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Google Unveils App Streaming: Is This The Platform That Unifies Apps And The Web?

By - November 27, 2015

app-stream-w-dotsFor years I’ve been predicting that mobile apps were a fad – there’s no way we’d settle for such a crappy, de-linked, “chiclet-ized” approach to information and services management. Instead, I argued that a new model would emerge, one that combined the open values of a link-powered web with the mobility, sensors, and personalization of apps. It wasn’t easy to make this argument, because for years Apple, Facebook, and even Google were steadily proving me wrong. Apps (and the mobile platforms where they lived) marched steadfastly to dominance, surpassing the PC Web in both attention and most certainly investor buzz. I mean, who’d ever invest in a “website” anymore?!

The PC web, it seems, is well and truly dead, just like everyone says it was.

Then last week, Google announced App Streaming. This is the chocolate meeting the peanut butter, folks. If this can scale, we may finally be close to breaking the app’s stranglehold on our collective imagination.

In case you missed the news, Google App Streaming is a clever, brute force hack that allows native mobile apps to be streamed in real time over Google’s core infrastructure – no app download required (for details, read Danny here). In other words, App Streaming makes apps act like websites – instantly available through a link, even if you’ve never installed the app on your phone.

It’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first time Google has used its massive infrastructure to surmount a seemingly intractable technical challenge. To stand up its original search service, Google successfully put the entire World Wide Web in RAM – creating its own speedy and super-scalable version of what you and I understood to be the Internet.  In essence, to serve us the Web, Google became the Web, along the way creating the fastest growing company in history. It’d be an awful neat hack if Google managed to swallow not just the Web, but also the entire world of apps as well.

I believe that’s exactly what the company is trying to do. This may well be the Web killing apps – something I predicted a year ago.  If so, all I can say is good riddance.

Back in 2004 (11 years ago!), I wrote a Thinking Out Loud post about a fanciful idea I called “Google Business Services.” What if Google became a core platform for the creation of all kinds of new third party services?

What if Google becomes an application server cum platform for business innovation? I mean, a service, a platform service, that any business could build upon? In other words, an ecologic potentiality – “Hey guys, over here at Google Business Services Inc. we’ve got the entire web in RAM and the ability to mirror your data across the web to any location in real time. We’ve got plug in services like search, email, social networking, and commerce clearing, not to mention a shitload of bandwidth and storage, cheap. So…what do you want to build today?”

I was wrong about Google dominating social networking as a service – this was in the pre-Facebook days of Orkut, mind you – but if Google gets its way with App Streaming, Facebook will simply be one more service on the Google platform.

Plenty of questions remain about App Streaming, the most interesting being how it will play with Apple and Facebook. But if you are an app developer, one of your most intractable problems is getting folks past the twin obstacles of download and re-engagement. If Google can prove that App Streaming scales, I can’t imagine any developer who wouldn’t want to take advantage of it.


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Boulder, the World’s Most Creative City: Where I’ll Be Next Week @NewCo

By - November 11, 2015

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Boulder is the world’s most creative city, according to a recent study highlighted in Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class – Revisted, so it makes perfect sense that NewCo Boulder has a plethora of extraordinary companies to visit during NewCo Boulder, coming to town November 18-19.

Boulder is also home to sovrn Holdings, a company I chair (it was spun out of Federated Media last year), so I get to visit regularly – and that’s quite a treat. It’s the home of well known VCs Foundry Group, TechStars, and as you might expect, no shortage of creative cannabis startups.

Choosing is never easy, but here’s where I’ll be during NewCo Boulder:

Wednesday, Nov. 18th

5.00 pm – VIP Kickoff Dinner – Esprit Entrepreneur Awards This year our partners in Boulder are teaming up with the Boulder Chamber to both kick off NewCo and celebrate Boulder’s top innovators. It promises to be a great event!

Thursday, Nov. 19th

8.30 am – Zeal – Food for Enthusiasts. One of the most exciting categories in all NewCo cities is food – and I’m looking forward to hearing about this startups journey to “stability,” as the session description puts it. It’s an early start (they don’t waste daylight in Boulder!), so I’m hoping for some good coffee too! Wish I could have gone: SomaLogic, Google, Foundry Group. 

10.00 am – TechStars. One of the best known names in incubator/accelerators, TechStars is also a major player in the event space, and I’m eager to learn more about their plans to grow beyond their already impressive reach around the world. Wish I could have gone: IdeaForge, Made In Nature, Boulder Public Library. 

11.30 amCanopyBoulder. “The most active investor in the cannabis business.” Enough said, I’m fascinated by the legalization story unfolding in Colorado and elsewhere, and am an investor in the industry myself. So I’ll be looking to learn even more during this session. Wish I could have gone: Rapt, eTown, BlackSquare

1.00 pm – Waste to Energy Partners.  The Colorado “breakout cleantech company of the year” sounds fascinating, and is attacking a huge problem/opportunity in the sustainability ecosystem. Wish I could have gone: Watson University, Pivotal Labs, Surna. 

