Blog articles

Pixel 3 XL

A VC - November 5, 2018 - 4:29am

I spent a fair bit of time this weekend moving phones from the Pixel 2, which I have loved using, to the Pixel 3 XL.

It is drop dead simple to port over all of my accounts, data, and apps from one Pixel to another. Google has made that as easy as moving from one iPhone to another. You just connect both phones with the cable that comes in the Pixel 3 box and in about ten minutes the new phone has everything that was on the old phone.

But getting all of my security set up on a new phone (2FA, passwords, etc) and then logging into all of my apps (because I don’t like to log in with Google or Facebook or anyone else) is a massive pain. 

But at least I feel more secure.

After using the Pixel 3 XL for the last couple days, I cannot say that it is a meaningfully different experience than using the Pixel 2. Everyone says the camera is better. I have not noticed that yet but I am also not hugely particular about my phone camera.

One new feature of the Pixel 3 that I am using is wireless charging. I also bought the Pixel Charging Stand and when I get home, I just put the phone on the stand and it charges wirelessly. That’s nice. I used to charge my earlier Pixels wirelessly but they got rid of that in the recent models and now it is back. I like that.

I am excited about getting the Pixel 3 to screen my calls. That is another new feature it comes with. But I have not yet set that up. I will report back on how that is working for me.

The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of facial recognition on the Pixel 3. I like using my fingerprint to log into my phone, but I think I would like facial recognition even more. The iPhone has had that feature for a year or so now and I can’t understand why Google can’t match that.

Anyway, my big takeaway from spending a fair bit of my time this weekend moving from Pixel 2 to Pixel 3 is that not much changed for me. That’s fine. A new phone is always a nice thing to have. But I am not sure it was worth all of the setup time I put in this weekend. It’s pretty much the same phone I have had for the last year or so.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 14, 2018
The opportunity for CS in education

Bethany Crystal — November 13, 2018
The 4-Box Job Searching Grid

Categories: Blog articles

Broken Syndicates

A VC - November 4, 2018 - 7:18am

One of the most challenging situations in startup/venture capital land is the broken syndicate. It is not a topic that is talked about much, but it is fairly common, particularly for companies that succeed in building a business but falter at achieving escape velocity.

A syndicate is a group of investors that come together to support a startup financially. They tend to be built over time. Some investors get involved with a company in its seed round. Others get involved in a company in the Series A round. And some get involved in the Series B round.

By the time a startup has raised three or four rounds of venture capital, it is likely to have built a syndicate of between three and five venture capital firms and other investors (corporate, strategic, individuals, family offices, etc).

The idea is that the syndicate supports the company financially until it no longer needs capital. That can happen via a sale of the company, an IPO, or achieving profitable operations.

And that is typically what happens in the best situations, when the company executes well and finds that happy financial chart that goes up and to the right with a steepening slope. In companies like that, the syndicate almost always sticks together and more investors clamor to get into it.

And then there is the company that never really figures out how to build a business. In those situations, everyone around the table, including the founders, figure out how to wind things down, either through a sale of the business, an acquihire, or a wind down. This happens all the time and is generally not a particularly painful process.

But there is a middle ground, where the team figures out how to build a business with customers, revenue, and lots of employees. But often the business stumbles and revenues flatten and losses pile up and more capital is needed, often a lot more than the existing syndicate is prepared for. This is when there are often management changes, founders depart, and there is a lot of drama.

And holding a syndicate together during the “stumble” is very hard. Some investors are managing huge funds and need exits that will produce hundreds of millions to their fund. When they see that a company will not do that, they often move on. Some investors have small funds and don’t have the capacity to fund a company round after round. Corporate and strategic investors can lose interest when a company stumbles and they no longer believe the business is strategic to them. 

Those are the “rational” reasons that syndicates break.

But there are other reasons. There is a fair bit of churn inside venture capital firms right now. Younger partners leave to start their own firms. Or are asked to leave because they are not producing the expected returns. When a partner who leads an investment inside a venture capital firm leaves, the investment is often “orphaned” and the other partners will pretend to support it but they really don’t want to and don’t.

Or even more upsetting is when a venture capital firm finds another company in the same sector that they like more and they lose interest in your company and stop supporting it.

