At Disrupt SF in San Francisco this morning, in front of a packed audience, Greylock investors Reid Hoffman and Josh Elman talked about some of the trends that they’re tracking in the startup universe. Among them: the opportunity to create technologies that enhance self-driving cars. “It’s clear that self driving revolution is upon us,” said Hoffman. “If you have a unique talent, it’s good time to be looking at it.”
Pointing to Greylock’s investment in fast-growing video social network Musical.ly, Elman suggested the firm remains committed to uncovering opportunities in mobile, too. “Musical.ly has over 10 million daily users and is growing very rapidly, so we think there’s still plenty of room for people to connect via apps and services.”
Asked about artificial intelligence by TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino, who moderated the session, both VCs also noted their enthusiasm over today’s emerging ubiquitous conversational interfaces. Indeed, Hoffman cited the company’s investments in Ozlo, a personalized AI that makes finding information on one’s phone easier; Jelly, the human-powered discovery and search parsing engine driven by images; and the messaging-based AI tool Operator.
Elman meanwhile suggested that the firm continues to track technologies that get people out from behind their desks and map our physical world, a la “Pokemon Go.” “I think [such services] that can engage us and guide where you go will create a bunch of transformative stuff.”
Asked whether they worried that the likes of AI-obsessed Amazon and Google will soon make it harder for nascent startups to compete, Elman compared today to the post dot-com days of the early 2000s, when Google’s rise might have made it challenging to build a solid internet company of a similar scale. Just three companies to emerge in the following years were LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and “none required a lot of deep tech at the outset,” said Elman.
“I think the same will happen now [despite that] Google and Apple have these platforms. When entrepreneurs get [a novel] experience just right, it can cascade and compound into bigger things.”
Before letting them off stage, Panzarino asked whether either imagined that LinkedIn would be a subsidiary of a larger company, as has happened now that Microsoft has acquired the company for $26.2 billion in cash. (The deal is expected to close this year.) Hoffman, of course, cofounded LinkedIn; Elman was its first product manager.
Hoffman insisted that he never thinks about outcomes in binary ways. “You’re in service to the mission” of the company, he said. Establishing LinkedIn was never about “creating a company that would live 10 or 100 years.” Meanwhile, selling to Microsoft had everything to do with “creating value in members’ lives. They make organizations more productive; we make individuals more productive.” It only made sense to put them together, Hoffman added.