2.30 pm – Sanitas Brewery. Who doesn’t need a beer at this point in a long NewCo day? This artisanal brewery will include a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting. Yum! Wish I could have gone: Blow Things Up Lab, FlyteDesk, madelife. 

4.00 pm – sovrn. Of course I’ll be at sovrn! sovrn has been a leader in adtech for years, and I’m so proud of the core mission the business holds at its center: To help publishers level the playing field with data. Wish I could have gone: Drizly, Human Design, Anthem

5.30 pm –  After a very full day, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo Boulder here!


(cross-posted from NewCo site)

Written First On Medium. Discuss.

By - October 26, 2015
Couple Holding Hands at Sea Sunset

Image Credit Arch Cape Inn

So I had a thought about the state of the publishing world, specifically that part of it that we’d call blogging(1). And it struck me.

Why haven’t we made our own Medium? No, wait, that doesn’t quite sound right. Medium is awesome, and in fact I am writing this post in (on?!) Medium. Historical note: This may well be the first time I’ve written the first draft of a post in Medium. So my beef isn’t with Medium, rather, it’s with the blogging ecosystem’s inability to create something that embraces what Medium teaches us.

It’s not like the pieces weren’t (aren’t?) there. Thousands of superb writers — tellers of tales, diviners of insight, entertainers, jesters, fools (who can stillwrite). And it’s not for lack of code — we’ve got a fucking army working on that. Perhaps — is it a lack of common vision? Did we need Medium to Show Us The Way?

As others have pointed out, Medium is simply awesome, but it hasn’t embraced several ideas core to the culture of blogging. For example, most authors don’t have control of their own domain, though you can now create a “vanity” domain, a commendable move to be sure. However, if you want to add anything to your site — you know, put some lights on the porch, maybe add a bathroom to the place — that’s not going to happen. Yet.

Similarly, an author can’t easily add advertising — or any other third party code that is prevalent in the open web, though Ev told me a few weeks agothey are working on the advertising solution in earnest. Again, a good thing. But most likely, it’ll be a controlled, platform approach with limited APIs. And if I were running Medium, I’d do exactly the same thing, so again, my beef is not with Medium.

But what if blogging evolved more rapidly — or perhaps, in a more focused way? I mean, shouldn’t this aggregated highlight feature be all over the blogosphere? Or this kind of commenting? Sure, I can install plugins that approximate the same thing, but…they are not universally used, they don’t share a common social behavior. (Not to mention, installing this shit is a huge PITA).

Imagine if we had that highlights feature as standard issue over in the blogosphere? I mean, we had comments as standard issue … why not this? Lordy, how cool would that be? Knowing us, we’d turn it into currency driving a magical gift economy, the kind we had back when this all started. It’s that magic that drove blogging’s emergence — and we’ve lost it along the way. I don’t blame social networks or Medium or Apple for this. I think we’ve failed to imagine another way.

We stood by and watched our beloved trackbacks — those deeply meaningful handshakes from one mind to another — deprecate and eventually disappear from our sites(2). And then we let the comments fade — too many trolls, at first, and that fucking spam…it was too much work. Platforms emerged to address the worst of it, but with those platforms came their imperative — we’ve got to make a business of this. If you guys aren’t going to do it, we’ll do it for you, OK? The deal was clear: This is free for you to use, but we’re going to ferry wheelbarrows of data out in return. OK?

Turns out, those wheelbarrows of data were rolling off our sites with every javascripted pixel we dropped onto our site. Sharing buttons? Check. Ads?Checkmate!(3)

OK. And then the comments went away. Once again, I do not blame the data vacuumers, the marketing ecosystem, the struggling independent publisher just using the best tools available to them at the time. Nope. I bemoan our collective imagination.

And Google noticed the spam and deprecation of true intent, and Google began to send attention other places, increasingly (and again, defensibly) to their own shit. But that’s another post, one I am sure I wrote years ago (but can’t quite find since I’m not in the WordPress backend. A bit of micro meta, that.)

So trackbacks went away, then comments, and then…we lost the culture of response(4). When this all got started, someone would write a superlative post, perhaps a controversial post, and then as if on cue, a few thoughtful responses would emerge, a volley might ensue, and behold: a living debate in considered prose watched by thousands. But the mechanism supporting that intellectual sport — that first synapse-jumping trackback, the resulting attention and commentary — collapsed, and with it went the flower that was a new kind of public debate.

And sure, we’ve rebuilt parts of the things we’ve lost, in Twitter, via Facebook, in flashes of reddit brilliance, with blogging pillars yet lost(5)…and now and most promisingly with Medium. But damn, it doesn’t quite feel right yet, does it?

I’m a big fan of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup — take your chocolate, pour it over my peanut butter, and — yes please, may I have another?

