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International coverage of TechCrunch40

I’m trying to pull together all the international coverage of the TechCrunch40 event…. if you have any links please add in the comments!

The packed TC40 room… over 600 folks were in there for two days. I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat for next year!

Conference Curation: Some feedback and thoughts about TechCrunch40

Just got this really nice email from one of the companies that presented:

  • I wanted to send you a quick note to authentically thank you for advocating [ COMPANY NAME REMOVED], and supporting us at TechCrunch40. It was a fantastic event, and the grittiest launch-style conference I¹ve ever attended.

    TC40¹s conference format was a sorely needed disrupt from the payola circuit, and it delivered honesty in projecting the future viability of the selected companies. Another very interesting by-product of the conference was that the attendance yield of each session went up, because the critique tone of TC40 made the future sessions ‘must-see’ – I¹ve not experienced that before.

    Your banter with Michael also created a conversation with the audience which was engaging. TC40 will only get better, and my only note of improvement was I felt several of the demo-pit companies were of high quality, and could have easily replaced several presenting duds ­ such is the unpredictable nature of the conference, which also adds to the mystique. Lastly, Jason, Jenny and Dan were rock-solid, organized and acted as team. My highest praise extends to Heather ­ she is the complete package: Smart, calm, and gracefully in control ­ I can¹t emphasize enough that this impression was universal at the conference.

    Again, our many thanks.

I’ve got hundreds of emails to get through, and I’ll post some more feedback as folks let me know if it is ok to publish their emails (with or without their names).

One of the interesting things to come out of the event was the concept of favoritism and the selection process. Let’s be clear about something, the selection of the companies was always intended on being based on the opinion’s of Mike and I. We brought TechCrunch CEO Heather in on the process because a) she’s really smart, b) we were crushed and need the help, and c) she’s done some major M&A stuff at NEWSCORP and knows a think or two about startups (to say the least).

This is not a “wisdom of the crowds” style event. We’re not voting the companies up on digg then seeing who gets the stage–that would be interesting, if not scary (and now welcome to the stage “PS3 sucks!!!” and their CEO “First comment!!”).

Nope, this event was CURATED. We took ownership of selecting the companies. Is this process perfect? Far from it. Individuals can make mistakes and they can have bias towards certain businesses (i.e. I like magazine publishing and content, Mike might be more of a platform guy, Heather likes advertising). However, individuals can also take long shots, have gut reactions to things (like Storyblender, KerPoof, and MusicShake), and pick things that are certain winners based on 13+ years in the business (i.e. Mint, Cake, Clickable, Xobni).

We curated this event. We took ownership of the content.

I’m very proud of that fact.

The ultimate test of how we did curating is–in my mind–based on three factors:

  1. Did people stay in the room to see the next presentation?
  2. Were the companies the presented noteworthy? (i.e. worth mentioning in the press, on your blog, talking about at the cocktail party, or telling a friend about post-conference)
  3. Will people come back next year?

If you look at question number one it’s a very clear yes. Well over 25% of the crowd said they stayed for all 40 presentations–that was amazing to me. The room was filled for the entire event even up until the final set of companies. The vibe in the room got better and better and empty seats were hard to find (people were putting signs on their chairs when they went to the bathroom!).

If you look at question number two I think we passed that test with flying colors. Folks blogged like crazy, and our dedicated ethernet cables in the front three rows for the press were all taken. Many of the press stayed for both days and the number of press mentions per company was amazing.

Regarding question number three…. well, we’ll see. Many folks are talking about TechCrunch40 as if it were Web 2.0, DEMO, or PC Forum already. That’s humbling and we’re certainly going to bust our butts to make it even better next year.

Next year it will again be imperfect, based on the curation of the few, and–we hope–as entertaining!

All the best,


Big trend coming out of TechCrunch40: data normalization services

Big trend coming out of TechCrunch40: data normalization services like Mint, Cake, TripIt, and Clickable.

DMS is a new category (I think I just named it) in which companies pull in data from 3rd parties, normalize (clean) it, and then leverage it. In Cake’s case they suck in people’s trading activity to share investment wisdom. TripIt normalizes desparite travel prodiders to provide clean trip itenearies. Mint, which one the TechCrunch40 event’s $50,000 prize ($25,000 of which was technically my money!!!), sucks down your credit card and banking information to create a dashboard of your spending AND to save you money.

