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Crypto Fashion

A VC - May 8, 2019 - 3:33pm

Two of the more interesting and “out there” trends in tech are NFTs (non fungible tokens) and virtual celebrities.

So it was only a matter of time before developers started to work at the intersection of them

Virtual celebrities are characters made out of software that exist in games, social media, streaming audio and video, etc who have large and rabid fan bases. Here is an example of one.

Miquela

NFTs are crypto-assets that are unique and can only be owned by one person at a time. A well-known example is a CryptoKitty.

So I find it interesting that today an instagram celebrity (a real one) has chosen to wear an outfit that is actually an NFT and can be sold and owned by one of her fans.

The celebrity Johanna Jaskowska is wearing a dress that is actually a unique crypto-asset. It is “the world’s first couture digital outfit on the Ethereum blockchain.” She announced that today on her Instagram channel.

This is Johanna wearing crypto fashion:

I am interested to see if this idea takes off. The worlds of gaming, social media, AR/VR, and crypto are going to get richer and more lifelike over time. So I suspect something like this will eventually work and go mainstream.

Categories: Blog articles

Coinbase Custody

A VC - May 7, 2019 - 4:15am

Our portfolio company Coinbase has been building an institutional grade regulated custodial service for crypto assets over the past 18 months. It is called Coinbase Custody and it is a qualified institutional custodian which means that investors that are regulated can use it to satisfy their custodial requirements.

Coinbase has been providing safe and trusted custody for crypto assets for most of its seven year history. It has led the industry in developing secure storage of crypto assets. So it is the obvious place for institutions to turn to custody their crypto assets.

Yesterday, Coinbase Custody announced that they now support custody of over 30 of the most popular crypto assets.

Coinbase Custody operates as a standalone, independently-capitalized business. Coinbase Custody is a fiduciary under NY State Banking Law. All digital assets are segregated and held in trust for the benefit of their clients.

If you want to learn more about using Coinbase Custody as your institutional custodial solution, you can reach out here.

Categories: Blog articles

More Sellers Than Buyers

A VC - May 6, 2019 - 7:41am

I worked for a VC named Bliss McCrum early in my career. He had been on wall street for about twenty five years before getting into VC mid/late career. He loved investing. He taught me technical analysis/charting and a lot of other things about stocks.

I used to ask him “why did that stock go down yesterday?” and he would always respond “more sellers than buyers.”

I loved that response and sometimes would ask him the question just to hear that answer.

What I really wanted to know was the underlying reason for more sellers than buyers. Did the company post weak earnings? Did a competitor enter their market? Was the CFO fired?

But Bliss would never take the bait.

Just “more sellers than buyers.”

His point, I think looking back after thirty years, was that markets are markets and you need to treat them as such and respect them as such. They are not always rational but the supply/demand for the stock doesn’t lie.

This week we are finally getting an Uber IPO. Its competitor Lyft’s stock has been weak post its recent IPO.

I don’t have a view on either stock but we will get to see if there are more buyers than sellers or the other way around.

I think this is a good thing, for those companies, for their shareholders, and for the entire tech and startup sector. We should let markets work. They do their job very well.

Categories: Blog articles

YouTube TV

A VC - May 5, 2019 - 4:58am

Last summer I threw out our twenty year old satellite dish and decided to finally go over the top. I put a bunch of video streaming apps on our AppleTV to replace the “linear television” that we had been getting with the dish.

Almost a year later, I’ve removed all but two of them and the clear winner has been YouTube TV.

YouTube TV is pretty much everything you’d want in a linear television service (except for one thing which I will get to) and the UI is more or less perfect.

The thing I like most about it is that I can run the app with my Google login on all of the AppleTVs in our house plus on our phones and we have the exact same experience, with the exact same library, on all of them.

That seems like a little thing, but after almost sixty years of living with set top boxes that are device specific, it is a big thing.

I’m writing this on my cell phone. Just before starting to write I was sitting in my office thinking that I want to watch the Sixers Raptors game this afternoon but we are going to be uptown at the TEFAF Art Fair.

