Fortune Tech Brainstorming Conference in Aspen 2012

Last week I attended the Fortune Tech Conference (WP powered site) in Aspen.

A few interesting bits that I wrote down:

  • Marc Andreessen’s opening interview was great, and he once again proved that he’s one of the smartest and most transparent leaders in our industry. ( and all their blogs, like Marc’s, are on VIP).
  • “War for Tech Talent” session.  Facebook is a strengths based organization, which means people are encouraged to work on what they love.  Their data says that people are most happy and feel most accomplished when working on something they are good at and have a passion for.  A good day for an employee @ Facebook is usually one that plays to that person’s strengths.  For managers “focus on how each individual has impact”
  • From the CEO of Intuit, Brad Smith, on how they view and deal with competition.  One thing they do is that each quarter they have a “pick a fight with a new guy” session where Brad asks a product manager to focus on 3 competitors and decide how to track them, learn from them, and sometimes buy them (Mint).
  • Tony Fadell (Apple iPod guy, now Nest), “fall in love with the problem” and “focus on what problem you are solving”
  • Tony Fadell also talked about how we should let new new hires have the space to change the organization & ideally makes everyone better.  And to not fall into the trap of forcing your own culture / DNA on them, otherwise you lose the ability to adapt and become too insular and fail to learn from the outside world.
  • Mark Pincus: Mobile monitizing better than desktop.  Why ?  Way less friction for payments (huge) and higher net income demographic on smartphones today VS the global / even distribution on desktop web
  • Eric Schmidt and Peter Thiel had a heated head-to-head debate on the role of tech that is definitely worth watching

At all events I feel like many conversations turn to new startups, interesting apps that you have installed, etc. This event was no different. Mike Green from Comcast had two gems that I’m checking out: Paper Karma which looks amazing “PaperKarma allows you to take photos of the junk mail you wish to stop. Snap a photo, and you’re done” and CarWoo which is a LendingTree style car service where car dealers compete for your business. (big AOL Autos deal just announced)

So a great event – I learned a bunch, and highly recommend attending. A big shout-out thank-you to John Cantarella and Adam Lashinsky (conference co-chair) for their hospitality.

Also a pro-tip for those flying from SFO to Aspen. I highly recommend you fly SFO->LAX->Aspen and avoid Denver airport, unless you enjoy a 4 hour drive to Aspen 🙂

Here are some quick photos from the trip:

The Man Who Makes the Future: Wired Icon Marc Andreessen |

Andreessen: My bet is that the positive effects will far outweigh the negatives. Think about Borders, the bookstore chain. Amazon drove Borders out of business, and the vast majority of Borders employees are not qualified to work at Amazon. That’s an actual, full-on problem. But should Amazon have been prevented from doing that? In my view, no. Because it’s so much better to live in a world where that happened, it’s so much better to live in a world where Amazon is ascendant. I told you that my childhood bookstore was something you had to drive an hour to get to. But it was a Waldenbooks, and it was, like, 800 square feet, and it sold almost nothing that you would actually want to read. It’s such a better world where we have Amazon, where everything is universally available. They’re a force for human progress and culture and economics in a way that Borders never was.

Anderson: So it’s creative destruction.

Andreessen: When Milton Friedman was asked about this kind of thing, he said: Human wants and needs are infinite, and so there will always be new industries, there will always be new professions. This is the great sweep of economic history. When the vast majority of the workforce was in agriculture, it was impossible to imagine what all those people would do if they didn’t have agricultural jobs. Then a hundred years later the vast majority of the workforce was in industrial jobs, and we were similarly blind: It was impossible to imagine what workers would do without those jobs. Now the majority are in information jobs. If the computers get smart enough, then what? I’ll tell you: The then what is whatever we invent next.


The Man Who Makes the Future: Wired Icon Marc Andreessen | Epicenter |