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A Blast From The Past

A VC - July 3, 2019 - 5:23am

I saw this in my twitter feed today.

Almost a decade ago, my friend John Heilemann interviewed John Doerr and me at Web 2.0.

It is interesting to go back a decade and see what we were talking about then.

Some of the same issues exist today. Some of the questions we debated have been answered now.

It’s about forty minutes long.

Categories: Blog articles

Is Capitalism about to crash?

Beyond Money - July 2, 2019 - 12:14pm

Richard Wolff provides an insightful analysis and historical perspective on the present state of capitalism and democracy. Clearly, Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism in the 1930s by yielding a bit to the masses’ demand for a share of the economic benefits. Will there be a repeat of that in the coming decade under the next President?

That is doubtful. Conditions today are much different than they were in the 1930s. Big government is no longer in vogue since governments have ceded most of their power to transnational corporations. People now are much more aware of the need for structural change in politics, economics and finance. The vogue today is decentralization of power and restoration of the commons.

I don’t know if Marx has any answers because I’ve never studied Marxist economics.

I am convinced of one thing however that no one else seems to recognize, that is the fundamental flaw in the global interest-based, debt-money, central banking regime. It is the “debt-growth imperative” that derives from the way banks create money by making loans that require the payment of interest. One need only look at the empirical evidence of global debt growth over time to see that it conforms to the exponential growth function of compound interest. Even the richest countries have exploding levels of sovereign debt because there are limits to how much debt the private sector can bear, so governments become the “borrower of last resort” to keep the money supply from collapsing. That’s the reason for bank bailouts and “quantitative easing.”

The fundamental need is for a deep restructuring of money, banking, and finance to decentralize control of credit and eliminate the “debt-growth imperative.” Such an idea may seem radical in the extreme and will not be welcomed by the powers that be, but alternative approaches are already in the works and will be ready to save the day when the capitalist train crashes off the rails.

Categories: Blog articles

Oculus Quest

A VC - July 2, 2019 - 8:19am

If there is a technology that has overpromised and underdelivered more than AR/VR over the last five years, I am not sure what it is.

Facebook paid $2bn (or possibly more) for Oculus in the spring of 2014 and maybe a couple million Oculus headsets have been sold since then. And Facebook is reportedly continuing to spend billions more on Oculus.

So when is all of this investment going to pay off? Maybe sooner than people think.

Oculus Quest is a wireless (untethered) VR headset that shipped this spring and sells for $399 to $499 depending on how much memory you want.

In the past few weeks, a number of friends of mine have suggested I get a Quest (which I will do but have not yet done) and that I will be impressed by it.

I have long thought that an untethered headset that can deliver real VR experiences are what we need to unlock the VR market.

There aren’t many games or experiences for the Quest yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

Most technologies go through a cycle in which the promise is hyped up, followed by the reality setting in and going through a downturn. That has certainly been the case for AR/VR.

But it may well be that the technology is finally catching up to the promise in AR/VR. At least that is what the smartest people I know in this sector are telling me right now.

Categories: Blog articles

Disappointment

A VC - July 1, 2019 - 4:25am

Being a Knicks fan teaches you a lot about disappointment. At one point this spring, we thought we were going to get a couple top free agents and the first pick in the draft. We ended up with a lot less.

Fortunately, I have learned a lot about disappointment in three decades of backing early-stage startups. Our business is one where a third of things we do don’t work out at all and another third deliver a lot less than we had hoped when we pulled the trigger. Only a third of our investments deliver on what we expected when we made them.

Fortunately about ten percent of the investments we make so vastly outperform our expectations, that they make up for everything else we do.

So we live with a lot of disappointment. And one of the questions I struggle with is how much of that disappointment do we share with the founders and teams we work with.

Certainly feedback helps founders. But if the feedback is too negative and too downbeat, it is not helpful and can also lead to tune-out.

So I have found that many times I need to bite my tongue and take the disappointment in stride and chalk it up to the cost of doing business in early-stage investing. You have to be an optimist to make early-stage investments and you can’t let the disappointments take that optimism out of you.

Which takes me back to the Knicks. It has been twenty years since the Knicks had a winning culture. That is a lot of losing to endure. But I keep buying the seasons tickets in hopes that things will change. I am going to stay positive and hope for the best.

Categories: Blog articles

The 5G Conundrum

A VC - June 30, 2019 - 5:33am

Christopher Mims has a good post on the 5G headaches that are in store for those of us in the US as we roll out 5G:

The Downside of 5G: Overwhelmed Cities, Torn-Up Streets, a Decade Until Completion

As carriers launch their 5G networks, the promise of superfast wireless is clashing with the reality of the rollout; ‘the real onslaught has not yet begun’https://t.co/j4LXxxf7yv

— Christopher Mims

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: What Is Web3?

A VC - June 29, 2019 - 4:58am

Juan Benet, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Protocol Labs, developer of the IPFS and Filecoin protocols, gave this talk last fall.

I like Juan’s statement, about 10mins into this talk, that “what Bitcoin did to money, Web3 does to everything.” That is obviously a very big statement/ambition, but I agree with it.

Here is Juan’s talk:

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Everybody Counts

A VC - June 28, 2019 - 4:20am

I backed this Kickstarter project earlier this week.

It has about one more day to go.

Categories: Blog articles

AI and Health Care

A VC - June 27, 2019 - 7:43am

David Kelnar sent me this deck that he did on the state of AI. It is very good.

This slide got my attention:

It is interesting, and not totally surprising, that the sector that AI-focused entrepreneurs are targeting more than any other is health and wellbeing.

It seems like there is so much opportunity to improve our collective health and wellbeing with data science and machine learning. This is a big part of our thesis around healthcare at USV.

Categories: Blog articles

Graduation Season

A VC - June 26, 2019 - 4:52am

If you are feeling a little low on energy and want a pick me up, go to a high school graduation. You could simply crash any graduation, you don’t need to know anyone graduating. They are such feel good events.

I went to the AFSE graduation yesterday.

This is the fourth class that has graduated from AFSE and I think I have been able to attend every graduation. It really is such a great way to spend a couple of hours.

I like the procession music, I like the faces on the students as they walk in. It is a mix of apprehension, pride, and excitement.

I like the speeches by the students. I like the speeches by the teachers and school leaders.

I like the handing out of the diplomas.

I like the joyous hugs from proud family members after the ceremony is over.

There really is nothing quite like the sense of opportunity, promise, and achievement that pervades high school graduations. If you have an opportunity to attend one this week, I strongly recommend it.

Categories: Blog articles

New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act

A VC - June 25, 2019 - 7:39am

The lawmakers in Albany have passed legislation known as the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) and it is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature.

There is plenty of debate on whether CCPA is good policy or bad policy. All you need to do is Google “New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act” and read the NY Post (against) and the NY Daily News (for) and you will see the various sides of the debate.

What this bill does is commit New York State to some of the most agressive goals of any city, state, or region:

This is a legally binding legislative act to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a goal of net zero.

My view is that we need ambitious goals like this and penalties for not reaching them (the stick).

But we also need new policies and new funding/investment to allow us to reach them (the carrot).

Most of the “green new deal” style legislation that is getting passed in NYC, NYS, and elsewhere, and being proposed in many other places, is long on sticks and short on carrots.

I believe CCPA is a good first step for NYS and I hope the Governor signs it into law.

But legislators and activists and the business community should not stop there. We need to follow these goal setting/penalty setting laws with more work around how we get there and there are many good ideas floating around on how to do that.

As hard as if has been to get CCPA done, I think the hard work is just starting because reaching these goals will require creativity, innovation, new technology, and a massive amount of investment and the willpower to see it through.

We really don’t have a choice. So let’s go.

Categories: Blog articles

Understanding Gender Bias In Venture Funding

A VC - June 24, 2019 - 7:09am

USV portfolio company goTenna‘s founder and CEO Daniela Perdomo and USV analyst Dani Grant did some number crunching on VC funding and published the info last week.

After 4 rounds of VC, I ran my own data analysis to see if my experience is unique. Women founders in female-focused sectors raise equitable VC, but women in non-female sectors raise 54% less than their fair share. In deep-tech, women raise up to 75% less! https://t.co/4Fvfor3DXD

— Daniela Perdomo (@danielaperdomo) June 18, 2019

The good news is that in business sectors where women are well represented in the customer set, women founders are raising more (on a pro-rata basis) than their male counterparts.

The bad news is in the rest of the business sectors, women founders raise a lot less (on a pro-rata basis) and in “deep tech” the numbers are particularly bad.

These conclusions ring true to me based on what I see in the market.

I believe women founders have made a lot of progress in the last decade in raising VC. There are many more of them approaching VC firms for capital and many more of them getting funded. But it seems most of the progress has been in sectors where women are well represented.

The progress in sectors where women are not as well represented is almost non-existent. We in the VC sector need to understand the conscious and unconscious biases at work when we meet with a women founder working in one of these under-represented sectors and fight them off.

Founders like Daniela, when they are successful, will help a lot. There is nothing like success to change people’s opinions, conscious and otherwise.

Categories: Blog articles

Pixel Slate RIP

A VC - June 23, 2019 - 5:33pm

I got a Pixel Slate last December and wrote several blog posts about it at the time.

I use it when I travel and just spent two and a half weeks with it as my only computing device other than my phone.

It is fantastic on an airplane as it is equally great for watching video and doing work (on or offline).

At the tail end of that two and a half week stretch I read that Google has decided to stop making Pixel Slates. It will continue to support the current devices but will not come out with a new model.

This means the Slate is a dead platform and that I will need to find another answer for my travel tablet needs. I’m not eager to get an iPad Pro and will probably continue to use the Slate until I find a better answer.

This bums me out. I like the Slate. It has its issues. But I think Google could have easily addressed them over time.

We need competition to the iPad in the tablet market and Google was on its way with Slate.

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: Libra On The Unconfirmed Podcast

A VC - June 22, 2019 - 2:52am

I posted earlier this week on Libra and USV’s involvement in this project

Laura Shin had Dante Disparte of the Libra Association on her Unconfirmed Podcast yesterday.

This is a good and relatively quick way to get up to speed on Libra and how it has been structured.

Categories: Blog articles

Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up

A VC - June 21, 2019 - 12:27am

Jerry Colonna‘s book, Reboot, came out this week.

He had given me the manuscript to read so many months ago that I had to go back and read it again before I could write about it.

So I bought the book yesterday and read it again over the last twenty four hours.

AVC regulars don’t need any introduction to Jerry. I’ve been writing about him, citing him, and telling stories about him since the very start of this blog.

Jerry is my friend, my former partner and co-founder of the first business I ever started, Flatiron Partners, and one of the best people on planet earth.

Jerry’s book is about two things that are really the same thing, himself and his work to help people, mostly entrepreneurs, discover themselves.

Jerry describes this work as “radical self inquiry”:

But the most challenging piece of the formula—indeed, the most important—is the notion of radically inquiring within. I define it as the process by which self-deception becomes so skillfully and compassionately exposed that no mask can hide us anymore. The notion is to recognize that, if things are not okay, if you’re struggling, you stop pretending and allow yourself to get help. Even more, it’s the process by which you work hard to know yourself—your strengths, your struggles, your true intentions, your true motivations, the characteristics of the character known as “you.” The you behind the masks, the stories, the protective but no longer useful belief systems that have been presented for so long as the “you” that you would like everyone to see.

Invariably such inquiry involves getting to know, as the poet Adrienne Rich says, “not the story of the wreck but the wreck itself.” With help, patience, courage, and guidance, we explore the wreck and retrieve the treasure. Knowing how to survive and understanding what it takes to thrive are skills that come from our childhood. Take any random group of entrepreneurs, for example, and do a quick unscientific survey by asking them to raise their hands if they grew up in an environment where at least one parent had disappeared or left or was never present. Most hands will shoot up. Early promotion into adulthood is often painful and equally often a sign of an early promotion into leadership. Probe a bit further and you may find that leaders who have built their company may have unconsciously stacked the team with other folks who experienced such early promotion.

Radically inquiring within allows us to step back and see the patterns of our lives not as random acts of a willful or even vengeful God but as forces that shape who we are. It’s this understanding that will make us not only better leaders but better, happier, more resilient people.

Reboot, the book, is about Jerry’s radical self inquiry to discover who he is and then his work to help others do the same.

He tells his own personal story over the course of the book and also weaves in the stories of others who he has worked with along the way to explain what the work of radical self inquiry is and why it must be done and the rewards that come from doing it. He is teaching by example.

Jerry started his career as a writer and he is a wonderful one. It is a joy to see him go back to those roots and exercise those muscles again.

Let me put it to you this way. You are reading AVC for a reason. Maybe you are an entrepreneur. Maybe you want to be one. Maybe you work for one. Maybe you are investing in entrepreneurs. Or maybe you are married to one. Or maybe your daughter is one. No matter what the reason, you are here at least in part because you are interested in entrepreneurs and the work they do. And so as part of that interest, I would recommend you pick up Jerry’s book and get inside the head of one. It will flip some switches on for you.

Categories: Blog articles

32 Ans

A VC - June 20, 2019 - 8:04am

Thirty-two years ago, the Gotham Gal and I got married.

We had been together for five years at that time.

We have now been together for thirty-seven years.

A relationship that has lasted almost four decades is a special thing.

There is a comfort, a deep friendship, a mind melding, that develops.

At least three or four times this week, one of us uttered something that the other was thinking but just had not said yet.

We are celebrating the day in Paris, one of our favorite places, and pretty much doing nothing, but of course doing everything. Together.

Categories: Blog articles

The Cloudflare Ethereum Gateway

A VC - June 19, 2019 - 9:15am

Last year, during its annual “crypto week”, our portfolio company Cloudflare shipped an IPFS gateway. I wrote about that then.

This year, they have shipped an Ethereum gateway.

It is great to see a very large Internet infrastrcuture provider build and ship crypto gateways.

If you are a small developer looking to create decentralized applications, having a web-scale provider offering IPFS and Ethereum gateways is really helpful.

I expect to see Cloudflare continue to extend the number of crypto protocols they support with their gateways.

And that will be part of what needs to happen to get to a world of truly decentalized applications.

If you are interested in developing on the Ethereum protocol and want to understand how the Cloudflare gateway works, this blog post explains it well.

Categories: Blog articles

Why USV is Joining the Libra Association

A VC - June 18, 2019 - 4:28am

A new blockchain & cryptocurrency project, Libra, was announced today. Libra has been incubated by Facebook. USV will be one of the founding members of the governing body, the Libra Association. Libra is a stable, fiat-backed cryptocurrency that will launch inside some of the world’s largest consumer-facing applications. We believe Libra has the potential to be the catalyst that brings the entire cryptocurrency and cryptoasset market into the mainstream.

When USV invested in Coinbase in early 2013, our rationale was that digital currencies and digital assets (like Bitcoin and beyond) were a breakthrough technology, similar to TCP/IP, HTTP and SMTP. But we also knew that it would take significant investment in the surrounding infrastructure to make them useful for businesses and consumers, just like it did with the Web back in the 80s and 90s. At the time of that investment, we wrote:

“There is much that must be built on top of of these digital currencies to make them work well enough to support real business at scale”

This has proven to be true. If we look back at the past 10 years since the invention of Bitcoin, we have seen a lot of infrastructure built to support an increasing variety of use cases. But there is still a long way to go.

We think about the crypto sector as the intersection of Finance 2.0 (“Money Crypto”) and Web 3.0 (“Tech Crypto”), and what we have seen is that the “Money Crypto” use cases have been the earlier to materialize, especially “slow money” use cases (those that don’t require high throughput):

For consumer use cases (including both Finance 2.0 and Web 3.0 use cases), the biggest barrier to date, beyond technical scalability, has been the rollout of crypto wallets to mainstream consumers. As of today, there is still no mainstream web browser with crypto built-in, no mainstream phone with crypto built-in, and relatively few mainstream applications with crypto built-in. As that changes, crypto assets have the potential to move from being curiosities for enthusiasts to being default internet and financial infrastructure.

Once we have crypto-compatibility built-in to applications, browsers, and phones, many new behaviors and use cases will emerge. The financial system, in general, will become more accessible (smartphone adoption is outpacing bank account adoption globally). Payments can become faster, more reliable and less expensive. Magical new user experiences will be possible due to interoperability and reduced friction, the same way that the Web’s native interoperability unlocked countless new use cases and experiences. And, perhaps most importantly, we will open the door to self-sovereign digital identities (private keys) that are the underpinnings of user-controlled privacy and control of data.

So as we think about the potential drivers for mainstream crypto adoption, a simple, fully-collateralized, cryptocurrency used inside the world’s largest applications, touching hundreds of millions or billions of consumers, is perhaps the most promising one. It is our hope that Libra will serve as a major on-ramp to cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets, to the benefit of the entire ecosystem.

USV will be joining as a founding member of the Libra Association, the governing body that will manage both the Libra technology and the Libra Reserve. As one of the initial 20 members of the Association, we will have the opportunity to participate in design and policy choices that will shape the network. It is worth noting that Facebook will be just one equal member of the Association, which was an important factor in our decision to join.

This will be a large and complex undertaking, as there are many unresolved and challenging questions, involving the technology itself (security, privacy, path to decentralization), the regulatory environment, and the nature of the ongoing governance. In some ways, the initial Association resembles a constitutional convention, where the main goal is to draft the long-term governance mechanisms themselves.

To be clear, we view this as both an ecosystem investment and a financial investment. In addition to participating in the governance process at the Libra Association, USV plans to invest in the Libra Reserve, which will provide the stability for the currency. This is an unusual type of investment for us, but we have learned that investing in the crypto sector requires us to explore a variety of new investment structures.

We appreciate that Facebook invited USV to be an initial founding member of the Libra Association and we take our role in that seriously. We will advocate for those things that USV values most: openness, transparency, decentralization, and permissionless innovation. We think that those features will help accelerate adoption within the entire crypto ecosystem — including our many existing investments in the space — and also help Libra succeed in its goals.

This has also been posted on usv.com.

Categories: Blog articles

LowImpact.org, working toward a new economy and a new society

Beyond Money - June 17, 2019 - 12:57pm

We need to change direction urgently, by building a new kind of economy and society, and there are 4 ways that we can do this:
1. By changing the way we live – https://www.lowimpact.org/topics-2/
2. By changing the way we spend our money –
https://www.noncorporate.org/
3. By changing the exchange medium – https://www.lowimpact.org/why-join-ne…
4. By federating and growing the non-extractive economy

Watch the video

Categories: Blog articles

Secrets Of Sand Hill Road

A VC - June 17, 2019 - 1:31am

One of the many great things about vacations is reading books. Vacation is the one time that I can really prioritize reading books (as opposed to everything else I read).

I just finished Scott Kupor‘s Secrets Of Sand Hill Road, a book for entrepreneurs about rasing capital from venture firms.

Scott makes the point numerous times in the book that the capital raising process is asymmetric for entrepreneurs in that they do it a few times in their career and VCs do it every day.

That is true for the pitch meetings, the negotiation process, and the post financing relationship too.

What Scott does in this book is break down every part of the process and explain it in plain english so that entrepreneurs can understand what’s going on and why it matters to them.

That last part is important, this book is written for entrepreneurs, not VCs.

Scott uses real world examples, mostly investments made over the last decade by his firm A16Z, to make the lessons he is delivering more “real.”

And he uses spreadhseet examples in one chapter and shows how various events can change the cap table for everyone.

It’s very much a “how to” book, more practical than theoretical.

There have been other books written about this topic, I like Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson’s Venture Deals, which is on its third edition now.

Jeff Bussgang’s Mastering The VC Game is also great.

You could teach an MBA or undegraduate course on capital raising for entreprenuers with these three books.

It would be a great course.

If you plan to be raising venture capital for your startup and don’t have the benefit of experience or a fantastic course on the topic, I would strongly recommend you pick up Scott’s book, or all three books, and spend some time reading them now or on your next vacation.

Categories: Blog articles

Mobile Ticketing

A VC - June 16, 2019 - 12:45am

The Gotham Gal and I walked into the Musee de l’Orangerie yesterday and found a line of about 20 people waiting to purchase tickets to enter. The Gotham Gal whipped out her phone, went to the Orangerie website, and bought two tickets that were sent to her phone. It took her less than a minute to do it and we walked in. As we were leaving we noticed the ticket line had almost doubled. We shook our heads and made our way to our next stop.

The mobile phone we all have in our pocket or purse can do so many things but one of its superpowers is a point of sale terminal. Increasingly there is no reason to wait in line for tickets to anything. You can just get them on your phone.

I really like just in time ticketing with the phone. I have the NYC East River Ferry app on my phone and whenever I want to take a boat to Brooklyn or Queens, or back, I open up the app, provision a ticket or two if I’m round tripping it, and I’m good to go. I am seeing more and more mass transit systems adopt this approach.

And then there is the NYC subway system which has started to roll out new turnstiles which you can tap and pay at:

I remember the days of carrying metal tokens in my pocket. It wasn’t that long ago!

The smartphone is twelve years old at the end of the month. It is remarkable to step back and think about how much it has changed how we live and work.

Categories: Blog articles
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