A new way for founders to connect with the right VCs

nfx-guild-labs-signal-partial-team A young Silicon Valley venture firm is taking the wraps off a piece of software that it says makes it a cinch for founders to figure out which VCs are worth approaching, based on stage, sector, and a variety of other factors. It’s called Signal, and it’s the first project of NFX Guild Labs, an offshoot of the venture firm and invite-only accelerator program NFX Guild, which… Read More

Chinese and American Consumers Have Different Ideas About What Makes a Product Creative

When consumers believe a product is creative, they are more likely to like, share, and buy it. And yet not everyone agrees on what “creativity” looks like. Jeffrey Loewenstein and I recently published a study examining the features that indicate whether a product is creative in the world’s two largest economies, the U.S. and China. We found that the two countries had different views of what made a product creative. For example, the kind of product that an American loves and finds highly creative might seem trivial to a Chinese person. In contrast, the kind of product that a Chinese person finds creative might lack distinctiveness to an American. All products have a constellation of features; we identified 26 cues that at least one of the two cultures nominated as relevant to creativity. To understand the psychology of how each culture views creativity, it’s helpful to know what both cultures agree indicates creativity,
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TL Biolabs

Ever since the domestication of animals thousands of years ago, farmers have had a hand in the breeding of animals. But generally, this is done with a minimal amount of information — very basic knowledge about the parents. It’s been …

Why We Need to Stop Obsessing Over CEO Pay Ratios

The numbers are striking. In 2015 U.S. CEOs earned 335 times the pay of the average worker. In the U.K. they earn 129 times more; the High Pay Centre marked “Fat Cat Wednesday” (January 4, 2017) as the day by when a CEO has already earned more than an average worker earns in the entire year. This ratio is the number one piece of evidence that executive pay is excessive and the number one statistic that advocates of pay reform argue should be fixed. Accordingly, the Dodd–Frank Act is forcing U.S. firms to disclose this ratio from this year; the U.K. is contemplating similar legislation. The world’s largest investor, BlackRock, wants to move beyond simply disclosing pay ratios, to capping the ratio of some forms of pay. It recently wrote to over 300 UK companies to say it would only approve salary increases for top
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Assessment: How Successful Was Your Company’s Reorg?

Has your firm recently undergone a reorg? If so, you’re in good company. Reorganizations, or reorgs, are a common business practice. And with change accelerating in almost any industry you can think of, we expect them to become more and more common. Think about the disruption being caused by electric and autonomous cars in automotive; by regulatory challenges in banking; by shale resources in oil and gas; and by a groundswell of public dissatisfaction in political institutions, to name just a few. All will require companies — and governments — to rethink the ways they are organized. Did your reorg meet your expectations? If not, again, you’re in good company. Reorgs can deliver significant value, yet they often cause misery. Some academic studies suggest that the psychological impact of uncertainty during a reorg can be even more distressing than an actual layoff. And the longer that badly planned reorgs drag on, the more the misery endures
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Getting Human Resources Right

The news out of Uber last weekend was horrifying. A woman engineer was unable to get human resources to deal quickly and appropriately with a sexual harassment claim. I don’t know anything more than what I learned in her blog post. Uber is investigating and the full story will likely emerge in due course. I am not interested in piling on Uber right now. Plenty of people doing that. But it does raise a great question which is how to get human resources right in a fast growing tech company. Growing from 50 to 500 to 5,000 to tens of thousands of employees is hard. Operating systems and processes that work in a 500 person company don’t work in a 5,000 company. The same is true of every growth spurt. Systems break down and stuff gets messed up. A well designed and implemented human resources organization can help. A messed
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Indoor farming startup Bowery raises $7.5 million from investors including ‘Top Chef’ Tom Colicchio

bowery_veggies_1 As pollution, extreme weather, and over-population threaten the viability of large, outdoor farms, a startup called Bowery Farming Inc. has raised $7.5 million in total venture funding to grow food indoors, even in the middle of a city. The startup’s high-tech approach uses robotics, LED lighting, computer vision, sensors and data analytics to grow leafy greens with no pesticides and… Read More

3 Ways to Get More Done Right Now

Cat Yu for HBR
When I need to get something done in a hurry, I use three time management tactics to maximize my available time and sharpen my focus. For instance, when I returned home last year from my active duty military deployment, I had to quickly readjust to my corporate job and get up to speed with team priorities and deadlines. Meanwhile, my side hustle as a professional music producer was calling. I had limited time to record my next project, a jazz opera about the European financial crisis, or I risked having to wait several months to find a date that worked for the musicians and studio. In just two months I drove meaningful revenue for my corporation as well as successfully recorded 25 musicians and singers. Here is how I did it:

Go On a News Diet

On November 9th I turned off the CNN feed on my computer; blocked news
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Research: Arab Inventors Make the U.S. More Innovative

