All Aboard The Torricelli Express
It was a little over 1 year ago, and Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ launched an IPO to fund his own brainchild; a social media aggregator entitled #Waywire. He felt that he could offer something brand new to the social media industry and speak for younger Americans of The Millennial Generation. His project started with a bang, but appears to be about to end with a thud. Mayor Booker has discovered what many before him have learned already. You can’t lie down with the dogs and not get infested with fleas.
Booker described his mission as a modernization. “Traditional media is controlled by a handful of companies with one destination and a specific point of view,” Booker said, “while [Millennials] have come of age expecting social media, user-generated voices, the open web and technology led media.” Techli.com wrote a glowing description of the initial success of his IPO.
#Waywire raised $1.75M in a seed round that reportedly included Google’s Eric Schmidt, Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter and television star Oprah Winfrey, a prominent Booker supporter. The project has already received praise in the web and business communities largely on the merit of Booker’s notability…
Yet hidden within the fanmag praise, we can already see the initial issues. #Waywire was less of a social aggregator and more of a social club. It became a place where the rich and famous behaved richly and famously. When the 14-year-old son of CNN president Jeff Zucker was given a seat on the #Waywire Board of Directors; even Huffpo acquisition Gawker.com felt compelled to chuck the Red Bravo-Sierra Flag.
…Booker is using his foundering video startup Waywire to make friends and little else. The place is an investment bucket, providing financial backing from Google’s Eric Schmidt, a portal to ultra-lucrative Silicon Valley campaign fundraising, and a board job for Andrew Zucker, 14-year-old son of CNN’s media-wrecking president Jeff Zucker. The New York Times notes Waywire is providing young Andrew with equity in the company in exchange for his position on its perfectly vague advisory board, which includes some notable figures who aren’t there because of their dads: Twitter VP Katie Stanton, blowhard media prognosticator Jeff Jarvis, AOL exec Susan Lyne, and—here’s a good one for Cory’s squad—former FEC commissioner Trevor Potter.
Cory Booker, while very image-conscious himself, had trouble understanding and policing his enterprise well enough to ward off troublemakers. Like trolls who attempt to post hate speech here, internet users attempted to infiltrate #Waywire. While RS.com aggressively bans posts that claim Abraham Lincoln was the original inspiration for Fascism and other such nonsense, #Waywire either didn’t pay close enough attention or got totally overwhelmed with toxic volume.
Waywire user Scott Rickard posted a lovely video which speaks fondly of a supposed commonality between Bill Maher and Louis Farrakhan in how each man views people of Jewish ethnicity. It doesn’t require a link, so I give you a link to a description of it instead and admonish you that it is fairly revolting. This, and other examples of Anti-Semitism have brought condemnation to #Waywire.
“It’s difficult to understand how the new video sharing site can be touted as an attempt to ‘elevate the global conversation’ when the first page of videos you see upon typing the word ‘Jew’ includes clips of Louis Farrakhan claiming Jews control the world, another evoking conspiracy theories based on the Rothschilds family, and another featuring Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel,” said Adam Levick
Booker is now predictably back-peddling. His defenders are circling the wagons around Booker. As of 7 August, the Younger Zucker was a former BOD member at #Waywire. The company moved quickly to sever Booker’s liability.
New Jersey senatorial candidate Cory Booker was “not involved at all” in the addition of Andrew Zucker to the advisory board of a tech startup that Booker co-founded, according to a company spokesperson. And now it may not much matter, as the 15 year-old has resigned from the board — effective as of earlier this afternoon.
We see a similar castling to protect the king with respect to the charges of anti-Semitic video postings. New America Foundation fellow Marvin Ammori spins like a circus performer on behalf of Mayor Booker.
“Let’s say that you’re a politician and you happen to be an investor in a phone company, and people use the phone to conspire to break into a bank or something. The politician has nothing to do with that,” said Ammori. “If people think of Waywire as just another platform where people build a community with one another, then you can’t really blame Cory Booker for the stuff people put up there.”
Nobody can blame Cory for much of anything it seems. They certainly can’t blame Cory for putting #Waywire up for sale and running far away. The poor man has to concentrate on his Senate campaign which is clearly more important than being The Honorable Mayor of Newark.
People claim not to really know what #Waywire is worth. I can hazard a guess of what it is worth minus Cory Booker. I’m certain that predictable departure is already priced in to any offers being made for the company. I’m also certain that anyone who has bet more than they could afford to lose on Cory Booker’s entrepreneurial prowess will be left hanging on #Waywire. It was nothing better than a corrupt social club for the promotion of Cory Booker. It was The Honorable Cory Booker’s ticket aboard The Torricelli Express.