Twiistup 6 has come to an end. It proved to be a great transitional year. Out is the “cocktail only” Twiistup and in is the new format of a conference that should take its rightful place on the national technology calendar. I believe that Twiistup is now a platform from which to grow and highlight what is uniquely LA. We are a city unique in merging the world’s best content with digital media and technology expertise. Much of this was highlighted at Twiistup.
LA not only produced the obvious – MySpace – but also created the whole category of sponsored search (Overture), AdSense (Applied Semantics), Local Search (City Search), comparison shopping (PriceGrabber, Shopzilla) and lead generation (LowerMyBills). In SoCal we are also leaders in affiliate marketing (Commission Junction), Internet video (Hulu) and bringing local businesses online (ReachLocal). We are also home to DemandMedia (Richard Rosenblatt) and Mahalo (Jason Calacanis).
We have accomplished much yet have much work to do. There are now a second generation of entrepreneurs and companies that have learned from their last successes and are producing great new companies like TopSpin Media, Sometrics and GumGum.
For highlighting what is uniquely LA, for adhering to a strict quality standard for speakers and for building this great platform for the future Francisco Dao (aka “The Man”) should feel proud of what he has accomplished. As should Eric Sikola and ExpenseBay who won the “Showoff” judges competition (Photos featured here taken by (cc) Kenneth Yeung – http://www.thelettertwo.com). Twiistup 6 featured 12 showoff companies as the opening act of a 2-day conference. From this crowd of 12 I believe you’ll see 4-5 companies with the potential to rise to prominence.
We had an excellent opening panel on early-stage investing with Dave McClure (Founders Fund – NorCal), Brad Feld (Foundry Group, Boulder) and Andy Sack (Founders Co-Op, Seattle). The panel was hosted by Jason Nazar who brought his usual frenetic energy. My favorite line from this panel: Feld, “If LA companies still have a chip on your shoulders about not being in Silicon Valley, I have one message for you – get over it!” And of course there was the F-bomb count that Cathy Brooks and I were keeping on Dave … by the end of the panel we had counted 8.
There was the usual cogent presentation by Brian Solis on the future of PR in which he implored us to get beyond the echo chamber of Silicon Valley and Techmeme and focus on staying on the radar screen of real America. In today’s “attention deficit” economy you need PR more than ever and this doesn’t come through press releases but rather a continued, authentic conversation.”
In the afternoon we had a corker of panel. Quincy Jones III, Ian Rogers and Chamillionaire were all on the same panel facilitated by Brian Zisk. I have seen Ian Rogers speak before and when he does he usually has the audience on the edge of their seats. Ian is so knowledgeable about the evolution of the digital music business and speaks with a Howard Roark like truth about where it needs to go. My favorite Rogers line was, “musicians of the future will be entrepreneurs and not employees [of labels].” He obviously believes this since he has become CEO of TopSpin Media – a firm designed to do just that.
But in this case Chamillionaire stole the show. He displayed a deep mastering of the power of the Internet, direct marketing and Twitter to manage his business. He talked about the need to give personal access to fans and remain authentic while still leaving some room for mystique. He talked about artists needing to retain rights for their website and digital content like ringtones. He got this VC talking so effusively about his entrepreneurial instincts that my wife accused me of having a “man crush.” (I don’t) I think this guy has the chance to be the Digital Puffy if he can amass a team to help young artists own & manage their digital careers. [photo credit to Brian Solis]
The evening cocktail party was an 80’s theme and lived up to the traditional Twiistup fame with an open bar, elaborate costumes, Hollywood lighting and poker games until 4 in the morning. Having been out until 3am at the cocktail party the night before I called it quits at 12:30am or as Neil Patel told me, “OK, married men should go home now” though something tells me he may not remember this quote … (Percival cocktail photo by (cc) Kenneth Yeung – http://www.thelettertwo.com)
The late night didn’t make for a productive start to the morning but by the time Sean Percival got on stage to host the panel with Chris Brogan, Micah Baldwin (who started #FollowFriday) and Ben Huh (ICanHazCheeseburger) there was a great discussion on what it takes to be an Uber-blogger and social networker. I think I could summarize the hour by saying, “don’t be a douche.” And we heard Sean’s rant of the moment about how he hates being shaken down for DM’s by friends asking for RT’s and how he’s tired of DM Spam in general.
After this was my panel (co-hosted by Christian Gammill who had to leave mid-way to race off to Hawaii to get engaged and by Tony Adam), with Mike Jones (COO of MySpace), David Sacks (founder of Geni and Yammer) and Jamie Montgomery (CEO of tech investment bank Montgomery & Co). The tone of the panel was set by David’s announcement that he was relocating to Silicon Valley (and dragging Geni & Yammer with him). A debate ensued in which the consensus was, “to build the next Google or Salesforce.com you probably need to be in Silicon Valley but that SoCal had produced many great companies that made a tremendous amount of money and that would likely continue.”
The closing event was the filming of a live version of Jason Calacanis’ “This Week in Start-Ups” (appropriately named TWiST – episode is here). He started off the session of breaking news of the most important product announcement of his life to date – the pregnancy of his wife with his baby daughter. He then led us through a series of discussions about the most relevant topics of the day along with Chris Tolles, the CEO of Topix. Jason’s cutting wit and insightful commentary made for entertaining listening on topics ranging from the Microsoft / Yahoo! search deal (“will go down as one of the worst deals in history”) to the skewering Jason gave to his competitor Nick Denton (of Gawker fame) when he stole his most productive employee.
Anyway, to close my Twiistup 6 Summary post I will borrow from the wisdom of my forefathers, “next year in … Santa Monica.” No doubt the platform that Francisco built will take Twiistup 7 to a whole different level. Now back to work – we’ve got a venue to get booked.