Report from Web 2.0 Summit

by Wayne Willis on November 21, 2010

The Web 2.0 Summit was held this week in SF

O’Reilly Publishing produces some of the best and most exciting conferences in the subjects of relevance to network-service-based businesses, including the Web 2.0 conference, which was held this week in San Francisco.

In a nod to Chris Anderson’s book Free: The Future of a Radical Price), O’Reilly allowed streaming broadcasts of the talks, as well as posting archival copies on YouTube in a “Web 2.0 Playlist” of 58 videos comprising about 18 hours of presentations.  Watching these talks, at your convenience, for free, is as exciting to Web 2.0 junkies like me as TedTalks are to the broader audience of curious, intelligent thought leaders like you!

Most of the Web 2.0 talks advanced an understanding of the thesis of Nodal Partners – that we are living in a transformative time where EVERYTHING is being transformed by the migration of older business models to an online business model.  I won’t summarize each talk, as a full-sized post could be written about each one.  I’ll just give you a few snippets and invite you to click thru to the one’s you care about.

The theme of this year’s conference was “points of control” –the fear being that large companies are colliding, and they are asking themselves what they own, how they can compete and how they can partner.  Are the halcyon days of unfettered growth in unexplored territory behind us?  Is it now about market share?

Everybody concluded “no” – and even the antagonists of the current conflicts (e.g., Facebook vs. Google on open sharing of contact lists) downplayed their conflicts, predicted eventual solutions and pointed at all the “uncharted territory” that has yet to be explored or conquered.

Eric Schmidt addressed, in his avuncular way, all the current issues involving Google.  He really is an excellent ambassador for the company.  His was the most-watched video (197,000 views as of today, proving O’Reilly’s point that these free views will drive interest in the event, which I predict will sell out FAST for next year, at a high price.)   A close second, in terms of views, was Mark Zuckerberg, who has really grown up as a CEO in the past couple years, and he did a similarly masterful job of presenting Facebook in a favorable light.  Both moderators (Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle) tried to get Eric and Mark to fight or be bitchy, but neither got anywhere near controversy.  They both denied (and demonstrated somewhat successfully) that they were not asserting a “point of control” where they were trying to extract monopoly rents.  They both asserted that “it’s still very early in the life of the internet” and that developers who USE the APIs of these platform companies can build extraordinary things, with little or no capital.

John Doerr and Fred Wilson – one a VC from Sand Hill Road and the other from NYC -- were the next most popular video viewed.  They had a number of very insightful things to say, especially about the dangers to angel investing right now.  (I follow Fred’s blog and Bill Gurley’s blog, and both have cautionary observations to share about the current environment.)  They believe that a mini-bubble is going on right now for the best new companies, and they had some horror tales to share.  I commend this talk to those of you in finance.

Mary Meeker, an analyst with Morgan Stanley, did a 20 minute sprint through a slide deck with absolutely jaw-dropping numbers of the stock-market valuations that are migrating from traditional companies and business models to the new ones, especially those based on “mobile and social.”  As astonishing as some of the values are today, she predicts a huge boom ahead.  She was right about AOL in 1995.  She was right about Apple.  Maybe she’s right again.

Ari Emmanuel (Rahm’s brother) showed off the temper he’s famous for, and gave us Northern Californians a taste of Hollywood-style intimidation.  His comment about negotiation – “Fair?  You want fair??!! Fair is where we end up!” – was heavily referred to and retweeted.  (The interview itself isn’t particularly useful unless you are concerned with the rights of authors and artists, like those whom Ari represents.)

Ron Conway is probably the investor most closely aligned with the Nodal Partners thesis, so I was particularly interested in what he had to say.  Instead of talking, he brought up 11 of his portfolio companies and had them each do 30-second descriptions of their companies.  If you want to see a smattering of the various initiatives we are seeing each week, I commend this 9 minute video to you.

There was lots more, of course, but I don’t want to go too long here.  If you have comments or questions, just leave them below and I’ll try to respond.

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