Diller & Crowley @SxSW

CNN’s Poppy Harlow w/ IAC’s Barry Diller

Two of the more notable keynote interviews at SxSW happened Monday morning.

The first featured CNN business reporter Poppy Harlow’s chummy tete-a-tete with IAC chairman Barry Diller before a packed house at the Austin Convention Center. The second showcased two Twitter-verified luminaries – Mashable founder Pete Cashmore and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley — hamming it up on stage.

To Poppy’s credit, she managed to cover most of the important topics du jour:

  • Diller’s support of net-neutrality (with caveats)
  • The Newsweek-DailyBeast hook-up’s prospects
  • The explosion and impact of online video programming
  • How apps have changed everything
  • The miraculous iPad
  • The fates of Netflix, Hulu and others
  • The cable monopolies and how indy digital content syndicators may break them

Barry Diller’s Notable Quotables:

  • On SxSW: “Such a nice vibration that happens here”
  • “The Internet is a miracle. You push a button and you publish to the world.”
  • On net neutrality: “…an unambiguous law. Nobody shall step between the publisher and the consumer.”
  • “I have a truly emotional thing about the iPad.” The iPad2? “It’s better”
  • “I don’t know if the experiment of The DailyBeast and Newsweek will work. We’ll see in 6-8 months.”
  • Rupert Murdoch’s “The Daily is interesting, but it does not seem to me to be a competitive product. It’s an experiment”
  • Start-up valuations are “mathematically insane.”
  • To digital video producers: “…think about video not just in 3-5 minute clips but in longer forms…”
  • On VCs/Start-ups: “Of course, money chases invention…but the accelerated rate of invention is what’s exciting now!”
  • On the prospect of a tech bubble: “The money that’s going to be lost will be by people who can afford to lose it. So who cares?”
  • Is content still king? “Sumner Redstone in his dotage invented this ‘content is king’ thing because he had the content and wanted to be king.”
  • Movie companies “sowed the seeds of their destruction with Netflix deal. They’re now going to try to kill Netflix.”
  • On Hulu: “I don’t know how it will end up. Good intentions…now what do we do?…tremendous conflict”
  • The U.S. is #16 worldwide in broadband penetration. Ever time I think it or say it, I get queasy.”
Mashable’s Pete Cashmore with Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley

After hearing from a 68-year-old media and Internet mogul, we were treated to the musings of a social media mogul literally half his age when Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley took the ACC stage accompanied by the definitive chronicler of all things social media — Mashable founder/CEO Pete Cashmore. Some of the topics covered:

  • What’s hot at SxSW
  • The next big thing?
  • Foursquare’s API
  • Competitor Gowalla
  • With 250K merchants, how to scale
  • The AMEX partnership
  • Comparisons with Groupon
  • Crowley family on Family Feud
Foursquare’s Crowley and Selvadurai in Gap Ad

The capacity crowd especially enjoyed the portion of the interview wherein Cashmore revealed SxSW attendees’ answers (via MOS) to some burning questions about Dennis, e.g., how much is he worth or how old he is. What do you think of first when you hear the name Dennis Crowley? Someone in the audience blurted out “Bieber!”

Another crowd pleaser: the emergence on stage of a Gap print ad featuring Crowley and 4Sq co-founder Naveen Selvadurai striking a pose. Crowley made a point that the hand in question was Naveen’s not his. When Cashmore asked the audience how many want Facebook integration with Foursquare, no hands went up. When he asked how many in the audience use Austin-based Gowalla to check-in, only a dozen of the hundreds went up. (Quite a change from SxSW 2010!)

Dennis Crowley’s Notable Quotables:

  • “I get excited by mashups on our platform.” (Shout-outs to 8bit and the app that aggregates health reports of nyc restaurants).
  • “We’re growing up and starting to compete against the Facebooks and Googles. They figured out that #checkins are now cool.”
  • 4Sq’s business model? “The stuff we’re doing with merchants. No one’s doing this.”
  • On Groupon: “Groupon has unique model by driving newbie merchants. 4Sq going at it from a different angle.”
  • On Google & Twitter: “We’re tight with Google. Lots of my friends work there and lost of our employees used to work there. We’re tight with them and we’re tight with Twitter.”
  • What’s new with 4Sq? “We’re working on a venue harmonization project to unify data across the places database.”
  • On Yelp and FB Places: Cashmore and Crowley see Yelp’s Dukes & Facebook Places as “cargo cults,” i.e., “copying without understanding.”
  • On getting acquired: Dennis dodged.
  • Scalability? “We need greater distribution. We have 250K merchants. AMEX is a good partner to scale.”
  • On what’s hot at SxSW: “SxSw is so noisy now. So many companies trying to launch.” Shout out to GroupMe. “Group messaging is breaking out.”
  • On Blackberry: “…a tough platform to develop on”
  • How rich is Dennis Crowley? “Not rich enough to never work gain. Our Foursquare staff dinner was held at a strip mall barbeque.”
  • 4Sq’s current valuation: “We won’t know until next round financing.”
4Sq’s Dennis Crowley, Mayor of SxSW

Another high point was when Mashable’s Stacy Green emerged from backstage to crown Crowley the Mayor of South by Southwest.

As for me, I enjoyed the first question from the audience – a veritable PR coup. This man took the microphone and told rockstars Cashmore & Crowley how a young women in his company simply loves the two of them and could she come on the stage to give them both a hug??? She’s standing right there stage right. Sure enough, they agreed and there she was giving each of them a hug, and her company a plug. “The Today Show” outdoor fans’ signage don’t hold a candle to this hug & plug!

To conclude, Crowley graciously invited the audience to the at the PepsiMAX lot to meet & greet the 40 of his 50 employees who trekked to Austin. A nice New York gesture.

Photos: Peter Himler with Canon PowerShot SX20 IS