Boom and Bust; Venture Book Launch
Aaron Cohen, who has been involved in the tech community since the mid-90s has found himself in a new role as a professor at NYU. He is teaching about the tech industry. He believes, as I do, that the importance of knowing how to computer program when you graduate college (at some level) is as important as being able to read a book. It is about literacy of the times. He is also teaching his students about the history of the tech community. We have an industry that is not quite 20 years old in NYC where you have the leaders and early adapters able to tell the story to students when the story tellers aren’t even 60 years old.
Gina Neff, University of Washington, MCC visiting scholar Aaron, INC@NYU director me and Danah Boyd, Research Assistant Professor, Media, Culture, and Communication all sat on the panel which was really created to launch Gina's book, Venture Labor. The conversation turned to the social aspect of the internet including the rise and fall of many of the early innovative companies. We are seeing change again as consumers are moving to mobile from desktop. Regardless, the net has always been a social place and that social aspect has been some of the key components in the growth of so many companies in the second stage of the web that we called web 2.0.
There were conversations about risk too. Truth is, everything is a risk these days. The jobs of the past where you could feel confident that you could hunker down for 30 years are evaporating. You might even find your division close down at a large publically traded company such as IBM.
I was there at the beginning working with Jason Calacanis as his first hire (although I was freelance). We were the pinnacle of the industry in the mid-90’s because we were the tech industries media. We wrote about each of the entrepreneurs and their companies. We put on the events that created community and networking. I brought in the revenues. I also had 15 years of experience over everyone. It was an amazing time and a story that should be written. Gina wrote a great book and interviewed people who I have not seen since then but it is written for a college audience not beach reading.
I told one story that is only 15 years old and I will tell another one that keeps rattling around in my head in this blog post. When AOL messenger was launched, I was at the Flatiron Partners office doing work. A message popped up from Jason on my laptop as I was supposed to meet him in about 20 minutes for a meeting. We went back and forth on the im and we both were almost gushing about how incredibly cool it was that we were just chatting away on this new medium. It just wasn’t that long ago and now everyone walks down the street doing roughly the same thing with different tools on their mobile phones.
Here is the one story I did not bring up that night. There were certainly conversations about when the bubble popped and how everything ceased for a few years. Silicon Alley Reporter put on a huge parties in the day. Most of them revolved around conferences we were putting on. One particular night, we had an event after the Internet conference that Meckler had at the Javits Center. It was at a place right near there that that has two floors one with a huge roof deck. The place was packed with so many people, some I knew and others I had never seen. The place looked like the height of the music industry in the 70’s. Just too cool I just felt like too much has happened too soon. The amount that these companies were valuing themselves at was ridiculous. We were creating superstars from geeks (although not such a bad thing for a role model). I remember looking at the room and turning to Brian Cooper (who I have not seen in years) and saying, this doesn’t feel right. This just can’t last. You know what…it didn’t but it came back and it came back better.