August 2008 Archive

Impromptu Coworking in Des Moines

This is practically from the vault! Mr. Lacy and I shot this video with Des Moines' first co-working space Impromptu Studios during the Mid-West swing of our User Generated Book Tour, but never got around to editing it until now. It's still timely though, since Impromptu Studios just had its open house last week.

I'm fascinated by the coworking trend, because I'm firmly convinced the social web has given anyone hardworking and talented in the services sector of the economy a new opportunity to work for themselves.

If you don't know about coworking, watch this video. If you are trying to start a coworking spot, hopefully it will inspire you. A group in Des Moines had been talking about co-working via an email group, but it wasn't until the conversation moved to Twitter that things started to actually happen. Eventually software developer Daniel Shipton-- encouraged by his wife Abbie-- had to "man up" and put their names on a lease and hope others followed. They charge people about $350/month for a permanent desk, with a small discount for a several month commitment. It's just enough to break even.

If you already have a rad coworking space and we're coming to your city on the tour, please let us know!! We'd love to come check it out!

CO-WORKING IN DES MOINES from sarah lacy on Vimeo.

I Have Issues

Well if that didn’t scare you off then perhaps this blog thing may actually work out. First off, I profess to know very little about start-ups, or the latest app, or even the basics behind blogging. I still don’t understand how I am legitimate enough to air my own views through blogging. But I digress. I do understand that tech knowledge will come with time, but I am anxious and excited to get the ball rolling. Whereas I used to gorge myself on gossipy, girly pop culture sites, trust that Sarah now has me on a streamlined diet of tech blogs. In the interim, however, I’ll remain that weird kid at the table typing away at her five-year-old Dell PC and answering her flip phone that beeps like a Tamagotchi. And yes, I can feel your judgment. ;-)

 Being the great reporter that she is, Sarah has it pretty down pat: analyzing the business merit and the industry appeal behind these new ideas while also revealing the humanity in the people that strive to achieve the next big thing. I just observe people and read vibes. Perhaps I’m leery of the tech overhaul- where a person becomes little more than a Twitter handle, and can hide behind a blog instead of speaking and voicing their opinions. I can already see the change in little tweaks and twinges- an example being Facebook’s new UI. I know, I know, groans all around- why are we talking about this again? Well, Facebook is priming itself to be the ultimate social media site, if it isn’t already. And I hate the new version. (This coming from a self-declared Facebook stalker.)

 Sure it may be more efficient, and the design layout is clean and direct, but the new version also represents a fundamental truth- there’s no mystery left, nothing to discover about someone. In the older version, a person’s profile view centered around who they are: likes, interests, movies, music. Now, the first thing I learn when I click on a profile is who a person knows and what he or she does: who writes on their wall, what updates Friendfeed lists, etc. It’s a disconnect, a person’s individuality replaced with their network and a hungry sense of self-promotion. The Wall abides.

I know this doesn’t pervade all aspects of life, since I have met so many interesting and creative people in person. Yes, the control does still lie with the user and promotion is commonplace in our culture. In fact, I just added Friendfeed- although not because I feel I have enough legitimacy to throw my updates out there in bold script, but because I would be out of the loop if I didn't. I’m still not entirely comfortable with that level of promotion. But I will be. I guess I’m just old-school across the board, not only in my outdated gadgets.

 Perhaps, this is why I’m so tickled over Sarah’s posts about Mad Men this week. I’m new to the show this season, right now as it inches towards its apex of exposure. Sounds like a familiar scenario. Nevertheless, I like the show. My nostalgic memaw side is pretty keen on the idea of business conducted through handshakes and handwritten notes. And three-martini lunches. So if Mad Men can get down with Twitter, then I suppose I can embrace my new techie side and get down with Facebook. Eventually.

Zillow's CFO: I'm a Fiancial Genius

So, as you probably know, Mr. Lacy and I just bought a house in the Mission. It's been quite the whirlwind as 102-year-old Victorians on a block that a new crew of pimps is trying to colonize can be. So as if there's not enough to agonize about the other day, Derek, our TIC partner who bought the house with us was fretting that we'd bought at the wrong time and the market was just going to keep cratering. "Everywhere I look there's a new story about how screwed up the housing market is," the normally buoyantly positive Derek said. (BTW- If you're reading this, um, yeah anyone in my life is blog-fodder. Sorry. I recommend words like "blog free zone" or "off the record" or "FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T WRITE THIS ON YOUR BLOG, YOU FREAK!!" They tend to work with Mr. Lacy.)

