Blog articles

A New Month

A VC - June 1, 2020 - 3:37am

I woke up at dawn today. The sun was lightening the sky. The birds were chirping.

I was reminded of the power of a new day, a clean slate, new opportunities.

It is June.

After three months of pandemic lockdowns, job losses like I have not seen in my lifetime, and a week of turmoil in our streets and in our hearts, we have the hope that comes with a new day.

Clearly we have problems in our country and our world.

When the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked. And so many of us have been swimming naked. The pandemic has been quite revealing.

It is time to make some changes. Big changes. Long overdue changes.

We can start by acknowledging that.

And then we should seize the opportunity that comes with a new day, a new month, a new set of priorities, to make those changes.

We simply need to courage and conviction to come together and do it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Tesla Powerwall Clone Guide

A VC - May 29, 2020 - 4:21am

I am a big fan of pairing solar panels on the roof with a battery system in the garage. The battery allows you to use the solar power at night when there is no sun. It also provides resilience for power outages and the like.

So when I saw this Kickstarter project, I backed it immediately.

The premise is simple enough. Find a battery pack out of a wrecked hybrid or EV vehicle at a junkyard and using simple off the shelf tools and materials convert it into a battery system capable of being charged from a variety of sources (solar, wind, grid, water, etc) and power a house’s basic necessities during the midst of a crisis or during times when power is more expensive (during the day) while replenishing when power is either abundant or cheaper, like at night. While this information is available currently, most of whats out there is long, wordy, confusing and in some cases conflicting.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/khohnholz/homebrew-tesla-powerwall-clone

I went for the $20 pledge which comes with a complete users guide.

Now I need to find a “wrecked EV.” This should be a fun project.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Contact Tracing and Technology Conference

A VC - May 28, 2020 - 4:08pm

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am excited about the possibility that technology, particularly mobile computing technology, can supplement the work of manual contact tracing to keep us all safer until a permanent solution is found to this pandemic.

But there is a ton of confusion about what contact tracing is, what exposure alerting is, what the role of legacy contact tracing systems are, and what role new applications can play in this moment.

So I was thrilled that a group of organizations that operate at the intersection of public policy and tech innovation are putting on a series of online conferences on this topic.

The first one will be next Wednesday from 11am ET/8am PT until 2pm ET/11am PT and will focus on the consumer apps that are being built on top of the Google and Apple APIs. There will be demos of many of these new apps and a series of panel discussions. If you are interested in attending (attendance is unlimited), you can RSVP here.

There are four of these online events planned over the next two months (roughly every two weeks) and they will cover enterprise contact tracing applications, what is happening internationally, and more.

The organizations behind this series of online events are The COVID Tech Task Force, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, TechCrunch, Betaworks Studios, and Hangar.

If you work in government and are involved in making tech decisions in this area, if you are interested in how tech can help address large scale public health issues, or if you are just curious about all of this, I hope you will attend. I plan to do that myself.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Coinbase + Tagomi

A VC - May 27, 2020 - 5:38am

Our portfolio company Coinbase announced yesterday that it will acquire Tagomi to build out its institutional prime brokerage business.

This is an important moment in the maturation of the crypto trading business. At USV, we have used Coinbase to transact in the crypto markets and I’ve wanted advanced offerings like we get when we transact in the stock markets like buying or selling on a volume weighted average price (VWAP) and other things like that. Tagomi will bring those kinds of offerings to Coinbase and that will make it easier and better for institutions like USV to trade with Coinbase.

This is also a bit of a reunion for USV as one of Tagomi’s founders, Jennifer Campbell, was an analyst at USV when she co-founded Tagomi. Though USV was not an investor in Tagomi, we’ve always been rooting for Jennifer and her colleagues. Now, as part of Coinbase, we are all on the same team again.

