Counting Down with Liz Claman, Anchor for Fox Business
Hello and welcome to Zing Talk, where Benzinga brings you the biggest names and brightest minds from Silicon Valley to New York City.
Today our guest is Liz Claman, the anchor of Countdown to the Closing Bell on Fox Business Network. How ya doing today Liz?
I am well! I'm better than ever. We just finished Day 1 of 3 Days in the Valley. We had a parade of CEOs coming through and it's so exciting and inspiring.
We're excited to tune into you and listen to the great interviews you have lined up. Have you done this sort of thing before? Going out and interviewing CEOs in the field so to speak?
Oh sure. My whole career. I started in local media, covering drug busts and murders. Then I graduated to business news [laughs]. I'll tell you something -- I came to Fox Business three years ago, and we came up with an idea to have our own conference in Silicon Valley because it truly is the most creative job engine in the nation. So we started our own conference -- we called it 3 Days in the Valley after the movie 2 Days in the Valley, and see who will show up and how we can do it. We decided we should do a different location each day.
Our first year, on the first day, we called up Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and asked if we could broadcast from their campus, and to their credit they immediately said yes. They put no restrictions on us. So we called all these CEOs and said, “Hey, do you wanna come to Intel? We're broadcasting live all day.” Everybody showed up. Everybody! And we had the biggest names in the Valley.
We had Twitter and LinkedIn three years ago when they weren't really that big. So we took a chance on them and they took a chance on us, along with the big names like Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) and Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) and all the big chip equipment makers.
It was so great for everyone to realize that Fox Business is going to give you an opportunity to really tell your business story -- not hammer you for two and a half minutes with people yelling at you and asking about your stock price. That's not what we do.
Could you run through some of the people you're talking to this week?
Today we had John Donahoe of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), Scott Thompson of PayPal. Donahoe flat-out said that PayPal will eventually be bigger than eBay, and Thompson was like, “Don't say that! Don't say that!” [Laughs]
On Thursday we're live from Yahoo!, and we're gonna have a parade of CEOs there as well.
What are your thoughts on Twitter going public? Should they be doing that now or down the road?
Twitter has grown so much. But I look at them and say guys, don't miss your moment! Iran had elections when the only form of communication coming out of the country (they had protests going on at the time) was coming out of Twitter. I said this is your moment! I'd go public tomorrow! Call somebody! You don't want to miss that moment or you blow it.
How do you get access to these people?
I have 13 years of business journalism under my belt and people have seen how I do my work. I am very fair. But I will always try and take the interview in a direction that other journalists may not.
I could very easily sit there and talk to Paul Otellini about his balance sheet, cash on hand, and price to earnings ratio, but you know what? You can get that on Yahoo! Finance. I'm more interested in what he thinks about the political landscape, when is he really going to hire in a meaningful way, when are these companies going to expand?
For example, John Donahoe, I asked him why he moved some of his operations to Utah -- what's up with that? Is it because the climate in California is so unfriendly at the moment? And you know, he denied that.
I talked to Tim Draper, he's a venture capitalist, and once I got through the whole what-are-you-putting-money-into-now, we got off on a tangent about the movie Waiting for Superman, about the school system. It turns out that Tim had worked very hard to get the voucher situation put on the California ballet, it was shot down, and he cried over that when he saw the movie.
When you can get super smart people from Silicon Valley to talk about issues we all care about versus, “Oooh! What's your stock price doing this month!” I think that's so much more valuable to our viewers.
Something that's been coming up a lot lately is the political climate in Silicon Valley. It's always been known as the Wild West for entrepreneurs -- is that changing?
Well, I asked everybody, do you think Ben Bernake can save the bank system or stabilize it? And they said, “Ben who?” They were joking but they just weren't thinking about it, and that's what I love about this area. They weren't all obsessed with the failure of Lehman Brothers. They were just trying to come up with the next great idea.
I think it's important and refreshing to hear that. But now more than ever, especially because a lot of these guys are small businesses or at one time they were, you want to get their opinion on the mid-term election, about the administration -- is it anti-business? Is it business-friendly? Do they understand how important it is that there's a rich atmosphere for growth for small businesses? You get perspective from these guys and it's very valuable.
What have you been hearing from them?
Today, John Donahoe said that he spoke to Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, and he said that he absolutely listened and said he understood about making that the climate comfortable for small businesses.
Okay, then I get these guys behind the scenes have said to me, “Listen, I supported Obama. I voted for President Obama and I feel like the business climate is unfriendly right now.” So, sometimes they may not go out on a limb to say that, but some of them aren't happy. Some of them are fine with it, especially the ones that are in green and clean technology.
What have been some of the interesting findings you've heard from CEOs so far? Any breaking news?
Alan Salzman of VenturePoint Venture Partners just put $100 million into a fund in China. I got him to tell me that the Chinese government helped him with that fund and gave him some favorable terms. Yet the US government doesn't really have an opportunity to do it that way.
I really pushed Enrique Salem (CEO of Symantec) on the Facebook privacy issue, and he flat-out said that once you lose that personal information it's gone forever. You could argue that that was translation for, “Facebook blew it.”
I'm gonna give you the loudspeaker now so that you can sound off on anything that's going on in the world that you think is not getting enough attention or being sufficiently reported.
Here's what I think: never count out American business. I don't care who's in office as President. American businesses will always start up and will always fight to survive. Now, that said, everybody that's been complaining about the financial regulatory reform thing, it's gonna make it a lot harder to do business, I would say this -- billionaires from Argentina who choose to live in New York City or LA. Why? Because this is still the best place to raise your children, to start a business, to grow a new world and to come up with ideas.
We have the rule of law and this is America, and it's the best place ever. So anybody who wants to say, oh, all these businesses will pull up their stakes and move to Argentina or Brazil, you watch. Once they get there and they realize they have to bribe 50 people just to get a phone line or whatever it is -- America is it, America is coming back, and you'll hear from these CEOs that they absolutely believe that to be true.
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