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Caught In The Webb

Caught In The Webb

Why We Should Still Be Wary of SOPA’s Section 201

Mr. Webb.

So the troubling anti-piracy bills Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are on the ropes, effectively dead. The celebrations have begun. It’s exciting. What a great, proud week for the internet, for democracy, and for fighting against money in our politics. But that doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down and overlook how the the bill’s defenders glossed over how SOPA and PIPA could be used to target U.S. citizens. Read More

Caught In The Webb

How Should We Mourn In The Internet Age?

Image via Blake Loosli

So Hitch died last week. It was pretty late at night when I found out, and I was at a bar, and of course I immediately started with the Tweets. Christopher Hitchens was a hero of mine. I loved his relentless pursuit of the truth, however uncomfortable.  I loved his unashamed pedantry, and his ability to go for the jugular in a debate no matter what. He reminded me of a Navy Seal in that way: don’t hesitate, just do, and do completely.

So I was sad when he died, and like many others, I took to the internet about it. Something like 10 tweets in the course of my mildly inebriated evening, and retweets, etc. In truth, I probably overdid it a smidge, but, and here I must confess: I am a public internet mourner.

Of course, I was not the only one. Two days later, Christopher Hitchens was still a trending topic on Twitter, and Google News reports 2,200-plus stories written about Hitch in the first 24 hours after his death.  Read More

Caught In The Webb

How to Throw a Legendary Holiday Party Without Pissing Off Your Investors

This man is a professional

Holiday season is here, and that means your startup needs to have a holiday party! I was just hanging with some Midwestern, non-techie friends of mine who work in “normal” jobs, and they were all going on about how they all skip their office holiday parties. They’re the cool kids after all, and, as they say “I spend enough time with those people at work. I don’t want to spend my personal life with them.”

But startups are crazy backwards land, and you basically live and breathe and poop and shower with your coworkers. So you’re going to holiday party with them too. This isn’t a recommendation from me, it’s a practical fact. I mean, really. You probably go out drinking with your coworkers two to three days a week already, at minimum. So it seems safe to say you’re going to have a holiday party with them, even if it’s just the five of you drunkenly realizing at 2 a.m. that oh hey, this could be your holiday party and woooooooo!

It’s actually kind of an interesting logic puzzle. If you and your startup cohorts go out practically every night together already, what makes a holiday party different than any other night of the year? Santa hats play a part. But really, the question should be turned on its head: “If we’re going to have a holiday party, what do we do to make it special?”

And so I am here to help you. I have thrown a fair number of holiday parties in my day. Some have reached the status of legend. Some failed miserably. The have ran from 10 to 1,000 people. Here’s what I’ve found that works. Read More

Caught In The Webb

How To Avoid That Hangover When The Tech Bubble Bursts

A fallen keyboard warrior

Since my column last week, many people (well, okay, my editor) asked me what can be done to avoid another tech bubble. Generally, I loathe pat, wannabe-solutions that aren’t realistic, like “pass a law that does this!” or “change the system”. So I thought I’d offer a few concrete things everyone in the ecosystem can do to help.

Of course, not everyone will do them, and of course, some of them run contrary to perceived common sense and rational economic actions during a bubble. But that’s the point. If you follow these, you won’t be that dude who makes the undeserved billion. And you still may be the dude who ends up broke when the bubble bursts. But you’ll have your pride and morality intact, which is kind of nice, I promise.  Read More

Caught In The Webb

Check, Please. A Bad Economy is Good for Venture Capital

I'll let go if you let go.

Let’s hear it for venture capitalists. I love venture capitalists. You know why I love them? Because they are irrepressible optimists. Look at what just happened. While the rest of the country was racked by the largest financial meltdown in 50 years, venture capitalists were giddy with excitement about technology’s ability to improve humanity and make them a nice buck along the way.

It’s easy to get cynical about them when you’re down in the trenches trying to start a company. It’s doubly easy to get cynical about them when you’re out there starting a “consulting” company and they don’t care one iota about investing in you….but I gotta admire them.

2009 was a crap year for a lot of people. My company nearly went out of business. Banks had a black eye from their, shall we say, less than austere lending practices. Since they couldn’t make it up by getting paid back from their bad loans, they called in a bunch of good loans early. Nearly every small businessman I knew in 2009 had their line of credit called in by the too big to fail banks. Lending had all but stopped. Yes, I’m still bitter about it.

But venture capitalists? Steady as she goes. Sure, in 2009 they ONLY invested around $20 billion dollars in over 3000 firms. But still. God bless ‘em. And sure, after the crash of 2001, they pulled way back, but a look at this chart tells you pretty clearly that by and large, come boom or bust, venture capital still flows. Read More