Slowly but surely crypto assets are becoming mainstream holdings for institutions and the prime brokerage offerings from Coinbase will help accelerate that transition.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

2020 May Newsletter

Beyond Money - May 26, 2020 - 11:51am

In this issue

  • What could be nicer than this?
  • Planet of the Humans
  • The Need to GROW
  • Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

There is so much going on these days, and so much I want to share with you that I hardly know where to stop. Yet, I do not wish to overwhelm my readers, so I’m choosing to keep my newsletters short. Whether they also become more frequent will depend on my own state of overwhelm and how the spirit moves me in the weeks ahead. In this edition I’m starting off on a lighter note with an amusing presentation by one of my longtime favorite authors. Oh, and by the way, there’s nothing in here about Covid-19. That’s not for lack of serious concerns or important sources to share, but I think we all need to take a break from it, so I’ll leave that for next time when we’ll get into it big time.
_________________
What could be nicer than this?

Take a few minutes to relax and be amused. Whether or not you’ve ever been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut, as I have, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this lecture he gave in 2004 on the Shape of Stories.
_________________
Planet of the Humans

This new and controversial documentary by Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore lays out the hard, cold facts about our energy intensive way of living and the implausibility of renewable energy sources ever being able to replace fossil fuels. The inevitable conclusions are that we humans need to reduce our energy consumption, stop the growth of our population, and start making better public policy choices regarding infrastructure and technologies.

But vested interests have refused to believe the obvious facts and are intent of continuing on the present path in order to protect their material fortunes. In Tucson, where I live, tens of millions of dollars are being wasted on road widening projects just to deliver traffic more quickly to the downtown bottlenecks, a policy that in the process has been killing off more pedestrians and bicyclists and raising noise pollution to maddening levels.

The film has been controversial because it argues that the much vaunted shift to renewable sources of energy is an illusory savior, and the mainstream environmental organizations have been largely co-opted by corporate interests.  The movie is freely available for viewing at https://planetofthehumans.com/.

Among those featured in the film is energy and climate expert, Richard Heinberg of the Postcarbon Institute. Heinberg’s review of the film provides a more nuanced picture of our energy future and I encourage everyone to read it. The bottom line for me is my long held belief that there is no techno-fix maintain that will allow us to maintain the profligate ways of our current civilization, and that is a good thing because we are presently face with a multi-dimensional mega-crisis that is forcing us to transition to a different way of living that does not promote endless economic growth. I’ve also been arguing for a long time that we need to get off this perpetual growth spiral and shift our efforts away from ever increasing consumption and toward a Butterfly Economy that is in harmony with nature. If we do not make the necessary changes in the way we live, nature will do it for us.
_________________
The Need to GROW

Speaking of living in harmony with nature, one of the most important things that we can do is to change the way we grow our food. This award winning documentary shows that it is possible. There are viable alternatives to industrial agriculture that are not only capable of producing an abundance of more nutritious food, but of saving the planet in the process. Get it here.
_________________
Trade Exchanges and Credit clearing are No Longer Experiments, They’re Mainstream Business

This opinion piece by Paul Brandus appeared recently on the MarketWatch website: How small businesses can stay afloat during the pandemic without government help.

While still often referred to as “barter exchanges,” the scores of commercial trade exchanges operating around the world enable their business members to transact billions of dollars worth of purchases and sales annually without using conventional money. How do they do that? As I’ve been explaining for many years, established business members are given an internal line of credit in proportion to their sales volume, thus creating a new form of liquidity within the exchange that is independent of bank borrowing and conventional money.

The proliferation of trade exchange networks is a fundamental necessity in rebuilding the economy to be more resilient, fair, and democratic, and preserving the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are the backbone of every community economy and political democracy.
_________________
Monday, May 25 was Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day when we remember and honor all those who have fought and died in our many wars. Let us also remember the horror and utter waste that is the essence of war, and resolve to put an end to it forever.

Thomas

Categories: Blog articles

Streaming Vs Torrenting

A VC - May 26, 2020 - 7:44am

Last night at dinner we got to talking the film Barfly, which came out the year the Gotham Gal and I were married, so a long time ago now. We decided to watch it after dinner with our family and friends we are quarantining with.

