Behind the Curtain: Tech Titans Gather at Venture Crush New York


venture crush

“If we we’re bank robbers, this is the kind of bank we’d like to rob” quips Ed Zimmerman to a buzzing crowd surrounded by the Italian Romanesque Revival arches of what used to be Bowery Savings Bank now serving as Cipriani’s 42nd street location.

Zimmerman is the Chair of the Tech Group of the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, organizers of Thursday’s Venture Crush. Venture Crush New York is billed as a half-day event that brings together a curated group of startup founders, institutional investors, service providers and others with a vested interest in the New York Tech scene. The morning session featured discussions around the future of tech, leadership, and being world class all moderated by Zimmerman. The morning’s speakers and their themes were:

  • Chris Thile on being world class. Thile is a mandolinist for Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers, a Grammy Award winner, MacArthur Fellow, and host of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion.
  • Kara Swisher on the future of tech. Swisher is the Founder and Executive Editor of Re/Code and former Co-Executive Editor of WSJ’s AllThingsD.
  • Regina Benjamin, MD on leadership. Dr. Benjamin is the former U.S. Surgeon General of the United States and a MacArthur Fellow.

Zimmerman and Thile discussed the steps taken and relationships built along the mandolinist’s journey to and through success. “(You have to ask) how is this person doing relative what I want to do, not in a competitive way. Turn competitive nature inward.” Thile said, opining on the line between pursuing the best and competing with your contemporaries.

Swisher shared her various opinions and experiences behind founding Re/Code, recovering from her stroke, and interviewing the founders of Tech Giants such as Facebook and Amazon. Asked how she came to be so well respected by those whom she criticized most harshly, she replied, “With very smart people, if you give them professional criticism they will respect you. They like to be challenged.” Opining on the state of women in tech, Swisher said, “I don’t think changes will be made…I think the Pao suit hurt. I’ve spoken to VCs who have said that because of that suit ‘we can’t hire women’ as if they were already.” On the future of venture capital fundraising, she believed that VC money was “drying up” and shared her opinions of the types of companies she believed would be funded in the future. “…good companies will still be funded. The money is thinking more about the spending and things that the public markets pay attention to. You’ll have to be smart about how you deploy your capital.’

Dr. Benjamin reflected on her path from humble beginnings to the Surgeon General’s Office and back again. “ Sitting in the boardroom matters because they won’t think about you in the decisions otherwise. Also, you’ll never know who’s watching; you’re representing everyone who can’t be there in the boardroom and you represent what they can be outside of the board room.”

Those who were not listening to the interviews in the main atrium of Cipriani could be found behind the curtain of one of the venue’s dining rooms. There, investors, startups, and others in the tech ecosystem exchanged pleasantries and business cards. At noon, the attendees made their way to Venture Crush New York’s afternoon session held at Lowenstein Sandler’s midtown offices. There the guests took part in any one of six round table discussions concerning tech and tech investing’s current state and future. The discussion themes and their moderators were:

  • Consumer Web moderated by Beth Ferreira of WME Ventures, Jessi Hempel of Wired, and Rob Hayes of First Round Capital
  • Food and Wine Tech moderated by Amanda Hesser of Food52, Greg Lambert of Coravin and Lili Lynton of Dinex
  • The Future of Music moderated by Robbie Brooks Moore of Kind of Blue Music, Par-Jorgen Parson of Northzone, and Peter Shapiro of Brooklyn Bowl
  • The Future of Video moderated by Pete Cashmore of Mashable, Eric Feng of Kleiner Perkins, Oscar winning filmmaker Yael Melamede, and Hunter Walk of Homebrew
  • The Outlook for LPs in Venture Funds moderated by Bezzer Clarkson of Sapphire Ventures, Chris Douvos of Venture Investment Associates, Theresa Sorrentino Hajer of Cambridge Associates, and Andy Weissman of Union Square Ventures
  • Fin Tech moderated by Mazy Dar of OpenFin, Tom Farley of NYSE, Jan Hammer of Index Ventures, and Anton Hanebrink of Square
  • The Future of Big Data including Government and Health Tech moderated by Amy Abernathy of Flatiron Health, Scott Crouch of Mark43, and Tripp Jones of August Capital
  • Current Venture Markets moderated by Dayna Grayson of NEA, Taylor Greene of Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Deven Parekh of Insight Venture Partners, and Anton Levy of General Atlantic
  • Content: Sound and Vision moderated by Allison Goldenberg of Time Warner Investments, Laura Walker of New York Public Radio, and Media Executive and Advisor Lauren Zalaznick

About the author: John Azuibuike

John Azubuike is an Analyst at KEC Ventures, a New York City seed fund that partners with companies in the Mobile, Digital Media, E-commerce, Marketplace and Enterprise Software spaces. John spends his days seeking out and supporting early stage entrepreneurs in the New York startup ecosystem.

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