No problem. I opened the YouTube TV app on my phone, searched for the Sixers Raptors game, and hit the plus sign.

When I turn on any of our TVs in our home, that game will be in the library waiting for me to watch it.

The one app, one subscription, any device thing is pretty cool too. We have a number of AppleTVs in our home but pay for only one subscription.

If you have a ski house, or a beach house, or some other form of second home, you can use your single YouTube TV subscription there too.

So what’s the one thing that’s not perfect about YouTube TV?

They don’t have the Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) on the service. If that Sixers Raptors game was being broadcast on CSN Philadelphia it would not have been on YouTube TV. Thankfully it is the playoffs and it is on ABC.

I talked to a friend of a friend who works at YouTube TV and the RSNs will not sell their content to YouTube TV on a subscriber by subscriber basis. If YouTube TV wants MSG Network on it’s service, it has to pay for it for everyone. And who other than die hard Knicks fans would want to pay to watch the Knicks this year?

So we also have a subscription to FuboTV which seems to have at least some of the RSNs including MSG Network. We have a family plan subscription to FuboTV which allows three of us (me and two of our kids) to have FuboTV in our homes which makes it a bit less expensive to have two streaming services.

I tried a bunch of other services over the last year but I found YouTube TV to be superior in almost every way.

Google did an amazing job with this product. If you put YouTube TV on your televisions (there are a bunch of ways you can do that), you can throw out that set-top box once and for all like we did.

And you will get a bunch of capabilities that you never had with cable. It’s great.

Categories: Blog articles

Greece and the Global Debt Crisis

Beyond Money - May 4, 2019 - 11:34am

Greece and the Global Debt Crisis
Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

ABSTRACT

The Greek debt crisis is emblematic of a more general, decades-long pattern of economic exploitation and reactionary politics that threatens not only the European Union but the stability of the global financial infrastructure and Western democratic civilization. The situation calls for a different form of globalization, not one that is dominated by transnational banks and corporations, but one that is built upon local self-determination and self-reliance, and based on local and domestic control of money, credit, and finance. Greece (and other debtor countries) can recover a measure of sovereignty and rebuild its economy by combining “debt triage” with public and private actions for creating domestic liquidity.

            In the summer of 1977, I first ventured abroad from North America on a journey to explore ancient civilizations, cultures, and religions, and to experience contemporary life in Egypt, Israel, and Greece. During my six-week odyssey, I was able to visit the Pyramids, amble over the Holy Land, and visit the temple ruins of Athens and Delphi.

At one point while in Cairo I came upon a scene that greatly troubled me. There was a small burro hitched to an enormous cart that was laden to the hilt with onions. I felt nauseous as I watched the poor animal lying on its side being flogged by a man in a vain effort to rouse it to the task of moving what seemed to be an impossible load. As a stranger in a strange land, I felt helpless to intervene and quickly moved away. I often wonder what might have been the ultimate outcome, but in my imagination I see the man with the whip standing over the lifeless body of that animal lying in the street, and weeping in worry and frustration.

Now, when I contemplate Greece’s current predicament, that image comes to mind. I see Greece as that beaten and dying animal, overburdened with debt that is beyond its capacity to service, and being flogged by its creditors in a vain attempt to get it to pay up. In my mind’s eye I see a future in which the dead carcass of Greece is being carved up and distributed amongst the creditor institutions. In actuality, Greece will survive, but under new (foreign) management, as she is forced to sell off her assets at fire-sale prices.

In the eyes of the Germans and other creditors, represented by the so-called “troika” institutions (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund), the Greek people are lazy freeloaders who have been living “high on the hog” at their expense, and who now balk at repaying what they borrowed.

But there is another side to the story that paints a different picture, and even if there is a bit of truth in that characterization, what is there to be gained by creditors insisting upon their “pound of flesh”? As civilization has advanced, debtor prisons have been eliminated and bankruptcy laws have been instituted to protect people and companies from creditors who insist upon collecting more than debtors, for whatever reason, are able to pay. Why can’t nations be afforded the same considerations?

