I’ve been told over the years that the number one reason employees leave a company for another job is that they don’t know where the company is headed and they don’t know what their role in that roadmap is.
Apparently a bad boss and below market comp and long working hours all come in lower than that one.
Which tells me that if people believe in you and your plan and have a role to play in it, they will put up with a lot of other stuff.
I am not advocating for a hostile workplace or below market comp.
What I am advocating for is the value of having a clear and intelligent plan, communicating it often and often, and, most importantly, mapping that plan to each team and each person in your organization.
This is pretty easy when you are five people. It gets harder when you are fifty people. And it’s really hard when you are 500 people.
The communication plan is very important particularly as the size of the company grows. And making it matter to everyone is quite challenging.
But it all starts with a plan. I know companies that are great at communicating but don’t really have a coherent plan. All the communicating in the world won’t help them.
So figure out where you are taking your company. Answer the basic question on everyone’s minds, “what are we doing?”, and you will be on a path to building a loyal, hardworking, and motivated team.
In the post Justin observes that the global economic slowdown we are in the midst of may well be more about the accelerating change from a goods based economy to a services based economy than the traditional business cycle playing out.
There are a ton of good charts in the post and I would strongly suggest everyone go read it.
Here’s the final paragraph which sort of nails the argument, as good final paragraphs do:
Finally, consider the things that people do want to spend their money on. The defining consumer product of our age is the smartphone. A smartphone is a good, and it takes resources to make and transport it. Still, it takes a lot less resources than, say, a car. Most of its value is in the software that is loaded onto it and the people, information and entertainment you can connect to with it. That’s a different sort of value creation than 20th-century resource-based value creation. If that’s the direction the global economy is headed in, the connections between growth, trade and resource consumption aren’t going to be the same as they have been. That is probably a good thing.
I sign my name a lot. When we close deals, I sign the documents. When things change in our companies and they need consents, I sign them. I sign tax returns, filings, permits, and a host of other documents all the time.
As I have written here before, I have a hard time with what they used to call “penmanship” in school. It’s something about my dexterity (or lack thereof) in my hands. My hands get tired quickly and my handwriting gets illegible just as quickly.
Technology has been a godsend for me in this regard. Computers (and word processors before them) saved me from having to write by hand before I got out of high school. Phew.
The same has been true over the past few years when it comes to signing documents. I still do it by hand way more than I’d like but services like Docusign are being adopted by more and more companies and it seems like I Docusign now as much or possibly more than I physically sign.
My colleague Nick needed me to sign something last week. I said “please docusign it.” He did and within a few minutes the documents were signed. I sent him an email saying “that was so great, i wish everyone did it that way.” So this is a plea to everyone out there to skip the paper and go electronic when signatures are needed.
But as good as Docusign is, and it is really good, my all time favorite signing experience is on the Square checkout app. I’m not sure what it is, maybe its the angle (vertical but with a slight slope), or maybe it is the size of the signature box, or maybe it is the iPad’s screen, but whatever it is, I absolutely love signing my name on a Square checkout. If every signing experience was like that, I’d be a very happy man.
Nate Silver published an interesting post on Taxis, Ubers, and Subways this past week.
This graphic is from that post:
What you can see from this graphic is that most New Yorkers don’t use taxis or Uber. They use the subway, and to a lesser extent buses.
This is from Nate’s post:
How big is the for-hire car market in New York? Our data set includes 93 million taxi and Uber rides over a six-month period in 2014. Double that and round up,7 and you get to about 200 million rides per year. By contrast, the New York subway provided 1.75 billion rides in 2014, about nine times as many. There were also almost 800 million MTA bus rides8 in 2014.
If you add subways and buses together, mass transit is 12x larger than for-hire cars.
It is true that Uber and the other on demand car services have changed the game in the for-hire car market. Taxis will either respond (and be allowed to respond) to the competition from the new entrants or they will be replaced. But in a big city like NYC, the real transportation action is in mass transit. That has been the case for the past hundred years and will likely be the case for the next hundred years as well.
One of the most popular use cases for our portfolio company Dronebase is tracking construction job sites.
This video from their YouTube page gives you a sense of why that is valuable to construction managers and their clients.
We will return to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow
Among the many great replies I got was this one:
@fredwilson do we still care about “mayorships?”