So I guess I’m asking that someone toss the wooly peanut buttery world of WordPress and the damn-near-perfect yet somewhat-lacking-in-connective-tissue chocolate world of Medium into a Blendtec Stealth and give us that sweet and savory goodness we so badly crave? Pretty please?(6)

— –

(Thanks to Barcelona for this rant)

(1) Yes, we all can pause for the obligatory and derisory images of a dated epoch now muddling through its senescence. There, now let’s continue. (2) I mean, WTF? The first Google response for “trackback” is the Wikipedia page?! (3) Yes, I am fully aware of my own role in this part of the story. For the record, I’m a huge fan of marketing as part of the ecosystem. Duh. But the strengths of the open web are also its weaknesses. I am arguing we’ve forgotten to tend to the strengths. (4) I read several really good related pieces— on Medium! —  which informed my thinking here, and this post is in essence a response to them. But I can’t fucking find them, and I can’t figure out how to see what I’ve read on Medium or even what I’ve recommended. I am sure it’s in here, I just can’t find it. (5)Hell, even in a search for “AVC,” Fred’s site comes in third to Twitter and Antelope Valley College now.

(6)OK, now I have to cross post this to Searchblog. Weird.

Maker, Soylent, Hyperloop, USC: The Places I’ll Visit In LA Next Month

By - October 22, 2015

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(cross posted from NewCo)

Picking a schedule for a NewCo festival is an art – it takes a lot more time and thought than your average event. But it’s also fun – each session and company description has been highly curated, and I learn a lot simply by reading through the diversity of experiences that are on offer.

This year in LA there are 80+ companies to chose from. The festival runs over two days – the afternoon of Monday Nov 9th through the evening of Tuesday Nov. 10th. It wasn’t easy, but here’s where I’ll be visiting:

Monday, Nov. 9th

1.30 pmMaker Studios. Video is the hottest medium on the Internet, and the model keeps evolving, as the recent YouTube Red news illustrates. Maker is one of the most successful of the original “MCNs” and has grown past its YouTube roots into a powerhouse in all things video. I want to get behind the scenes and learn about video because NewCo will be launching video channels next year, along with its media business. I also want to see the Culver City neighborhood where Maker has its HQ – it’s home to an abundance of LA’s best entertainment startups. Wish I could go: Cross Campus, MomentFeed, Inspire Energy.

3.00 pmHired. Another selfish business reason here: I’m very interested in the recruitment field, both because NewCo is growing, but also because I sense opportunities for what we’re building as well. Hired has been on a tear lately and has a lot of buzz. I’m looking forward to seeing how the sausage is made. Wish I could go: Tradesy, Omaze, Google.

4.30 pm – USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Who knew Oculus Rift came from the lab we’ll be touring during this session? Very cool. Also, my daughter is looking at USC for college (kills me, I went to Cal…) and this is a chance to check out an innovative program at the school. Wish I could go: Factual, Homeboy Industries, NOVICA.

6.00 pm – VIP Kickoff & Reception at Dollar Shave Club Dollar Shave Club Dollar’s headquarters are really cool, and the program – featuring Dollar Shave CEO Michael Dubin and a host of other NewCo CEOs.

Tuesday, Nov. 10th

9.30 am – Hyperloop Technologies If these guys pull off what they are talking about doing, well, it’ll radically redefine long haul transportation. I want to be able to say I was there back when it was just an idea. Plus, I’ll get to meet the CEO and grok the tech behind it. Wish I could go: The LA River Revitalization Corporation, Oblong Industries, dSky.

11.00 am – Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti One of the things I love about NewCo is how the municipal governments get involved, both at the VIP kickoff and by opening their doors and talking about civic innovation. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s new at LA’s city hall.  Wish I could go: Psychic Bunny, CBRE, FEM, Inc. 

1.30 pm – Soylent. This food-replacement drink has been the subject of much derision and celebration. But it’s certainly pushing the envelope of how we think about nutrition and the role of food in society. Wish I could go:  Science, Inc., Funny or Die, Upfront Ventures.

3.00 pm – Surf Air. Another new approach to transportation – one that promises to rethink how we do shorter haul flights. We’ll get to board and tour their airplanes as well! Wish I could go: Parachute, Expert DOJO, VNTANA (another Manatt pick).

4.30 pmFlightly. I’ll admit, Flightly’s location helped me chose it (bc it’s near the meetup afterwards, and traffic is rough in LA in the afternoon!). Then again, I’ve wondered about the company ever since it was announced as Twitter’s only e-commerce integration. I’ve long thought Twitter had a huge e-commerce business lurking inside of it – and now’s my chance to hear about it from the source. Wish I could go: WeWork, onefinestay, Crowdfunder.

6.00 pm – Meetup at Boingo Wireless Boingo Wireless After seeing a dozen companies, it’ll be time for a drink and conversation with my fellow NewCo festival goers. See you there!

Register for NewCo LA here!

Do It Right. Not Fast. Right.

By - September 30, 2015


(Cross posted to LI and Medium. Cuz that’s how we roll these days)

If you’ve never blown it big time using email — you will.

I have several times — in fact, I just did it earlier this evening. And gaaaah!, I wish technology had an answer for the clear and present danger that is myself, rushing through an afternoon, trying to GSD and hit inbox zero. Then again, life does have an answer: SLOW. THE F*CK. DOWN.

