Blog articles

Free International Roaming With A Premium Upsell

A VC - 22 hours 4 min ago

I just landed in Berlin after an overnight flight from the US.

In the past, turning on your phone after landing overseas could be an expensive experience as the phone downloads all the email you received since taking off at international mobile data rates.

I’ve used a host of techniques over the years to avoid the experience of landing, turning on my phone, and immediately getting a text message that I’ve blown past my international data roaming cap.

I’ve turned off mobile data and waited until I got to hotel WiFi to download my email but that meant no mobile data for directions to the hotel. I’ve bought SIM cards in airports. And more recently I’ve rented a pocket WiFi before traveling overseas.

But last year the Gotham Gal and I switched back to T-Mobile after they introduced free low bandwidth international data roaming for all customers in the US.

Here is the experience when I land. I turn on the phone, it finds the local mobile network, connects, and my phone lights up with notifications and emails start coming in.

In addition I get a text message from T-Mobile offering to upgrade me to an international data pass that offers 4G in 100MB buckets at roughly $10/100MB.

I buy the upgrade every time and am happy to pay for the higher speeds.

But the important thing here is the customer experience. No longer do customers have to fear turning on their phone. No longer do customers have to jump through hoops to procure an affordable mobile data plan. If you want faster speeds, T-Mobile makes it drop dead simple to upgrade right on your phone.

This approach to international mobile data should be adopted by all the mobile carriers. It’s a great experience.

Categories: Blog articles

Messaging, Notifications, and Mobile

A VC - July 20, 2014 - 5:51am

I’ve written about this stuff before, but I continue to be interested in it.

I actively use the following messaging apps on my phone:

Kik – my primary channel for The Gotham Gal, my daughter Jessica, and USV people

Snapchat – my primary channel for my son Josh

SMS – my primary channel for my daughter Emily and a lot of my friends

Hangouts – secondary channel for my daughter Jessica and USV people

Twitter DM – primary channel for people who don’t have my cell number

Though I don’t use them, I realize the following apps are quite popular in the US as well

WhatsApp

Facebook Messenger

Skype

Viber

Tango

Line

So how is it possible that we can all have and use four, five, six or more messenger apps on our phones?

It’s because the notifications channel is the primary UI on mobile, replacing the home screen, and its easy to communicate with people using a variety of applications on your phone.

What I’m wondering is if we will see even more fragmentation in our messaging behavior on mobile in the coming years, or if five to six apps per person is status quo, or might we see some consolidation?

I personally don’t see any reason for consolidation and if I had to make a bet, it would be on further fragmentation. Each of the apps I use offers something slightly different than the others. And so for certain people, and certain kinds of conversations, one messaging app is preferable to another. It’s very possible that entrepreneurs will continue to come up with unique and differentiated experiences and that will drive further fragmentation.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: My Talk On Bitcoin, Crowdfunding, and Charitable Giving

A VC - July 19, 2014 - 6:02am

I gave this talk at NYU last week. It’s about three things I am spending a lot of time on and thinking a lot about these days.

The talk is about 30mins long and the Q&A goes on for about as long after the talk.

Categories: Blog articles

Feature Friday: A/B Testing Headlines On WordPress

A VC - July 18, 2014 - 5:35am

AVC community member Shana Carp has been building a neat service that A/B tests headlines for WordPress posts and helps you figure out the one that will bring the most traffic.

It’s called BayesianWitch. You can sign up here and add the plugin to your WordPress.

Although I think it’s a great idea for someone who wants to optimize their posts for more traffic, I have not implemented it here at AVC.

As I told Shana, I like to write my own headlines and I am not that concerned with traffic. There’s already a healthy number of people who come here every day and engage.

But if you are still building your readership and want to make sure you’ve got a headline that pops in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, you should give BayesianWitch a try.

I am sure Shana will be hanging out in the comments and please let her know what you think about the service, how it works, etc, etc.

