How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

New Internet life in New York

June 2, 2009: 3:05 PM ET

New York City is second fiddle to Silicon Valley when it comes to tech start-ups. But one intriguing new Internet company is about to launch here in Manhattan in two weeks.

Have you heard about Hunch? This morning at a Women in Media breakfast, I ran into Caterina Fake, the  entrepreneur best known for co-founding Flickr and selling it to Yahoo (YHOO). Last time I saw her was at the home of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, in Silicon Valley. As I've written, Sandberg frequently hosts tech's rising-star women for soirees with guest speakers.

Caterina Fake

Hunch was just a glimmer of an idea back then. It was going to be site for consumers to use to help them make decisions. But, Fake (left) told me today, she hadn't a clue about what it would look like or how it would be used.

Now she knows. She describes Hunch as a mix of a "decision tree" and a "Magic 8 Ball." (Remember the toy black ball that told you your fate and fortune when you were a kid?) On Hunch, you type in a question like...

What car should I buy?...

What's wrong with my pet?...

Should I write a novel?

And Hunch responds by asking you questions. You click Yes or No in response to each one, and eventually you arrive at an answer. Fake says that she and her colleagues worked to make Hunch fun, like a game, so people stay on the site for a while.

What will visitors use Hunch for most often -- career advice? Food tips? Shopping savvy? Fake doesn't know. That's part of the excitement of launching a new venture, she says.

This breakfast, part of Internet Week in New York, included lots of high achievers, who have jumped from traditional companies to the digital space. There was Betsy Morgan, who left CBS (CBS) to be CEO of the Huffington Post. And Susan Lyne, ex-Disney (DIS) and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), who is now CEO of Gilt Groupe. You wouldn't think that this online fashion-brand merchant would have a Gooogle-like growth trajectory, but it does in its first two years. Watch for Lyne to broaden the platform  beyond high-end clothes and accessories.

It was a kick to see Eileen Naughton, who was, in the mid-'90s, general manager of Fortune and later president of Time magazine. She spent 16 years at Time Inc. (TWX), got squeezed out in 2005, and landed on her feet. Actually, she landed at Google (GOOG), where she's now director of digital platforms. Her purview includes YouTube and DoubleClick.

Naughton echoed the other women at the breakfast, who said that New York City needs more engineering and tech talent to compete with Silicon Valley. "The best place to get engineering talent right now is investment banking," Naughton said.

That's a silver lining of the recession: tremendous talent, looking for new employment. Another silver lining is attractive real estate prices. Another tech entrepreneur, SheFinds Media CEO Michelle Madhok, told the group that she just rented 1,000 square feet for new offices and scored a deal: $22 per square foot. That's about 40% lower than a year ago.PATTIE signature

Join the Conversation
Fortune's Most Powerful Women
Fortune's Most Powerful Women For the latest on the most influential women in business, philanthropy, government, and the arts, like us on Facebook.
Guest Posts
Fortune Most Powerful Women Fortune Most Powerful Women The rolodex that redefined power
Profile in The Washington Post
Sheryl Sandberg: Sheryl Sandberg: Don't leave before you leave
COO of Facebook
Wendy Clark Wendy Clark Exec learns firsthand how the homeless live
SVP of the Global Sparkling Brand Center at Coca-Cola
Marissa Mayer's 3 biggest decisions as Yahoo CEO With company stock up over 100% since she began running the company 16 months ago, Mayer reflects on her choices to date. Watch
Chelsea Clinton on running for office: 'I don't know' The vice chairman of the Clinton Foundation talks about her diverse career path and growing up in the spotlight. Watch
About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

Email Pattie Sellers | Welcome to Postcards.
Follow Pattie | email newsletter
MPWomen go Global

The Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership brings rising-star women from countries around the world to the U.S. for three-week mentorships with participants of the annual Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit - among them Ursula Burns of Xerox, Laura Lang of Time Inc., Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, and Tory Burch.

Read more

Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by VIP.