Back to housing: Fortunately, I had a few interviews with Zillow's chief financial officer Spencer Rascoff on tap. Derek-- and anyone else wondering what to make of the barrage of negative headlines-- watch these:

Lawson to ZDNet: Elephant? I Don't See an Elephant in this Room!

Last month I wrote a column for BusinessWeek about the hidden-- and substantial-- marketing costs of software as a service and it created a bit of a stir. The theme of the piece was that the Internet had killed what was once the greatest tech business model: shipping a CD of software that was too brutal to rip out and charging millions for upgrades not to mention ongoing maintenance fees. The business model that built Microsoft and Oracle and SAP, and the business model that injected profitability and growth into maturing hardware names like Hewlett-Packard and EMC.

Of course, the SaaS model-- while bad for investors and would-be tycoons eying all of Larry's yachts-- is great for customers and for those entrepreneurs who were nimble enough to "get it" ten-plus years ago. As much as I firmly as I believe the myth of the magic SaaS business model needs to be busted, I never once disputed that SaaS wasn't the future of software. Think of it like the record industry: Is an Internet world better for label tycoons? No. But it's better for customers and, well, it's a reality.

Recently, we've seen a few signs of old software grappling with this reality. One is trying to figure it out. Another is just pretending the big, loud, SaaS elephant trumpeting in its ear isn't in the room.

British Sarah Lacy Casts "Facebook: The Movie"

Ok, let's pretend for a second my ego isn't slightly bruised. Aaron Sorkin admits to knowing nothing about Facebook, and so when charged to write a screenplay on its early days he starts a Facebook group instead of, ahem, picking up a copy of my book. You know, the one Facebook has deemed essential reading for new hires? If I were a bigger person I'd mail him a copy. But I'm not, so he can go to Amazon and pick one up like everyone else! ha ha.

Leave it to the British Sarah Lacy to take the edge off with his cast list for the movie. I'd add a few to the list but it might hurt some feelings. Instead I'll just link to Paul Carr since hurting feelings is what he does best. (In a funny way of course...) I should note that I still haven't read Carr's book because he wrote in the inscription "Let's see if you still call me the British Sarah Lacy after reading this."


And I Thought Signing Someone's Book Was a Big Deal...

I'm more relieved than sad that I don't have fans this devoted. There is NO WAY this is real right? I think this is a Borat style actor who wants to be the next "I like Turtles"....right? I know what Olivia would say to this, "Bless his heart." (Thanks @JasonCalacanis for the heads up.)

Hold the Phone...AMC Isn't Dumb Afterall

I'm stunned to see a big media company do such an about face. AMC is now allowing fans to Twitter their favorite Mad Men alter ego. We're quite certain this post had a lot to do with it. (Kidding, calm down, everyone.) As my new BFF Daniel Terdiman writes, AMC realized they were throwing away free grassroots marketing that didn't in any way compromise the content, the way, say, illegal YouTube videos would.  I agree with Daniel that this will lead to a whole slew of Twitter spam of every character now having an account, and agree fan-concocted ones are WAY more interesting. As a Twitter community, we need to develop a short hand for knowing the difference.

But in the mean time, congrats AMC! You've now become my textbook example for a company that GOT the social web. ;)

We’re a Little Camera-Shy Here at…

NOT. So it truly pains my inner cheesecake that we don’t actually own a video camera. With the last half of the UGBT about to jumpstart in September, it is super crucial that we have a way of documenting all the awesome cities and interesting people we are sure to encounter. We’re no-frills girls for the most part, so we need a hand-held video camera that is small, lightweight, and easy to operate and download content. If Seattle and Portland are any indication, then it should also be able to withstand last-minute decisions involving dangling 500 feet in the air and rolling around in the back of an old school bus…but more on that later ;-)

Thus, we’re looking to you guys to help us! Any camera suggestions or recommendations would be most appreciated! And trust that I will be checking the comments section on a regular basis, because, based on the stunning blackmail photo below, I’m more than ready for my close-up Ms. Lacy...