Allow me to explain. Earlier today I got an email newsletter from an organization that is doing a NewCo session next week. I noticed that while the newsletter was promoting all manner of things, it didn’t mention its own NewCo session — even though the contents of the newsletter were all about upcoming events and other goings on that might be of interest to the intended audience.

A bit miffed, I forwarded said newsletter to my team, asking in rather frank terms why our partner wasn’t promoting its own session in its main communications outlet. A typically frank back and forth ensued, ending with my decision to forward the offending newsletter to folks I knew at the organization, with a polite top note enquiring if they might include mention of their session in a subsequent missive.

If you’ve made the same mistake as me, you know what happened next.

Yep, I forwarded the email with all of the frank back and forth between my team included.

Holy f*ckin’ mother of christ I am such a huge assh*le. That was my first response. Second response? “Wait, isn’t there a way to unsend this?” Third response. “Oh sh*t, I have to change settings and it only works within 30 seconds and sh*t it’s already been longer than that.” Fourth response? A servile, lame-ass apology to the (most likely forever offended) parties involved.

Fifth response? Write this post. Reminding all of us to- slow down. The goal is not to get shit done. The goal is to get it done right.

It’s Time to Flip the Bit on Publishing and Data

By - September 27, 2015

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My god, do we like to talk about ourselves.

That’s my takeaway from the recent algae-bloom of writing around ad blocking and fraud lately – most of it tinged with apocalyptic implications for the future of independent publishing. I’ve hung back from writing because I’ve been so busy *reading* everything – like this piece by Anil. Or this “expose” by Bloomberg (honestly, this is not a new story!). Or this one by Jason, this by Frederic, this by Doc, or this by Cory.

Cory calls for a new model, and I think he’s right. I’ve been thinking and talking and writing about new models in publishing and media for a good long time. Perhaps now is the time to revive an idea I’ve been on about for years.

Because as Tim points out, quoting Schrage, great new companies aren’t created by assuming that we keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. They instead demand that we alter our behavior entirely, because the benefit is so great. As Ben put it, publishers need to rethink their business models. In a private post on his daily (subscription-based) newsletter, Ben further points out that the iPhone didn’t succeed because it followed the generally acceptable rules of Clayton Christensen’s famous disruption thesis, it worked precisely because it didn’t. It created so much value that people were willing to change their behavior, from using a phone to call and text people, to using it to connect them to the Internet and its extraordinarily broad set of services. Same goes for Facebook, Uber, and many other “unicorns” that have forced new behaviors (sharing all our data into a central platform, shifting from flagging a cab to pushing a button, etc.).

So this begs the question: What is the new set of behaviors consumers might adopt with regard to publishing? And what might be the 10x shift in value creation that augurs such a shift? Might there be an antlered pony buried within all this fraud and ad-blocking horseshit?

First the (somewhat easier) bit – the new set of behaviors. To me this has to do with the relationship of publisher and reader/audience member. The rise of free content on the Web has broken what was previously a clear one-to-one relationship: reader subscribed to a periodical, delivering demographic and geographic data in the process. Now, that relationship has been re-aggregated through a crazy quilt of advertising technologies seeking to identify who you are and what you might want. This “advertising industrial complex” has led to the conditions we all now lament – hundreds of data-sucking ad trackers on most web pages, slow load times, crappy ads, and massive fraud which takes advantage of a disjointed and leaky ecosystem.

But what if user behavior actually reverted to a direct, one to one relationship between publisher and reader? What if that data that advertisers so openly covet – your name, age, zip code, interests, etc. – was held by the *reader*, instead of the publisher or the adtech industry? And what if, upon coming to a new site for the first time, that site simply asked “will you please share your data with us, so we may serve you the best and most appropriate ads?” If you say no, perhaps the content doesn’t load. But why say no – if you’re in control and the data will only make your life better?

I’ve argued for just such a model in We Have Yet to Clothe Ourselves In Data. We Will. The bit that has to flip is summarized in this quote:

We lack an ecosystem that encourages innovation in data use, because the major platforms hoard our data. This is retarded, in the nominal/verb sense of the word. Facebook’s picture of me is quite different from Google’s, Twitter’s, Apple’s, or Acxiom’s*. Imagine what might happen if I, as the co-creator of all that data, could share it all with various third parties that I trusted? Imagine further if I could mash it up with other data entities – be they friends of mine, bands I like, or even brands?

It’s insane that as consumers we outsource our data wardrobe to Facebook, Apple, Google, and the hot mess that is the adtech industry. The consumer behavior I believe will change our world, and by extension the economics of publishing and advertising, is a shift in control of our own data from third party platforms to ourselves as the platform. Put in Internet terms, from the server to the node (we’re the nodes). If this happens, all manner of innovation and efficiency will erupt.

But the rub lies in the second part of this innovation equation: What will be the astonishing, disruptive force that drives such a shift? What is the Uber or Facebook or iPhone that will drive this shift in data use behavior?

