I/O True Hollywood Story: VCs who code
Google I/O has come to a close. Despite my immense exhaustion, I’m proud to see the results of over 9 months of blood, sweat, and tears. But there’s one thing I’m especially proud of - one of the Wednesday 3-4pm sessions: Technology, innovation, computer science, & more: A VC panel.
VC panels aren’t uncommon, especially at tech/developer conferences. However, I/O has never had this type of content. I wanted to introduce it in a way that wasn’t status quo, but was useful to developers and created thoughtful, interesting discussion about technology.
A look back:
- Over 1.5 years ago, I reached out to Fred Wilson about coming to speak at Google. We exchanged emails for a few months, nailing down the topic of his talk and scheduling. His talk was very well-attended. TechCrunch picked up on it. Watch Fred’s talk.
- Through Fred, I met his partner Albert Wenger. Albert is technical (enjoys coding in his spare time) and keeps up with developer tools. Because of this, he was the first person who came to mind when I thought about VCs at I/O. Albert was kind enough to spend time w/ me brainstorming how to bring VC content to I/O in a way that was unlike other conferences. So no “what markets are VCs investing in”, “how can I be attractive to a VC”, “pitch your start-up” talks. We riffed on discussions surrounding how engineering drives innovation, as well as other thought-provoking topics.
- The outcome - deliver a session at I/O which featured investors who are programmers by trade, still keep up with developer technologies, are thought leaders, and have geek street cred. I had a few names in mind, and Albert also helped in making some introductions. Over the last few months, we all conversed by email and phone to nail down discussion topics that focused on hot tech topics sure to spark debate. (ex. “open” vs. “closed” platforms, why engineering drives innovation, etc) It was clear that this wouldn’t be a typical VC/investor panel.
- Wednesday May 19: Room was packed to the gills - to the point that the doors were shut to prevent more from coming in. The discussion among the speakers was genuine, thought-provoking, controversial, and technical. Afterward, hoards of attendees approached the speakers and lingered in the room until we all got kicked out to make room for the next session.
In addition to a standing-room-only audience, what was most gratifying about this panel was the discussions that followed:
- Google I/O VC Panel; Google I/O and open vs closed (Albert Wenger)
- VCs who code; Fear is a No-No (Fred Wilson)
- Google I/O and Glue conference up next; Open Android vs Closed iPhone (Brad Feld)
- Investor Dave McClure: ‘Open is for losers’ (VentureBeat)
- Live: Google I/O 2010 (ZDNet)
This panel was definitely a labor of love, and I look forward to sharing the video once it’s ready for YouTube. But what I enjoyed most - the people. Albert Wenger, Chris Dixon, Brad Feld, Dave McClure, Paul Graham, and Dick Costolo are some of the finest people you’ll ever encounter in the investor/start-up world. They all are unbelievably smart and thoughtful. But above all else, they’re genuine, down-to-earth, humble, and respectful of everyone around them. There isn’t one drop of arrogance in them, and they don’t throw their weight around. I believe it is those qualities that make them so good at what they do, and why the I/O panel was so successful.
Fun factoid - In hindsight, I would have chosen a shorter title. Coincidentally, some have already done that for me. The session is now unofficially dubbed as “VCs Who Code”. Catchy.
Update (6/4): Video is now live.