Well it turns out that Barfly is not available to be streamed on any of the many streaming services we have on our AppleTV (at least ten of them). After a frustrating twenty minutes figuring that out, we thought about torrenting it and watching it that way.

But for a bunch of reasons, we decided not to do that and went with another film.

A decade ago, I wrote a lot about how streaming would kill piracy (it largely has) and how I feel about piracy when I can’t consume legally (I am fine with it).

This morning I was talking to one of our friends over breakfast and said that I am going to put a bitorrent client on the Mac Mini that is connected to our family room TV because if we try as hard as we can to pay for a film legally and cannot, then I feel OK with getting it some other way.

I am just a bit shocked that is even necessary to do in the golden age of streaming.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers

A VC - May 25, 2020 - 6:02am

On today, Memorial Day, we remember our fallen soldiers.

I spent some time today going back over old blog posts I’ve written on this topic and landed on a post I wrote almost ten years ago, when I visited the Normandy beaches with my wife and son. It was a very powerful and moving experience for us.

I am glad we take a day every year to remember the men and women who lost their lives in service of our country.

And while we can’t all go lay a wreath or march in a parade today, we can take a moment of reflection on their sacrifice and what it has meant for our country.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: In Time of Plague

A VC - May 22, 2020 - 4:09am

I backed this photo book project today. The creator took photos of the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn during the more than two-month lockdown in March, April, and May 2020 and will produce a photo book.

I really like what he says at 1:50min into the excellent project video (link here for those reading on email).

It’s undeniably a difficult time to produce a book, but I believe that art is more important than ever in times of crisis like this. Museums and galleries are struggling to stay afloat and publishers require painfully long time frames to produce books. We as a community can work more nimbly and quickly, which is needed in this historic moment.

Well said Brian. Well said.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

The Startup Job Market

A VC - May 21, 2020 - 4:54am

My colleague Matt Cynamon told our partnership last week that the number of jobs on the USV job board had declined from 1,553 to 871 in the past month. So we suggested he share that data and some observations on the USV blog. He did that yesterday.

Here is the chart of open jobs on the USV job board:

https://www.usv.com/writing/2020/05/how-covid-is-impacting-hiring/

A large number of those 871 open jobs are in a handful of larger USV portfolio companies that are leaning into this moment to build their teams. Many USV portfolio companies have frozen hiring or have tightened it significantly. And there have been reductions in force as well in some parts of our portfolio.

But all is not bleak. Matt ends his post with the following observation:

In our next post we’ll explore some areas where we’re seeing major opportunities for job seekers.

https://www.usv.com/writing/2020/05/how-covid-is-impacting-hiring/

I am hopeful that hiring will start to pick up in our portfolio in the second half of the year as our portfolio companies start to understand where their businesses are now and where they are headed this year and next.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Fiber To Home

A VC - May 20, 2020 - 1:52pm

I’ve been working on getting a fiber internet connection to the home we are quarantining in. With nine of us living and working from home together, we are consuming a lot of bandwidth. And with everyone on our block doing more or less the same thing, the cable internet connections we all have are bogged down.

As I understand it, cable internet suffers from a few problems relative to fiber. The bandwidth in cable is usually (always?) non symmetric, meaning the upload speeds are not nearly as good as the download speeds. For applications like browsing the web, that’s fine. For applications like videoconferencing, that’s not so fine.

I also believe that cable bandwidth is frequently shared with your neighbors whereas fiber is usually a direct connection to the telco’s main internet connection. That means if your neighbors are using a lot of bandwidth, that can slow you down if you use cable, but not if you have fiber.

These are things I’ve heard over the years and believe to be true but I am happy to be corrected on Twitter (click the button below) if I am wrong about any of this.

In any case, we are moving to fiber in an effort to make our large group work from home situation a bit better for everyone. And I suspect that I am not the only one doing this right now.

USV has two fiber investments, Ting (owned by Tucows) and Pilot, and I believe that both will see demand for their services increase this year and beyond as we all need and want more bandwidth.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

American Kingpin

A VC - May 19, 2020 - 6:07am

I read my friend Nick Bilton‘s book American Kingpin over the last few weeks. It is the story of Ross Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts), the founder and owner of The Silk Road.

It is a fascinating story with many angles; drug and arms dealing, entrepreneurship, criminal investigation, and much more. I highly recommend the book.

It reminded me that The Silk Road was the original product market fit for Bitcoin. According to Wikipedia:

The total revenue generated from these sales was 9,519,664 Bitcoins, and the total commissions collected by Silk Road from the sales amounted to 614,305 Bitcoins. These figures are equivalent to roughly $1.2 billion in revenue and $79.8 million in commissions, at current Bitcoin exchange rates…”, according to the September 2013 complaint, and involved 146,946 buyers and 3,877 vendors

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road_(marketplace)

Those 9.5mm bitcoins, which certainly recirculated a fair bit, represented roughly all of the circulating supply of Bitcoin at that time.

That does not mean that all of the bitcoins that had been mined at that time were in use on The Silk Road. A much smaller percentage of them recirculated back and forth between customers and suppliers in the market.

But I have always believed that The Silk Road was where Bitcoin first found a massive use case and it was where many people first bought and used Bitcoin.

This has led to a narrative around Bitcoin and crypto that it is shady and only useful for illicit behavior. That is unfortunate and not true.

Many technologies that ultimately find mainstream use cases (the web browser, the VHS, etc) find initial product market fit in areas that are edgy at best. And such was the case with Bitcoin and crypto.

These “edgy” use cases prove out the technology, provide an initial user base, and lead to more mainstream adoption down the road. And that is what happened with Bitcoin and The Silk Road.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 29, 2020
The Social Media Triangle

Categories: Blog articles

Kickstarter Lights On

A VC - May 18, 2020 - 4:28am

So many of our favorite community anchors have shuttered in the wake of the pandemic. And reopening them won’t be easy.

Music venues, movie theaters, art galleries, restaurants, performance spaces, maker spaces, conferences, festivals, and bookshops are the places we hang out in, enjoy each other, and and connect to art and culture.

But these spaces also have communities of people connected to them, rooting for them, and eager to help them.

Enter Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform for bringing creative projects to life (and a USV portfolio company).

Kickstarter is not charity, although there is certainly a need for charity in this moment. Kickstarter is a platform to engage your community, reward them, and encourage them to support your work.

A few weeks ago, Kickstarter launched Lights On, a call for projects that “sustain your cultural space, event series, creative organization, or independent business”.

https://www.kickstarter.com/lights-on

If you own or operate a cultural space, a local beloved business, an event series, or some other community treasure and want to engage your community in your reopening plan, Kickstarter Lights On is for you.

You can learn more about it here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Keep The Faith NYC

A VC - May 15, 2020 - 4:34am

I just backed this project and got myself a great hoodie to wear this fall when we hope to be back in NYC.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Categories: Blog articles

r/CryptoCurrency Moons

A VC - May 14, 2020 - 12:18pm

We have been looking for ways in which crypto assets can go mainstream. Our interest and investment in Dapper’s crypto games is an effort in that area. So is our involvement in the Libra project.

We also have been involved in legacy mobile and web apps that have built cryptocurrencies inside of them. Kin and Props are two examples of that.

But we are also always looking outside of our own portfolio for examples of ways in which crypto assets can go mainstream.

And I saw yesterday that two subreddits, r/Cryptocurrency and r/FortNiteBR, have issued crypto assets on the Ethereum blockchain using the ERC20 token standard. The crypto asset associated with r/Cryptocurrency are called Moons. The crypto asset associated with r/FortNiteBR are called Bricks. They are very similar assets but they are not the same.

I don’t play FortNite but I do own cryptocurrencies, so I am a bit more interested in Moons and hope to accumulate them by actively engaging in the r/CryptoCurrency community.

Here is how Moons work.

Moons are a new way for people to be rewarded for their contributions to r/CryptoCurrencyThey represent ownership in the subreddit, they are tokens on the Ethereum blockchain controlled entirely by you, and they can be freely transferred, tipped, and spent in r/CryptoCurrencyClaim your Moons in the new Vault section of the Reddit iOS or Android app! It will be rolled out gradually over the next two days and will be in beta testing until later this summer.

https://www.reddit.com/r/CryptoCurrency/comments/gj96lb/introducing_rcryptocurrency_moons/

The new Vault section of the Reddit mobile app now has an Ethereum wallet that can store Ethereum tokens, like Moon. And as you engage in the community, you earn Moons in your wallet.

I think this is an interesting experiment and could bring more users into the crypto ecosystem. I hope to earn some Moons over the next few months and you may want to do the same.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Categories: Blog articles

Location and Work

A VC - May 13, 2020 - 6:25am

I am confident this pandemic will end. At some point, we will have a vaccine, therapeutics, and/or broad based immunity. When that will happen is less clear to me. I believe that at some point, we will be able to resume living and working as we did prior to the pandemic.

However, I am also confident that we will not resume living and working exactly as we did prior to the pandemic because some of the things we have adopted to get through this will reveal themselves as comparable or better than what we were doing before.

One of the places this is happening is knowledge work which is a growing percentage of the workforce in the US. What we have seen in this pandemic is that knowledge workers have been able to be comparably productive working from home and that has caused many large (and small) employers to consider different work/location options.

Yesterday, Twitter told their employees that most of them can work from anywhere going forward:

News: Twitter will allow its employees to work from home forever. @jack just emailed the company about it. Details here: https://t.co/KvvozuQ8Qn

— Alex Kantrowitz (@Kantrowitz) May 12, 2020

A number of our portfolio companies have made that decision already as well:

This week, we rolled out Work from Anywhere.

– Will keep our NYC office as HQ (these are desks at a co-working space)
– Anyone can work from anywhere in the U.S.

— Michael Karnjanaprakorn (@mikekarnj) April 22, 2020

I can imagine large and small banks, law firms, accounting firms, media and entertainment companies, and other knowledge based businesses making similar decisions.

I am not saying that remote work is ideal. There is something very valuable about being able to be in the same physical space as your colleagues. USV will likely keep an office for exactly that reason.

But it is also true that USV is operating incredibly well during this pandemic and we have not (yet) missed a beat.

What this means for large cities where many companies that engage in knowledge work are centered is an interesting question.

I saw this chart this morning on Benedict Evans’ Twitter:

People have been calling the end of SF for long time, but it’s worth remembering just how much the price delta has opened up in the last decade. For many people it no longer matters how driven you are if you can’t afford a second bedroom pic.twitter.com/4suajjd1gS

— Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) May 13, 2020

That compares two of the most expensive cities in the US (and world) to each other. And as bad as NYC is on the affordability index, SF is way worse.

So when you combine these two situations; large knowledge work hubs getting prohibitively expensive and remote work normalizing, it would seem that we are in for a correction.

What is less clear is where knowledge workers who can increasingly work from anywhere will choose to live (and work). Will cities remain attractive for the quality of life they offer (arts, culture, nightlife, etc)? Or will the suburbs stand to gain? Or will more idyllic locations like the mountains or the beach become the location of choice? Or will second and third tier cities become more attractive? I do not have a crystal ball on this question. I suspect it will be some of all of the above.

But this may become a big deal. Like the “white flight” that happened in the 50, 60s and 70s in a number of large cities in the US. Wholesale movement of large groups of people can have profound changes on regions.

Like many disruptions, this is both bad and good. Affordability (or lack thereof) and gentrification have been a blight on our cities. If we can reverse that trend, much good will come of it. This may also be helpful in addressing the climate crisis which remains the number one risk to planet Earth. So there are reasons to be excited about this. But wholesale abandonment is terrible. We should do whatever we can to avoid that.

It is early days for this conversation. But it is one we are going to have all around the US, and possibly all around the world. So it is time to start thinking about it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Categories: Blog articles

Investing In Learning

A VC - May 12, 2020 - 4:40am

USV has invested in the education sector for a bit more than ten years. We kicked things off with an event we called Hacking Education back in March 2009.

We have focused on “direct to learner” businesses and have mostly avoided investing in companies that sell to the established education system.

This has been a good strategy and we have assembled a fantastic direct to learner portfolio that includes companies like Duolingo, Quizlet, Skillshare, Codecademy, and Outschool.

We’ve been doing some work to understand this portfolio in the light of this remote learning moment we are in.

This portfolio reaches hundreds of millions of learners all around the world each month. Many learners use these products for free. A small percentage of learners pay. And yet this portfolio will generate close to a half a billion dollars of revenue in 2020.

Another interesting thing about this portfolio is that none of these companies have spent a lot of capital building their businesses. They have all been very capital efficient and most are cash flow positive at this point.

What this tells me is that direct to learner businesses are very attractive. They can serve a very large number of learners very efficiently, they can lightly monetize and yet produce massive revenues because of their scale, and they don’t require a huge amount of capital to build.

We hope to find more businesses like this to invest in as we think we are just at the beginning of rethinking how we want to learn and educate.

If you want to see some of this in action, you should check out Codecademy’s Learn From Home Day tomorrow, May 13th, starting at 10:45am ET. It looks to be a fun day of learning.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Categories: Blog articles

Leadership Has A Price

A VC - May 11, 2020 - 3:52am

We’ve been watching the ESPN series The Last Dance along with something like 6mm other fans who are watching it right now. It is a reminder of how dominant Michael Jordan was in the 90s and what a special player he was.

I woke up thinking about the last three minutes of episode 7 which dropped last night.

Michael is asked if his intensity has come at the expense of being perceived as a
“nice guy.”

He gets pretty emotional and says “Winning has a price and leadership has a price. I pulled people along when they didn’t want to be pulled, I challenged people when they didn’t want to be challenged. I earned that right.” … “Once you joined the team, you lived at a certain standard that I played the game. I would not take anything less.” … “One thing about Michael Jordan is that he never asked anyone to do anything that he didn’t do.”

It’s a great piece of television and captures the essence of the man, how competitive he is, and how emotional he is about it all.

It also captures the burden of leadership and what is required to get everyone to commit to each other and be the best that they can be. Leadership is not being liked. Leadership is being respected and followed.

And the last three minutes of episode 7 capture that so well.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Bethany Crystal — May 14, 2020
7 Ways to Manage Quarantine Life with a Newborn

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: The Arbus Box

A VC - May 8, 2020 - 4:43am

This pandemic has challenged us all in many ways. But it has also provided time for many of us to tackle things we’ve long wanted to do.

Today, I would like to blog about an example of that.

Kirk Love is well known to many AVC readers. He is also the designer of this blog. And he is a good friend.

Kirk is also very fond of Kickstarter. He has backed over 300 projects on Kickstarter over the years and he has tipped me off to so many great ones that I have gone on to back. And Kirk has always wanted to do a Kickstarter project of his own.

Well he finally found the time to do that and he has a great project up right now called The Arbus Box. I will let him explain it to you (video link here for email recipients):

I backed it earlier this week. If you want to join me in supporting Kirk’s creative project, you can do that here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — May 20, 2020
How COVID Is Impacting Hiring

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Bethany Crystal — May 14, 2020
7 Ways to Manage Quarantine Life with a Newborn

Categories: Blog articles

Growth

A VC - May 7, 2020 - 4:46am

One of the great joys of the work I do is I get to watch the leaders of our portfolio companies grow over time.

I’ve had a number of moments over the last few months where I got off a call or a meeting and thought to myself “wow, she’s a new person.”

Growing as a leader takes time, mistakes, failure, feedback, and a lot of work. You don’t magically show up as the CEO and you are good to go. It’s not like that at all. The authority to make the final call doesn’t mean that you are good at it and that people will line up behind your decisions.

It is a process and like all processes, it requires time and patience. But for those who are committed to personal growth, there is a path.

Two syndromes I see quite frequently are “deer in the headlights” and “I’ve got this.” They are both tell tale signs of a leader who isn’t there yet.

Deer in the headlights is pretty obvious to everyone. The leader just doesn’t seem steady and solid. You can see it in their eyes. I like to provide a leader with deer in the headlights syndrome a lot of support, advice, and constructive feedback. I have seen people go from deers in a headlight to strong decisive leaders in less than a year. It helps to have a gauntlet or two to have to run through. The greater the challenges the deer in the headlight faces, the more quickly they can emerge as a strong leader.

“I’ve got this” is more problematic. The leader acts like they know what they are doing, but they don’t. And everyone around them knows it except them. I like to provide a leader with “I’ve got this” syndrome with a lot of tough love but that is usually not enough. The answer to “I’ve got this” is usually failure of some sort, often a very significant one. The key is to be there for the failing leader in that moment and help them get through the failure and come out of it with self awareness and a desire to address the issues that have gotten in the way.

These are just two of the immature leader syndromes, but they are two very common ones I have seen.

I believe that most people have the capacity to be leaders if they want that for themselves. I also believe that leadership is a skill that you never stop learning. And I believe that it requires self awareness, courage, and deep empathy.

Sitting at a table and watching a skilled leader work is quite a sight to see. And watching someone grow into that person is one of the great joys of my work.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — May 20, 2020
#DIYInternship

Bethany Crystal — May 14, 2020
7 Ways to Manage Quarantine Life with a Newborn

Categories: Blog articles

AVC Comments Migration Complete

A VC - May 6, 2020 - 11:35am

Back when we launched the new AVC (AVC 3.0) and moved away from the Disqus comment system, I heard loudly and clearly that the folks who have left comments here at AVC, via Disqus, from 2007 to early 2020, would like to have their comments displayed at the bottom of all of those old blog posts.

That was not an easy thing to do because I wanted to migrate all of those comments out of Disqus into the AVC WordPress database so that we have full control over them and how to display them in the new AVC.

Disqus was super helpful in getting the comments out, but we ran into a number of issues given that massive number of comments. There were 459,000 comments left on AVC in the “Disqus era.” Think about that.

Here is an email the team at Storyware, who did the work, sent me explaining their process. They also migrated the comments on GothamGal.com and completed that last month.

At first we tried to use the official Disqus Plugin to migrate your comments, but their plugin resulted in errors each time we tried to process a batch of comments. We then looked at writing a custom migration script for the exported XML file that you obtained from Disqus. With nearly 500k comments, your migration file was 397.3 MB in size. This massive file wasn’t efficient for testing migration scripts so we tabled this, knowing that we would be migrating a small set of Disqus comments for GothamGal. 

The GothamGal export from Disqus turned out to be 27 MB, much smaller in size. We used her export file to then develop a CLI tool to process the XML file and migrate the comments into WordPress. This tool worked well, but it relies on holding a lot of items in memory: an array of the Disqus threads (your posts), an array of your Disqus comments, and an array of processed comments that we can use for associating parents with children. This same script just couldn’t handle an export file that’s the size of the one generated for avc.com

To run the Disqus to WordPress migration for AVC, we developed a plugin that allowed us to perform the following steps:

1/Process all of the threads in the XML file, and store them in a new database table. These threads are needed for grabbing the URL associated with each comment, which can then be used to associate each comment with a post in WordPress. 

2/Process all of the Disqus comments in the XML file and also store these in a new database table, which we can use to gradually migrate the comments into WordPress. We did still have to break the huge AVC Disqus export file into 16 pieces in order to save the comments from the XML file into the database

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