MediaFile

Twitter’s Costolo: not quite footloose and fancy free

You’d think fast-racing Twitter would keep one eye firmly fixed on the rearview and side mirrors.

With the Internet landscape littered with also-rans — from pets.com to AskJeeves.com to a Facebook-steamrolled MySpace — you’d imagine the one thing overnight Internet microblogging phenomenon Twitter would fear the most would be to get displaced by an up-and-comer with the same alarming speed.

Not so. Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo insists no one at the company he has worked at for less than a year worries about two theoretical guys in a garage dreaming up the next social networking sensation.

“That’s a fun question. The way I think about that is the only thing to prevent us from being successful is us,” said the co-founder and CEO of FeedBurner, a digital content syndication platform that was acquired by Google in the summer of 2007. “This stuff that’s out of my control — I’ve got no hair and I’m too stressed out as is,” said the bespectacled, balding executive who joined Twitter in September.

“We all kind of make it our job to understand what the landscape looks like but we make it a point to reinforce to each other that we’re the people that are going to make Twitter successful, not the success or failure of the competition.”

from Summit Notebook:

Even the best VCs strikeout — a lot

venture
Got access to a couple million bucks and want to be a venture capitalist? A miner of start-up business gold? Then get used to being wrong.

That's one lesson we learned during a discussion with Venture Capitalists at the Reuters Technology Summit: even the most successful investors -- those who finance the bandwagon others jump on when it comes to the likes of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter -- meet with entrepreneurs, like what they hear, write a check, and watch the investment go up in smoke.

Rich Wong, partner of Accel Partners, an investor in social networking site Facebook and mobile advertising network AdMob, the rate of picking winners is much like baseball batting averages, where top players like Joe Mauer, Albert Pujols or Ichiro Suzuki do not get a hit 7 of every 10 times they come to the plate.

from Summit Notebook:

VC’s Lament: the ones that got away

Vic Gundotra, Vice President of engineering at Google (R) and Omar Hamoui, founder and CEO of AdMob converse during the "Mobile: Where's The Money Going?" panel at the Fortune Tech Brainstorm 2009 in Pasadena, California July 23, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Whether it’s passing up on a ticket to Woodstock or not buying Apple stock at $80 a share in January 2009, everybody has regrets.

So what do VCs regret?

We asked the panel of three money-men gathered for the VC Panel at the Reuters Technology Summit for their biggest laments when it comes to the deals they let get away.

“For me the one that comes to mind is AdMob,” said Khosla Ventures partner David Weiden, referring to the mobile advertising firm that Google announced plans to acquire for $750 million in November.

Want an in with Kleiner? Send a drawing

For Matt Murphy, partner with influential Silicon Valley Venture fund Kleiner Perkins and point person on the firm’s iFund, old-school is still the way to go.

During an interview at the Reuters technology summit, the VC said picking the right startups to back was tough, given that he had received 8,000 business plans for iFund, which invests in iPhone and iPad applications.

The onslaught of business plans from app developers escalated to almost 500 per day when the fund expanded to $200 million in March.

Speak, memory! The eternal search for notebooks with flash drives

Good news for us computer geeks! PCs are nearly ready to ditch hard drives for faster, less energy-intensive drives with flash memory, like in a camera or cell phone, according to memory maker Micron, which ought to know. That is exciting news for victims of crashed hard drives and people who always want something new.

“I think it’ll be a story in 2011, and it’ll be pretty good penetration in 2012. But, you know, maybe I’m wrong,” said Mark Durcan, president and chief operating officer of Micron, during the Reuters Global Technology Summit.

Sadly, he may well be right about the last part. The last Micron exec to speak about so-called solid state drives to an appreciatively nerdy Reuters summit was CEO Steve Appleton, who in November 2005 predicted that flash drives would replace hard drives within five years. Actually, he’s still got time, but folks better hurry!

“The Cloud” overhyped? Brocade says not there for business yet

Say it’s not so — ‘the cloud’ isn’t ready for prime time? That’s the view from networking company Brocade, whose marketing chief compared the hype to the rush years ago to call center outsourcing.

All those applications and data that live off your computer somewhere in the Internet make up the cloud, from Google word processing software to your home pictures and video, and it is hot, hot, hot. But Brocade chief marketing officer John McHugh told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco that big business was not ready to embrace it for sensitive data and the most important applications.

SUMMIT/TECH

“There’s lots of issues. They’re being skirted over because they are really tough and there are no obvious solutions for them today,” he said. It will take “years” before big companies do that with important data, he said.

from Summit Notebook:

More or less fun in a recession? It’s a tough call

EA_Jens_Uwe_Intat_SVP_Reuters_Summit_Paris_2010_17_May_30pctStill unsure whether economic recession is good or bad for video-games sales, more than a year in? If so, you're in good company -- neither does the world's biggest games publisher. Electronic Arts' head of European publishing says the company still hasn't figured out whether people cut spending on big items like housing and cars first, or whether those kinds of decisions are just too hard.

"We really wonder, hmm, in economically difficult times would people in order to have SOME fun actually play more games or less games, and then, would they spend more or less?  It's really, it's impossible to say," Jens-Uwe Intat told the Reuters Global Technology Summit in Paris.

In the early days of the downturn, the industry was widely thought to be recession-proof as people chose cheap stay-at-home entertainment over pricey nights out. That assumption was later turned on its head.

Verizon Wireless CEO: We don’t need the iPad — yet

Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdams kindly spent some time with us this afternoon and spoke at length about the future of LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G high speed Internet from the No.1 U.S. wireless phone company.

Asked if there was “any hope” that Verizon would have the iPad anytime soon, McAdams laughed:

Any Hope!? Any Hope!?

For McAdams tablets will be a big part of Verizon’s offering in the second half of 2010 with Android-based tablets from the usual suspects including Motorola, LG and Samsung.

Microsoft CFO: Likes iPad, loves Ballmer: apps? meh

Microsoft CFO Klein

Three things we learned from chatting with Microsoft CFO Peter Klein: for one, he’s a big fan of his boss, CEO Steve Ballmer, despite their contrasting interview styles (Klein is even tempered; Ballmer is famously energetic, which I’ve witnessed first hand).

Reuters: What’s it like working with Steve Ballmer?
Klein: It’s awesome. He’s incredibly passionate, he cares about nothing except the success of the company. He’s incredibly smart. He knows the industry backwards and forward.

Reuters: Does he jump around and make your life hell sometimes?
Klein: No, he makes my life exciting everyday. It has been fabulous. He cares so much about the company. I’m a big believer in you have to be passionate about what you are doing.

from Summit Notebook:

Apple’s iPhone takes slow boat to China

In China, Apple's iPhone commands a strange presence. Perenially "coming out", already widely available on the black market, viewed with trepidation by local telecom players but with undisguised lust by affluent consumers.

Sanford C. Bernstein Toni Sacconaghi thinks the wildly popular device will arrive in the Middle Kingdom before the end of the year, after a long haul of negotiations with state-run telecom carriers keen to control the content to be sold over the gadget.

Some sticking points thus far: Sacconaghi says Chinese typically spend $10-$15 per month on data services -- everything from stock quotes to weather forecasts -- wheareas your typical iPhone user in the developed world now spends $70. That limits the Chinese carriers' ability to subsidize the iPhone. But the analyst thinks that in one to two months Apple may unveil a cheaper version of the device that can lower the cost of the phone to lower-paying Chinese customers.