First of all, it was not the Greek people who did the borrowing, it was a series of Greek governments that were either corrupted, coerced, or seduced into taking on a series of debts that were increasingly burdensome. Greece was lured into the debt trap from which it seems impossible to escape. Ellen Brown has summarized in her article, The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion, some of the many moves that were made to ensnare the Greek government, and by extension, the Greek people.  … more.

To read my prescriptions and the full article, click here. The article is excerpted from the book, Rebuilding after Collapse: Political Structures for Creative Response to the Ecological Crisis, edited by John Culp. –t.h.g.

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: A Chat With My Partner John

A VC - May 4, 2019 - 4:48am

John Buttrick has been a partner at USV for almost a decade. He mostly focuses on financial services but also does a few other things for us.

In this chat with John Siracusa, John talks about how he ended up at USV, our investing thesis, and a number of financial services investments he has made and manages for us.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Sweet Thing

A VC - May 3, 2019 - 5:38am

I backed this film project this morning. It looks great.

Categories: Blog articles

The Long Game

A VC - May 2, 2019 - 5:22am

Entrepreneurship and startup investing is a long game. It requires patience, resilience, capital, commitment, and much more.

But even so, the average life of a venture capital investment is seven to ten years. It is rare for it to go longer than that. But it can happen.

Yesterday marked the end of an almost twenty-year relationship between me and what was once a startup and is now a fairly large company called Return Path. We announced yesterday that Return Path is being acquired by Validity.

My former venture capital firm, Flatiron Partners, that has not been actively investing since 2000, made its final investment in Return Path in mid-2000. I joined the board shortly after that and have been working with the founder and CEO Matt Blumberg ever since.

In many ways, this company and this entrepreneur define my career more than any other. Matt and I stuck with this company and each other for almost twenty years and in the process built an incredibly trusting, supportive, and, ultimately, profitable relationship.

We had partners in this long game. Brad Feld and Greg Sands joined the board a year or two after I did and they are among my closest friends in the venture business now. And we have had incredible independent directors like Scott Petry, Jeff Epstein, and Scott Weiss. The management team has turned over something like a half dozen times in twenty years but a few leaders have stuck it out including Jack Sinclair, George Bilbrey, and Ken Takahashi. All of these people are responsible for an incredible journey that I have gone on for the last twenty years with this company.

Matt and I have been through a lot together. We had a least four or five near death experiences when we should have lost the company but did not. We had a deal to sell the company fall through the night before the closing. We sold lines of businesses, we bought lines of businesses, we did several large reductions in force, we did several big expansions. We hired and parted ways with many executives.

Through all of that, we celebrated with each other, yelled at each other, cried with each other, annoyed each other, frustrated each other, and supported each other. Matt has made me a much better investor. He has taught me so much about supporting entrepreneurs, building and leading a great board, and hanging in there against long odds for a very long time.

When you see me do something, say something, explain something, here or elsewhere, my approach and philosophy comes from my experiences and nowhere did I get more experience than my time working with Matt and Return Path. So if you are getting any benefit from me, you are getting that benefit from Matt too.

I hope to work again with Matt and his team on another company or two or three. Hopefully they won’t all take twenty years.

Categories: Blog articles

The Mobile Phone Generation

A VC - May 1, 2019 - 4:18am

When those words are spoken, we think about the millennials or gen-z, both of whom have grown up with phones in their pockets or purses and are native users of smart phones.

However, I think my parents’ generation, those who were born in the 20s and 30s and are now in their 80s and 90s, are the generation who may get the most utility out of smartphones.

The last time I visited my parents, my mom asked me to put Uber on her phone. Since then, she has used Uber to go to doctor’s appointments and other places that she did not want to drive to. At some point she and my dad will stop driving entirely and then Uber and Lyft and other ridesharing services will be even more valuable to her.