These services are creating a layer on top of existing services in order to do something that those services typically don’t want done. In the case of Mint they might show you how your bank is ripping you off and get you better rates for your credit card or savings account. In Clickable’s case they reveal the fact that you might be wasting money on a certain competitive keyword on Google AdSense and advise you to spend that money on the same keyword on Yahoo or Microsoft’s search services.

Even mEgo, and avatar service, is normalizing data by pulling in your MySpace preferences and syndicating those out–via a syndicated, Flash-based avatar–to Facebook, your blog, and… wait for it… MySpace. In some ways these service are aggressive reactions to the lack of open standards. FOAF never took off? No problem, we’ll login and suck down your data. That’s what Flock’s doing with their impressive social browsing features, which were also launched at TechCrunch40.

Of course, this is layering on top of layers. And, I’m sure at the TechCrunch40 conference in 2008 we’ll be seeing a sertvice called Icing that pulls in your Mint and Cake information into one dashboard. 🙂

Comments are open for 24 hours… be nice.

[ Second big trend coming up soon. ]

Random thoughts from a Starbucks outdoor cafe on Jessie

Getting ready for another 10 hours of conference demo prep… some random thoughts:

  1. In my last message about the zombie/hipster/homeless problem someone gave me a tip which has restored my faith in power of blogging: “One thing I’ve found in SF is that the homeless don’t walk up the steep SF hills, which is why I live on a hill in North Beach. They tend to reside in flatter areas with more people, like in the Mission.”
  2. I watched 15 minutes of Rushmore today. It’s one of the finest films ever made about friendship and love.
  3. The film also has one of the funniest–yet most overlooked–lines in cinema: “Oh, are they?”
  4. SF may have a serious homeless problem, but it’s got it doesn’t suffer from a lack-of-amazing-Chinese food problem. I’ve had Chinese food two nights and a row and tonight I’m going back for more.
  5. I really want to go back to China–for the food.
  6. You can really tell he character of a person by who they surround themselves with.
  7. You can also tell a person’s worth by the nature of their enemies/the people who distance themselves from them.
  8. I turned on CNN and there was something about OJ Simpson being arrested. I guess this means the Knicks are going to the playoffs again? (inside joke for New Yorkers).
  9. Some members of my team have been helping coordinate the TechCrunch40 event and they’re amazing… they’re staying up late, getting up early, and burning themselves out. Great work is never created without serious sacrifice. Based on the massive burnout I’m feeling–and I can see in their eyes–this is going to be an amazing event.
  10. We got Mahalo hats in the gift bags. They look great and that will be the total extent of Mahalo promotion at the event. I’m really trying to play down my participation in the event and focus people on the 140 companies on stage and in the DMEOPIT area. Folks keeps saying it’s going to be a platform for Mahalo… so silly. Mahalo doesn’t need any promotion amongst VCs (we’re fully funded) and we certainly don’t need any press amongst the Web 2.0 crowd. We’re in “put your head down and make the product great” mode and we will be for the next four years.
  11. Some days iced coffee is so great… other days hot coffee is great. Sure, it’s based on temperature most times, but today is cool and brisk and I could easily have ordered hot. In fact, today is the day you order hot. So why did I order cold? Is there a pattern? Is it related to emotion or some habit? Is it based on the clothes I’m wearing?
  12. Based on #11 you now know the torture of my life: I think about everything. I analyze everything around me constantly. I think it’s something that playing videos games and the Internet has caused. I’m drawn to behaviors that require constant pattern recognition and questioning.
  13. I was really hard on some of the companies yesterday. I’m pounding on people to get them ready for the gauntlet they are about to face. I’m someone will put out a blog post saying I was a jerk or obnoxious during these pre-conference demos, but I gave everyone the disclaimer that I would play the role of the “berating jerk in the audience.” It’s a role that I’ve never played, but I’ve certainly been on the other side. It’s been fun channeling the jerk in the audience role, and I think after the film AUGUST comes out I might together a reel with Center of the World footage and try and get some more bit parts in indie films. I think I could be this generations Cory Feldman. Oh wait, he’s my generation. You get the point… I could do some good work for a brief time before becoming irrelevant.
  14. OK, I’ve got to run… I look forward to seeing everyone @ the Palace Hotel. If you’re a scrappy startup who couldn’t make it to the event I suggest taking your laptop and grabbing anyone who will listen to the bar. That’s what I used to do… mad props to the lobby crashers!!! 🙂

