Blog articles

Funding Friday: Atlantic City

A VC - July 6, 2018 - 4:45am

I backed this project earlier this week. Atlantic City is a cautionary tale about our President and how he operates.  I hope you will join me in bringing this project to life.

Comments are closed for this post.

Categories: Blog articles

Credit Bureau Blues

A VC - July 5, 2018 - 9:25am

Like many of you, I had an incredibly frustrating experience with a credit agency today. It was TransUnion but I’ve had equally frustrating experiences with Equifax and others since locking down our credit information in the wake of the Equifax data breach last fall.

What is particularly galling about this place we all find ourselves in is that none of us chose to be customers of these credit bureaus. They simply collected the info on us from third parties, built up credit info on us, which they sell to banks and other lenders, and now, because they are unable to protect our data, we need to be customers of their lock and lift services.

TransUnion charged me $5 today to put a temporary lift on my credit report lock. It’s not really the money that bugs me, it’s the entire absurdity of how we got here that galls me.

And, of course, the UI on the online service was so poor that I ended up talking to a customer service agent who struggled to communicate with me in my native language.

Why was I even dealing with this nonsense? Because I want to lease a car instead of purchase one and, even though I’m willing to pay the entire lease upfront, someone still needs to check my credit.

And I’ve got it good. Good credit. The means to avoid this nonsense most of the time. Etc. Etc.

But think about so many of us that need access to these basic financial services and are hostage to these terrible companies! It is a mess.

And an opportunity for entrepreneurs. I’m rooting for all of you.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 13, 2018
Principles (Introduction)

Categories: Blog articles

Fourth Feelings

A VC - July 4, 2018 - 4:51am

I’m sitting here on a park bench outside my favorite coffee shop, where I’ve been writing my daily posts for the last week and a half on my phone, and I’m staring at our flag.

Normally, a scene like this on the Fourth Of July fills me with pride. I love America, all that it has stood for, and what it has represented for me and for many others.

But today, I’m not feeling that pride. I am not proud of what America has been showing to the rest of the world and I’m not proud of the decisions we have made and the direction we have taken.

I am saddened. Deeply saddened.

Because this post is about my feelings and not meant to be about anything more, I have closed the comments.

I do care about how all of you are feeling today but I would prefer that you post those feelings on your own social media accounts and leave mine for me today.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 11, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Beta Distribution 2)

Categories: Blog articles

Keeping Your Blinders On

A VC - July 3, 2018 - 5:35am

Last night I picked up my phone after a long and fun dinner party and saw that the Golden State Warriors had signed Boogie Cousins (one of the most talented big men in the NBA) to a one year mid level contract of $5.3mm, an incredibly low number for a perennial all-star. Granted Boogie is coming off an achilles injury and won’t be available until mid season, but it just felt like the best getting better at the expense of every other team in the league. It annoys me.

Kind of like seeing a company renting electric scooters by the minute raising $400mm in a month when you can’t get anyone to put a dime into your company.

I’m not suggesting that the electric scooter companies should be dismissed. I don’t have a point of view on them other than as a user and I posted that here this past winter.

I am suggesting that the news cycle can make you depressed and jealous. My Knicks continue to struggle to put a decent team on the floor and the Warriors are assembling an all-star team that plays for them every fucking night.

It doesn’t feel fair. And it isn’t. Life isn’t fair. That’s how it is.

At times like this, I like to remind myself to keep my blinders on, ignore the news cycle, and focus on what I can control.

Most of us are not going to raise $400mm for our companies in a month. But we can all ship products, sell them, hire some good people, and find a few dimes to keep the lights on.

And that’s is what we must do. Lusting over what someone else has does us no good. Even it if is the best basketball team ever assembled.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 11, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Beta Distribution 2)

Bethany Crystal — July 11, 2018
Bringing Tech Industry Know-How to Emerging Developers in NYC

Categories: Blog articles

Hyper Social Not Anti Social

A VC - July 2, 2018 - 5:24am

This seems right to me:
“In post-industrial environments where foods are abundant and readily available, our cravings for fat and sugar sculpted by distant evolutionary pressures can easily go into insatiable overdrive and lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (…) the pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring,”


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — July 11, 2018
Bringing Tech Industry Know-How to Emerging Developers in NYC

Dani Grant — July 10, 2018
An Overview of Blockchain-Based Universal Basic Income Projects

Categories: Blog articles

The Final Push

A VC - July 1, 2018 - 4:38am

We spent the last week getting a project we’ve been working on for two years over the finish line.

