Awe Inspiring Feat

Back in 1969, America landed on the moon. It was an amazing feat and awe inspiring for millions of people world wide. Essentially, it was accomplished and consumed the first part of my life. I was born in 1962. President Kennedy outlined a goal of putting a man on the moon. Seven years later, it was done.

The Franklin Institute is live tweeting the first lunar landing. You can follow them on Twitter here.

Here is a website of the actual radio transmission of the landing.  It’s super cool.

I remember staying Continue reading "Awe Inspiring Feat"

Investing Outside The Bay Area

This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time, but I needed the time to digest all the other great posts on the topics by other investors, and to analyze specific portfolio data from Haystack over the last five years. Well, that time has finally come. As a warning, this post will have more subheading than usual, and it will be packed with lots of links — please click through and read them. I believe this is an important post for both founders and investors in the Bay Area and outside the Bay Area to read carefully.

When I began investing a little over five years ago, it felt like the conventional wisdom was that one had to invest in the Bay Area to harvest venture-like returns. Of course, that was not 100% true, with innovative startups and large outcomes occurring in Europe, in Asia, and other Continue reading "Investing Outside The Bay Area"

Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future

Facebook is in the unique position today to face both the problems of centralization and decentralization. On its centralized core platform it is confronted with making content decisions, while on WhatsApp it struggles with slowing down the spread of rumors and calls for violence. Just to be clear, I have no sympathy for Facebook which has been arrogant about these issues and has put growth above anything else. Nonetheless everyone who is building new decentralized platforms would do well to think about these issues NOW.

The Internet itself is quite decentralized relative to Facebook. That’s of course why InfoWars and many other conspiracy websites are out there. Facebook has long wanted to convince people around the world that it is effectively the Internet (after all time spent outside of Facebook is a lot harder to monetize). But of course it is not and it can easily censor content on its Continue reading "Facebook’s Travails and the Decentralized Future"

Take Control of Your Learning at Work

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Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Human beings have an astonishing ability to learn, but our motivation to do so tends to decrease with age, particularly in adulthood. As children, we are naturally curious and free to explore the world around us. As adults, we are much more interested in preserving what we learned, to the point of resisting any information — and data — that challenges our views and opinions. Unsurprisingly, there is now big demand for employees who can demonstrate high levels of “learnability,” the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable throughout their working life. This demand has been turbocharged by the recent technological revolution.

Indeed, one of the major cultural and intellectual changes of the digital age is that information has been commoditized, and access to it is now ubiquitous. With the right question (and WiFi), we can all pretty much find

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Glowforge Plus Launches on Amazon Exclusives

Glowforge for sale on Amazon

Glowforge recently launched their 3D laser printers to the public, making their product line available within 10-day delivery. As an early investor (and a huge fan) this was an incredibly gratifying moment, as Glowforge is now shipping – in volume – the product from one of the most popular pre-order campaigns in history.

We’ve been a part of Glowforge’s journey to production since even before their record-setting crowdfunding campaign. But the campaign was the moment we knew that we’d found something special: the elusive product-market fit. People really, really wanted the product. Now that it has made its way into thousands of households, we’re seeing something even better. People really, really love their Glowforge.

Of course, all the numbers in the world can’t convey just how awesome their product is until you see it in action. I’ve used mine to make everything from luggage tags to wallets. It’s an

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Two Questions to Ask Before You Set Up an Innovation Unit

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Classen Rafael/EyeEm/Getty Images

Despite good intentions—and widespread acceptance of the importance of innovation—efforts to innovate at large companies often lack a clear mission and framework, and as a result, they go off the rails.

At one large European energy company we consulted with, no less than four separate corporate functions were supposed to be working on innovation—yet none of them was supporting critical needs at the business unit level. To make matters worse, the various functions involved were competing internally for space and resources, while duplicating each other’s work.

Without realizing it, even well-managed businesses versed in modern management practices can generate an environment that is hostile to innovation. For all of these reasons, large companies need to have a distinct Innovation Unit headed up by a senior executive who ideally reports to the CEO.

In our work at the European Center for Strategic Innovation (ECSI), we have extensively

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Investor Stories 92: What’s Next (Martino, Calacanis, Farmer)

On this special segment of The Full Ratchet, the following investors are featured: Paul Martino Jason Calacanis Chris Farmer   Each investor discusses sectors, drivers and/or trends that may have significant impact in the future and are potentially positioned for outsized-returns.

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Most of AI’s Business Uses Will Be in Two Areas

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Oliver Burston/Getty Images

While overall adoption of artificial intelligence remains low among businesses (about 20% upon our last study), senior executives know that AI isn’t just hype. Organizations across sectors are looking closely at the technology to see what it can do for their business. As they should—we estimate that 40% of all the potential value that can created by analytics today comes from the AI techniques that fall under the umbrella “deep learning,” (which utilize multiple layers of artificial neural networks, so-called because their structure and function are loosely inspired by that of the human brain). In total, we estimate deep learning could account for between $3.5 trillion and $5.8 trillion in annual value.

However, many business leaders are still not exactly sure where they should apply AI to reap the biggest rewards. After all, embedding AI across the business requires significant investment in

Continue reading "Most of AI’s Business Uses Will Be in Two Areas"

A Study of Thousands of Dropbox Projects Reveals How Successful Teams Collaborate

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Martin Konopka/EyeEm/Getty Images

The use of virtual file-sharing platforms like Dropbox, Google Docs, and others has become ubiquitous in business, academic, and other settings. But is your team using such collaborative platforms as effectively as they could be?

Whether working on cancer cures or the latest consumer-tech products, how teams collaborate affects their performance and success. We know a lot about how teams collaborate face-to-face, with regard to leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and other areas. But less is known about how groups work together virtually. As more and more collaboration happens in digital settings, it’s critical to understand best practices for working in such spaces.

To address this question, we studied the virtual interactions of research teams at universities around the word on Dropbox, analyzed how the collaborative dynamics related to performance and developed a list of best practices that organizations can use on any file-sharing platform to improve team performance.

Dropbox gave

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Survey: 68% of CEOs Admit They Weren’t Fully Prepared for the Job

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Jan Stromme/Getty Images

CEOs are known for their confidence. It is, after all, one of the reasons they’ve made it to the top. And yet, that confidence sometimes flags, as we at leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder learned from a survey  of 402 CEOs from 11 countries—executives who together run companies with  $2.6 trillion in sales.

Participating anonymously, CEOs told us that while they did feel ready for the strategic and business aspects of their roles, they felt much less prepared for the personal and interpersonal components of leadership, which are just as critical to success.

Here are some of the most surprising findings:

What Content Should VCs Be Producing?

Thought this was interesting. The responses were interesting as well.
A lot of people wanted to know how VCs analyzed failed deals.  Some wanted to know how they added new partners or analyzed deals before they invested.

Some wanted some “day in the life” type stories or posts on Instagram or Snapchat.

When it comes to things that are basic block and tackling, most of it has been blogged about in some form or another.  Credit Fred Wilson and Brad Feld. Go back and see their early posts and it’s the building blocks of how to do a deal, what term sheets are etc.

I understand why there is a desire for this. I enjoy reading blogposts by fund of funds or any endowments or family offices that might care to Continue reading "What Content Should VCs Be Producing?"

20VC: ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman on Betting His Career Facebook Would Be A $10Bn Company, Lessons From Travis and Uber on Scaling A Global Marketplace & Whether Growth and Capital Efficiency Are Mutually Exclusive

Fritz Lanman is the CEO @ ClassPass, the startup that provides the most flexible fitness membership ever. To date, they have raised over $154m in VC funding from the likes of Thrive, GV, CRV, Fifth Wall and Temasek just to name a few. As for Fritz, prior to ClassPass he was the Founder & CEO @ Livestar, a mobile recommendations startup that was acquired by Pinterest. Before that, he was a Senior Director in the Corporate Strategy Group @ Microsoft where he led several multi-billion dollar M&A evaluations and strategy projects including the Facebook investment and Yahoo deal. If that was not enough, Fritz is also a tremendously successful angel with a portfolio including the likes of Square, Pinterest, Wish, Flexport, Everlane and 75 or so more companies.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Fritz made his way into the world of startups with Microsoft? How that Continue reading "20VC: ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman on Betting His Career Facebook Would Be A $10Bn Company, Lessons From Travis and Uber on Scaling A Global Marketplace & Whether Growth and Capital Efficiency Are Mutually Exclusive"

Why Your Startup Doesn’t Invest Sufficiently in its Differentiators

There are three types of product features, a seasoned head of product told me recently. MMRs, neutralizers, and differentiators. MMRs are minimum market requirements; basic features that every customer expects and demands. Neutralizers mitigate competitive threat. Differentiators are your startup’s competitive advantage. As a product manager, I’d never thought about this type of roadmap segmentation before. But it made a lot of sense to me.

When a startup has established product market fit, the differentiator is clear. This feature set distinguishes the company. It is the reason customers prefer the product to alternatives. The very first buyers buy irrespective of deficiencies. The differentiator is enough to overlook those faults.

As the product team talks to customers, they are likely to hear feedback encouraging more investment in MMRs and neutralizers. “Your product is missing this feature. We need this capability that exists in another piece of software in yours.”

This Continue reading "Why Your Startup Doesn’t Invest Sufficiently in its Differentiators"

How to Make an AI Project More Likely to Succeed

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PhotoAlto/Matthieu Spohn/Getty Images

A recent survey by Deloitte of “aggressive adopters” of cognitive technologies found that 76% believe that they will “substantially transform” their companies within the next three years. There probably hasn’t been this much excitement about a new technology since the dotcom boom years in the late 1990s.

The possibilities would seem to justify the hype. AI isn’t just one technology, but a wide array of tools, including a number of different algorithmic approaches, an abundance of new data sources, and advancement in hardware. In the future, we will see new computing architectures, like quantum computing and neuromorphic chips, propel capabilities even further.

Still, there remains a large gap between aspiration and reality. Gartner estimates that 85% of big data projects fail. There have also been embarrassing snafus, such as when Dow Jones reported that Google was buying Apple for $9 billion and the bots fell for

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Early Stage VCs – Be Careful Out There

In addition to our own funds, we are investors in a number of other early-stage VC funds as part of our Foundry Group Next strategy. Yesterday, in one of the quarterly updates that we get, I saw the following paragraph.

“Historically, the $10 million valuation mark has been somewhat of a ceiling for seed stage startups. But so far this year, we’ve seen that a number of companies, often times with nothing more than a team and a Powerpoint presentation, have had great success raising capital north of that $10 million level. Furthermore, round sizes continue to tick up, with many seed rounds now in the $2.5 million to $4.0 million range.”

We are seeing this also and have been talking about it internally, so it prompted me to say something about it.

I view this is a significant negative indicator.

It has happened only one other

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