God, if I knew that…I’d start that company. But I sense when it does break out (and I am certain it will), it will seem hugely obvious. How frustrating to not know what it is. Like a vivid dream lost seconds after waking, it haunts me every day. Any ideas?!

The Myth of Valley DoucheBaggery

By - September 09, 2015


(Warning, loads of unabashed cursing ahead).

Everyone’s definition of what makes a person or a company “douchey” varies, but we all know ’em when we see them. Douchebag behavior is kind of like the Supreme Court definition of pornography: You know it when you see it. The very fact that the HBO series Silicon Valley can confidently parody douchey behavior  is proof we’ve at least found common ground when it comes to extreme douchebaggery.

But I think our industry culture is moving far faster than the writers at Silicon Valley might wish to believe. I think we’re seeing the rise of a new culture, one that rejects arrogance and the founder worship which breeds it. Inevitable outliers aside, the Valley and technology culture I experience every day in my work at NewCo is one of passion, sweat, earnestness, and good intentions. Sure, we all fuck up. And sure, the press (especially, not surprisingly, the press in New York) has a field day when someone does. But by and large, the teams making companies like Slack, LiveRamp, Medium, Earnest, MetroMile, Lyft, Okta, Pinterest, and hundreds more are damn fine people, and they are dedicating their lives to making something that creates positive change – a product or service that makes the world a better place (even if it’s in a small way).

You just can’t do that if you are a douchebag, or if your company culture is one of douchebaggery. The world eventually conspires against you if you’re a consistent asshole. Particularly in the times we live, where the majority of humanity believes we’re running on a climate change shot clock. When you’re facing existential threat, our tolerance for douchebaggery in the name of making more money at any cost, or screwing over others so as to secure your own fame and fortune, well, our cultural tolerance for that kind of shit goes way down. Donald Trump is the last failing breath of a dead culture, IMHO.

This shift in business culture isn’t limited to the Valley, not by a long shot. Imagine a company like McDonald’s declaring that it, as a corporate entity, it believes that climate change is created by humans? No way, right? Because at least half of its customers in the US disagree with that statement. And if those customers decide to eat somewhere else, McDondald’s would lose 20% of their worldwide profits. No way will a douchey, profit-maximizing Fortune 500 company ever make such a statement, right?


The people at the top of Mickey D’s aren’t stupid. They’re paid a lot of money to look into the future and figure out which way the wind blows. And they’ve come to realize that denying climate change has recently crossed the line of corporate douchebaggery.

Walmart, as I’ve written before, has also figured this out. So has Unilever, PepsiCo, and a ton of others. The times are changing: The largest force in our economy are now Millennials, and they have very clear ideas about what they want from brands they buy (they should create net positive good in society) and companies where they work (they should be driven by purpose as well as profit). This cohort will be 40% of the entire workforce in a mere four years. And the good news is twofold: They love business, but they love business on a mission even more.

No more douchey companies, please. We don’t have the time, or the patience, for them anymore.

Want proof the Bay area has amazing companies with heart? Go to NewCo SF and Oakland. 225+ extraordinary companies are opening their doors to you. Get inside and meet these teams. They’re totally not douchey. 

Where I’ll Be During NewCo SF & Oakland Next Month

By - September 08, 2015

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(cross posted from the NewCo blog)

NewCo’s San Francisco & Oakland festivals are less than a month away, and they will be our largest, most diverse events ever. More than 225 Bay area companies will be opening their doors to 3,000+ attendees. Choosing which companies to visit is a daunting task.

I’ve made my picks, but it wasn’t easy. One of the things that separates the NewCo model from many others is the time it requires to choose a schedule – our attendees select from 15+ companies for every time slot – and there are often very difficult choices to make. NewCo creates deep engagement and strong business intent by forcing these choices – it insures the group that shows up in a host company’s offices have actively chosen to be there – they come with a purpose, so to speak.

So here are my choices, with a bit on the intent behind them.

Monday, October 5th

6:00 pm  VIP Kickoff & Reception at WeWork presented by Deloitte WeWork

This is our annual kickoff event, this year featuring the CEOs of six participating NewCos. It’s nearly sold out already, so if you want to join the festivities, sign up quickly!

Tuesday, October 6th

9:30 am AltSchool 

I am a nominal advisor to AltSchool, which aims to do nothing less than revolutionize how children learn. They’ve already set up schools in the Bay area and Brooklyn, but I’ve never been to their offices. Time to change that!

Notables during this time slot: The Climate Corporation (data driven ag); SV Angel (legendary SF investor); Meadow  (medical cannabis).

11:00 am The Battery 

I’m an early member of this somewhat controversial social club; and I’ve heard all the pros and cons about exclusivity, tech bros, and the like. But my experience has been positive so far, and I know the club works hard to source diverse membership. I’m eager to see how the NewCo vibe mixes with The Battery’s zeitgeist.

Notables during this time slot: Metamarkets (big data meets insight);  TechShop San Francisco (super cool tools); Lyft (great offices!).