Random thoughts, a Missive from Mission Street

Having some eggs and coffee on Mission street. In two hours I’ll be locked in a room for 15 straight presentations. Some random thoughts:

  1. Feels like doing the demo dry-run for each of the 40 companies has resulted in–on average–a 20% better presentation. Some folks had fine presentations that we worked to make 5% better, some folks did total reworks that i think will make them 100% better. Most folks, 20% better.
  2. The dry-runs has been the best part of this process for me. Feels like I’m getting a huge education on the marketplace while meeting a whole new crop of up and coming startup execs. It’s like speed dating I guess. Not that I’ve ever done that, thankfully I found the women of my dreams before speed dating took hold. (additionally, and totally off the record, the ladies always seemed to just walk up and ask to buy me a drink back in my New York City days… I’m just saying. :-).
  3. Playing poker has replaced playing videos game for me. It’s much, much more interesting to sit across from a human and try and read them then to see who can type a bunch of keystrokes faster. There is a certain zen to poker I never understood that flipped for me at some point. It’s like sparring in martial arts in many ways. You can be the aggressor, or respond to aggression. You can push or you can deflect. I’ve always found metaphors between Tae Kwon Do and business, and now I find poker between the two.
  4. If you make one trip per month a $50-60 EVDO card is worth it. Two hotels at $15, two airport lounges, and a cafe and you’re in the black. If you’re on the road it’s a must.
  5. Had nice hour-long convo with Nick Denton yesterday. We could be best friends if we lived in the same city–really. The stuff in the press where I dog him, and the stuff on Valleywag where they dog me, it’s all theater. It’s designed for him to get page views, and my reactions are designed to a) keep me laughing and b) keep folks talking. That being said, I would prefer if Owen over at Valleywag would base his missives on facts and give me credit the things I do get right. That’s the balance that little Nicky and big Nicky had at Valleywag that Owen hasn’t learned. You can’t smack down your subject every time–two out of three times? Sure. 🙂 Owen will get there… or Nick will fire him/shut down Valleywag as a dud.
  6. Fred Wilson writes about his former portfolio CEO Seth Godin’s new SquidWho product which is built on Squidoo. I’ve taken a look at the Squidwho product and I typed in a search for Steve Jobs. It gave me back a page with syndicated content from ebay, wikipedia, amazon, flickr, etc. Not very helpful. The tool they use to build pages is very similar to the scraper tools out there for spammers… it lets you create highly targeted pages quickly and publish them on Squidoo even faster. This, my friends, is what got Squidoo into spam trouble with Google last time. I don’t recommend folks create thousands of repetitive pages scraping others content on the internet. Make something unique that adds value where others are not doing something better. That’s what I’ve tried to do. Engadget and Autoblog created content that didn’t exist in other places. Fresh new voices with a specific publishing style. Do something like that if you want to make an impact–don’t scrape content and hit publish over and over again. That’s just adding to the problem. Pick a vertical and do it the best you can–which I think was Seth’s original goal with Squidoo–just hasn’t worked out that way in large part.
  7. Some folks think Squidoo and Mahalo are competitors–which is like saying Google and Blogger are competitors. Squidoo is personal publishing like Geocities on crack, Mahalo is a search service/directory. If you type Paris Hotels into Squidoo you get hundreds of wacky pages (most of which are filled with spam, scraped content, and unlabled advertising). When you type Paris Hotels into Mahalo you get one page that we are going to refine for years to come. That’s the difference… we’re more like Wikipedia’s one page model than the Geocities/Squidoo “everyone go wild” model. Please don’t think I’m bashing them because they are in any way competitive with us–they’re not. If the site had amazing content by real people who were not stealing content and putting unlabeled ads against the pages I wouldn’t say anything. However, I’m fighting index spam and Squidoo is the poster child. It’s not personal–it’s just business.
  8. The folks at the Le Web 3 conference in Paris wanted me to debate someone. Folks said I should debate Andrew Keen, but I have to say I agree with much of what he says (perhaps not how he says it). The fact is, he is right that the “many voices is best view” has taken over the role of experts, reason, and science at some points. The fact is the corruption of “the wisdom of the crowds” is more limited in many was as the bias of the individual. At least with individual bias you know who debate the point with. How do you debate the wisdom of the crowds at digg? You don’t, you get rolled over by it. It’s a mob. Sometimes that mob is smart (i.e. when it comes to technology), many times that mob is worthless (i.e. when it comes to outside voices/perspectives). Of course, the collective of experts, the wisdom of crowds, back by transparency and process i like. It’s not either or. Anyway, if you have an idea of someone to debate let me know (please don’t say “the dude from PayPerPost” because that debate ended when he put CalacanisCast on his forehead :-).
  9. I like my sugar with coffee and cream.
  10. I like my sugar sweet.
  11. New theme song is “Stronger,” backed up by “Can’t tell me Nothing.”
  12. Kanye is right… he should win everthing and they should make a second set of categories for everyone who hasn’t dropped stuff on his level. It’s that simple. Kanye’s going to be the Scorsese if the music biz. Kid is blowing out Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Casino and you guys can’t get behind that? What a joke.
  13. You didn’t know how deep I am in the rap game did you?
  14. Coffee is starting to kick in obviously.
  15. If Mark Cuban can do dancing with the stars I should be able to do that celebrity rap show with Perez HIlton right? I would tear that up dawg!
  16. The homeless situation in San Francisco is crazy. Like mad crazy. Like “what are you people thinking?!?!” That’s coming from a guy who works in the people’s republic of Santa Monica where being homeless is the second largest profession (right behind “producer”). I was hit up aggressively by 10 folks in under ten minutes outside the Cliff Hotel by Union Square the other day. San Francisco has got to lock this problem down.
  17. Driving around San Francisco at 1AM is like a scene from Night of the Living Dead. I was weaving around mobs of homeless, drunk, and hipsters who at one point I feared would surround the SUV screaming “brains!!!!!” and turn the thing over. Again, San Francisco WTF?!?! How do you people live here? What’s the crime like? All this coming from a New Yorker who’s has been mugged three times (all unsecessful thank you very much–represent).
  18. OK, this is the last time I blog while listening to rap… I’m out dawg! Peace! I love you all…. buy my album when it drops right after the mix tape!

