Archive for the ‘paul carr’ tag
Paul Carr’s NSFW Corp has officially launched, bringing us all from the doldrums and despair of the Age of Pisces and into the majesty of the Age of Aquarius. The site, essentially the news of the day with jokes, launched a few months ago in beta and is now a 17-person strong comedy juggernaut putting out stories like “UK WORRIES ABOUT SPIRALLING COST OF FREE HEALTH CARE >> Run, America. Run while there’s still time //” and “KUWAIT ARMY STRUGGLES WITH OBESITY >> Are we heading for the first real Golden Arches war? A Gastric Band of Brothers? //.”
Paul describes the business plan as such:
The site, Paul’s second after leaving Techcrunch (this is his first one) and he’s learned a lot about HTML5 and the mechanics of building a news organization. You can visit him on the Internet here and sign up for some of the best news comedy since Redd Foxx got topical.
Former TC’er Paul Carr’s latest venture, called NSFWCorp, has launched into private beta. It’s a weekly news magazine dubbed as the “the Economist as written by ‘The Daily Show’” and will be available for $26 a year or “two bucks a month.” What’s particularly interesting, however, is how the company is offering initial subscriptions using a clever sponsor model.
If you join the waiting list now right now, you will be placed onto a waiting list. Sponsors will pay $5 for each subscriber in tranches of 400 for a minimum $2,000 sponsorship deal. These readers will then be encouraged, in six months, to subscribe officially.
“Not disclosing the exact number of people on the waiting list right now — but the response has been even better than we’d hoped. I guess scarcity is a good motivator. The bigger immediate challenge for us is making sure we have enough sponsors to let all those people in. Right now we have way more people on the list than we have available sponsored subs,” said Carr.
The idea of a once-monthly (or weekly) collection of topical pictures and words, delivered as a 500mb file, without links or other interactive elements is anathema to the connected consumer. If they want those things, they’ll buy a paper magazine (which increasingly, of course, they won’t). For most people, periodicals are accessed in the browser, usually for free.
You can sign up here and may the beta odds be ever in your favor.
It’s a Friday afternoon (in some parts of the world, at least), so go ahead — take a nice long drink of your favorite alcoholic beverage. If you’re like me, you’ll need it to make it through the CNBC interview with the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss that aired today. It is embedded above for your viewing pleasure, complete with CNBC reporters asking for the Winklevii’s autographs and all. Really, drink up.
Anyway. On air today, CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin talked with everyone’s favorite Harvard grads cum Olympic athletes cum Mark Zuckerberg nemeses about their latest foray into the tech startup space as individuals with significant financial reserves and no apparent engineering credentials. They’re becoming venture capitalists.
The VC Gold Rush
As PandoDaily’s Paul Carr has quite humorously written, this is just one example of the larger VC boom that’s happening: “In the coming weeks and months, I look forward to headlines about: An infant who has decided to call herself a VC. A robot that has decided to call itself a VC. A duck that has decided to call itself a VC. An infant robot duck that has decided to call itself a VC.” The Next Web’s Drew Olanoff had a good point about their prospects as well: “Personally, I’d rather take money from the guy who played them [in The Social Network movie], Armie Hammer.”
But we really shouldn’t take away from the Winklevii’s vision preemptively. It’s entirely possible they have deeper insights into this whole space than many realize. “We think the cloud is going to be huge,” Tyler Winklevoss told Sorkin today, after all. They’re focusing on “early stage disruptive startups” who are “shifting the paradigm.” I mean, Marc Andreessen, watch your back.
It’s Not Actually All Bad
OK, all snark aside. Like it or not, this really is just the beginning. The Winklevii have actually had their hands in the web world in one way or another for years — so if Silicon Valley peeps are feeling kind of appalled at the Winklevii jumping into the scene full time, they should really prepare themselves for what’s coming in the future. Wall Street isn’t as lucrative as it once was, after all — for many years, the most ambitious, savvy, money-oriented people from top universities just went straight into investment banking. Now that those jobs have dwindled and seem unlikely to make a resurgence anytime soon, those same people are now heading west and hitching their wagons to the tech industry’s star.
I actually think that, on the whole, this shift away from Wall Street and into Silicon Valley is a good thing. The best and brightest young people in our society have been going into the finance world for far too long. And whatever we think of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in particular, they are part of a larger class of people who have made the business world go around for many years: They’re well-educated, quite intelligent, and clearly don’t give up without a fight. It’ll be interesting to see how much more the tech industry goes into turbo-drive as more of these types enter the fray.