12:00 pm Lunch Break – Provided by Off the Grid, Sponsored by Wolff Olins 

This lunch is almost sold out, but I’ve been dreaming about an Off the Grid event at NewCo since we started three years ago. Thanks, Wolff Olins!

1:30 pm Compass Family Services/Twitter NeighborNest 

I love how Twitter has integrated direct, local community service into its working environment. I’ve never seen it in action, however, and this is my chance. Compass Family Services has been around for a very long time, and is one of NewCo’s featured community philanthropies this year.

Notables during this time slot: DarkRoom (a fun new way to communicate securely); (an important membership org. for tech companies); ODC  (part of our arts track).

3:00 pm San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation

For three years the Mayor’s office has been part of NewCo, but I’ve never had a chance to see inside its hallowed halls. Again, time to correct that!

Notables during this time slot: Twitter (maybe they’ll have a new CEO?!); QB3@953 (premier life science incubator); The Hall (thoughtful SF development).

4:30 pm Slack Technologies 

We live on Slack here at NewCo HQ. I want to see the factory where the magic is made! (I also have a few feature ideas…)

Notables during this time slot: Westfield Labs (cool co-working and retail innovation space); Pinterest (meet Tim Kendall, head of product/ads); Alta Motors (super cool motorbikes).

6:00 pm Meetup at Bespoke 

Bespoke is Westfield’s gorgeous co-working space, in the heart of the Westfield Mall in downtown SF. Come on by for drinks, conversation, and serendipity!

Weds. Oct. 7th

9:30 am Hint Water 

Hint founder Kara Goldin lives in my neighborhood in Marin, but I’ve never seen her offices. Her story is unique and inspiring, and I can’t wait to hear her tell it in her own headquarters.

Notables during this time slot: yerdle (a new way to shop and share); One Medical Group (a new way to doc); SoFi (a new way to do finance).

11:00 am NewCo Platform 

Well I better be at this one, as I’ll be presenting, along with the whole NewCo team. This is our first ever NewCo session, as this is the first year we actually have an office. We’re in the Presidio, which is an entire track of its own as well.

Notables during this time slot: Metromile (rethinking loans); The Representation Project (inspiring films about females in society); Medium (see what Ev and Co. are up to!).

12:00 pm NewCo Lunch @ NewCo Headquarters 

We’re buying folks lunch! You’re welcome!

1:30 pm Google

Google’s SF session (they do sessions with NewCo worldwide) is on the mobile web, which is the most important question the company faces, IMHO.

Notables during this time slot: 826 Valencia (innovative writing studio); Rickshaw Bagworks (great bags, awesome founder); (a new way to lend to the world’s disadvantaged).

3:00 pm Airbnb

I just love the Airbnb offices, and didn’t get enough last time, so I want to go again. If you can possibly see inside this company, I highly recommend it. Super inspiring.

Notables during this time slot: Off the Grid (the folks behind the trucks!); WIRED (20+ years and going strong); Tides (seminal Bay area foundation).

4:30 pm LiveRamp

I’m on the Board of the company that bought LiveRamp, yet I’ve never seen their offices. I know their work well, and it’ll be a treat to finally see inside this industry-changing business.

Notables during this time slot: Applauze (founder Kirin is a treat); Strava (I’m an avid user); LinkedIn (the standard for business networking).

6:00 pm We pivot to Oakland for the VIP Kickoff & Reception at Gensler Oakland 

Come hear the founder of Blue Bottle Coffee and five other Oakland CEOs speak about their NewCo Oakland sessions, which run all day Oct. 8th!

Thursday, October 8th – NewCo Oakland!

9:30 am 

I’ve always been fascinated by lesser-known but popular social networking services, and is pre-eminent among teenagers. I’m not a teenager, but I’ve got three of them in my household!

Notables during this time slot: Kapor Center for Social Impact (Mitch’s new building in downtown Oakland is ready!); Bolt Threads (sustainable duds!); WeWork Berkeley (I bet the vibe there is awesome).

11:00 am Gracenote

Ever since I first ran into this service, I found it magical. But Gracenote does more than recognize music. They’ve got big plans in many associated fields. I look forward to hearing CTO Ty Robert’s vision.

Notables during this time slot: Schoolzilla (big data for schools); (art of the future); SkyDeck | Berkeley (UC’s own incubator).

12:00 pm Lunch Break

1:30 pm Blue Bottle Coffee

Founder James Freeeman’s obsession with coffee with be on full display during this session. I’m a Blue Bottle convert, now I get to see where it all happens!

Notables during this time slot: SfunCube (accelerator for all things solar); Mosaic (another solar innovator); Semifreddi’s Bakery (yum!!).

3:00 pm 99designs

I’ve long thought this company’s unique approach to crowd sourced design would eventually be part of how I approached design challenges, now I can learn how to really lean into the platform.

Notables during this time slot: Hack the Hood (it is what it sounds like!); Numi Organic Tea (another Oakland F&B success story); Pandora Media (extraordinary offices).

4:30 pm Sungevity

Oakland is the solar capital of the world, and Sungevity is one of its most important players. I’ve got a big solar installation on my roof, but I don’t know much about the state of the industry. At Sungevity I plan on getting smarter.

