Will anybody push the ‘up’ button?

Marketplace Staff Mar 15, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: The usually laid-back city of Austin, Texas, is drawing a crowd this week. Tech entrepreneurs and digital innovators from all over the world are there for panels and parties at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival. Between bands playing great music the conversations will be about how interactive technology’s going to shape the future.

Commentator and Web entrepreneur wannabe Rob Long loves gatherings like that. He says it’s where he’s most likely to find a captive audience for his big idea.

ROB LONG: The handwriting on the wall is pretty clear: Old Media is changing, Hollywood is cutting back, and network television, where I work, is in free-fall. So I’ve become an entrepreneur in New Media. I’m a guy with a website, looking for investors.

Now, the thing every big-time investors asks you is, “What’s your elevator pitch?” Meaning, how do you describe your business in an interesting, dynamic and complete way and fit in all into the time it takes to take a short elevator ride. In other words, “I’m busy, make it fast, keep it simple. I’m pressing the down button. You’ve got six floors. Go.”

I’ve got a fantastic new Web business. It’s called Yurth.com. That’s y-u-r-t-h, “your earth,” get it?

Five floors.

We’re a map-based tool for organizing, aggregating and communicating Web video. We’re not a disorganized mess like YouTube. We’re useful. We’re clear. We’re like a video Craigslist.

Three floors.

In the next year, every cell phone is going to have video capability. Yurth is a way to capture that market and focus it into something that actually makes money. Classified ads, dating, hiring — anything that current appears on Craigslist will appear on Yurth, but with video. For all of its reach, the truth is, on the Web, local is huge.

He looks up, interested. Two floors left.

A lot of web brands are going to have to compete with Craigslist in the next year or two. Yurth is a powerful way to do just that.

One floor left.

Yurth.com isn’t just a site, it’s a new kind of homepage, and because it’s a better place for advertisers to reach their audience, it’s one more sign of the end of Old Media.

The door opens. He looks hooked. “Do you have a card?” he asks. I give him one. But it suddenly occurs to me that I still work in Old Media. In fact, I’m taking all of the money I made in writing and producing network television and investing in something that, if successful, will help destroy network television. But because I sort of need to keep working in television to keep bootstrapping Yurth, the timing here gets very, very tricky. In other words, I really need that guy to call me back.

The doors close. He gets off. And I go down. Which I hope is not a metaphor.

RYSSDAL: Rob Long’s a television writer and producer here in Los Angeles.

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