Panel of Web Community Founders: Utter Defiance of the “Venture Capital” Model

At the CommunityNext conference I moderated this panel with the founders of six very successful web properties:

  1. Akash Garg of hi5

  2. Sean Suhl of Suicide Girls

  3. Max Levchin of Slide

  4. James Hong of HotorNot

  5. Markus Frind of PlentyofFish

  6. Drew Curtis of Fark

This is the most amusing panel that I’ve ever moderated, and the speakers defied many conventions of tech entrepreneurship—in particular the ones that venture capitalists believe are “proven.” If you’d like to learn how these companies became successful without “proven teams, proven technology, and proven business models,” you’ll love this video.

Here’s a little factoid that blew my mind: both Fark and PlentyofFish have only one employee!

By | 2016-10-24T14:22:11+00:00 February 22nd, 2007|Categories: Entrepreneurship, Events, Innovation|43 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Rick February 23, 2007 at 12:16 am - Reply

    With Sean and Drew, how could it not be an amusing panel? I think they definitely loosened things up and made the others much more open as well.

  2. Morgan Ramsay February 23, 2007 at 3:20 am - Reply

    Wow, Guy. Y’know, there’s a big difference between providing great content and great content you created. I’d say this video is comparable to your best ovation-worthy speech. You’re in the in-crowd. You’re cool now. 😉

  3. John Dodds February 23, 2007 at 4:17 am - Reply


  4. February 23, 2007 at 5:08 am - Reply

    Nice! Great panel of internet celebrities. Thx for sharing

  5. Untitled Subscription February 23, 2007 at 5:43 am - Reply

    Hi Guy!
    I am glad I did not unsubscribe from your feed!
    Great video.

  6. Lary Stucker February 23, 2007 at 6:59 am - Reply

    The timing could not have been better. Our site is the “YouTube” of Action-sports and we do not have a large staff or a “proven team.” It’s not action-sports, but thanks for posting this great video!

  7. Josh February 23, 2007 at 8:07 am - Reply

    Is there any chance of getting an audio-only version of this? I’d love to listen to it, but the only time I have is when I’m commuting. An MP3 would let me put it on my iPod and listen to it on the way to work.
    Either way, your blog is great. Thanks!
    I’ll ask. I didn’t shoot the video.

  8. Yakito February 23, 2007 at 8:47 am - Reply

    thanks guy

  9. Dave February 23, 2007 at 10:01 am - Reply

    that was definitely one of the best panels i’ve ever seen. great job guy 🙂
    (and kudos to Noah for the conference… fantastic job!)

  10. noah kagan February 23, 2007 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Thanks for moderating Guy. You definitely kicked some ass!
    PS> I posted the Threadless video on

  11. Jody February 23, 2007 at 11:28 am - Reply

    Hi Guy. Thanks for this, while I’ve only had time to check out the first couple of minutes, it is very interesting… I will be checking out the rest over the weekend when I have more time. I love the fact that it laid back. It makes for a more entertaining panel and presentation. Great stuff. Can’t wait to see you here in Kelowna.

  12. Wendy Piersall :: eMom February 23, 2007 at 12:32 pm - Reply

    One Employee…
    One Employee?!
    You know, I didn’t even realize the self-imposed limitations I had going on in my head until I read that sentence.
    I think I just experienced a life-altering ‘Ah-Ha’ moment.
    I had better go get to work!
    (ps – as always, thanks for the inspiration!! 🙂 )

  13. Ken February 23, 2007 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Corey February 23, 2007 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this Guy. Loved it!

  15. Cliff Figallo February 23, 2007 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Having been there for the startup of the WELL in 1985, I recognize a lot of what these hilarious dudes are going through -just hoping people show up and make your place socially worth visiting, and hardly believing that some of them even get *addicted* to it. Your panel members are a lot more savvy about it than we were.
    You DO listen to your community, though, Markus. You just gotta know what to take action on.
    Good stuff, Guy.

  16. Kyle February 23, 2007 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    Great post guy…
    so POF should lie to it’s members then? an excerpt from his about page.
    “…. online dating site, and is constantly improving based on your feedback.”
    I thought you don’t listen to feedback =)

  17. Brandon Hopkins February 23, 2007 at 3:06 pm - Reply has one employee!?!?

  18. Johnny Chan February 23, 2007 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing, I always love the panels you moderate. You have a knack for putting people at ease and injecting some much needed levity.
    Interesting insight about the role that marketing plays in tech entrepreneurship, especially Max’s focus on the next viral fabric. It’s important to note since marketing’s natural tendency is to move from use to abuse as trends mature.

  19. Worldwide Success February 23, 2007 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Web Entrepreneurship – Learning From the Success of Others

    If you want to do well in a particular endeavor, one effective way to improve your chances of becoming successful is to watch and learn from people that are already doing it successfully. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should talk to as m…

  20. Maxo February 23, 2007 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Great Panel. Very Interesting. Just I think they need more microphones 🙂

  21. Jeff N February 23, 2007 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Cool stuff…
    While not every company deserves to live it’s impressive when a group (or sometimes just one) of passionate folks decide to make a go at it with something that they love to do long enough to make a business out of it. “Sticktoitiveness” strikes again!

  22. Clay Cook February 23, 2007 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the post guy.
    Wish I could have been there.