“For many Instagram users it’s discomfiting to see a giant company they distrust purchase a tiny company they adore — like if Coldplay acquired Dirty Projectors, or a Gang of Four reunion was sponsored by Foxconn.” — Paul Ford
“ They didn’t sell “out”. They just sold. They’re a company not the fucking Rolling Stones.” — Paul Carr
“They could have done so much more,” is a quip I’ve been hearing a lot the past few days, about, who else? Instagram. The news that the Silicon Valley darling sold to Facebook left so many people heartbroken. Paul Ford over at New York magazine even wrote a long article about why so many people were heartbroken and, gasp, threatening to delete their Instagram accounts.
When I found out that Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold (and if you ever have the chance, ask me to tell you this funny story in person) I was shocked, but also delighted, mostly because I have been around enough entrepreneurs to understand that, although they share many of the same characteristics as artists, they aren’t artists purely — They are also business people. And business people, and especially business people with VC-backing, have one goal only: Exit.
Sure “exit” is a vague term, sometimes, rarely, it means IPO, but more often than not it means “sell.” And in the Valley “sell” doesn’t neatly equate with “sell out” as it does in the music and art worlds. Former Digg CEO Jay Adelson, who has learned this the hard way, assuaged some of the guilt surrounding this issue,”If someone offers you a billion dollars for your business you should say ‘Yes’ [Caveat: With some exceptions].”
But a funny thing happened as tech went mainstream; All of a sudden network news pundits and your parents were weighing in on startup M&A activity, and mainstream rhetoric was slowly projected onto a somewhat niche industry. Everyone knows what its like to cringe when you hear your favorite song used in a car commercial. It’s a purely emotional thing, you get attached to a song and feel like it’s signifying you, but now it’s also signifying Toyota.
Bands, well at least indie bands, aren’t supposed to sell out. And Instagram was as “indie” a startup as you can get, employing 13 people and working out of a small office in SOMA. Systrom, who coded all the filters himself, is a self-taught programmer who interned for Jack Dorsey and worked at Google before starting Burbn out of Dogpatch Labs. Mike Krieger, who famously carried a laptop with him everywhere he went as Burbn scaled, built the startup while on a H1B visa from Brazil. They’ve got the tech equivalent of street cred.
While, as a backseat startup CEO, I would have done something differently — like said no to Facebook and leaked the offer to press — you can’t really begrudge Systrom and Krieger for building their business to do what most businesses were built to do, in one way or another create value or more concretely make money (Fun fact: Sequoia, which dropped $25 million in the startup’s most recent funding round, made back its Color investment with Instagram).
It’s sort of a selfish, myopic impulse to want the products you love to subvert this natural order of things and stay “indie.” Startups want to scale! It’s truly an exception to be that startup that keeps up momentum and control to the point where its scale takes over everything: You can count them on one hand, Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon — Schmidt’s “Gang of Four.”
Instagram had a real chance at being the world’s mobile only social network, hitting more 30 million users in a little under two years. Which is why Zuck rapidly panicquired it after it received funding on Thursday, doing the deal in a weekend according to what we’ve heard. Same thing with Zynga target OMGPop, which was showing similar potential for mobile market domination as it overcame the Zynga games in the App Store.
But not every company is cut out for manifest destiny, it is seriously just fine for a small company to partner up with a larger company in order to grow. In fact that’s the way the ecosystem works — It is extremely difficult to build a giant network, giant team and big company. There are a lot of variables that go into any decision to sell a startup, and I am sure there are a lot of variables that we as outsiders are not seeing here.
“Then along comes Facebook, the great alien presence that just hovers over our cities, year after year, as we wait and fear. You turn on the television and there it is, right above the Empire State Building, humming. And now a hole has opened up on its base and it has dumped a billion dollars into a public square — which turned out to not be public, but actually belongs to a few suddenly-very-rich dudes. You can’t blame users for becoming hooting primates when a giant spaceship dumps a billion dollars out of its money hole.”
Just think, Ford could have easily written these words if Facebook had succumbed to Microsoft’s acquisition offer years ago. Is something there now something evil/alien about Facebook simply because its gotten bigger? Maybe. In any case Ford does a really great job of dramatizing sort of simple events, as media are wont to do.
“Borg” rhetoric aside, there are many good things about being acquired, namely, seriously though, more resources to feed employees, fight lawsuits, keep the servers running, etc. If anything it’s just awesome that Krieger won’t have to run around chained to his laptop anymore.
I guess this is what people mean when they debate whether or not Instagram “sold out,” like, did Systrom and Krieger cave for the “right” reasons or were they purely motivated by cash? Well we won’t be able to tell, really, until six months from now when we know whether the product has kept growing and kept getting better.
Hell, all they’d really need to do is find a way to let you edit post comments and they’d break even in the court of public perception, with me at least.
Jack McKenna here, checking in from South By Southwest to support my old buddy Paul Carr. He may have told me off not so long ago, despite my fine work here over the years. But, we’ve talked it out and patched things up. You know how things go with bloggers.
Anyway, Paul is also in Austin right now, launching the US edition of his book ‘The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of a Life Without Reservations.‘ He’s doing a reading this afternoon at 5 pm at Bookpeople, (603 N. Lamar, Austin, Tx). I’ll be there, and apparently some ‘characters’ from the book are going to be in the audience too. Also, as Paul tweeted a few days ago… I’m going to spare you the embed, actually. Let’s just say the guy is shameless.
The book, for the uninitiated, tells the story of how he gave up his crappy life in London and decided to live as a permanent hotel-based nomad. I’ll let the back cover speak for itself:
Thanks to Paul’s ability to talk his way into increasingly ridiculous situations, what begins as a one-year experiment soon becomes a permanent lifestyle — a life lived in luxury hotels and mountain-top villas. A life of fast cars, Hollywood actresses and Icelandic rock stars. And, most bizarrely of all, a life that still costs less than his surviving on cold pizza in his old apartment. Yet, as word of Paul’s exploits starts to spread — first online, then through a national newspaper column and eventually a book deal — he finds himself forced constantly to up the stakes in order to keep things interesting. With his behavior spiraling to dangerous — and sometimes criminal — levels, he is forced to ask the question: is there such a thing as too much freedom?
The saga includes Paul’s first visit to TechCrunch 50, his meeting Sarah Lacy and Michael Arrington and subsequent adventures with both of them. It also includes the time he was mean about Le Web and a whole bunch of stuff about South By Southwest that he doesn’t like to talk about now. But maybe he will at the reading?
For those of you who can’t make it — which, to remind you, is today at 5pm at Bookpeople — Paul has shown his characteristic generosity in offering TechCrunch a staggering six copies of The Upgrade to give away to readers. To win a copy, simply tell him in the comments why you deserve one. He’ll pick the best six next week.
Ok, see you at Bookpeople.
603 N. Lamar.
What is interesting though is watching TechCrunch as it goes from Silicon Valley powerhouse to an era of the great exodus of familiar faces. The latest change is at the top (yet again) as Erick Schonfeld is gone as editor-in-chief and replaced by Eric Eldon. Maybe the Eric without the “k” will be more quick and nimble sans one consonant? I don’t know.
TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington laments the continued musical chairs at his former baby. Over at his uncrunched blog he writes
I’m exceptionally bummed that so many people have left TechCrunch. Of the top ten all time tech writers according to TechMeme, six were from TechCrunch: myself, MG Siegler, Erick Schonfeld, Leena Rao, Jason Kincaid and Robin Wauters.
Of that group, only Leena remains at TechCrunch. And many other stars have left as well – Paul Carr, Sarah Lacy, Vaughn Brown, Heather Harde and Greg Kumparak.
Change is inevitable in life, right? But the rapid rate of change at TechCrunch since Aol bought it oh so long ago (September of 2010) is startling. Arrington has theories on why that happened as well and he states it a way that only he can.
In the old days of TechCrunch we were pretty good at deflecting the constant gripes from the old school press and the mobs they occasionally kicked into existence.
TechCrunch still has to deal with that, but in the modern era they also have to watch their back, because they have a very touchy psychopath conducting a musical chairs to the death game with them right now.
A very touchy psychopath? That kind of statement might be enough to make Arianna’s well-coiffed hair curl on the spot! In all honesty, she doesn’t come off as a particularly likable person. I say that from a public persona point of view only since I have never met her personally and most likely will never have that chance. Oh well!
So while the staffing changes continue at one of the seminal blogs of this new tech era, the real problem lies in the plummeting traffic as reported by paidContent.org (GigaOm’s newly acquired playmate).
TechCrunch, the long-time darling of the digerati, is smashed to bits and all of AOL’s horses and men will be hard-pressed to put it together again. The site has lost almost every one of its top writers and traffic has fallen sharply, dropping by 35 percent from a year ago.