Categories: Blog articles

Newsletter – July, 2014

Beyond Money - July 17, 2014 - 12:43pm

Contents

  • From Visby to Bisbee
  • Website improvements, slide shows, and videos
  • My upcoming events
  • Ecuador leading the way toward a “Commons Economy”
  • Kalikalos Summer School/Vacation.
  • Bitcoin—the currency and the technology
  • J. W. Smith and the Institute for Cooperative Capitalism Worldwide
  • More lessons in global economics, finance, and internet access

From Visby to Bisbee

Last year around this time I was in Visby, on the island of Gotland in Sweden where I was privileged to be able to attend the annual Almedalen event, an exciting convergence that brings together a wide variety of business people, politicians, academics, grassroots activists and ordinary folks for several days of presentations, discussions, and festivities.

This year I’m in Bisbee, Arizona, a former mining town turned artist’s mecca and tourist destination where I have the use of a comfortable house while my friends who own it summer in New England. Bisbee is located in Cochise county which is in the southeastern corner of Arizona, close to the Mexican border. I’ve gradually been adjusting to small town living and finding it to my liking. At five thousand feet elevation, the climate is pleasant—not too hot, and the summer monsoons have provided abundant rains over the past couple weeks. The ocotillo plants, which most of the time look like clumps of dead sticks splayed out toward the sky, are now covered with lush green leaves and tipped with red blossom tassels. _____________________________________________________

Website improvements, slide shows, and videos

The slower pace of small town Arizona has given me the opportunity to focus much of my energy and attention on consolidating the considerable body of work that I have built up over the past three decades, work that has taken a variety of forms—articles, books, websites, presentations, and interviews. Thanks to modern technologies, much of this work has been recorded and thus can be made readily available to present and future generations. I’ve spent a lot of time going back over my accumulated material—reworking and updating it, finding ways to make it more accessible, and in some cases, publishing it for the first time. I’m proving (to myself at least) that an old dog can learn new tricks, and I’ve been having a fun doing it.

I’ve been using Power Point for several years but up to this point had not tried to learn more than its basic functions, nor had I made much of an effort to learn how to edit audio and video files. With the acquisition of Power Point 2010, which has some powerful new features, plus some new found motivation on my part, I’m now beginning to master it along with audio editing software like WavePad and Audacity (both are free). Together, these tools are enabling me to create videos of reasonably good quality from many of my Power Point presentations that have been recorded over the years. I am posting these for viewing on my Vimeo channel at https://vimeo.com/tomazg/videos.

One of my best presentations, A New Paradigm in Exchange and Finance: The pathway to peace, justice, freedom, and a dignified life for TG-PBIbySL-0496CRsall, was delivered at the Public Banking Institute conference in Philadelphia in 2012. I’ve made a video of that slide show presentation, which you can view at https://vimeo.com/100765695.

I’ve also done some work on my YouTube channel. I’ve sought out and collected materials in which I am featured. You can find these in my YouTube playlist labeled, My presentations and Interviews.

These links are also provided in a new menu button labeled, My Videos and Sites, that I’ve added at the top of the home page on my website http://beyondmoney.net/. That button also brings up links to my other sites.

As you explore my sites, please let me know if you find any broken links, errors, or other problems. You can reach me at thgreco@mindspring.com.

_____________________________________________________

My upcoming events

I’ve been invited by the Sunbelt World Trade Association to give a presentation in Tucson on Monday, August 18. This presentation will describe how local businesses can create local liquidity on the basis of their own production and collaborative credit, thereby reducing their dependence on bank borrowing and protecting the local economy from the ill effects of national and global monetary policies (Details at http://beyondmoney.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/2014-tucson-flyer-063014.pdf). If there is sufficient interest, I may follow that up with a workshop covering the issues that need to be addressed in preparing to launch a complementary community currency for southeastern Arizona.

In October, I’ll be going to the San Francisco Bay area. I will present at Living the New Economy conference in Oakland, October 23-26 (http://www.bayareaneweconomy.org/), being organized by the people at Bay Bucks, a complementary currency and trade exchange for the SF Bay Area. Their banner reads: “We help local businesses cut costs, increase revenue and in the process, build local resilience.”

On October 30 I will present, The Evolution of Money and its Potential to Improve Humanity at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Details can be found here.

_____________________________________________________

Ecuador leading the way toward a “Commons Economy”

In 2013, the government of Ecuador embarked upon a program to rethink the fundamentals of its economy and plan its transition to a free and open knowledge society. Friend and colleague, Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation was engaged to lead a ten month process of research and discussion.

David Bollier has provided a good overview of the project and a progress report in his magazine On The Commons.

_____________________________________________________

Kalikalos Summer School/Vacation

If you’re in the market for a European vacation combined with an educational and community-building experience, you must check out Kalikalos Summer School where you can experience “Alternative holistic holidays on Mt Pelion above the sea.” Their three campuses are all in close proximity to one another in one of the most beautiful parts of Greece. This short video will give a good idea of what to expect.

_____________________________________________________

Bitcoin—the currency and the technology

The story of Bitcoin goes way beyond alternative currency. As a “virtual commodity,” Bitcoin represents a step backward toward a more primitive form of currency, but the “block chain” technology that Bitcoin uses has far reaching applicability. An interesting article that speaks to that point appeared in The Telegraph (UK). Titled, The coming digital anarchy, the lead-in to the article reads, “Bitcoin is giving banks a run for their money. Now the same technology threatens to eradicate social networks, stock markets, even national governments. Are we heading towards an anarchic future where centralised power of any kind will dissolve?

An interesting counterpoint to that one is Matthew Slater’s excellent article, What happens after the crypto-revolution?

And the nerds among us would do well to read Marc Andreesen’s New York Times article, Why Bitcoin Matters. Andreesen has invested almost $50 million in Bitcoin-related start-ups. He begins by painting this picture:

“A mysterious new technology emerges, seemingly out of nowhere, but actually the result of two decades of intense research and development by nearly anonymous researchers.

Political idealists project visions of liberation and revolution onto it; establishment elites heap contempt and scorn on it.

On the other hand, technologists – nerds – are transfixed by it. They see within it enormous potential and spend their nights and weekends tinkering with it.”

_____________________________________________________

J. W. Smith and the Institute for Cooperative Capitalism Worldwide

The Institute for Cooperative Capitalism Worldwide (ICCW) is the latest project of J.W. Smith, a long-time scholar and advocate of economic democracy, who has been writing on “full and equal rights economics” for many decades. I’ve know J.W. for many years and have a high regard for his work. I first became aware of him from reading his book, The Worlds Wasted Wealth. Now in his eighties, J.W. is still going strong and making a difference. His latest book is Periphery of Empire is Free: Empire’s Citizens Soon Will Be Free, which is being offered as an e-book at the bargain price of $5.50, along with books by William Kotke, Alanna Hartzok, and others.

The ICCW seeks to publish e-books by authors who share this full and equal rights philosophy. See their “creative commons” page. For responses and questions you can contact Dr. J.W. Smith at cc@ccus.info or phone 623-875-4624 .

________________________________________________________

More lessons in global economics, finance, and internet access

Whenever you need to take a short break from whatever you’re doing, Clarke and Dawe’s video can provide you with some deep insights about the global financial crisis, with a few chuckles thrown in.

And for a few more laughs relating to an important current topic, view John Oliver on net neutrality, and sign the petition to protect internet access at The Daily Kos.

Wishing you a pleasant summer,

Thomas


Categories: Blog articles

The Kickstarter Film Festival

A VC - July 17, 2014 - 4:31am

The fourth annual Kickstarter Film Festival is upon us. Tomorrow night in Fort Greene Park in the fine city of Brooklyn NY from 7-11pm, Kickstarter will be showing films, and featuring musicians and local food purveyors. The festival will be replayed in Los Angeles on Sept 12th, and also in London later this fall.

Here’s a short trailer for the festival:

Here’s the website for the festival. It lists all the films that will be featured. Attendance is free.

And here’s a blog post that talks about how they selected all the films that will be featured. 

It’s going to be a beautiful night in NYC tomorrow night. If you are considering your weekend plans, think hard about spending friday night in Fort Greene Park watching the amazing things that emerging filmmakers are doing right now.

Categories: Blog articles

No Pain No Gain

A VC - July 16, 2014 - 4:31am

One of my favorite observations about places to vacation is that the harder it is to get there, the better they are:

Aspen beats Vail

Montauk beats East Hampton

Tulum beats Cancun

And I think the same is often true of Internet services.

My friend Brad Feld tweeted this out yesterday:

i’ve grown tired of spotify and pandora – listening to the same stuff. so i’m going to try soundcloud for a while – any hints?

— Brad Feld (@bfeld) July 15, 2014

I replied with a suggestion on how to get started

@bfeld follow me (and others) on soundcloud. here’s me https://t.co/574mN3PCi6 and here’s my liked tracks https://t.co/Y4NB3TEo8o

— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) July 15, 2014

But regardless of my help, Brad is in for a harder time getting SoundCloud working for him than getting Pandora working for him. But if he sticks it out, follows the right people, curates tracks by liking them and reposting them, he will find there is a richness to SoundCloud that simply doesn’t exist on “just hit play” audio services.

The same is true of Twitter. I read this research note on Twitter yesterday:

Twitter: Study Vol. 3 suggests fixable user issues and mass market potential; Buy – MKM Partners 
MKM Partners finished another proprietary study on TWTR. Findings: 
-User attrition is the key issue for TWTR. Like other volumes, this survey shows polarized indicators of stickiness 
-Strong indications that improved user experience and streamlined content mgmt would fix churn issues 

So Wall Street is finally figuring out that Twitter isn’t Facebook. It exhibits “polarized indicators of stickiness”.

Which to me means, some people love Twitter and become obsessed with it. And others churn out quickly.

Twitter is a lot like SoundCloud. You have to do a lot of work to get to “that place” with Twitter. You have to follow the right people (for you). You have to favorite, retweet, reply, and engage. But when you do there is a richness to Twitter that doesn’t exist on simpler and easier social nets.

I am sure we can find many other examples of this. That might be a good exercise for our comment discussion.

When it comes to social media, no pain means no gain.

Disclosure: USV provided early stage venture capital investments to both SoundCloud and Twitter. And I personally own a lot of Twitter stock.

Categories: Blog articles

The Smart Watch

A VC - July 15, 2014 - 4:37am

Last week, at an event I attended, I was at the bar after dinner and a few people sat down wearing the latest Android Smartwatch from Samsung.

There were a bunch of oohs and aahs.

I mentioned that I’ve never worn a watch and can’t imagine ever wearing one, no matter what is on it. I just have never gotten used to wearing something on my wrist, though I have tried many times.

I don’t think the ability to see notifications and calls coming in on my wrist instead of my phone will change that.

This reporter from New York Magazine suggests that nobody other than tech moguls and geeks are interested in smartwatches.

I don’t really have an opinion on whether the smart watch is going to be a hit or not.

But I do know that pulling my phone out of my pocket will remain the primary way I connect to the world when I am out and about.

I am not bearish on wearables in general however.

I really like wearing a “necklace” which I blogged about a few weeks ago. I like the vibration on my neck when a call comes in. I like being able to easily connect to the audio services on my phone without taking out the phone.

I can imagine there will be a plethora of wearables in the market in a few years and some of us will tend toward the watches, others will tend toward the necklaces, others will adopt the rings, and some will go for the glasses.

It will be fun to watch this market evolve.

Categories: Blog articles

Bitcoin and Charities

A VC - July 14, 2014 - 4:42am

Tonight, at 6:30pm at NYU’s Eisner and Lubin Auditorium, I am giving a talk on the topic of Bitcoin and Charities. If you want to come, the ticket is $25, paid in Bitcoin, and all ticket proceeds are going to CSNYC.

We are expecting about 300 people right now based on ticket sales and there are another 100 seats left so there’s room if you want to come.

Here’s why I think Bitcoin will become important to charities.

Traditionally non-profits have spent upwards of 20% of their budget raising money.  The Internet, software, and the crowd have dramatically changed that.  Non-profits like Charity Water, DonorsChoose, and others have shown that using the Internet and the crowd can bring those costs down considerably. And now we have crowdfunding networks like CrowdRise that can help every charity be like Charity Water and DonorsChoose.

But there remains a pesky cost to online fundraising that is harder to eliminate and that is the payment processing fees. A charity may be able to lower their cost of fundraising from 20% to 5% by using these online tools, but virtually the entirety of that last 5% is going towards credit card processing fees.

This is where Bitcoin comes in. If you own Bitcoin, at Coinbase or in your own wallet, you can gift your Bitcoins to charity and save them pretty much all of their online fundraising costs.

The nirvana of charitable fundraising is that all of the money raised goes to the cause, not the operations and fundraising costs of the non-profit. Some non-profits have founders or boards that cover the overhead and fundraising costs so that all funds raised go to the cause. That’s how CSNYC works. The Gotham Gal and I cover the operating and fundraising costs. So if you make a donation to CSNYC, all of your funds go to our mission (which is bringing CS Education to the NYC public schools).

But most non-profits don’t have founders or boards that can support them like that. So when you make a donation, you are funding not only the mission, but the costs of raising those funds. The Internet and bitcoin can change that.

If you run a charity or work at one, consider signing up for a fundraiser on CrowdRise and connect with CrowdRise about accepting Bitcoin as an option. There is no less expensive way to raise money than that.

I will get into all of this in more detail tonight, including providing a basic description and history of Bitcoin, how it works, and why it is important. I hope to see you there.

Categories: Blog articles

Platform Monopolies

A VC - July 13, 2014 - 8:08am

There’s an article in the NY Times Sunday Business Section today that lays out a very important question we have all been dancing around but will increasingly be dealing with. The article is nominally about Amazon’s fight with Hachette but it is really about internet platforms and monopolies.

The author of the NY Times piece tells the story of Vincent Zandri, an author of mystery and suspense novels, who has moved all of his publishing activities over to Amazon’s platform and is enjoying the benefits of doing that.

This could easily have been the story of the journalist who moves her writing from The Wall Street Journal to her own blog, or the story of the filmmaker who moves from the Hollywood studio system to Kickstarter and VHX. It could be the story of the band that leaves their record label and does direct deals with SoundCloud and Spotify. It could be the story of the yellow cab driver who moves his driving business to Uber or Sidecar.

The story of Vincent Zandri is the story of our times.

The Internet, at its core, is a marketplace that, over time, removes the need for the middleman. That is very good news for the talent that has been giving up a fairly large part of its value to all of the toll takers in between them and their end customers.

Take Etsy for example. Before Etsy, if you made knit hats, you would sell them to a boutique for $10, and that boutique would turn around and sell them to your customers for $25. Now you sell them to your customers on Etsy for $25 and pay a 20cents listing fee and 3.5% of the transaction and a payment processing fee. In the old model the knitter made $10 per hat. In the new model, the knitter makes about $23 per hat. That’s a big deal. And you see it all over the place in the Internet marketplace economy.

But there is another aspect to the Internet that is not so comforting. And that is that the Internet is a network and the dominant platforms enjoy network effects that, over time, lead to dominant monopolies.

We see that with Google today. Google’s global search market share is around 70%. It would be larger if not for China and Russia, where the governments have given benefits to local players. But even with its current market share, Google is pretty close to a monopoly in search. It is a benign monopoly for the most part and, as such, has largely stayed out of the sights of regulators. I, for one, am happy with that game of chicken between Google and the regulators.

Amazon is increasingly looking like a monopoly in publishing. This part of the NY Times piece is how all of these Internet stories have played out:

At first, those in the publishing business considered Amazon a cute toy (you could see a book’s exact sales ranking!) and a useful counterweight to Barnes & Noble and Borders, chains willing to throw their weight around. Now Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble is weak and Amazon owns the publishing platform of the digital era.