I find that the last 10% is so much harder than the first 90% of any project.

That is true whether it is software, an event, a construction project, or really anything that requires a lot of planning and then a lot of execution.

I also find that you have to have a “ship it” mentality and be willing to make hard decisions at the end in order to meet the “ship date.”

One time I asked a bunch of founders and CEOs whether they insisted that their teams meet “ship dates” and the answers were all over the map, but the ones I liked best were of the variety that ship dates are respected and met but features get pulled to meet them.

Pulling features is an example of the mess that happens at the end as you are trying to get something out the door.

I’ve also found that knowing that there will be bugs to get cleaned up and “punch list items” to be resolved is helpful to getting something out the door.

Perfection is not just the enemy of the good, it is the enemy of the ship date.

That is not to say that critical bugs (security, performance, etc) can be ignored in the effort to ship on time, but there are always clean up items to be dealt with after the fact.

Hitting dates is so important. And it takes someone, often more than one person, with the willpower and commitment, to get it done.

This relates to my post a few days ago on Heartbeat.

Hitting dates is important. Shipping is important. Getting stuff out the door is important. And the final push to do all of that is hard, often brutal. But you just have to gut it out and get it done.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Jacqueline Garavente — July 9, 2018
An In Depth Explanation Of Why I Am Leaving Union Square Ventures

Albert Wenger — July 9, 2018
World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Power Laws)

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Patty McCord on Rethinking How We Manage People

A VC - June 30, 2018 - 4:03am

The Gotham Gal and I got to see Patty McCord give a talk a few months ago and I was blown away by her pragmatic, no-nonsense, calling out bullshit approach to managing people. Patty helped Netflix build their culture and left about six years ago to advise companies, small and large, how to manage people better.

She’s a breath of fresh air in a world of corporate speak. I think you’ll enjoy her as much as I do.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Let’s Give Away Some Crypto

A VC - June 29, 2018 - 4:40am

As I mentioned yesterday, GiveCrypto.org is a non-profit that allows anyone to make a charitable donation of cryptoassets and get a charitable tax deduction (in the US).

If you want to join me in doing that, you can do so here.

Categories: Blog articles

GiveCrypto.Org

A VC - June 28, 2018 - 4:20am

Yesterday, Brian Armstrong, the founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, announced the formation of a new non-profit called GiveCrypto.org.

Joanne and I are donating some of our Bitcoin to this charitable effort. Here is a list of the donors who have committed to give away some of their crypto assets to this effort.

So what is GiveCrypto.org all about?

Well it is basically an effort to take some of the crypto assets that folks like me bought a long time ago, that have appreciated a lot, and use them to address poverty around the world.

As Brian wrote in the announcement:

GiveCrypto.org is a nonprofit that will both hold and distribute crypto to those in need. It’s an evergreen structure, meaning it gives away less than the amount that the fund grows each year.

and

Cryptocurrency is unique in that it can be used to send small amounts of money anywhere in the world, in real-time directly to an individual in need — they just need a mobile device with an internet connection. With distribution of aid to foreign countries, high fees and corruption are unfortunately common; cryptocurrency is a way of circumventing both.

and

I believe three things will happen:

  • Cashout to local currency: Some will exchange it to their local currency to buy what they need most in that moment. This is a great outcome because our primarily goal is simply to help people in need. We’ll need to help people find and connect with local exchanges to make this easier.
  • Hold: The second thing they might do is hold onto the cryptocurrency. In this case they start to benefit from the future potential upside of this technology.
  • Crypto-to-crypto transfers: Finally, if there is enough density in certain regions, we may be able to spark local crypto economies, where people start to transact with crypto-to-crypto payments, especially in places around the world going through financial crisis.

If you would like to learn more about this effort, you can do that here.

If you would like to give some of your crypto to this organization, you can do so here.

Categories: Blog articles

The Heartbeat

A VC - June 27, 2018 - 5:35am

The best companies I work with have a heartbeat, they operate on a pace and a cadence and a rhythm that is perceptible to everyone in and around the company.

I am not talking about just product and engineering, although you can’t have a company with a heartbeat if you don’t have it in product and engineering. A company that doesn’t ship product regularly builds clogged arteries and that becomes pervasive in the culture and you end up with low morale, a lack of confidence, a revolving door, and a mess.

There are many ways to get this beat going and sustain it. There are techniques like agile product development, monthly and quarterly OKRs, weekly show and tells at the all-hands meeting, metrics meetings, etc, etc.

What it comes down to in my view is a mindset around getting stuff done on a regular cadence and then letting that rhythm become a wave and riding that wave.

And it starts with the CEO. They are the drummer in the band. They set the beat and keep the beat. And everyone plays around it.

If you have been in a company that has a heartbeat, you know what I am talking about.

If you haven’t, then you need to find one and join it and learn how it feels.

Becuase a heartbeat is what you want in your company.

Categories: Blog articles

a16z crypto

A VC - June 26, 2018 - 4:24am

I guess this is the week I am going to compliment our competitors in the VC business.

That meme started yesterday in my post on Benchmark and will continue today.

Yesterday afternoon my friend Chris Dixon announced a new VC fund called “a16z crypto” which he will lead with a team of great investors, many of which are also friends, including his new partner Katie Haun who I serve on the Coinbase board with. She is a very special person as Ben Horowitz described in this post.

Go read the blog post which Chris wrote to announce the fund. It is among the best articulations of the crypto opportunity that I have read.

Here are some of the concepts he explains which had me nodding my head:

Trust is a new software primitive from which other components can be constructed.

and

The new primitive of trust also means that 3rd-party developers, entrepreneurs, and creators can build on top of crypto-powered platforms without worrying about whether the rules of the game will change later on. In an era in which the internet is increasingly controlled by a handful of large tech incumbents, it’s more important than ever to create the right economic conditions for developers, creators, and entrepreneurs. Trust also enables new kinds of governance where communities collectively make important decisions about how networks evolve, what behaviors are permitted, and how economic benefits are distributed.

and

We believe that just as the last three megatrends — mobile, social, and cloud — intersected and reinforced each other, so will the next three megatrends — next-gen computing devices, AI, and crypto.

and

crypto is purely a software movement and doesn’t depend on a hardware buildout, in contrast to, say, the internet, which required laying cables and building cell towers. Second, the space is developing extremely rapidly, partly because the code, data, and knowledge is largely open source, and partly because of the increasing inflow of talent.

and

Cryptogoods can unlock new experiences and business models for games and other forms of media.

I really like the term “cryptogoods” and plan to start using it as my default word for NFTs and related efforts.

Many of our crypto investments have been with Chris and his partners and I hope that will continue. They are fantastic to work with.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 4, 2018
Happy 4th of July: Climate Edition

Categories: Blog articles

2018 Summer Newsletter

Beyond Money - June 26, 2018 - 1:25am

My latest article
What we can and cannot afford
New Warrior Training Adventure and the Mankind Project (MKP)
The developing business of commercial trade exchanges
Other Items of interest

NowDonnyCaptioned

My latest article

How has extreme centralization of power and concentration of wealth come about? What are the pillars upon which the global power structure rests? How can power be decentralized and dispersed more broadly to enable people to live in peace and freedom?

These are questions I addresses in my latest article, Confronting the power elite, An abridged version was published a few days ago by Open Democracy in their online journal Transformation. It was then picked up by the Post Carbon Institute and republished in their journal Resilience. Here is an excerpt from the original:

The world today is controlled by a small elite group that has been increasingly concentrating power and wealth in their own hands. There are many observable facets to this power structure, including the military security complex that president Eisenhower warned against, the fossil fuel interests, and the neocons that are promoting U.S. hegemony around the world, but the most powerful and overarching force is “the money power” that controls money, banking, and finance worldwide. It is clear that those who control the creation and allocation of money through the banking system are able to control virtually every other aspect of global society.

Having taken control of the political leadership in North America and western Europe, they are determined to use military force, if necessary, to create a unipolar world order in which the power elite enjoy “full spectrum dominance.” Based on a long established pattern of covert and overt interventions, it is evident that they are willing to employ, either directly or through proxies, a wide range of tactics, including propaganda, bribery, cooptation, deception, assassinations, false-flag attacks and war. Large segments of the media and entertainment industries, education, and the military power have been captured to help manufacture public consent.

Be that as it may, I believe that the natural course of human evolution tends toward a multi-polar world order based on honesty, openness, compassion, cooperation, and fairness, but that requires a well-educated and informed populace and “broad spectrum” participation in the political process. Fortunately, the internet and world wide web have enabled people to be better informed than ever before and to engage with one another directly, bypassing intermediaries that control and limit what people can share. On the other hand, the political machinery has been so thoroughly taken over by the power elite that the will of the people has thus far been of little consequence in deciding the course of world affairs.

