Yes, that's Powerset founder Barney Pell in the water with a real, live dolphin. And sorry, this time the "Hot Dolphin with Douchebag" joke has already been made. The zoophilia joke, however, hasn't. So come up with a better headline — best submission in the comments becomes the new title of this post. Yesterday's Pellapalooza grand prize winner was Rock tha Hizzee with "Grandpa, no!"
Powerset founder Barney Pell brazenly reaches past former TechCrunch contributor Calley Nye's first available knee for an extra helping of frottage during the TechCrunch50 conference festivities. For Pell, the "Hot Chicks with Douchebags" joke has already been made, so you'll have to come up with something better in the comments if you want to win the honor of rewriting the headline. Yesterday UncleSalty took home the trophy with "How to make a baloney sandwich."
A Valleywag spy attended the second day of TechCrunch50 and then followed the crowd to a dinner, a party and an after party. He learned that blondes love Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis likes to drink, and flack turned TechCrunch blogger Calley Nye knows how to leave with a billionaire. Also, our spy reports that the startup that's getting everyone's attention at the show itself is doing it "through the use of hot and semi naked booth girls." All that and more in his bullet-point recap, below.Conference
Microsoft has confirmed its $100 million purchase of Powerset, the overhyped search engine whose buzz flared and fizzled last year. Cofounder Barney Pell, whom investors pushed out of his CEO seat last November, amid rumors of a top-level love triangle, may not last long after the deal. Consider the faint praise Microsoft offers for him:
Powerset never quite managed to launch with their natural language parsing search product. But they did give everyone a glimpse with a preview of search for Wikipedia. Not quite game-changing enough for Yahoo to buy or Amazon's Jeff Bezos to invest in, but just enough to get Microsoft to pay $100 million. Which is considerably less what Team Redmond would have paid for Yahoo's search business. Not bad for a company running on borrowed hopes and dreams. (By Intern Alaska, photo from Powerset)
At a birthday party for game developer David "Talin" Joiner hosted by former Powerset CEO Barney Pell, the guest of honor provided guests with $5,000 to spend any way they collectively wished. What did they choose to spend it on? $1,000 to give Joiner a makeover and an electronic copy of Neil Strauss's modern pick-up manual The Game. Yes, the man pictured here waving the wad of cash will shortly be dispensing negs in the hopes of a fuck-close. But hey, if it works for "Benny" Pell, it might work for the man responsible for Inherit the Earth: Quest for the Orb, an inspiration to furries everywhere. In a side note, Michael Arrington got a little huffy because nobody at the party read his blog.
One of the most important and profound visual chronicles of our times, Hot Chicks with Douchebags, may have found a photo of former Powerset CEO Barney Pell with a bunch of hot chicks. This character certainly shares the same taste in shirts, the same number of buttons loosed and the same liberal use of the hands that he demonstrated in an earlier photo with a hot chick and some douchebags. What say ye, is this Pell with a proto-goatee auditioning for a role in a sequel to A Night at the Roxbury?
We have a hard time picking a loser in the contest for world's worst search-engine startup: Powerset, where the founders' love triangle proved far more interesting than its technology, or Wikia Search, Jimmy Wales's laughably nonfatal Google killer. What both have in common: Their search results prominently feature links to Wikipedia, also founded by Wales. Wikia Search, like Wikipedia, has volunteers edit its search results; Powerset uses an algorithm to analyze Wikipedia pages, and tries to answer the questions implicit in users' searches accordingly. Wales is unimpressed by Powerset. But we're struck by how much he and Powerset cofounder Barney Pell have in common — a semantic link neither search engine has uncovered.
Let's ignore the fact that Powerset's core technology is only licensed from Xerox PARC. Even then, we're disappointed in today's public debut from publicity-ridden search engine Powerset. Cofounders Barney Pell and Steve Newcomb intended to create a "natural language" search engine that allowed users to phrase search queries in the way they speak. But after informing its search by trolling Wikipedia, Powerset couldn't even answer our one most important question: "Which Powerset executive slept with another's wife?" Powerset's answer: LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. No offense, Reid, but we're almost certain that's not correct.
Whither Powerset, the once-hot search engine backed by a heavenly set of angel investors, including Facebook board member Peter Thiel? Little has been heard from the startup since COO Steve Newcomb left amid rumors of a C-suite love triangle. Cofounder Barney Pell — another leg in the whispered-about tryst — is so checked out that he's wasting time coding Facebook applications. The company has been searching, so far fruitlessly, for a CEO. Now comes word that Yahoo may be interested in buying the startup.
When Barney Pell, Powerset's former CEO, got demoted to CTO last week, we reported rumors that C-level hanky panky might have played a role. Now another tipster writes in to clarify that the "other CEO" mentioned must have been Pell's cofounder, COO Steve Newcomb. The new tipster can't confirm the first rumor that an affair soured relations between the two founders, but seems happy to offer plenty of other theories on why Powerset was doomed from the start.
WEB 2.0 SUMMIT — Late last night, conference organizers assembled the "sharpest wits, biggest names and brightest lights of the Web community" for its first-ever Web Bowl, a nerdy game-show inspired trivia contest. The contestants were divided into two teams, with Digg CEO Jay Adelson, AOL founder Steve Case, angel investor Ron Conway, Yahoo "peanut butter memo" author Brad Garlinghouse, and Morgan Stanley's Mary Meeker on the "Ask Kickers" team. On the "Bubbles!" side was Microsoft techie Gary Flake, About.com founder Scott Kurnit, Ask.com CEO Jim Lanzone, AOLer Ted Leonsis, and New York Times scribe John Markoff. SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese was a lifeline for both teams. John Battelle hosted while Tim O'Reilly judged the answers. Lots of names up on stage. But the real star? Hidden in the audience.
My fellow Valleywaggers Owen Thomas and Nick Douglas were banned from the TechCrunch40 conference, and, odds are, I would have been banned from the afterparty at Fluid nightclub, had I asked permission to attend. So, I didn't bother asking, and scrounged up a ticket though back-channel connections, instead. Specifically, through the generosity of my new crush, the mysterious "TechCrunch40" Twitter guy, who left an envelope with an extra ticket and a cryptic note with the bartender at the House of Shields around the corner from Fluid. (Turns out "TechCrunch40" is a group effort — the note was signed by Rick Diculous, El Guapo, Mr. Gray, and Harvey Farquard.)
Conference paraphernalia is normally comprised of useful but boring office supplies and t-shirts. Except, it seems, at Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis's TechCrunch40 conference. Rafe Needleman of CNET blog Webware is shocked by one giveaway from "natural-language" search engine Powerset — test tubes of cranberry juice and vodka. We're not shocked, of course. We just suspect Powerset CEO Barney Pell is pulling the usual bar pick-up trick of buying drinks for the person you're trying to seduce. Everyone knows you're prettier when they're drunk.
At last week's Lunch 2.0, Sarah Meyers interviewed Powerset CEO Barney Pell to get the elevator speech on his company, which is doing something incredibly
boring innovative! innovative! with natural-language search, whatever that means. I haven't reviewed the clip myself, and Meyers told me there were a few wee audio glitches, but I'm sure it's going to be as fascinating as any Silicon Valley startup pitch.