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Remembering

A VC - May 27, 2019 - 4:27am

It is Memorial Day, the most solemn of our national holidays.

Let’s all take a moment some time today to remember our fallen soldiers.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Olaf Carlson-Wee At Token Summit

A VC - May 25, 2019 - 5:11am

In my new gig as interviewer, I sat down with Olaf Carlson-Wee, founder of Polychain Capital and one of the top token fund managers, at Token Summit.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Planetary Blocks

A VC - May 24, 2019 - 4:26am

I backed this project to make a block toys for kids based on the planetary system a few weeks ago.

I am into anything that makes learning fun for kids and this definitely does that.

You can back it here.

Categories: Blog articles

Sick Day

A VC - May 23, 2019 - 7:36am

I woke up sick this morning and could not fly to Toronto where I was planning to do a session at Collision with Matt Glotzbach, CEO of our portfolio company Quizlet.

I sent some emails to let people know I could not make it and went back to bed and slept for another few hours and I feel a bit better.

I do this to myself a few times a year when life gets hectic. The good news is that Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and that means some much needed R&R.

Speaking of Matt Glotzbach, here is a video that Matt and Quizlet’s founder Andrew Sutherland did three years ago to introduce Matt to the Quizlet community. It does a great job of showcasing Matt’s personality and strengths (and Andrew’s too).

Categories: Blog articles

Sofar

A VC - May 22, 2019 - 4:26am

Andy wrote about our investment in Sofar yesterday on the USV blog.

That is our practice. We publish our investment rationale on our blog every time we make an investment. It creates a permanent record of why we made the investment. It is interesting to go back and read them five or ten years later, regardless of whether they worked out or not.

Sofar is a company we have been following for seven years. We have been intrigued by this global community that has been building around the themes of meeting others in the real world, a shared love of music, and intimate spaces (often personal homes).

The Sofar community is large and sprawling.

The scale of the Sofar community, to us, is an example of “unspoken” value that Sofar has created for over one million people in 430 cities across 65 countries including London, Paris, New York, Sydney, Bangalore, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, and Seoul. In fact, more people will attend a Sofar in 2019 than will attend Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella combined (also, 13 Sofar artists are playing at Coachella this year).

https://www.usv.com/blog/sofar

I just took a look at Sofar to see what events are happening in NYC in the coming weeks:

You can see the Sofars in the coming weeks near you by going here.

Sofar reminds me of our investment in Meetup, which we made twelve years ago. As Scott Heiferman, the founder of Meetup likes to say “use the internet to get off the internet.”

Sofar adds the element of music, performance, and intimate spaces. Andy describes all of this as the “Sofar container”:

Each Sofar has a few known constraints that make the show feel familiar: it will be in a unique space where you wouldn’t expect to see live music, an MC with a loose script will encourage you to get to know your neighbors, three performers will each play three to four songs, the address will only be revealed a day before the show, and the show will end early, by around 10:30 pm. This is what we call “the Sofar container”. The natural outcomes of the container are less tangible; for example, you will hear great music, you will feel safe and comfortable, you might make a new friend or you can attend solo, you won’t be judged. By bringing people together and creating spaces where music matters, Sofar broadens access to well-being – a core part of our investment thesis.
The beauty of creating a simple container, with known constraints, is that what goes into the container is dynamic. You don’t know who the artists are, who you’ll be sitting next to or what the venue will be like, but we believe that the essence of Sofar lies in trusting the container.

https://www.usv.com/blog/sofar

At USV, we are drawn to bottom-up networks instead of top-down centralized services; Etsy not Amazon, SoundCloud not Spotify, Wattpad not Kindle, Crypto not Fiat, and now Sofar not LiveNation.

I am excited that we finally found our way into the inside of this company/movement/experience. It feels so USV to me.

Categories: Blog articles

Citibike

A VC - May 21, 2019 - 9:28am

In a time when there are so many options for getting around the urban landscape (walking, subway, e-bikes, e-scooters, Yellow Cabs, Uber, Lyft, Juno etc), you would think that the six year old Citibike service in NYC would be “old hat.”

But it remains one of my favorite things about living in NYC. The addition of bike lanes all over lower Manhattan (where I live and work) has made biking a lot safer and pedestrians are increasingly aware of the bike paths and the bikers on them.

The kiosk system, vs the dockless system that many of the newer offrrings use, has some challenges around trying to dock in a full kiosk at the end of your ride, but it is much preferable for the tidy/neat nature of the bikes.

Citibikes are particularly great for the one to two mile journey that would take 20-30mins to walk but 5-10 mins to bike.

