In my 2001 book, Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, I included a description of a proposed community currency I call Youth Employment Scrip.
This currency design is intended to provide the local community with a supplemental means of payment based on the labor that young people can provide to local businesses, non-profits, and government agencies, that normally could not afford to hire them.
Combined with presently available employment agency services, such a plan could help reduce youth unemployment while providing the entire community with additional liquidity that will help local businesses to sell some of their unused capacity.
For a complete description, you can view or download the entire chapter here: Money Chapter 22 YES
I love this bit from Steve Jobs. It’s a clip from Cringely’s interview which I blogged a couple weeks ago.
This clip is only 53 seconds so everyone can spare that minute and watch it.
The natural reaction to this would be “Etsy knocked off Square” and to some degree that would be correct. But Etsy Reader is not just a card reader. There is quite a bit of software behind the scenes that connects the checkout experience to the seller’s shop on Etsy and all of the seller tools that Etsy provides. The better way to think about this is that Etsy Reader extends a seller’s Etsy Store to the real world of craft fairs, flea markets, and other in person experiences.
Etsy Reader is about coming full circle at Etsy. In the early days, back in 2005 and 2006 when we first invested, Etsy was built seller by seller, at craft fairs, with street teams manning Etsy booths and evangelizing a new way to find customers and meet other like minded people. Etsy sellers still sell a lot at craft fairs and other face to face environments. Now with Etsy Reader, the shop can be online or offline with everything tied together.
I am excited to see Etsy Reader come to market. It’s been a dream for a while now and props to Camilla and her team for getting it out the door. Well done.
First a disclosure. The Gotham Gal and I personally own a lot of Twitter stock. I am not objective. With that behind me, I am going to talk a bit about Fabric today.
One of my great disappointments during the years I was closely involved at Twitter was the failure to make Sign In With Twitter a competitive offering with Facebook and then Google. In the early days of OAuth, Twitter was an innovator and leader in this area. But we did not invest enough in the technology and partnership development, we did not supply email addresses via the service, and we did not have as many users. Over time signing into an app with Twitter has declined as an option with developers in favor of Facebook and, increasingly, Google. And it bothered me a lot. Still does.
Yesterday Twitter announced Fabric, which is a set of tools for mobile developers that is an attempt to change that. The timing could not be better. We talk to a lot of mobile developers who come into our office seeking capital and mostly getting advice. I am alway interested in where they get their logins from. Most offer sign in with Facebook but many users are choosing not to use that these days. Many offer sign in with Google and that is growing in popularity but signing in with Google works way better on Android than iOS. Signing in with email remains a popular option, way more popular than you might imagine.
That tells me that there is an opening for Twitter to get back into this game in a big way and Fabric is their attempt to do just that. The enticements to use Fabric for developers are Crashlytics, a very popular crash reporting tool that Twitter purchased, MoPub, a mobile ad exchange that Twitter purchased, and Digits, the new mobile sign on offering. Crashlytics and MoPub are both really good services for analytics and monetization, but it is Digits that got my attention yesterday.
Digits lets you sign with your phone number without providing an email or a password. According to Twitter:
So we’re excited to announce Digits – part of the Twitter Kit – which is sign-in with phone number done right. It’s built on Twitter infrastructure so you don’t have to worry about managing multiple relationships with carriers and SMS interchanges. Digits is fully themeable so that it fits the user experience you’ve designed for your app. Digits won’t post anything on your user’s behalf since it isn’t tied to their social network accounts, including Twitter. And with Digits, your apps are ready for global adoption: it’s available immediately in 216 countries and in 28 languages, on iOS, Android and the web.
Here are the big things for me in this new service:
– Won’t post anything on your user’s behalf because it isn’t tied to their social network accounts, including Twitter. This is what got Facebook’s sign in product in trouble with users. This is a big deal.
– Available in 216 countries and 28 languages, on iOS, Android, and the web. Getting anything that involves the phone system (phone numbers and SMS) working all around the world is not trivial.
– No password required. It’s a pain to remember user ids, email addresses, and passwords. That’s why signing in with Facebook and Google is such an enticing thing to a user. Signing in with your phone number is an even better option in my mind.
So I’m excited to see Twitter take another swing at providing sign on tools and identity services to developers, particularly mobile developers. I’m hoping it’s a home run for them.
Firebase makes a backend that allows developers to store and sync their data in real-time. In a relatively short time, Firebase has been adopted by over 100,000 developers. It solves some complicated problems simply and elegantly.
