LinkedIn Cofounder Reid Hoffman Kicks Off the 2012 Guardian Activate Summit

The British newspaper held a summit at the Paley Center for Media featuring some of tech and media's biggest names.

 LinkedIn Cofounder Reid Hoffman Kicks Off the 2012 Guardian Activate Summit

Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Jarvis

Betabeat is reporting today from the Guardian Activate Summit, a meeting of the minds thrown by British newspaper The Guardian to discuss technology and media. The presentations at this year’s summit were interrupted by a loud, unbelievably annoying jackhammer that continuously pounded from below. You could feel the ground of the Paley Center for Media shake as the audience struggled to ignore it and focus on the speakers, but this reporter doesn’t even have ADHD and found it incredibly distracting. Jeff Jarvis, director of CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, joked that it helped score the beat of the conversation.

Mr. Jarvis chaired the summit, and continuously referred to himself as the Oprah of the event, which repeatedly triggered muffled giggles. Following opening remarks from Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor in chief, Mr. Jarvis kicked off with a conversation with Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s cofounder and executive chairman.

The conversation broached a number of topics, including the importance of an open Internet, advice for startups and how to build successful news and business ecosystems.

Some of the highlights are below.

On advice for startups:

  • “I’d have to see the details of the startup–generic advice isn’t usually that useful,” said Mr. Hoffman. One of the pitfalls for startups, particularly news startups, is that innovation becomes stifled by the cages news organizations put themselves in, such as their brand or if their staff is very large, said Mr. Hoffman. “You should start from a blank slate and think what are the kinds of things you can start running experiments on.”

On LinkedIn going public:

  • “When you’re a public company, you try to make no forward-looking predictions and have to communicate that while you’re also trying to be good on the public arena when you’re not making those statements,” said Mr. Hoffman. “I worried going public would actually make the company less open, but it’s been okay so far.”

On Kickstarter and crowdsourcing:

  • “If people haven’t played with Kickstarter, I highly recommend it. It allowed movies and board games which aren’t as financeable as companies–and maybe they’ll turn into a company because there’s a demand for a product, and it could be a precursor to that.”
  • “We are in a series of transformations which have been instrumental, because you have open source software and it’s much cheaper to start Internet companies. You now see thousands of them happening. You can literally talk to an undergraduate and they say, ‘We’re working on a company,’ and that used to not be true.”
  • “The Internet is an open platform that’s already been transformational, and crowdfunding is an increment.”
General wisdom:
  • “The future is always sooner and stranger than you think.”

Following the conversation, Mr. Jarvis opened it up to questions from the audience. The first person asked a question about social, and then made an awkward attempt to endear himself to Mr. Hoffman by asking him out to lunch.

“I already have lunch plans,” responded Mr. Hoffman, quite dipolomatically.

Mr. Jarvis asked how many people in the audience had a startup, and about 10 people raised their hands. The discussion closed with Mr. Jarvis giving three people in the audience the opportunity to tell Mr. Reid their elevator pitches for their startups. Most of them had to do with social media, except for the last, which was “a magazine for millennials, by millennials.”

“‘Magazine’ is a very retro term,” noted Mr. Hoffman.