The same could be said of Google, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, Uber, and all of the dominant networks that are emerging around us. From laughable toys to dominant monopolies in less than a decade.

It’s strange for me to write this post because this is our playbook at USV. We invest in networks that can emerge as dominant platforms by virtue of network effects. We like things that are laughed at. The more they are derided, the more we want to invest.

But here’s the rub. When a platform like Amazon emerges as the dominant monopoly in publishing, who will keep them honest? When every author has left the publishing house system and has gone direct with Amazon, what does that world look like?

That is the question the NY Times is asking in their story this morning. And that is an issue that we at USV have been confronting for a while now and we are investing against it.

We have invested in Wattpad, which is a bottoms up competitor to Amazon, as opposed to Hachette which is a top down competitor to Amazon. We think its easier for a more open, less commercial platform like Wattpad to keep Amazon honest than it is for a legacy publishing house.

We have invested in Sidecar, which has built a true open marketplace for ridesharing. We think its more likely that true peer marketplace will keep Uber honest than the legacy fleets of limos and taxis that are fighting for their life against Uber right now.

But maybe most importantly, we are investing in bitcoin and the blockchain, which is the foundation for truly distributed peer to peer marketplaces without the Internet middleman.

For this is the truth that we are now facing. For all of its democratizing power, the Internet, in its current form, has simply replaced the old boss with a new boss. And these new bosses have market power that, in time, will be vastly larger than that of the old boss.

So, as an investor, when you see a dominant market power emerge, you should start asking yourself “what will undo that market power?” And you should start investing in that. We’ve begun doing that, but are not anywhere near done with this effort.

Categories: Blog articles

Your Pitch Sucks

The Emergent Fool - July 12, 2014 - 2:10pm

I have yet to meet a founder who knows how to pitch their company so that it immediately resonates with investors.

Your first job is, in 10 seconds or less, give me the one golden nugget that makes me want to learn more.  The most common mistake is talking about the product or technology or the company before I care.  And I won’t care — and will probably subtly resent you for wasting my time — if you can’t convince me there’s an opportunity for me to make lots of money by investing.

BAD: Mobile social marketing loyalty program software

GOOD: Increasing profits & user engagement for mobile app developers

Your next job is to double-down on why I should invest.  There is no formula for this.  You have to get out of your own head and into the mind of the investor.  Here are the three most important factors angel investors care about, in priority order:

1. SOCIAL PROOF: Has someone I trust invested?  Did they do their own diligence and negotiating the terms with you?  Are you offering me the exact same terms

2. SCARCITY: Is my opportunity about to go away if I don’t act now?

3. SPEED TO LIQUIDITY: How soon before I get my initial investment back at the very least?

Did Tim Draper just invest in your round?  Is the round oversubscribed and you will accept my investment only if I sign right now?  Are you sharing a portion of your significant monthly revenues with your investors beginning immediately?

If any of these are true, then I probably don’t need to know anything more.  The reality is that I’m either already sold, or you will never close me anyway.

Every fundraise is unique and has unique golden nuggets.  You can’t change the fundamental quality of your deal quickly, but you can change your pitch immediately so that I see it in the best light possible right away.

I’ve been an active angel investor and entrepreneur for many years, and I’ve coached thousands of founders on how to improve their pitch.  Since starting Crowdfunder, I’ve seen companies with zero traction for months on end change their pitch and close hundreds of thousands of dollars within a couple of days.

Investment crowdfunding can be transformative for fundraising entrepreneurs, but the transformation begins and ends with the right pitch.

Related posts:

  1. Investing in Superstars, part 4
  2. Why Crowdfunding Changes Everything
  3. Investing in Superstars, part 3

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: The High Road With Mario Batali

A VC - July 12, 2014 - 7:55am

A month or so ago, I taped an episode of The High Road With Mario Batali. We went to the Frick Museum, we bowled in the basement of the Frick, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches, and we rode around on the upper level of a double decker bus. Mario asked me a bunch of questions along the way. It’s about ten minutes long and it came out well. I apologize in advance for the ads at the start and in the middle.

