Caught In The Webb

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Why We’re Definitely in a Bubble

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Bubbles bubbles bubbles! The talk continues. Last week the anti-bubble camp was in the ascendency. First we had a massive bubble debate on Branch.com (disclosure: I am an investor in Branch), featuring some of the best minds on the internet: Anil Dash, Dave McClure, Paul Kedrosky, Chris Sacca, Michael Arrington, MG Seigler and more. The rough consensus? No bubble.

In wrapping up the Branch debate, Seigler pointed to First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, and his hilarious bubble post – from 2007, no less – mocking those who continuously cry bubble, and failing to grasp the transformational power of the internet. A fair point.

Next we had Business Insider Henry Blodget’s presentation State of Startups 2012 presentation, subtitled “No, it’s not a bubble.” Many charts, graphs and points followed laying out why the bubble doesn’t exist.

I must confess, however, I’m in the pro-bubble camp, and while reading the Branch debate, I found myself jumping up and down with counter arguments on why we actually are in a bubble. And, since I’ve taken a two week vacation from this column, I figured I’d come back with a vengeance, and cogently lay out all the arguments and counter arguments. Read More

Caught In The Webb

Instagram and the Age of Upsets

Mr. Webb.

Instagram, Instagram, Instagram! Oooh fun times! OMGPOP was exciting enough, but this! So exciting! What does it mean! What does it mean! A few weeks ago I tweeted that I wanted a nice big juicy acquisition to get all excited about. Chaos! Excitement! Inspiration! Copy cats. Looks like I got my wish.

Another thing that strikes me looking at Instagram and OMGPOP, is that I think what we are seeing is that the new tech titans are vulnerable. The days of people jousting fruitlessly against the dominant tech titan—Google—are over. Read More

Caught In The Webb

Why Maturing Sites Should Go All Gladwell in Their Marketing

Mr. Webb.

I was sitting at Crif Dogs. The one in Williamsburg. It was sometime around midnight. I was coming home from the Björk show at Roseland, and picking up some burgers and dogs for me and my girlfriend. I was a little tipsy. I like that place. People are very chatty. It is, however, a tad slow in getting you a to-go burger (though the dogs are quick). But it’s worth it. Those are some good dogs and some very reasonably priced, quality burgers. I was sitting in the corner. I was reading “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” In other crowds in other places, I might feel a smidge of embarrassment for not having read it yet. At 1 a.m. in Williamsburg, my embarrassment would be that I am reading it at all, when I haven’t read the Patti Smith book yet. Or the Keith Richards one. God, I am a bad aging rocker. Read More

Caught In The Webb

Strange Memories on This Nervous Night at SXSW

Mr. Webb.

Rick Webb co-founded The Barbarian Group, a digital ad agency, and is now a writer and angel investor in the tech industry.

Like a merchant marine making his annual port of call, SXSW Interactive sails off into the night. We feel vaguely dirty and exhausted, but also fulfilled and edified. Do merchant marines edify? I’m sure they do.

The frothy mix of tech, advertising and media, having arrived to the party through the years in that order, has been shaken-not-stirred to a bubbling brew of publicity-fueled frenzy where corporate alliances battle mightily to prove new business models. The modern equivalent of the SkyTeam alliance is now the tech company-big brand-media property. Are you a gold member of Twitter+American Express+Jay Z? Free show for you. A platinum member of the Foodspotting+Chow.com alliance? Free tacos. A million-miler on the Samsung+Twitter+Techset mileage program? Swag and laptop charging all around. Google, much like Virgin America, goes its own way with its mileage program, and the perks are as shiny and new as USB at your seat and WiFi in every flight: The Shins, The Ting Tings, Black Star and Jimmy Cliff. Also they took over the best bars in Austin (on Rainey St.) that hadn’t been previously tainted by SXSW. I am bitter. Read More

Venture Capitalism

Branch Joins Obvious Corp, Picks Up $2 M. from Lerer Ventures and SV Angel, and Heads East to Betaworks

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When you’ve got Evan Williams, John Borthwick, and Max Levchin chatting it up on your “curated discussion platform,” it’s probably just a matter of time before the high-powered investors, incubators makers, and other loosely-defined collectives come a’ calling.

