New York Magazine’s cover story this week is on the “Influentials”. It was nice to see the name of our 18 month old venture capital firm on the list as we’ve been working hard to influence the direction of technology and startups in our home town of New York City. We are honored, but also a bit humbled, to find ourselves in this company.
But more interesting than the notoriety is the concept of influence vs. power outlined at the start of John Heilemann’s article.
Power in the technology business is housed inside the large companies like Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Google, Yahoo!, Cisco and the venture capital firms with 20 year track records primarily located in Silicon Valley and Boston.
Influence is a different matter entirely. Influence is about ideas that resonate and the communities that spread them. When we think of influential technology people., we like to think of Linus Torvalds, the 37 year old software engineer who has shown the world a better way to develop software, or Craig Newmark, the hacker who put together the world’s largest classifieds service with love, dedication, and no business model.
But no discussion of influence is complete without a discussion of blogging. New York Magazine’s list of over 200 “influencers” contains less than 10 bloggers. I think that’s a mistake. CEOs and politicans may have power, but bloggers are the ones who are influencing thought these days.
Peter Rojas, Micahel Arrington, Robert Scoble, Jason Kottke, Seth Godin, Mike Masnick, Om Malik, Steve Rubel, John Battelle, Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis, Paul Graham. These are the “influencers” in technology. They spread the “memes” that are shaping the technology business these days. They may not have the “power” to shape the direction of technology, but the people that have that power are influenced by these people and what shows up on their blogs every day.
Which takes me back to our 18 month old venture capital firm. This blog and our Union Square Sessions events are our attempt to participate in the influential part of the technology and startup ecosystem. We aren’t particularly interested in power. We’ll leave that to the mega companies and mega funds. But influence is something we care deeply about. We think it will lead to better investments and better returns for our partners.