Several weeks ago the New York Times published a blog comparing the investment outcomes of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. It found both Hollywood and Silicon Valley similarly had eye-popping success stories and spectacular flops. The kind of investments that either make a person rich or wish that they had never written the check.
A growing similarity missed by Times’ blog is how websites and apps are increasingly pitched like movies. The classic pitch paradigm for a movie goes something like “It’s a cross between Movie A and Movie B.” For example, to pitch a historical drama about oil with a murderous father, a deaf son and a British nanny who has supernatural powers, one would say “It’s There Will be Blood meets Mary Poppins.”
On Monday I went to Mobile Monday, which had its mixer at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica. I met Dave Waldman the founder of workbuzz, who used this formula and described workbuzz as a cross between Yelp and LinkedIn. The problem with LinkedIn, he continued, is that no one ever writes an honest assessment of a co-worker or other professional. I have noticed this and I have also noticed that people endorse me for skills that I possess (I am a man of many talents!), but often the endorser would have no way of actually knowing.
The problem with Yelp of course, is that people use it to launch a personal vendetta against a server who smiled at them the wrong way. I typically see Yelp reviews in either the four star camp or one star camp, rarely in the middle. On workbuzz, would the faux nice LinkedIn Recommendation like “a great mentor who always found innovative solutions. . . ” turn into “a soul-crushing primma donna who doled out new assignments on Friday afternoon” from Anonymous?
I said this to Waldman and I suggested that workbuzz may face lawsuits for reviews (this has happened a lot with Yelp) and he said “that would be a good problem for us to have.” Huzzah!! I like the hustle and I hope he finds the traffic to create those problems. Check out the site by clicking on the link above and, of course, please add comments to my profile there about my brilliance and vision!
On Tuesday, the California Public Utilities Commission released its proposed regulations for “ride-share” services. For several weeks I have been following the story out of concern that regulators would step on innovation in order to protect the vested interests in the taxi industry. The ride share companies also added a powerful ally. After the CPUC released its proposed regulations, new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorsed the regulations.
This little war has been going on for a longer time in the Bay Area. And, based on the vituperative comments embedded in this KQED story from San Francisco, this obviously won’t be the final chapter. But it feels like the ride sharing apps will inevitably continue to operate and ultimately prevail. Shouldn’t the taxi companies just focus on making their services better instead of losing battle after battle?
. . . . Almost two years ago I watched a brother of mine modify our mother’s recipe for the carmels she makes at Christmas. He added pot to each batch and began selling them using professionally designed wrappers under the brand Edible Kharma. For the record, I’ve never smoked weed because I don’t want another addiction in my life (coffee, beer and booze are fine, thank you very much). But, I completely supported his efforts. Even though the business operated in a so-called grey market, I believe that when the industry becomes legal, the early brands will reap the greatest rewards. Right now barriers to entry remain low because the legal haze over the industry keeps the larger players out and no consolidation has occurred. But eventually tobacco or consumer food giants will acquire the early success stories.
And sure enough, this shift has slowly started. On Thursday NPR reported a new $7 million private equity fund devoted to the business of pot. This is just the beginning. Efforts to legalize for recreational use are brewing in Alaska, Arizona and Oregon. At the swearing in for Mike Bonin I heard a credible rumor that marijuana advocates had been courting a retired, elected official who would add much credibility to lead the next effort at a ballot initiative in California.
More than this, I think the victories in Colorado and Washington for recreational use have taken the issue from the fringe. Even if elected officials still keep a relatively safe distance, wealthy contributors now believe that a victory can occur. Contributions beget more contributions and more professional advertising and communications. . . which beget more contributions and so on. Who wants to start a pool for the month and year when recreational marijuana becomes legal in the Golden State?
Finally, if you missed attending my fundraiser for Damian Carroll, please make a contribution online and let me know. We raised just shy of $3,000, mostly due to the efforts of David Phelps. Not terrible for a Special Election in the Valley.