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Roger Simon’s Little Black Dress


Watching the debut of Paja-, er, Open Source Media, and hearing about its trademark trouble – the name has been in use on another website for some time – I had a flashback of sorts.
A flashback to Katrina Garnett and her little black dress.
Surely you remember Katrina? She caused a sensation when she confused the ual, the sensual, the self-glorifying and the self-actualizing when she had herself photographed in a y little black dress by fashion photographer Richard Avedon. She then used that alluring photo in an advertising campaign designed to promote her new “middleware” software company.
Katrina’s marketing gimmick was that she was a female CEO in high tech which didn’t – and still doesn’t for the most part although things are getting better – have very many women. It was a pretty good schtick except that it was pretty clear that Katrina and her husband, Terry, were only in this whole thing for the money. They were funding the company themselves, making as much noise as possible and hoping – like pretty much everyone else working in Northern California – to make a lot of money in a very short time. Of course, that’s not what they said. What they said was that Katrina was breaking new ground and that the company was the greatest invention since the wheel.
It wasn’t, of course. What was the first sign things were a little wobbly? When the Garnetts started their company they called it “CrossRoads.” But it became better known as CrossWorlds. What happened? No one checked to see if the name had been trademarked, that’s what. The company launched under one name and had to scramble hard for another. Sound familiar?
That’s exactly what’s happened with Pajama Media, the original name of the outfit calling itself – undoubtedly temporarily – Open Source Media.
And in this case, it’s an even worse sign of what I call “Bubble Thinking.” Because Pajama Media’s financial backing comes from a venture fund put together by the law firm Grey Cary. It’s leading name is Glenn Reynolds, a professor of law. Another popular site: The Volokoh Conspiracy. Also run by – you guessed it – lawyers.
Jeff Jarvis, who knows a thing or two about launching an editorial project, has had plenty to say on the business plan and other aspects of the Pajama affair. Dennis the Peasant, who is no media mogol but has an enormous amount of good sense, has long had the skinny on what’s really wrong with Pajama. In a word, it’s avarice. Pajama founders – particularly Roger Simon, according to “Dennis” – have been a bit too open about their plans to become very rich, very quickly. On top of that, my colleague Dan Gillmor has a few pointed comments about how the guys who have started Pajama Media – I’m calling it that because they’re going to have to hustle hard to come up with a new name to replace “open source” – don’t really understand the meaning of the phrase they’ve embraced.

Open source doesn’t mean stealing. It means sharing. And much of the thinking behind the open source movement is a direct result of the greed and fly-by-night that passed for business-building and innovation during the Tech Bubble.
We here in Silicon Valley saw a lot of this nonsense during the bubble: Folks coming in, picking up a few buzzwords, getting some C-level venture firm to fund them then having a big announcement about how their version of the wheel was better than everyone else’s. $3.5 million in funding doesn’t mean you’ve got a company, it just means you’ve got investors. And some investors are smarter than others. It costs almost nothing to put up a site like Open Pajama – hey, that’s catchy, think I can sell it to them? – so $3.5 million should go a long way.
There’s been a lot of talk about whether this new Internet integration – the buzz word is Web 2. 0 – is a bubble. John Battelle, another survivor, had his take in Friday’s New York Times and its well worth your time to read it, particularly in light of all this nonsense from Pajama.
While you’re reading Battelle think about what everyone in Silicon Valley knows about running a company and creating a business: It’s not press releases and parties, celeb writers and fancy offices space. It’s hard work. Ruthless efficiency. Cold calculation. And no shortage of smarts. But first of all hard, hard work.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 12:41 PM | Permalink

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