The Mutant Meme

I just spent two days in San Francisco at Fortune’s new iMeme conference. A couple weeks ago, I told my partner Brad that I didn’t like the word meme. He told me that I needed to learn to like it because it was a neat concept. So I am working on it. This post is going to use the word meme a lot.

Last night’s panel with Bill Joy, Craig Venter, and Richard Dawkins was a highlight of the iMeme conference. Bill and Craig are science superstars and I enjoyed listening to them talk about science, particularly as it relates to climate change and how we might address the issues.

Richard was a great addition to the panel. His wit kept everything light enough to make it entertaining. And Richard got to talk about the word meme, which apparently he coined. Now I like the word even better because I like the guy who coined it.

Richard explained that memes are like genes. They are ideas that spread by replication. I took genetic biology in college so I get it now. Memes are idea genes.

So I was on a panel this morning at the same conference which was moderated by my friend Adam Lashinsky. Adam is good at what he does and he gets the issues right out there. So at one point he starts in, “Fred, you recently wrote a post saying you are looking to fund younger entrepreneurs”.

I looked at him, sighed, and told Adam that I didn’t say anything of the sort. I explained that we have been seeing a lot more younger entrepreneurs and I blogged about that fact and why it might be happening.

But that doesn’t matter. Because the meme is already out there. Fred Wilson likes younger entrepreneurs. He’s looking to fund them. Don’t bother to go see him if you are older than 22.

Nothing could be farther from the truth of course. All you need to do is look at the teams we’ve been backing and they are pretty balanced across the spectrum of ages from mid 20s to almost 60.

And so I learned that a meme can also mutate. And then the mutant meme replicates. And so even a top notch journalist like Adam who works hard to get his facts straight, gets them wrong.

Thank god I’ve got this blog to set the record straight and demutate the meme. Or so I hope. Maybe I should get Richard and Craig to show me how its done.