Yup, back for a second year in a row. So…let’s get right into it, shall we?
Boy, was the place packed! I move one step and I’m already bumping shoulders with two VCs, an over-caffeinated hacker, and a security guard.
If there were any concerns about the state of Disrupt after the conclusion of last year’s flagship event in San Francisco with the internal hemorrhage at TechCrunch (Michael Arrington fired, MG Siegler, Jason Kinkaid, etc. departs), then today’s crowd dispelled all concerns for that matter.
Arrington himself was on hand to interview Reid Hoffman, and said it perfectly that “it seems that everything is going pretty well [in my absence].”
Ben Parr sighting?!
I kind of had a nerd moment as I was making my way to the Disrupt panel in the morning. I was walking behind a gentleman that from my angle, reminded me of someone I often see in my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed: the head of Ben Parr. A million thoughts ran through my head and naturally, I froze. “Tap his shoulder, you imbecile!”
Checking his tweets, he was indeed in attendance today:
At TC Disrupt. That’s a first.@ TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 instagr.am/p/PZterrR5j0/
— Ben Parr (@benparr) September 10, 2012
We, I mean, he reached the entrance to the panel and before long, he was lost in the darkness of the audience. Like Captain Ahab, Parr is now my Moby Dick.
Most interesting interview: Michael Arrington and Reid Hoffman
Arrington is an excellent interviewer. He has a way of asking the questions that no one wants to ask but everyone wants to hear the answer to. Today was no different.
He started things off by pointing out that Hoffman, as an early investor in Facebook ($37,500 at a $5 million valuation to be exact), was now super rich. How was life treating him these days?
For one thing, he now flies in a private jet; just him and the pilot. He doesn’t own his own jet yet though.
The conversation then shifted over to everyone’s favorite topic: Facebook’s IPO. What happened there? Hoffman of course went the diplomatic route and said that given the unprecedented demand to price Facebook accurately and to ensure a myriad number of things go right (employees and early investors get rich, not leaving too much money on the table, etc), the company did as best as they could given what they knew at that time. There were some factors that they couldn’t have been accounted for like Nasdaq’s servers going down, but other than that, as cliche as this sounds, it is what it is.
“So, is now a good time to buy into Facebook stock?” Arrington asked next. Hoffman responded that Facebook’s challenge is figuring out in the short term, how to monetize its mobile space, but interestingly said that it was not too difficult to solve. In fact, he says that he is bullish on Facebook in the long-term and believes that the next six months will be a critical period for Facebook to demonstrate its long-term innovative capabilities.
The next hot topic dealt with Twitter’s efforts to push out developers from its ecosystem. Recently, Twitter implemented changes to its API that now prevents LinkedIn users from posting their tweets to their LinkedIn newsfeed. Arrington tried repeatedly to get Hoffman to say that Twitter’s moves “are total bullshit,” but only got him to say that “it was partial bullshit.” Here’s why.
Since tweets stopped appearing in LinkedIn newsfeeds, the “liquidity” (what Hoffman calls the volume of content that is shared on a LinkedIn newsfeed) has improved. On Twitter, people post about anything; their job, their family, their food. On LinkedIn, it’s primarily business related. Adding tweets to LinkedIn did not add value from that perspective and with its removal, people are reporting that their news feeds are far more relevant. Not exactly rocket science here folks.
Least informative interview: Jessica Alba
Jessica Alba was onstage for her all-natural baby products company, The Honest Company. She was accompanied by her co-founder and better half, Brian Lee. Once I got past the “OMGZ, it’s a celebrity!” phase, the frowning began in earnest.
Leena Rao: Where do you see your company in five years?
Alba looks at Lee.
Rao: You want to take that question, Jessica?
Alba: Hahaha…yeah sure…Umm….(white noise)
It gets better.
When asked about a typical day for her, Jessica literally began listing all her activities from the moment her eyes open in the morning.
Well, I wake up, get dressed, feed the kids, brush my teeth, take out the trash, drive to work, have some meetings, do some work, come home around 7 or 8pm for dinner. I try to avoid traffic that way. And then I like, eat….(white noise).
And to finish on a high note…
Rao: What has been the most surprising thing about running a company?
Alba: It’s reaaaaaaally, really, really, hard!
Gee whiz, Jessica. That’s incredible insight!
Lit Motors: If a motorcycle and a sedan had a baby…
Lit Motors was the first company to present during the Startup Battlefield session. It was certainly one of the most ambitious startups I encountered today. Their goal is to bring about the future of transportation. Yup, shooting for the skies. But, you gotta admire that.
Lit Motors’ C-1 is a cross breed between a regular 4-door sedan and a motorcycle. It looks like this:
My first thought was, “That thing is ugly.”
The company even built a prototype and showed off the car onstage, which led to a sea of people craning their necks to catch a better view.
Founder Danny Kim also described the gyroscopic technology that allows the C-1 to stabilize itself, even in the event of a collision. They showed a mockup of a video showing a car hitting the C-1 and the car sort of bounces back upright rather than fall flat across the ground as you might expect on a motorcycle.
But what kind of impact can the C-1 sustain, and is it safer than a motorcycle? I don’t exactly remember the details of Kim’s response but I do distinctly remember him saying something about a successful crash test of a car coming in at 35 mph at 90-something degrees.
I’m not taking this thing on a freeway anytime soon.
I’ll be heading out tomorrow barring the arrival of the apocalypse. Doubt I’ll be returning on Wednesday, given my duties as an Apple fanboy that particular morning. It’s Christmas in September!