All of these things happen to companies who stumble and they happen way more frequently than anyone talks about. It really doesn’t benefit anyone to go public with these situations. So they are worked out quietly.

Often broken syndicates lead to early exits, when the founder(s) and remaining investors realize that they are screwed and decide to find a home for the business before they run out of gas. Many times these exits are disappointing outcomes relative to the opportunity and they can make for fantastic acquisitions.

Another thing that happens with broken syndicates is the recapitalization. This is when the remaining investors reset the valuation in order to bring in new capital, either from their funds or ideally from fresh sources of capital. The losers in this situation are the early investors, founders, and investors who walked away. 

And sometimes what happens is the business shuts down, leaving people scratching their heads. Why did that company which had lots of customers, revenues, and employees suddenly close up shop? Well the answer is often that their syndicate broke and they could not put it back together.

At USV, we have worked through these stumbles and broken syndicates many times over the years. We often find ourselves in the position of trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. We have managed to do that many times. But we don’t manage to do it every time. 

It is incredibly difficult work, probably the hardest work we do in the venture capital business. And we often are asked why we bother.

We have found that we can make excellent returns when we stick to our conviction around an opportunity and work to restructure the team, the operations, and the syndicate (and the valuation). We also have found that we are rewarded reputationally in the market as investors who are supportive when times get tough. And we believe that it our job to support companies and the founders who create them.

We wish everyone in venture capital land saw things the way we do, but they do not. And that is the reality of the world we operate in. 

Founders need to understand all of this when they put their syndicates together. You should ask around about the investors who want to put money in your company. Look for companies that have stumbled and get to the people who know what happened in those situations and ask about how their investors behaved. That will tell you a lot.

The bottom line is that syndicates are fragile things. They break. And putting them back together is hard. So figure how to build one that is strong and will stay strong. The best way to do that is to under promise and over deliver on the business plan. But you can also do yourself a lot of good by finding resilient investors and getting them into your cap table. So do that too.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 13, 2018
The 4-Box Job Searching Grid

Bethany Crystal — November 13, 2018
Noise-cancelling headphones

Albert Wenger — November 12, 2018
World After Capital: UBI and the Labor Market

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Ethereum 2.0

A VC - November 3, 2018 - 3:47am

I just watched Vitalik Buterin’s keynote at Devcon 4 in Prague last week, on Halloween and on the tenth anniversary of Satoshi’s whitepaper.

In this keynote, Vitalik explains what has taken so long in getting from Ethereum 1.0 to Ethereum 2.0, what Ethereum 2.0 will include, and how we are going to get there.

It is a bit geeky, I can’t say that I understood everything, but if you own Ethereum, or if you believe that a scaled decentralized smart contract platform is important, and I can say yes to both of those emphatically, then this is worth watching. It is 30 mins long.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 13, 2018
Noise-cancelling headphones

Albert Wenger — November 12, 2018
World After Capital: UBI and the Labor Market

Bethany Crystal — November 12, 2018
Everybody’s doing it: A short treatise on social “tugs”

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Misen Non Stick Pan

A VC - November 2, 2018 - 2:58am

Earlier this week, I talked about the D2C consumer products sector and how it has exploded over the last decade. Another contributor to that explosion are crowdfunding services like our portfolio company Kickstarter that allow entrepreneurs to launch their products and quickly get feedback and funding for them.

The Gotham Gal has made a number of these D2C investments and one of my favorite of hers is Misen, a D2C manufacturer of cooking products.

They launch their products on Kickstarter and then take them to market direct to consumer over the Internet, thereby taking out the cost of the retail channel which allows them to sell high end products at mid-level prices.

They have a product launch on Kickstarter right now called the Misen Non-Stick Pan. I backed it earlier this week and the project funding ends this weekend.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 10, 2018
Making time for what you want

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Want a mentor? Stop asking for one.

Categories: Blog articles

Dapper

A VC - November 1, 2018 - 4:44am

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post on the USV blog announcing our investment in Cryptokitties

A lot has happened since then. The company that made Cryptokitties is now called Dapper and it has raised a couple rounds of financing which will allow it to do a number of things:

  • Continue to invest in Cryptokitties, which remains a vibrant game experience and is the world’s most used consumer blockchain application outside of exchanges, with 3.2-million transactions and tens of millions of dollars transacted on the platform
  • Work with the world’s top entertainment brands to bring compelling brands, communities, and intellectual property to the blockchain. This means more game experiences, often in partnership with existing brands and game developers.
  • Build out the infrastructure to make blockchain games, including cryptogoods (ie NFTs), accessible to a mainstream audience.

It has been exciting to watch a small team that built Cryptokitties at a hackathon turn into a large and growing blockchain gaming company with global ambitions and a number of important launches on the horizon.

As I wrote in the USV post in March, we believe that “digital collectibles and all of the games they enable will be one of the first, if not the first, big consumer use cases for blockchain technologies.”

A lot is happening behind the scenes at Dapper, and at a number of other blockchain gaming companies, and increasingly in the legacy gaming sector, to give me confidence that 2019 will be a breakout year for blockchain gaming and I believe that our portfolio company Dapper will be leading the way.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 10, 2018
Making time for what you want

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Want a mentor? Stop asking for one.

Categories: Blog articles

D2CX

A VC - October 31, 2018 - 4:25am

One of the big trends in startup land over the last decade is consumer brands getting built direct to consumer (D2C) on highly efficient advertising channels like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. In these online channels, brands can test, measure, test, measure, test, measure, and then figure out what works and scale.

But these channels are getting more challenging as they have been optimized and scaled by thousands of brands over the last decade and the marketers in D2C land are increasingly looking around to see if there is anywhere else they can go.

Enter our portfolio company Simulmedia, which we invested in almost ten years ago to bring the transparency and efficiency of online advertising to television.

Simulmedia has launched an offering for these D2C companies to help them add television to their marketing mix. Television is hard for small companies. The initial buys are large and it is challenging to “test, measure, test, measure, test, measure” to optimize before you scale.

So Simulmedia has brought D2CX market. 

D2Cx is a marketplace featuring over 135 national TV networks, making it easy for direct-to-consumer brands to test TV advertising at low entry prices, learn what’s working, and scale.

You can start for as little as $50k and 100% of the cost of the media will go towards the purchase of media.

If you want to try out D2CX for your company/product, you can learn more here and sign up to try it out.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Want a mentor? Stop asking for one.

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Protecting your tribe

Categories: Blog articles

Vertical Accelerators In NYC

A VC - October 30, 2018 - 3:43am

The Partnership For New York City operates some excellent “vertical” accelerators for companies that are getting started and are focused on serving industries with big footprints here in NYC.

Financial Services – FinTech Innovation Lab

Health Care – Digital Health Innovation Lab

Fashion – Fashion Tech Lab

Biotech – The BioAccelerate Prize

Transit – Transit Tech Lab

Both the Transit Tech Lab and the FinTech Innovation Lab are accepting applications right now for their next programs.

You can apply here:

Fintech Innovation Lab

Transit Tech Lab


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Protecting your tribe

Bethany Crystal — November 8, 2018
A big lesson from a little moment

Nick Grossman — November 7, 2018
The Dangers of Unstoppable Code

Categories: Blog articles

Creating Surplus

A VC - October 29, 2018 - 3:37am

Consumer surplus is the delta between what consumers expect to pay or are willing to pay for an item and what they actually have to pay given market dynamics. A good example of where we are generating a lot of consumer surplus is technology. I would be happy to pay for my email (and do) but I can get it for free from Gmail. A 49″ smart TV sells for about $300 on Amazon. A Samsung Chromebook is $200 on Amazon.

I like to think of all of this “found money” that consumers are getting from technology as the dividend we are getting from the technology revolution. It is also true that technology takes jobs out of the market, and adds them too, and that it may be a zero sum game or worse.

But the truth is many things have gotten a LOT less expensive over the last twenty years and that has made managing the household budget a fair bit easier.

My colleague Nick sent me this chart yesterday. I don’t know where he got it so I can’t identify the source.

What you see from the chart is that wages have increased about 70% over the last twenty years and many things, including housing, food, clothing, and most dramatically technology, have increased less, or have actually gone down in price, creating room/surplus in the household budget.