I was visiting my parents the last couple days and while I was there my mom asked me to put Lyft on her phone, so she had an alternative to Uber, and also Instagram so she could see what her extended family is up to.

But maybe the most amazing thing, to me anyway, is that my mom has pretty much stopped using her land line phone. She tells everyone to call her on her mobile phone. For a generation that arrived on planet earth around the same time as the rotary telephone to be abandoning the landline phone in favor of a mobile phone is really something to see.

If you think about it, though, it makes all the sense in the world. As you find it harder to do things that you used to take for granted, having your own personal computer on you or near you, that allows you to talk to your friends and family, via audio or text, see what everyone is up to, and get someone to come pick you up and take you to Church, the doctor, the store, or anywhere else, is really incredibly useful.

Maybe my dad will read this and decide he wants one too.

Categories: Blog articles

Kickstarter Turns Ten

A VC - April 30, 2019 - 8:47am

I noticed that the Kickstarter logo on my phone had confetti on this this morning.

So I clicked on it and the app loaded this message on startup:

I like that they ended that birthday message with “show me projects”. Even in celebrating ten years, 16 million backers, $4 billion in funding to 160,000 projects across 22 different countries, Kickstarter is reminding us that their mission is to help bring creative projects to life.

As Aziz Hasan, Kickstarter’s new CEO wrote in his blog post today;

We’ve accomplished a lot since 2009, but we also recognize that we still have a lot to do — creative work needs more support. At Kickstarter, that means we have a responsibility to evolve our service, strengthen our dedication, and increase our impact.

In the midst of all of that serious work, Kickstarter is also having some fun with their tenth anniversary. If you go to the Kickstarter 10 landing page you will find amazing project stories as well as some fun things to do there. Click on the Kickstarter 10 logo to get started on the fun.

So to help Kickstarter celebrate it’s tenth anniversary this week, go visit them, have some fun with the “easter eggs” and find a fun project to back too.

I plan to go do that now myself.

Categories: Blog articles

Paid Posts, Guest Posts, Etc, Etc

A VC - April 29, 2019 - 8:56am

I get five to ten emails a week from people, companies, agencies, brokers, etc asking to post content here at AVC.

If you are one of the folks who send me those emails from time to time, you can stop doing that because there has not been a guest post here at AVC for over five years and I don’t have any current plans to do them.

Beyond that, the only guest posts that I ever ran here were from friends, colleagues, and AVC community regulars. I may do that again, but have not felt the urge to in a long time.

I do post a crowdfunding project most Fridays and a video or audio embed on Saturdays. But those are chosen by me based on what I am interested in or what I think you all would be interested in.

I have never been compensated for a guest post and would never accept compensation for a guest post. All the content that is published here, since the start in 2003, has been created by me or by people I know that I thought you should hear from.

I am not opposed to paying for promotion and I understand that influencer marketing is a big marketing channel now. Some of USV’s portfolio companies spend real money doing that.

But this space is not for sale, to anyone or any message. And it never will be.

Categories: Blog articles

Followership

A VC - April 28, 2019 - 4:58am

In evaluating leaders, at the top of a company, or in the ranks of company leadership, an important quality that I look for is followership. Specifically, will the team line up behind this person?

Of course, leaders have to have other qualities. They need to have domain expertise if they are leading a specific function, they need to understand the needs of the business and the sector that it is operating in, and many other things too.

But what I have learned is that followership is super important. If the team doesn’t line up behind a leader, it is extremely hard for them to be effective.

For internal promotions, it is relatively easy to see followership and promote people who have it. You can also help people develop the management skills (listening, communicating, etc) that lead to strong followership.

When hiring someone from the outside, determining if they will have followership is harder. You can reference for this quality. But to some extent followership is a function of the culture of the organization. Someone who had strong followership in one kind of organization may not find it in another one.

It can take a leader some time to develop followership, particularly if they are hired from the outside. The team will need some time to figure out this new person, how they operate, and how they feel about them. But if a new leader has not developed the followership they need to lead the organization, or a part of the organization, within six to nine months after joining, then it is likely that a change will need to be made.

