I attended the Thursday session of 2012 Goldman Sachs Technology conference in SF. I had heard that there were 2,000 people registered, and that there were many early-stage companies included in the program. This has historically been a venue for GS to show off their public company tech client, or companies on the cusp of going public. So is great to see a focus on the early stage.
Sessions I went to include: the morning VC panel, Zynga CFO, Online Retail Panel, MicroTechnology, Internet Music Panel, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, Internet Radio Panel, and Google Chrome SVP. The panels were by far the best, mainly because it meant less of the Goldman guys talking. I’m sure the GS people are very smart, but they really lack in public speaking and interviewing skills. They actually seemed disinterested, and led to an overall energy level that lacked any life in the panels or in the hallways. I also noticed less networking than is usually the case at events like this. I’m not sure why that is, but just an observation.
I was able to pull a couple interesting nuggets and sound bytes:
• The pace of innovation had never been better.
• YCombinator is like the “Harvard of Innovation” these days.
• Valuations are up 20% for early stage companies.
• The “Silent-IPO” market (run up of valuations from late stage investors like DST that have put liquidity into entrepreneur and VC hands early) is really cooling. With Zynga’s public valuation now well below the last private round, it calls to question the Silent-IPO as a viable exit vehicle.
• Collaborative consumption models are a new investment space for VCs, with AirBnB leading the way in defining the space.
• AirBnB is now renting more hotel rooms in NYC than are all the hotels in NYC (wow!).
• AirBnB is currently looking to hire 50 engineers, but immigration laws are constraining the company’s hiring. Too bad, a they hire 2-3 support people around each engineer.
• Everyone on the venture panel was an investor in DropBox, and they believe that everyone will use it as part of their daily routine
• Twitter is one of those companies that comes along every 5-7 years that changes the world (like a Google or Facebook).
• Payments company Square could be that type of company too.
• Virtual goods are a $9.0B industry today, growing to $15.0B by 2015.
• The social mobile ad market is about $4.0B today.
• Retail companies are investing more today in direct/online than they are in stores.
• The footprint of retail square footage could drop by 50%.
• Retailers are getting access to consumers they’ve never reached before because of proliferation of mobile devices.
• Retailers that can focus reviews from people you trust will end of increasing buying opportunities.
• Everyday shopping needs are bein solved more today online, although experience shopping (think Starbucks) will maintain their physical presence.
• Theres’s a change occurring in sharing music/sounds online that will rival how we share pictures and video today.
From Groupon CEO Andrew Mason:
• We track individual customers by their credit card numbers, and provide analytics back to the merchant on individual use patterns.
• Net Revenue is the key metric to measure Groupon’s business health.
• Have not leveraged social well to this point.
• Long-term vision is to involve technology into every local transaction.
That’s probably more than most people can handle. Hope you found useful.