— Jordan Rice (@1jrice) August 26, 2015
To which I replied:
I know gamification has been overdone and many are tired of it. But there is something about playing the mayorship game that never gets old for me.
Just today I checked in at my favorite coffee shop in Amagansett and got this notification:
Somehow Brian slipped in and grabbed that mayorship away from me a few weeks ago and I’m trying like hell to get it back. That drives business for Jack and brings a little more fun and playfulness to my life each day.
And its not just Jack’s where I’m on the cusp. Here are all the places I’m close.
That’s a list of places I’m likely to go to as I make my plans each day.
When Foursquare separated the core Foursquare app into two apps, Foursquare for venue search, recommendations, and tips, and Swarm for the social checkin and game play, they left mayorships and the leaderboard out of Swarm. That was a big mistake. It’s back and better than ever and I’m loving it.
My friend Steve observed something to me this week that speaks to the changing dynamic in the world of business, finance, and markets.
He pointed out to me that a decade or two ago, when the financial markets tumbled, the Secretary of Treasury would arrange a press conference, stand behind a podium with some official looking seal on it, and make reassuring comments about the economy in hopes of reassuring investors and the markets.
Now, the Treasury Secretary has been replaced by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, the reassuring comments are delivered via an emailed letter to Jim Cramer, and the whole thing is reported on Twitter.
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) August 24, 2015
Apple has the largest market cap of any publicly traded company and may be the most widely held stock (I don’t actually know), so reassurances from Apple’s CEO matter. Twitter is the world’s real time news channel, and Jim Cramer has a high a profile as any market commentator out there. So it makes perfect sense if you think about it.
USV invested in Dronebase earlier this year but I had not used the service personally so I decided to change that this past week.
The Gotham Gal and I are working on a real estate development project in Brooklyn and we need to make some decisions in partnership with our architects. An aerial view of the property would help us make our decisions.
So on Saturday afternoon, we went to Dronebase.com, clicked the big blue “get started” button, and found ourselves staring at a map. I typed in the address of the property and was shown a satellite map of it.
We then used the mapping tool to highlight the fly zone in blue. We then placed the camera icon over the specific points of interest we wanted to get close up views of.
Then we used the mapping tool to cover the neighboring buildings in a red “no fly zone.”
That produced this map of the mission we wanted:
Then we hit the green continue button, completed a few fields of information, chose which of the “images and video” or “maps and surveys” packages we wanted. We chose the $399 “basic” images and video package. Then we entered our credit card, verified that we owned the property or had permission from the owner to fly over it, and we were done.
A few minutes later we received an email stating that a drone pilot had been engaged and would be flying the job the next day (sunday).
On monday, we got a dropbox folder full of video and images including this edited summary video of the job:
We then shared that dropbox folder with our architects and a few days later we had a decision that we are all happy with.
I know I am biased by our investment in and ownership interest in Dronebase, but this experience was kind of magical. For $399 and a few minutes of work on the computer we got exactly the views we wanted to see. All of our questions and concerns were answered with the footage we purchased.
I can see how drone based services are going to change a lot of things. Hiring a drone pilot is simple, easy, fast, and not particularly expensive. If you have a job you want done on your property or the property of someone you know who will authorize it, go to Dronebase and check it out. It’s a super cool and useful service.
There’s a sense that the bitcoin community is a fairly homogenous group, mainly white and mainly male.
And the MIT Media Lab and Coindesk are doing something to try to change that.
The target group for these scholarships are “people of colour and women between 18 and 25 years of age.”
If you fit this profile and want to attend Consenus 2015 for free, you can apply here.
On a day when it is likely that the US stock markets will open down and Asian markets are in free fall, it is worth taking a second and talking about why capital markets matter and why they don’t.
If your business consumes capital and needs more of it, then changes in capital markets can affect you.
If your business produces cash flow and you can finance your business, then changes in capital markets are not likely to affect you.
This is one of many reasons that I like to see our portfolio companies get to break even and ideally producing cash flow.
I don’t remember when I said this, but I am glad I did.
Upcoming Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
The Greek Crisis
The summer has gone pretty much according to the plan I laid out in my Spring Newsletter, with of course the inevitable addition of things that have popped up spontaneously. I’m sorry I’ve been too busy to report about all of it, even though I’m sure many of my readers would want to know. My main reason for writing now is to highlight the agenda for the remainder of my summer tour in case some of you happen to be in the neighborhood of Ireland, Scotland or England. I hadn’t really planned to visit Italy but here I am—in Rome after visits to Tuscany and Sardinia (more on that below). I’m now in Ireland for the final events of my summer tour.