We believe Google will be a good home for Firebase. They have the resources and desire to continue to build out Firebase and scale it. I saw the two founders last night at our dinner in SF and they told me that Google is giving them budget to go out and scale up the engineering team. They had big smiles on their faces when they told me that.
Though our time as investors and partners in Firebase was short, we enjoyed working with them very much and are happy that they have found a good home for their company and their technology. It sure looks like the perfect match.
When you are VC, you live in this protected environment. You sit in your office in a glass conference room with lovely views and entrepreneurs walk in and pitch you and you get to decide who you are going to back and who you are not. People tell you what they think you want to hear. That you are so smart. That you are so successful. They suck up to you. And it goes to your head. You believe it. I am so smart. I am so successful.
You have to get out of that mindset because it is toxic. My number one secret is the Gotham Gal who brings me down to earth every night, makes me do the dishes, walk the dog, and lose to her in backgammon. Actually I have not lost to her in backgammon in over twenty years because she used to beat me so badly that I couldn’t take it anymore.
But blogging is another helpful tool in reminding yourself that you are not all that. Marc Andreessen said as much in his excellent NY Magazine interview which was published yesterday. I loved the whole interview but I particularly loved this bit:
So how do you, Marc Andreessen, make sure that you are hearing honest feedback?
Every morning, I wake up and several dozen people have explained to me in detail how I’m an idiot on Twitter, which is actually fairly helpful.
Do they ever convince you?
They definitely keep me on my toes, and we’ll see if they’re able to convince me. I mean, part of it is, I love arguing.
The big thing about Twitter for me is it’s just more people to argue with.
Keeping someone on his or her toes, making them rethink their beliefs, making them argue them, is as Marc says “fairly helpful.” That’s an understatement. It is very very helpful.
That’s the thing I love about the comments here at AVC. I appreciate the folks who call bullshit on me. There are many but Brandon, Andy, and Larry are common naysayers. They may come across as argumentative, but arguing is, as Marc points out, useful.
The comments are also a place where people play the suck up game. It isn’t necessary to do that and I don’t appreciate it. It makes me uneasy.
So I would like to thank the entire AVC community for being a sounding board for my ideas, for pushing back when I am off base, and for resisting the suck up whenever the urge presents itself. I appreciate it very much.
what you might call the personal cloud – the Bluetooth LE/Wifi mesh around you (such as HealthKit or HomeKit)
I like to think about what’s next.
Paul Graham said, “If you think of technology as something that’s spreading like a sort of fractal stain, almost every point on the edge represents an interesting problem.”
And in that context, the personal cloud is a particularly interesting “point on the edge” to me. It includes the following things:
1) NFC and other technologies that will turn the mobile phone into your next credit card
2) Phone to phone mesh networking like we saw with Fire Chat in Hong Kong a few weeks ago
3) Wearables like the watch, necklace, and earbud
4) Personal health data recording (HealthKit) in which your phone has a real time and historical chart of your heartbeat, blood chemistry, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and much more.
5) Airplay and Chromecast and other technologies that will turn the mobile phone into both the next settop box and remote
I could probably go on and list another five things that fit into the personal cloud, but I will stop there.
If the first wave of the mobile phone’s impact on the tech sector was driven by applications running on the phone, the second wave will be driven by the phone connecting to other devices, including other phones.
I am particularly fascinated about what happens when our phones connect to other phones in dense environments and form meshes that don’t need the traditional Internet connectivity to power them. Mesh networks don’t just solve the problem of lack of traditional connectivity (Hong Kong), they also produce a solution to the last mile connectivity duopoly in wireline and oligopoly in wireless. In the future we may just opt out of those non-competitive markets and opt into a local mesh to get us to the Internet backbone, both in our homes and when we are out and about.
And phone to phone meshes form local “geofenced” networks that are interesting in their own right. A nice example of this is the peek feature in Yik Yak where you can see the timeline at various universities around the US. These Yik Yak peeks are not powered by mesh networking, they are just using the geolocation feature on the phone. But they could be a collection of mesh networks operating in various universities around the country. And so that example is enlightening to me.
I wanted to end this post with an image of a person walking down the street surrounded by their personal cloud and all the devices that are connected to it. But a quick image search did not produce it for me. That in and of itself is telling. That’s our future. But right now we are still in the imagining phase of it.
Yesterday morning I made the mistake of leaving my apartment without my Citibike key. When I got to the Citibike station, I realized it and hailed a taxi instead. I got in the taxi and told the driver where I was going which was 6th Avenue and 13th Street. He started to enter the destination into the GPS on his phone which was mounted above the dash to the left of the steering wheel. I told him that wasn’t necessary as all he had to do was go a few blocks down Washington to 10th, make a left on 10th, then across 10th to 6th, then a left on 6th. So he took off down Washington and the preceded to blow right past 10th. At which point, I told him that he had missed 10th and he should make the next left onto Christopher, which he then drove right past. After a couple more missed turns, I told him to stop and got out of the taxi and told him that he should learn a bit about getting around the city before getting behind the wheel of a taxi cab. Then I tweeted this out.
