Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Silicon Valley Loses to the Brits!

So the hapless team from Silicon Valley got smoked last night, losing the debate at Cambridge University over where the most billion-dollar companies of the future would be created. Europe or Silicon Valley?

Even loudly declaring “Facebook, $15 billion valuation!!!” with a stiff upper lip didn’t work one bit.

Neither did: “Steve Jobs lives in Atherton”; “At least Yahoo isn’t as bad as Skype”; “You have no Dunkin Donuts and Fry’s”; or “Google could buy your country and have enough left over to pick up Ireland too.”

Here’s a video for you to see the carnage as it unfolded:

By way of background, BoomTown is in England to participate in a series of discussions with a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors, who are visiting Cambridge University and London to talk tech with students, as well as European investors and entrepreneurs.

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We started with a raucous debate at one of the oldest halls of verbal parrying in existence: the Cambridge Union Society (whose crest is pictured here).

The premise of the debate: “This house maintains that Europe, not Silicon Valley, will become the best place to build the future billion-dollar companies.”

On the Ayes side: Hermann Hauser of Amadeus Capital Partners; Index Ventures’ Neil Rimer; Simon Cook of DFJ Esprit; and Warburg Pincus’s Bill Janeway.

On the Noes: entrepreneur Reid Hoffman; Allen Morgan of the Mayfield Fund; Stanford professor Ramesh Johari; and Bandel Carano of Oak Investment Partners.

The Europeans focused on the disappearance of borders, due to the explosion of the Web, which has obviated the need for a single locus of influence like the Valley. They also pointed out that the venture business is finally taking off here, along with a better record of serial entrepreneurialism.

Also, they kept noting that the greed and sheeplike behavior of Valley VCs meant a lot of substandard investing was happening in Palo Alto.

It was hard to argue with that, of course, but the Silicon Valley side tried, noting that the culture of risk, including the acceptance of failure as a good thing, was a good thing and also could not be exported.

Neither could the intricate Web of networks, relationships and history that is shared in Silicon Valley.

In addition, they correctly noted that all the major Web companies in operation today of any power were U.S.-based–from Google to Facebook to Intel to Apple.

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones (how I wish I had a name like that to toss around with self-importance!) and I were to clean up after both sides had their say–each person got about five minutes to make their point–employing a series of insults of the other side’s performance.

As you might imagine, this is just up my alley.

All for naught. At the end of the night, more of the audience went through the Ayes door than the Noes.

As we say in America: We was, of course, robbed.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

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