Political Animals

New York Techies Want Campaign Finance Fixed

Paging Mr. Cuomo! (Photo: flickr.com/MTAphotos)

A coalition of techies say it’s time to do something about our campaign finance morass, and they’re starting with New York State. A veritable who’s who of Silicon Alley–including Fred Wilson, Andy Weissman, Dennis Crowley, John Borthwick, Kevin Ryan, and Esther Dyson–have released an open letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to take point on an effort to make the political process work a little more like Kickstarter or Github.

The problem, as they see it: “Today, elections in Albany are dominated by a small group of affluent campaign donors, professional influence-peddlers and deep-pocketed vested special interests.” Not to mention some of those state capital buildings are downright Politburo-back-deal chic. Read More

shameless rumormongering

Rumor Roundup: Kevin Ryan Is a Ping Pong Champ and AllThingsD Knows All About Mustache Rides

We'll use this as an artist's rendering. (Photo: flickr.com/lac-bac)

Silicon Alley Smackdown One of the many tech events on rain delay because of Hurricane Sandy was the Big Apple Smackdown ping pong tournament, whose guest list included an impressive number of familiar names from the New York tech scene. (Betabeat is one of the media sponsors, so we may be a little biased.) Among the techno-athletes scheduled to play was Gilt Groupe CEO–and soon-to-be Gilt Groupe chairmanKevin Ryan. Apparently, we missed quite a show.

The tournament was scheduled for Sunday, “and I played on Friday and on Sunday just to get ready for it!” Mr. Ryan told Betabeat. Really? “Oh yeah, because I won a tournament about a month ago.” That was an invitation-only affair for ping pong ringers at the Hamptons manse of ABC Carpet & Home’s Ken Pilot. “You had to put $100 into the pot and the winner got two-thirds of the pot, so I was pretty excited about that,” Mr. Ryan enthused. Read More

I Tumbl For You

Fred Wilson: I’ve Seen GeoCities. And You, Tumblr, Are No GeoCities

XKCD's Geocities tribute (Photo: Inquisitr

At yesterday’s Ad Tech New York conference, Union Square Ventures investor Fred Wilson dismissed the notion that Tumblr will go the way of GeoCities. Mr. Wilson should know: he invested in both.

Although the two platforms, which both grew out of empowering community and self-expression, may share a similar trajectory–explosive traffic, scads of funding, sky high valuations–he argued that Tumblr has modern social media’s emphasis on the news feed (for elegance of consumption) combined with a different approach to advertising.  Read More

The Media Elite

The Rise and Fall of New York Founders on Vanity Fair’s ‘New Establishment’ List

photo (1)

Annie Leibovitz’s Silicon Alley photo shoot has finally made its way into print, as part of Vanity Fair’s annual “New Establishment” list. As we’d hoped, the magazine opted to pose Arianna Huffington in the sidecar of David Karp’s vintage motorcycle. (Guest appearance by Mr. Karp’s “French-English bulldog,” Clark.) Only in the version that made the October issue, Dennis Crowley is depicted emerging from a manhole, avec le swag. As before, the annual list is chockablock with tech types, but just like last year, Silicon Valley dominates.

Peter Thiel comes in at no. 37, repping for libertarian utopias between Tyler Perry and Ryan Seacrest. Elon Musk is no. 9 on the list, two rungs higher than Adele, but one spot below a new entrant: Pinterest’s Ben Silberman, no. 8. Despite Square’s caffeine-fueled growth, Jack Dorsey stayed at the no. 5 spot, but finally got the fashion props he’s been waiting for. “It’s a Prada suit; for everyday wear, it’s denim from Scott Morrison’s Earnest Sewn line, which was the first brand to use Twitter.”

Scattered among the elite are a handful of New York techies, present and accounted for. By and large, it’s the same group of people as last October, although it’s interesting to note how Vanity Fair assesses their power ranking, year-over-year. Read More


Booting Up: Everyone Now Hates Twitter Edition

(Photo: Noobpreneur.com)

Here’s an interesting take on why Twitter is suddenly giving the finger to API devs: “I suspect the reason that Twitter is cutting off apps from using its ‘friend finder’ feature is because most people do not create content in Twitter and therefore have no incentive to use Twitter outside of the value of its graph.” [Dustin Curtis]

Fred Wilson thinks venture capital funds have grown too big and has some ideas on how to fix them. [Technology Review]

There are fewer and fewer women in Google’s inner circle, so the GOOG engineers dealt with it the only way they know how: by building a predictive algorithm to help them recruit and retain more female employees. [New York Times]

Turns out the freemium model is not exactly free for businesses. [Wall Street Journal]

Here’s why the FTC let Facebook buy Instagram. (Hint: ’cuz Facebook Camera sucks.) [TechCrunch]

Teach Me How to Startup

What to Expect From the New-and-Improved Skillshare? Learning By Doing in a ‘Hybrid’ Classroom

Mr. Karnjanaprakorn

Last week, Skillshare, the disruptive teaching platform backed by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, announced a big expansion: incorporating an online element into its classes. Rather than relying on its popular in-person workshops, which Betabeat has personally employed to brush up on our coding and financial modeling skills, the startup opened its doors around the globe with “Hybrid” classes that combine those in-person workshops with “project-based online learning.”