UGBT: We're Half Way Done People!

Ok, so I'm mostly recovered from the Pacific Northwest UGBT sandwich with Gnomedex in the middle. The trip was amazing-- fraught with tiny amounts of sleep as it was. As usual, I made what feels like even more lifelong friendships and met some entrepreneurs and "human routers" that I hope to watch for years to come. I have a lot more I want to say about it and a lot about my observations at the mid-way point of the tour too. And of course some pictures and video. But you'll have to be a little patient as BusinessWeek needs a column, a September keynote needs some TLC, Mr. Lacy needs some TLC, Tom Chapman needs an edit on his upcoming guest post, and Yahoo needs a few very, very full days.

In the mean time, I wanted to give a HUGE shout out to FiveEdge Media who designed a UGBT site for me! Since the tour is ever-evolving, it'll have more details on it very very soon. Like tomorrow. But please send me pictures to upload in the photo gallery from past a future stops and weigh in on future stops and tweet-ups at will! Most of all, keep and eye on the site for details on your city! As the tour has ballooned in size to 15 stops, we still have seven to go! We've added Houston and Las Vegas to the list, because, well, we're softies. But we cannot add any more this year (I mean it this time!!!) We hope to do a smaller, college-centric tour when the book comes out in paperback in 2009, so vote on the site if you think we should hit your school!

Thanks again to John Weiss and the FiveEdge team. They did this work FOR FREE because they believe in the Portland tech scene and other nascent tech scenes around the country, and the mission I'm on to get out and discover them-- not to mention reinvent how books are promoted.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite pictures from the tour: Olivia and Danielle Morrill pretending to be Rocky and Bullwinkle. I'm not quite sure why Olivia's rendition of Bullwinkle is so angry, but I think it has something to do with that blue drink. (Called an "Adios M-fer") I'm posting embarrassing photos until Olivia delivers me a post on Facebook's UI she keeps promising...


AMC Continues to Ruin a Good Thing

So I hate to say this because I know everyone is annoyed by the whole "I-only-liked-it-before-it-was-popular" thing, but I'm really disappointed with AMC's "support" of Mad Men this season. It was one of my favorite shows last year and at first, I was excited it was getting so much buzz. Until AMC's PR machine went into overdrive and I suddenly saw Don Draper in EVERY SINGLE MAGAZINE-- from Spin to W to the most obscure daily. It was just too much saturation. To make matters way worse, the show has been pretty boring so far this season. They over promised and under delivered.

Still, a lot of people (me included) feel that a meh episode of Mad Men is better than a lot of other TV so we watch. And some of us, take the obsession into Twitter. And then AMC having annoyed people like me by PAYING millions of dollars for forced word of mouth, stupidly threatens legal action to squash actual word of mouth, ordering Twitter to kill these unauthorized profiles. This will likely become a go-to example of a big company that does not get how to leverage the social Web in any post, column and talk I give on the subject, so thanks for the material AMC. (Nice write up on it here too.)

It reminds me of the FX show "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"-- loved it the first season, then the network felt they had to add Danny DeVito to generate more viewers and respectability. It's not that he was bad, I just didn't care much about his character as it was written. (Although I loved his performance on the View...see tribute below) As Geoff said, it was wasted time that he'd rather spend watching the other characters. But at least FX leveraged MySpace to promote the show. Shame on you AMC!

Sarah Lacy’s entertaining and informative tour of the world’s fastest growing economies undeniably proves what we’ve known at Endeavor for more than a decade: that impressive and inspiring Entrepreneurs can truly come from anywhere! In taking us on a whirlwind journey bursting with frenetic energy – matched only by that of the amazing entrepreneurs she meets – Lacy gives us an important glimpse into the future of the global economy – a place where the craziest, high-impact entrepreneurs from anywhere and everywhere set the pace.
Brilliant. Crazy. Cocky.

New Book

An unforgettable portrait of the emerging world's entrepreneurial dynamos Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky is the story about that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can. This new breed of self-starter is taking local turmoil and turning it into opportunities, making millions, creating thousands of jobs and changing the face of modern entrepreneurship at the same time. To tell this story, Lacy spent forty weeks traveling through Asia, South America and Africa hunting down the most impressive up-and-comers the developed world has never heard of....yet.

Excerpt »

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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