Now that Caterina Fake has left Yahoo and Stewart Butterfield has tendered his abstract resignation letter, what will the widely beloved Flickr cofounders do? And where will they go? Brendon Wilson, who worked in the Valley himself before returning to his native Canada, pointed us to an effort by a group of geeks to convince Fake and Butterfield to come back to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Flickr was launched. The welcome wagon even turned out a video slideshow of Flickr photos to remind the couple just how beautiful the city can be. Look, a rainbow! And it may just be working — last night, Butterfield added himself to the Bring Stewart and Caterina Home! group on Facebook. Fake may have other plans, though.
Union Square Ventures backs growing startups like Twitter, Tumblr and Etsy and can claim successful exits from Del.icio.us, FeedBurner and Tacoda. All that success could make partner Fred Wilson's career a model for any aspiring VC. It shouldn't. At least, not according to Wilson. "I did it all wrong and got lucky," Wilson writes in post explaining how he got into the business. Wilson landed his first VC gig as an associate out of Wharton. By his reckoning, "for the next 10 years I kind of stumbled around the venture capital business." He couldn't find a sector to call his own until "I got lucky. The Internet came along. I didn't know anything about the business of the Internet. But then nobody else did either."
Last we heard about microblogging service Twitter's latest funding round, Union Square Ventures partner Albert Wenger told us — and, via Twitter, the world — that he was taking a lunch meeting at Twitter HQ. That was April 25. Despite rumors of an imminent deal, there's been no announcement. So why can't Wenger and his USV partner Fred Wilson close the deal? One theory: an unexpected bidding war over a service that grows more mainstream every day. A source familiar with this type of funding situation explains: "You know that thing about failure is an orphan, success has a million dads? VCs want to buy the right to say Twitter was theirs." And for this crowd, Twitter's downtime problems are a bonus.
Yahoo, CNET, and Plaxo are old news, according to VC blogger Fred Wilson. He writes: "I suggest you ignore all of that and focus on what went on last night in San Jose at the annual Churchill Club Dinner," where venture capitalists Roger McNamee, Steve Jurvetson, Josh Kopelman and others predicted ten upcoming trends. VentureBeat took copious notes. We've trimmed them down to suit a VC's attention span:
After reading our take on VC blogger Fred Wilson's advice that entrepreneurs need to learn how to "ask for the order," Persai cofounder Ted Dziuba commented: "Methinks Fred Wilson doth blog too much." We disagree, if only because Wilson is such a fruitful source. But at a venture capital conference in San Francisco last week, Sequoia Capital's Michael Moritz seemed to second the notion. "There's a lot of hot air and arrogance in the business that we all would be better off without," Moritz told the conference crowd. Moritz said he disapproved of "useless pontificating in front of entrepreneurs working harder than we are." Kleiner Perkins VC John Doerr concurred: "At Kleiner, we're trying to watch our language." This from the guy who said the Internet was underhyped — and then invested in Friendster. (Photo by b_d_solis)
A tipster tells us Hype Machine founder Anthony Volodkin has a "$10 million Viacom offer floating around." Hype Machine, a website which aggregates music uploaded to blogs, has grown 125 percent in the last year, with 127,000 monthly visitors, according to Compete.com. Another source familiar with Volodkin's plans for Hype Machine can't confirm Viacom's offer, but said an acquisition would be the next logical step. Volodkin has been very careful to avoid taking venture capital, "despite VCs going hard after him," this second source tells us. Update: A third source says Hype Machine has been sold, but not for $10 million and not to Viacom. Whoever the buyer is, the sale rumor, if true, captures a frustrating state of affairs for technology's financiers.
If scenesters from Brooklyn to San Francisco's Mission District want to have Tumblr cool-kid bragging rights, they'll have to pay, founder David Karp has decided. Why has Karp finally set his unflinching blue eyes on Tumblr's bottom line? His hosting bills must be starting to pinch. He'll begin peddling paid Tumblr Pro accounts later this year. Flickr, which just added video for its pro members only, charges $25 a year for extra storage, but Karp tell us he hasn't figure out how much to charge his users just yet. What will Tumblr "Pros" get for their money? Karp says he's got "more than 10 features in the queue" including a tool that allows readers to submit content, more customizable themes and special page layouts. Check out screenshots of the new features below, and then wonder with us: Are they enough for ego-tumbling millennials to agree to pay Karp's fee?
Microsoft has acquired Xobni, likely for more than its original $20 million offer to buy the company, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington reports. Xobni — "inbox" spelled backward — adds features to Outlook, Microsoft's desktop email application. As VC blogger Fred Wilson notes, the acquisition is "sort of proof that Microsoft doesn't know how to improve its own software. So they buy those that do." If Arrington's report proves more accurate than previous rumors of a sale, Xobni CEO Jeff Bonforte would join Microsoft well before his former colleagues at Yahoo, where Bonforte worked just long enough to be paid to leave.
While Yahoo's board dithers over whom to sell the company's soul to, VC blogger Fred Wilson has a different plan in mind. "Yahoo should reject the offer and what they should do instead is break up the company into a series of smaller companies," he told TechTicker in the interview excerpted here. Yahoo's entertainment sites could be one spinoff; its HotJobs website another, he says. Left unsaid: A broken-up Yahoo would mean more buyers for the small startups Wilson backs.
Venture capitalist and blogger Fred Wilson reports that "there is no IPO market right now for venture backed companies to speak of. M&A buyers are wary and while deals are getting done, a lot of deals are blowing up too." Deepak Kamra, a partner at Canaan Partners, suggests the freeze means "Companies that are built on having lots of users but no real revenues won't last." Wilson disagrees.
Venture capitalist Fred Wilson has lashed out at TechCrunch over its coverage of some startup you've never heard of. TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington responded by accusing Wilson of being biased. I'd summarize the whole spat for you, but Wilson's and Arrington's Twitters have done the job already.
VC blogger Fred Wilson argues that a Microsoft-Yahoo merger will be bad for users and for the Internet as a whole. "If you think about the Internet, it's a huge distributed network of loosely connected services owned and operated by literally millions. We don't need or want consolidation of services on the Internet," Wilson writes. But you know who the Microsoft-Yahoo deal is even worse news for? The incompetent executives who landed Yahoo in this pickle in the first place. They're ferociously spinning gullible reporters with rescue fantasies. Here are the five most widespread rumors — and why they're unlikely to happen.
Union Square Ventures VC and blogger Fred Wilson doesn't think Yahoo would survive a Microsoft acquisition. "I suspect that many of Yahoo!'s best services will languish under Microsoft's ownership and that users will leave," Wilson writes on his blog. "It's happening already under Yahoo's ownership to services like Flickr and Del.icio.us and MyBlogLog. It will be worse under Microsoft's ownership." Here's how he thinks Yang and Yahoo can wriggle out of Big Daddy Ballmer's bear hug.
"There has been a real 'de-risking' of the market, which will certainly affect the I.P.O. market. That will impact the late-stage venture market, because the IPO market drives the late-stage venture market. And that will slowly impact the early-stage venture market. Valuations will come down. There will be less exuberance about venture capital investments. What will probably take place is a flight to quality. Venture capitalists will want to invest more in the companies that look like they're going to be successful and be a little less willing to take fliers on things that are hard to really handicap. If the financing environment changes, we'll try to take advantage of that and invest in companies at lower valuations than we would otherwise be paying." — Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson, on the broader market's effect on the VC world. [Portfolio.com]