Fridays have become days where I catch up on all that I’ve missed during a hectic week of travel and focused meetings with the team at FM and tons of really interesting partners.
The past week has been particularly rich in travel and meetings, which means I’ve not noted nearly all the things I’d like to here.
So in no particular order, here are a few thoughts about things I’ve seen lately.
First, I’ve been talking with Richard Rosenblatt at Demand Media quite a bit, he has a model that is really gathering momentum. A caveat, we share an investor in Oak, but it wasn’t Oak that created the lucky coincidence of Richard and I sharing a flight from LA to San Jose earlier in the week. Demand is based in LA, and like many successful companies there, is often overlooked up here in the Valley or out in New York. But Richard and his team are quietly building a major media company in the flats of Santa Monica. I won’t give away all of Richard’s secret sauce, but he has a content strategy that really groks search and social media (you can see on example of it here, with YouTube, and get a sense of what he’s all about here, in his talk at Web 2 last year).
Next, I met with the CEO and CTO of Aardvark this week. There is a really, really, really long post in that company and its platform, and how it changes the framing and the game in terms of mixing conversational interfaces, out-of-the box approaches to scale, and more. A few big ideas: leveraging the deep knowledge that is buried not in the web, but in each of our heads (real time, conversational search platform); building a service that is not in any way dependent upon becoming a destination; giving someone your email is the equivalent of allowing them to add something to your To Do list; the implications of the data that this service creates; and much more. My spidey senses go off about once every year or two. They are off the chart on this company.
I spent a good couple of hours at HP this week as well. FM has done business with nearly every division of HP over the past four years, and it’s remarkable to spend time simmering in the culture of a company that is, in just about every way possible, Really Grown Up. HP has more than 300K employees, but it was founded on the base principles (and with the base narrative) to which nearly every Valley startup aspires. Every time I visit I am struck by the sterility and grayness of the company’s initial appearance, and then how warm, innovative, and driven the people working there turn out to be.
Which leads me to Google. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from folks about troubles and growing pains there, and have done a fair amount of thinking about it. I’ve been sort of hard on the company of late, but there is a much longer thought piece to be written along the lines of themes I’ve been all about for the past five years – how does the company become, well, more like HP? I met this week with Katie Stanton Jacobs, a former Google who is now Director of Citizen Participation at the White House. (How cool is that title?!). Our conversation reinforced my thinking about the pros and the cons of working at Google now. The company has a very hard transition to make, to my mind, in terms of talent retention and management style. But that’s not endemic to Google, it’s endemic to any great company that has reached the lofty position in which Google finds itself. And by the way, what Katie is doing – leaving a very good job with tons of stock to work for the government and try to really change the world – well that’s just really, really inspiring.
I gave a keynote earlier in the week at the OMMA conference, and then sat on a panel about social media. OMMA was pretty well attended, just as IAB was in February, reminding me once again that our industry, while deeply impacted by this recession, continues to be optimistic and focused on investment in the future.
While in LA I met with several large clients, including an auto manufacturer, a major New York agency and brand, and representatives of several large entertainment brands. I can’t say much about the meetings other than to report that while the economy may be in the dumper, there is still a lot of spending, a lot of innovation, and a lot of excitement about the future.
Earlier I met with the founders of Livescribe and am currently testing their Pulse pen. This device initially seems like a “nice to have” gadget but the implications are profound. Like Aardvark, it pushes the web and computing out of the boxes we are comfortable with. Ideas to note: the paper Internet; capturing the investment of hundreds of years of writing culture (in all its manifestations as reflective of our minds and fingers); binaural microphone and privacy/social implications; “pencasting” and the concept of “authoring a flash movie using pen and paper.” Mind bending. Both companies will be at our CM Summit, FWIW.
Speaking of Summits, I did a lot of work on both the CM and Web 2 Summits this week. The lineups for both is really coming together. I don’t write much about how I do this kind of work, but it’s a lot like reporting – I make a lot of phone calls to a lot of people, and brainstorm about who might have something to say that will resonate with the program. This was a particularly fruitful week on both conferences, we’re nearly through blocking out the entire CM Summit program, and we’re very close to announcing the theme and initial line up of speakers for Web 2. Stay tuned, as they say.
Oh, and it was a big week for innovation with Twitter. With our partners McCann and Microsoft, we launched a first – ExecTweets, an experiment in collaborative publishing that reflects a lot of innovative (and ongoing) thinking – big props to Marc Ruxin at McCann and his partner at Microsoft Bill Capodanno, who both had the vision to lean into this program in a way that works for the Twitterverse, and are committed to ongoing iteration and learning.
We launched a second Twitter program yesterday as well – MarchTweetness, which is focused on college basketball, as you might expect, and big props go out to AT&T for also seeing the value of adding value to the Twitterverse.
Now, on to more writing, thinking, and Friday-ing. Hope yours is going well, and have a great weekend.