So what can be done to turn the tide? How can we the people empower ourselves to effectively assert our desires for a more fair, humane and peaceful world order? Is it possible to influence the behavior of those in power? Or is it possible to install new leaders who will act more responsibly and in accordance with the popular will? Or is it necessary, or even possible, to reinvent and deploy political and economic structures by which people can more directly assert themselves?
Read the entire article here.
___________________________________

What we can and cannot afford is another article that I published on my website about the same time. This is a subject that gets far too little attention in the political debate and thus we remain burdened with “sacred cows” that are driving us to destruction.

  1. We cannot afford continuation of the Empire with its deployment of military forces around the world and endless overt and covert warfare.
  2. We cannot afford continuation of the interest-based, debt-money regime that forces unnecessary expansion of economic activity and centralizes power and concentrates wealth in the hands of a super elite.
  3. We cannot afford continuation of the environmental destruction and climate change that is caused by the fossil fuel based economy.

Read the full article here.
___________________________________

New Warrior Training Adventure and the Mankind Project (MKP)
For almost a year now I’ve been participating in a biweekly men’s circle associated with the Mankind Project, a community in which men support one another in achieving self-awareness, finding purpose, taking responsibility, and becoming compassionate servants to their communities and the planet. The first weekend in May I participated in the New Warrior Training Adventure at a ranch in central Arizona. It was a significant experience that helped to boost my confidence, self-esteem, and emotional maturity—just what I needed at a time when I was feeling a bit lost and dissatisfied with the results of my work. The training helped me to identify imbalances in my life, accept reality, and clarify my purpose going forward. I now feel more grounded and motivated, and connected and supported by a growing brotherhood of “new warriors.” I highly recommend the NWTA to any man who seeks to improve himself and his relationships. It was no surprise that I was the oldest man there, but I can testify that self-inquiry and stretching ones’ limits are appropriate endeavors at any stage in life.
___________________________________

The developing business of commercial trade exchanges

Recently, I came across an article about what seems to be a significant development in the commercial trade exchange industry: Trade Authority rebrands as Moxey with new digital currency, national expansion plans. I’ve been aware of the Trade Authority exchange for several years but had not taken a close look at it. I’ve lately been dialoging with Chip Davis, founder of Trade Authority and currently Executive Vice President of Moxey, and with others in the Moxey executive team. Moxey, a network of 14 trade exchanges operating around the Gulf coast, is unique in the industry in that the various exchanges in the network are each member-owned.

Based on the answers to my questions that I have received so far, it appears that Moxey has avoided the common mistakes that have limited the effectiveness of some other trade exchanges and prevented them from realizing their full potential (For more about that see this excerpt from my book, Chapter 15 Limiting Factors in the Operation of Commercial Trade Exchanges). At some point in the near future, I will publish my interview with the Moxey leadership. Watch for it on https://beyondmoney.net/.
___________________________________

Other Items of interest

The Bank Bailout
The Big Bank Bailout appeared in Forbes magazine a couple years ago. As another financial crisis looms on the horizon, it is still relevant, describing  in detail the forms and extent of the bank bailout that began in 2008 and continues to this day.

Malaysia
Over the past 11 years, I’ve spent a lot of time in Malaysia. Upon my first visit I discovered that Malaysia is not some poor, insignificant Asian backwater but a country with a well-developed infrastructure and geo-political importance—a country worth getting to know. The recent election unseated the party that has governed Malaysia since its founding in 1957 and saw the surprising return to power, at age 92, of Mahathir Mohamad, the man responsible for Malaysia’s modernization.
This New York Times article tells the story, A Stunning, Sudden Fall for Najib Razak, Malaysia’s ‘Man of Steal’. And this comment, Endearing courage of Malaysians rescued country from the brink…, provides additional background and insight into the significance of the election outcome.

Russia and Syria
Anyone who wishes to understand geopolitics needs to have a broad purview and not rely simply upon mainstream media sources which seldom provide more than a one sided and biased perspective. This is especially true of the coverage relating to Russia and Syria.