From Hassan Kamel Al-Sabbah, a Lebanese-born American serial inventor, to Ahmed Zewail, the 1999 Nobel laureate in chemistry, to Farouk El-Baz, a NASA and MIT scientist who helped plan the Apollo landing, to Elias A. Zerhouni, the 15th director of the National Institutes of Health, Arab immigrants have made major contributions to American science and technology. As the Trump administration attempts to limit immigration from several Arab states, these contributions deserve extra attention. The problem is that to date there has been little work to document the extent of Arab contributions to American innovation. We recently set out to remedy that, and our analysis suggests that Arab inventors play a major role in U.S. innovation. They also contribute significantly to the success of major U.S. tech companies. To shed more light on Arab contributions to the U.S. innovation system, we ran an exercise matching Arabic first names with international
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AirMap raises $26 million to manage air traffic as drone use surges

battle-drones Lower airspace isn’t crowded with drones quite yet. But as drones become more pervasive, a startup called AirMap is building software and system to help drone operators fly only where it’s safe and legal to do so. The task will prove completely different than that of managing airliners as we do today, says AirMap CEO and cofounder Ben Marcus who is also serving as the co-chair for… Read More

K2 Global’s $183 million VC fund aims to decentralize Sand Hill Road

Hand Holding Money K2 Global is announcing a $183 million venture capital fund targeted at early stage startups with global aspirations. The fund is closing significantly larger than the $58 million the firm initially raised. With a decentralized team and no Sand Hill Road office, K2 Global aims to bring Valley hustle to international technology investing. In contrast to well known VC firms like Sequoia and… Read More

Billions In Value, One Pit

One of the things that is hard to pin down is how entrepreneurial Chicago is.  It’s really an entrepreneurial Mecca.  But, it doesn’t seem like it because the kind of entrepreneurship that has existed here doesn’t resemble anything on the coasts.  It might look more like NYC because it certainly doesn’t resemble Silicon Valley. Many of the entrepreneurs in Chicago hung out on the trading floors throughout the city.  There were five of them, but three were really large.  The CBOE, CBOT and CME each had thousands of people on them.  They were some of the most innovative places ever.  Financial futures and options were created on those floors.  Plenty of business ideas were created, and funded on those floors.  Heck, most of the syndicate that bought the Chicago White Sox and Bulls was from those trading floors. Huge HFT businesses were created off those floors.  But, so were other Continue reading "Billions In Value, One Pit"

Three Strategies for Engendering Negative Net Churn in Your SaaS Startup

There are three ways to create negative churn that I have observed in the market. First, usage expansion. Second, feature expansion. Third, product expansion. Usage expansion is the most common way to create negative churn. Utility based pricing models like buying SMS credits on Twilio, or compute on Amazon or data processing on Mulesoft lend themselves to gradually increasing account sizes, as customers use more and more of the product. Per seat pricing also leads to usage expansion if product lends itself to growing within an customer. Slack and Expensify might win more seats as word of the products get out and the company grows. Of course, the pricing plan has to be structured in a way to encourage this kind of behavior. All-you-can-eat plans won’t engender dollar expansion of accounts. In the case of per seat pricing, if the initial sale fully penetrates an organization, then there is no Continue reading "Three Strategies for Engendering Negative Net Churn in Your SaaS Startup"

How to Handle Interrupting Colleagues

You’re giving a presentation on the company’s strategic direction when one of your colleagues interrupts you. You pause, address his question, and continue with your point — until he interrupts again. Sound familiar? All of us have known colleagues, friends, or romantic partners who seem unable to let us finish a sentence. How do you handle them effectively? There are a number of tactics. But it is important to understand when and why people interrupt others. Different cultural norms. At the beginning of my relationship with my husband, I constantly interrupted him. Knowing that I love arguments based on data and good evidence, he showed up for one of our dates with a printout of a research paper titled “Overlapping Talk and the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation.” The first sentence reads, “The orderly distribution of opportunities to participate in social interaction is one of the most fundamental preconditions for viable social
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Would I Want My Daughter To Work For Uber?

One of the things we used to joke about years ago was having daughters.  When I had my first daughter, my trader friends in the pit showered me with bar room humor.  “God’s way of getting even with you.”, was typical.  Of course, they were happy for me-and I was happy for me.  I didn’t care if we had a boy or a girl, as long as they were healthy. But, it is different having daughters than sons.  I have two daughters and no sons.  We quit at 2 because we didn’t want to play zone defense and it screws up the Disney reservations.   Seeing the world through your daughter’s eyes helps give you perspective. One of my daughters casually asked me to write about what was going on at Uber.  She said the issue was spreading like wildfire in the developer community. Interestingly, the Chicago startup community Continue reading "Would I Want My Daughter To Work For Uber?"

127. Sector & Niche Focused Funds, Part 1 (Jordan Nof)

Jordan Nof, head of investments at Tusk Ventures, joins Nick to cover Sector & Niche Focused Funds, Part 1. We will address questions including: Today we are talking about Sector/Niche Focused Funds. First off, at a high level, what categories and in what ways have you seen funds specialize? What are your thoughts on thesis, thematic […]

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What Mark Zuckerberg Understands About Corporate Purpose

Last week Mark Zuckerberg published a strong defense of both globalization and Facebook’s business model. In a nearly 6,000-word letter, he argued persuasively that Facebook thrives under a globalized socioeconomic system, where barriers to information, labor, capital, and products are minimal. Research by myself and others has shown that purposeful organizations outperform their competitors; in his letter Zuckerberg is clearly attempting to outline a sense of purpose for Facebook. But research also suggests that people have a large degree of cynicism toward business leaders who speak about purpose. Senior management tends to have a greater sense of purpose than middle management, who in turn have a greater sense of purpose than lower-level employees. Senior management may try to cultivate a sense of purpose, but employees are generally not buying what they are selling. Zuckerberg’s letter offers a lesson in how the purpose of an organization can be communicated in an authentic way.
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