Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Greylock's Reid Hoffman and David Sze on the Future of Social (Video)

Reid Hoffman’s cute line about the future is, “it’s always sooner and stranger than you think.”

Hoffman, a PayPal Mafia member and the incredibly connected co-founder of LinkedIn, has been an early investor in just about every important social Web (formerly Web 2.0) start-up: Facebook, Zynga, Flickr, Friendster. (As a rare exception, Hoffman didn’t get in on Twitter early, but has a small piece through its purchase of Mixer Labs.)

Hoffman recently joined Greylock Partners, where he was given a $20 million seed-stage investment fund to play with. (Announced in September, the Greylock Discovery Fund had closed nine investments as of the time we filmed this video a few weeks back. Update: The total is now 15 Discovery Fund investments.)

Hoffman’s partner in crime at Greylock is David Sze, whose investments include Facebook, LinkedIn and Pandora.

During a visit to Greylock’s shiny new Sand Hill Road office, I set the video camera rolling to ask Hoffman and Sze to look into their crystal balls and predict what the social Web has in store. They tag-teamed that first question with barely a pause in the 11-minute conversation captured here.

Here are some of Hoffman and Sze’s predictions and observations:

  • As investors in Gowalla and Facebook, they’re both bullish on location-based services, with Hoffman using his “sooner and stranger than you think” line to explain when location-sharing could become a mainstream activity.
  • “People are still learning that participating with your real identity and data about you in these public networks is actually very beneficial,” said Hoffman. He asserted that “the empowerment of the individual increases the liquidity of the individual.”
  • Sze is looking forward to “the integration of physical and virtual experiences,” citing examples like Fitbit and virtual gaming.
  • Hoffman on the two most important aspects of online privacy: “People want upsides, and people want to not be ambushed.”
  • Sze said he thinks the social Web has successfully countered societal “fear of the computer isolating us.” Technology is “a much more powerful way to connect us than not,” he said.
  • Hoffman proposed that the social layer can create broader engagement in a way that changes entire categories of businesses, using the obvious example of gaming and Zynga, but also citing recent Greylock investment Airbnb, where there’s a social aspect within the system of deciding to whom you rent your home.
  • Sze is interested in observing and investing in more examples of using network effects to improve work, mentioning the examples of LiveOps and Mechanical Turk.

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