Comments open for 24 hours… do behave!

Random thoughts from a dirty $99 hotel room in Silicon Valley 30 minutes before checkout

Lots of nice feedback on yesterday’s random thoughts…

1. I’m still really cheap. I have a hard time paying over $200 for a hotel room, I always try to take the low-level car, and I refuse to buy Starbucks coffee based on price. I wonder sometimes if I’m doing this to try to “keep it real” or if it’s a DNA thing. It really doesn’t hit my frontal lobes so there is some unconscious process at work. I think I need another podcast session with Dr. Goulston.

2. Trouble sleeping is one of the most important early indicators as an entrepreneur that you’re on to something big. If you’re sleeping well at night then something is WRONG. Great ideas, big problems, and execution puzzles keep you tossing and turning. I’ve learned to embrace my insomnia, not fight it. If you can’t sleep get the frack out of bed and work, write some emails, or do a blog post. Get it out of your system then try to sleep. However, don’t think there is something wrong with you… there’s something right with you!

3. While we did a great job getting 140 companies to present their startups FOR FREE I wonder if we could have done a better job getting the startups who can’t afford $2k into the event. Of course, 40% of the folks coming are startups so I guess we did OK. Maybe next year we should have a huge open video room for $500 for two days without food or something…. thinking out loud here about how to pull off an even bigger, more inclusive event. Of course, the videos of this event will be out via creative commons shortly… so, you won’t miss anything if you’re not there except for the networking.

4. Oh yeah, it’s sold out… thanks to the team of folks working to make this great and our partners (aka sponsors–but I hate that words… they’re not sponsors, they’re partners… they helped format the event, fill in the content, get us speakers, get us startups). Next year there will be no SPONSORS there will only be partners.

