Courtney Love turns 45 today. Tom Hanks is turning 53. Jack White is 34. Jimmy Smits is 54. Floyd Abrams, the famed First Amendment attorney (and father of Dan), turns 73. Author/neurologist Oliver Sacks is turning 76. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld is 77. ACLU honcho Anthony Romero is 44. AIDS activist Mathilde Krim is turning 83. Architect Michael Graves turns75. Actor Chris Cooper is 58. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen turns 38. Author Dean Koontz is 64. Fred Savage of Wonder Years fame turns 33. Actress Kelly McGillis is 52. And OJ Simpson is celebrating his 62nd birthday behind bars today.
• It looks like Vogue is finally taking note of the recession. The July issue features a $40 Gap hat and $50 pair of J. Crew shorts. Ouch. [NYT]
• The Transformers sequel topped the box office once again this week, raking in $42.4 million to edge out Fox's 3D movie Ice Age by a smidge. [THR]
• Some retailers have been covering up the new issue of GQ featuring a semi-nude Sacha Baron Cohen. Not that GQ minds the "controversy." [NYT]
• Casey Kasem counted down the hits for the last time this weekend. [ABC]
Did you know Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen has joined eBay's board? Why yes, it's true — and it happened last month. VentureBeat editor Eric Eldon had gotten a belated tip about the hire, and published the story without checking the date. "I made a stupid mistake," he tells me. (He was more oblique in Twitter.) Eldon rapidly took the story down, but not before it was syndicated to The Industry Standard, where it caught the eye of Nicholas Carlson, my former charge at Valleywag who has landed at Silicon Alley Insider.See the hypercompetitive pattern? Hacks have always hustled to scoop rival papers. But tech blogs are being driven to distraction by the notion that they've been beaten by a story. In the rush to publish, they're not even stopping to check their own archives. Checking actual facts is far more cumbersome. Jordan Golson, another former Valleywagger who now blogs at the Industry Standard, made a stink about a report on TheHill.com about iPhones coming to Congress. TheHill.com's overly sensational headline topped a report that merely stated that Congress's administrative arm was testing some iPhones. Golson called the flack quoted in TheHill.com's story, who backpedaled from his earlier statement that "lots" of Congressmen had requested iPhones. Tom Krazit of CNET News, one of the guilty parties cited by Golson for reblogging TheHill.com, got to the bottom of things: Congressional IT administrators were testing a total of 10 iPhones, and all of two Congressmen had asked about getting iPhones instead of the standard-issue BlackBerry. This messy process shows the blogosphere at its best and its worst. Through a series of iterations, the horde of bloggers arrived at the right result. In the meantime, however, a lot of people got the wrongheaded notion that Congress is switching to the iPhone any day now. (I'd note that TheHill.com has yet to retract its initial report; it would not be the first time a flack has said something, regretted it, and then claimed he was misquoted.) There will always be a factchecking squad on the Internet. But I think the reblogging craze will fade over time, as the Web's writers learn the deep satisfaction of telling one's own story for the first time — not repeating someone else's for the nth.
Will the last tech executive to leave Facebook please turn off the lights at the datacenter? We hear Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook's operations VP charged with running the social network's expansive server network, has been interviewing for other jobs. He just completed a year at the company, which is usually when employees' stock-and-options packages begin to vest. Odd: We thought Heiliger might be happier at the company with the appointment of Marc Andreessen to Facebook's board.Heiliger previously worked for Andreessen at Opsware. One would think the chrome-domed entrepreneur, now chairman of Ning, would prove a powerful ally in the fierce political battles that have roiled Facebook since the appointment of Sheryl Sandberg, a Beltway insider turned Internet executive, as COO. Nothing's certain, and Heiliger may well stay. But for him to be so unhappy as to openly entertain job offers? The social network's executive suite seems to be coming unplugged.
