It’s probably not that often that you’ll hear about politicians or traditionally non-tech influential leaders joining up with a company here in Silicon Valley. I mean, it’s not that it’s unheard of but it’s not very common. For politicians, typically you’re going to hear of them going to consulting firms or even lobbyists in Washington, DC. However, it looks like big-time venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz has snagged two major policy leaders within the past couple of years.
Announced today, the firm picked up the consulting services of former Washington, DC mayor Adrian Fenty. The one-time mayor of the nation’s capital will join the firm as a special advisor where he will most undoubtedly use his expertise in policy, governance, and disruption to help startups better broach the mainstream and become better recognized by the government. As stated by Margit Wennmachers on managing partner Ben Horowitz’s blog, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, Mayor Fenty’s uncanny ability to disrupt an age-old system in the nation’s capital have given him an iconic image of being a reformer and has led him to unheard-of success. In addition, he was the first in the city to spur technological innovation by finally opening up the city’s data and encouraging developers to create useful apps that would help save the city thousands, if not millions, of dollars, and create a better District for all its citizens.
One of the hottest songs to hit the airwaves over the past few weeks is not something you think would become mainstream. “Gangnam Style“, a song with a rocking beat by the South Korean artist, Psy, has become such a sensation, it’s even been performed by Psy himself on the Today Show during their Toyota concert series. After more than 215 million views on YouTube, this pop sensation has definitely opened itself up to a myriad of spoofs and parodies, including this Chatroulette version and the creative wedding version.
Being here in the tech capital of the world, I suppose it was only a matter of time that it would become a huge hit…and the community definitely did not disappoint.
Organized by Refer.ly co-founder, Danielle Morrill, the startup community put together their own version of “Gangnam Style” and today it was released to the world for everyone to see. It’s a mish-mash of footage from both people who videoed themselves doing the dance and also when Mrs. Morrill’s camera crew went around town collecting footage. But just who in the tech world would best portray the indomitable spirit of Psy? There are obviously a few good choices, but in the startup parody, it actually was a bunch of different people just having fun doing the horse-riding dance and everything else.
A few years ago, everyone wanted to find websites that would be interesting and fit a specific criteria. Sites that came along and fit this mold included Ask.com, AltaVista, Lycos, Yahoo, and Google. But now times are changing–people just aren’t interested in searching under specific keywords and phrases. No, they want more relevancy and filtering. Anyone can put up a website and game the system to have their site listed on a major search engine–so how does one simply point out what is important to their friends or even find useful content shared from a trusted source?
In order to make this happen, a social search engine is needed. Google and Bing have made some inroads into trying to become the de facto search engine that integrates traditional search along with social aspects, but they’re still far from getting it just right. The trick has got to be with finding a process or a way that would tie in with all the major social networks–Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Sadly nothing has been realized quite yet–in fact, Bing and Google are starting from a more traditional search strategy and are adding social layers on top of their results, almost like it’s the icing on the cake. It would probably make more sense for me that social search begins with the social part of it, and then further filters it by using traditional search parameters.
That’s where YourTrove enters the picture–this new startup is launching this week and is the latest attempt to create the first real social search engine. Imagine you’re interested in purchasing a new camera, or you want to find content relating to something like streaming TV devices, the one place you might go would be to your social graph–you have specific questions and you’re going to want to ask your friends for help in making a decision. Why? Because they’ve probably already been there and shared something about it–traditional search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing don’t give you that relevancy. It’s emotionless and without regard for the stage of the purchasing behavior you’re in. The opportunities for a real social search engine are ripe for the picking. Even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it during last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference:
There is something to be said to striking when the opportunity is there. For startups and new companies, the best way to get noticed is by doing something daring and bold that everyone will want to pay attention to. In the technology industry, that means getting on stage and demoing your product to the audience in the hopes that there’s some appeal to the masses. And quite frankly, one of the best places to get your product involved with has to be anything TechCrunch is involved in. Over the past few years, the events put on by one of the industry’s leading publications has promote some of the most popular startups that are used in the world today: Mint.com (acquired by Intuit), Yammer (acquired by Microsoft), RedBeacon (acquired by Home Depot), GetAround, Shaker, and now Uberconference.
It seems that one of the most known things about winning at a TechCrunch event is that it will grant any company instant celebrity status–almost like the publication is a “king-maker” where mere-minutes after touting the success and accolades of a startup, the company goes into overdrive and reaps instant benefits to the news. The track record speaks for itself…after all that notoriety (in a good way), companies are stepping out into the world and entering their beta phase much wiser and with more interest in being funded. And for the lucky few that have successfully navigated their ways through the maze of competition at a TechCrunch event, the future rewards are immeasurable. But don’t take my word for it…let’s look at one recent winner: Uberconference.
As a regular attendee to the ZURBSoapBox speaker series, I had a special kind of curiosity around last Friday’s guests: the Winklevoss twins–made famous or perhaps infamous through their historic interaction around the founding of Facebook. Having seen the likes of Ron Conway, Ev Williams, Aaron Levie among others, I have to admit the Winklevoss’ did not exactly bring the same kind of cachet, but still attracted an overflowing audience eager to hear the straight scoop.
At first, you can’t help notice just how huge these guys are. Think Michelangelo’s statue of David and you get the idea of the kind of imposing figure these guys cut. But when I first met them and shook their hands, they really came off as genuine, regular guys, easily approachable and generally happy to be in front of their first Silicon Valley crowd for an informal chat.