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Spreading Jam

A VC - October 20, 2020 - 7:02am

If your job requires you to design, build, and ship software applications and you want a better way to get feedback on the application, the design, etc, then I have a suggestion for you. Try Jam. Or Jam.dev to be specific.

Jam allows you to turn your web application into something akin to Google Docs, where your colleagues, customers, beta testers, QA team, etc can comment directly on the application. Jam integrates with existing tools like Jira, GitHub, Slack, Figma, Loom, and others to make the feedback collected on Jam as actionable as possible.

Jam was built by Dani Grant and Mohd Irtefa, who met as product managers at our portfolio company Cloudflare. Dani then spent two years at USV helping us spot interesting investments before starting Jam. USV is a seed investor in Jam along with our friends at Version One, Box Group, and Village Global.

So if you want a better way to collect feedback on your application, spread some jam on it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Setting Off On Your Own

A VC - October 19, 2020 - 5:11am

I read Alex Konrad’s profile of Fred Ehrsam and Matt Huang of Paradigm yesterday and was reminded of my own career.

In 1996, after almost a decade at Euclid Partners, I left to start Flatiron Partners with Jerry Colonna. I was 35. Jerry was 33. We had a lot to learn but we did know one thing. We knew that the Internet was upon us and it was going to be big.

We had absolutely no clue how big it was going to be. But that did not matter. We got to work investing in Internet companies and we did very well until the bubble and crash.

If you read Alex’s profile of Fred and Matt, you will learn that they are 32 and 31, and that they believe that crypto will be big.

The Gotham Gal and I are investors in Paradigm, so I am biased, but I believe that Fred and Matt are right and that, like Jerry and me, they have no idea how big it will be.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Westbeth

A VC - October 16, 2020 - 4:19am

The Gotham Gal and I have lived a block away from Westbeth for almost fifteen years. Westbeth is a treasure. It was Bell Labs for most of the first half of the twentieth century and became an artist community in 1970 about twenty years after Bell Labs left for New Jersey.

Earlier this week, I backed a photobook project on Kickstarter to document many of the artists who live there. That project was funded and is over now.

The video does a great job of showcasing what Westbeth is and so I am embedding it here on the blog. If you are reading this in email you can go here and watch the video.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

A Failing Grade

A VC - October 15, 2020 - 4:41am

I wrote yesterday, about the quarterly numbers for VC investing activity:

If this was a student coming home with a report card, it would be straight As.

Well, I missed something in the data that was subsequently reported on by PitchBook, one of the authors of the report:

Venture funding for female founders has hit its lowest quarterly total in three years.

Firms invested a total of $434 million in Q3—the lowest figure since the second quarter of 2017, according to PitchBook data. The third quarter total also amounts to a 48% drop in funding from Q2, when female founders received $841 million across 132 deals.

https://pitchbook.com/news/articles/vc-funding-female-founders-drops-low

I hope Q3 is an anomaly and not the reversal of a trend that has mostly been “up and to the right” in recent years.

We continue to see, and fund, great woman founders so I am hoping that there is not some fundamental change to the market that is hurting women founders. But it is possible that there is and I missed that in my blog yesterday. I will give myself an F for that.

I’ve seen a few replies on Twitter that suggest the same is true for underrepresented minorities. I have not seen the data to back that up but if it is true, that is also a failing grade for the VC sector.

I have been encouraged by what I have seen in the VC/startup sector regarding opening up access to women founders and founders of color. It feels like positive change is happening. But we have to see that in the numbers or it is just talk.

And apparently we did not see it in the numbers last quarter.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Venture Funding Trends Intact

A VC - October 14, 2020 - 7:42am

The NVCA and Pitch Book are out with their Q3 report on the VC industry and what they report is that the VC industry continues to be very active throughout the pandemic. Deal counts and deal values are stable to up over last year. The massive expansion of later-stage private capital continues unabated. Valuations continue to rise. And exits have been very robust.

If this was a student coming home with a report card, it would be straight As. The startup economy is alive and well during the pandemic.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Numerai Signals

A VC - October 13, 2020 - 4:52am

Our portfolio company Numerai, which operates the crowdsourced Numerai Hedge Fund and is the creator of the Numeraire crypto token introduced their latest effort, Numerai Signals, with this video yesterday:


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

My Latest Interview

Beyond Money - October 12, 2020 - 10:11am

On October 7 I was interviewed by Patricia Cori for her program, Beyond the Matrix.

WE’RE IN AN INFLATIONARY DEPRESSION! NOW WHAT?
Categories: Blog articles

The De-Carbonization Of The Economy

A VC - October 12, 2020 - 5:08am

Over the last decade, the Gotham Gal and I have moved away from oil and gas in our homes and have installed solar panels for electricity and heat pumps for heating and cooling. It has gotten less expensive to do this swap out as solar and heat pump costs have come down. My partner Albert told me that when you factor in the financing costs of this swap, the average home in the Northeast United States could save $1000 to $2000 a year by doing this swap.

