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Better Residential Internet In Manhattan

A VC - September 1, 2020 - 5:37am

Our portfolio company Pilot Fiber, which provides the best fiber internet to businesses in NYC, has teamed up with a national telecom provider to offer residential fiber internet in Manhattan.

Here’s the way they describe it on their landing page:

Pilot has teamed up with a no-BS, national telecom company (trust us, you know them) to bring gigabit fiber to apartments, condos, and brownstones across Manhattan. We provide the super fast, reliable infrastructure—they hook residents up with a customer-obsessed home internet experience. 

If you live in Manhattan and want better fiber internet, go here and leave your name and contact info and get on the list.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Sep 10, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0 Part 2

Categories: Blog articles

Some Email Stats

A VC - August 31, 2020 - 7:47am

I was looking at my Feedblitz dashboard this morning. Feedblitz powers the daily email for this blog.

These are all of the emails/blog posts I have done this month:

As you can see the open rate hovers between a low of 33% (Ghost Pacer) and a high of 45% (Subscription Agreements).

The unsubscribe rate ranges from 0.02% to 0.075% (on my birthday!).

I suspect the click data is not instrumented properly because I can’t imagine that nobody clicks on any links in the posts. But since I am not trying to generate clicks, I don’t really care too much about that.

I don’t view AVC as an email newsletter. I view it as a blog. But it is both and this data shows that lots of people get it that way and enjoy it. That’s great.


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Hanel Baveja — Sep 10, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0 Part 2

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Isolated On The Road

A VC - August 28, 2020 - 9:08am

I backed a bunch of projects this morning on Kickstarter and this one really stuck with me. I like supporting young creators who are putting their work out there and seeking funding for it. And I also like the idea of documenting this pandemic in photos so we can remember it when its in the rear view mirror.


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Hanel Baveja — Sep 10, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0 Part 2

Categories: Blog articles

I’m No Good At Numbers

A VC - August 27, 2020 - 4:40am

In the final presentation session of our Summer Bridge internship program yesterday, an impressive young man told us that he had stayed away from a career in business because he “was not good at numbers.”

I stopped him and suggested that maybe he is good at numbers but only numbers that interest him. He pondered that for a minute and agreed that when numbers matter to him, he’s interested in them.

That’s how everyone is in my experience. If things get too abstract or too fuzzy, people tune out and then convince themselves they aren’t any good at the subject.

Of course some people are better at numbers than others. I’ve always had a feel for numbers. But I can’t sing. So everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

But I reject the idea that some people are not good at math. I think if you make math interesting and relevant to them, everyone can and will do math.


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Hanel Baveja — Sep 10, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0 Part 2

Categories: Blog articles

The Trifecta

A VC - August 26, 2020 - 4:54am

A trifecta in horse racing is when you accurately predict win place and show. It is when you get three bets correct.

We’ve had the opposite happen in 2020. We’ve had three things go wrong at the same time.

As my friend David Steinberg said to me last month, we are witnessing 1918 (pandemic) plus 1929 (economic crisis) plus 1968 (racial crisis) all at the same time.

Of course they are related. The economic crisis was brought on by the pandemic. And the racial crisis has been made worse by both.

At some point, the pandemic will ease. I am hopeful that behavior change (mask wearing, social distancing, self quarantining, etc) combined with rapid and inexpensive testing will help contain the spread of the disease while we wait for the therapies and vaccines which will eventually eradicate it.

But when the pandemic is over, we will still have the economic and racial crises to reckon with. And reckon with them we must. The financial markets suggest that the reckoning will be easy and painless. I’m less sure of that.

As I wrote about a few days ago, our public sector budgets have massive holes in them. The inequities that have come to the fore in the racial crisis cannot be swept under a rug. I believe we are in for a lot of change and a lot of pain in the wake of this trifecta and there is no escaping it.

I also believe, as I wrote last week, that this painful period of change can lead us to a better place. But that will take time, energy, and capital to achieve and it won’t come easy.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Sep 1, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0

Categories: Blog articles

Pay and Precedent

A VC - August 25, 2020 - 5:01am

We are finally in an era where an equal role comes with equal pay. This is a very good thing but it comes with some hard lessons. One of them is about pay and precedent.

You cannot make a hire and a compensation commitment without thinking very deeply about the precedent you are setting.

Let’s say your company is now fifty people and you can see that you will need to be a hundred and fifty people in a couple years. You decide it’s time to build a proper senior leadership team. And you want to start with a CTO. That first “C level” hire will set a precedent for what you should be prepared to pay (in cash and in equity) for all of your C level hires. You do not have to pay every C level executive the exact same amount but they need to be in a band and I would argue that they need to be in a tight band. And there needs to be a strong rationale for the compensation for each role.

Let’s say you are bringing on your first independent director and that person is so great and you want to give them a very generous equity grant. You can do that but you should know that you ar setting a precedent for what the next independent director will get.

Let’s say you want to bring on a mentor and advisor for your VP Finance to help her “level up” to a CFO. That advisor will want and should get some equity compensation. What you do for that advisor will set a precedent for all other advisors you bring on.

Many times I hear founders say “this is good enough for now and we can fix it later.” But fixing compensation issues later can be very hard and sometimes impossible, particularly if your company significantly increases in value between the problem you want to fix and when you need to fix it.

These are some of the most painful errors you can make in a startup. It is very important to be thoughtful, diligent, and precise in your compensation decisions and approach and you have to start early in a company’s life. Getting a strong and experienced head of people onboard early on will help you avoid these issues. And trust me, you want to avoid them.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Sep 1, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0

Categories: Blog articles

Orthodoxy and the meaning of events

Beyond Money - August 24, 2020 - 12:42pm

Orthodoxy and the meaning of events is the title of an article recently published by Richard K. Moore, author of Escaping the Matrix: how We the People can change the world, and numerous insightful articles that are helpful in making sense of the present state of our world.

Here are some excerpts:

When something dramatic happens, we want to know what it means. We want answers to questions like: Why is it happening? How important is it? What will happen next? Where is it heading? What does it all mean?

In the mainstream narrative, the orthodox narrative, a clear meaning is always provided, right along with the news of the dramatic event itself. Like on the morning of 9/11, when the video of the explosions was first being shown, there was already a banner going across the screen: America under attack by Al Qaeda. And soon after: They want to destroy our democracy. 

This prompt assignment of meaning to an event has an important psychological effect. The first plausible explanation someone hears tends to fix in the subconscious, and resists being displaced by later explanations. That’s why the orthodox meaning is provided promptly, is repeated endlessly, and is reinforced from a variety angles by the various media genre, such as news broadcasts, talk shows, official announcements, comedians, documentaries, interviews, newspapers, etc.

It is easy to see why followers of the mainstream media would consider themselves to be well informed citizens. On any big public topic, they know what it means, and from that framework they can discuss this or that development from a knowing perspective, with a sense of knowing what they’re talking about. 

The world of the mainstream narrative is to a large extent a closed universe. Its stories and their meanings cover the whole scope of ‘what’s important’ and there’s no room for alternative explanations to find a place there. If a contrary explanation emerges from some non-mainstream source, there are many reasons why the explanation will be dismissed. First: ‘We already have an explanation for that’. Perhaps next: ‘Who are you that thinks you know better than the world’s experts?’ Every source that is non-mainstream is automatically suspect.

Moore goes on the say that:

In the orthodox world big changes always come as a response to some unexpected crisis (eg Pearl Harbor, 9/11, WMDs, 2008 collapse, COVID). A crisis is identified, it is given a meaning, and changes are announced. And then another crisis comes along, and again we get big changes. Each crisis comes with its own little meaning story, unrelated to the meaning of the crisis that came before or the one that comes after. Society stumbles along, it seems, always responding to unexpected crises. 

If someone observes that there is a pattern in such sequence, they are dismissed as paranoid or a “conspiracy theorist,” and that “conversations of any significant kind are nearly impossible across the boundary of the orthodox bubble.”

So much of each person’s worldview is based on the trust they have in the sources of the information they regularly consume, whether is MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC, New York Times, the Washington Post or other long established sources with big reputations. But it has been well documented how the media channels throughout the world have been gradually absorbed into a few mega-corporations, and how the owners of those channels use them in the process of Manufacturing Consent to the demands of the elite class that they represent, and their power has become greatly enlarged in the years since Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, described it in their book by that name. That, and other aspects of the decline of western civilization since the 1970’s is also well documented in a video I watched recently titled, HEIST Who Stole the American Dream.

Richard Moore’s article concludes with his views on how people with differing beliefs about reality might talk with one another in a productive way. I strongly recommend that readers take the time to digest the entire article which can be found on Moore’s website.

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Categories: Blog articles

Some Thoughts On New Tax Revenues

A VC - August 24, 2020 - 4:48am

Federal, State, and Local governments are facing massive budget gaps and will need to close them with a mix of cost reductions and new revenues. While this is always hard and has a real toll on people who might lose their jobs or have to pay more in taxes, it is also an opportunity to do things that have been hard to do until now. Here are some ideas on the revenue side:

1/ Legalize the cannabis industry and tax it. This has already been done successfully in some states. It is time for it to happen in all states and for the Federal Government to legalize cannabis as well.

2/ Legalize the online betting industry and tax it. This is another thing that has been done successfully in a few states but needs to be done in every state.

3/ Tax carbon. We have a full on carbon crisis and we are not changing our behavior in reaction to it quickly enough. Taxing carbon will not only accelerate the behavior change we need to address the climate crisis, it will also raise a lot of revenue.

4/ Tax unrealized gains that are financed/monetized. There have been calls in state governments to tax unrealized gains. While that idea is unworkable because many people will not have the money to pay for a tax on the appreciation of their home or some other asset, there is a wrinkle on this idea that I like. We can tax the unrealized gain if it is financed or monetized. This happens all the time in real estate and also with stock gains. If those unrealized gains are captured via a loan or some other instrument, they can be taxed like realized gains. This will also have the benefit of reducing the rampant speculation in real estate that has been making real estate so unaffordable for so many.

I am sure there are arguments against all of these ideas, starting with those who are against taxes of all kinds. And we cannot tax ourselves out of these budget messes we are in. We will need to cut costs as well.

But a time of crisis is also a time of opportunity. We should get creative and do new things that have not been possible until now. We need to be open to new ideas like these and others and not just keep doing what we’ve been doing which is not working so well right now.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Hanel Baveja — Sep 1, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0

Categories: Blog articles

2020 August Newsletter — The Great Reset is now underway

Beyond Money - August 21, 2020 - 5:23pm

My August newsletter has been sent out a few days ago by email to my list. Here are the contents:
In this issue:

  • First, something to amuse and brighten your day…
  • Now, on a more serious note…
  • What to do…?
  • Clarifying and filling in the picture…

You can read the entire newsletter here.

And, here is a more extensive consideration by Chris Talgo of the Great Reset that is being put forth by the World Economic Forum:  What is the Great Reset?

If you’d like to be added to my mailing list to receive my newsletter directly, please fill out the subscription form below.

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Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Crownes Chess Set

A VC - August 21, 2020 - 5:16am

Let’s say you are going camping and want to bring a chess set. This cool chess set and board would be ideal. Chess is a great game and this is a great way to play it. I backed it when i saw it this morning.


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Hanel Baveja — Sep 1, 2020
Mental Healthcare 3.0

Categories: Blog articles

59

A VC - August 20, 2020 - 5:03am

It’s my 59th birthday today. 59 is a nice number. It’s a prime number.

I kicked off the day by getting a cup of coffee and sitting on the beach and reflecting on things.

I am taking the day off from work and plan to spend the day with our family.


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Categories: Blog articles

Sunpower Dashboard

A VC - August 19, 2020 - 4:23am

We use Sunpower solar panels and inverters and they have this cool dashboard that shows us a number of interesting things.

This is the percentage of power we are drawing from our solar panels vs the grid since May 1st:

This is how much power we are consuming on a given day and how much we are producing via Solar:

We want the green bars to be higher than the blue bars. It’s hardest to achieve that in the summer months when the temps are high and AC is on.

I love having an all electric house that is powered by solar panels. I want to get to the point where we don’t need any power from the grid. We aren’t there yet in the summer months, but we are super close. Over the course of a year, we are producing more than we are consuming and that feels great.


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Categories: Blog articles

NYC Is Dead, Long Live NYC

A VC - August 18, 2020 - 4:03am

There is a lot of negativity around NYC right now. Bloggers writing sensational headlines. That sort of thing. It makes me want to go out and buy a ton of NYC stock right now.

It is certainly the case that many talented people are leaving NYC right now. It is also the case that the City is suffering from rising crime, filth, etc. And the City is in deep financial trouble and cutting costs everywhere it can. Commercial real estate is facing a huge crisis and residential real estate might not be far behind. Real estate tax revenues (which provide much of NYC’s income) will decline creating an even more difficult fiscal situation for NYC. The short term outlook for NYC is bleak.

When companies go through this situation and their stock prices get clobbered, you have to ask yourself if the company is going to go out of business or not. If the answer is no, then the question becomes what price is the right entry price.

NYC is not going out of business. It will need a turnaround. It will need new leadership, which it will get. The pandemic will end. Restaurants, museums, broadway, nightclubs, etc, etc, etc will re-open.

It won’t be the same NYC that existed pre-pandemic. But that is a good thing. NYC has sucked for the last decade or more.

Many people who can will leave forever. Rents will be lower (maybe a lot lower). Artists will be able to live in NYC again.

We have the opportunity to reimagine what NYC is. We can reimagine transportation, schools, policing, housing, construction. We can create an environmentally sustainable NYC. We can create an affordable NYC. We can create a better NYC.

But the first thing that has to happen is we need all the people who are afraid of all of this change to leave so those who are left can come together and create this better NYC. And thankfully that is happening.


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Categories: Blog articles

Investments That Don’t Work

A VC - August 17, 2020 - 4:19am

I woke up to a dream this morning where I was playing a game that was very similar to Turntable.fm, a failed effort to create a social music experience that had a moment back in 2011 and that I had invested in via USV. In the dream, someone had created a new version of the game that was basically identical to the original version. It was as fun to play it as it was to play Turntable back in the day. Then I found out that the creators of this new game had received venture capital funding and were going to turn it into a business. I met the founders and was happy for them. Then I woke up.

Investments that don’t work haunt me. It isn’t the losing money part. I have learned to live with that. It comes with the territory in VC. It’s the losing part that haunts me. The what could have been part. The “if only we had done it differently” part.

Good ideas will eventually be executed successfully. And investments that don’t work are often failures of execution. So it makes sense that someone could come along and make your idea work after you failed with it. It happens regularly in the startup world. And it can be painful to watch.

I’ve gone through a few periods of burnout in my career and it was usually brought on by a string of painful failures. I’ve watched others navigate that similarly. If you are heavily invested in something that doesn’t work, it hurts. And the more the investment is of yourself, your time, your enthusiasm, the worse it is.

I’ve gotten out of these periods of burnout by turning my attention to something else. Crypto was helpful for me back in 2013 and 2014 when I was going through one of those periods. It was something new that I could throw myself at, that was different, and that was working.

It’s that old adage about getting back on the horse that tossed you. I am not a horse rider, but I get the adage and agree with it. The best salve for failure is success. And you have to keep going to get there.


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Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Ghost Pacer

A VC - August 14, 2020 - 4:02am

As is my weekly routine, I went onto Kickstarter and backed a bunch of projects this morning. One of them was Ghost Pacer, a holographic running partner.

Ghost Pacer was created by AbdurRahman Bhatti, an “All-state cross country runner, Princeton-bound engineer, and an avid tinkerer and Tetris player.” I guess he made this for himself and is now bringing it to market.

I really like it when people are inspired to make something for themselves and then they make it for everyone. If you want to back Ghost Pacer, you can do so here.


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Categories: Blog articles

Quizlet’s State of Remote Learning Report 2020

A VC - August 13, 2020 - 12:27pm

Our portfolio company Quizlet put out a “State of Remote Learning Report” this week based on what they are seeing across their global learning platform during the pandemic. Quizlet wrote a blog post about it as well.

There are some very interesting data points in the report:

Quizlet explains this chart in their report this way:

Although no country was prepared for the quick pivot to remote learning, most were able to not only return to their pre-COVID-19 online study levels, but actually became more engaged than before. In fact, across Quizlet’s top 50 markets, we saw a 200 to 400percent increase in new students and teachers signing up to use the platform as schools moved to distance learning models. This was especially true in countries, such as Singapore, where the national government mandated classes to resume and provided guidance on the structure and tools to use in a remote setting. The U.S. however, was far less prepared than many other countries to pivot and engage their students online through the rest of the school year. As shelter in place orders came into effect, U.S. high school student visits dropped, and even as students tried to finishout the school year and regained some of their study habits back, the U.S. did not return to normal study engagement levels.

So the US has not reacted to the shift to online learning nearly as successfully as many other countries around the world.

It also seems that subjects like math tend to work better in an online environment.

These are just two of the interesting data points in the report. The entire report is worth a read and it is only ten pages. You can read it here.


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Categories: Blog articles

Subscription Agreements

A VC - August 12, 2020 - 10:44am

I just finished completing a thirty page form for an investment my wife and I are making in a limited partnership. This form is called a subscription agreement. I wrote about the frustration of having to complete this identical form again and again six and a half years ago here on AVC.

One great thing has happened on this issue in those six and a half years. Many/most subscription agreements are now sent digitally via Docusign or Adobe. That’s great. It is certainly a bit easier to complete them online and once you have done that, there is no need to scan and email.

But I remain confounded by the fact that we complete the exact same form time and time again, answering the exact same questions. One would expect that there would be registries/registrars that would onboard an entity (a person, an investment fund, etc) and then when that entity planed to subscribe to an investment, it would just authenticate with the registry and that would be that.

That’s what I was hoping we would see emerge when I wrote that blog post six and a half years ago and we still have not seen it happen. That is kind of amazing to me given how much innovation we have seen in and around financial and investing services in the last decade.


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Categories: Blog articles

Nurx: Reimagining Healthcare

A VC - August 11, 2020 - 7:00am

I’ve written a bit about our portfolio company Nurx since we made the investment back in 2016. Nurx is a great example of how technology is helping to reshape how healthcare is delivered.

With the Nurx mobile app, women (and men too) can find the prescription or home diagnostic test they need, connect to a doctor who can review the request and write the prescription, and get the medication or test shipped to them at home. No stigma, no wait, no travel.

What is amazing to see is the scale with which people are opting to access their healthcare this way. Nurx and their doctors are currently providing healthcare this way to over 300,000 patients a month. That turns out to be over $150mm a year of healthcare being provided by a mobile app and a network of doctors. I suspect these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many people will opt into this sort of relationship for their regular healthcare needs.

The Covid pandemic has certainly been a boost to all forms of telehealth and Nurx is no exception. They have seen a 75% increase in new patient requests this year. But like many things that got a boost in this pandemic, I believe many patients who adopted this approach to everyday healthcare needs will not go back to the old way when the pandemic ends. We are witnessing a sea change in the way we want to access healthcare in this moment.

Nurx accepts insurance and also offers affordable options for those who don’t have insurance. That is a reflection of Nurx’s mission to expand access and improve the quality of care while decreasing cost to the patient. Technology makes all of this possible. At USV we believe that technology can expand access and reduce the cost of healthcare at the same time and we have been investing in that theme for the last six or seven years. Nurx is a great example of our thesis in healthcare.


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Categories: Blog articles

Financing Document Forms

A VC - August 10, 2020 - 4:16am

Many founders want to do SAFE note financings for their early rounds to save time and money.

My response to that is “let’s do a priced round, we can use a standard financing form we both like, we won’t use a lawyer on our side, and we can close in a week.”

The key to being able to do that is the availability of standard financing forms. Many venture law firms and also the NVCA have published standard forms on the web.

Here are Cooley’s forms.

Here are Orrick’s forms.

Here are the Series Seed forms created by Fenwick.

Here are the NVCA forms.

Here is Gunderson’s document library.

I am not suggesting the founder go without a lawyer. I am suggesting that the founder and their lawyer pick a “standard form” to use to do the equity round, send it to us for our review, and if we are comfortable with it (they are all pretty much the same), then we will agree to sign it without negotiation and close within a week.

Typically the only thing we all have to agree on is what the cap table will look like before and after the financing so that the correct numbers are put into the documents. Everything else is pretty standard anyway.

There is this narrative that equity rounds are expensive and take a long time and that SAFE notes are quick and inexpensive. That is not right. We can do priced rounds as quickly and inexpensively as SAFE notes. And we do that regularly.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Matt Cynamon — Aug 13, 2020
A Quick Update On Hiring

Albert Wenger — Aug 13, 2020
Marxism Remains a Dangerous Idea

Categories: Blog articles

New Podcast Episode 10 – Todd Boyle

Beyond Money - August 9, 2020 - 5:55pm

Episode 10    A conversation with Todd Boyle

ToddBoyleTodd Boyle is a man with a very interesting and unusual life story. In this podcast episode, he candidly tells us about how he grew up in a large Catholic family; served a brief stint in the US navy but didn’t like it and managed to get discharged; got involved for a time in the drug scene; went to college and then worked for many years as a successful certified public accountant. He eventually renounced that career in favor of fulltime activism to promote the causes of peace and justice. He has been a staunch opponent of the war in Afghanistan and the multiple covert and violent interventions by US forces in countries around the world, and in recent years he has been a tireless advocate for the homeless right here in America. Todd’s ideas for ending homelessness, and 50 IDEAS for Cheaper Housing are listed here.

Listen in as we discuss some of the main contemporary issues and Todd’s ideas about how to get through the present deepening crisis with his own version of “walking away.”

Todd is active on Facebook where he says he has been “hanging out 4 or 5 hours a day for the last 15 years.” You can follow him there.

 

https://beyondmoney.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/todd-f-boyle-2020-08-01_final.mp3
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