I'm taking guesses now. What's "Project A," the seekrit product being talked up by Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis on his private mailing list? A recap of recent events: He launched a human-powered news feed at a time most companies were planning layoffs. After that, he performed a layoff, then trolled for new engineers to hire. Why do I like the often-blustery Calacanis? Because when I briefly worked for him as an Engadget stringer, I saw his approach to running a startup: Operate the business on a shoestring, but splurge on little things to make employees feel spoiled — a second monitor, a killer espresso machine, free dinners at places the staff can't afford. Don't hate him because he's rich. He always picks up the check. Anyway, here's his vague product pre-announcement:
Tough times, frivolous junkets: That's the modus operandi of Jason Calacanis, the grandiloquent emailer-in-chief of Mahalo, the Internet's most overfunded Web directory. He and butler/assistant/videographer Tyler Crowley posed for a picture while on a trip to Japan taken shortly after he promised to curtail his travel schedule while laying off Mahalo staff. Can you think of a better caption? Leave it in the comments. The best one will become the post's new headline. Friday's winner: m0nty.au, for "Eric Schmidt's 20 percent time project." (Photo by namekawa; used by permission)
Tough times, tough decisions: Which media outlet will cover the delivery of Jason Calacanis's $109,000 all-electric Tesla Roadster? Calacanis, the braggadocio-burdened CEO of Mahalo, an overgrown website directory, has called for camera crews from CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Fox, and, for good measure, the New York Times. He's also registered the domain name Tesla16.com. "16" is either the production number of his Roadster, or the number of employees he could have avoided laying off with the money he's spending on it. We're not sure which. Either way, we're looking forward to photos of Calacanis's bulldogs, Taurus and Fondue, with their tongues hanging out the window.
Jason Calacanis, the professional email sender and part-time CEO of Mahalo, is a busy man. Fresh from executing layoffs at his fewer-humans-than-before-powered search engine, he's jetting off to Japan. This, mind you, despite promising to cut down on travel as an austerity measure. Brian Alvey, Calacanis's cofounder at Weblogs Inc., the blog network they sold to AOL for $25 million, is keeping house for him. "Heading to L.A. so I can house sit for @jasoncalacanis and help with any packages that arrive while he's in Japan," he writes on Facebook, according to a screenshot sent in by a tipster. Alvey later admits the "package" that's arriving: Calacanis's $109,000 all-electric Tesla Roadster. Here's the Facebook discussion this prompted:
My Wired essay "Kill Your Blog" has spawned a charmingly identical piece in The Economist's print edition this week. Same theme, same Jason Calacanis quote from July. But read this part out loud: "A decade ago, PDAs were the preserve of digerati who liked using electronic address books and calendars. Now they are gone, but they are also ubiquitous, as features of almost every mobile phone." I'd love to meet The Economist's anonymous author, if only to confirm that anyone on Earth actually talks that way.
Officially, the New York Times Company isn't commenting on tech executive Jason Calacanis' claim that it is shopping reference site About.com in an effort to shore up its financial position and perhaps go private. But two anonymous sources poured cold water on his statements, according to Peter Kafka of All Things Digital, denying that the profitable property is on the block. Perhaps a rogue banker is trying to drum up interest in a (hypothetical) deal before taking it to the Times, hoping to score some business. Or maybe Calacanis just got his wires crossed. But lack of any dealmaking will hardly tamp down speculation over how the Times Company will pay down its junk-rated debt. If anything, it makes the situation an even more tricky puzzle.
The troubled New York Times Company is running out of options. It owes more than $1 billion, close to half of it coming due in the next two years. But it just ruled out layoffs for the foreseeable future and will probably try to avoid cutting the $132 million annual dividend, since doing so could spark a boardroom revolt by high-living Sulzberger family members. So it would make sense if the company has been trying to sell About.com, as Jason Calacanis, CEO of search engine company Mahalo, said on the This Week In Tech podcast last week. (Audio of his remarks lies after the jump.)
Click to viewProfessional annoyance Kara Swisher, the BoomTown blogger, went to a how-to-survive-the-downturn gabfest, and all she got was this lousy video. Captured on her Flip camera: Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, who didn't predict the downturn; Nirav Tolia, the Epinions cofounder — an entrepreneur — who hasn't laid anyone off since the last bubble burst and is surely rusty; Google investor Ram Shriram, who has way too much money to care about such mundane affairs as a recession; and Fast Company videoblogger Robert Scoble, who is cheerfully clueless as ever. The bright side: If Scoble is saying companies need to conserve cash, perhaps we've hit a market bottom.
As a startup, you are now, officially, on your own. You can't count on your VCs saving you or some magical offer from Yahoo or Google showing up to bail you out. Taurus has laid off Fondue. You need to rewrite — no, not your business model. Your business plan. Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, in his latest private email, offers this advice:
"Do you know that you're amongst the very best, but can't find a company that appreciates you or gives you the opportunity you deserve?" So begins Mahalo's come-on to developers. The bulldog-powered search engine just laid off a large chunk of its staff, including some developers. Why is it hiring more? We're sure Jason Calacanis, Mahalo's voluble CEO, has some entertaining spin, which we'll let him add it in the comments. But since his HR department didn't stamp the Craigslist posting with "DO NOT REPRINT," as Calacanis is known to do with his emails, we're republishing it below.