What this means is that homeowners can and should go to the bank and borrow the money to remove oil and gas powered boilers and replace them with energy efficient heat pumps and put solar on their roofs to power them. They should do this not just because it is good for the climate, but because it is good for the bank account. That’s a big deal.

I saw this chart in Azeem Azhar’s excellent Exponential View newsletter this week:

Electricity generation and consumption in the US has stabilized over the last twenty years and the use of coal to generate electricity is plummeting. In another twenty years this chart will have a huge amount of green and almost no red in it.

The de-carbonization of the economy is a megatrend that is already underway and is highly investable because the unit economics of renewables and energy efficient electrical equipment is now superior to the unit economics of carbon and mechanical equipment. We can see this in cars (EVs>Gas) and heating/cooling systems and many other aspects of our economy.

The narrative somehow has been that addressing the climate crisis is going to hurt our economy. I believe that is plain wrong. I believe it will power a huge economic boom that will look much like the boom that powered the carbon/mechanical/industrial economy from the late 19th century to the late 20th century.

So let’s get on with it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Walking Away… Part III — My latest article

Beyond Money - October 9, 2020 - 3:18pm
Photo credit: Andrew Amistad

This is the third in a series of articles that began in July 2020. Parts I and II can be found on Medium and my website beyondmoney dot net.

In 1979 I took a leap of faith and walked away. What did I walk away from? I had for a long time said that if I had to have a job, I could think of no better job than the one I had. With the rank of assistant professor, I held tenure at an institution of higher learning. The pay at that time was not that great, but the job carried high status and I had plenty of freedom to do the job as I saw fit. That is what I walked away from just a few months prior to completing my 14th year in academia.

What seemed like an insane move to my friends and family was to me a “life” choice; a choice over what- stagnation, security, death, perhaps? I had seen others who had chosen to “hang on” just a few more years so they could enjoy a retirement of comfort and freedom, only to die a short time afterward. I once saw a T-shirt that advised: “Don’t Postpone Joy!”

— Read the full article here.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Getting Through The Winter

A VC - October 9, 2020 - 5:07am

I backed Basilica Hudson earlier this week when I saw a friend had backed it in my notifications. Helping a leading upstate arts organization keep going during this pandemic felt like a good thing to do.

This morning, I backed a few other similar projects:

Dirty Precious: Off Premises

Museum Of The Moving Image

As it starts getting colder here in NYC, I have a sense that if we can help these institutions get through this winter into the spring, they can make it through the pandemic and be around when we all will desperately want to be packed in a room with other people again.

Kickstarter’s Lights On category is all about these sorts of projects and I stop by and visit them regularly and back them.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

E-Commerce and Retail

A VC - October 8, 2020 - 5:00am

Most of us have seen some version of this chart that shows how the Covid pandemic has accelerated e-commerce adoption:

What is interesting to me is that it has also impacted in person retail experiences.

Most restaurants in NYC are not passing out menus anymore. They just have a QR code at the table that you aim your phone camera at and are taken to the menu.

At my regular coffee shop in NYC, they now encourage ordering in advance versus standing in line to order your coffee. I took this photo while waiting for my coffee to come out yesterday:

The initial download and setup of the Toast Takeout app takes a few minutes. It is not something I would have done in the past. But now that ordering online vs lining up to order is the way that this coffee shop mostly works, I was happy to make that investment of time. And now, that’s the way I get my coffee every morning. I don’t think I or any other regulars will go back to lining up when the pandemic is over.

My point is this. Retail will come back after the pandemic. There are many reasons why we like to go into places and shop and drink and eat with others. I think we will enjoy that experience more than ever once we can do it again. But we will do it differently and more efficiently than we used to do it because we all learned some new tricks during the pandemic. And that is a good thing.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

Business Books and Podcasts

A VC - October 7, 2020 - 4:11am

I’m not a fan of business books. I find that you get most of the value from them in the opening chapter and then it is a lot of repetition from then on.

But there are some great concepts that one can glean from business books and I’ve often wanted to find an efficient way to do that without buying the book and reading one chapter.

Podcasts to the rescue. Most business book writers go on a podcast tour in order to promote their book. All you need to do is find your favorite interviewer on the podcast tour and listen to that one. That’s generally thirty to forty-five minutes and you will get everything you need from the book and maybe more.

As an aside, this is a classic example of the promotional effort cannabalizing the product itself.

Fortunately great writers don’t need to worry about this. I will always choose to read the words of a great writer over listening to them on a podcast. But there aren’t many great writers putting out business books. They write novels or big ambitious works of non-fiction. Which I prefer to read on a Kindle or in print.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Gillian Munson — Oct 20, 2020
Our Investment in Possible

Nick Grossman — Oct 20, 2020
Making Butter with Jam

Albert Wenger — Oct 18, 2020
How Much Clothing is Enough? A Personal Experiment

Categories: Blog articles

AirPod Alternatives?

A VC - October 6, 2020 - 4:00am

We have been back in NYC for the last month and enjoying the city very much. One of the many things we love about NYC is that we walk everywhere (or most everywhere). I enjoy walking around NYC by myself and listening to music, podcasts, or talking to friends or colleagues on the phone.

But earlier this year, I developed a bad case of Tinnitus. I stopped using the in-ear Airpods and the Tinnitus went away quickly. I am not saying that the Airpods caused the Tinnitus, but they certainly seem to make it worse and so I stopped using them about six months ago. I did not miss them much when I was in my car a lot, but I sure do miss them walking around NYC.

So I am in the market for bluetooth headphones that fit over the ear, not in the ear, that are small, light, and good for walking around with. I just can’t wear my Bose Quiet Comfort headphones (which I love for the office) out on the streets.

So if you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear them. Please click on the button that says “Discuss On Twitter” and leave them there for me. Or reply to the email if you get this blog post that way. I am all ears

Categories: Blog articles

Negative Social Proof

A VC - October 5, 2020 - 5:09am

I explained this last week on a call with some of our investors and I thought it might be useful to explain it more broadly.

Most of USV’s big wins have been in companies where we were the first institutional VC to talk to the company or where we had way more conviction about the opportunity than other investors at the time of our investment.

There was no social proof on these investments other than the fact that nobody else wanted to make the investment as much as we did. You can call it negative social proof.

I like to tell the story of when I met Brian Armstrong, the founder of our portfolio company Coinbase in the summer of 2012. Paul Graham had asked me to do office hours at Y Combinator and so I came to their offices and spent four hours meeting sixteen companies in back to back 15 minute pitches. At the end of the four hours, I walked out of the conference room and Paul was waiting for me. He asked “which ones did you like best?” and I replied “I like Coinbase. I think Brian Armstrong is on to something big.” He was surprised and said “You are the first VC to say that.” And I said “Then its going to be huge. Please make sure we get the call when they want to raise.”

That’s negative social proof. When nobody else likes the deal but you. That’s how you win big.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Oct 10, 2020
Innovation Upends Extrapolation: Urbanization

Categories: Blog articles

NBA Top Shot Public Launch

A VC - October 3, 2020 - 6:52am

Our portfolio company Dapper took the ropes off NBA Top Shot this past week and it is now open to anyone who wants to play this super fun NBA collectibles game.

I wrote about NBA Top Shot in early August and provided access codes to AVC readers who wanted to get in on the beta. So some of you are already playing the game. But now all of you can do so.

I just bought a couple of packs this morning in the new and improved UI and scored a Nikola Jokic jumper (over AD) from the western conference finals.

I love the Joker so I am going to hold onto this one.

This is my pack opening experience from this morning:

I will put some of those cards into the marketplace and sell them. But I am holding onto Jayson Tatum and Joker. I already have a few Kyle Lowry cards so I am probably going to put that one into the marketplace.

I have a few cards that I am not ever letting go of. This Kawhi #1 (out of 1256) is my prized possession:

The #2 of that card is listed for $10k in the marketplace so I think mine is worth even more:

I do have some choice cards listed in the marketplace for sale:

So get into the game and pick them up from me

Categories: Blog articles

Covid Alert NY

A VC - October 2, 2020 - 5:39am

I’ve written a bunch about Exposure Alerting and its potential to limit the spread of Covid by alerting people when they have come in contact with someone contagious.

Back in April, Google and Apple came together to create GAEN, a framework for secure and private proximity data sharing on mobile phones.

In July, the Linux Foundation open-sourced two code bases that operate on top of GAEN for public health authorities around the world to build mobile apps with.

And yesterday, NY State launched Covid Alert NY that was built on those open source code bases. Covid Alert NY was built by the NYS Dept. of Health and Tech:NYC (where I am Chairman), along with Google, Apple, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Goldman Sachs, and a coalition of technology and research partners.

Here’s how Covid NY works:

  • Phones that have downloaded the app are assigned a random ID that can be exchanged with other phones via Bluetooth technology.
  • Devices that are within six feet of each other for 10 minutes or longer exchange those random IDs.
  • If a person tests positive and reports it on the app, an alert goes out to those with whom they had close contact alerting them of potential exposure.
  • The app also serves as a resource hub of daily case count numbers and informs users of the steps they can take to prevent further virus spread.