Here is the chart that gives the not so pretty traffic picture for TechCrunch these days.
The point of this is not to pile on to the folks at TechCrunch. In fact, I hate watching people’s lives be played with, especially by someone like Huffington who has cashed out long ago and seems to be collecting power points rather than money for her kicks these days.
Watching this happen though should serve as a warning to anyone in the online space. There is no job security or popularity security. This is a fickle space and if you are not in a true position of power there are no guarantees of anything. Even those in positions of power (like Arrington at TechCrunch) aren’t safe.
I am sure that everyone leaving TechCrunch will land on their feet and stick the landing. As for those that are there trying to right a listing ship? I can offer my best wishes and prayers that the blog either finds itself fully upright again or they get off before it really starts to take on water.
Goldman: AOL is a brand with a lot of baggage. It makes people remember that dial-up-modem sound and those free CDs.
Armstrong: One of AOL’s biggest assets is its brand. For people over 30 and, due to AOL Instant Messenger, even a lot of people under 30, AOL was their first real interaction with technology in a positive way.
Goldman: You’ve decided to turn it into a content company. But a year after spending $340 million to acquire the blog TechCrunch and The Huffington Post, traffic has barely budged.
Armstrong: Traffic actually is going way up on the properties where we’re investing for the future and pushing content. Huffington Post is up 46 percent. Numbers have been going down on some of the historical stuff: AIM went down, MapQuest went down and dial-up subscribers go down every year. So flat is up for us.
How can you counter that? Flat is the new up, Tim?
The brutal reality is that people’s aggregated media experience is rapidly shifting, and the rate of drift appears to be increasing. For example, TV sports grew 21% between ‘07 to ‘11, 15% more than TV as a whole. ‘Going to the movies’ is starting to look like a future vaudeville, with ‘11 US tickets falling to 1.29B, from the ‘02 peak of 1.5B.
People are spending their time looking at other things than AOL’s Patch. Oh, and Techcrunch US numbers have dropped like a rock, too, down ~40% in the past year. Huffington Post is booming, so I guess Goldman’s gibe — citing Paul Carr’s belief that Ariana HuffPo will be running AOL soon — might actually have merit.
Step back for a moment and think about what AOL paid for TechCrunch and The Huffington Post last year. Somewhere in the realm of $350 million dollars. Today Sarah Lacy, formerly one of the top writers at TechCrunch, debuted her new site, PandoDaily. Want to guess who is coming to write for her? That’s right, former TechCrunch folks like Mike Arrington, M.G. Siegler and Paul Carr.
Why exactly would AOL pay so much for editorial properties, only to let the big name writers on the mastehad walk away to start competing publications? It seems like Tim Armstrong doesn’t know how to drive a hard bargain. You want to talk about a painful irony — through Mr. Arrington’s Crunchfund, which is a backer in PandoDaily’s $2 million investment round, AOL is now literally funding its own competition.
A similar situation is developing in New York with the crew at Soho Labs. Former Huffington Post Chief Technology Officer Paul Berry, widely acknowledged as the brains behind HuffPo’s top notch SEO and early use of social tools, has left AOL and joined up with Ken Lerer, Eric Hippeau and Greg Coleman, all former high ranking members of the Huffington Post, who were handsomely rewarded when the site was purchased by AOL.
The group is working on the next generation of tools for social and viral news, the kind of features that made Huffington Post so attractive as a news brand. And they are doing it with help from Jonah Peretti, another founding member of HuffPo. Meanwhile Mr. Peretti is building his new startup, BuzzFeed, into a direct competitor to The Huffington Post, hiring top notch political reporters to compete for HuffPo’s bread and butter, the news cycle during this upcoming election season. It all prompted veteran media watchers to speculate. “How do you pay $315 M. for HuffPo and not keep the CTO locked up?” asked Peter Kafka.
Rafat Ali, the founder of paid content, sees it as a painful trend. “An AOL specialty, they never lock anyone. Or can’t. Ask Tacoda, Bebo, Sphere.”
Image via the National Library of Australia
AOL has lost another executive on Friday as TechCrunch‘s chief executive office Heather Harde leaves the blog AOL bought in 2010.
The departure was confirmed in a post by Erick Schonfeld, the company’s current EIC. News first broke when TechCrunch founder and former editor-in-chief Mike Arrington tweeted, “Heather Harde has resigned from TechCrunch. Sad day.”