5. I really can’t wait until I’ve dropped the last 10 pounds and I’m at 170. I’m dreaming of doing the marathon again.

6. Nick Denton and I are having drinks @ 5pm today… let the speculation begin!

7. We have amazing press folks coming to the event. I hope they all take the time to focus on the STARTUP companies. Please leave the media circus around Mike and me out of this event. It’s NOT about us, it’s not about Mahalo, it’s not event about TechCrunch even thought the name is TechCrunch40. Nope, it’s about the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s about those 140 companies… my goal is to NOT have one story about myself or Mike at this event. All press resources should talk about the companies presenting. If you’re a friend in the press please PLEASE PLEASE focus on the ideas and the startups. Find a start up you love in the demo pit and write about them… let’s try and find some new up and coming startups. That’s the goal here.

8. I think I need to hire a sales force for Mahalo. I wasn’t going to do this but we’re starting to get calls from folks who are loving what we’re doing. Who’s the best person you’ve ever met who can create a long-term partnership with the top 50 marketers in the world? If you know anyone who wants to do something epic and change the world have them ping me… I wanted to wait until year three to start selling ads, but I think there might be some partnerships we can do now, so why not at least start the discussions.

9. When our Alexa ranking was sinking after the press launch folks beat us up. When it spiked people beat us up. More evidence that a) people are pessimistic by nature, b) short term traffic and services like Alexa, although obsessed over by many, are not important, and c) the best thing you can do as a startup is focus on your product and customers.

10. I love coffee. I’m not going to give it up for tea, and I don’t know that tea is so much better for you. Can someone please tell me if drinking coffee is going to kill me or not, because this anti-coffee sentiment is getting me down.

11. Why won’t Steve Jobs make a microlaptop? I have a powerbook and i leave it behind for my tiny Vaio most trips now because of weight issues. I really like small laptops because they are easier to pull out of your backpack for short posts like this one.

12. I need a GPS system for road trips. Which one is the best? I got lost every day in the Valley, and I realize that I can’t drive without a GPS (my ‘Vette has it built in and I use it when I got to the office just to count down the exact miles and average speed).

13. I have 23 presentations to run through on Sat and Sunday. These sessions are electric… my favorite part of the conference production has been refining the presentations. Someone like the NYT or WSJ should come to the dry run and document it tomorrow…. it’s really interesting.

14. Hotel just called and told me to get out…. more random thoughts later.

15. Should these random thoughts be on Twitter or Pownce one at a time?

16. I’m leaving comments open… for 48 hours…. please be nice. 🙂

We got Google to present @ TechCrunch40!

Wow…. this is gonna be an amazing event!

Random thoughts from the corner of University and Waverley

I’m in between my company demos and a CEO dinner Sequoia Capital is hosting tonight having some french fries and a huge diet coke at a place called “Taxis.”

Some random thoughts/updates:

  1. Is the folks in Silicon Valley are so loaded why does the food down here suck so much?
  2. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing with the TechCrunch40 event. I realized today while doing an interview with “The Deal” that the big difference between the TechCrunch40 event and the DEMO conference is not just that DEMO charges $18,500 to present for six minutes and that we are free (with a $50,000 grand prize).

    The most important issue is that we draw the *pre-funded* startups as well as the funded ones. A pre-funded/angel funded startup, by definition can’t afford DEMO. However, we selected companies on merit, not how deep their pocketbooks were.