I did that this morning from this kiosk in the west village to the Union Square neighborhood.

It took me 7 minutes and I was early enough to my meeting that I had time to get a cup of coffee before the meeting.

I honestly don’t think there is a better way to get around NYC for short distances on a lovely spring day. It is one of the things that makes living in NYC so enjoyable.

Categories: Blog articles

Liquidity and Monetization-a monograph

Beyond Money - May 20, 2019 - 9:14am

By Thomas H. Greco, Jr. Revised, May 20, 2019

Liquidity

Quite simply, liquidity is the ability to pay.

We are all accustomed to paying for purchases with legal tender money. We do that in one of several ways, either by handing over paper notes or coins, by using a debit card that debits our bank or credit union account, or by using a credit card by which a bank temporarily advances the amount we need to make the purchase. In every case, it is bank-created money that is being rendered.

Banks are supposed to provide liquidity by monetizing the value-added by local enterprises. They do this by making loans to finance working capital and business expansions and development. But banking has become increasingly centralized as local banks have been taken over by large bank holding companies that have less concern for local economies and favor lower risk loans made to large corporations and government entities that are remote from the local community. Thus, money is lavished on central governments that use much of it to make war and build weapons far in excess of what is needed to provide security, and to enable the continual expansion of mega-corporations that reduce market competition and concentrate wealth in ever fewer hands.

But there are still some locally owned and managed banks. You can find some by going to Move Your Money project. Still, that is only an easy first step. Even those banks must invest much of their resources in government bills and bonds and large corporate securities in order to survive in a milieu of manipulated markets and a regulatory environment that tilts in that direction. Further, since banks create money by making loans at interest, the entire system forces continual growth of debt, artificial scarcity of money, and environmental destruction.

What must ultimately happen is described in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. A proven approach is the organization of local credit clearing exchanges that enable businesses themselves to cooperate in collectively monetizing their own value-added, without the burden of interest and without the growth imperative. This is already happening at both the grassroots and commercial levels, but more optimal exchange designs need to be implemented and the entire process needs to be scaled up by networking trade exchanges together.

Monetization

Quite simply, monetization is the process by which value claims are converted into liquid or spendable form, i.e., to a device we commonly call “money.”

Def. 1. Monetization is the process of converting the value of an illiquid asset to a liquid form, i.e., a form that can be used as a payment medium (money).

Def. 2. Monetization is the process of creating money on the basis of some foundation value.

Example: A bank or other entity can create credit instruments, like notes, “deposits,” or account balances on the basis of an asset upon which it has a claim. For example, when a bank makes a loan against a business’ inventories it creates money which can then be spent into circulation by the borrower. That money then circulates through the economy and presumably becomes available to consumers to purchase the inventory upon which that money was created. In a sense, that money is a virtual representation of the value of goods (or services) that are available for purchase in the market.

However, banks also often monetize the value of real estate or other assets that are not on the market. A bank’s mortgage claim against a property allows the bank to create an amount of money that is some portion of the presumed market value of that property. Monetization of such assets can cause general price inflation.

A peculiar and destructive aspect of the present money system is the monetization of debts, particularly the debts of the central government. The monetization of existing debts puts more money into the economy without putting more goods and services into the economy. This is a major cause of price inflation. When economists speak of debt monetization, they are referring to the process by which central banks add to the money supply by purchasing government bonds. In the United States, for example, when the Federal Reserve Banks wish to expand the amount of money in circulation, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will buy U.S. government bonds on the open market.

In brief, the process is as follows:
The FOMC purchases government bonds on the open market. It pays for them by issuing a check to the seller. This check is drawn against no funds. In other words, the Fed creates the money needed to pay for the bonds simply by making an entry on its books. But this is not the end of the monetization process. This new, so-called, high powered money enters the banking system when the bond seller deposits the funds in a bank. This provides the commercial banks with new reserves upon which the banks can expand their own lending, thus creating even more money. If the bank then buys a government bond, then still more government debt is monetized. This is a primary cause of price inflation.

Commercial banks also create money when they make loans to individuals or businesses, but these loans are usually secured by the pledge of some collateral assets—a car, a house, or some other valuable asset owned by the borrower. Thus, the banks monetize the value of that collateral, i.e., they transform the value of collateral assets into spendable form, i.e., money. As borrowers repay their bank loans, the portion of the money payment that is applied to the loan principal is extinguished. Thus money is created when banks make “loans,” and money is extinguished when loan principal is repaid.