When developing your own organization and internal leaders, you should be very specific about followership and the need to develop it on your team. You should help mentor and coach younger managers on how to develop it and you should move quickly on leaders who don’t have it and won’t develop it on their teams.

It is always so impressive to me to see what leaders with strong followership can accomplish, when everyone is lined up behind them and delivering on what they ask of the organization. That is what I would wish for every organization, but sadly many don’t have it and they underperform as a result.

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: Reg A+ Token Filings

A VC - April 27, 2019 - 4:00pm

In this podcast, Laura Shin and Zach Fallon, of Blakemore Fallon, talk about how to use the SEC’s Reg A regulations to do a token offering.

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: Redacted Clothing

A VC - April 26, 2019 - 4:17am

Our friend Saarim is funding an apparel line based on the redaction meme that has been front and center since the Attorney General took his pen to the Mueller Report. You can back it here.

Here are some images of the products he will be making if this project is successful.

I have closed comments today since I don’t want to host a discussion here of the Mueller Report today or any day.

Categories: Blog articles

Do The Right Thing

A VC - April 25, 2019 - 5:49am

Airbnb has been operating in NYC and NY State for about ten years now and yet we still don’t have comprehensive home sharing legislation on the books in NY State. The reason is that the enemies of Airbnb, mostly the hotel employee unions, have been fighting Airbnb’s existence in NY State very effectively in Albany.

Many of the largest cities in the US and around the world now have comprehensive home sharing legislation on the books. It makes sense. It allows homeowners to share their homes legally and earn extra income but it also protects neighbors and neighborhoods from bad actors who abuse the system.

It is time for the folks in Albany to join that group and put fair and balanced and serious home sharing legislation on the books.

The good news is that we have good comprehensive bills before both houses of the state legislature right now.

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol and Senator James Skoufis have recently proposed comprehensive regulations for short term rentals in NY State.

An increasing number of New Yorkers rely on home sharing services not only when they travel, but also for the additional income they generate by opening up their homes here in New York.

The bills proposed by Lentol and Skoufis will create fair and restrictive rules to govern short-term home rentals in New York. Existing NYC legislation has unfairly penalized everyday New Yorkers for sharing their homes and left many confused about the law.

The proposed legislation bans short-term rentals in all affordable housing and also limits NYC residents to listing only one home. The bills also mandate data-sharing with New York City to boost transparency and enable NYC agents to target and take action against bad actors abusing the system.

The proposed legislation also allows Airbnb to collect and remit taxes on behalf of its users. Currently, NY State is missing out on badly needed tax revenue.

It is time for the NY State Legislature and Governor to pass clear and commonsense legislation to safely and responsibly regulate the home sharing industry. I would like to acknowledge Assemblyman Lentol and Senator Skoufis who have the common sense and courage to lead the way.

Categories: Blog articles

Concrete Vs Wood

A VC - April 24, 2019 - 7:06am

Our friend Eric sent us an article in the Globe and Mail yesterday about plans to build a 35 to 40 story tower in Vancouver out of wood. Here’s the link to that story but you can’t read it without a subscription.

Contrast that to the dominant way we build tall buildings in NYC which is out of concrete, steel, and glass.

The reason that a move back to wood based structures is so important is that the concrete structures are huge contributors to greenhouse gases. According to the Globe and Mail article, “concrete construction is responsible for an estimated eight per cent of all carbon emissions worldwide.”

The Gotham Gal and I are in the process of making two passive house apartment buildings in Brooklyn based on cross-laminated timber structures with only a small amount of concrete in them.

This is a photo of one of them back in December when the CLT structure had just been completed:

Our buildings are five or six stories high. The idea that you can make a building of 35 or 40 stories out of CLT and dowel laminated timbers (DLT) is very exciting to me.

I believe we can innovate our way out of the climate change mess we are in right now and changing the way we make our homes and offices is a big part of that.