Notables during this time slot: Youth Radio (excellent program); Mamacitas Cafe (amazing place); (fun session!).

6:00 Meetup at The New Parish

After four days of exploring innovation in the Bay area, it’s time for some drinks, fun, and great music! The New Parish is a wonderful new music venue in Oakland’s flourishing entertainment district. Stay tuned for the band (to be named!) – but it’ll be a blast.

NewCo’s SF & Oakland Festivals are filling fast – Register now to get inside your own picks!

This Is How We Pick A NewCo

By - August 31, 2015

Over on the NewCo site, I’ve updated our explanation of how we chose NewCos around the world (1,100 or so so far). Here’s that post for those readers at Searchblog who might be interested. 

Since we launched NewCo’s festivals in late 2012, tens of thousands of people have experienced the unique NewCo model of “getting out to get in.” Thousands of NewCos have opened their doors in cities as varied as London, Austin, San Francisco, Detroit, Palo Alto, New York, Cincinnati and Amsterdam. Upcoming cities include Istanbul, Los Angeles, Portland, Mexico City and Boulder.

A year or so ago we published a “What Makes a NewCo” — our second attempt to qualify what we mean when we call a company a “NewCo.” (Our first version was published 18 months ago). Below is our third pass, and if you read it carefully, you can see what we hope is an evolution toward clarity and a shared point of view on a much larger narrative unfolding across both business and society.

In the coming months, we’ll be expanding our scope beyond festivals and into editorial media. As we do, we will begin to quantify the question of what makes a NewCo, with metrics including employee reviews, social media sentiment, various research partnerships, and more. But for now, we’re eager to hear your feedback on this third version explaining both how we decide which companies are invited onto the NewCo Platform.

A Bit of Background

Driven by capitalism’s central motive of profit, corporations have become one of the most powerful actors on the global stage. In the past century, corporations have amassed more wealth, power, and authority than most governments and all the major religions. But at their core, corporations are just people and processes. And over the past two decades, in parallel with the rise of the Internet, those people have begun a quiet revolution that is redefining what a “corporation” can be, both in terms of its purpose, as well as its processes.

The global economy is transitioning from hierarchies of command and control to more flexible networks of coordination and cooperation. A new kind of organization — one that measures its success by more than profit alone — has emerged. We call these companies “NewCos.” As the networked, information-first economy has taken hold, NewCos are building innovative, purpose-driven ways of doing business. As a result, these corporations are taking a central role in driving societal change — at the exact moment our society requires historic change if it is to remain sustainable.

The people of a NewCo see their work as more than punching a clock or doing a job. They believe work can equate with passion, community, and a force for positive change.

NewCo’s mission is to identify these new engines of economic and social change, and to offer a platform for the stories and communities they foster. But how do we chose a NewCo? A number of core principles guide our selection process:

A NewCo …

Is on a mission to create positive change. Sure, any company can have a mission, but a NewCo sees itself as on a mission to change its chosen market — or even the world — for the better. Most NewCos embrace the profit motive (although nonprofits and civic organizations can be NewCos as well), but they are about more than making money. Often NewCos enter established markets that have “always worked that way” and imagine a better (or entirely new) way of conducting business. Their mission becomes making that better way happen.

Is driven by an idea, and tells a story. NewCos are about a big idea, one that drives their mission and purpose as an organization. The company becomes the storyteller of that idea — the narrative actor making that idea come to life. This core story is what we call “the NewCo Narrative” — it’s what you say after declaring “I visited this fascinating company last week, and they’ve got this amazing…” NewCo people love to tell their company’s story — it’s a deeply felt part of their identity.

…and is driven by its people. At the core of every NewCo are the people who comprise the organization, and the community the organization serves. A NewCo is never a “faceless corporation.” It’s more like a band — a group of people coming together to create something that adds value to the world.NewCos also believe that the more diverse the people who comprise the company, the more robust that company’s culture will become. Moreover, the manner by which these people organize and pursue their work is driven by a new and evolving set of social mores. NewCos are actively involved in renegotiating the social contract of work. NewCos strive to make work a pursuit, rather than just a job.

Loves the work. NewCos are reinventing what work means and how it’s done. NewCos believe work can be joyous — it does not have to suck. NewCos view “work” as a positive expression of identity — they strive to integrate life and work, rather than merely “balance” them. To that end, NewCo workspaces are powerful collective expression of a company’s identity. That’s why NewCos love to open their doors and welcome visitors inside.

Is information first. Old models of corporate command and control were predicated on a scarcity model around physical resources (commodities), physical energy (fuel/power), and human energy (“human resources”). Inasmuch as it mattered, “information” was a tertiary concern, used mainly as a management tool. But as the world becomes information, NewCos organize to optimize or rethink information flows. Hence, Impossible Foods is rethinking food as information flows, Airbnb is rethinking hospitality as information flows, and DocuSign is rethinking the information flows of paper documents.