Here’s what I’ll be doing.
Ireland Events and My Remaining Tour Itinerary
25 to 27 August 2015. I’ll be at Cloughjordan Ecovillage to participate in the P2P Summer School program on The Art of Commoning. Then on Friday, 28 August, I will give a lecture at Trinity College, Dublin, followed by a panel discussion. And on Saturday, 29 August, I will conduct a workshop at the same venue. Here are the details.
Friday August 28th 19:00 – 21:00
Talk: The Liberation of Money and Credit
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On the evening of Friday August 28th, Thomas Greco will give a presentation on The Liberation of Money and Credit, outlining the fundamental importance of reclaiming the credit commons and showing how communities and businesses can reduce their dependence on bank borrowing and conventional, political forms of money. After the talk Thomas will join a panel with Michel Bauwens and Kevin Flanagan of the P2P Foundation, Dr Rachel O’Dwyer of Trinity College Dublin and Graham Barnes of Feasta for a Q&A session.
Saturday August 29th 10:00 – 16:00
Workshop: The Exchange Revolution: Taking Complementary Currencies and Moneyless Trading to a New Level
Where: CONNECT (Formerly CTVR) Dunlop Oriel House, 34 Westland Row, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin.
On Saturday, Thomas will run a workshop for currency activists, practitioners, researchers, and social entrepreneurs on The Exchange Revolution: Taking complementary currencies and moneyless trading to a new level, also at the CONNECT venue in Dublin. Anyone with a specific interest in developing and extending the impact of community currencies, mutual credit, and other complementary exchange mechanisms is invited to attend.
Both events are sponsored and hosted by CONNECT (formerly CTVR – http://www.ctvr.ie/), at their Dublin city centre venue and supported by Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (http://www.feasta.org) and P2P Foundation Ireland.
Both Dublin events are free but people are asked to register at:
Tuesday, 1 September, at Queens College, Belfast
Evening Lecture, Communities, Currencies and the Commons: Democratising money creation & enterprise after the Euro-Greek crisis, with Thomas Greco at Queens College, (Senate Room) at 7.30pm (registration at 7.15pm) hosted by the School of Law partnered by Positive MoneyNI. The talk will be followed by panel discussion.
Coordinator – William Methven, email@example.com
From Belfast, I will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland for a few days of exploring, then to London. I’m scheduled to fly back to San Francisco on September 9.
My Activities in Greece, an abbreviated sketch
Altogether, I spent a little more than three weeks at the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School during the months of June and July. Kalikalos is located on the Mt. Pelion peninsula where the views are spectacular, the mountain villages delightful, and the nearby beaches inviting, all of which provides a good balance of work, play and living in community with people from diverse places. In this ever-changing community of students, workshop leaders, volunteers, facilitators-in-residence, and staff, everyone pitches in to prepare meals, clean up, and share their special gifts. The daily program routine leaves plenty of time for recreation and many people choose to go down the mountain to the beach in the afternoons (about a 20 minute ride) or to hike the ancient donkey trails that connect the villages. Healthy living is a fundamental aspect of the Kalikalos experience with plenty of opportunity for yoga, meditation, tai chi and whatever other modes of centering people care to share. Meals are vegetarian and based mainly on fresh whole foods and traditional Greek ingredients—local olives. olive oil, feta cheese, locally baked bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and vegetables from Kalikalos’ own gardens.
During my first week there I gave two presentations and conducted sessions in which we played two of my simulation games, Money Monopoly and Free Exchange. Then in July during the workshop on Solidarity Economy, I participated in most of the sessions and gave two presentations on the money problem and exchange altenatives.
While my work on exchange alternatives in Greece has been mostly with private groups and activists, I have developed proposals for creating domestic and community liquidity at all levels ranging from the bottom upward to include grassroots initiatives, business associations, municipal governments, and even the national government. I will be publishing specific details about these proposals in the near future. I am also continuing to work with colleagues in Volos on laying out the framework for a nationwide network of localized credit clearing exchanges.