Categories: Blog articles

Opting Out Of The Legacy Model

A VC - April 23, 2019 - 9:30am

When you look at industries that continue to operate on old, outdated, and highly regulated models (education, health care, banking, brokerage, etc, etc), it is interesting to look at the numbers of consumers who are opting out of the legacy model.

In K12 education, many people think of charter schools as the disruptive model and there are something like 3.5mm to 4mm students attending charter schools in the US now (out of roughly 55mm K12 students in the US: 50mm public, 5mm private).

But if you really want to look at where the disruptive models exist, you need to look at consumers who are completely opting out and in K12 education, that is the homeschooling movement.

My partner Andy sent around this tweet this morning and it is quite interesting:

I’m trying to understand which are the fastest growing trends in education. Homeschooling seems to be one of them. Technology is only getting into the space, that's why I assume the growth will be accelerated. #homeschooling #edtech pic.twitter.com/cr8RfOMBGW

— Vlad Stan
Categories: Blog articles

I was right about “quantitative tightening”

Beyond Money - April 22, 2019 - 10:51am

I was right about “quantitative tightening”
by Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Just about two years ago, someone sent me a link to an article titled, Why America’s Federal Reserve might make money disappear, that appeared in The Economist on April 17, 2017. The gist of the article was the predicted move by the Fed to unwind quantitative easing, that is, to sell off some of the securities that it bought in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The expansion of Fed holdings from the $850 billion it held just prior to the crisis, to the $4.5 trillion it held at the time the Economist article was written, was a desperate move that was taken to keep a flawed financial system from crashing down.

After I read that article, this is what I wrote to my correspondent on April 25, 2017:

Dear…,
Thanks for alerting me to that article in the Economist. Interesting.
The sub-head reads, “The Fed has signalled that it will soon reduce the size of its balance-sheet,” yet the article says nothing about how it signalled that move. It seems to be the author’s own speculation based on the Fed’s recent small interest rate increase. To wit, “Today, however, the Fed, now led by Janet Yellen (pictured), is raising short-term rates, as it tries to keep a lid on inflation. So—the logic goes—it should also shrink its balance-sheet, to push up long-term rates.”

You need to ask, why did the Fed load up on government bonds to begin with?

I am reminded of a story about a man who wanted to invest in the stock market. He opened an account with a broker who immediately steered him into some penny stock.

The dialog went something like this:
Broker: Welcome aboard. I can get you in on the ground floor of this new company. Their stock is really hot right now and it’s only four dollars a share.
Customer: Fine, buy me 1000 shares.

The next day the broker calls and says,
Broker: Hey, that stock is now up to eight dollars a share.
Customer: Wow, that’s great, buy me 2000 more shares.

A couple days later, the broker calls again and says,
Broker: Amazing, that stock is now up to 12 dollars a share.
Customer: Fantastic, sell all my shares.
Broker: To whom??

In other words, the Fed is locked in to their position, it’s a one way street and there’s no going back.

The answer is that there was not nearly enough available capital in private hands to fund the government budget deficits, at least not at interest rates that would not make the deficits even more gigantic than they have been.

As I’ve written in my books, there is a collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians that goes back more than 300 years. Governments get to spend more than their revenues, while banks get to lend money into circulation by making interest bearing loans. Yes, open market operations by the central banks do distort financial markets as QE critics claim, but that is the fundamental role of central banks, to manipulate financial markets. It’s the biggest scam in history. The central bank is the lender of last resort, and the government is the borrower of last resort to keep the money supply pumped up as bankers suck interest earnings into their capital account.

The Fed will be lucky to get away with small interest rate increases, but unloading their holdings of government bonds will not happen.

The entire article seems disingenuous, suggesting the possibility of actions that cannot be taken without severely unbalancing government budgets and contracting the money supply which will send the economy back into recession.

Real inflation rates are much greater than government figures indicate.  See the Chapwood index, http://www.chapwoodindex.com/, and Shadow Stats, http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts.

