Wiretap: Live at TechCrunch Disrupt

It’s the third and final day of Silicon Valley’s biggest event of the year … well, of the week, anyway. Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg are the headliners this afternoon, but the morning sessions haven’t been too slouchy either, with mega-VCs John Doerr and Vinod Khosla taking the stage.

Khosla, being grilled by TechCrunch founder Mike Arrington, downplayed concerns about NSA snooping into our private technological lives, calling it “a trade-off for security.” Arrington clearly didn’t buy it. Next up was a VC from a new generation of venture powerhouse: Scott Weiss of Andreessen Horowitz. Onstage with the CEOs of Zendesk, Nebula and Box, Weiss and Co. took potshots at entrenched software giants like Oracle and VMWare. With cloud-based upstarts able to develop and deploy enterprise software more quickly and inexpensively, Weiss said, “The innovation loop is 10 times faster than what Microsoft or Oracle can do.”

Box CEO Aaron Levie, asked about reports he’d turned down a $600 million acquisition offer from Citrix, said the cloud’s disruption of the software industry made the math on that decision easy. “We looked at the potential of the strategy we’re in, which is helping businesses manage their most critical information, and we thought there was still 100X potential for growth,” said Levie, whose company is widely believed to be on the IPO runway.

“That said, it’s probably the best time ever to sell your company,” he added, because deep-pocketed incumbents know they need new products and approaches to keep customers.”

Out in the conference center’s Startup Alley — renamed “Hardware Alley” for the day to reflect the kinds of companies on display there — I found plenty of young techies who for now can probably only dream of a nine-figure buyout. Among the more interesting startups I saw were Nomad (née Charge Card), which claims to be able to replace your USB cable with flexible connectors that fit into your wallet or on your keychain; and Playground Energy, which can capture the kinetic energy generated by kids using playground equipment. (It’s been deployed in four European cities to date.)

Meanwhile, places like Ireland, Korea and Russia were showcasing startups from their respective countries. I was intrigued by Flitto, a Korean company (with offices in Sunnyvale) that’s introduced a crowd-sourced translation app. Take a photo of something in one of 14 languages, then upload it to Flitto’s community of 2 million mobile users for a quick translation. There’s even an e-commerce aspect, since translators whose suggestions receive the most votes accumulate points that can be cashed out for restaurant discounts.

Wait a minute: Mobile, crowdsourcing, e-commerce and local deals? I think they win Buzzword Bingo!

Photo by Peter Delevett


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