Friday, August 24, 2007

Five Questions for Ted Leonsis on Facebook

Q1: Ted, you signed up for Facebook less than 3 weeks ago and have already amassed 300 friends via “counter punching”, what do you like most about Facebook so far?

Ted: I am meeting friends I never knew I had or had lost contact with. That is why I like Facebook; it is not helpful to me for connecting with my inner circle-- we are already connected via email, instant messaging, cell phone and face to face communications; but I now hear from many folks that I had lost contact with over the years.

Q2: Steve Case is quoted in the current Newsweek cover story as saying, “Facebook has emerged as the 'it' service and company ... It represents the next logical progression." Do you agree?

Ted: I do think Facebook has the buzz-- mostly because it is a young adult service. It has become a utility rather than a service about love or hipness--or just hooking up-- and it is clean--fast and high on efficiency. I still await a third party app that blows me away for utility. Today, most of the new apps are cool- but empty calories.

Q3: The VC and software development community seem very excited about Facebook being a development platform, but it’s a development platform in a walled garden (similar to AOL’s client software). Do you think there are big opportunities for entrepreneurs via Facebook?

Ted: It is unclear whether on such an intimate setting as Facebook will do well for commerce; chat rooms haven’t welcomed ad businesses; messaging has NOT scaled for commerce and most of the new services on Facebook are nice to haves--not must haves. The jury is still out-- but many developers and VC's will die trying to make this the next big interactive real estate play.

Already I feel my Facebook page has become cluttered with other people's stuff-- Facebook must be vigilant in not allowing too much development and commerce -- as the environment is still young and developing-- opening everything up sounds great in concept but there is risk in that the community may reject a majority of the in your face selling oriented apps.

Q4: As an owner of multiple sports franchises and as a philanthropist/Filmanthropist do you see social networks like Facebook as playing an important part in reaching your business interests and the causes you support?

Ted: I think the newsfeeds and wall and groups functions can be very helpful to sports franchises--any medium that is user generated--authentic and can circle up "passionates" must be understood and embraced by owners of sports teams. My bet is the majority of my friends will end up being fans of my sports teams.

Q5: The Newsweek article referenced above says Case is Facebook friends with Bill Gates. How about you?

Ted: I have asked Bill Gates to add me as a friend--I await his response.

Ted Leonsis is a Vice Chair for AOL, majority owner of the NHL Washington Capitals and the WNBA Washington Mystics as well as a minority owner of the NBA Washington Wizards. He’s also a self-styled “Filmanthropist,” producing the award winning documentary film, Nanking.

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