For Rent: Office space with the Friendster founder

FoundersDenJonathan Abrams ignited the social networking craze by making it easy for people to connect with groups of acquaintances on Friendster, the first successful social networking Web site launched in 2002.

But for his new project, a shared-work space/private hangout for up-and-coming Web startups and entrepreneurs in San Francisco, Abrams has made it so that not just anyone can join the club.

“We want to be very selective. We’re choosing companies that we think are cool and people we think are cool,” Abrams said of the project. “Because if you’re an asshole, or if you just want to sit in your corner and never talk to anybody, what’s the point of coming into a shared space and being part of a community?”

Dubbed the Founders Den, the 8,500-square foot office space in the city’s South of Market district is a place where entrepreneurs can set-up shop and code away during the day, and pour a drink from the bar and sidle up to the poker table at night, or drop-in on one of the many events to be held in the lounge area.

The space, which officially opens this week, can accommodate between 10 and 15 startups, with rents leased out in six-month increments. The idea is that startups will move into the space after receiving a bit of angel funding, and move out after they land their first Series A round of financing and begin hiring a larger staff.

AOL aspires to be a 1990s publishing powerhouse; arms dealer

Tim Armstrong AOL

Tech nerds and gadget geeks over the age of 35 should have no trouble recalling the company Ziff Davis – a former publishing powerhouse home to such magazines as Computer World, PC Week and Red Herring. Ziff’s glory days were in the 1980s and 1990s and it scaled dizzying heights as its magazines groaned under the strain of advertising. Media observers would weigh issues of say Computer World for sport not unlike putting the September issue of fashion mags on the scales.

In 1995, a majority of Ziff was sold to SoftBank for $2.1 billion. Yet, Ziff’s storyline is familiar to a wide swath of Silicon Valley companies that prospered in the late 90s.  The tech bubble popped and by the late naughts Ziff Davis Media headed to bankruptcy court.

Ziff Davis is apparently on the mind of Tim Armstrong (pictured) . The AOL chairman and CEO invoked the company yesterday during his presentation at the Citigroup Media, Entertainment and Telecom conference.

from Breakingviews:

Goldman’s old-school Facebook deal sets new tests

Goldman Sachs' old-school Facebook deal brings a new set of challenges. The bank is raising up to $1.5 billion from clients to invest in the social network while putting in $450 million itself. Like Morgan Stanley's reported deal with online coupon service Groupon, it looks like classic merchant banking. With hot firms in the driver's seat, however, the banks could find themselves in for a wild ride.

Internet darlings, with their growth, profitability and cash, face little pressure to go public yet still have some use for what a fundraising can provide. So instead of an IPO, they rely on so-called D-rounds. This allows them to raise money at favorable valuations for internal use, while buying stock back from employees or early-round investors who want to cash out.

It's a calculated pay-to-play on the banks' part. By stumping up for Facebook and Groupon, Goldman and Morgan Stanley put themselves in a strong position to underwrite the eventual IPOs. They make the tech firms happy by providing stronger headline valuations, in Facebook's case $50 billion. And the intermediaries score points with their well-heeled clients by enabling them to put money into hard-to-access investments.

Foursquare still struggling to become more than a niche app

USA/When was the last time you played Foursquare? Not the mobile app that lets you check in at a coffeeshop or store in hopes of becoming its “mayor”. But the original game involving a red rubber ball and a grid chalked onto asphalt.

For me, it’s been years since I played Foursquare, and I’m tempted to get a game going with some of my friends who live nearby. That is more than I can say for the mobile app Foursquare. It’s been months since I’ve check in anywhere – in fact, I’d forgotten entirely that I deleted it from my iPhone – and after reinstalling it and trying out its new features, I’m still not crazy about it. It still feels more like a chore than a game, an act of discovery or a way to connect with friends.

According to, I’m not alone. In a blog post entitled “I’m the mayor! So what?”, Karen Costa showed some figures suggesting that the number of unique visitors at Foursquare has dwindled from a peak of 1.8 million this summer to less than 1 million last month. Its rival Gowalla has seen its unique visitor count tread water at around 200,000 for several months.