And it’s designed to work by placing privacy first:

  • It uses secure Bluetooth technology, not GPS, that can only detect when two devices are in proximity to each other, not geographic location. It doesn’t collect users’ data on their location or movement.
  • The random ID assigned to your device changes every 15 minutes, and users are not identified to other users, nor is their personal identifiable information shared — not with other users, Google, Apple, or the NYS Department of Health.

I hope that all NYers download Covid Alert NY to their phones and participate in a voluntary network of exposure alerting. This alone will not end the pandemic, but it can slow the spread of the virus by letting people know when they might be contagious and encouraging them to isolate and get tested. Imagine if we had this technology widely deployed back in January and February?

I downloaded Covid Alert NY to my phone this morning and am now participating in this voluntary exposure alerting network. You can join me by downloading Covid Alert NY to your phone:

App Store (for iPhone)

Google Play (for Android)


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Oct 10, 2020
Innovation Upends Extrapolation: Urbanization

Categories: Blog articles

Sora

A VC - October 1, 2020 - 7:17am

My partner Rebecca wrote about our most recent education investment, Sora, on the USV blog today. We have been investing in learning for over a decade at USV and have built a terrific learning portfolio focusing on companies that are providing services direct to the learner (as opposed to selling “ed tech” to institutions).

What we had not done, until now, is backed a company providing an alternative learning “institution.” Sora does that. And so I thought it would be worth talking a bit about that.

Sora is a high school “built for you.” As Rebecca wrote in the USV blog post about Sora:

Through a combination of small social pods, self-directed projects, and student-run organizations, high schoolers shape their academic and extracurricular experience, as well as the governance of the school. Instead of tests and assessments, high schoolers prove what they know by what they can do –  code a video game, wire a miniature greenhouse, or produce a paid ad spot for a company.  Students are encouraged to lean into subjects that speak to them and build a project portfolio in the disciplines where they’re most excited.

and

Over time, Sora students hit all of the traditional curriculum milestones essential for high school graduation, in a more tactile, self-directed manner and without exams as a benchmark of their mastery or creativity. Even in these early days, Sora is wrapping up the final stages of accreditation and is part of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, meaning students graduate with a transcript easily understood by colleges if they choose to pursue that path.  

So if you or your child is/are not having a great high school experience and you want something else, check out Sora. Sora is not free, like your local public high school, but it is very affordable and we hope that it becomes even more affordable over time as it scales into a new, different, and possibly better way for some to go to high school.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — Oct 10, 2020
Innovation Upends Extrapolation: Urbanization

Categories: Blog articles

Talk:NYC Podcast

A VC - September 30, 2020 - 4:35am

I have been saying no to podcast requests and will continue to do so. But when Julie Samuels asked me to be the first guest on the Tech:NYC podcast, called Talk:NYC, I had to say yes.

We talked about tech, NYC, the current moment we are living through, and a lot more. It’s about 35mins. You can listen here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — Oct 2, 2020
USV Algorand Transparency Statement, Q3 2020

Rebecca Kaden — Oct 1, 2020
Sora

Categories: Blog articles

Tabs

A VC - September 29, 2020 - 4:35am

Our portfolio company Helium started shipping a new product called Tabs last week. Tabs competes with Tile and a bunch of other Bluetooth trackers and smart dog collars. But Tabs uses the Helium network (aka The People’s Network) and that makes all of the difference as you can see in this chart:

The Helium Network is powered by people like you and me who run Helium hotspots and earn Helium tokens. I wrote about my Helium Hotspot here on AVC last year. Since installing that hotspot, I have earned 8,266 Helium tokens. That is the People’s Network in action.

You do not need to own and operate a hotspot to use Tab. Anyone can use a Tab on the network.

I set up Tab today for my Citibike key fob which I lose all the time. It was as simple as downloading the Tab app on iOS or Android and capturing the QR code on my Tab. Now I will know where my Citibike fob is at all times.

Update: this is what my find screen looks like right now


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — Oct 2, 2020
USV Algorand Transparency Statement, Q3 2020

Rebecca Kaden — Oct 1, 2020
Sora

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: NextMaker Box

A VC - September 25, 2020 - 5:22am

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan and funder of teaching kids to code. I believe helping young people learn to think logically via coding exercises is helpful to their development in so many ways.

So when I came across the NextMaker project on Kickstarter, I backed it instantly.

NextMaker is a monthly box that comes with a project that your kids can do combining coding with making things. The programming is all block based (visual) so youngsters can do it easily and it is fun for them.

I’m embedding the video here on the web, but if you get this via email, click on this link and watch it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — Oct 2, 2020
USV Algorand Transparency Statement, Q3 2020

Rebecca Kaden — Oct 1, 2020
Sora

Categories: Blog articles
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