09:25 AM

Silicon Valley 100 will generate "buzz"

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Marketers are expecting the Silicon Valley elite to promote their products in exchange for free stuff.

According to Brad Stone in a Newsweek article called The Connected Get More Connected: Seeking buzz, companies will funnel free new products to Silicon Valley's elite:

Connector marketing is coming to the heart of California's high-tech zone, in the form of a new effort called the Silicon Valley 100.

This month, 100 of Silicon Valley's top venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, bloggers and promoters will begin receiving cool new stuff for free, delivered straight to their homes and offices. In return, these movers and shakers promise to sample the products and offer feedback to the their manufacturers. The companies hope that, if the mood strikes, the Silicon Valley 100 will chat up, blog on, or just plain recommend the products to friends and colleagues, generating that most invaluable of currencies: buzz.

The brainchild behind the Silicon Valley 100 is 31-year-old entrepreneur--and Connector--Auren Hoffman, founder of San Francisco marketing firm The Stonebrick Group. He hopes to turn the Silicon Valley 100 into a profitable enterprise. Companies will pay a fee for the privilege of gifting products to its elite members.

....It took three months on the phone, but the result of Hoffman's detective work is a quirky, wide-ranging list of some of the Valley's brightest lights, largest wallets and biggest mouths. Netscape founder Marc Andreessen is on the list. Venture capitalists Tim Draper, Stewart Alsop, Aileen Lee, Igor Sill, Bill Gurley and Ron Conway are too. Yahoo vice president Katie Mitic, Siebel Systems cofounder Pat House and Electronic Arts senior vice president Rusty Rueff are among the 100. So are technology-event promoters Esther Dyson, Tim O'Reilly, Tiffany Shlain and Chris Shipley. A local radio personality nicknamed Hooman appears, as does a young San Francisco club promoter named Trevor Hewitt. Sean Parker, one of the cofounders of Napster, also made the cut.

Hoffman says he avoided adding career bloggers or journalists to the list. "Those people have a different standard and shouldn't be keeping free products," he says (journalists are typically required to return products they sample for review). But many Valley execs who maintain well-read blogs are in the group, such as entrepreneurs Ross Mayfield, Brad Templeton, Joi Ito and Zaw Thet.

Silicon Valley 100 member Joi Ito speaks:

I think it is almost like an opt-in focus group. The obvious criticism would be these companies are trying to buy "buzz". The difference between this and some buzz creation companies is 1) it's not stealth 2) they don't tell you what to say. I checked with Auren and he says that we can write whatever we want about the products. When I get a product from Silicon Valley 100, I will state this clearly in any blog post that refers to it and will say what I think. I realize that the fact that we probably get to keep most of the products makes it a bit like bribery, but if it's crap, I'm sure most people will throw it away. I would be most interested in products that are still not on the market where our feedback could be incorporated in the product design. Then our feedback could be more constructive...


The Connected Get More Connected: Seeking buzz, companies will funnel free new products to Silicon Valley's elite by Brad Stone, Newsweek, 21 January 2005

Silicon Valley 100, by Joi Ito, 22 January 2005

What's the story? Doug Millison also edits OnlineJournalist.org, "on a need-to-know basis"