For me, anything associated with the Wall Street Journal takes on an air of seriousness, woodcuts instead of photos, distinctive typeface, the whole package commanding authority. Now I know that perception is often far from reality, but the highlight of attending Demo conference last week was a fireside chat (well, without an actual fire) between Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, the producers of D conference, and columnists for the Wall Street Journal. And let me tell you, the conversation was nothing like I expected, especially from Kara Swisher.
Before I get to Kara's substantive comments about my favorite over-valuation in the past ten years, I want to dwell for a moment on how personal Kara got in her comments. From her "bite me Comcast" to her reactions to the "other conference" happening up in the BayArea (TechCrunch50), Kara was not at all the reserved Wall Street Journal reporter/columnist I was expecting (Walt stayed more true to pre-conceived notions).
First, in reaction to TechCrunch, Kara said (and this is in front of entire Demo audience, not sure if it was web-cast):
"Getting lectured in journalism ethics by Michael Arrington is like getting parenting tips from Britney Spears."
Kara and Walt then turned to social networks and the grandaddy of them all, Facebook. Again Kara got a little [too] personal, talking about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as a "twelve year old with stupid clothing choices."
Of course, she did follow that with some somewhat more serious thoughts/questions on Facebook and other social networks like: How do they make money? How do they grow?
Both of those are the key questions, Kara didn't have any answers. Not sure that Mark does either...
Why do I dwell on all of this so much?
For me, a relative outsider, in from Jerusalem to check in on the pulse of technology entrpreneurship, I was reminded how much of an insider game the tech world remains, even in the always on, twittered to death era we live in. What do I mean by that? Well, why do people physically gather in conferences to begin with? Because being there matters, and in the end personalities drive business.
A lot can be accomplished in the virtual world, where things can get personal as well, but in the end physical interaction can't be beat.
Last week TechCrunch passed 1,000,000 subscribers to its RSS feed, which is quite an accomplishment (consider that the Wall Street Journal subscriber base is only about 2 million). Michael Arrington and friends definitely are a force to be reckoned with -- and they know all too well that physical beats virtual hands down. Which is why Techcrunch hosted a competing [physical] conference to Demo.
What does this mean for Jerusalem Capital and our portfolio companies? That we need to get personal as well, we need to be in direct contact with key industry players on a regular basis, and need to show up in order to be counted.
Oh, and regards to the 12 year old with poor clothing choices, well, you all know what I think about Facebook....definitely not worth what Mark and Microsoft think it is/was, but also not going away anytime soon, unless they run out of money. And with Lehman days away from a fire sale, anything is possible.