Hot Trends at the ‘All Things Digital’ Conference
While the public markets focus on Facebook's stock movement, the Venture Capital investors here at the "All Things Digital" conference are focused on the next big thing -- which companies are the next $1 billion acquisition or $10 billion IPO.
Social still looms large, but now I'm hearing lots of talk about social commerce.
With talk of sharing platform Pinterest being worth north of $1 billion dollarswith tens of millions of users, the question is how to turn all the sharing of images of products into the sale of those products.
The VCs I've spoken to expect to see sales and marketing on Pinterest too, but that's just the beginning.
NEA partner Patrick Chung is betting on a company called "Curalate," which treats all the information from Pinterest, Facebook , and Twitter as results from the ultimate focus group. Curalate mines data from all those sites to help brands understand who's sharing images of their products to better target them with ads and deals. (You can watch my interview with Patrick Chung here.)
But the definition of social commerce is not just limited to sharing services -- Andreessen Horowitz partner Jeff Jordan, who is on the board of Pinterest, also pointed at flash sale site Fab.com as a social shopping site.
But not everything is about social here at D-- there's been a lot of talk about education and Salman Kahn of the Kahn Academy and John Hennessy, president of Stanford University took the stage. Conference host Walt Mossberg asked Hennessy if it's moral and sustainable to charge so much for tuition. With student debt in the U.S. north of $1 billion this is no small problem
While they debated the cost of Universities, investors are looking at turning education into a for-profit business, with a relatively new category, called "Ed-Tech." Chung highlighted NEA's investment in Coursera, which brings Ivy League quality education to the masses, which he says is a market worth tens of billions of dollars. NEA isn't the only one betting on this startup-- it's raised $16 million in VC funding, partly from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, led by John Doerr, who has long pushed for education reform.
Coursera is starting off by giving away courses from Stanford, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, among others. What's the business model? Chung says there are many, including charging directly for it and posting ads on the courses, like one would for any other content.
One other hot area-- video-- because of the exploding number of smart phones that enable users to shoot and share video. People here are talking about how quickly video sharing service Viddy hit nearly 20 million users, along with its rival SocialCam. And then there are the video creation companies, like Maker Studios, which is focused on YouTube content. Now everyone's waiting what Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer's new Bedrocket video studio has in the works.
Despite Facebook's losses since its IPOthe outlook for exiting from startups is upbeat, thanks to reports that Salesforce.com is buying Buddy Media for north of $800 million. It's not confirmed, and neither Salesforce or Buddy Media will comment-- but I hear it'll happen.