During the last weekend in July I conducted a two day workshop in Athens for a sizable group of participants interested, or active in programs to create complementary liquidity. In the first session our discussions were based on my slide show on the Greek situation, and in the second, my presentation on the issues that need to be addressed in Taking Moneyless Exchange to Scale. That slide show is posted on my website at https://beyondmoney.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/workshop-athens.ppsx.
On Wednesday, July 29, I was interviewed on Porto Kali internet radio in Athens (in English with Greek translation). You can listen to it at http://wp.me/a43RA-Ge. _________________________________________________
The Greek Crisis
The Greek debt crisis has been all over the news lately so most everyone is aware of it, but most people are not aware of the underlying causes or what is being done to the Greek nation by the financial and political powers-that-be. Several of my recent posts at http://beyondmoney.net have dealt with that topic. In addition, there have been some very good recent articles that clearly explain it. These three are especially enlightening:
• GREECE’D: We Voted ‘No’ to slavery, but ‘Yes’ to our chains, by investigative reporter Greg Palast.
• The Rest of the Story About Greece: EU’s economic demands seek to derail small business and local communities, paving the way for multinational corporate giants.
• Ellen Brown’s fine article “Guerrilla Warfare Against a Hegemonic Power”: The Challenge and Promise of Greece
And if you want to understand the larger agenda of which the Greek situation is indicative, be sure to listen to Ellen Brown’s interview with Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, Greece-y Mess – 07.08.15, at http://itsourmoney.podbean.com/e/greece-y-mess-070815/
Last week I had occasion to visit the Italian island of Sardinia and spend a few hours meeting with the founders and managers of a commercial trade exchange called Sardex.
I’ve known about Sardex since almost its beginning five years ago and have corresponded over the past few years with Giuseppe Littera, one of its founders, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to get an inside look at their operation. I came away with a better understanding of how they operate and the impression that the Sardex structures, procedures, and protocols come closer to optimal than any other trade exchange I’ve seen. It appears to be a developing model that can be both scalable and replicable.
You can read my brief but more complete report here, and. you can get a pretty good picture of the distinctive features of Sardex by viewing Giuseppe Littera’s presentation (in English) that was made at a conference in Volos, Greece, in 2014. You can find it on YouTube at, https://youtu.be/rvaL2A8juz0.
All best wishes for a playful and enjoyable summer,
One thing I’ve been pushing hard in my conversations with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and management teams I work with is the efficacy and capital efficiency of winback campaigns vs new customer acquisition campaigns.
Every company wants to grow their user base and increase retention.
As mobile becomes a more difficult environment to grow in (maturing market, more competition, growing dominance of the leaders), we see companies spending more and more money on new customer acquisition. While that is necessary, it is not likely the most capital efficient way to grow. Winning back churned out users can be a lot more cost effective if done right.
I like to ask these questions:
- how many downloads have we had on our app in total?
- how many of those users who downloaded our app are still active every month?
- how many of those apps are still on a user’s phone?
- can we notify those users?
- can we email those users?
Generally speaking, an app that has been in the market for 3-5 years will have an active user base that is 10-30% of the total downloads. There are a few exceptions where that number is a lot higher, but those are exceptions (and great apps).
So that means that 70-90% of the people who have downloaded your app are not using it.
Some of them will still have the app on their phone and can be notified.
Most of them will be reachable via email.
So that is the winback opportunity.
You can’t just spam those users with notifications or emails that say “hey, try out our app again.” That won’t work and will lead to users quickly uninstalling your app if they haven’t already done that.
But you can look for targeted opportunities to tell these churned users something useful to them and invite them back to get more useful stuff.
This could be an offer for a big discount if you have an e-commerce related app. This could be a geotargeted offer/insight if you have an app that is location oriented. This could be the fact that a close friend is active on the app and an invite to join them.
These winback campaigns, if done properly, can be incredibly effective.
If you aren’t doing winback campaigns, you should be.
If you are doing them, think about how you can do them better and do them more frequently.
This is about the lowest hanging fruit out there in the mobile app growth landscape.
I use the Authy mobile app to serve up my 2-factor tokens when I need them. I’ve blogged about Authy before here at AVC so regular readers will be familiar with it.
