braggadocious Mahbod Moghadam?
In a recent issue of Wakefield, a newsletter covering “tech and startup insight not captured elsewhere,” Maboo was up to his old shenanigans, volunteering information about a “feud” with Mark Zuckerberg, who also happens to be backed by Andreessen Horowitz.
Apparently, Mr. Moghadam was at Ben Horowitz’s home, “chilling” with Zuck and Nas as is the new mode of Silicon Valley socializing. (Mr. Horowitz happens to be close friends with Steve Stoute, Nas’ former manager.) Despite Zuck’s heightened privacy concerns (it’s complicated?) Rap Genius cofounder couldn’t resist Instagramming his good fortune.
In a talk at DLD, Ben Horowitz revealed that his VC firm had closed (non-seed) investments in a mere 24 companies, most of them created by “college dropouts with insane ideas going after tiny markets with no way to monetize.” [TechCrunch]
France is considering creating an Internet tax, levied on the collection of personal information. As far as French ideas go, we prefer the croissant. [New York Times]
Speaking of Waterloo: Atari’s U.S. arm has declared bankruptcy in an attempt to escape its French parent company. The second plank of this plan is presumably to time-travel back to the late 70s. [L.A. Times]
Some poor kid’s been expelled from Montreal College for daring to discover a software vulnerability that left 250,000 students’ information exposed. [National Post]
Graph search is a “privacy test” for Facebook. Given that users of the site freak out at phantom privacy crises, this’ll be fun. [New York Times]
Teach Me How to Startup
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’s breakout hit “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowdsources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening/ And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent VC firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech startups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.
Rap Genius, the Brooklyn-based site that lets the hive mind take a stab at explaining hip hop lyrics, announced today that they have received $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The powerful venture capital firm is run by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and rap fanatic Ben Horowitz, notorious for starting his business-minded blog posts with a hip-hop epigraph. Read More
Ladies and gentleman, there is a shadow stalking the tech scene. First Google, then Facebook, and now a whole raft of up and comers. Yes, it is the founder-controlled company (typically achieved by the arcane means of a dual-class stock structure; don’t worry about it), and today the Wall Street Journal is on it: “There’s a power struggle underway in Silicon Valley. At stake: Power itself.” (Pause for Bezosian cackle.)
The Journal even singles out one firm in particular as the ultimate advocate of the trend:
For as much as venture capitalists like to position themselves as disruptors–they stood with the 99 percent and not the 1 percent during Occupy Wall Street–they are, after all, barons in their own right. And now they’re following the philanthropic model of their corporate brethren and donating at the firm, rather than the individual, level. Today, Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz promised to donate at least half of their venture capital income from Andreessen Horowitz to charity.
Historically, TechCrunch notes, “major philanthropy in the industry has mostly come from individuals, like John Doerr and Michael Moritz.” Perhaps Mr. Andreessen has been influenced by some pillow talk? In December, the New York Times profiled his wife Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen’s attempts to encourage “tech titans like her husband to become as famous for giving money as they are for making it,” before they retire. She advised Mark Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, for example, on their $100 million donation to Newark public schools.
Andreessen Horowitz cofounder Ben Horowitz sits on Foursquare’s board and serves as a close mentor to engineering lead Harry Heymann. His guest post yesterday over at AllThingsD is a how-to guide for demoting a loyal friend you’ve hired to work at your startup.