  23. Myspace Generator February 24, 2007 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Having only one employee means you get 100% of the profit! 🙂

  24. evden eve nakliyat February 24, 2007 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Im Mary
    very nice work

  25. Swiss made Entrepreneurship February 24, 2007 at 4:45 am - Reply

    Panel of Web Community Founders

    An interesting panel with young web community founders moderated by Guy Kawasaki:
    Panel participants:
    Sean Suhl of Suicide Girls
    Akash Garg of hi5
    Drew Curtis of Fark
    Markus Frind of PlentyofFish
    Max Levc…

  26. Dinesh February 24, 2007 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Very interesting. Thanks for posting / sharing.

  27. Marco K Polenta February 24, 2007 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this… a really interesting discussion.
    PS: hey, it’s my first post here!

  28. Anthony Papillion February 24, 2007 at 10:47 am - Reply

    Very cool video and definitely gave me the extra “umph” I needed to go out and just get it. Thanks for the excellent video!

  29. Harry Chong February 24, 2007 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Very useful stuff! Great video.

  30. ZeroPlay February 24, 2007 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Brilliant video, loved the guy from Fark – Pure comedy!

  31. Smarfy February 24, 2007 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Video, CommunityNext Panel of Web Community Founders Moderated by Guy Kawasaki

    Guy Kawasaki (Apple, Garage) moderated a panel of Web Community Founders at the CommunityNext conference at Stanford University. This was one of the most uplifting and entertaining panel discussions Ive ever watched. Of course, I&#…

  32. Johnnie Moore's Weblog February 25, 2007 at 2:16 am - Reply

    Coalitions of the willing

    After googling “coalition of the willing” I fear it may be too hard to rehabilitate the phrase. But itit would be nice use it to sum up a strategy that can work rather well: work with the active volunteers, don’t…

  33. Criss Ittermann February 25, 2007 at 8:03 am - Reply

    I heard about Sucide Girls years ago when I got a Caught in the Net review from Blowfish. Anything that portrays real women in a sexy but respectful manner is eye-catching. Other than HotOrNot, I didn’t know about the other panelists’ sites.
    Since the topic was about venture capital, I would have liked to hear 1) how DID they fund themselves (someone mentioned family loans, but no one else spoke of start-up money, whether they subsisted on rice & beans and funded their site on pocket lint….that’s where I’m at 😉 terrific ideas, but I need to pay my rent!!!) and 2) whether at any point the venture capitalists noticed them on the rise and rushed forward with offers of large sums of cash that they TURNED AWAY. That middle-finger potential would have made something that was funny even funnier 🙂 and a lot more on-topic for at least the title of this post 🙂
    I’m always frustrated at the number of “idea people” looking for a website designer/programmer (like me) to “take their idea to the next level” all for some small equity in what results — like us designers/programmers can’t find plenty of ideas of our own, and we don’t have bills to pay RIGHT NOW. 😛 And I’m glad that 2 of the six panelists remained 1 person companies! Go!! 🙂
    Thanks for a great time! You share the best of the best, and that’s why I stick around.

  34. Fabio Seixas, versão txt February 25, 2007 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    ComunnityNext: Painel com fundadores de grandes comunidades

    Guy Kawasaki intermediou um excelente painel com 6 empreendedores criadores de grandes comunidades durante o CommunityNext. Participaram do painel: Akash Garg do hi5 Sean Suhl do Suicide Girls Max Levchin do Slide James Hong do HotorNot Markus Frind do…

  35. worth February 26, 2007 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Fark is funny! Someone came to my blog from that site a week or so ago and I went back to check it out. Nothing like short attention span comedy to jump start your mood.
    One person is all it takes if you get out and spread your input to different places, which I started doing just a few weeks ago – a chart I submitted to last week is featured on their main page right now, front and center! SO exhilirating! – worth, aka num4tdog

  36. Brian February 26, 2007 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Haha, thats quite a collection of people. Its funny how these are the new heroes of the dot com age…now these website just need to start making some money!

  37. Mat Atkinson February 26, 2007 at 11:18 am - Reply

    One of the best panels I’ve seen. Great entertainment.
    Nothing really new in terms of insights – build around your needs/passions; avoid VC; let your customers guide you. But, totally refreshing to hear these stories first hand. These guys make it sound so easy!!

  38. Asiakkuudenhallinta February 27, 2007 at 12:57 am - Reply

    Guy Kawasaki veti CommunityNext-seminaarissa mielenkiintoisen paneelin web-yhteisöjen perustamisesta ja web-yrittäjyydestä.

  39. lucie February 28, 2007 at 4:43 am - Reply

    Excellent! Missing only one thing: Cabel Sasser of Panic Inc.

  40. UserDriven March 3, 2007 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    CommunityNext Founders Panel

    (via How to Change the World: Panel of Web Community Founders: Utter Defiance of the “Venture Capital” Model)

  41. John March 5, 2007 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Great video! The pannel (and moderator) were very interesting and very amusing…

  42. Dave Dugdale March 8, 2007 at 10:54 am - Reply

    I will agree this is great content – please provide more videos like this.

  43. webtech March 10, 2007 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Can you please post the videos in you tube. You tube player does a nice job of buffering the video content when the connection speed is not good. Google video player doesnt care to buffer. With google video player lots of breaks while playing. When I press the pause button it stops buffering. You tube player continues buffering the contnet when I press the pause button. I can press the play button when buffering is complete. So you tube player please.
    The problem is that YouTube doesn’t permit long videos. This video would be something like 9 separate ones.

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