Jeremy Philips, News Corp.'s Internet-savvy executive wunderkind, has been going around telling anyone who will listen, "Buy food and guns." Some people can't tell if Philips (shown here, right), is kidding; those who take him seriously interpret it as a wry shorthand for hunkering down and bracing for a long economic downturn. It's naive to think that the meltdown of the investment-banking sector won't have an effect on Silicon Valley. But not in the way most people think.Wall Street is currently in a bubble of panic. The Valley is currently in a bubble of denial. Neither zone approaches reality. Members of the National Bureau of Economic Research — the only official arbiter of such matters — can't even agree if we're in a recession yet. "It's really hard to say if we're in a recession, because different indicators point in different directions," said Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard professor and a member of the NBER's recession-calling commitee. That technical measure of recession ignores the reality on the ground: Home prices continue to slump, gas prices are pinching consumers' pocketbook, and advertisers are aggressively cutting back budgets, even online. Layoffs are grabbing headlines. But does this really affect the Web startups which so enchant the blogosphere's imagination? Schadenfreude demands that these tiny companies shutter their doors — or if they don't have the decency to close up shop, they should act suitably chastened by the cold economic winds blowing. There's a lot of contradictory advice being handed out: Rely on angel investors! Don't rely on angel investors! My advice: Don't rely on journalists and bloggers for advice on how to run your business. One might think Valleywag, which eagerly chronicles the mishaps of misconceived startups, would cheer on the notion of a lot of startups starving to death because of an economic downturn. Far from it! Better that they choke on their own vomit — that excess and lack of self-discipline kill them, rather than factors outside their control. Serious entrepreneurs should be tightly controlling their spending. But that is as true now as it was a year ago, and a decade ago. Retaining pricey PR firms, throwing lavish parties, hiring executives from Fortune 500 companies at mid-six-figure salaries — that can wait until the company turns a profit. If your startup is dependent on a bubbly economic cycle, then it's not being run like a startup. By all means, those who were never meant to be entrepreneurs in the first place, who lack any real ideas of their own, or any interest in making money rather than spending someone else's, should take this occasion to make a graceful exit from the scene. Six months ago, closing your startup would have seemed cowardly if not insane; now, everyone will nod at your wisdom. That brings me to the opportunists — the likes of Marc Andreessen, who has been preaching the notion of a coming "nuclear winter" for some time, and Jason Calacanis, who recently wrote about a looming "startup depression." Were I more impressed with their current startups, I'd nod alongside. But Andreessen's Ning is an unimpressive social-network builder; Mahalo, a gussied-up replica of Yahoo's 1994-era Web directory. Frustratingly for some observers, they have raised enough money that neither company will run out of funds for at least a year. (No one sincerely believes Calacanis when he says he has enough money to run the company for four years, do they?) If their flimsy business models remain unchallenged, their survival is all the more likely. So when Andreessen and Calacanis talk doom and gloom, what I'm really hearing is: "Please don't raise money for a better idea than mine — I can't take the competition." What history tells us, actually, is that the best companies are started in times like this. The last wave of truly innovative Web 2.0 companies — Flickr, Del.icio.us, Last.fm, Facebook — started at a time when no one particularly believed in their potential. Many people would benefit from a climate of fear: Venture capitalists, who might get larger pieces of startups; employers, who might hire talent more cheaply; and corporate dealmakers, like Jeremy Philips of News Corp., who might acquire companies less expensively. But the biggest reason to ignore Philips' fearmongering, in particular? He's not taking his own advice. Rumor has it that, instead of food and guns, he is acquiring a piece of Manhattan real estate. And from what we hear, it is rather too glossy a place to serve as a warehouse for rations and ammo. (Photo by Gawker Media)
As the seasons change and we settle into autumn, I'm reminded once more that yet another year will soon pass and that we're all getting older. Or at least, the old people are. Check out the images below, picturing tech luminaries in their youths juxtaposed with more recent photos. You might find yourself in disagreement with the English poet John Donne, who wrote: "No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face."Young Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder:
Comedian Hasan Minhaj recently left his old job at social networking startup Ning to persue a career in standup comedy and writing. Pointing out to the crowd at the Punchline last night where he was hosting, Minhaj explained that his old boss, Ning founder Marc Andreessen, was worth $5.6 billion. So why work startup hours for a few thousand a month when you could kidnap the guy for ransom? Because, as he lamented, his coworkers "put the soft in software." However, "I put the hard in hardware," Minhaj boasted. "Milpitas 'til I die!" It was all posturing in good fun, and the bit got a hearty laugh. I, for one, see the inevitable buddy picture road movie, with a disgruntled employee kidnapping a wealthy technology CEO and making a run for the border as hijinx ensue. Minhaj is performing tonight at the space180 gallery in the Mission tonight and at the Makeout Room tomorrow.