More and more drivers in NYC (cabs, lyfts, ubers) have no idea where they are going. I just leapt out of a taxi after four missed turns
— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) October 18, 2014
If you click on that tweet and look at all of the replies, you will find an interesting discussion of the current state of the taxis and ride sharing services in NYC, Chicago, London, and a bunch more cities. It seems that my experience of getting into a car and the driver having no idea where they are and where they are going is not unique. It’s happening to lots of people in lots of places.
Now you might say, “well you should have let the driver use the GPS” and you would be right about that. But in that tweet reply stream there are plenty of stories about drivers using GPS and still getting terribly lost. When you have no idea where you are and no idea where you are going, the GPS isn’t as useful as it would seem. And then there are the issues of road work, closed streets, traffic, and other sorts of things that requires experience and local knowledge to navigate. There is a huge difference between an experienced driver who knows their way around a city and a driver just off the plane from somewhere else driving around NYC using a GPS in lieu of that local knowledge.
What has happened in NYC and apparently in many other places is the arrival of ride sharing services has increased the demand for drivers and the best drivers are moving from taxis to the higher end services and new drivers are being recruited to drive the cabs and the lower end ride sharing services. These new drivers have no training and have no idea where they are going without the GPS. And they are totally and completely reliant on the GPS. It makes me feel like the autonomous car has arrived in the form of the robotic taxi driver.
I told this story to my friend Jeremy last night and he observed that the right answer is to use the higher end ride sharing services where all the experienced drivers are now working. He said “price and quality are lining up as you would expect in a market economy.” Of course the other option is to not forget my citibike key or walk or take the subway. Which is looking like a better option more and more these days.
I had the opportunity to do an appearance with Steven Johnson on the day his new book, How We Got To Now, hit the market. It was moderated by Manoush Zomorodiof WNYC. Here’s a video of the talk. It was a lot of fun.
When we had a break in our meeting, I replied and said “No, but I saw the buzz on the feature on Twitter” and then asked him to Kik me a Tweet I could look at on my phone.
He kik’d me this one and I played it on my phone from inside Twitter (open that link on your phone in Twitter if you want to see it in action).
The really cool thing about this new card is you can minimize the SoundCloud card (like you can minimize a video on YouTube) and then keep listening to the music while you move away from the tweet.
That’s a big deal because most SoundCloud tracks are 2-5mins long and you wouldn’t want to keep that tweet open on your phone for 2-5mins if you could avoid doing that just to hear the entire track.
Apparently this feature (called Twitter Audio) will be available to other audio partners. This is a great move for Twitter and a great thing for SoundCloud and other audio companies too.
I saw on The Verge that HBO is finally going to make its excellent HBO Go service available “over the top” (sometime in 2015)
This is something I’ve wanted for a long time and have written about a bunch here.
It isn’t that I don’t have a cable subscription. I have many.
It is that I want a direct subscription relationship with HBO Go. I don’t want one subscription to be dependent on another.
That is also why I don’t like subscribing to services on my phone via carrier billing.
When its time to end a relationship with a carrier or a cable company, I don’t want to have to think about what other relationships I might be ending.
Direct relationships are best and I’m thrilled to become a direct subscriber to HBO Go.
Well done HBO.
I use gmail’s priority inbox to sort my mail into stuff I need to see and stuff I don’t. The reality is that I don’t see anything that does not go into my priority inbox unless I do a search (which I do quite often).
Google launched priority inbox four years ago and I have been using it from almost day one. And it has worked well and reliably for me until recently.
Sometime this summer (mid/late summer I think), I started noticing that emails from people that I dialog regularly with (including people at USV!) were not getting into my priority inbox. So I started wading into the “everything else” section of my inbox and finding those emails and manually tagging them as “important”. I did that for a week or two religiously and then went back to my habit of just looking at the priority emails and ignoring everything else.
But the problem continues to manifest itself. I am not entirely sure what happened. It feels like google has changed its priority sorting algorithm and it’s not working as well for me as it used to. Has anyone else experienced this issue recently?
And to everyone who used to get regular and rapid replies from me and now never hears back, I apologize. It’s not me. It’s google
As many of you know, CSNYC is a non-profit I helped start a few years ago along with some colleagues. We are attempting to bring computer science education to the 1.1 million children in the NYC Public School system.
The organization is still quite small but has been growing slowly and steadily since we formed it. There are five or six people working at CSNYC depending on if you count people working on it part time.
We are doing a lot with a small crew and this year there will be over 100 public schools in NYC (high school, middle school, and even a few elementary schools) with CSNYC funded classes in them. We do this by partnering with the very best computer science programs around the country and funding them to come to NYC and train teachers and get their curriculum into classrooms.
We also do a bunch of other things and possibly the most impactful of all the things we do is community development. We run meetups and other events to bring NYC public school teachers (and other teachers too) together to talk about how they are using computer science and programming in their classrooms.
Our largest meetup, the CSNYC Education Meetup, has almost 600 teachers in it and has quadrupled in size in the past year. My great hope is it will quadruple in size again this year. Each monthly meetup has a theme, such as Careers in Computing, CS Across Disciplines, Showcase of teacher resources and student work, etc. There is a meetup today actually. It is a meetup today about Teaching the Next Generation of Tech, a symposium led by panelists from ScriptEd, TEALS, AFSE and Flatiron School. Anyone who is interested in learning more about CSNYC, the programs we fund, our teacher meeetups, or teaching computer science to K-12 students is welcome to attend.
So that is a long lead-in to this job opportunity. We have opened another job at CSNYC and this role will be dedicated to running and coordinating all of our meetups, our events, and our communications efforts, including our website and social media efforts. The job posting is here.
This is a great opportunity for the right person. You will get to meet and work with hundreds of teachers who are embracing computer science and bringing it into their schools and classrooms. The right person will enjoy meeting new people, and will be organized, web savvy, and passionate about the CSNYC mission. If you are all of that, and more, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you know someone who would be great at this job, please send an email to email@example.com.
This is an important effort that is doing great work and I’m proud to have been part of making it happen. If you would like to support it financially, you can do so here.
I got my new iPhone6 from T-Mobile on Thursday. I spent Thursday evening setting it up and putting all the Android apps I regularly use on it. I’ve been using it as my primary phone since Thursday night and after three full days on it, I have some early observations.
1) The TouchID service is pretty great. I secure my phone with a password and although its a little thing to simply be able to hold your thumb down instead, little things sometimes are the biggest things and TouchID is like that. I really like it.
2) I miss the three buttons at the bottom of an Android phone. I’m never sure how to get back to a previous screen on iOS. I’ve come to realize that by tapping at the top of the screen, I can often get back to the previous screen. But it is super nice to have a back button that works identically on every app and I miss that.
3) I don’t like having two maps services on the phone. Some apps default to Apple Maps and I prefer Google Maps. Maybe its possible to change the defaults so that all the apps go to Google Maps but I’m not sure how to do that.
4) I don’t understand why Google doesn’t make GCal for iPhone. I really dislike the native mail and calendar programs for iOS and wish I could use the native google apps for both mail and calendar. This is probably the number one reason I will most likely go back to Android. Mail and Calendar and Maps are three huge things for me and I’m not comfortable with the Apple versions of those products.
5) Notifications on iOS works a lot like Android now. But I miss getting the notifications across the top of my home screen. Having to swipe down to see them is one step more than I’d like to have to do. I realize you get a notifications count on the app icon, but if that app is not on the home screen, I don’t see it.
6) I like the “today” tab in the notifications service. Its a lot like what Google has done with Google Now. I think Google should copy Apple and put Google Now into the notifications service.
As I am writing this it occurs to me that I am trying to use iOS like I use Android. I’ve set up my iPhone home screen to be as identical to my Android home screen as I can. I’m trying to make iOS work the way I am used to working. I realize it would be better to fully embrace iOS and go with the flow. But I’m not sure I can do that. I am a creature of habit even though my move to iOS was all about getting out of my comfort zone.
It is interesting to me that the two dominant operating systems are becoming more similar as Apple copies the best parts of Android (notifications being a prime example) and Google copies the best parts of iOS. It was not that hard to move from Android to iOS (other than downloading all of those apps and configuring them). When I go back to Android in three to six months, I don’t think that change will be particularly hard either.
We have a duopoly in mobile operating systems and that seems how the mobile market will operate, at least in the near future. Both Apple and Google are spending huge sums of money to stay competitive with each other. Both make fantastic mobile operating systems that work really well. As I’ve said before, mobile has matured. Maybe if I’m looking to get outside of my comfort zone, I need to be looking somewhere else for a new and different experience.