Categories: Blog articles

Feature Friday: SoundCloud on Sonos

A VC - July 11, 2014 - 6:35am

Yesterday Sonos announced a feature that I have been waiting years for. There is now an official SoundCloud app on Sonos.

To add SoundCloud to your Sonos system, you simply visit ‘Add Music Services’ in the new Sonos app and add it to your music services. SoundCloud tracks are also now available in the universal search feature in the new Sonos app.

We have had the unofficial SoundCloud hack for Sonos running on our systems for a long time now but it was a bit wonky to set up and it was not included in universal search.

If you want something to listen to this morning on your Sonos, you can try listening to my favorite tracks on SoundCloud.

Categories: Blog articles

Checking Your Work

A VC - July 10, 2014 - 6:44am

I don’t recall who drove it into me when I was young, but I have always been obsessive about checking my work. Whenever I do a math problem, I take my answer and do a reverse check to make sure the answer makes sense. I do this even when adding a tip to a bill at the end of a dinner. It drives the Gotham Gal crazy to see me take so much time to do a simple math problem. It’s not even a conscious thing for me. It’s just how my mind works.

I tell all of you this because it relates to writing. I was talking to an educator that I respect greatly last night and I asked her what is the most effective technique for teaching kids to write. I expected her to say one on one editing sessions with a mentor, coach, or teacher was the most effective way to teach writing. But she told me that forcing kids to rewrite their work, solo, was the most effective technique to improve their writing.

When I write a blog post, I tend to write it as the idea forms in my brain. I write the whole thing out. And then I rewrite it. I go over every line and make sure the spelling and grammar are correct, I look at the phrasing. I consider the flow. I read it start to finish at least three or four times. I think about the whole and then each part. And I’ll cut out paragraphs, move things, rewrite parts, and mess with it for almost as long as it took me to write it in the first place. And I’ll do that even after I’ve posted it. I actually get some extra benefit from editing while the post is live. I am not sure why that is, but often times the best edits come to me after the post is live.

And so it turns out, if my educator friend is right and I would imagine she is, that this kind of obsessive self editing is the best way to become a better writer. I don’t consider myself a great writer by any means, but I have improved immensely over the years I’ve been blogging. Some of that, for certain, comes from writing every day. According to WordPress, I have written over 6,500 posts here at AVC. That’s a lot of writing. But you don’t learn as much from the process of putting words on paper (or online). You learn most from the process of perfecting the piece.

Based on the countless hours I have worked with my kids over the years, getting students to spend time on a project after they feel like they have finished it is really hard. They get annoyed. “It’s done, it’s right, why are you making me do this?” is a common refrain. But if you want your kids or students to learn and improve, you have to force them to do that. Like someone did for me when I was young. It’s a gift that pays dividends for me every day.

Categories: Blog articles

Amino

A VC - July 9, 2014 - 6:56am

At USV, we have always been interested in communities. They are, in some ways, the iconic representation of our “large networks thesis”. We have been impressed by communities like Reddit, 4chan, and Hacker News. We love what our portfolio company Disqus has done to turn blogs like this one into vibrant communities. And we have turned our own website at USV into community, using Disqus and Twitter and link sharing.

We’ve long wondered what a native mobile community looks like. A few months ago we saw one when the two founders of Amino came into our office. They have built an app constellation of native mobile apps, each focused on a niche topic (like a subreddit). Examples are Minecraft, K-Pop, and Anime.

My partner Andy wrote a short post on USV.com about our investment in Amino yesterday. If you want to see what the future of communities might look like check out Amino. We are intrigued and excited to see how this plays out.