Skillshare cofounder Michael Karnjanaprakorn came up with the idea for this hybrid approach when he was teaching his own class, “Launch Your Startup Idea for Less than $5000.″ Instead of just lecturing at students, he began asking them to present their ideas at the end of class and the results dramatically improved, leading to the creation of actual startups like RentHackr and Hashpix. Read More

Visiting Dignitaries

Cover Boys! Annie Leibovitz Shoots Fred Wilson, Dennis Crowley, David Karp & More for Vanity Fair

Screen shot 2012-07-31 at 11.30.10 AM

It appears New York’s tech scene will finally have its own calling card–a glossy, cinematic affair shot by Annie Leibovitz. The celebrated photographer cordoned off the cobblestone streets of Soho yesterday to direct a photo shoot for an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair.

Let Silicon Valley have its tacky tiger-monkeyblowouts, we’ll take the Conde Nast’s version of Social Register, thank you very much. Read More


Gary Sharma’s Highlights from F.ounders NY 2012, the Michael Jordan of Tech Events

F.ounders NY 2012

Ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ at the F.ounders NY 2012

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 gary@garysguide.com.

“First time at F.ounders?”
“Yeah, how about you?”
“I attended the one in Dublin last year.”
“Nice! Did you guys really hang out with Bono?”
“Yeah man, it was crazy!”
“I heard Obama might show up tonight.”
“No kidding. Really?”
“That’s what I heard.”
The two young twenty-something multi-millionaire startup founders looked expectantly towards the stage, wondering when POTUS would make an appearance.

Ok, so Obama was not on the agenda. But the fact that folks believed there was even a possibility speaks volumes for the quality and reputation of the event that Paddy Cosgrave, a charming 29-year-old from Ireland, had put together. Now in its third year, F.ounders is a must-attend, invite-only, ultra-exclusive annual event bringing together 150 (yup, there’s that dunbar number again) startup founder rockstars, along with a medley of top-tier investors, journalists and executives.

Bloomberg calls it Davos for Geeks. The Next Web calls it the Rolls Royce of conferences. And Mashable calls it the best event they’ve ever been to. I love basketball so I’m-a-gonna call this the “Michael Jordan of Tech Events!” Because it simply doesn’t get any better than this.

We were informed that, “Given that the CEOs and founders of over quarter of a trillion worth of ‘start-ups’ will be in Times Square on Friday, security is going to be very tight.” A quarter of a trillion. Yup, that number has a nice ring to it. Read More


Booting Up: VCs Waxing Philosophic Edition

Mr. Graham (flickr.com/pragdave)

Startup soothsayer Paul Graham penned a letter to Y Combinator’s portfolio companies about withstanding the fallout from Facebook’s poorly-performing IPO. [Business InsiderHacker News]

Fred Wilson wants to put Mr. Graham’s musings in perspective. [A VC]

Apple will yank Google Maps from iPhones later this year, which is just another reason why we’re quite happy with our Galaxy Nexus, thankyouverymuch. [Wall Street Journal]

GigaOm rounds up what we know about Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker’s video startup, Airtime, set to launch at a press event this morning. [GigaOm]

Oh good, there is an Instagram for animated GIFs. [Wired]

Silicon Alley U

Former Twitter CTO Greg Pass Tapped as Founding Entrepreneurial Officer for Cornell Tech Campus

Mr. Pass

CornellNYC Tech, the applied sciences campus slated for Roosevelt Island, isn’t wasting anytime establishing its ties to the tech industry. On Monday, Larry Page shlepped out to Chelsea (sans Google glasses, sadly) to announce that Google would gift the campus with 22,000 square feet of office space. And today the school named Greg Pass, Twitter’s first-ever CTO, founding entrepreneurial officer. It’s a much more heavyweight hire than your run-of-the-mill entrepreneur-in-residence.

Former Twitter board member Fred Wilson, for example, has lauded Mr. Pass’ considerable virtues as a technological leader, architect, and recruiter. A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Pass was also cofounder and CTO at Summize before it was acquired by Twitter and started serving as an advisory board member at Obvious Corp after stepping down from Twitter last year. Before playing a pivotal role in scaling Twitter, he spent years as a system architect and software engineer at AOL. Read More