A source within Clarium Capital, Facebook investor Peter Thiel's multibillion-dollar hedge fund, claims that Thiel has just donated $1 million to NumbersUSA, the largest anti-immigration group in the U.S. Another source denies that Thiel made the donation — but Rob Morrow, a principal at Clarium and close Thiel associate, has backed the group with a small donation of $1,000 or less. NumbersUSA likes to position itself as an "immigration reduction" organization; it seeks to roll back legal immigration limits to pre-1965 levels. Morrow's support of the cause is inevitably embarrassing for Thiel.That's because Thiel, who practically makes a fetish of finding the best talent wherever he can, has benefitted from immigration personally. He was born in Germany, and his tech fortunes are due in large part to the genius of Ukrainian-born programmer Max Levchin, his cofounder at PayPal who is now CEO of Slide. But Morrow is unlikely to suffer any consequences from his support of the cause. A right-wing intellectual and financial analyst, Morrow, too, has made a lot of money for Thiel. Much of Clarium's breathtaking performance over the years stems from his prescient thinking on the decline of the dollar and the mortgage bubble.
Max Levchin is onto his third business plan for Slide. Levchin's startup just signed a deal with content distributors Time Warner, Warner Bros., CBS, E!, Hulu and others to turn Slide's FunSpace application — formerly known as FunWall — into a video-sharing, video-distribution channel targeting social network users. Opening a New York sales office soon, Slide will sell ads against its partners' videos as well as share in some of their revenues. Levchin's investors say Slide is worth $550 million, but they're obviously investing in Levchin's ability to will Slide's 160 million users into a valuable asset, no matter how many times the company stumbles.At its founding, Slide was supposed to be a shopper's search engine. That model was dropped and before today's news, Slide's plan was to somehow charge advertisers for conversations its social network widget users had about brands. That was too gimmicky and unproven for Madison Avenue. One exec there told me he expected "Slide and [it's closest rival] RockYou will get weeded out." Now Levchin says: "Television is a world that advertisers love." More than widgets? Let there be no doubt. If Levchin can turn Slide into an old school brand advertising-supported business with massive scale he might just live up to his investors expectations. For perspective, remember that ad-supported Readers' Digest has half as many people as subscribers and a private equity firm bought it for $1.6 billion in 2007.
Slide founder Max Levchin made longtime lover Nellie Minkova an honest woman on Saturday. The ceremony was held at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel, and featured HotOrNot cofounder James Hong as best man, with fellow PayPal mafioso Peter Thiel another groomsman. Gracious enough for the couple to refuse gifts besides books and wine, considering how many zeros Levchin can count toward his (and now their) wealth. However, rather ironic that the bride and groom asked guests not to upload any pictures from the ceremonies online for "privacy" reasons.Levchin's Slide promotes the practice of sharing every precious and not-so-precious moment with the world at large, and that his company has massive amounts of Facebook user data at its disposal thanks to the popularity of the company's Facebook applications. Yes, the rich are different than you and I: They don't buy into the crap they sell us.
Preeminent among the magazine world's kingmaking power lists is Vanity Fair's New Establishment, which appears in the October issue — on newsstands in L.A. and New York today, but not in the Bay Area for another six days. Silicon Valley gets similar short shrift: The names who make it there are predictable bigs like Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison, or Hollywood-crossover types like Jeff Skoll, eBay's first employee turned movie producer. Walt Mossberg, now employed by New Establishment perennial Rupert Murdoch, also squeaked in. The consolation prize Vanity Fair offers: Its "Next Establishment" list, reserved for the likes of Twitter's Ev Williams. It's a marvelous piece of New York media trickery — flatter the geeks by making them feel included, but corral them into a side room so the real power brokers aren't offended by comparison. True, the "Next Establishment" suggests that these are people who might matter in the future. But in saying that, Vanity Fair's editors are also sending the message that right here, right now, its "Next" nominees are nobodies. On this year's list:
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.
Attention, rival Facebook-application developers: Slide has money in the bank, and your widget startup doesn't. Such was the unsubtle message of Slide's third anniversary, held last night at San Francisco's newly opened Contemporary Jewish Museum. It was the first tech-company party held at the sleekly modern spot, a block or so away from Second and Mission, San Francisco's new dotcom epicenter (Slide is based nearby, as are Yelp, Socializr, and others.) It was Slide's first big party since raising $50 million earlier this year. CEO Max Levchin has not let wealth go to his head — he was happily recounting how, when he first moved to Palo Alto, he had to fast-talk his way into an apartment lease from a paisan named Vinnie, since past startup failures had thoroughly wrecked his credit.
At Allen & Co.'s annual schmoozefest in Sun Valley, Idaho, there were a lot of regulars, like IAC's Barry Diller — and a few new faces, like Slide CEO Max Levchin. Julia Boorstin of CNBC reports that the two were "lingering" together at lunch. This after Kevin Rose reported how Diller charmed
the (metaphorical) pants off of him in acquisition talks that ultimately went nowhere. I doubt any dalliance between Diller's IAC and Levchin's Slide will go much further; Slide's far too expensive, and Diller's far too fickle. But I'm sure Diller finds the company of young men refreshing.