Authy does something that I really like. Even though my password is stored on my mobile phone and I don’t need to type it in every time I log in, Authy regularly prompts me for my password so that I don’t forget it. The popup box has an “ignore” link on it that I can click if I don’t want to be bothered. But I type my password in every time I’m prompted to do this because I realize that regularly typing in my password is the best way to insure I don’t forget it.
It’s one of those things that makes so much sense and makes you wonder why more apps don’t do this.
Well done Authy.
I turn 54 today
54 is not prime
I enjoyed 53
I expect to enjoy 54 as well
Numbers are fun if you let them be
But numbers aren’t really that important
What is important is enjoying life
And I plan to do that today and every day
Last week I had occasion to visit the Italian island of Sardinia and spend a few hours meeting with the founders and managers of a commercial trade exchange called Sardex. Here below is an abbreviated report of what I learned. The pdf version of the report can be found here.
Sardex, a brief report
by Thomas H. Greco, Jr. August 15, 2015
I recently spent a few days on the Italian island of Sardinia conferring with the founders and administrators of Sardex (http://www.sardex.net/), a commercial credit clearing exchange that has been notable for its success in organizing small businesses and service providers on this island of about 1.6 million people.
I’ve known about Sardex since almost its beginning five years ago and have corresponded over the past few years with Giuseppe Littera, one of its founders, but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to get an inside look at their operation. I came away with a pretty good understanding of how they operate and the impression that the Sardex structures, procedures, and protocols come closer to optimal than any other trade exchange I’ve seen. It appears to be a developing model that is both scalable and replicable.
I will not attempt to provide here a comprehensive report or detailed analysis, rather I will highlight a few major points and provide some sources of additional information for those who are interested in doing their own research.
Current membership: ~3,000
Current transaction turnover: ~1.5 million euro equivalent per month
Expected turnover for 2015: 50 million
Velocity of credit circulation: 12 times per year
Employees included as sub-accounts: 1,000
When I asked about the key factors that account for their success, here is some of what I was told:
1. Founders are dedicated to the mission to relocalize and rehumanize the economy and to reconnect people by enabling the creation of interest-free local liquidity based on the production capacity of local businesses.
2. Social solidarity and cultural cohesion, while very important and part of the mission, were NOT a pre-existing factor that would account for their early success. In fact, they have had to work hard to develop social solidarity and cooperation amongst their members, but this is now changing. One account broker told me, “I can see how behavior of many of our members has changed. When the financial crisis first began, they were starting to lay off employees or cut their wages, and they were reluctant to spend their euros. This made matters worse as the circulation of money slowed down. But as they began to participate in the process of earning and spending trade credits, they began to increase pay to their workers and to invest in their education. In one case, when a member’s shop was burglarized, other members stepped up to help by donating some of their trade credits to help their fellow member recover from the loss.”
That anecdote demonstrates the differences in behavior that results when people experience scarcity compared to when they experience abundance. In this case, the scarcity of euros caused behavior to change in the direction of reduced willingness to spend and the contraction of overall economic activity. But their experience with trade credit was much different. Realizing the greater availability of trade credits, and finding it easier to earn them, leads people to experience abundance and to be more generous and spend more liberally.
3. I was surprised to learn that the Sardex revenue model relies mainly upon initiation fees and annual membership fees (collected in euros); and that they had decided early-on to stop charging fees on transactions. For me, that approach is counter intuitive in that I have long held the view that recruitment would be most successful if membership were made easy, low cost, and risk free, and that it seems reasonable to apply the principle that users pay in proportion to the amount of services they receive. In this case, that principal would mean that those that receive more credit clearing services should pay more. Well, this may be a case where successful practice trumps rational theory. Marketing specialists should look closely at the dimensions of this phenomenon.
There is however some logic in this approach in that, since the cost of participation is relatively fixed, members should seek to maximize the benefits of their membership by trading more within the network. Initiation fees are set according to the size of the business and range from 150 to 1,000 euros. Annual membership fees are likewise based mainly on turnover and range from 350 to 2,500 euros.
4. Strong member support by an effective staff of brokers who help to arrange trades, especially for those that have high earning capacity to avoid excessive accumulation and high positive trade credit balances.
5. Recruitment strategy tries to replicate the supply chain, i.e., bring in businesses that are the suppliers of existing members or prospective members.
6. “Solidarity threshold.” Requirement that members offer their goods and services for trade credit at the same prices as their euro prices, and that payment be accepted 100% in trade credit on all transactions of less than 1,000 euros. “Blended trades,” i.e., payment in a combination of trade credits and euros are allowed on larger purchases, according to a sliding scale).
7. (a) Restrict membership to companies that have a registered office in Sardinia. This promotes social solidarity and excludes large multi-national corporations. (b) Avoid “saturation” (accepting too many members that offer the same line of products or services).
[While I am fully supportive of the former of these, and would indeed, permanently exclude multi-national companies, this latter practice of avoiding saturation I consider to be of use only in the initial stage of establishing credit clearing as a credible means of exchange and an effective source of local liquidity. Ultimately, I believe that membership must be open to any community-based small or medium enterprise (SME) that meets the basic qualifications for membership. Of course, not all of them will qualify for lines of credit.]
8. Fully compliant with reporting and tax regulations. Transparency is a matter of fundamental importance.
9. Emphasis on monetizing the unused capacity of members. Connecting unused supplies with unmet needs is a primary benefit of credit clearing services.
The Sardex company has been consulting with other groups to replicate their system in seven other regions around Italy. In the future, Sardex is planning to initiate a rebate program to bring consumers into the trading community, which will enhance the circulation of local trade credits, make Sardex better known, and stimulate more sales for their business members.
Here below is a list of a few of the many reports and sources of information about Sardex. Readers are invited to add others as comments.
From an idea to a scalable working model: merging economic benefits with social values in Sardex, by Giuseppe Littera, et al, at the London School of Economic, Inaugural WINIR Conference, 11-14 September 2014, Greenwich, London, UK. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/59406/1/__lse.ac.uk_storage_LIBRARY_Secondary_libfile_shared_repository_Content_Dini%2C%20P_From%20idea%20to%20scalable%20model_Dini_From%20idea%20to%20scalable%20model_2014.pdf
You can get a pretty good picture of the distinctive features of Sardex by viewing Giuseppe Littera’s presentation that was made (in English) at a conference in Volos, Greece, in 2014. It is to be found on YouTube at, https://youtu.be/rvaL2A8juz0
Report (in Italian) in the Italian daily newspaper, La Repubblica: Dalla Sardegna al resto d’Italia. Sardex inventa la moneta complementare. “Abbiamo ripensato l’economia.” http://www.repubblica.it/next/2014/06/23/news/dalla_sardegna_al_resto_d_italia_sardex_inventa_la_moneta_complementare_abbiamo_ripensato_l_economia-89771112/?refresh_ce. [English translation needed.]
# # #
Who Am I ? Andrew Law
What I’m doing? Software Engineer
Where I’m living? Dallas, Texas
When I start Blogging? 2012 until Now
Why I start Blogging? Interested to provide more tips about everthing..
Who Am I ? Sam Anderson
What I’m doing? Professional photographer
Where I’m living? Dallas, Texas
When I start Blogging? 2013 until Now
Why I start Blogging? Interested to provide more tips about photographs etc…..
Hey Folks, this is Andrew. Nowadays peoples sharing everything in internet through blog, social media etc… Sam is my friend since We were kids and still now we are close friends. We Decided to open a Blog Which is http://nuanceintelligence.com we are going to share and give more tips about everything as much as possible. So please give us a support. Thank You So much.…
The godfather of computer science education in the NYC public schools is Mike Zamansky, who has been leading the computer science program at Stuyvesant High School since the mid 90s. A few years ago Mike started a summer program in partnership with St Joseph’s College in Brooklyn that allows middle and high school students who don’t go to Stuyvesant to get the same computer science education that his students at Stuyvesant get. It’s been a huge success but Mike doesn’t want to stop there.
So he’s extended his summer program to the weekends during the school year and is calling this program “Saturday Hacking Sessions”. Mike has turned to Kickstarter to see if he can crowdfund this program. The Kickstarter is here. I backed it yesterday and if you are so inclined, I am sure Mike would love your support as well.
Mike told me this via email yesterday:
If we can get this funded, I don’t have to charge anyone to make this happen which opens the door for kids to drop in (parental permission not withstanding).
I know I am sounding like a broken record on this but a computer science education program that is free and open to any student is the kind of thing that can change lives and provide economic opportunities where there aren’t enough right now.
