Fascinating panel discussion just concluded including Wesley Chan, a partner in Google Ventures, the venture capital firm financed by Google itself, and Carter Maslan, product management director for “Local Search” at Google.
First off was Maslan (blue jeans, aviator jacket), who took some heat from the crowd. Bear in mind this gathering is, at its base, Yellow Page directory folks who have seen their businesses threatened by people aggregating the old YP content online and in different ways. Several of the questions addressed the “elephant in the room,” which is, to wit: Is Google out to destroy all these Yellow Page fossils?
Deftly, Maslan took the “rising tide lifts all boats” approach (don’t buy it), even as he appeared totally sincere. Notwithstanding that fact, who would a sane person bet on: an old-line, fading industry of print-based Yellow Page directories or, say, Google? It’s not even a contest.
Meanwhile, on to the VC Chan, who spoke of his new firm’s desire to leverage the smarts within Google (management, technology, entrepreneurship) to advise the 17 portfolio companies he’s now invested in. In the local space, Chan said he saw an arena still in its infancy with astounding growth prospects. With regard to the deal space (that being Groupon and its 126 nascent competitors) he said it would take 10 years to shake out but that Groupon’s story clearly demonstrated that gas is still left in local’s tank. Chan told the story of how 10 years ago, everybody thought e-commerce was dead, considering that eBay and Amazon had appeared to have exhausted the market. Now, of course, e-commerce has gone in a thousand different directions.
Great question asked of Chan: Do you have a business idea you want someone to pitch you? Chan, who lead Google’s purchase of Google Analytics, said he thought someone should devise analytics technology for small and medium-sized businesses. Where is my foot traffic coming from? Where did that person who just called my business get my phone number from? How’s my Facebook account doing? Twitter feed? Traditional media ad buys?
Current panel: A rather boring discussion of Pandora….