Also, follow Chris Martenson, https://www.peakprosperity.com/.
This interview is particularly pertinent, Oil, Gold, & The Collapse of Central Banking ~ Interview with Chris Martenson.

Regards,
Thomas

Now, on March 20, 2019, this Bloomberg article, Powell Signals Prolonged Fed Pause as Inflation Lags, Risks Loom, acknowledged that the Fed has thrown in the towel on tightening, saying, “Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said interest rates could be on hold for “some time” as global risks weigh on the economic outlook and inflation remains muted. … Officials also decided to slow the drawdown of the U.S. central bank’s bond holdings starting in May, then end them in September. Together, the moves complete the Fed’s 2019 pivot away from policy tightening and toward a markedly cautious stance.”

Surprise, surprise!

#     #     #

Categories: Blog articles

The Upside And The Downside

A VC - April 22, 2019 - 4:39am

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, there are good and bad things that come from new technology and new innovations.

The challenge for many of us is that the promoters of the technology only want to talk about the upside. And often the media responds by focusing on the downside. It is hard to find a balanced take on things.

Let’s take this Bloomberg article on ISAs in which students trade a percentage of future earnings to fund tuition. The headline is “College Grads Sell Stakes in Themselves to Wall Street.” Which of course, is the negative narrative on this innovation in financing education.

As my colleague Nick pointed out to me this morning, “the stories often seem to ignore the reverse: how hard it can be to carry a large amount of debt, which is the situation that the vast majority of student loan holders find themselves in.”

The whole ISA movement is a reaction to the student debt crisis that many in this country have found themselves in.

Certainly there are questions that need to be asked about ISAs and the model will evolve and adjust over time.

But to throw ISAs under the bus by suggesting that “students are selling themselves to wall street” is the kind of negative narrative that doesn’t help anyone.

Categories: Blog articles

Facial Recognition

A VC - April 21, 2019 - 9:13am

I would like to start this post with a disclosure. USV portfolio company Clarifai has one of the best facial recognition models on the market and is very active in the facial recognition market. Now that I have disclosed that, we can move on.

Facial recognition has come of age. Machines can figure out who we are and more.

One of the most popular booths with students at The Annual CS Fair this year was the Microsoft booth where they were showing some of their facial recognition technology.

The delight and amazement on the students’ faces was infectious.

But of course, not everyone is excited about facial recognition technology being deployed in the market.

woooooow pic.twitter.com/qWvGQeSjLb

— Laurie Charles (@TheStuffOfMemes) April 20, 2019

I particularly like that question in the embedded image in that tweet:

How does Jet Blue know what I look like?

The answer turns out that there are many ways to know what we look like and you can start with the federal government and go from there.

Like all technologies, facial recognition can be used for good and bad. And it will be.

I like what my partner Albert wrote on this topic recently:

And then some things are incredibly hard. Such as face and object recognition. There are tons of amazing positive applications for such technology. And yet they could also be used to bring about a dystopian future of autonomous killer weapons chasing citizens in the streets. Does that mean we should not develop these capabilities? Should we restrict who has access to them? Is it OK for corporations to have them but not the military? What about the police? What about citizens themselves? Those are hard questions and anyone who thinks they have obvious answers I submit hasn’t thought long enough about them.
So what is to be done? A good start is personal responsibility. 

We used to have to stop at toll booths and wait in long lines to get across bridges and tunnels. Now we drive past the tolls at 60mph and the machines detect our license plates and debit our accounts.

The same is going to happen with our faces and that will be great for many things. But, of course, it will also freak us out on a regular basis and add to the “technology is turning everything into a surveillance state” narrative that has more truth than we would like to admit.

So what is my point? Well for one, the technology is here and we had better get used to finding it deployed in the wild. And second, that it will bring a lot of good. So we should not over react. But we should be mindful of the downsides and those of us who are working on this technology, those of us who are financing the development of it, and those of us who are deploying it, need to take great care with it.

Categories: Blog articles
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