It’s the most wonderful time of year… because Disrupt New York is getting closer! We’re now wrapping things up behind the scenes, and the show is shaping up to be our best ever — we know, we know, we always say that.
Today we’re honored to be announcing three more luminaries who will take the much-vaunted Disrupt stage in late April.
Sequoia Capital partner Roelof Botha, SV Angel’s David Lee and Valley don Ron Conway are all speaking at Disrupt NYC 2013. They’ll be joining previously-announced speakers Fred Wilson, Ken Lerer and Ben Lerer.
Remember, Startup Battlefield applications are due on 2/22. Battlefield is the heart and soul of Disrupt, and a fantastic launch platform for a startup. We know you can be the next Mint, Dropbox, or Yammer but you have to apply first.
And for those of you who are already Mint, Dropbox and/or Yammer, you can sign on to sponsor the event by mailing email@example.com.
Partner, Sequoia Capital
Roelof Botha is a partner at Sequoia Capital, and works with a broad range of companies. Some democratize technology access (Square, Eventbrite, Unity, Nimbula); some create global user communities (YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram); and others disrupt markets through innovative business models (Evernote, Weebly, Xoom). Roelof also sits on the boards of Aliph, Mahalo, and TokBox. Roelof is a champion of consumer Web plays and considers himself “just another consumer.”
Roelof led the initial financing of YouTube on behalf of Sequoia Capital in 2005.
Roelof served as the Chief Financial Officer of PayPal, where he led the company through its IPO in 2002, and the acquisition by eBay before joining Sequoia Capital in 2003.
Roelof loves to hear a founder recount what inspired them to strike out on their own and to gain an understanding of how the founder is uniquely solving a customer pain point.
Founder & Managing Member, SV Angel
David Lee is the Managing Member at SV Angel, where Ron Conway is a Special Partner. SV Angel focuses its investments on early-stage consumer media companies.
He focuses on investments within the consumer Internet, mobile, video and other IT industries. Prior to SV Angel, he was at Google, where he led new business development efforts in video, media and content/data partnerships. After Google, he led all business development-related efforts for StumbleUpon.
Recently he was a partner at Baseline Ventures and also an attorney at Morrison and Foerster representing high-tech companies in commercial transactions. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins, NYU (JD) and Stanford (MSEE), where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate fellow. He is an individual investor in Square, WePay, Chomp and EQAL; an adviser at ScanScout, SocialDeck (acq. by Google) and Rupture (acq. by EA); and was on the board of directors of BookFresh (acq. by Sugar Inc.).
Angel, SV Angel
Ronald Conway has been an active angel investor for over 15 years. He was the Founder and Managing Partner of the Angel Investors LP funds (1998-2005) whose investments included: Google, Ask Jeeves, PayPal, Good Technology, Opsware, and Brightmail.
Ron was previously with National Semiconductor Corporation in marketing positions from 1973-1979, and Altos Computer Systems as a co-founder, President and CEO from 1979-1990. He eventually took Altos public in 1982 and served as CEO of Personal Training Systems (PTS) from 1991-1995. PTS went on to be acquired by SmartForce/SkillSoft. Ron has served/serves on Boards/Advisory Boards including: Twitter, Digg, Brightmail, Ask Jeeves, Rupture (acquired by EA), Associated Content(acquired by Yahoo!), Facebook, RockYou, ScanScout, Zappos, Trulia, StumbleUpon, Plaxo (acquired by Comcast), Photobucket (acquired by Fox), and Anchor Intelligence (co-founder).
Ron was recently named #6 in Forbes Magazine Midas list of top “deal-makers” in 2008 and is actively involved in numerous philanthropic endeavors. Ron is Vice Chairman of the UCSF Medical Foundation in SF, Board Member of The Tiger Woods Foundation, and SF Homeless Connect, and on the Benefit Committee of Ronald McDonald House, College Track, and the Black Eyed Peas-PeaPod Academy Foundation.
Conway is also featured in Gary Rivlin’s book “The Godfather of Silicon Valley: Ron Conway and the Fall of the Dot-coms”, in which he is described as ‘the man who has placed more bets on Internet start-ups than anyone else in Silicon Valley.’
It seems as if, in our particular slice of time, many spheres of industry are coming to a breaking point; Will we be focused on marginal costs and continue doing things the old way, or chuck existing systems and focus on the new? Government is one of these spheres, healthcare is another, so is transportation, and also education. TechCrunch is committed to accurately covering this tumultuous time, and providing a record of this zeitgeist for our readers and history.
That is why we picked Coursera as the 2012 Crunchies’ “Best Overall Startup,” because more than anything else our country is heading into a period where higher education and job training is not catching up with the pace of innovation, where the creative part of “creative destruction” has not yet overwhelmingly kicked in. And Coursera, which has opened up access to proprietary content, over 200 courses from over 33 top international and domestic schools like Stanford and Princeton, is one of the bright points of light pointing towards value and job creation in the creative space.
