What an irony. I'm sitting

by francine Hardaway on July 26, 2006

What an irony. I’m sitting here at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit, in a room full of techies, bloggers, VCs, and other experts, and what’s the big buzz at the conference? “Are you able to get on the network?” “No, are you?” “No…” The use of wireless by bloggersm, participants and press has overwhelmed Stanford’s network, underlining a sub-theme of the conference — “The Computer is Personal Again.” Everyone’s on. AlwaysOn.

Last night I watched the live webcast from home in Half Moon Bay, and I heard the president of Stanford talk about the partnership he has with the community outside the university. He made a point that needs to be heard in universities outside Silicon Valley: YOU CAN’T MAKE MONEY ON TECH TRANSFER IF YOU ARE GOING TO CHARGE YOUR ENTREPRENEURS BIG LICENSING FEES UP FRONT. THEY DON’T HAVE THE MONEY TO PAY THOSE FEES. Stanford has figured out that the secret of the partnership is to incubate the companies, as they did Google and Yahoo, and wait for it to pay off in the end. It’s also instructive to note that the president of Stanford comes from the engineering school, but his whole effort is to be interdisciplinary. Down with silos, and up with collaboration.

This morning it’s all about consumer-generated media, with representatives from Yahoo, UTube, MP3tunes, and Sony. Kara Swisher from the Wall Street Journal, who is moderating, seems skeptical. UTube guy seems quite cas, in jeans. He knows he’s got the market sewn up. The real-time poll being taken during the panel discussion seems to point out that user-generated content with always cease to exist, but won’t drive out mainstream media. Good thing, as the clips I watch on UTube are always funny, but don’t satisfy my need for, say, analysis of the situation in the middle East.

I love this conference. This is my third year of blogging at it, and I never fail to wonder at how Tony Perkins pulls something this big together. There are 100 companies that make up the list of the AlwaysOn 100, chosen by a panel of judges and overseen by KPMG. There are panels, CEO pitches, blogs, polls, chat and networking. Is it a perfection selection of the top 100 private tech companies? Of course not. For one thing, most companies outside Silicon Valley don’t even know it exists or how to apply. For another, I suspect it’s heavily influenced by the companies getting funded by the local VCs, and getting the “mindshare” that comes with the funding.

But never mind. It is what it’s supposed to be: hip, cool, and trendy. It reminds me that communities must create critical mass around their entrepreneurs. Stanford is totally focused on entrepreneurship, and on making that climate possible. The press is a collaborator, rather than a provocateur, in the process. The funders aren’t afraid to write checks for something that isn’t real estate.

That being said, I’ve already seen my share of crummy ideas up here, some of them at the SVASE breakfast I attended. I remember that my father, who managed many celebrities, had a certain cynicism about the talent (Pearl Bailey, Billy Daniels, Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett) that peopled my childhood: “everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time,” he used to say.

I bet that’s true of the guys from Youtube and Yahoo as well :-)

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