Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Here Come the First D10 Speakers: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Entrepreneur Sean Parker, Zynga’s Mark Pincus and More on the Red Hot Seat

Even though our D: All Things Digital conference always sells out well in advance every year without our announcing even one single speaker (like this one, too), it’s the action on stage that truly matters.

And in 2012 — which also happens to be the 10th anniversary of the confab of tech and media titans — it’s already shaping up to be another fantastic event in terms of programming, with a lineup of onstage appearances that is sure to make some news.

There are many more very big names to come, but Walt Mossberg and I are pleased to introduce the first group of interviewees, which will give you a glimpse into the firepower we expect at D10 in late May. It is again being held in Rancho Palos Verdes, just south of Los Angeles.

The initial speakers we have confirmed so far include: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; serial entrepreneur Sean Parker, who will appear with Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek; Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus; Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz; LinkedIn Chairman and VC Reid Hoffman, who will appear with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner; and Skype CEO Tony Bates.

It’s hard to imagine someone we have wanted to have onstage more than Michael Bloomberg, a man of many talents and interests. He’s known worldwide as the 108th Mayor of the City of New York. First elected in November 2001 (and again in 2005 and 2009), he is also one of the most compelling politicians in the U.S. today.

But Bloomberg is also a pioneer in terms of the business of digital news and information technology, having built a huge and groundbreaking media company and information service. Bloomberg (the company) has 310,000 subscribers to its financial news and information service, and more than 15,000 employees worldwide.

There will be a lot to talk about with him, from the upcoming presidential election to the state of our government to the future of innovation, news and technology.

Also sure to be voluble is Sean Parker, the legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has been on the cutting edge of innumerable important digital trends of the recent decade. In 1999, Parker co-founded Napster, the controversial and industry-changing music service, at the age of 19.

He followed up with early contact information service Plaxo, and then shifted over to his critical involvement as founding president of Facebook in its early days as a start-up, an experience which was dramatized in the movie “The Social Network.” Parker continued to found and also invest in companies, from Causes to Spotify to his most recent, Airtime, a social video company that he is doing with his Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning.

Parker will be appearing onstage with Daniel Ek, another serial entrepreneur and technologist, who started his first company in 1997 at the age of 14. The Swedish native later co-founded online music phenom Spotify in 2006, with Martin Lorentzon.

The former CTO of Stardoll and founder of Advertigo leads a company that is changing the way music is delivered and consumed by fans, against a backdrop of intense change in the industry, succeeding even as a plethora of other services have stumbled.

Also a groundbreaker is Zynga CEO and founder Mark Pincus, yet another serial entrepreneur, whose latest effort in the online gaming arena has finally resulted in his biggest success. It recently went public, and now has a nearly $10 billion market cap.

Before founding Zynga in 2007, Pincus had already started three other companies: Push start-up Freeloader in 1995; automated tech-support company Support.com after that; and early social networking site Tribe.net in 2003.

(I met Pincus when he was at Freeloader in Washington, D.C., while writing a profile of him for the Washington Post, so I have enjoyed tracking his progress since then.)

Pincus is also an avid angel investor, with early stakes in Napster, Brightmail, Twitter and Facebook.

Reid Hoffman was another early investor in Facebook, along with many of Web 2.0’s most successful ventures. Well-known in Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur and VC, and recently dubbed the “start-up whisperer” by the New York Times (although I am not sure exactly what that means), he’s also chairman of LinkedIn, the business-networking service that also recently went public (at a $10 billion valuation, too).

He’ll appear with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who started out life in Hollywood, but soon made his way to Silicon Valley as a top exec at Yahoo. After running its media division, Weiner spent a short time at venture firms before going operational again at LinkedIn.

What it takes to build and maintain momentum as tech companies move into more mature stages, as well as how the social networking space evolves, are among the many topics on tap for the pair.

The evolution of a start-up phenom — in this case, Internet telephony service Skype — will be among the topics covered by Tony Bates, who is now a president at Microsoft, which bought it last year.

As such, he is responsible, says the software giant in its description of his job, “for overseeing the company’s direction, strategy and overall mission to become a global communications service that will eventually reach billions of users.”

That’s a tall order for Bates, who came to Skype from a top job at Cisco. Bates has deep roots (or maybe, routing?) in the guts of the Internet, having done backbone-engineering strategy for Internet MCI. The U.K. native also holds nine patents.

Lastly, given all the activity we expect will happen between government regulatory agencies and tech companies over the next few years, we felt it was key to bring in FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. He has been at the FTC as a commissioner since 2004, but was given the top job by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Among his priorities, according to his bio, is “promoting competition and innovation in the technology sector through law enforcement and policy initiatives; and protecting consumers’ privacy — especially while they are using the Internet.”


Leibowitz knows from regulation, having served as the Democratic chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. Senate Antitrust Subcommittee from 1997 to 2000, where he focused on competition policy and telecommunications matters, as well as a similar stint at the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Technology before that.

There will be a lot more speakers to come, of course. But, so far, we think D10 is off and running fast.

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