Over two million students have at some point taken a Coursera course. It remains to be seen whether the universities will continue to let Coursera proliferate with their intellectual property. And its main criticism is that the company currently has no clear way to monetize.
“That’s starting to change as Coursera beefs up its career services and adds the ability to earn certificates from taking its classes,” argues our education technology expert Rip Empson. “Next, it’s on the way to getting accreditation for courses so that taking classes online through its platform will count towards a degree — and there’s no reason they can’t charge for it, even if it means giving up ‘free’. Imagine being able to take a class at Harvard, get credit for it and not have to pay thousands to get it. That has serious disruptive potential.”
In the same space as edX, Udacity, Instructure and 2U, Coursera is a two pronged approach to democratization of education, not only offering access to high quality content for students that can’t afford it, but also by making professors look good, by empowering them to build their own audience. Coursera gives them the opportunity to build an audience outside of the classroom, allowing them to have 10,000 students instead of 50.
The runner up in this category is quirky ride-sharing startup Lyft.
A couple of weeks ago CNET was put into an absurd situation – they could not favorably cover a technology product because the company behind that product was in litigation with CNET’s parent company, CBS.
I wasn’t all that interested in the story at the time. Reporters and bloggers are constantly pressured to write or not write about things by parent companies and even business executives in their own companies. CBS telling CNET what it could and could not write about wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before.
I understand why CBS was trying to control messaging about a company that they were suing, although they certainly weren’t very smart about how they handled it. The Streisand Effect kicked in and not only did the product end up getting tons of extra positive press, but both CBS and CNET looked like idiots.
Still, big companies do stupid things all the time. It’s a big part of why small startups are often so successful at disrupting them.
What I don’t get is why CNET staffers have stuck around. They’re the ones who are supposed to be journalists and all that entails. They’re the ones I blame right now.
I blame them because they’re the only reason CBS is able to get away with this. Every single journalist at CNET should have resigned by now.
More than once at TechCrunch we made AOL extremely uncomfortable with things that we wrote. But they never ordered us to write or not write about something because they understood that not only would we not comply, we’d write a post about how the whole thing.
Our independence from AOL was so important to me that I negotiated an extremely odd provision in our purchase agreement that allowed me to disclose confidential information about AOL. It was their job never to give me that information. It was not my job to protect it in any way.
If AOL had ever ordered me to remove a piece of content from the site for any reason I would have immediately written about it and disclosed the situation to our readers. And if I had ever ordered a writer to remove content I would have expected that writer to have done the same to me.
In fact, one of the things I am most proud about at TechCrunch is the culture of independence in its writers. Many times I have been criticized publicly by my own team. We’ve even had absurd arguments break out, on the site, about the pros and cons of one gadget over another. It can drive readers crazy to see all the conflict, but there was never any question about whether or not people’s unfettered opinions were being expressed.
When Greg Sandoval left CNET (to my knowledge the only person who’s resigned over this mess) I thought he’d be the first of many. His words – “We are supposed to be truth tellers” – rang true.
Why haven’t others followed him? Why are they still grumbling about it but not actually doing anything about it?
CNET reporters need to either be resigning or be reporting this story, or both. On CNET. If someone higher up removes their content then they should republish it on their personal blogs. If they are then fired for that they should sue the company. And either way, other tech sites, including this one, would be more than happy to make them job offers.
I left (or was fired) TechCrunch in 2011 over editorial independence. The Huffington Post tried (and was successful for a time) to take control of TechCrunch. And not only did I leave, a whole string of writers and editors left shortly afterwards. It wasn’t until AOL removed TechCrunch from the control of the Huffington Post that things stabilized. And today TechCrunch is stronger than it ever was, by far.
And, importantly, even when all of this was going on at TechCrunch, AOL and Huffington Post never successfully tried to censor TechCrunch writers from saying exactly what they thought. Things got messy, but they were never hidden.
Earlier today I read John Gruber’s short post about what’s happening at CNET. He wrote that the situation was untenable, and “CBS either needs to give CNet editorial independence or sell them to someone who will. As it stands, they’re grinding CNet’s reputation and brand into worthless powder.”
Those are almost the exact words I yelled shortly before I left TechCrunch – either sell the site back to the original shareholders or give us true editorial independence.
As with AOL and TechCrunch, it’s unlikely that CBS will do either. But at the very least, it might make CBS think twice if CNET’s editorial and reporter teams were to simply say exactly what they think, and then walk out.
In short I expect big companies to be some combination of stupid and evil. But when the people affected do absolutely nothing, they’re just part of the problem, too.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”