Five backward-compatible forecasts for 2011

Innovation doesn’t know what day it is. It’s also true that we never seem to predict the most interesting things which actually do happen. Oh sure — years of speculation preceded Apple’s iPad announcement last January. But did anyone actually figure on the iPad?

With trepidation, then, I’ve committed to a forecast at years’ end, a moment of no moment for either tech or media. Sadly, there is no fiscal year option in the pontification game that could postpone this to a more sensible time in Q2.

So, in the spirit of tradition, I offer my First Annual Backward Compatible Tech Forecast.

What the rise of “HMU” says about Facebook’s success in 2010

Facebook had an extraordinary year in 2010, bringing in $2 billion in revenue, being named best place to work and seeing Mark Zuckerberg named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. One key strategy that drove that success, as Zuckerberg made clear when he announced Facebook Social Inbox, was that the company built a platform that adapted to its most active users.

For Facebook, the most active users are students in college and secondary school. Zuckerberg hit on Social Inbox after high school students told him email was too slow. So it’s no surprise that the top status trend for 2010 – that is, the term whose usage in status updates grew the most this year – was “HMU.”

If you didn’t know what HMU meant before this week, you’re probably not in Facebook’s most active demographic. It isn’t a big part of the vocabulary of most people past their 20s; if you do use it, the older you are the more you risk looking like you’re trying too hard to be cool. Here’s how the British newspaper the Independent spelled it out: tells you what to watch and where to find it


As the number of TV networks and programs has exploded in the last decade, a major concern for cable companies has become how will viewers find their favorite shows among 1,000 channels. The problem has gotten even worse with the availability of more and more TV shows online, where some of the helpful network silos have disappeared altogether.

So where do you go if you want to see last night’s episode of Modern Family, then follow it with episode 6 of Season 3′s Mad Men, before checking out if your favorite Indiana Jones movie is online?

You go to, a year-old Los Angeles-based programming guide for Internet television founded by former chief executive Jim Lanzone. True to his roots in search, Lanzone and his team have created a comprehensive database so a user can find every legally available TV show and movie available online.

Facebook is worth $52 billion, and that’s not a good thing.

Reuters: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacts after unveiling a new messaging system in San Francisco

Reuters: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacts after unveiling a new messaging system in San Francisco

Another week, another surge in Facebook’s putative valuation.

Facebook is now worth $52.1 billion, according to, up from $50 billion two weeks ago when someone bought a large chunk of its shares on SecondMarket, an online exchange for privately held stocks.

At $52 billion, Facebook is worth more than eBay, Time Warner and News Corp. It’s worth two Yahoos, and worth nearly a third of Google’s $191 billion valuation. Which may not seem unrealistic, until you recall that Google’s revenue will top $20 billion this year, or ten times Facebook’s estimate.

Bebo founder Michael Birch back at the social network

beboMichael Birch, the founder of online social network Bebo, who sold the company to AOL over two years ago for a spectacular sum, is linked up again to Bebo as an investor and advisor.

“I’ve been watching this space with interest and thought it was a good opportunity to get back and get it back on track,” Birch said.

Birch and his wife Xochi launched Bebo in 2005 and watched it become one of the most popular social networking sites among young adults in the U.K. It caught the attention of AOL, then still hitched to Time Warner, which bought Bebo for $850 million in March 2008 in order to gain access to the site’s 40 million users and to expand AOL advertising sales in markets outside the United States.

How PayPal fumbled in the Wikileaks controversy

A unique feature of the web is that it was designed by idealists and capitalists alike. A hacker sensibility fights for an open, democratic structure, while profit-minded businesses helped shape it into a thriving industry. The more successful companies, like Google and Facebook, understand both ethics equally.

But idealism and commerce often clash as well, and woe to the company that is caught in the crossfire. This week, PayPal is such a company. The eBay online-payments subsidiary suspended the account that Wikileaks used to handle donations, citing a violation of terms that prohibit “activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity.”

The business logic seemed clear enough: Avoid the wrath of the U.S. State Department and steer the company away from the Wikileaks controversy. But it quickly backfired. Not everyone agreed Wikileaks was engaging in illegal activity, and many hackers and other idealists not only boycotted PayPal, they hit the company with denial of services attacks.