Monetization of value outside of banks

In non-bank exchange mechanisms, such as local currencies and mutual credit systems, the participants, apart from any bank involvement, empower themselves to monetize their own labor, skills, and inventories. They can also monetize the value of their physical assets. Established enterprises have plenty of assets that can be monetized. These include working capital (inventories of merchandise or raw materials and accounts receivable), as well as fixed capital (plant and equipment like buildings and machinery). Working capital turns over in the market in the short term, while fixed capital produces marketable goods and services over a longer time period.

A fundamental question that arises is, “which assets are appropriate for monetization and which are not?” Or, perhaps a better question is, how can each type of asset be monetized so as to provide the necessary liquidity for consumption while not adversely affecting the value of the currency or the general level of market prices?

It is better to issue a community currency by monetizing the value of existing inventories and service capabilities than it is to monetize the value of fixed assets because a loan on the former is self-liquidating. A self-liquidating loan is “a type of short- or intermediate-term credit that is repaid with money generated by the assets it is used to purchase. The repayment schedule and maturity of a self-liquidating loan are designed to coincide with the timing of the assets’ income generation. These loans are intended to finance purchases that will quickly and reliably generate cash,” [i] or in the case of a credit clearing exchange, the credit that was advanced will generate sales sufficient to offset it.

Credit Money vs. Commodity Money

If only commodities are used as money, then there will always be a limited supply of money and it must circulate ever faster to mediate a growing number of desired transactions. But credit money is unlimited in supply. It can safely expand in relation to the amount of goods and services that are available to be exchanged. When lines of credit are based on historical and prospective sales, then there need never be any shortage of exchange media (credit).

We need to stop thinking of money as a THING. In a credit clearing exchange, the quantity theory of money does not hold. I show this in Chapter 12 of The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, pp. 132-133. As the example illustrates, the amount of outstanding credit (the “money” supply) can even go to zero at times. It matters not, since lines of credit are prearranged and can be drawn upon as needed to make new purchases, thus new credit money is created in the process.

#     #     #

[i] A self-liquidating loan is a form of short- or intermediate-term credit that is repaid with money generated by the assets it is used to purchase. The repayment schedule and maturity of a self-liquidating loan are timed to coincide with when the assets are expected to produce income. These loans are intended to finance purchases that will quickly and reliably generate cash. http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/self-liquidating-loan.asp.

___________________________

This monograph can be found on this site here.
The PDF file can be downloaded here.
The PDF file en Espanol can be downloaded here.

Categories: Blog articles

Custody, Trading, Staking

A VC - May 20, 2019 - 4:35am

In our talk at Consensus last week, we talked about security in crypto land.

There are a few highly trusted custody services in crypto, including the popular consumer and institutional custody services offered by our portfolio company Coinbase.

These companies have invested tens of millions, sometimes more, in building highly secure storage systems to keep their customer’s crypto assets secure.

There are also exchanges all over the world that people can use to trade crypto assets. While they may be great places to trade, they are often not great places to custody your assets.

And then there is “staking” which is a term I am using for all sorts of validation services that crypto holders are increasingly doing to secure networks that use proof of stake and other approaches to consensus. There are and will be more staking services that crypto holders can use to participate in these services and get paid for doing that.

Again, these staking services many not be great places to custody your assets.

What is emerging are different services that specialize in different parts of the crypto economy.

There will be best of breed offerings in each sector and there will be a few, like Coinbase, that will offer leading services across all of these sectors.

The nice thing about crypto is it is programmable money. It should be possible, and I think it will be possible, to use one service for custody, another for trading, and a third for staking.

But it has to start with custody. If you own crypto assets, you need to secure them. And that is often not at the place you trade them.

Categories: Blog articles

Cheeze Wizards

A VC - May 19, 2019 - 9:35am

Our portfolio company Dapper Labs, the maker of the popular crypto-collectible game CryptoKitties, is back with their second game, called Cheeze Wizards, also built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Cheeze Wizards is in “pre-sale” mode right now. You can “summon” your wizard in anticipation of the game which will be played this summer.

I summoned a wizard this morning from the fire wizards region. I spent a bit more than half an ETH on it and I am ready to rumble.

Dapper built this game for crypto enthusiasts who will be drawn by the large prize pool (322.6 ETH right now and growing) and that is why some of the most powerful wizards (like mine) are quite expensive. That said, you can summon a “neutral” wizard for 0.07 ETH right now which is less than $20. The focus on a smaller number of higher value players fits with where Ethereum is right now in its scaling efforts.

The best way to play Cheeze Wizards is to add the Dapper wallet to your browser. You can do that here. Then send some ETH to it from your Coinbase account (or any other place you hold crypto). Then go to Cheeze Wizards, you will log in with your Dapper wallet, and you are ready to summon your wizard.

The folks at Dapper wrote a great blog post explaining why they made Cheeze Wizards, how it works, and what they hope will happen with it. That post also reveals a lot about where Dapper is heading with CryptoKitties, Cheeze Wizards, and all of the other games they have under development right now.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Consensus 2019

A VC - May 18, 2019 - 4:33am

This past Wednesday, I appeared on stage at Consensus 2019 with Paul Vigna of the Wall Street Journal and Brian Armstrong, CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase.

The topic we were supposed to discuss was why crypto has been so full of bubbles and crashes. We did talk about that but we also talked about a lot more. The discussion is about a half hour.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: The Collective Museum of Private Collections

A VC - May 17, 2019 - 4:52am

I like this project and backed it earlier this week.

You can back it here.

Categories: Blog articles

Public Speaking

A VC - May 16, 2019 - 6:54am

I don’t do as much public speaking as I used to. Fortunately my colleagues at USV have picked up the slack and we are still out there telling the world what we believe in and why. I think that is critical to building the brand of an investment business.

Because it is Blockchain Week in NYC, I have done a number of public speaking events this week and have two more today. I also did something up at Columbia University last week for a friend and do a fair number of public appearances for the K12 CS Education work I do.

All of that has had me on a stage a lot in the last week and reminded me that there is an art to public speaking. I have also witnessed a lot of people doing it poorly this past week.

I have three main rules that I try to live by:

1/ Be brief. It is possible to make a point in less than a minute. But many take five or ten minutes to do it. In a world where people take their phones out the minute they are bored, you simply can’t take a long time to make a point.

2/ Be bold. Stake out positions that will stimulate debate and get people talking. I am not suggesting that you should take a position you don’t believe in. But I do think it is important to go out on a limb from time to time.

3/ Have fun. Show your personality. Smile. Laugh. Enjoy it. The audience will pick up on that and it will make it more fun for everyone.

I have also taken to doing a lot of interviewing lately. When I get asked to make an appearance, I often ask if I can do the interview instead of being interviewed. I usually turn those into public conversations and that is a lot of fun and, I think, works for the audience too.

I am interviewing Olaf Carlson-Wee, the founder of the Polychain token fund, today at The Token Summit. I plan to have fun and will work to keep it snappy and provocative.

Categories: Blog articles

Crypto Spring?

A VC - May 15, 2019 - 5:17am

On Monday, I wrote:

With the crypto winter seemingly coming to an end and spring on the horizon,

So why do I think winter is behind us and spring is on the horizon?

Well you can see in the chart of the entire crypto market that there has been a meaningful move off of the bottom in the last five months.

The entire crypto market hit the low point in mid December at roughly $100bn and has rallied over the winter and spring to almost $250bn. While there is no guarantee that we won’t go back and test those lows, I do think we hit rock bottom in December.

It is also worth noting that the daily trading volumes are now higher (almost double) than they were at the height of the crypto bubble in January 2018. Investors are back in the market and pushing it higher.

And this is not just about Bitcoin. Here is the total market minus Bitcoin:

It is a very similar chart with very similar volume activity.

The most exciting thing to me is what you don’t see in these charts and that is the fact that many projects have been quietly building out their systems over the last 18 months and we will start to see new public blockchains and protocols go live over the next 6-12 months that will show the power of new ideas and new technologies that are coming to market.

I love spring.

Categories: Blog articles

Exploring An Investment Thesis

A VC - May 14, 2019 - 12:22pm

I remember back in the 2005/2006/2007 time frame when blogging and social media was coming of age, I used this blog as a petri dish to explore ideas like influencer marketing, social advertising, and virality that have become critical parts of a growth marketer’s playbook a decade later.

That “hacking around in social media” taught me so much that I could not have learned reading or talking to people. Of course, I did those things too, but getting my hands dirty with the technology and ideas helped me understand them and see the power of them and invest in them before others did.

So it is always great to see when other investors are doing the same thing.

Dani, one of our awesome analysts at USV, has been exploring the area of “free learning.” She has been writing about it. And she has been hacking around in it too.

Yesterday she launched a free learning game you play via text message.

I built a game this weekend that you can play over sms. If you text +1 (575) 223-1415 it will enter you into the game and send you some number puzzles. Enjoy and good luck. pic.twitter.com/oX6SVprfCQ

— Dani Grant (@thedanigrant) May 13, 2019

She built it on “twilio/node/express/firebase.” I know she also built a version on the Kin Testnet to see how cryptocurrency rewards could impact how students stick with a game like this.

I just played a couple rounds of Numberline on my phone and thankfully I got the first two correct. I am quitting while I am ahead. If there was some Kin involved though…….

Categories: Blog articles

Blockchain Week NYC

A VC - May 13, 2019 - 4:37am

It is that time of year again, when the entire crypto sector comes to NYC. It is called Blockchain Week NYC and there are a dozen or more industry events like the Coin Center Annual Dinner, The Third Annual Token Summit, Consensus, Women On The Block, and many more.

There will also be breakfasts, dinners, company sponsored events, etc, etc.

I will be at many of these events, speaking at a few of them, and am excited to see the crypto sector live and in person this week in NYC.

With the crypto winter seemingly coming to an end and spring on the horizon, it is a great time to take stock of the sector and get excited about it again. Except that I never lost my excitement. Sometimes you just need to hibernate for a year and last year was a good one to do that.

Finally, I am so pleased that NYC was able to secure the spot where the crypto industry comes together once a year. It makes sense that crypto would be big here, given the financial services talent, engineering talent, and commercial sensibility that has always been resident in this town.

If only our regulators in NYS would be as excited about crypto as I am and everyone who is coming to NYC this week is.

Categories: Blog articles

Repost: The Maternal Instinct

A VC - May 12, 2019 - 6:08am

I wrote this three years ago, on Mothers Day, and I remembered it this morning. So I am reposting it. Happy Mothers Day to all of the mothers out there.

It’s Mothers Day, a time to celebrate motherhood and moms. I woke up thinking about the maternal instinct and it’s effect on business.

I was talking to a friend last night about the challenges of working on troubled or failed investments. We were debating whether it is even worth the time to try and save a troubled investment versus moving on and focusing on a new one. This is the endless debate in venture capital. It can be applied to managing people as well. Should you work to develop a talented employee who is struggling or just move on and find someone new for the role?

As we were debating the point on whether to fight for a troubled investment or just move on, the Gotham Gal walked by. And I turned to my friend and said “she never gives up on any of her investments and she has 10x the number that I do.” I’ve cautioned her many times that she can’t fix every company, every CEO, every business plan. But she just keeps trying. It’s why I love her so much.

There is something about the maternal instinct. It’s a powerful thing. It is about protecting and caring for someone or something. It is innate in women and they do bring it with them into the world of business. This is one of many reasons why gender diversity in a team is important. Men and women bring different perspectives and instincts to a situation. Debating it out and finding common ground can be quite valuable.

Surely there is a limit to the maternal instinct in business. You can’t make every hire work. You can’t make every project work. You can’t make every investment work. That’s what I frequently tell the Gotham Gal. But that doesn’t stop her from trying. And I understand why.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there. You care for us and we love you for it.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Solar Roof vs Solar Panels

A VC - May 11, 2019 - 8:01am

We have had an order in for Tesla Solar Roof Tiles for almost two years, since they were announced back in 2017. Production delays and other issues have meant that we still don’t have them on our roof.

And they are more expensive than a regular roof plus traditional solar panels on the roof. But they look a lot better in my view.

This video explains all of that, and more, along with some helpful cost comparisons.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: The Open Orchard

A VC - May 10, 2019 - 5:13am

I really like this project. I hope it reaches its goal and gets funded.

Categories: Blog articles

Teaching Geometry With Javascript

A VC - May 9, 2019 - 3:35am

When I started my now ten-year journey down the “let’s teach computer science in our public schools” path, I knew that getting students to instruct machines would open up new methods of teaching and learning. But I did not understand just how powerful that would be.

It is good and necessary to offer dedicated classes in computer science to students. It is even better to use computer science to teach complex concepts in subjects like math, science, art, music, literature and more. When you do both, you can really impact student’s learning and comprehension.

I was in a high school class in the Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx yesterday. They were doing geometry lessons in Javascript.

They started with a lesson on the translation function and how it could be used to move objects around. This is a photo I took of the smartboard at the front of the classroom as the students discussed how this function works.

After this lesson, the students played a game of Battleship in Javascript with each other on their laptops.

This is a photo of the Bronx Borough President, Ruben Diaz Jr, playing Javascript Battleship with one of the students in the class.

Writing and editing code on a machine allows the student to see how geometric functions (and many other functions) work in a fun and interactive way and takes complex notions and makes them real and tangible to them. This is important and powerful.

I now believe that introducing computer science into the elementary, middle, and high school curriculum will not only help students master computational thinking but it will also help them master many other complex concepts and allow them to be better students and better adults.

Categories: Blog articles
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