Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg

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How to Succeed in Start-Ups Without Really Sleeping

[This essay to attendees of the sixth D: All Things Digital conference is from the program book and is written by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg; D6 starts tomorrow night.]

As it turns out, creating a start-up is kind of hard.

And, trying to be entrepreneurial 24/7 is definitely challenging.

And, attempting to drastically shift your paradigm and move into new arenas with even newer rules and lots of uncertainty? Let’s just say, we are very tired these days.

Still, it is safe to say that we are also flatly exhilarated, riveted by our work as never before and pretty much hooked.

But did we mention the really tired part?

In all seriousness, it has been just over a year since we and our hardy little team launched AllThingsD.com, our earnest effort to take the D conference we created six years ago and give it another life on the Web.

When we were designing D we had one idea in mind–to create the kind of conference we wished we could attend. It would have the best speakers, it would cover serious topics, it would treat its audience with respect and intelligence and it would offer content that was valuable and bracingly true.

As to pointless and insufferable panel creep and PowerPoint double-talk–we would banish them.

So in creating AllThingsD.com, our goal was to take the spirit of the D: All Things Digital conference itself, the amazing community and connections, the no-holds-barred style, the rich content and great writing, and add a key ingredient–a staunch commitment to accuracy, ethics, standards and a notion that online readers want quality tech news and analysis in a transparent and honest way.

We hope you think we are well on our way to achieving that. And we are excited by all the possibilities ahead for the site as we move into our second year of trying to take all the many virtues of mainstream media and marry them with the excitement and energy of the blogosphere.

To say we think a lot about change these days is an understatement.

And, in a way, although we tend to shy away from themes at D, the ever faster pace of change in the tech and media world has turned out to be one of the hallmarks of the speakers we have invited to share the stage with us, and their insights with you.

Beginning with Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, we could not have a better pair to talk about forcing dramatic change, even when running one of the most successful and enduring tech companies in the world.

From its bold and quite unsolicited offer to buy Yahoo (YHOO) this year, to its efforts to transform its core software business, to the symbolic passing of the torch as Mr. Gates moves away from his day-to-day role at the company in July, Microsoft’s leaders have sought out change aggressively.

So, too, have our other speakers.

Michael Dell is trying to reinvent Dell (DELL) again, even though it was his company that reinvented the computer business. Howard Stringer has been facing the same issues at Sony (SNE) in consumer electronics, while Time Warner’s (TWX) new CEO Jeff Bewkes has been handed a media giant he must shift even more dramatically into the digital age.

Amazon’s (AMZN) Jeff Bezos, one of the Internet’s true visionaries, is at it again this year, trying to make the dream of an e-book a mainstream reality.

And Barry Diller of IAC (IACI)? As usual, he has been right in the middle of a brawl about what direction the interactive company should take.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has, of course, been the youthful face of change, bursting on the scene with his upstart social-networking site and upending all the apple carts in Silicon Valley as the leader of the Web 2.0 army. In this fight, he has recently been joined by former Google (GOOG) exec Sheryl Sandberg, who knows a thing or two about disruption.

Tom Glocer of Thomson Reuters (TRI) must take a global information powerhouse and make it even more digital, as challengers pop up everywhere. And Tom Rogers of TiVo (TIVO) is seeking to take the groundbreaking concepts the digital video-recording company pioneered and make a lasting business out of it.

Bobby Kotick of Activision (ATVI) has merged his offline game company, whose “Guitar Hero” is one of the mightiest brands in the sector, with one of the most powerful online multi-player games makers.

And Lowell McAdam of Verizon (VZ) has been trying to react to the sweeping shifts in how wireless technologies are delivered to consumers, as true change finally comes to the cellphone industry.

Nathan Myhrvold, former research guru at Microsoft, has always been about figuring out what’s behind the next corner, while FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has to puzzle over what role the government has to play in this fast-moving space.

And Melinda Gates is changing the world, which is a pretty big job.

And, of all the many luminaries we have on stage at D6, probably no one has had a more eventful year than Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang. From suddenly taking over the reins at the company he launched while a student at Stanford University, to having a tough year of trying to revive Yahoo, to coping with an unsolicited takeover bid from Microsoft, Mr. Yang has had the ride of his life. He will appear with Yahoo president Sue Decker, who has become the No. 2 exec at the company, and has been charged with carrying out Mr. Yang’s vision amid much turmoil.

Finally, the long and storied career of News Corp.’s (NWS) Rupert Murdoch has been all about constant transformation. It is also not an understatement to say that the new owner of Dow Jones (and also AllThingsD.com and this conference too) is probably one of the most game-changing business leaders around.

And we hope to be equally disruptive in quizzing him and all the speakers about what it all means. Even the demos we picked will display the same forward-leaning and game-changing ideas all our speakers represent.

So, hold onto your seats for D6, as it’s going to be a bouncy ride.

And, as it turns out after our first full year as Web entrepreneurs, we would not have it any other way.

Except, of course, it would have been nice to get a little more sleep.

Find out what’s happening at D6 by reviewing these posts and video clips that will be posted live during the conference this week.


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