New Bloomberg Show's Anchors: Bay Area Tech Boom is "Changing the Future"
How big is the current technology boom that is centered in and around San Francisco?
Big enough that New York-based Bloomberg Television has hired 65 reporters and editors to cover it, as well as launched a new daily program that is broadcast live at 3 pm every day from the company's base at Pier 3 on the San Francisco waterfront.
"This is an amazing moment in the history of technology," says co-host Emily Chang, former CNN correspondent in Beijing. "It's important to cover it since everybody is holding it in their hands -- in the form of a smartphone."
"The story is about innovation and technology and why it matters to every single business anywhere, and we're going to tell it from the Bay Area to the rest of the world," says Cory Johnson, a veteran investigative reporter and former hedge fund analyst who is the show's other host.
"Telling it from here is the way to do it," he adds. "We're not going to wait for the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal to tell us what is happening out here."
The program, which debuted on Monday, this week featured live interviews with the CEOs of Comcast and Juniper, aggressive coverage of Steve Jobs' surprise appearance announcing the iPad 2, and a visit with IBM's chief technologist about "Watson," the computer that can beat humans at "Jeopardy."
Johnson, who in the past covered the tech sector on the west coast for CNBC, TheStreet.com and Time, said there's something new about the current proliferation of startups in San Francisco.
"It feels a lot different from the dot.com era. The cost of starting a company has shrunk because of innovations in the cloud, social media and mobile computing. You don't need as much money or as many people to start a million-dollar company these days. You can start one for $10,000 or less."
From his time as a portfolio manager at Kinsford Capital and an analyst at Cannell Capital LLC, Johnson says he learned how to ferrett out "fakes and frauds" from the real deal, and that he will continue to do this type of investigative work on the new Bloomberg West program.
Chang, meanwhile, intends to make use of her background covering global trends in technology, including some of the "untold stories" from her time in China. Those include that country's social media -- Tencent, RenRen, Qzone -- as well as the problem of censorship, and the exclusion of U.S. companies from a market that now numbers some 450 million Internet users and 300 million smartphone owners.
"Any time there is a hint of protest in China, there is a government crackdown," notes Chang. "But it is getting more difficult for the government to contain now that technology is pervasive. People know how to use VPNs to get around the firewalls so they can access Google, Facebook, and everything else in their uncensored form."
She adds that "it is so important to understand the impacts on the rest of the world" of the technology innovations occurring here. "Facebook and Twitter are reshaping communications, social behavior, and diplomatic relations all over the world. Just look at recent events in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Social media are playing a significant role in transforming societies and are changing the future."
Chang notes also that three of the four biggest companies in the U.S. -- Apple, Google and Microsoft -- are all based on the West Coast.
The show, which is rebroadcast at 8 pm nightly, and is always available on the web, may be the first-ever from San Francisco by a major business media outlet. At least neither Johnson nor I cannot recall any previous attempts on the scale of what Bloomberg has elected to do.
"They've sunk some serious coin into this," says Johnson. "And who would have guessed that a bunch of New Yorkers would come in here and let us do it right, even down to the details. The studio has views of the Bay Bridge in the background, not the Golden Gate; and The Embarcadero's palm trees, not the Transamerica Pyramid."
Although based in the city, the journalists consider their beat as the entire West Coast, from Seattle to San Diego, as well as the international perimeter of the Pacific Rim.
"The bottom line is if you're in business, you've gotta know the latest with Facebook and social media, cloud computing, and mobile platforms," says Johnson. "And they're all centered right here in the Bay Area. It's a fun story to tell."