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I was going to write a different post this morning, but I came across this post by Matt Haughey titled Ev’s assholishness is greatly exaggerated and, after reading it, sat for a few minutes and thought about it. Go read it now and come back.
Welcome back. I’m not an investor in Twitter directly (I am indirectly in a tiny amount through several of the VC funds I’m an investor in) but I’m an enormous Twitter fan and user. I also wasn’t an investor in Odeo so, as the cliche goes, I don’t have a dog in the hunt. But I have a few friends who were so I have second hand knowledge about the dynamics around the Odeo to Twitter evolution.
When I read (well – skimmed) the latest round of noise about “how founders behave”, possibly stoked by Paul Allen’s new book on the origins of Microsoft along with his 60 Minutes appearance, I was annoyed, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why. I had a long conversation with a friend about this when I was Seattle on Tuesday and still couldn’t figure out why I was annoyed.
Matt, who I don’t know, nailed it. As he says in the last sentence of his post, [it's] just melodramatic bullshit.
Creating companies is extremely hard. I’ve been involved in hundreds of them (I don’t know the number any more – 300, 400?) at this point and there is founder drama in many of them. And non-founder drama. And customer drama. And partner drama. And drama about the type of soda the company gives or doesn’t give away. The early days of any company – successful or not – are complex, messy, often bizarre, complicated, and unpredictable. Some things work out. Many don’t.
We’re in another strong up cycle of technology entrepreneurship. It’s awesome to see (and participate) in the next wave of the creation of some amazing companies. When I look back over the last 25 years and look at the companies that are less than 25 years old that impact my life every day, it’s a long list. I expect in 15 more years when I look back there will be plenty of new names on that list that are getting their start right now.
So, when the press grabs onto to the meme of “founders are assholes” or ex-founders who didn’t stay with the companies over time whine about their co-founders or when people who didn’t really have any involvement with the creation of a company sue for material ownership in the company because of absurd legal claims, it annoys me. It cheapens the incredibly hard and lonely work of a founder, creates tons of noise and distraction, but more importantly becomes a distraction for first time entrepreneurs who end up getting tangled up in the noise rather than focusing on their hard problems of starting and building their own company.
When I talk to TechStars founders about this stuff, I try to focus them on what matters (their business), especially when they are having issues with their co-founders (e.g. focus on addressing the issues head on; don’t worry about what the press is going to write about you.) When I hear the questions about “did that really happen” or “what do you think about that’ or “isn’t it amazing that X did that” or “do you think Y really deserves something” it reminds me how much all the noise creeps in.
I like to read People Magazine also, but I read it in the bathroom, where it belongs, as does much of this. It’s just melodramatic bullshit. Don’t get distracted by it.
Ah – the joy of a meme. Today’s meme is “The Web Is Dead.” Whatever. My favorite article about this in the past 24 hours is The Tragic Death of Practically Everything – this is basically what I would have written if I’d had time today.
Today’s first Tech Star video has nothing to do with TechStars. Instead, it will go down in history as another nerd period piece by Terry Kawaja from GCA Savvian. I first met Terry when we hired him to be CFO of Raindance Communications to help take it public. We had a twisted sister streak then which he maintains to this day. Enjoy the video – it’s a great one. And – I’ll see you later this morning with the real TechStars Founders 2010 Episode 4 video.
In the last few days there have been a large number of posts about two platform companies – Apple and Twitter. These posts covered a wide range of perspectives (a few of the better ones are linked to below) but fundamentally came down to the tension between a platform (e.g. the iPhone OS or Twitter) vs. third party developers that build applications on top of the platforms.
Several of the Twitter related posts include The Twitter Platform’s Inflection Point, Twitter and third-party Twitter developers, and Developers In Denial: The Seesmic Case Study. Several of the Apple related posts ones include and Adobe Vs. Apple War Generates Rage, Facebook Group, Why Apple Changed Section 3.3.1, Steve Jobs response on section 3.3.1. If you missed the leads to the story, Apple made a major change in their TOS and Twitter launched an official Blackberry client and acquired the Tweetie iPhone client, rattling their developer community. And Twitter Officially Responds To Developers and Tries To Calm Fears.
While there has been an amazing outburst of reaction – including much surprise and criticism – to both of these situations, they should come as no surprise to anyone that has been in the computer business for a long time. What we are experiencing is the natural evolutionary struggle that exists between a platform and its developers. In the past few years, both Twitter and Apple have created amazing platforms and build incredible network effects on top of their platforms. One way they have done this is to embrace developers, who have flocked to these platforms in droves, building a huge variety of awesome, great, good, mediocre, and crummy products on top of the platforms. Some of these products have created meaningful revenue for the developers, others have generated fame, and many have generated a giant time sink of work that hasn’t resulted in much. This is the nature of being a developer on top of a platform.
True platforms are special things that are rare. Fortunately, developers have a lot of choices and that is a powerful dynamic that keeps both the platforms and developers evolving. I think the next few months are going to be pretty exciting ones as the current phase we are in sorts itself out.
While Fred Wilson has his review of his Google Phone up already, I’m more intrigued with all the pre-CES announcements. I’ll be walking the floor on Thursday soaking it all in and I’m pretty excited this year based on all the chatter. One thing that has me particularly stoked is what I’m going to call “universal videoconferencing.”
I saw my first “videophone” around 30 years ago. It sucked but the idea was magical (and still is). Like my personal jetpack, I’ve been waiting patiently for it. Very patiently. For 30 years.
I think 2010 is the year it finally happens. Engadget has a review of Skype HD (720p) and videocalling from PCs or Internet connected LG & Panasonic HDTVs (damnit – I knew I shouldn’t have bought that new Samsung.) 720p is plenty for me on my 30” computer monitor or my 50” TV. With Skype (I’m bradfeld btw) the video / audio layer is free and broadly compatible (no more fighting with specialized hardware).
I’ve been doing low-res Skype videoconferencing for a while and now chat with my dad a few times a week. I finally got Amy using it and while she’s in Keystone and I’m in Boulder it’s almost like we are together (without the smell-a-vision). But the video quality is mediocre and it still feels limited to being in front of a computer to use.
Now, put it on a TV in your living room. In HD. On a 50” screen. The picture in the NY Times article A Venture Integrating Skype Into the Family Room is perfect.
The only thing wrong here is the remote control. There is no good reason why the 50” screen with the video camera built in can’t do simple gesture recognition to “answer”, “volume up”, “volume down”, and “hang up.” That’s next.
One of my goals in 2010 is to get HD videoconferencing set up across all of the places I live and work. My 30” screens are a good start. And – with some of the announcements coming (and stuff I expect to see at CES) I’m optimistic that I might be able to get this working with standard equipment and Skype this year.