Today Show weatherman Al Roker turns 55 today. Actress Amy Adams is turning 35. Fred Wilson, New York's best-known venture capitalist, is 48. Connie Chung is turning 63. Local TV anchor Maurice DuBois is 44. Fred Durst is turning 39. Former presidential candidate Ron Paul is 74. Tony-winning actress Joan Allen is turning 53. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame is 61. Boxing promoter Don King is turning 78. And Disney star Demi Lovato celebrates her 17th birthday today.
The High Line, the elevated railway turned public promenade, opened last night to a select group of donors and supporters. Before the gala kicked off, Diane von Furstenberg and Barry Diller issued a challenge grant, promising to donate $10 million to the walkway if someone else came along and matched it. Hedge fund mogul Phil Falcone and his wife Lisa delivered, and while it's still unclear when the public park will actually be public—rumor has it that it may just be a matter of days now—in the meantime, venture capitalist Fred Wilson was good enough to bring a camera along to last night's event so we can all get a little peek at what's in store.
The good news: Jack Dorsey, the handsome programmer ousted as Twitter's CEO yesterday, can put his nose ring back in and stop seeing that CEO coach he hired. The bad news: His cofounder, Ev Williams, who's replacing him as CEO, is sugarcoating Dorsey's exit. Dorsey is not going to be working in Twitter's office, and his coworkers are saying their tearful goodbyes; he's effectively out of the company, though he retains the title of chairman and what is presumably a large stake in the messaging startup. So why did Dorsey get fired?"This has nothing to do with the economy," Fred Wilson, a partner at Twitter investor Union Square Ventures, told The Deal. True enough — but it does have to do with Dorsey's incompetence. One industry insider says he botched several acquisition offers — one by nattering on about his original idea for Twitter as a messaging service for ambulance drivers and bicycle couriers, an idea he still wanted to pursue after a Twitter acquisition.
"This is not some coordinated cynical attempt by VCs to talk down valuations or put entrepreneurs on the defensive. We are not spreading the contagion of gloom and doom. It's all about acting responsibly and making sure we all survive to fight another day. Because in the end, survival is what darwinian capitalism is all about." — Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, on Sequoia Capital's conveniently timed warning of bad times ahead.
Fred Wilson's venture-capital firm, the paper of record tells us, "has built its portfolio making small bets on young companies." That is an excellent definition of early-stage venture capital. But is Wilson, of Union Square Ventures, to be congratulated with a glowing New York Times profile merely for doing his job? Apparently so. The real thing that distinguishes Wilson from his peers are not his practices or his profits; it is his prolixity. Wilson writes a blog read by some 25,000 people a month. Newspaper reporters can relate to him as a wordsmith rather than a financier. Also, he is in New York, which makes him geographically convenient for the media capital. The news event which prompted this profile?Wilson gave a speech last week in Manhattan. In other words, there was no reason to run the story. What's really going on? Wilson himself explains: The Times had this piece in the works for weeks. My theory: Editors there felt it needed to run soon, before the sector Wilson favors — hipsterish Web startups like Twitter and Etsy — suffered some embarrassing disaster. (Photo by Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures carrying his own lunch order from Shake Shack in Manhattan's Madison Square to a group of tables where he was entertaining wantrepreneurs in New York for the O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo. Not pictured: Lane Becker, president of online customer-service startup Get Satisfaction, who kept his distance from the assembled nerds, pacing around a tree and chatting on his cell phone.
Buy low, sell high, as they say on Wall Street. And right now, there's a flow tide of technical talent from shuttered financial firms flooding the New York Area available at rock-bottom prices. Fred Wilson at Union Square Ventures says why not take a pay cut and work longer hours at a Web startup? The "quant jocks" Wilson describes could also bank their savings and some unemployment checks and spend six months pitching a business plan — I bet they could convince Wilson to throw some money your way. The entrepreneurial route worked for former finance techie Jeff Bezos, an early adopter who worked at a hedge fund before hedge funds were cool. First Round Capital has a list of jobs in and around New York for those who would rather continue collecting a paycheck. Though the fund did sneak in email startup Xobni, which is on the left coast. "[H]ey, why not consider a move. The weather is better and winter is coming!!!" That said, so is Julia Allison. (Photo by AP/Mary Altaffer)
Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson has given European startup Zemanta another $750,000, raising the young company's total to $2.25 million in early funding. What does Zemanta do? They've created a set of browser and blogging software plugins that automagically suggest and quickly adds "relevant" links to your blog posts, which Wilson has described as like "AdWords for content creators." My prediction?It'll be catnip to the bloggers featured on Techmeme, an automated news aggregator which has attracted an obsessive following among tech bloggers, if not actual traffic worth speaking of. Instead of seeking actual pageviews, Techmeme gamers try to collect some ineffable sense of self-importance. And so they'll inevitably start linking to Zemanta-suggested stories out of laziness. Even reporter Anthony Ha admits, "Linking and adding other media can feel like time-consuming distractions when I’m writing VentureBeat posts." With all the TechMeme pile-on posts drawing from the same pool of Zemanta-planted background links, the feedback loop in tech blogosphere groupthink will be turned up to 11. Honestly, with an algorithm finding your story leads, an algorithm doing your research, and an alogrithm choosing the relevant ads, why do we need human tech bloggers at all?
Venture capitalist Fred Wilson turns 47 today, but he beat us to it and already announced the news on his blog. Other people celebrating today: Today's Al Roker is turning 54. Connie Chung is 62. CBS 2 morning anchor Maurice DuBois is 43. Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst is 38. Former presidential candidate (and Texas congressman) Ron Paul is turning 73. And the Tony-winning actress Joan Allen is 52.
Why do so many people in tech deliver singing telegrams? Because they're so painful. My colleague Jackson West ventured this explanation: "Tech people are uncomfortable enough in the real world — raising the discomfort level and then blogging it for laffs provides a tail-eating narcissistic kick." Plus, it's a passive-aggressive sadism that can be documented in video and posted online. In the clips below, watch singing telegrams get delivered to prominent New York VC Fred Wilson, Yahoo ad exec Mike Walrath, and NextNewNetworks cofounder Timothy Shea. Watch and feel the heat rising on the back of your neck.Victim: NextNewNetworks cofounder Timothy Shea
Fred Wilson needs you! New York's most prominent venture capitalist is giving a keynote speech at the Web 2.0 Expo at the Javits Center in a few weeks. But instead of finding time in his busy schedule to write the thing—or using the sack loads of cash he has accumulated to hire a professional—he plans to creating the speech on a wiki basis, which means he'll be able to sit back and observe (or sleep, left!) as giddy tech-heads do the work for him. Sound familiar? Yes, indeed. Maybe as part of another experiment with "crowdsourcing," he'll solicit some volunteer construction workers to help him finish off that 12-story palace he's building in the West Village?
Egobloggers Jason Calacanis, Robert Scoble as well as startup PR clearinghouse Michael Arrington all want to know: How amazing is it that after two years of using Twitter, they've each already got nearly half as many "followers" on FriendFeed after just a few months? Asking the question, each offer hypothetical answers involving the social-network aggregator's ease of use — "The comment systems is so fast and easy that it's perfect," says Calacanis — or Twitter's frequent outages — "Twitter downtime plays a big part," writes Arrington. But here's the real answer to the amazing growth these bloggers have seen on FriendFeed: