Kevin Rose, 31, is the founder of Revision3, Pownce, and most notably the social-bookmarking website Digg.com. He is formerly the co-host working on TechTV’s popular show The Screen Savers and currently stars in Diggnation. Digg.com launched in 2004 and soon received $2.8 million in venture capital from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen.
Question: Are we in a second Internet bubble?
Kevin Rose: You know, I don’t think so. I’m not worried about it at all. I think that the companies that are getting funded-- there’s a couple of things that are different, one, the expectation from investors is not an IPO. So it’s not like it’s-- you’re not talking-- you’re not screwing with the economy in that it’s just private investors, a lot of small angel investments, you know. It’s really not going to muck things up the way that, you know, all these bunk IPOs did in 2000. The other is that, you know, we’re not talking crazy amounts of money. A lot of small start ups that I see funded, you know, a hundred, two hundred k to get off the ground and, you know, if you don’t have that kind of exponential growth and you’re not seeing crazy traffic they won’t get re-funded, you know, they’ll just kind of go by the wayside. And that’s just-- that’s natural, that’s cool, you know. I mean that’s just-- I don’t know what they say, like one in every 20 start ups survive or something like that, but I mean that’s just the process of creating cool things. And I thought that at first, I was like well they’ll be another little bubble and then this will all kind of die off and then we’ll go back to, you know, everyone will go back to doing their thing and then there’ll be another bubble a few years down the road. But I think we’re-- the cost of-- the barrier to entry, to creating a new start up, is so low now and the technologies to create a new site to launch an idea are there, and there’s so many people that understand how to build a web app now it’s-- I think that we’re never gonna get out of this. I think it’s always going to be, you know, new start ups every few months that just kind of hit the market and they’ll-- hopefully it’ll drive innovation and we’ll see, you know, new products that are pushing the envelope continue to launch.
Question: Is social networking still hot?
Kevin Rose: Well I think that without a doubt there is kind of social networking fatigue I think, you know, that’s one of the-- I think that’s one of the big hurdles for new startups right now, especially that are in the social space, is that we’re in this really weird place where a year ago, if you launched a new startup and you asked someone to recreate their social graph in this new experience and it was like Bebopo or something, some-- just site out there, and I probably just named some-- I just probably plugged someone’s site, but a user would go and say okay, I have these friends, I’m going to send out the emails, I’m going to invite them, everyone’s going to sign up, and we’re going to recreate that social graph. Now we’re at the place where people have that fatigue and they’re tired of doing it and they really don’t want to do that anymore. And so-- but we don’t have the technologies in place to make it really possible yet for you to import your graph into these new apps. And I mean obviously Facebook is launching Connect and Google has their own solution and Myspace is-- it’s not open social but they’re doing their own little thing as far as, you know, saying that this is my graph and this is how I can move into other sites. Once that happens, and it’s easy, and it’s like here’s a new app, okay, yes, Facebook, log in, connect, data moves in, graph defined, I think we’re going to see some really cool apps that are made on top of that.
Question: What social networking sites are you watching?
Kevin Rose: That’s a good question, you know. I think there’s a couple of different startups that have emerged recently, you know. Not everyone’s on Facebook and not everyone wants to be on Myspace and-- but we-- yet we still have all these other sites that we participate in. So sites like Friendfeed and I’m actually a bigger fan of Socialthing are some really cool start ups that are aggregating all of your different types of content that you’re doing online, all your different activities across the board, and presenting them in a list for your friends to consume. I think that’s a-- kind of a cool way to accomplish what Facebook and others are doing but often outside of that. Also, you know, obviously the idea of sending small updates to friends via sites like Twitter and then sharing small pieces of media sites like Pounce, I think, is a very cool space, you know, to instantly be able to-- when you see it being used it’s funny ‘cause I-- when I travel around I talk to people about, you know, different startups and what they’re into. And you get outside of the Bay Area or you get outside of New York and you start talking about Twitter, you know, people don’t care. They just-- they’re-- it’s like our CEO of Digg, he spends half his time-- he lives in Pawling, New York, which is a hour and a half, you know, outside of New York in the middle of nowhere. And he’s like-- he sent out a Twitter the other night that was like does anyone want to grab some food. Like Jay, and he’s in Pawling, like no one’s gonna grab some food with him. And so it doesn’t make sense to, in that setting, right, but for when you get inside of kind of like a little bit more into the ecochamber inside of San Francisco, you know, it really is a tool that people use, where you’ll say like I’m at this bar, I’m right down the street, I’m over here, and like you can essentially move like flocks of people from location to location, like groups of people, in real time. It’s insane. Like I was out with Gary Vandercheck, [ph?] who does Wine Labyrinth TV, a very popular online wine video blog, and we were out at-- doing some wine tastings at one of these wine bars, and we both sent out a Twitter saying, you know, hey come meet up with us, let’s have some wine, you know, if anybody’s in San Francisco. And the bar was empty, the wine bar was empty, it was like a Wednesday night or something like that. And between the two of us we had, you know, 55,000 people on Twitter that the message went out to, and in about 45 minutes we had about 150 people show up. And this was just out of nowhere. And it’s just that power to instantly be able to say, you know, almost like a flash mob, we were saying like this is something that’s going on, everyone get here now, and it just happens, is pretty cool to see.
Question: Will governments ever adopt a Digg model?
Kevin Rose: Well I think that, you know, there’s been a lot of discussion about how can we increase transparency in Washington. And that’s, you know, all over the place, from budgets to you name it. I’ve-- I haven’t really been involved in a lot of that. I know that there is a couple groups that have invited me out to Washington in the past that are solely dedicated to tackling these issues. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with any of them but I can put you in touch with the people that contacted me. But I know that like Joshua Shackter, who’s the founder of Delicious, he went to one of these meetings and he was telling me about it, and a few other-- I mean I know that they’re trying to recruit all the people that are kind of doing really cool open social things online to come in and give feedback and help kind of shape, you know, what they’re building. So let me know, seriously, I hear there’s some big stuff going on right now. I just haven’t had any anything to do with it.