Some more takeaways from Bloomberg’s Next Big Thing Summit:
A few people touched on possible talent dilution in the tech world. The idea is that there are a finite number of unicorns out there, but since startup costs are so low these days, talented people are choosing to start doomed businesses rather than work for small to mid sized startups with traction and funding. I think this is a distant cousin of the Series A crunch.
Esther Dyson and Ron Conway had differing views on the labor supply/demand equilibrium question. Dyson flat out said that that she thinks it’s out of hand: “There are too many CEOs who would actually be really great sales managers at the startups who can’t hire anybody.” Meanwhile, Conway thinks that entrepreneurs should keep swinging. He said, “the more the merrier” and “if they have the ambition to do it, let them all try.”
This is an interesting debate and I don’t think it gets enough attention. Most of the non-technical people I know who want to work in tech think there only two routes: 1) work for Google/Facebook/Amazon or 2) start something on your own.
As someone who’s spending the summer at a Series A stage startup working on sales, strategy and product, I’d strongly recommend this as a way to see a little bit of everything. I don’t know if I want to be a founder, so I’m spending the summer working with one who’s got some traction and some money in the bank. I don’t know if I want to lead a sales team, so I’m spending the summer helping build one. I don’t know if I want to work with engineers on product, so I’m spending the summer doing some of that too. Hunter Walk wrote about the benefits of joining a mid-stage startup a few weeks ago. I couldn’t agree more.
A secret theme of the conference was the NBA. We saw a fascinating keynote from Vivek Ranadive, founder of TIBCO and owner of the Sacramento Kings. He compared owning a sports team to building a social network. Interesting take: build out an engaged following and monetize later. Remember, the Donald Sterling scandal is still on top of everyone’s mind, so valuation and the market for professional sports franchises was pretty topical.
Ranadive was interviewed by Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson. How does that relate to the NBA? Johnson revealed that he started his career as the founding editor-in-chief of SLAM Magazine. I was a subscriber to SLAM for years; in high school, my walls were littered with covers and “Slamadamonth”s.
Speaking of high school and the NBA, one of the few players to successfully make the jump straight to the league (before the NBA required one year of college) was at the conference. Jonathan Bender, an NBA journeyman, is now a startup founder. Bender is running JB3 Innovations, a healthcare services company. The first product is the JBIT Med Pro. He also happens to be one of the only founders I’ve met who’s taller than me.
The final NBA connection is covered in the next section. Chamath Palihapitiya is part of the Golden State Warriors ownership group.
The real fireworks went down right before lunch on Monday after a keynote on income inequality. Interestingly, the panel was called “The Inequality Debate” but there was just one panelist and no debate whatsoever. Bloomberg’s Emily Chang interviewed Chamath of Social + Capital (and part of Facebook’s original team). This was less an interview and more of a speech from Chamath he covered his strong feelings about Google busses, the SF government, illogical tax code, and a host of other hot button issues.
At the end of the interview as Chamath and Emily were leaving the stage, Ron Conway, notable angel investor and founder of SV Angel, stood up from the crowd and shouted that he had some questions. Stunned (because he’s famous, important AND a panelist from earlier in the day), nobody from Bloomberg stopped him from airing out his issues with Chamath and Chamath’s views. Notably, Conway skewered Chamath for complaining about SF city taxes, because he apparently isn’t even a city resident. There is a ton of other coverage from this about what exactly was said (including on my twitter feed), but the point is that there was a super awkward 3-5 minute rant from one of the icons of angel investing aimed at another very visible investor.
That’s all I have from the Bloomberg conference. I should be writing a little more frequently this summer now that I actually somewhat understand how to do my job at Thanx.