Liveblogging the Unveiling of the SFund at Facebook (With Guest Stars: Kleiner, Amazon and Zynga)
BoomTown had to park a badillion miles away from Facebook’s suburban HQ in Palo Alto, Calif. and hoofed it there for a press event that unveiled the sFund.
What’s that? A $250 million fund for social start-ups.
10:40 am PT: The excitement was building–well, not really…well, not at all, in fact–at the Facebook cafeteria, as the Silicon Valley press got to see the name of the sFund on screens throughout the room.
Kleiner Perkins power VC John Doerr started off the proceedings with some microphone snafus, when he tried to get out from behind the podium.
“John, sometimes you have to stay in the box,” joked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who was sitting onstage in what appears to be an Internet Hall of Fame group.
The others would be Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Zynga CEO and Founder Mark Pincus, and giant-man-about-Web Bing Gordon.
Doerr talked on about the importance of social, related to the Internet.
Then, he introed Zuckerberg, hoodie-less, who agreed with him, talking about photos and how social made them hot on Facebook.
Apparently, everything is going social. Personally, I am now contemplating becoming a hermit.
Doerr went full Oprah on him, asking what would inspire him to innovate, if he were starting out today (and presumably there were no Winklevii around to “borrow” an idea from).
“If you take any passion and map it to an industry,” said Zuckerberg, it will result in disruption.
Then Doerr channeled Barbara Walters at Pincus, tossing him a softball query about the fabulousness of it all.
For example: “What’s inspired you to be a CEO at this amazing company?” (Note to Walt Mossberg: Let’s file that tough one away for D9!)
11:01 am:Thank goodness then for Bezos, who simply said he hoped these new companies will take some of that $250 million and use Amazon Web Services.
He talked about how these trends grow virally and “sometimes violently.”
Speaking of pinchy, Bezos moved on to some chemical explosion metaphor, and I am now certain I want to be a hermit crab.
Then, after a question about what he would do now, he veered to bioengineering! Doerr wanted a social answer, but Bezos was talking test tubes and “engineered and synthetic life.”
But Gordon behaved for John “Diane Sawyer” Doerr and talked about how social is the only place to be for the cool kids.
He reeled off the other partners, including Comcast, Liberty Media and Allen & Co.
One more question from Doerr: Five years from now, what is going to make you “delighted” about and for the customers you service.
Gordon: He could see the family.
Pincus: He has 12-week twins, not the Winklevii, who are still too young to use Facebook. He was excited it is all getting wired.
“When everyone is always connected to one another, rather than connected to the Web,” he said, that’s the bomb.
He called the big social companies “dial tones,” as in Zynga was the gaming dial tone, Amazon was the shopping dial tone and Facebook was the dial tone.
Zuckerberg: I was not sure he was actually answering the question. But I believed his wish was about these social networks getting to scale.
He went on though, talking about how some companies were building a “light” social layer versus companies where social was “built fundamentally into the product.”
These, of course, have an advantage, according to the gospel of Zuckerberg.
Bezos: He talked about Amazon’s Web services some more–this dude is a retailer, so he was sure good at selling.
Gordon, who is apparently like Ed McMahon to Doerr’s Johnny Carson, rounded up the feel-good session.
11:17 am: Q&A.
Go Miguel Helft, from the New York Times, who asked a good question, about what took so long for Doerr to do this fund, since social–i.e., Facebook–has been around for seven years or more.
Doerr joked, “Next question.” Ha.
But really. Doerr did not answer except to say that Zynga only exploded a year ago, so back off, Miguel.
There were two other dullish questions, about new partners.
“It’s a quarter-billion-dollar party,” said Gordon, which I was not quite wanting to attend. Which made me a social party pooper.
Larry Magid from CBS asked about social responsibility around privacy, especially after the recent controversy around the leaking of Facebook user info to advertisers, via third-party apps companies such as Zynga.
Then, there ws a question about whether this is not simply the “fbFund,” as in Facebook, since the social networking site was going to benefit the most from all this.
No, it was not, declares Doerr.
More questions–about monetization, advertising, free versus paid and an off-topic one about rumors of Amazon launching an app store (of course it is!).
Zuckerberg took the monetization one. All of the above, it’s great, money for all.
The event finished with a very odd poem by Gordon, which ended with a decent joke about the possibility that entrepreneurs, if they are lucky, get a movie “made about you.”
He was referring to “The Social Network,” which trashed Zuckerberg.
In any case, quarter-billion-dollar party on, Mark.