Debating Some of the Issues of Our Time with Dmitry Shapiro

Posted on Sep 23, 2011 | 14 comments

Debating Some of the Issues of Our Time with Dmitry Shapiro

I had the pleasure of sitting down for an hour with Dmitry Shapiro of AnyBeat this week. The last startup he did raised $70 million for the online video space before being sued for more than $1 billion by Universal. He won the battle (the lawsuit) but lost the war (went bankrupt, with pending litigation he couldn’t get funded.

He’s back in the game as an entrepreneur and this time he wants to take on Facebook. Or does he? We talked about how his new company, AnyBeat, will be a difference kind of social network.

We had a chance to discuss many issues of our day. I’ll let you watch the video to find out what we thought, but we covered:

  • Why YouTube took off when Veoh and others didn’t
  • What we thought about Google Plus’s concept of circles (hint, I think it’s the wrong strategy & discussed in detail why)
  • Facebook “lists” and why the algorithmic approach is better for maintenance
  • What the NetFlix changes were all about and the economics behind this.
  • We had a long chat about “pseudonymity” – so much so that I came home that night and wrote this blog post.

  • Michael Gnanakone

    Mark the part I liked the best about this interview was when you talked about how video was (and sometimes still is) underestimated by investors who think its too complicated/impossible to execute/too costly to run successfully. I agree with your assumption that online video is going to play a much bigger role in the future.

    Given that Youtube is just barely breaking even, some say that argument against video may be right. But I think Google made the right decision buying Youtube and I think it will buy Hulu as well in an effort to become our next cable company. 

    Some people may think I am crazy, but I think Google may even buy the broadcast rights to the NFL or NBA someday. It’s not totally out of the picture. Google generates around 2 billion dollars in FCF  every quarter. In 2004 the NFL reached six-year agreements totaling $8 billion dollars. Compared to the price its rumored to buy Hulu for, this could be a plausible deal for Google.

    Netflix recently paid $100 million to produce its own original programming with Keven Spacey and I think it will be a continuing trend for companies to outbid traditional media companies for the best content. 

    Mark you think I’m crazy for believing Google will ever be the place we watch football on Sunday?

  • Duke


    Just sat through the entire 80 minutes and I loved the conversation! Just attempted to signup on and what got to me was the invite system of joining. The concept of pseudo-anonymity is excellent however, shouldn’t it be easier to sign up and join the conversation? 

    I’m not a tech CEO (I provide offshore legal services to law firms and corporate legal departments and even to some of your friends!) but I would think that for an online business to gain traction, the number of unique users would be a key metric. An invite based system hampers easy sign-ups and really “links” your email address to your account. Not great for a pseudo-anon concept. 

    We bill by the hour and I am constantly admonishing employees for the use of social networks while at work until I had to install filters on our servers. It’s revenue lost for my business and gained for Facebook, twitter etc. This is one among many reasons for which I personally do not maintain an online persona (no social networks apart from LinkedIn). 

    I would love to jump into conversations and add my two cents but as Dmitry put it, I don’t want my comments floating through cyberspace forever. Anybeat is a super concept! Only wish the invites weren’t integral and was more like a Yahoo chat account (anonymous and easy to signup). 

  • Asher Adelman

    Great discussion you had with Dmitry. Couldn’t agree more that people prefer anonymity/speudonymity in certain situations. We’re developing a social discovery platform, and we’re tackling this issue by mimicking offline “real world” interactions: 1) a photo of each user will be the only identifiable item displayed – names/nicknames won’t be displayed (nor will any other background info); 2) all interactions will be live – once the conversation is over, the content is gone – so people won’t have to worry about their comments coming back to haunt them sometime in the future.

  • msuster

    Not crazy at all. More insightful than most.

  • msuster

    That’s useful feedback, I hope Dmitry sees this. I’m sure it will get easier to sign up over time. re: social networks at work – it is a huge productivity suck. That’s for sure. Smart business leaders need to find ways to balance letting their teams use productivity tools without become a drain on productive work.