Marc Andreessen invented the friggin' Netscape browser. Have you heard of it? He also wants you to know that he's the idea guy who shifted your computing paradigm by getting Netscape to develop webtop software. So while gabbing at the Churchill Club, Andreessen slyly noted the realization of his ideas. By Google. Today's featured commenter, WilliamMarkFelt, explains the thing about ideas:
Google Chrome has the potential to replace the Windows desktop — and kill Adobe's Flash for extra points. So said Marc Andreessen, one of the programmers behind the world-changing Mosaic browser. He'd long ago envisioned a future where instead of running applications from a desktop operating system, computer users would get everything from servers on a network. It wasn't his original idea, but Andreessen pushed Netscape developers to replace the desktop with a "webtop." The result, Constellation, was bloated and slow. Ten years later, Andreessen told a small crowd at the Churchill Club in Palo Alto that Google is finishing his work:I've edited down Om Malik's report on the talk.
PALO ALTO — Thursday night in a Crowne Plaza hotel, with an Elks Club banquet roaring next door, Netscape cofounder, Ning king, and Facebook board member Marc Andreessen sat down with Portfolio writer Kevin Maney for a Churchill Club interview. This wasn't exactly what Andreessen had planned. Back in May, he wrote on his blog that he planned to stop speaking in public: "Used to be, if you wanted to get a message out into the market, you would give a talk at a conference, a reporter would write down some of what you said and mangle the rest, and you'd call it a day.... Mid-year resolution #1: No more public speaking. Mid-year resolution #2: More blogging." Two weeks later, he stopped blogging. Here follows a thoroughly mangled version of his comments. Marc, you have no one to blame but yourself.On Microsoft:
Along with former Opsware CEO and Netscape exec Ben Horowitz, Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen invested in live-streaming-over-cell-phones site Qik, joining the company's board of advisors. Until now Qik was best known for its footage of Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis versus Tesla founder Elon Musk in a street race and Digg cofounder Kevin Rose's dodgeball triumphs. Andreessen's Qik stream, embedded below, is much less entertaining. Nobody's saying how much Horowitz and Andreessen invested in the startup — VentureBeat calls it "significant." If you've heard, let us know.Click to view
Vancouver-based NowPublic is ostensibly all about citizen journalism. But since Guy Kawasaki sold Truemors to it and signed up as an advisor, it's becoming better known for publishing flattering lists of "influencers," supposedly ranking them according to various social media metrics. The first "Most Public" list focused on New York, but a new list for the Valley and San Francisco is "coming soon." And by virtue of being included in the latest edition, we received an early copy as a press release. Who comes out on top? Ubiquitous attention slut Robert Scoble, naturally. Full list after the jump.
Among the news from Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley retreat for the rich: Marc Andresseen continues his campaign to tell old media they are old; Carl Icahn would settle for any Microsoft offer that pays $30 or more per Yahoo share; some industrial chemical giant agreed to buy some other company no one's ever heard of. Yet none of the stories feature photographs of the deals going down. Why? Because unlike in years past, the retreat organizers have banned reporters and photographers from "the beloved cafe at the Inn," reports Reuters. What's more, to keep these reporters and photographers from stalking their prey on the hotel's grounds — as any good reporter would — organizers resorted to shrubbery to further shield the moguls' privacy. From the tags still left on the brand-new shrubs (how nouveau gauche), Reuters reporter Kenneth Li estimates organizers spent between $4,300 and $6,110 on the organic fence.