Despite President Trump’s repeated statements about his desire to normalize relations with Russia, others in his administration and the mainstream media continue their barrage of unsubstantiated allegations against both the Russian and Syrian governments. In his Nation article, Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at NYU and Princeton,  provides some counterweight to the anti-Russian hysteria arguing that, “Given a chance, Russia can be a vital peacemaker, and there is ample reason to think that the Kremlin is ready to do so if again met halfway by Washington.” Will Trump’s handlers and the deep state allow that to happen? That seems unlikely but time will tell.

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs tells the truth about US involvement in the Syria catastrophe on The Jimmy Dore Show, Bombshell: Professor Stuns MSNBC Panel On Syria, and in this excellent interview Between the Lines.
___________________________________

There is much more that I could include in this message but I know you have many other things vying for your attention so I will leave it at that.

Regarding travel, other than my brief visit to family on the east coast in early June, I’ve not been traveling since my journey to Greece a year ago. I’m still hoping to get away for a few weeks this summer but my plans remain open.

Wishing you all a pleasant summer,
Thomas

Categories: Blog articles

Slowing Down To Speed Up

A VC - June 25, 2018 - 5:19am

I saw this chart in Recode’s piece on Benchmark:

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It’s an interesting chart because it breaks out new investments and follow-on investments, both of which have been falling at Benchmark for going on five years now.

The Recode article, written by Teddy Schliefer, also states that Benchmark has not raised a new core fund in over four years.

Our numbers at USV are not as stark, we never took up our investing pace that much. We have always done around 6-10 new deals a year and while there is a fair bit of variability in that number year to year, over time it has stayed pretty constant.

But we last raised a new core fund in early 2016 and we are maybe 2/3  of the way through investing that so it should take us at least three years to put that fund to work. That is down from the two year period where we went from the 2012 fund to the 2014 fund to the 2016 fund.

So Benchmark is not the only leading VC firm that has slowed things down over the last three to four years.

Teddy makes an interesting point in his piece:

That long a dry spell between funds — at a time when rival firms are competing with one another to raise bigger and bigger war chests at a faster and faster clip, led by SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund — is decidedly unusual.

Longtime readers know that I have a huge amount of respect for Benchmark. I think they are a firm that beats to its own drum and does what it thinks is right and doesn’t worry too much about what others think. That approach leads to better returns over the long run in my view.

But if there are diverging perspectives among the top-tier VC firms right now, who is right? Or maybe both are right. Slow down the pace of early-stage investing and step on the gas in later-stage/growth?

And then, of course, there is crypto, where a lot of the smart people and smart money is going. Chris Dixon at Andreessen is raising a dedicated crypto fund. Matt Huang leaves Sequoia to do a crypto fund with Fred Ehrsam. And those are just two high profile examples, but there is most definitely a discernable pattern of smart money and smart people moving to the crytpo sector over the last few years.

So times they are a changing in VC land right now. Which mirrors the broader tech sector which is maturing and consolidating while a next wave starts brewing. How to play this whole thing is challenging. The future of the VC business and its top firms are in flux and those who play it right stand to gain a lot and those who don’t stand to lose a lot. It is most definitely not a time for the status quo.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 4, 2018
Happy 4th of July: Climate Edition

Categories: Blog articles

Airbnb and NYC

A VC - June 24, 2018 - 7:05am

There is a bill in front of the NYC City Council called Intro 981 that will impose reporting requirements on Airbnb and their hosts in NYC. There will be a public debate on that bill this coming week.

The backdrop here is the growing housing affordability crisis in NYC and the idea that Airbnb is a significant contributor to it.

While I am not an expert in the economics of housing, I have lived in NYC for the past thirty-five years (my entire adult life), and my wife and I are also landlords in several of the neighborhoods in Brooklyn where rents have been rising most quickly. I have a layman’s understanding of the issue and an on the ground feel for it.

It is my view that we have a fundamental supply and demand problem at work in the rapidly gentrifying outer boroughs of NYC (most acutely in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx). NYC has added almost 500,000 residents this decade alone, a 5.5% increase in population from 2010 to 2017. This is driven by multiple factors but there are more people choosing to live in the five boroughs and less people choosing to leave them.

A major change in the last fifteen years is the emergence of the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx as the preferred place to live for many young professionals. They moved into these communities in their 20s to escape an increasingly unaffordable Manhattan and have stayed and are now raising their families in them.