Early this summer I walked into my parking garage and saw that they had installed two Chargepoint electric vehicle charging stations. I turned around, walked back to our apartment building, and went upstairs and told the Gotham Gal that the moment I had been waiting for had come and I wanted to get a Tesla. That weekend we took a trip up to the Tesla showroom in the art gallery section of Chelsea and bought one. It came last week and we are enjoying driving a car built by software people. We may be late to this party but we are happy to be at it now.
This past week Tesla announced a software upgrade that offers Autopilot features. I’ve been wondering for a while now how self driving technology would come to market. Google has been working on this technology for close to a decade and I’ve seen driverless cars on 280 heading from San Francisco to Palo Alto. But who wants to get into the back seat of the first self driving car and let the car do its thing? Not me.
On the other hand if self driving technology comes to market feature by feature, the way Tesla seems to be approaching things, we can get used to it bit by bit and someday we will happily get into that back seat without thinking twice about it.
It sounds like it will start with things like highway lane changes and parallel parking (if there ever was a thing that machines can do better than humans that would be it). And over time we will get more and more autopilot features. And at some point the car will be driving itself and we will be fine with that.
This makes a ton of sense to me. Sometimes incremental innovation is better than doing the whole thing at once. When you want to change behavior on something as game changing as driverless cars, I think the incremental approach makes a ton of sense.
Chris Dixon suggested I watch this interview with Steve Jobs from 1995. It’s about 70mins long and I’m not embedding the whole thing here, just a trailer. You can rent the whole thing on iTunes. I would strongly suggest you do that unless you’ve already seen it. It’s amazing.
In commemoration of my first full day with an iPhone6 (today), we are going to talk about a pretty cool feature that just arrived on the iPhone – the one tap checkin.
If you have the swarm app on your iPhone (get it here), you swipe down to get your notifications, and in the Today tab, you go to the bottom and hit edit.
You will see various widgets that you can add to your today notifications. Select Swarm and hold it down to position it (I put it on top). Then save.
Then when you want to check in, you just swipe down to get your notifications and you will see something that looks like this:
Then you can tap the checkin icon and you are checked in.
I just did this and checked into the Kava Cafe. It works like a charm.
As you can see Swarm will also tell you where your nearby friends are in the notifications timeline.
All in all, a super cool feature. I will be using it a lot.
Most companies have a mission statement and many have a values statement. But not so many companies live their values so much that they permeate the company and ooze out from every pore; the product, the office, the hiring process, the marketing, and so on and so forth.
Last night I did an event with City National Bank and their clients. I did a chat with Robin Gill and he asked me to talk about my most successful investments. I don’t really like to stack rank my investments so I struggle with that question. But I found my footing and started talking about Etsy. Etsy oozes its values from every pore. I am not sure they have a printed out values statement. Maybe they do somewhere but I don’t think I’ve seen it. But it really doesn’t matter because Etsy’s values are hard coded into their culture and they emanate out in every conceivable way.
Kickstarter is the same way. They stand for something. It’s not just talk. It’s real. And you can feel it in the product, the office, the marketing, and in the founder and in the CEO.
Twitter is like that too. I saw that they filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to be able to publish a full transparency report of all government information requests. That’s fucking awesome. And it is not a publicity stunt. Dick Costolo once said “Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party” or something like that. That’s a deeply held core belief of the company and it runs deep and strong in the culture.
These are three examples that folks will have some connection to and are easy to talk about. They are not the only three companies I work with or we have invested in that live their values. Meetup and SoundCloud would be a couple of other obvious examples. But they are good enough for the point of this blog post.
Values matter. A lot. In a hypercompetitive world where technology eats at every advantage you have over time it is good to have unique and distinct values that you live as a company. That’s a form of differentiation that is not easily copied. It matters and is at the core of building great companies. The kind of companies I like to talk about when people ask me about my best investments.
I said in yesterday’s post that price and volume charts were not what I look at when I think about Bitcoin. I mentioned Github repos, hackathons, and teams in accelerators working on bitcoin projects. This morning I came across an excellent slideshare on the state of the Bitcoin ecosystem. It had this slide in it.
These are the kind of metrics we need to be looking at to decide how Bitcoin is doing. And on these measures, I’d say 2014 has been a great year for Bitcoin.
I bumped into a friend of mine last night who said “all you write about is Bitcoin.” That may well be true. But I write about what I think about. So take that for what it is. I’m not going to apologize for my obsession with Bitcoin.
M-Pesa, is a mobile-phone based money transfer service that was started up in Kenya 2007. Since then it’s usage has grown by leaps and bounds. This recent article provides a thorough understanding of how it works and the benefits it provides: 10 Myths About M-PESA: 2014 Update.