MediaFile

Tinsel town turns deaf ear to Kutcher’s request to plug his start-ups

Ashton Kutcher may have more clout in Silicon Valley than in Hollywood.

The star of movies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and now of the hit show ‘Two and a Half Men” told conference goers at TechCrunch Disrupt that he tried to get the studio to plug some of his Internet start-up investments on the show– but they wouldn’t do it without compensation.

Kutcher, who said he majored in biochemical engineering in college, has invested in some of Silicon Valley’s hottest companies. His bets include check-in service Foursquare, bed-and-breakfast service Airbnb, and personalized magazine Flipboard.

He also said he invested in companies that he thought ultimately would contribute to greater happiness in the world– but won’t open his wallet unless he clicks with the entrepreneur. “At the end of the day it’s about the person who runs that company, and whether it’s a person I’d want to spend some time with,” he said.

While sometimes he likes to go stealth to avoid his name getting in the way of potential customers paying attention on the underlying business, he thinks he brings more than just star power to his start-ups.

“I have pretty good connectivity in marketing,” he said. “I have pretty good product savvy.” And when he draws on his network of contacts to call in a favor for one of his companies, “they generally will call me back.”

Sequoia’s Doug Leone on the spot for lunch, money

By Sarah McBride 

Nailing down a few minutes of a VC’s time can be tough, but one start-up tried a novel approach at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference: put the guy on the spot.

During the audience Q&A after TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington interviewed legendary venture capitalist Doug Leone from Sequoia, one Danish entrepreneur told Leone that his question was whether he could have a lunch date with Leone– today.

Leone begged off, citing a partner meeting, but promised lunch down the line. “Email me,” he suggested, giving his Sequoia email address.

A simple plan to save Yahoo, by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman

In Silicon Valley, it’s not tough to find someone to offer advice on how to save Yahoo, the struggling Internet portal that fired CEO Carol Bartz last week.
But one voice that the Sunnyvale, California-based company may want to pay attention to is Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn-turned-venture capitalist, and one of the most respected players in the fast-growing social networking market.
While investment bankers and private equity advisors are circling around Yahoo, looking for the best way to break the company into little pieces that can be auctioned off to the highest bidder, Hoffman thinks Yahoo may still be able to pull off a comeback.
“I think renovation and rebirth is possible and I think that’s the play you make,” Hoffman said, citing the Apple example, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Monday.
How would he do it?
First, Hoffman said he’d focus on investing the resources to make big technological innovations on Yahoo’s most popular online assets, such as its Web-based email product, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Groups.
Then, he suggested, Yahoo to end its reliance on online brand advertising and get creative about how it makes money.
“There are other kinds of business models that I think we have yet to invent on the consumer Internet,” Hoffman said, citing Zynga, which has developed revenue from new sources, such as the sale of virtual goods that enhance the experience of Zynga games.
So there you have it, a simple two-step plan to revive Yahoo. Perhaps Reid Hoffman should call Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang directly…

Arrington Exits TechCrunch; Takes jab at Arianna Huffington

From the TechCrunch conference in San Francisco, this post is brought to you by Alexei Oreskovic and Sarah McBride:

Michael Arrington, one of the most high-profile figures in the world of tech blogging, has lost the TechCrunch soapbox he built. But he’s found a new way to get his point across: T-shirts

Arrington took the stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Monday, moments after parent-company AOL announced that he was no longer part of the company due to his new role heading up a $20 million venture capital fund.

Tech wrap: AOL talking merger with Yahoo?

AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong has reportedly approached private equity firms to gauge interest in a deal with Yahoo that would place Armstrong as the head of the combined company, according to a Bloomberg report.

CNBC later reported that a source close to Yahoo said the company had no interest in a deal with AOL.

AOL shares closed down 5.3 percent at $14.72 while Yahoo inched up 0.3 pct to $14.48.

Tech wrap: AT&T preps plan to salvage T-Mobile deal

AT&T was expected to soon present a two-track plan that allows the company to try to find a settlement before the government lawsuit to block its planned $39 billion acquisition of smaller rival T-Mobile USA reaches the court. Details of AT&T’s proposed settlement were not available, but it is expected to include pledges to maintain T-Mobile’s relatively cheap mobile subscription plans, and asset sales.