Critical to this is an appreciation of platform economics. The rise of the Internet economy has hastened a shift to firms acting as platforms for extended networks of customers, suppliers, partners, and even competitors. NewCos are either platforms in their own right, and/or they understand how to participate in the platform ecosystem of open collaboration and considered data sharing.

Trusts the open, and is open to trust. The word “open” has many meanings, but for NewCos, “open” has a clear test: When faced with a choice between a closed and controlling approach versus one that requires trusting your partners, employees, or community, a NewCo tilts toward the latter. This applies to much more than technology stacks — it includes approaches to partnerships, transparency, and community as well. Trust is the currency of the NewCo economy.

Is of the City. NewCos revel in the tapestry of cities — their pulse, their diverse communities, and their density of networks, information and humanity. The “tangled bank” of a city has the resources, connectivity, and the infrastructure that naturally build new kinds of companies. The NewCo movement is born of city centers, large and small.

Acts Like a Citizen. NewCos realize their value comes from serving their communities — their customers, sure, but also any community where the NewCo has an impact. NewCos believe you get back what you give to your community. And when you’re truly connected to your communities, no one has the energy to be an asshole. In addition, companies understand that they are being given more and more rights (ie, Citizens United) — but with those rights come deep responsibilities.

If you are interested in learning more about NewCo, sign up for our newsletter here, or attend our upcoming events in San Francisco and/or Oakland!

Spanning SF and Oakland: The First Ever NewCo Bay Bridge Festival Lineup Is Out!

By - August 20, 2015

Bay Bridge banner

While NewCo has been celebrating unique San Francisco companies for three years, 2015 is the first year we’ve produced our hometown festival with a fully staffed and funded team. And it shows: We’re adding Oakland as a companion city to San Francisco this year, and more than 200 companies will be opening their doors for a four-day festival this October 5th through 8th – by far the largest festival we’ve ever produced.

In case you’ve missed our other posts about NewCo festivals, NewCo is a unique, city-based event that turns traditional business conferences inside out. Instead of sitting in a stuffy hotel ballroom and hearing an endless queue of startup CEOs pitching from the stage, NewCo attendees get out into the modern working city, and get inside the headquarters of the city’s most interesting and inspiration companies, hearing from the founders and senior teams in their native environment. Just as Airbnb (an SF NewCo) creates more intimate and distributed travel experiences by taking people out of sterile hotels and into the homes of hosts around the world, NewCo enables its festival goers to experience the “homes” of startups and established companies from a wide array of industries. Each NewCo company is hand selected for its unique mission and the positive change it is creating in its chosen market.

There’s a lot of goodness and new features to this year’s Bay Bridge Festival (the moniker we’ve given the combination of Oakland and San Francisco). First off, of course, is the addition of Oakland to the lineup. Often called the Brooklyn of San Francisco, Oakland has become a major center of innovation in its own right, with its own particular strengths in clean energy, social impact, food & hospitality, and of course tech and Internet. On Thursday October 8th, Oakland will shine. Check out a sampling of Oakland NewCos opening their doors: Kapor Center for Social Impact, SchoolZilla,, Gracenote, City of Oakland, Blue Bottle Coffee, Allotrope Partners, Numi Organic Tea, 99designs, and Sungevity.

We’ll end the Oakland festival with a special meetup at The New Parish, an awesome music venue right in the center of Oakland’s vibrant Uptown entertainment district. Our Oakland VIP kickoff is Oct. 7th at the stunning offices of Gensler – some of the best views in the bay, and given Gensler’s reputation as one of the finest architectural firms in the world, these offices are not to be missed.

NewCo San Francisco will kick off on Oct. 5th with a VIP event at WeWork’s downtown offices. Over the following two days you’ll have a chance to visit some of the most intriguing companies on the planet, including Airbnb, Slack, AltSchool, SV Angel, The Battery, Lyft, PCH, Compass Family Services, San Francisco Mayor’s Office, Twitter, Bloomberg, Leap Motion, Pinterest, One Medical,  Betabrand, Cloudera, Medium, LiveRamp, LinkedIn, Google, Uber, and more than 125 others.

This year we’ve added a lunch hour, a much requested respite, and NewCo itself will provide lunch at our Presidio headquarters on day two (October 7th). We’ve also added a meetup at the end of day one, at the headquarters of Westfield Labs in the center of the Westfield Mall on Market Street. We’ll be adding even more special events as we get closer to the actual dates, so be sure to check the schedule early and often. This one promises to be our best event ever (though to be honest, it’ll be hard to beat what Amsterdam, Austin, and Cincinnati pulled off earlier this year!)

NewCo works like a music festival: There are 10-15 companies “playing” at any given time, so you have to chose which one you want to attend. Most companies fill up quickly, so smart attendees register early and pick their schedules right away, to insure their spot (Google, Pandora, Blue Bottle, Airbnb, and Slack are nearly full!). We’ve got an early bird discount going for the next week or so, and our goal is to have more than 3,000 festival goers celebrating the best companies in San Francisco and Oakland. Register now – I look forward to seeing you out and about two of the best cities in the world!