A VC

Syndicate content
Musings of a VC in NYC
Updated: 2 hours 17 min ago

Business Model Innovation in Healthcare

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

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?

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

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

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

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

Motion Photos

October 17, 2018 - 1:17am

Motion Photos is a feature available on Google’s Pixel Phones. It captures a bit of video as you are taking a photo.

I’ve always wondered how to share those photos with the motion in them, which you can’t do when you send them as jpeg files.

It turns out you can export them from your phone as gif files. For some reason, the Google Photos app on the web, which does allow you to see the Motion Photos on the web, does not support the export to gif feature.

So this is how you do it:

To convert your motion photo into a video or GIF, follow these steps:

Step 1: Open the Google Photos app on your device.

Step 2: Open the motion photo that you want to share. Then tap the three-dot icon at the top-right corner. From the menu, select Export.

Google Photos Motion Pictures 4 Google Photos Motion Pictures 5

Step 3: You will get three options: Video, GIF, and Still photo. Choose the one that you like from the first two to initiate the conversion process.

Google Photos Motion Pictures 6

Step 4: Once the motion photo conversion completes, you will get a notification regarding the same. You can find the converted media in the same folder. Tap on it to open it and hit the share button to share it.

I took this Motion Photo below at a really cool music/art exhibition at the 21_21 Design Sight museum in Tokyo last week. After doing all of those steps, I can share it with all of you here.


USV TEAM POSTS:

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

Bethany Crystal — October 25, 2018
Going off script

andy@usv.com — October 25, 2018
Scroll

Categories: Blog articles

When Software Just Gets Smarter

October 16, 2018 - 2:13am

The last time we were in Japan, six years ago, using Google Maps was pretty frustrating. We didn’t understand the Japanese language and addresses made no sense to us. We got lost multiple times a day and often had to find a person on the street who spoke english to help us out.

It is a pretty stark difference this trip. Google Maps seems to understand much of what it did not the last time around. The directions are great and we have yet to get lost.

Last night, I directed a cab driver in Kyoto who did not speak english using Google Maps on my phone and pointing right or left or straight each time we got to an intersection. We got to dinner on time and everyone, including our cab driver, was relieved.

I think this is a great example of the power of machine learning and other technologies that software makers are using to make their apps smarter and smarter. And that leads to better user experiences and delivers more value.

Much of this happens behind the scenes and is never announced as a new feature. The software just works better. And we come to expect this of our software and we take it for granted.

But it is pretty magical when you have the opportunity, like we are having in Japan with Google Maps, to compare an app to its younger version and see how much it has improved. You can see the software getting smarter over time and that’s kind of amazing.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 25, 2018
Going off script

andy@usv.com — October 25, 2018
Scroll

Bethany Crystal — October 24, 2018
Introducing the USV Talent Network

Categories: Blog articles

Kills Zones And Venture Funding

October 15, 2018 - 1:53am

There is a debate going on about the impact of Facebook, Google, and Amazon’s growing dominance on the consumer internet on the supply of venture capital to entrepreneurs.

Facebook funded this report that was published back in July and concluded that “big tech” was not impacting the supply of venture capital to entrepreneurs.

Ian Hathaway, a researcher who studies venture capital formation, recently published this blog post that challenges that assertion with some data obtained from PitchBook.

I have skimmed the Facebook funded report and read the Hathaway blog post and come away believing, as Hathaway himself does, that we don’t really know because the analyses done to date are not conclusive.

But as a market participant, I can certainly say that we shy away from funding startups that are going up directly against the large tech incumbents.

But we also are attracted to startups that are competing against the big incumbents with a fundamentally different model, like DuckDuckGo in search, or ShopShops in commerce.

So, anecdotally, based on our activity and other venture capital activity that I have observed, I would say that the big tech incumbents have most definitely shaped where venture capital is going and where it is not going. 

That does not mean it has decreased the overall supply of venture capital. It most certainly has not. 

And, I would venture, that big tech is increasingly vulnerable to a number of attack vectors, many of them self-induced, which should be attracting entrepreneurs to more directly go after the core franchises of big tech.

Whether those courageous entrepreneurs will attract the capital they need to launch those attacks is an open question. But I have a fundamental belief in capital markets to do the right thing over the long term and I also have a fundamental belief that entrepreneurs, software engineers, and new innovations will undo these increasingly dominant franchises in ways that regulators will never be able to.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 24, 2018
Introducing the USV Talent Network

bethany@usv.com — October 24, 2018
Introducing the USV Talent Network

Bethany Crystal — October 23, 2018
Drinking at work dinners

Categories: Blog articles

Bluetooth Everywhere

October 14, 2018 - 1:37am

We checked into a hotel today and next to the desk in our room was a block of USB ports to charge our phones with and a Bluetooth button. I pushed the button and my phone paired with the room. Now I can play music on the sound system in the room with my phone. 

There is nothing special about that really. We all do the same thing with our cars and headphones regularly now. But when it works as seamlessly as it did for me today, that is nice.

The truth is that Bluetooth is everywhere these days. And the pairing thing, which used to be such a hassle, seems to get easier and easier every day.

As I’ve written before, the power of non-proprietary protocols like Bluetooth is pretty impressive to see in action. The more they get adopted, the more they get used, and the more they get used, the more they get adopted. It’s one big virtuous adoption cycle and the beneficiary is us.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 23, 2018
Drinking at work dinners

Albert Wenger — October 22, 2018
World After Capital: Technological Deflation

Naomi Shah — October 22, 2018
Business Model Innovation in Healthcare

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: Nadia Boujarwah on Positively Gotham Gal

October 13, 2018 - 12:51am

Nadia Boujarwah is the co-founder and CEO of our portfolio company Dia & Co

She dropped by the Gotham Gal’s offices last week and they recorded a conversation about starting an apparel business in the competitive online commerce sector.

Here it is:


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — October 22, 2018
World After Capital: Technological Deflation

Naomi Shah — October 22, 2018
Business Model Innovation in Healthcare

Bethany Crystal — October 22, 2018
How to build a bouquet

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Kita No Hou E

October 12, 2018 - 2:58am

I am in Japan right now so I decided to back a Japanese project this week.

This is a film about a road trip to Northern Japan. It looks like the kind of film I would enjoy,


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 22, 2018
Weekly [relationship] stand-ups

Bethany Crystal — October 20, 2018
Meeting in the middle

Categories: Blog articles

TxTenna Is Live

October 11, 2018 - 2:54am

I wrote about something called TxTenna back in May. It is a way to move Bitcoin from one wallet to another without needing to be connected to the Internet.

Well TxTenna is now live and if you want to see it in action you can try it out by following the instructions here.

And here is a blog post by Richard Myers, the engineer at GoTenna (a USV portfolio company) who managed the TxTenna project in which he explains how it works and why they built it.

And for good measure, here are a few more links:

Play Store link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.samourai.txtenna … 

Github link: https://github.com/MuleTools/txTenna …

Certainly this is not a mainstream use case, but it does showcase the resiliency of decentralized systems and that is pretty neat.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 20, 2018
Meeting in the middle

Bethany Crystal — October 19, 2018
That special something

Categories: Blog articles

Pixelated

October 9, 2018 - 11:16pm

Google had its big event yesterday and announced two new Pixel phones, the Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3XL. I’ve been using Google phones for quite a while now, first the Nexus phones and now the Pixel phones. I love my Pixel phone but I will be upgrading shortly, probably to the larger form factor 3XL.

But even more exciting to me is the Pixel Slate. I’ve been using a Pixelbook at the USV office for the last month and I like it quite a bit but it badly needs a biometric login to the device. The Slate apparently comes with a fingerprint unlock. 

So I will probably swap out my Pixelbook for the Pixel Slate and see how that goes.

I will let you know once I’ve got the new devices and have been using them for a bit.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 20, 2018
Meeting in the middle

Bethany Crystal — October 19, 2018
That special something

Bethany Crystal — October 18, 2018
Theatre talk-backs

Categories: Blog articles

CSforAll Summit

October 9, 2018 - 3:47am

There has been a movement growing in K12 public education around the US over the last decade to get computer science into the K12 curriculum and into all schools and in front of all students. The name this movement has taken on is CSforAll and this week in Detroit Michigan, educators from all around the country are meeting to move the CSforAll effort forward. This meeting is called the CSforAll Summit.

Today is the big day and there will be a livestream of the main stage from 8:45am ET to 7pm ET. This blog post explains most of what will go on today.

I am particularly excited that Luis von Ahn, founder of our portfolio company Duolingo, will speak at the Summit about human computation, invention and entrepreneurship, and why all students need to learn computing. He goes on at 1:30pm ET.

When educators sign up to participate in the CSforAll Summit, they are asked to make a commitment to expand CS education in their schools and this year those commitments have increased as follows:

– 47mm CS learning opportunities for K-12 Students (nearly a 400 percent increase from 12mm in 2017)
– 246,000 CS educator opportunities (compared to 77,416 in 2017)

These are big numbers, both in absolute numbers and in the rate of growth. It speaks to how seriously the public education sector is taking computer science and related tech skills and the understanding that they are becoming required skills for work and adult life. I am very pleased so see this happening.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 18, 2018
Theatre talk-backs

Nick Grossman — October 18, 2018
Trauma

Bethany Crystal — October 17, 2018
“You are not alone.”

Categories: Blog articles

Retail Space Available

October 8, 2018 - 6:26am

A friend of mine told me last weekend that he thinks the two biggest issues in NYC right now are the rise of homelessness and the proliferation of vacant retail spaces. One is about not having a space to live and the other is about a glut of vacant space. Interesting dichotomy.

I was walking home from the gym this morning and passed this sign on a vibrant shopping street in our neighborhood.

It got me thinking about what this glut of vacant real estate is all about. Is it the result of so much commerce moving online that retailers can’t make a profit selling out of a store anymore? Is it the result of rents being too high and when landlords bring them down, we will see the spaces fill up again? Is it a combination of both? And can technology help address this problem?

We are seeing an avalanche of startups that are taking the fractional ownership idea popularized by Airbnb and WeWork and applying it to new and different areas. For example, popup stores instead of long term leases. 

We are also seeing retailers using technology to attract shoppers into their stores and supplement the the inventory they have on hand.

I do believe that in person shopping has a place in the online era, but I also believe that too many retailers are stuck in an old model that is not working anymore. The Gotham Gal, who started her career in retail, has been blogging about this topic for over a decade and saw this change coming long before the stores started going vacant.

My guess is that we are in the early innings of a long and painful restructuring of retail, ground floor real estate, and the shopping experience more broadly. And I think we will be seeing more signs like the one I photographed this morning in the coming years.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity in the midst of this painful process. In fact, it means there is a lot. And those entrepreneurs that seek to help the shopper, the retailer, and the landlord will have the greatest opportunity to reshape this sector and build large and lasting businesses.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 17, 2018
“You are not alone.”

Bethany Crystal — October 16, 2018
Full stack journalists

Categories: Blog articles

Fully Diluted Market Value

October 7, 2018 - 4:51am

When someone asks you how much of a company you own, the answer could be two very different numbers. You might own 10,000 shares and there might be 1mm shares issued and outstanding. That would suggest you own 1% of the company. And that would be correct, as of right now.

What is often not calculated in these sorts of numbers is future dilution, particularly dilution that is visible if you look closely. The most common form of future dilution that is visible are outstanding options and warrants to issue stock that have not been exercised.

Let’s say this fictional company that has 1mm shares outstanding also has a 20% unissued option pool (so 200,000 options in it), and lenders have warrants to purchase 50,000 shares.

That would be another 250,000 shares that are not issued, but will be at some point, making the “fully diluted shares outstanding” equal to 1.25mm, and your 10,000 shares now represent 0.8% of the company. That is your “fully diluted ownership.”

Nowhere is this issue more important than the crypto token sector. There are many crypto tokens trading in the market that have a relatively small amount of their total supply outstanding and the market value numbers on many of the sites that track this market are a bit misleading.

For this reason, I like the concept of “year 2050 market cap” that the site OnChainFx reports.

Take Numeraire, a token issued by our portfolio company Numerai, and a token that USV owns some of (that is a disclosure if anyone is confused).

Coinmarketcap reports Numeraire’s market cap at roughly $7mm suggesting that you could purchase 1% of Numeraire for $70k.

But by 2050, there will be a lot more Numeraire out there and as OnChainFX reports, the 2050 Market Cap is more like $110mm. It would take more like $1mm to purchase 1% of Numeraire’s total supply.

This concept of a market cap that includes future dilution is called a “Fully Diluted Market Value” and it is something investors need to be focused on when thinking about value, upside, and dilution.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 16, 2018
Full stack journalists

Bethany Crystal — October 15, 2018
Alumni advocates

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: Rebecca Kaden on Twenty Minute VC

October 6, 2018 - 4:31am

My partner Rebecca Kaden was on the Twenty Minute VC podcast last week.

Once you get past the 3:20 mins of audio ad readouts (I advise to fast forward through them), she talks about areas in e-commerce that are possibly outside of the Amazon kill zone, the opportunities to build new trusted brands in healthcare, education, and financial services, and why small early-stage venture capital firms are the best firms to work at.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 15, 2018
Alumni advocates

Bethany Crystal — October 14, 2018
Losing your words

Categories: Blog articles

Feature Friday: Gmail Predictive Typing

October 5, 2018 - 5:59am

I was typing emails on my new Pixelbook yesterday and as I started a new word, Gmail would finish the word and often suggest an entire phrase to come after the word. All I had to do is hit tab to accept the suggestion.

I’ve had a version of that on the Gmail app on my phone for a while. It looks like this:

But the type assistance functionality on my Pixelbook was much more useful. First it was in line and it suggested entire phrases, not just words.

I’m of two minds on this feature:

1/ It is super useful and once I get used to it, I should be able to construct messages much more rapidly.

2/ I am not sure I want Google reverting my communication style (and yours too) to the mean.

I suppose if Google was using just its understanding of my writing style and nobody else’s in its algorithms, then it is helping me be me. And I like that a lot more.

But if it helping me be you, well I’m not as excited about that.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 14, 2018
Losing your words

Bethany Crystal — October 13, 2018
Game day morning

Categories: Blog articles

Gotham Gal Turns Fifteen

October 4, 2018 - 5:10am

2003 was a fertile year for both of us as I started blogging in late September and Joanne picked it up on her birthday a few weeks later.

I’m not the only one in this family who blogs every day. It’s incredibly hard to do that. Trust me, I know.

And she has more range.

From her post today:

These past 15 years have been my thoughts on investing, tech companies, the state of the union, recipes, raising kids, restaurants, theater, design, books, travel, art, women entrepreneurs, trends and pretty much everything that rattles around my head.

I don’t think that is a comprehensive list. She covers a lot more range than that. And she edits herself a lot less than me too.

I am most jealous that her blog birthday is her real birthday.

So happy birthday to the Gotham Gal.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 13, 2018
Game day morning

Bethany Crystal — October 12, 2018
Frequent flier fangirl

Albert Wenger — October 12, 2018
Criticism Should be Welcome: Roubini Crypto Edition

Categories: Blog articles