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington created a venture capital fund to invest in promising start-ups, sparking controversy over possible conflicts of interest involving the fund and questions about the integrity of the blog. Included in the debate was Arrington’s employment status, with one AOL spokesperson claiming that Arrington was no longer employed by the owners TechCrunch, and another claiming he was. Arrington’s creation of the “CrunchFund” comes months after he publicly announced that he had begun to actively invest in start-up companies, which also triggered a lively debate within the industry.

A senior exec from Acer said Microsoft will be the winner in Google’s buy of Motorola Mobility as the deal makes Google a direct rival to its phone-making clients. “They work against some of their clients,” said Walter Deppeler, president of Acer’s operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa. “It was a good gift to Microsoft,” he told Reuters.  Acer uses operating software from both Microsoft and Google in its smartphones and tablets. Deppeler said Acer would consider the implications of the deal before deciding on future platform choices.

Crunch theater: blogger’s VC fund creates media spectacle

The tech blogosphere was on fire on Friday with a flood of constantly-updated news reports and a barrage of tweets dissecting every angle of the story.

A new iPhone? Details of the long-awaited Facebook IPO?

Not quite. The object of fascination was the preceding day’s news that high-profile tech blogger Michael Arrington has launched a $20 million venture capital fund.

The move instantly triggered a debate about the inherent conflict of an influential blog editor investing in many of the start-ups that would presumably be covered by TechCrunch — a must-read in the tech crowd.

Is Groupon a savior or a destroyer?

By James Ledbetter

The opinions expressed are his own.

You could hardly imagine a starker contrast. The Wall Street Journal this week portrayed Groupon and rival group-purchasing sites as the ultimate friend of the small business owner. The Journal interviewed Cynthia Yee, who runs a Chinatown walking-tour business in San Francisco. Yee told the paper she’d participated in at least 7 “deal of the day” promotions in the last 18 months; Groupon alone sold a whopping 1700 vouchers for Yee’s service. Yee estimates that the deals brought in $25,000, and her trade has exploded to the point where she’s had to hire two assistants.

But that was not how things went for Posies Cafe in Portland, Oregon. In a lengthy series this month on TechCrunch, entrepreneur Rocky Agrawal has used Jessie Burke’s nightmare experience to paint Groupon not only as an unscrupulous exploiter of small business, but as a company built on a house of cards. (A lengthy video interview with Burke is below, and you can also read her blog account.)

 

These are only the most recent and prominent observers predicting that Groupon will fail, essentially because it is bad for businesses.

David Eun Exits AOL after Huff Po purchase

david-eunAnother high-level AOL executive is heading for the exit door after the company shifted its content strategy again with the $315 million acquisitionof the Huffington Post. David Eun (pictured left), the ex-Googler recruited by AOL Chief Executive Tim Armstrong to be president of AOL media and studios, is leaving. Eun is a causality of the Huff Po purchase that put the charismatic high profile  founder Arianna Huffington in charge of AOL’s content.

In a memo to AOL employees posted on AOL’s technology blog TechCrunch, Eun described how he and Armstrong tried to find a place for Eun at AOL after the acquisition.

“I came to AOL last year to be the leader of the media organization. With the historic acquisition of The Huffington Post, my role and responsibilities as President, AOL Media are changing. Tim and I have discussed at length how I might continue within the new organizational structure, but ultimately there isn’t a role that matches what I am seeking to do.”

Spotify isn’t in talks to be bought by Apple or anyone – source

Music industry types must have had been reaching for their tranquilizers this afternoon, following a report that Apple is in early stage talks to buy Spotify. The report spread quickly, as these things do, and some thought it made  a lot of sense.  So Apple, maker of the world’s most popular music device, the iPod,  which already owns the No.1 music  download retailer iTunes, would be buying Spotify –the much-loved and critically acclaimed music streaming service, just as it’s finalizing deals to launch in the U.S.? This would be too much to handle for many music executives, who think Apple already holds way too much power.

They’ll probably be relieved to know that after an initial flurry of panicky phone calls we got a helpful call from one person close to Spotify, who shot down  rumors of a potential sale to Apple or anyone else  as  “completely untrue”.

Founder Daniel Ek has often tried to position Spotify as a company working with the music industry for the long term, as he did here on his company blog.