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Sunday March 24, 2019


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NY Convergence ORIGINAL

TechCrunch Disrupt Day 2: The Mayoral Recap

NYConvergence ORIGINAL

At this morning's sessions for the second day of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference (#tcdisrupt) in NYC, the big surprise came when the conference announced that Mayor Bloomberg would be coming to speak to the crowd as a last minute addition to the schedule.  When the mayor came later in the morning, he started off by joking that to prepare for his appearance, he updated his Facebook page, tweeted about it, checked in on Foursquare and posted a want-ad for Lebron James on Craigslist. 

Jokes aside, Mayor Bloomberg proceeded to make a strong case for New York City as a hotbed of technological innovation, where "intellectual capital is important," and as a place that supports the tech startup community.  The mayor then put his money where is mouth is as he then announced a partnership with NYC based VC firm FirstMark Capital, that the city is launching a $22 million entrepreneurial fund to support local tech startups, with the firm contributing $19 million.  The mayor declared that the first recipient of the fund, in the form of $300,000, was the mobile apps provider MyCityWay, the company that developed the NYC focused NYC Way app which was a winner at last year's city sponsored competition BigApps.  As a result of the cash infusion, the mayor said that the company has been able to move to NYC from New Jersey and hire more employees.  The mayor also announced the launch of a media lab “at major university in city” later this year.

Before Mayor Bloomberg arrived, however, things kicked off at the conference with a demo by the company Scribd, which is a social publishing platform that works with a variety of magazines, websites and newspapers.  Jared Friedman, the co-founder and CTO of the company,  focused on the recent news that his company has migrated off of Flash to work instead with HTML5, which is a battle that has received lots of attention lately due to Apple's ongoing, public feud with Adobe about the future of these formats.  In the demo, he explained that by moving to HTML5, Scribd is now able to recreate actual text and ads from print magazines, which allows publishers to pursue the same CPMs they would for a print sale, as well as incorporate social media, interactive ads and video into the mix.  Ultimately, Friedman said that HTML5 will become the "Lingua franca of reading content" online or devices like the iPad.

Following this demo was the first panel session of the day titled "The Mobile Disruption–What’s Next?"  featuring TechCrunch's Michael Arrington as the moderator and panelists Chris Cox, VP, Facebook;
Dennis Crowley, CEO, Foursquare and Vic Gundotra, VP, Google.  At the very beginning of the session, Arrington asked Cox point blank about the privacy issues that Facebook has been dealing with in the past couple of weeks and how the company plans to address them.  Cox then announced that after talking with users and various advocacy groups, the company plans to address the issue tomorrow by launching/announcing a new "drastically simplified" version of their privacy controls for their users. 

Overall, the discussion stayed on the casual side, starting with a talk on what phones each of the panelists fancy (2 out of 3 said the HTC Droid Incredible), and if Foursquare "is the YouTube of location,"  which Gundotra said that it has done some great stuff and has opened the way for others to enter the field of location based services.  Crowley, who also said that there is no current "clear cut winner" in the market, talked about how Foursquare users are attracted to his service for a variety of reasons, whether it be the incentives people receive by checking in or by simply collecting badges and rising on its leaderboard.  As for Facebook's plans for the location market, Arrington directly asked Cox when the company "will get in to location," which he replied that they will talk about it "when they have a product for it."  The ramifications of Facebook developing a location service may be enormous, as Cox stated that over 100 million users a month use Facebook apps for mobile products. 

After the panel concluded, the company Yext gave its demonstration on how it has developed an new app for local businesses to keep track of who is talking about them online, or as Yext's CEO Howard Lerman put it, a "reputation management system for local businesses."  The app, called Yext Rep, works by helping businesses monitor through a real-time feed that shows where their info is listed online, who is talking about the company on Yelp, Twitter and other social Web sites, and sends email alerts when customer feedback is given. 

The next session that followed was a chat between Arrington and Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, who talked about how the company has transitioned into "the largest, high-quality producer of digital media" on the Web. Though Arrington brought out the point about how the company still makes a handsome revenue off of its legacy dial-up access business, Armstrong pointed to the company's commitment to content production by talking about the amount of paid journalists employed by AOL, which comes out to 4,000 total (500 full-time, 3,500 part-time), making it arguably the largest newsroom in the world.

The other main topic that was mentioned in the discussion was the company's purchase of the social networking site Bebo.  Though Armstrong was not employed at the company when the acquisition was made (and with hindsight being 20-20)  he did admit that the company made a strategic mistake in acquiring  Bebo, and that when he came to the company, he found that the site was a “major distraction” for them. During the discussion, Armstrong did also clarify that that it would have been very hard to make Bebo work right away, regardless of strategy.

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