Unproven Thieries

Burning Man Is the Versailles of Silicon Valley

Burning Man 2012. Let them eat... acid? (Photo via Flickr)

I think, sometimes — perhaps too often — about Versailles. It was by all accounts, staggering: all of the richest people in France staying in one of the world’s grandest palaces eating and drinking themselves into a stupor at the feet of Louis XIV while the country fought and starved. It was, and remains, a symbol of the purity of excess: a grand, insane bacchanal that seemed to aspire to nothing less than oblivion. Of course, there were good political reasons for the thing that was Versailles to exist as well (keep the nobles drunk enough that they neither notice or care that you’ve become an absolute monarch), but the main takeaway is this: one of the most powerful men in the world used the resources of his nation to throw the bitchingest party on Earth.

This week, I’m thinking about Versailles because of Burning Man. Read More

Bubble Watch

Couchsurfing.com Raises $7.6 M. Let’s Hope Profit Pressure Doesn’t Corrupt a Good Thing

Couchsurfing will probably get a swooshier, sexier logo now.

Couchsurfing.com is a website that lets travelers shop for free couches to crash on in the cities they’re visiting (and often includes meals, beer, tours and new friendship) which is, yes, in some ways similar to Airbnb, that “billion dollar business” that just raised a massive round. But Couchsurfing has always been about sharing resources for free, between people with a shared love of travel, with the vague idea that kindness to a guest would be repaid in karma when you needed a place to stay elsewhere in the network.

The website designed a clever reputation system, better than Airbnb’s, and though its user experience is not perfect, the nonprofit’s employees and volunteers have managed to iterate on the website and it’s gotten much, much better. And yet its founders decided they needed more money, enough to become a for-profit and invite the profit pressure that comes with tech start-up investors like Omidyar Ventures and VC Benchmark Capital. Read More