This sea change in demand for housing has not yet been met with an equal increase in supply. There are cranes all over Brooklyn and Queens so I am optimistic that we will see the increases in supply that we need, but there is a lag in the supply of housing coming to market. And we need two kinds of supply, market-rate housing for those that can afford it, and subsidized housing for the displaced families that no longer can afford market rate housing.

And so where does Airbnb fit into this picture? It’s a reducer of supply to some extent as landlords take rental units off the market and list them on Airbnb instead. But having looked at multiple studies on this issue, I believe that Airbnb is a marginal player in this story, not the root cause of the problem. If Airbnb decided to stop operating in NYC (a terrible outcome in my view), I do not believe we would see a material change in the affordability issues that plague NYC.

And yet, elected officials in NYC and NY State have chosen to make Airbnb the poster child of the problem and impose restrictions and constraints on their operation. And, of course, the industry that Airbnb most threatens, the hotel industry and its labor unions, have fought back aggressively and effectively. It is hard to know what is good policy and what is good politics. I suspect we are seeing a lot of the latter and not enough of the former.

I am for reporting of listings as required by Intro 981. But I am not for the city using that data to come after hosts and harass them. Similar reporting requirements that have been enacted in SF, Chicago, and Seattle have included those protections for hosts. Intro 981 should too.

But more than that, I am for a comprehensive solution to the issues that short-term rentals raise. I am in favor of requiring a mechanism for neighbors to register complaints. And I am in favor of requiring Airbnb to collect taxes on short-term rentals in NYC and NY State, which is estimated to produce $100mm of incremental revenues for the City and State. A comprehensive bill that would legitimize the short-term rental market in NY State and NYC would unlock those revenues but the forces at work against Airbnb are fighting it. That makes no sense to me.

It is time to accept that Airbnb is here to stay in NYC and NY State. It is time to legitimize the practice of short-term rentals. It is time to put sensible complaint mechanisms and reporting requirements in place. And it is time to start collecting the taxes on this activity and using those revenues to solve other pressing issues like transportation, schools, and most importantly, our ability to house those who can’t afford to pay market rents.

I would encourage our elected officials to do all of that.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 2, 2018
World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Intro & Missing Prices)

Nick Grossman — July 2, 2018
The path to decentralization: self-destructing companies

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Consensus 2018 Discussion

A VC - June 23, 2018 - 7:14am

Last month, at the Consensus 2018 Conference, Paul Vigna of the WSJ, Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan, and I had a 30min discussion of all things crypto.

Here is a video of that discussion:


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — July 2, 2018
World After Capital: Limits of Capitalism (Intro & Missing Prices)

Nick Grossman — July 2, 2018
The path to decentralization: self-destructing companies

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Ai’s Poems

A VC - June 22, 2018 - 3:52am

I hit the play button and heard her voice say “My poems are harsh, but they are meant to show the truth, which a lot of people are afraid to face.”

That sold me. I made a significant contribution to this project to bring Ai’s Killing Floor back into print.

Maybe you will join me.

Categories: Blog articles

Some Words Of Wisdom

A VC - June 21, 2018 - 10:28am

I saw this tweetstorm today from Suhail Doshi, founder of Mixpanel.

1/ Getting my first 100 customers always felt like a puzzle. The next 1000 seemed unreachable. Besides, how can you get feedback to make the product better w/o users? After many years, we ended up w/ 6,000+ paying customers. It was a grind to get there.

Categories: Blog articles

Thirty One Years

A VC - June 20, 2018 - 1:05am

Today is our thirty-first wedding anniversary. We got married on a hot steamy June night in the Washington DC area. During the official part of the event, the skies opened up and it poured. After that, the heat and humidity dissipated and we had a really fun party.

It has been a productive partnership. We have three fantastic children and an array of business and personal interests that we have pursued, often and increasingly together. We plan to spend the day together and not work. So other than this brief public celebration of matrimony and love, this is all you are going to get from me today.

But if you are interested in the crypto/blockchain/token sector, you may want to check out something I wrote on USV.com and posted overnight. It is about our dual strategy of investing directly in companies and projects and also in token funds. You can read that here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — June 27, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Beta Distribution)

Categories: Blog articles

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

A VC - June 19, 2018 - 12:29pm

Two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1768, The Royal Academy in London decided to hold an annual exhibition of “paintings, sculpture, and design” that would be “open to all artists of distinguished merit” and so began the summer exhibition.

We’ve been attending the summer exhibition on and off for something like ten years and I really love it. We went today, which is the 250th annual event.