Traffic to RockYou's popular Facebook widget Super Wall declined from 2.1 million to 600,000 daily users over the last few days, as Facebook blocked the widget from sending users notifications and messages, claiming RockYou had violated Facebook's privacy policies. RockYou CTO Jia Shen told Inside Facebook the allegations and their punitive response are "slightly debatable":
On Wednesday, Facebook and MySpace users who have installed Slide's near-ubiquitous SuperPoke widget — the one that lets you throw sheep — will be able to send messages branded with characters and slogans from VH1's stable of reality series such as Flavor Flav from Flavor of Love. It's all an effort to promote the new series I Love Money — which, surprisingly, does not star hypercompetitive Slide founder Max Levchin. Who knew?
Online widgetmaker RockYou is still looking for another $5 million to $15 million in funding, even after it took $35 million last week, at a $300 million valuation. That money was for doubling its staff, moving to a larger office in Redwood City and acquiring more widgets — those annoying add-ons to social-network profiles — for its portfolio, RockYou CTO and founder Jia Shen told Silicon Alley Insider — but it's not clear what the extra cash is for. In March, rumor had it RockYou's lastest funding round would set its value near $400 million, but thanks in part to a sliding ad market and a developer-unfriendly Facebook redesign, investors are said to have turned skeptical, sending the startup's paper value down by $100 million to $150 million.
Social reviews site Yelp isn't nearly as popular in New York as it is in San Francisco and management has been planning to do something about it. "They're gonna pump up efforts to conquer NYC, renting an office in Gramercy area and assign [an] East Coast community leader," a source with new details tells us. Yelp already has an ad sales office in New York's West Village, but our source says those people will move to the larger office further uptown by September as well. Yelp is a cousin to widgetmaker Slide, with Slide founder Max Levchin on Yelp's board. With Slide's own upcoming move to New York and Yelp's city expansion, we'd expect to see a lot more Levchin around the Alley, except, well, we hear he never leaves the office. (And if he did, we'd prefer he say hello to his bride to be first.)
Linking up social websites, as proponents of "data portability" would have us do, can be hazardous to your privacy. And Paris Hilton's, and Lindsay Lohan's. But even the widgets on a single social network can leave us exposed. SuperPoke, a popular application made by Slide, will show you who's thrown a sheep at anyone, as long as you have their Facebook ID — the unique numeric identifier which shows up in the URL of their Facebook profile. Mark Zuckerberg's SuperPoke feed is here; substitute the number of another Facebook user for Zuckerberg's "4", and you can see every last sheep he or she has been involved with.
Slide founder Max Levchin believes Web 2.0 is about to bust. Funding will evaporate and revenues won't materialize; companies will fold and employees will lose their jobs. The lucky few that can will sellout to larger companies. All of which means "this is the perfect time to start a company," Levchin told the Financial Times. Why does Levchin believe this? You know, other than the fact that he's a well-documented masochist who works 15 to 18 hour days and, despite a fear of the water, forced himself through a triathlon?
CARLSBAD, CA — I wasn't just eighty-sixed, folks. No, I was eight-D6'd. There I was, charming my way through the crowd at the Wall Street Journal's D6 conference — why hello, Sir Howard Stringer of Sony! Oh, was that Steve Case? — when a woman announced herself as "in-house security" and informed me that "the client" had asked that I be shown the door. "The client" being Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, the conference organizers, and "the door" actually just the way to the hotel bar, where I'm having a lovely fruity beverage. And Swisher and Mossberg were too late with the bum rush. I'd already been working my camera for hours. While Bill Gates bores attendees with a preview of Windows Seven, Microsoft's latest attempt to annoy the majority of computer users, you can enjoy the snapshots I took. Among the nerdspotting: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Max Levchin of Slide.
Before PayPal and Slide founder Max Levchin moved from Illinois to Palo Alto in 1998, he'd started three companies and sold the last for $100,000 — not a tiny amount of money, especially for a young entrepreneur. But after selling PayPal to eBay for $1.54 billion, these days Levchin is worth around $100 million. Six figures no longer merit that much of his attention. It's such a paltry amount that in Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, Sarah Lacy reports Levchin actually forgot about the money until 2006. "In just four years," Lacy writes, "$100,000 would go from being unfathomable riches to pocket change." Levchin is no longer interested in the purchasing power of money, but we are. So let the young multi-millionaire know how he should spend that $100,000 in "pocket change" in our poll.
Web 2.0 was hot last night. And I mean the kind of heat determined not by Technorati rank, but by the thermometer. Despite the stifling weather, San Francisco's Web stars turned out for a party Sarah Lacy threw for her new book, Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good at Otis off Union Square. The hole-in-the-wall, two-story bar couldn't handle the crowd, which spilled out on Maiden Lane. Slide CEO Max Levchin, the star of the book, stopped by with fiancé Nellie Minkova to congratulate Lacy, and then immediately left. Runner-up Jay Adelson, whom Levchin beat on page count, stayed longer, as did Twitter's Ev Williams, who came with his wife, Sara Morishige. Also in the crowd: August Capital VC David Hornik, who didn't even rate a mention in the index, despite inviting Lacy to his exclusive Lobby conference. A gallery of photos, after the jump:
This decade's greatest Internet hits — Google and PayPal — make so much money because they help money change hands more efficiently. The next great wave of moneymakers on the Web won't be nearly so utilitarian, Keith Rabois, VP at widgetmaker Slide, argues in a guest post to AllThingsD. Rabois says the Web's next mint will be made on fun — a very underrated commodity, he says. To demonstrate his point, he harkens back to the week of April 21 and the electoral contest that captured all of America's attention. Not the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, Rabois writes. "I'm talking about American Idol." Then he lays down some convincing numbers: