I went to the Caltech/MIT Enterprise Forum in Pasadena this Saturday. On the agenda: "Social Networks and the Entrepreneurial Reality: Fertile Platform or Investment NutWorks?" (Full description here.)
Jason Feffer, CEO SodaHead / Previously with MySpace
Mark Jeffrey, CTO Mahalo.com
Joe Jasin, VP Corporate Development, SK Telecom
Tony Karrer, Ph.D./CTO TechEmpower
Stuart McFarlane, Managing Director, Momentum Venture Management
Andrew Shaindlin, Executive Director, Caltech
This is a hot topic and the room was packed. I'd say it was a mixed crowd. A fair amount of geeks, a few business people, academics, and some that looked as if they were VC's or want to be VC's. Overall, a highly energetic atmosphere. During the breakfast, I chatted up a few friends and talked to someone I met through Ryze years back. You remember Ryze, right?
I noticed quite a few entrepreneurs in the room, and I suspect they valued the contributions of Jason Feffer and Mark Jeffrey. Jason made some good points about risk taking and gave some background from MySpace and its path to success. Mark's approach with his new venture seemed a good one and I overheard some positive comments in the hallway on the way out.
Much of the conversation centered on pretty basic social media landscape and historical stuff. Not sure why, but perhaps the speakers wanted to make sure everyone in the audience "got it". There was a lot of talk about the big established players (MySpace, FaceBook etc.), but not enough about what's next.
I think they could have taken the discussion more off the beaten path. Tony Karrer made many useful observations, including some about the challenges facing entrepreneurs as it pertains to walled garden vs open (social). That's a highly relevant discussion, especially with the current hype around Google's Open-Social. I think many in the audience wanted to engage on that topic, but, naturally, in this format, time was limited.
Anyhow, check out the speakers blogs and have a good look at SodaHead and Mahalo.com - two new ventures I'll keep my eye on in 2008. Also, if you live in Southern California, go to one of these events. It's well worth the trip.