I’ll finish by posting their Kickstarter video. As Mike says in the video, “we aren’t very good at making videos, but we are really good at inspiring kids and teaching them computer science.” With that disclaimer, here’s the video:
At USV, we are big believers in being public about our investment thesis and the work we do to arrive at them. We are also big believers in working with like minded VCs on our investments. A few years we decided to merge the two. My partners Albert and Andy started collaborating with Boris Wertz at Version Ventures on developing investment theses in the digital healthcare sector. They roped in two analysts, Zander and Angela and off they went. When Zander’s two year stint at USV ended, Jonathan replaced him on the effort.
For several years, this group has shared investment opportunities, research, and insights with each other. They have a shared database of startup companies and a shared market map. They have collaborated on one investment, Figure1, and thought seriously about a bunch more.
Yesterday, they started to share their learnings and, more importantly, their questions and concerns. It is called OnDigitalHealthCare and as it is currently conceived, it is a six part series on what they have learned and where they are going with all of those learnings. They are two parts into it right now.
I hope they don’t limit this to six parts and would love to see them continue to update this blog from time to time with additional learnings, questions, concerns, and insights. I think most everyone realizes that a computer in everyone’s pocket (and possibly elsewhere on their bodies) is going to massively impact healthcare over time. But how, when, and why is a lot less obvious to us, and I suspect everyone else. So we are trying to figure it out and sharing that process publicly in the belief that the more eyes and ears on our process the better outcomes for us and everyone else.
There has been a long standing debate in the past year over the need (or not) to increase the bitcoin block size. The debate has raged most intensely inside the small group of developers who have commit access to the bitcoin core. They are called the “core developers.” These software engineers control the basic architecture of bitcoin. This is how most open source software projects are managed and bitcoin is an open source software project at its core.
I won’t get into the technical arguments for and against the need (or not) to increase the block size. If you want to read up on it, I suggest you read Gavin Andresen’s blog, Mike Hearn’s blog post announcing the Bitcoin XT fork, and Rusty Russell’s blog post on the topic.
What is more interesting to me is that this XT fork showcases a number of interesting things about open source software and how it is governed. It also gets into the issues around trusting an open source system and the people who build it.
A group of open source core developers are a democratic system. They decide what gets “committed” to the code base and what does not. That generally works well but at times it does not. The debate around increasing the block size is an example of where that form of democracy is failing (or succeeding depending on where you sit in the block size debate).
So the developers who most fear a breakdown of bitcoin without a block size increase have taken it upon themselves to “fork” the bitcoin core and produce a new version called “Bitcoin XT.” Bitcoin XT is described here.
That’s where this gets interesting. Bitcoin is a democracy in more ways than its core developer group. The miners who operate the transactional infrastructure of bitcoin are also a democracy. They decide what software they want to run to mine bitcoin. And in doing so, they determine what technology will become the standard. The folks who have produced the Bitcoin XT fork are hoping that the miners will adopt their software. This is from the Bitcoin XT website and explains how this works:
By mining with Bitcoin XT you will produce blocks with a new version number. This indicates to the rest of the network that you support larger blocks. When 75% of the blocks are new-version blocks, a decision has been reached to start building larger blocks that will be rejected by Bitcoin Core nodes. At that point a waiting period of two weeks begins to allow news of the new consensus to spread and allow anyone who hasn’t upgraded yet to do so. During this time, existing Bitcoin Core nodes will be printing a message notifying the operators about the availability of an upgraded version.
If the hard fork occurs and you are still mining with Bitcoin Core, your node will reject the first new block that is larger than one megabyte in size. At that point there is a risk your newly mined coins will not be accepted at major exchanges or merchants.
So now that Bitcoin XT is out in the wild, the “market” will decide which version of bitcoin it wants to exist. And that market is driven by the miners. Of course, miners are not necessarily a representative sample of the entire bitcoin ecosystem. They have particular needs, desires, and are at times ruthless and mercenary. But they are the ones who operate the bitcoin transactional infrastructure and they will ultimately decide if the Bitcoin XT fork works or not.
It will be fascinating to watch this play out. If you are used to big corporations or governmental institutions making decisions behind closed doors about how your financial systems work, then you might enjoy watching a new model of innovation and technology evolution unfold. I believe we will see more and more things like this in the coming years.
For what it is worth, I support a larger block size and think it will be good for bitcoin. A list of supporters and detractors is here.