But not everything has gone down. Health care and education, most notably have increased dramatically.

So it is time to take aim at those sectors. We can do the same with education that we have done with other services. And we will. I feel that healthcare will be a harder lift, but I do think it can be tackled too.

In fact, our current thesis at USV compels us to go after these sectors. So we will.

I am excited about the potential to bring consumer surplus to these sectors and make more room in the household budget in doing so.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 8, 2018
A big lesson from a little moment

Nick Grossman — November 7, 2018
The Dangers of Unstoppable Code

Albert Wenger — November 7, 2018
World After Capital: UBI is Affordable

Categories: Blog articles

Women Rising

A VC - October 28, 2018 - 6:03am

This video is an advertisement in support of a group of women running for national office in these midterms.

I am compelled by this advertisement and these women. I am very hopeful that women like these will increasingly lead our congress and our country.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — November 6, 2018
Internet Centrism

Nick Grossman — November 6, 2018
Making NYC Awesome

Nick Grossman — November 6, 2018
Backing into your network

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: The USDC Stablecoin

A VC - October 27, 2018 - 6:02am

Our portfolio company Coinbase announced this week that they will be adding the USDC Stablecoin to their various services in the coming weeks. 

This video below explains what the USDC stablecoin is and why it is important.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 5, 2018
Cheering on Marathon runners

Bethany Crystal — November 4, 2018
What we can learn from theatre’s performance reports

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Cryptopia

A VC - October 26, 2018 - 2:13am

Four years ago, filmmaker Torsten Hoffmann raised $AUS 17,000 on Kickstarter to make a documentary about Bitcoin called The End Of Money As We Know It. The film was released in July 2015 and I watched it and thought it was very good.

Torsten is back with a follow-up film project called Cryptopia and I backed it today. 


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 4, 2018
What we can learn from theatre’s performance reports

Bethany Crystal — November 3, 2018
Befriending your neighbors

Categories: Blog articles

Free speech on the ropes

Beyond Money - October 25, 2018 - 10:18am

big-brother quotes

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.     —George  Orwell

What the Arab world needs most is free expression.    —Jamal  Khashoggi

In his famous dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell describes a world in which people’s actions and words are closely monitored in order to detect and punish thoughtcrime.  It is a world in which the ruling power structure has the means to preempt the expression of any idea or story that might challenge the official narrative of events and reality. Though a little late by Orwell’s reckoning, that world has all but arrived.

The development of the internet and the worldwide web brought, for a time, tremendous power to ordinary people to communicate and inform one another directly, bypassing the established news filters and centralized control of information. But in recent years, new corporate megaliths have emerged that have the power to shift control back in favor of “Big Brother.” We have become so dependent upon private corporate media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, that they are able to manipulate our thoughts and behavior. To be banned from those channels means to effectively be banished from participation in political discourse. Corporate power on such a scale inevitably ends up being complicit with political oligarchies in controlling  public perceptions and defining “reality.” The hyped-up battle against “fake news” is really a battle against free speech.

Facebook teams up with the “Thought Police” to purge dissenting voices

Facebook’s purging of hundreds of pages and accounts in recent days has been widely reported. The purges have been done based on allegations of “spam,” and “inauthentic behavior,” or of providing  “Russian propaganda.” But there’s much more to it than that.

An article in the online journal, Global Research, describes the arrangement that Facebook made five months ago with the Atlantic Council to,  “prevent [their] service from being abused during elections.” And who is the Atlantic Council? According to the article, the Atlantic Council “is a think tank that is essentially funded by NATO, weapons manufacturers, Middle-Eastern oil-state monarchies, billionaires and different branches of the US military. In short, it has been described as being nothing less than NATO’s unofficial propaganda wing. The Atlantic Council doesn’t shy away from its political intents across the world, which can be seen solely by looking at who sits on its directors board – the crème de la crème when it comes to US neocons & war criminals: Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Frank Carlucci, James A. Baker, R. George P. Shultz, James Woolsey, Leon Panetta, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, and many more.”

The article goes on to say that, “Many of the pages and accounts taken down have been political (often leftist), anti-war, independent journalists and media outlets that are known to go against the grain of mainstream media outlets.” You can read the complete article here.

So, what can we do? Let’s all dump Facebook, as well as Twitter, YouTube and all the other  massive, proprietary, data mining and propaganda platforms. I know that is not so easy to do, but alternatives do exist, and more of them are emerging every day. Here is a list of 6 Alternatives to Facebook. This article provides a list of 11 Facebook alternatives, and Fox News, surprisingly, provides a list of, Secure alternatives to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My search engine, DuckDuckGo, turns up several more.

One Facebook alternative that has gotten significant funding support of late is MeWe. A recent article reports that MeWe has thus far managed to raise $10 million to support its development. The article quotes MeWe founder and CEO, Mark Weinstein: “It is clear that the world wants a better social network that treats its member as customers to serve, not data to sell. We’ve built a social networking experience that has a remarkable suite of features people love and none of the BS. MeWe has no ads, no spyware, no content manipulation, no facial recognition, and no Russians (or anyone) paying to show you fake news.”

Well, that sounds promising, but time will tell how real it is.
___________________________________

Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the U.S./Saudi connection

The sensational case of the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, underlines just how desperate the power elite is to control the narrative and manipulate our perceptions and beliefs. It would be a mistake to view this horrendous atrocity in isolation from the wider geopolitical propaganda campaign, much of it emanating from the U.S. government and their NATO and middle-eastern allies.

Two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance, The Washington Post published his last editorial, in which Khashoggi wrote:

“Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.”

The reaction of Donald Trump to this affair has been what we would expect. While paying lip service to justice and accountability, he immediately tried to provide cover for the Saudi regime by suggesting that the murder may have been the work of “rogue killers.” He also made it clear that he would not halt weapon sales to the Saudi government, a clear signal that money trumps “American values,” and belies the myth of the United States as champion of democracy and human rights.

But the cozy relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States goes back way before Trump. Recall that, according to the official report on the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Why then did the United States attack Iraq and Afghanistan instead? It is also established fact that the Bush family and the bin Laden family were longtime business associates. Furthermore, according to this article by Cindy Rodríguez in the Denver Post, “While all flights were halted following the terrorist attacks, there was one exception made: The White House authorized planes to pick up 140 Saudi nationals, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, living in various cities in the U.S. to bring them back to Saudi Arabia, where they would be safe. They were never interrogated.”

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Categories: Blog articles

Engaging In Cryptonetworks

A VC - October 25, 2018 - 4:22am

Ever since the first cryptonetwork, Bitcoin, was created, investors have had the opportunity to earn returns by engaging in the network. In Bitcoin’s case, that was done by mining the network, effectively powering it.

As the sector has grown, investors have largely turned their attention to buying and holding cryptoassets, and not that many of us are actively engaging in them.

But that is likely going to change for several reasons.

First, in proof of stake networks, asset holders will want to stake their tokens and earn the rewards of doing that, or risk being diluted/inflated. Conversely, those who do stake will earn rewards that will feel a bit like collecting interest or dividends on a bond or stock.

This technique of turning an idle asset into an incoming producing asset by engaging in the network is part of the design of many cryptonetworks and investors are going to increasingly want to do these things (staking, validating, governing, etc) to earn the rewards of that engagement.

There is another aspect to this, outlined by Tushar Jain of Multicoin earlier this week on their blog.

Tushar points out that asset holders can act with their capital to help bootstrap the network by providing storage on the Filecoin network or transcoding on the LivePeer network or creating DAIs on the Maker network.

The good news for investors is that there are a whole bunch of entrepreneurs setting up shop right now to help us do these things without each and every one of us becoming super technical about the ins and outs of each of these cryptonetworks. We will see (and are seeing) staking as a service, nodes as a service, and the like. These third parties will be like the proxy companies are in the stock markets.

I expect the custodians, like our portfolio company Coinbase, to offer many of these services, either as the provider themselves or the gateway to the third party provider, thereby making it even easier for us to engage in these networks.

