Roundup of Silicon Valley news:
Google’s Larry and Sergey were more interested in technology than Yahoo founders — There’s a revealing 2000 interview with venture capitalist Michael Moritz posted by PodVentureZone, comparing Google’s co-founders and Yahoo’s. He was an investor and on the board of both, and says Larry and Sergey were closer “to the sheet metal, closer to the hardware.” He calls Sergey a “tough, little guy”:
I think Larry and Sergey have a much more pronounced interest in the core technology than Jerry and David. I think Jerry and David had and have an extraordinary and fervent interest in having a fabulous service for their customers, but they’re less interested in developing the raw underlying technology that I think Larry and Sergey are. I think there’s a reason that Larry and Sergey stayed longer grinding through their PhD stuff at Stanford than Jerry and David. And Larry and Sergey are much closer to the sheet metal, closer to the hardware. Don’t forget, Yahoo has never had its own search technology….
Google leases San Francisco office, finally — The search engine has been looking for an SF property for some time, in order to retain young workers who prefer to live and work in the City — instead of trekking down to boring Mountain View. It has now leased 210,000 square feet, for about $35 a square foot, at the waterfront property south of Market St., Hills Plaza. It could host 800 of Google’s employees.
Berkeley regulates nanotechnology — The city of Berkeley, Calif. is regulating nanotechnology, fearful of the new properties generated by the clusters of atoms or molecules sized at a billionth of a meter. At that small size, compounds can take on different, sometimes unpredictable characteristics, leading scientist and Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist Bill Joy, among others, to fret about the potential for nanotechnology — when combined with biology — to self-replicate uncontrollably. This threatens to make humans an endangered species. Here are more details (via NYT) on Berkeley’s efforts to regulate the “molecular foundry.”
NetSuite appoints Billy Beane to board — Netsuite, the maker of online software for small businesses, is considering going public, and has added Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, to its board. Beane was made a legend in Michael Lewis’ book MoneyBall: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which explained Beane’s strategy of picking players using unorthodox metrics and minimal amounts of cash. Beane says he is drawn to Netsuite because it is backed by Larry Ellison, and has an unorthodox means of selling software — doing it online, instead of via disks that must be installed on PC. We hope Beane doesn’t really think selling software online is that revolutionary. It’s been around for a while.
Newspaper industry forms two opposing camps — The newspaper industry remains in decline, but the newspaper companies can’t seem to stop squabbling. It appears two rival camps have emerged. The three largest newspaper publishers, Gannett Co., McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co., are reportedly forging plans (WSJ sub required) to sell advertising jointly on their newspapers’ Web sites — to attract big advertisers that don’t want to hassle with dealing with each company separately. Currently, national advertisers buy the bulk of their online display ads from folks like Yahoo, Time Warner’s AOL or Microsoft’s MSN, the story correctly reports.
However, Yahoo has announced plans to work with nine other newspaper publishers to build a similar one-stop-shopping spot for advertisers, as we reported. And ClickZ reports there’s bad blood between these smaller publishers and the big three, stemming from the fact that the Yahoo group was excluded by the big three from their CareerBuilder and Cars.com/Apartments.com properties.
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OpenView Venture Partners spams web sites — A bizarre thing for a venture firm to do, but maybe not. Gossip site Valleywag reports that Boston’s venture firm, OpenView, spammed it. It seems OpenView sent a computer generated email to Vallewag, saying the firm wanted to invest without really knowing what Valleywag does. This is the modern version of the cold-calling that many later-stage firms have done over the years. We’ve sent emails and made calls to OpenView to confirm, and will report if we hear back.
Venice Project, based on Mozilla framework, but where will it get content? — More details from Om and the WSJ on the Venice Project, the TV-video company being created by the Skype/Kazaa co-founders. We can’t shake the feeling, however, that this project is deluged with competition in ways that Skype and Kazaa were not when those services became popular.
Flock co-founder Geoffrey Arone leaves — Arone, who was holding the fort at the new browser company, Flock, after former CEO Bart Decrem left last year, and other key developers departed, has also gone. We haven’t talked with Flock, but this may suggest the new version of the Browser, due out soon, may not be everything its investors had hoped. We’ve tried reaching Arone, but he did not respond. He is becoming Entrepreneur in Residence at Bessemer Venture Partners (via Techcrunch).
Music recommendation service, Pandora, ruins it, with advertising — Ads on a Web page are fine, but not when they are spliced into music you’d like to listen to. Geek Limit has the latest on Pandora, which tailors music to your tastes, which is inserting short audio commercials inserted into your audio streams. This is part of Pandora’s effort to experiment for ways to make revenue, at a time when music sites are consolidating (see news on AOL Music and Napster)
Second Life hype spurs odd behavior — Banks Wells Fargo and ABN AMO bought islands recently within the virtual world. Feeling the pressure, BNP Paribas decided it needed to buy an island too, VentureBeat has learned. More bizarre is the answer given by Sun Microsystem chief executive Jonathan Schwartz, when asked by the NYT about why Sun bought land in Second Life. He essentially didn’t have an answer, making vague references to how Sun was a new media company and needed to have presence online (read whole response here). His conclusion:
…I’m not going to advertise during the Super Bowl. What a waste of money. Where am I going to advertise? I’m going to buy land in Second Life.
iPhone reality setting in — Some good coverage lately of the Apple iPhone’s similarity to the Macintosh Computer which, like the iPhone, was designed in secrecy, introduced with wild hype and at a high price. But the shortcomings of the Mac eventually cost chief executive Steve Jobs his job. The Mac’s predicted sales never materialized in part because of expansion limitations, and now people are pointing to the iPhone’s limitations. It won’t allow third party applications to be installed. According to Jobs in the NYT, “These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them.” He said some outside software may be introduced, though it will be controlled by Apple. Others say this may not be a big deal. Install an Adobe Flash player that allows a bunch of Web services, for example, and Apple may get around some of the shortcomings.
Skype a disappointment? — Here’s a good summary in BusinessWeek of how Skype may not qualify for the $1.5 billion in earn-outs that were part of its deal with eBay, given lackluster performance. This is off-topic, but we also noticed an intriguing ad placement in the BusinessWeek story. Check out screenshot below, which shows an ad for Branson’s Virgin right next to a paragraph staying Branson is a visionary. Has contextual advertising really gotten this good? Or did this involve a human being?