Categories: Blog articles

The Basic Income Guarantee

A VC - July 8, 2014 - 7:58am

My partner Albert has begun a series of blog posts on a concept called The Basic Income Guarantee. This is fundamentally different than a minimum wage. It is essentially a safety net for a world where robots will be doing more and more of the manual and difficult labor that has, until now, provided income for unskilled workers.

I don’t have a formed opinion on this idea. I know that welfare didn’t work out too well in the last century. So I’m nervous about any system that encourages or incents people not to work. But if we really are headed into a world where there aren’t any low skilled jobs, then I guess we need to be talking about ideas like this.

All of Albert’s posts on this topic are here.

Categories: Blog articles

Silicon Valley: A Place Or A State Of Mind?

A VC - July 7, 2014 - 7:02am

Marc Andreessen, as is his wont, posted a tweetstorm this morning that was a spirited defense of Silicon Valley. It starts with this tweet:

1/One persistent canard from would-be SV critics is “Silicon Valley isn’t building/funding the right things, aka solutions to big problems”.

— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) July 7, 2014

One thing I always think about in reading things like this is the use of the phrase “Silicon Valley” or SV as Marc uses in his tweetstorm. Let’s look at this tweet:

14/Sixth: Anyone who thinks SV can be doing more/better/different, come join us and participate in building new things, products, companies! — Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) July 7, 2014

Does Marc mean “move to Silicon Valley” or does he mean “do a startup or join one and work on this stuff”?

I actually don’t know what Marc meant by his use of SV in this tweetstorm, but having spent 25 years in the tech/startup/VC sector and having done that time outside of Silicon Valley (the place), I am sensitive to the use of those words and always wonder.

We have about a third of our portfolio in the bay area. We have about a third in NYC. We have about a third elsewhere with a large concentration in Europe where I am heading in a few weeks to attend several board meetings. I like to think of the tech startup ecosystem as a global movement. We don’t invest in Asia, South Asia, or Latin America but I see more and more interesting things coming from those regions these days.

Silicon Valley is most certainly a mindset and it is one that is infecting large swaths of the global economy. I agree with Marc’s tweetstorm, in particular this one.

12/I think this is 100% incorrect: Communication tech/apps including Internet are the foundation for everything else we’ll do for 100 years.

— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) July 7, 2014

And I think, when applied to the global startup ecosystem, he is absolutely right.

Categories: Blog articles

Second Video Of The Week: Vinod Khosla interviews Larry and Sergey

A VC - July 6, 2014 - 4:40am

This is so good I decided to go with back to back videos this weekend.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Larry Lessig On MayDay PAC

A VC - July 5, 2014 - 5:42am

In celebration of a huge July 4th in which over 10,000 people collectively donated almost $2mm to get MayDay PAC over its $5mm goal, here’s Larry Lessig talking about why all of this matters.

Categories: Blog articles

MayDay PAC

A VC - July 4, 2014 - 4:50am

Today, July 4th, the anniversary of the day in which our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, is also the final day of a crowdfunding campaign to raise $12mm for a Super PAC to fund campaign finance reform.

This campaign is called MayDay and the person behind it is Larry Lessig.

The idea is to use the $12mm to make campaign finance reform the fundamental issue in five high profile congressional races and win them.

If that works, then May Day PAC will crowdfund a much larger amount in 2016 and do this again in a lot more races.

Larry’s assertion is that the vast majority of americans want big money out of government, but the small number of people with the big money don’t want that to happen and they are calling the shots now.

He believes that the best way to fix that is for everyone with small amounts of money to come together and put together some big money and go toe to toe with them.

I think it is an interesting idea and when Larry raised the first $1mm from the crowd, the Gotham Gal and I participated in the small group that matched the first $1mm. We can and do write big checks to politicians because that’s the way our corrupt system of government works right now. We are happy to write big checks to change that system and make it right.

The second part of the crowdfunding campaign is seeking to raise $5mm and then get that matched in the same way the first $1mm was matched.

With one day to go, the campaign is short by about $1.5mm. It would be amazing if the american public celebrated July 4th by coming up with the final $1.5mm.

If you are so inclined, you can help do that here.

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