Heather joined as TechCrunch’s CEO in 2007 after leaving New Corporation where she acted as the senior vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Fox Interactive Media. The blog itself was founded in 2005 by Mike Arrington, who sold the company in 2010 to AOL. He later left this past September to launch his own venture capital firm, CrunchFund. Since Arrington’s departure, both TechCrunch and AOL have experienced employee departures. This includes AOL president of Applications and Commerce Group Brad Garlinghouse, who left in November, and TechCrunch senior editor Sarah Lacey, who has not shared her future plans.
Writers MG Siegler and Paul Carr also recently resigned, with Siegler announcing his intent to join CrunchFund and continue at TechCrunch as an Apple columnist.
AOL made significant changes to its editorial vision after acquiring The Huffington Post and introducing Arianna Huffington to its staff. In March, the company sloughed off around 400-500 writers from its staff, causing its editorial properties to react. In addition to the moves at TechCrunch, former Engadget employees also left and recently launched technology blog The Verge.
Harde has not disclosed what she will be doing next, we will update this post upon hearing more.
[Image from CrunchBase]
Filed under: media
This won’t come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I am leaving TechCrunch.
My departure is something people have speculated about since Michael Arrington’s ouster two months ago, but it wasn’t an easy decision for me. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction out of loyalty for my friend, nor is it about making a big “F-you, AOL!” statement. I’ve spent the bulk of my maternity leave agonizing about whether to stay or go– the first half of it trying to find a way to stay and feel good about it, and the second half standing firm in my decision to leave, despite a lot of persuasive arguments to stay.
Even with the high-profile departures of Mike, Paul Carr, MG Siegler– and potentially Heather Harde if you believe the unconfirmed reports– there’s still a team here that I love working with. It’s a team that can band together with scant resources and pull off phenomenal things. That was made obvious to the world with our amazing first international Disrupt conference held earlier this month in Beijing. If you were up at 3 am watching the live stream and saw the talk I gave before handing out the Disrupt Cup, you know every reason I joined TechCrunch and every reason leaving has been hard.
This was a blog that wasn’t just a snarky observer of the tech scene– it was an inexorable part of it. Has that made it a messy, convoluted and conflicted ride? Yes. But that’s also what has made TechCrunch something a world of startups and entrepreneurs can’t live without.
I’ve bounced between a lot of jobs in the last few years– writing for BusinessWeek, hosting a show for Yahoo Finance, writing two books, and traveling the world to find great entrepreneurs– but TechCrunch was the first place in my career where I felt like I totally fit. It was a place I felt I could stay for a long time.
And then Mike sold the company. Things went better than I expected for the first year. And then this fall, all hell broke loose. You could produce a Lifetime movie of the week about the behind the scenes drama of the last few months. Publicly, I’ve stayed silent during much of it, but it has been every bit as gut wrenching for me as it’s been for my colleagues.
The CrunchFund was announced on the due date for my first baby. That weekend as my contractions started, the TechCrunch drama unfolded too. Mike would text me things like, “Are you in sitting on the couch drinking tea kind of labor or screaming, blood all over the walls kind of labor? Because I need to talk to you.”
The following week, as I waddled around San Francisco trying to induce more active labor, I was also awaiting word on whether we’d be able to buy TechCrunch back. I’d committed to come back as the editor if we were able to pull it off– a commitment Mike and Heather were always respectful enough not to ask me to make until after I’d given birth. As has already been widely reported, we weren’t able to pull it off, and when I came out of the labor and delivery room the next day, I discovered a job Mike and I had talked for years about me doing had been given to someone else.
Even still, I wanted to stay, and I had many conversations with Arianna Huffington, Heather and others trying to figure out something that made sense. They made many generous offers, and I don’t leave feeling unappreciated. But I can’t help feeling angry and sad over a lot of internal morale devastation and external brand destruction that simply didn’t have to happen.
I don’t think this is the time or the place to talk about what I’m doing next, but the plan isn’t to be a stay-at-home-mom. Ultimately this decision wasn’t about what went down with AOL and with Mike, it’s about me moving onto something I’m really excited to do next. And something that I hope will carry on the spirit of what Mike and Heather built at TechCrunch.
I wish the TechCrunch team the best of luck in the future. I hope the editorial expansion into China that I championed over the last year continues in my absence. The staff, the readers and the entrepreneurs we were lucky enough to champion every day will always have a special place in my heart. Goodbye everyone.