  3. The fact that we have pre-funding companies at the event–and that we did the 100 company demo pit–has caused a TON of VCs and angel investors to buy tickets to the event. If you think about it this makes sense. At DEMO the VCs already know about the companies because they have already raised their first round (and are spending a chunk of it on DEMO!). So, why go see the folks who you’ve had in your office already. The VCs are flocking to TechCrunch40 because they know they might find the next Garrett Camp, Kevin Rose, or Joshua Schachter. Those guys wouldn’t have paid for DEMO, but they would have gotten into TechCrunch40.
  4. Turning off comments on my blog was the best decision I’ve made in the past six months.
  5. I’m sending at least one hour a day reading and responding to blog posts about Mahalo. I see this as an essential part of my “job” as CEO of the company. Of course, some folks have commented to me that I shouldn’t waste any time commenting on blogs and just focus on the product. I don’t buy that at all. The hour a day I spend talking to bloggers has paid off in a bunch of ways: a) I make relationships with folks who care enough about our product to write something, b) I learn about the product, and c) I learn about the human nature.
  6. Related to point five above, I’m amazed at how pessimistic the average person is. I’ve come to realize in my career is that the difference between people who gets things done and those who do not is this pessimism. I’ve always been attracted to the folks who say “what if we could…” or “what if you.” When I hear people talk like that I get engaged. When I hear “that’s been done already….” and “that will never work…” I want to walk away from the conversation. I guess that means I’m delusional on some level, and I’m realizing that the best products and companies out there are typically lead by delusional people who hire people who are very obsessive about details–but who are also dreamers.
  7. Talking to the 40 companies presenting, hearing them pitch WHY something is going to work has been totally inspiring and confirming to me. I love these people. I love people who try. I love people who dream. In another life I could have been a VC because listening to people talk about their dream and helping them make it happen is just frackin’ cool. To the angel investors and VCs out there I salute you. It’s got to be a hard gig at times (amazing at others), but you are very special folks to helping people make their dreams happen.
  8. I try to make time for entrepreneurs who have questions for me, but I’m not able to get back to all of them. I feel bad when I can’t, but I try. So, if you’re emailed me or IMed me and I didn’t get back to you I’m sorry. Realize I get 20-50 folks emailing me a day for advice and some days I’m trying to get advice myself! I don’t use the phone, so the best bet is to ping me on IM with a very specific question…. I answer all the time (jasoncalacanis on AIM or Skype).
  9. My mouth pain is gone. I’m off the pain killers.
  10. I feel so bad for the folks who died in 9/11 and I wonder sometimes if I’m ever going to get over it. I was watching some 9/11 coverage on Tuesday night about firefighters and I cried. I come from a family of firefighters (my grandfather and my brother) and cops (my uncle, my cousin, and my brother before he became a firefighter). Six years later I’m still crushed by it. I wonder selfishly if I’ll still be crushed by it 10 or 20 years from now. I think fairly confident I suffered PTSD after 9/11 and never really took the time to deal with it.
  11. I feel really great about losing 25-30 pounds over the past year. My energy level is higher, I feel stronger, and I don’t feel like its impossible to lose the weight like I used to. In another life I think I could write about it…. it’s a mindset thing. 100% lifestyle and mindset from what I’ve experienced, and from what I’ve learned from fellow (TM).
  12. I’m thinking I’m only going to blog about things I’m happy about for a month or two. I’m getting tired of the negativity of the blogosphere. I know negative energy can create positive change and all that, but I have to say that “the conversation” has shifted to the point at which “if it bleeds it’s a blog.” I understand why it happens… you don’t blog, you see something that pisses you off and your blog is the first place you turn. Everyone starts doing it and, like the 11 o’clock news, you start to think that the only thing happening in the world is murder. I find folks are, on a percentage basis, less negative in their real-world interactions.
  13. I’m really enjoying my “job” and the work we’re doing at Mahalo. We’ve got an amazing team and we’re figuring out so much stuff every day. We’re making progress so quickly…. I feel that same “this is gonna work” energy I had at Weblogs, Inc. and at Silicon Alley Reporter (a feeling I didn’t have at AOL truth be told).
  14. I put the word “job” in quotes because it just doesn’t feel like one. Sure, we’re doing hard work, but it feels more like a mission…. and that’s what Weblogs, Inc. and SAR were. Gosh I’ve got a great life… I’m so lucky.

Peace out everyone…. I’m off to the CEO dinner. Have to say hooking up with Sequoia has been great. First rate team that takes the time to host dinners to help CEOs solve their problems by sharing and learning together. So frackin’ cool.

Final five press/blogger tickets…

I’ve got five press/blogger tickets left for on Monday/Tuesday. If you want to cover and you’re the real deal ping me.

Tickets are sold out!

Yahoo, AOL, and the other BIG ONE are presenting new products. Check later today for the big (BIG) news.