It’s an exciting time to be a cryptoinvestor. A host of new cryptonetworks are starting to go live. The next 18 months will see many dreams come to fruition and with those dreams will come demands on the investors to engage instead of just hold. I am looking forward to doing that.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 3, 2018
Befriending your neighbors

Bethany Crystal — November 2, 2018
Listening vs. sharing

Categories: Blog articles

Jet Lag

A VC - October 24, 2018 - 4:52am

Jet lag is such a challenge for me.

We got back from Japan four days ago and I was doing great.

I figured that I had it beat this time.

Then last night at 2am, I woke up and I was wide awake.

We’ve got a series of meetings today that I need to be coherent in.

So I took a half a pill and got back to sleep by 3am and slept until almost 8am.

The good news is I am rested.

The bad news is I don’t have this thing beat like I thought I did.

I have tried a bunch of things to manage jet lag over the years, many of them recommended by folks here at AVC in reaction to a post about this I did a few years ago.

And they have all worked, to a degree.

But, I think the truth is, at least for me, that it takes me about a week to get truly back to normal after a long trip to Asia.

And as much as I thought I could shorten that timetable, I don’t think I can.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 2, 2018
Listening vs. sharing

Albert Wenger — November 1, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Thinking about Ruin

Bethany Crystal — November 1, 2018
31 days of blogging

Categories: Blog articles

Business Model Innovation in Healthcare

A VC - October 23, 2018 - 3:08am

Naomi posted some thoughts on changing business models in health care on the USV blog yesterday.

The one that I am personally most excited about is what Naomi calls “change of venue” and within that I like the “virtual primary care” model.

A pure virtual primary model eliminates fixed costs associated with brick and mortar expansion and is able to focus resources on reaching more patients, recruiting more doctors to their platform, and improving the experience for current patients. Payments on a subscription basis allow doctors to get paid more consistently rather than waiting for insurance companies to process claims and paying overhead costs to negotiate reimbursements with their billing offices.

We have portfolio companies executing this model like Nurx and Modern Fertility and we hope to add more.

I value the doctor/patient relationship, but I think there is a lot technology can do to make that relationship less expensive, more engaging, and more convenient (for both parties). And generational changes in doctors and patients are catalyzing and facilitating this transition.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — November 1, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Thinking about Ruin

Bethany Crystal — November 1, 2018
31 days of blogging

Bethany Crystal — November 1, 2018
The myth of notoriety

Categories: Blog articles

Navigating Blogging Across Time Zones

A VC - October 22, 2018 - 3:40am

I like this blog to come out in the morning east coast time. 

I am a big fan of a routine, a ritual, a cadence.

That is partly why I blog every day, and that is why I like the blog to come out at roughly the same time every day.

It is also true that I have the most free time right after I wake up and then things get busy. So if I don’t blog right away, it is possible that I won’t find time to write that day.

When we go west for the winter, I do the same thing, writing as soon as I wake up, but 5am PT is 8am ET so readers will notice, and have noticed, that AVC comes out later in the winter months.

Traveling poses a bigger challenge. The last two Octobers, we have spent considerable parts of the month in Asia, twelve to fourteen hours ahead of NYC and even further ahead of the west coast of the US.

If I wrote my daily posts when I woke up in Asia, as I was tempted to do, they would have posted the night before in the US. And I didn’t want that.

So I waited until late afternoon, in the lull before heading out to dinner, and wrote then. That resulted in them posting early morning east coast time and the middle of the night on the west coast.

Honestly, that was not ideal for me. I found writing late in the day much harder with a full day of activity in my head. It was very challenging for me and I think the blogging suffered from that.

I’m back in the US now and yesterday’s post, which got a lot of pickup, was my first back in my regular ritual. 

I am glad to be back and I think this blog is too.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 1, 2018
The myth of notoriety

Bethany Crystal — October 31, 2018
The Crown Meets the First Lady

Categories: Blog articles

Who Are My Investors?

A VC - October 21, 2018 - 7:58am

I got an email from the CEO of one of our portfolio companies last week.

It asked a very basic question, but one that I don’t recall being asked before:

I need to know if any of your LPs include  ……….  entities/interests. 

The CEO asked his VCs because questions were coming up internally and he wanted to answer honestly and accurately.

I expect to get more emails like this in the coming weeks as the startup and venture community comes to grip with the flood of money from bad actors that has found its way into the startup/tech sector over the last decade.

“Bad actors” doesn’t simply mean money from rulers in the gulf who turn out to be cold blooded killers. It also means money from regions where dictators rule viciously and restrict freedom. It could also mean money from business interests which profit by poisoning us with opioid addiction or warm our planet with fossil fuels.

I don’t claim to have entirely clean hands in this regard. When we sold our Twitter stock before the IPO many years ago, it turned out the buyer was fronting for gulf interests. I found that out after the fact but that doesn’t absolve me of anything. I could have asked the questions before executing the sale.

That said, I believe the investors in the USV funds we have raised over the years are ones we can be proud of. They include large pension funds for public employees like teachers, firemen, police, and the like. They include the family offices of some of the great entrepreneurs of the 20th century. They include endowments of some of the best research and educational institutions in the US. And they include the founders and leaders of some of the best companies that USV has invested in over our 15 years. And we manage funds for a few charitable foundations too.

It is time for all of us in the startup and VC sector to do a deep dive on our investor base and ask the question that the CEO asked me. Who are our investors and can we be proud of them? And do we want to work for them?

Sadly, the answer for many will be no and it will not be easy to unwind those relationships.

Those who can be proud of their investor base stand to gain from this emerging situation as our portfolio companies can recruit and retain talent better and we can compete with others in the market for deals with one more arrow in our quiver.

Not all money is the same. The people that come with it and who are behind it matter. That has always been the case and remains the case and we are reminded of it from time to time. Like right now.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 31, 2018
The Crown Meets the First Lady

Bethany Crystal — October 29, 2018
Thanks for sharing your story, too!

Albert Wenger — October 29, 2018
Voting in the Midterms:  Rebuking Trump’s Tribalism and Hate

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Coinbase’s Vision

A VC - October 20, 2018 - 11:00am

Fortune recently did a big profile on Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase and in concert with that, they made this video featuring Brian and Emilie Choi, who leads corp dev, M&A, and a few other strategic efforts at Coinbase.

It’s a short video, less than five mins, and does a nice job of explaining the company’s mission and strategy.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 29, 2018
Thanks for sharing your story, too!

Albert Wenger — October 29, 2018
Voting in the Midterms:  Rebuking Trump’s Tribalism and Hate

Nick Grossman — October 29, 2018
Suffering, Self, and Service

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Tortoise

A VC - October 19, 2018 - 12:18am

I backed this “new journalism” project today.

I like the idea that journalists are experimenting with new models and I like the idea of using crowdfunding to support that.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 29, 2018
Meeting the parents

Bethany Crystal — October 28, 2018
The identity behind your bra size

Categories: Blog articles

Winternships

A VC - October 18, 2018 - 1:27am

I heard about a cool program that helps NYC tech companies build more diverse teams. It is called Winternships.

The program is run by a group called WiTNY (Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship in NY) which is a three year-old collaboration between Cornell Tech and CUNY to drive more female students into tech majors or minors, and into the NYC tech ecosystem.

It works like this:

A Winternship is a paid, three-week internship experience during the January academic recess for freshman and sophomore women in tech. Participating companies design an ‘immersion’ experience in their business – students sit in on meetings, meet executives, go on site visits — and they work together on a challenge project that they pitch on the last day. WiTNY identifies students based on a match between your needs and their skills. Their team will even help you craft the Wintern experience if you want.

Here are some stats on the program:

Last January, 46 companies raised their hand and welcomed 177 CUNY women into their companies. Amazingly, 54% of these young women were able to parlay that experience into a paid summer tech internship somewhere in the city.

And here is the demographic of the CUNY student body:

CUNY is among the largest and most diverse universities in the country, with 250,000 undergrads and approximately 85% students of color.

If your team is trying to figure out how to diversify your internship and entry level hires, or just want to open your doors to transform the lives of young New Yorkers, considering hiring a Wintern team this January. And if you’re a small startup or a non-profit, WiTNY will even pay the student stipends for you.

Sounds great, right? If you want to host a Winternship at your company this January, you can get started here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 28, 2018
The identity behind your bra size

Bethany Crystal — October 26, 2018
Bringing a +1 to a networking event

Categories: Blog articles
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