As you can see in the photo above, which is from maybe 150 years ago, they pack the walls with art. You can barely see the walls there is so much art on them.

But the thing I love most is the way they hang an unknown twenty-year-old painter next to a Hockney. It really speaks to me and represents an egalitarian approach that is rare in the art world and the worlds beyond art.

You can buy many of the works at the summer exhibition and we have done that a few times over the years. Not today, as many of the works we liked had been sold or were not for sale. But I like that it is a place you can collect and many of the works are not particularly expensive.

If you live in London or the UK, you have likely gone. If not, you should. And if you are not from the UK but find yourself in London this summer, you should go.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — June 27, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Updating (Beta Distribution)

Categories: Blog articles

Rapid Experimentation

A VC - June 18, 2018 - 10:12am

It can be exhausting to try and stay caught up on every new tech company being started. The Gotham Gal said me to yesterday, “everyone is an entrepreneur these days.” She’s right about that directionally although most companies have employees who are not founders so it is not exactly correct.

The rapid expansion of tech startups and the entrepreneurs who create them has been building for fifteen years, or possibly twenty-five years if you include the early Internet exuberance and the period of disillusionment that followed.

But over the last ten years, in particular, we have seen a number of factors come together to make for an environment where “everyone” can do a tech startup.

We have more and more software engineers and related skillsets around the world as education systems are starting to respond to the market demand for this talent. This is particularly true in Asia and other parts of the rapidly developing world. But it is also increasingly true in the developed world. Our portfolio company Stack Overflow, which serves software engineers almost exclusively, sees 31 million people a month now, up from 22 million five years ago. That likely overestimates the number of globally employed software engineers but it is indicative of the vast number of people solving problems in software right now.

The explosion of open source software, transparent code repositories, and open source tools and languages like MongoDB (we own Mongo stock), React, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, Go, TensorFlow, and so many more, has made it easier to build things in software than ever before. And popular services delivered via APIs (like Twilio and Stripe, both USV portfolio companies) make building software applications even easier.

We also have more support systems for entrepreneurs than we did ten years ago. Paul Graham and Y Combinator were the innovators and first mover in the market for entrepreneurship support systems that are market-based and for profit. That model has been copied and evolved on all around the world and it is powerful, important, and its impacts are far-reaching. We have learned how to best support entrepreneurs early on in the life of a company which leads more people to try it and also leads to more projects graduating from these programs and getting seed funding.

Which takes me to capital. We now have more angel and seed and venture capital being invested in startups every year than ever before. It took a long time, almost twenty years, to pass the go-go years of 1999 and 2000, but pass it we have and even though many see that as a sign that we are in bubble territory again, I am not one of them. Technology innovation is happening in all sectors of our economy and all parts of the world. I think the expansion of capital being deployed into startups can continue for some time to come.

So there are more skilled people to help an entrepreneur build the thing they want to build, more support systems to help them avoid the big mistakes, and more capital to allow them to invest in the business ahead of revenues and profits.

And so, we are in a golden era of tech entrepreneurship where anyone with an idea can make a go of it.

That does not mean that all of these efforts will succeed. They won’t. Think of this golden age as a time of rapid experimentation in which every problem will be attempted to be solved in many ways. Most will fail. Some will succeed. And we will see multiple successful approaches to solving the same challenges.

The good news is that all of the systems that feed these startup efforts, the talent market, the accelerator programs, the capital markets, and the entrepreneurs themselves, understand that these are experiments and that most will not succeed. For the most part, the market has evolved to a point where the economics of each input system has built the loss ratios and likely payouts when you win into their pricing structures. It is not perfect by any means. We may, for example, need to do more for the very early employees. And the rapid inflation in financing valuations may need a pullback if those new economics don’t work long-term for the capital markets.

But if we are thinking about society, and I mean our global society, not just the US, the result of this era of rapid experimentation is likely to be progress on important, and also mundane, human needs.

None of this makes it any easier to try and stay on top of all of this. It seems to me that the only way to do that is to pick a subset of the tech sector and focus just on that and let others take on the challenge of doing the same on another sector. It has gotten way too big for anyone to be able to stay on top of it all.

But when you feel overwhelmed and wonder what will come of all of this entrepreneurship mania, I would urge you to think of all the good that will come of it. Lord knows we need it.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — June 25, 2018
World After Capital: Getting Past Capital (Attention Cont’d)

Categories: Blog articles
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