Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

The Social Networks of Silicon Valley

This is a guest post from Walter Chen, BS '04, as part of an ongoing series of posts about his experiences as a Cornell startup founder in San Francisco. He is the co-founder of Leasely, which makes online tenant screening dead simple. Walter previously contributed to Lincoln on MetaEzra. He can be reached at @smalter or walter@leasely.com.

The Cornell network has served me well out here in Silicon Valley. I had lunch with my sophomore-year roommate Jae two weeks ago and he's on his grind in the startup world. After college, he went to work at Alexa and then Yelp where he saved up enough dough to try his own thing for a year or two. He's building Startedby, and it turns out his co-founder is another Cornell CS guy. They didn't know each other back in Ithaca, but I think they met through ideakick, which this guy, Trevor Gross started. Jae and I had a falling out after our disastrous sophomore year living situation and we hadn't talked much in 4 years. But he's one of the brightest and strangest people I've ever met so it was a pleasure to kick ideas around with him and give each other a bit of encouragement.

A guy I didn't know at Cornell who's doing it big out here in the Bay is Euwyn Poon. I think he emailed me out of the blue a few years ago because we're both CS guys turned lawyers and I was working on a legal search engine. Turns out he's also friends with MetaEzra's very own Matt Nagowski. That Euwyn went to Cornell actually seems to be part of the narrative about his company because he graduated Cornell at 19. In addition to being a wunderkind, he's been generous with introducing me to important startup folks. For instance, he set me up with Eric Wu, CEO of Movity, which does neat data visualizations which help you decide where to live. Movity was just acquired by Trulia, which is a big real estate search site. Obviously, if Leasely finds some success in making apartment rental applications happen online, Euwyn's introduction may prove particularly fruitful, in addition to how useful it's already been in giving us the chance to put our ideas in front of very smart and knowledgable dudes.

Of course the social network that you get from having gone to a particular college doesn't really dominate the scene. You often hear references to, for instance, the PayPal mafia, which is a group of early PayPal folks that go around helping each other get rich in powerful like Sicilian gangsters but without the overt violence and code of honor. Euwyn's company, Opzi, is a Y Combinator company which is a similarly powerful network. Admission into those clubs comes mostly from just being good, I suspect.

Last week, Rodrigo, Peng, and I launched iDoneThis, an email-based productivity tool. We made one post on Y Combinator's Hacker News which got upvoted to the front page. Our story got picked up by The Next Web in the lifehacks section. All that amounted to some 1,400 visitors and 150 signups. Not bad for a day's work. Communities like Hacker News and reddit are so influential that even without any meatspace social network, you can connect to people on the scale of hundreds of thousands simply with a product tailored to those folks and a couple of social bookmarks. Threewords.me, which you might've heard of if you were a 14 year old girl, blew up last week and started out with just one link by the creator on his Facebook, and then proliferated through Facebook and Tumblr before exploding into a big orgy of words.

With the cost and investment required to prove a concept lower than ever, the name of the game these days is really social adoption and not so much technical agility. The amount of social interaction expected out of startup founders these days is enough to make you want to crawl into a hole and surf the web from there.

Walter Chen | Posted on January 05, 2011 (#)

blog comments powered by Disqus

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)