AT PLAY Jonathan Abrams at Kate O’Briens bar in San Francisco. Working on his new social networking Web site leaves little time for the real thing, he says.
By GREGORY DICUM / NYTimes
Published: January 2, 2009
IN San Francisco, the ongoing financial crisis can sometimes seem little more than a rumor, especially at night. Restaurants are still packed, bars are hopping, parties remain remarkably free of long faces. It is in part thanks to Web 2.0 — the blockbuster field of online social networking — that much of San Francisco is partying on.
Jonathan Abrams, the serial entrepreneur who founded Friendster in 2002, and Socializr, a site devoted to optimizing users’ social calendars, last February, is in the thick of the scene.
The e-mail invitation for an evening out from Mr. Abrams included a pink candy heart with both our names engraved on it and an audio stream of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” — a twee amalgam that I chose to read as endearingly ironic.
I met Mr. Abrams, who is originally from Toronto, at an Irish bar in the SoMa district (so named for “south of Market Street,” the city’s main drag), where unpretentious millionaire geniuses live and breathe databases and venture capital.
“I’m going to have a chick drink,” said Mr. Abrams, 38, ordering a vanilla Stoli and Coke. “I got it from the ex of an ex-girlfriend. He’s a nerd like me.”
In a black OBEY Propaganda T-shirt and jeans, with terminal bed head and a hoary beard tinged gray — perhaps from his days coding for Netscape — Mr. Abrams was at his most voluble discussing the cozy world of Silicon Valley.
“I am a technology entrepreneur and a nerd. My life isn’t that interesting, except that I own a bar,” he said, referring to Slide, the San Francisco nightclub where he is one of the owners.
If Mr. Abrams straddles the divide between serious geek and party animal, at present the former dominates. Socializr, which combines event-planning with features like photo-sharing and friends-of-friends networking, takes up too much of his time for him to enjoy the life of a real socializer.
“When you’re running one of these things,” he said, “you don’t have time to take advantage of it.” Still, he said, “It was a natural thing for me to do because I used to throw a lot of parties in my loft.”
Instead of a nightclub, we went next door to the offices of a Web start-up where a weekly poker game of young dot-commers was in full swing.
“I like to keep connected to this younger generation of guys,” Mr. Abrams said.
It was a lively crowd of about a dozen overachievers from various newish Web enterprises, like Dropbox, Disqus, Justin.tv, Scribd, Snaptalent, Livemeeting and an unnamed enterprise in Cupertino, Calif. Everyone was in T-shirts and jeans, playing low-stakes Texas Hold ’Em around a conference table. Black LCD monitors surrounded us, an invitation to get back to work.
By the time we took a Twitter break, I was down $40. Mr. Abrams, who spent much of the game scowling (he is the kind of player who either folds early or raises relentlessly), ended the night up.
“I don’t want to say how much,” he said by e-mail later, “because it’s a bit embarrassing.”