Today, Branch, the startup that initially launched in New York City as group blogging service Roundtable, announced that is now partnered with Obvious Corp and picked up investments from Lerer Ventures and SV Angel. Although Branch has been working out of Obvious headquarters since the beginning of this year, the startup will move to Betaworks this summer. Cofounder Josh Miller’s announcement is somewhat obliquely worded, but it sounds like Rick Webb, Lucas Nelson, Ryan Freitas, and David Tisch also joined the round.

The size of the round wasn’t disclosed. However, this Form D SEC filing for Roundtable Media (the startup’s original name) filed by Joshua Alexander Miller, seems to indicate that the size of the round was $1,999,997 and fully subscribed. The address on the Form D, for example, is the same address as Obvious Corp. According to the Form D, the funding was an equity round with seven investors and the date of first sale is listed as February 15th. We have reached out to Mr. Miller for confirmation. Read More

Caught In The Webb

SXSW, Here We Come.

Mr. Webb.

Rick Webb co-founded The Barbarian Group, a digital ad agency, and is now a writer and angel investor in the tech industry.

Oh man. It is upon us! I am so excited! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! South by Southwest, here we come! I leave tomorrow. ARE YOU READY? I am so ready. I have lost count on which SXSW this is for me, but it’s well over my tenth. Yes, it’s changed a lot. Yes, it’s huge now – and I hope it just keeps getting bigger. To my Austin friends, I apologize for saying this. I know you’re sick of us. But we do really love your town. We love SXSW. And we are thankful for your hospitality.

It’s just the best most wonderful week of the year for the internet industry, isn’t it? I mean there are cooler conferences (DLD, Next Web). There are more exclusive ones – Summit Series (who just bought a mountain! WTF!), and the mainframe TED, which is sorta the Sparc Supercluster or Cray of tech conferences. Monolithic, kind of old school but still pretty awesome. SXSW Interactive, now entering its 13th year, is the big one. It’s the closest thing the tech industry has to an E3 or a CES or Cannes or Outdoor Retailer. It is, essentially, the Internet’s trade conference. Everyone goes.

Well, okay, each year there are a few curmudgeons bemoaning that it’s gotten too big, a few cooler-than-thou insiders who simultaneously don’t need a giant conference to meet everyone and also have also forgotten the serendipitous joy that accompanies meeting someone new, interesting and unexpected. Then, of course, there are the new tech founders, running 3-10 person companies that are heads down trying to get things done, yet already funded, and not ready to launch. They’ve got work to do. Many people skip at least one year in this manner. Godspeed and see you next year with your awesome new product. We’ll drink a Shiner in your honor.

But for the most part, everyone else attends. And I do mean everyone. Read More

Caught In The Webb

Why You Can Blame Your Inability to Find an iOS Developer on VCs

Mr. Webb.

Rick Webb co-founded The Barbarian Group, a digital ad agency, and is now a writer and angel investor in the tech industry.

I meet all sorts of people starting new companies. A ton of them are starting hot new tech startups and are out there looking for funding and often succeeding. Many more are starting much-needed service firms in high tech—providing much-needed services along the lines of iOS app development, web development, marketing, PR, content creation, and backend development. There are massively talented people in both types of companies. They do the same work. They hang out together, they have the same skills. They need each other.

Yet one segment of them have the potential to earn millions, and the other doesn’t.

It makes no sense. Read More

Caught In The Webb

Friends Investing in Friends: When It Comes to Startups, Is the Fix Already In?

Mr. Webb.

There’s this age-old debate in startupland: whether it’s an insider’s game or not. This debate probably rages most in the comments of sites like TechCrunch, Business Insider and here at Betabeat. There are tons of people who are interested in tech, and aspire to have a startup, and read these sites, like any proper student of an industry should. And they see the same names, over and over. They see the same companies funded over and over. It’s not hard to read the headlines of tech blogs for a year and think to yourself that it’s a bunch of friends funding each other, pimping each other, and scratching each other’s backs. Read More