  • msuster

    other than screen shots 😉

  • Dhiraj Kacker

    Mark, for the first I found myself disagreeing seriously with you. Comparing taxonomy of folder structures with the need to keep professional and private things separate misses two key things:

    1. Motivation for having the separation: think kids pictures, family information etc vs. business documents; former is privacy, latter is just being organized

    2. Complexity of the separation: business document folder structures can get very long and complex over a period of time, but not so much in your “social circles”, especially for online sharing. In fact for now I find the default circles on G+ to be more than good enough. I have a very complex directory structure to manage by documents but feel no such need for G+

    I have hardly used FB mainly due to privacy concerns but find myself so much more relaxed on G+ (I actually put up my kids pictures and shared it with family – something I’ve never done on FB!). FB will be important for a lot of people – clearly –  but it is certainly not for me as an *individual* (different story for my company).  I don’t think they have a fundamental respect for privacy and generally treat it as a necessary evil. 

    Given how much people are willing to share I may be in the minority, but I am glad that competition is coming and I will vote with my time for G+ BECAUSE of circles (and perhaps because I just trust Google a lot more). 

  • msuster

    Couple of things:

    – I agree with the need to keep personal stuff separate from business stuff. I only user FB for the former
    – I also am glad to see competition
    – The taxonomy problem is real and does exist and I will create longer-term problems for G+ users. If we used the product for a year and then grouped into circles it might work better. But they’re asking us to come up with a system up front. I’ll be a lot of people run into maintenance problems.

    Time will tell.

  • Dan Bowen

    Mark I think you left off your list of topics here perhaps the most important thing young entrepreneurs could learn from your talk with Dmitry; honesty and humility.  Listening to Dmitry confess the fact that he’s not broken the bank personally, to discuss the successes and failures of his businesses, and perhaps most importantly, to hammer home the fact that you need to do this because you love it, not because you have already spent the money you’re dreaming about.  It was refreshing to hear someone be that open rather than listening to some blowhard discuss adoption rates and revenue while conveniently ignoring the reality of a negative net after and an unsustainable burn rate…I applaud Dmitry for his candor. 

  • Dhiraj Kacker

    Ah, yes I forgot to mention this. Could not agree more on his “honesty & humility”, the love for what he does  and of course the insights. I managed to watch the whole interview and I’d strongly recommend the last 4-5 mins – has some real gems. 

    I have a recommendation for Dmitry: measure AnyBeat’s success by how many in-person “beer conversations” take place as a result of the online interactions :)Thanks Dmitry, and thanks Mark for bringing him on the show. 

  • Dhiraj Kacker

    As I think about it more, this to me is more about personally not liking Facebook for what it seems to bring out in people and what it depends on to become more and more valuable as a media property.

    To be clear, I would not have tried G+ without circles, but that would not have been sufficient. I think Google has earned my trust about trying to do the right thing. They have not been perfect by any stretch. Street view is a great counter example to this: as much as I myself use it, it creeps me out at times and doesn’t help that my daughter’s stroller on our balcony was visible on it (they remapped and now it is thankfully gone)! But still, I trust Google as a company a lot more.

    FB on the other hand has always FIRST crossed the boundaries and then sometimes backtracked as a result of a backlash or competition. But they have never done things as a genuine respect for the user’s privacy. Image tagging is one example that comes to mind: controls around it were at best buried for the longest time. I got tagged on a few pictures and I wish I was asked first if it was OK. Now those controls are much more visible as a result of G+. Here is one instance of users also reacting:

    To be fair, user’s have willingly given up their data to FB so there is a lot of personal responsibility as well. But then same is the case with smoking! Internet, social networks, gaming etc sometimes feel like the internet-age smoking to me.

    I find it interesting that FB’s eureka moment was (if the movie is to be believed) recognizing that every college kid wanted to know “who is sleeping with who”. Google’s founding creed is “do no evil”. It is amazing that from a 100,000 foot level these “founding principles” seem to guide both companies and can simplistically explain the differences between FB & G+ 

    BTW, one note for Dmitry – I got the beta link for AnyBeat as I really liked his ideas but the moment they asked for DOB, I was out.  FWIW.

  • Asher Adelman

    Right…not a bullet-proof solution (not sure if anything is 100% bullet-proof), but certainly a lot more secure than the current situation with most existing platforms.  :-)
    Also, because the conversations are live (and are not saved/archived), the would-be screen-shotter only has the duration of the conversation to decide to copy the screen.

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