As a Seed Investor, Do I Want Softbank to Invest In My Best Companies Or Not?

Oh boy, conference season in the venture world and one enduring question this year has been “What to do about the Vision Fund?” It’s been a topic of lobby conversations, off-the-record chats and sometimes even an honest public panel!

What’s my answer to The Softbank Effect? First you need to separate the investments into two categories:

Mature Growth Investments a la Uber: Multi-billion dollar commitments to companies that are already at scale. So far at least these investments seem to contain some secondary sales. Which means as a seed investor, I’m thrilled to see Softbank invest. Yippee, go Masayoshi Son!!! It’s essentially a private IPO where early investors, founders and employees get some liquidity and Softbank gets minority ownership, maybe a Board seat. Cool, cool.

Early Stage Hybrid Buyout a la Wag, Brandless, DoorDash: Softbank becomes the largest investor on the cap table, sometimes clears out the Board, Continue reading "As a Seed Investor, Do I Want Softbank to Invest In My Best Companies Or Not?"

Why Management History Needs to Reckon with Slavery

Caitlin Rosenthal, assistant professor of history at UC Berkeley, argues there are strong parallels between the accounting practices used by slaveholders and modern business practices. While we know slavery’s economic impact on the United States, Rosenthal says we need to look closer at the details — down to accounting ledgers – to truly understand what abolitionists and slaves were up against, and how those practices still influence business and management today. She’s the author of the book, Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management.

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The King of Queens

 Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Well, it’s official. The Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes is finally over and the winner(s) are New York City, Washington, DC, and Amazon itself of course (in reverse order). I offer my congratulations to both cities—this is a BIG win for both. Kudos to Amazon too—it couldn’t have chosen two better locations. And finally, I suppose some tip of the cap is in order to Jeff Bezos—the new King of Queens.

I’m not going to rehash all of the details or offer up my own punditry on the whole thing. I will say that I was surprised to see that D.C. (or rather, Arlington, Virginia) only had to cough up a half a billion in incentives, which when compared to the Foxconn fiasco in Wisconsin, is chump change (New York paid $1.5 billion). I’m against these giveaways in general and I’m especially against them here—Amazon is

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What Stan Lee Knew About Managing Creative People

Kim Kulish/Contributor/Getty Images

Stan Lee hated to see an idle artist. The renowned comic book writer and publisher, who died this week at 95, thought idle talent was bored talent, and bored talent was easy to lose to the competition. It also personally bothered him that the people in his employ might be scrambling to earn enough money.  So Stan made sure to provide continuous employment, sometimes to the detriment of the company.

In one famous anecdote, Stan doled out more assignments than the company needed—and didn’t bother to tell boss Martin Goodman about the extraneous inventory. He stuffed the extra comic books into a closet, intending to use them when the time was right.  When Goodman saw the closet, he ordered Lee to fire everyone in the bullpen. Lee followed his boss’s orders. But he still felt it was a mistake—he needed to assign the extra stories, he

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What Stan Lee Knew About Managing Creative People

Kim Kulish/Contributor/Getty Images

Stan Lee hated to see an idle artist. The renowned comic book writer and publisher, who died this week at 95, thought idle talent was bored talent, and bored talent was easy to lose to the competition. It also personally bothered him that the people in his employ might be scrambling to earn enough money.  So Stan made sure to provide continuous employment, sometimes to the detriment of the company.

In one famous anecdote, Stan doled out more assignments than the company needed—and didn’t bother to tell boss Martin Goodman about the extraneous inventory. He stuffed the extra comic books into a closet, intending to use them when the time was right.  When Goodman saw the closet, he ordered Lee to fire everyone in the bullpen. Lee followed his boss’s orders. But he still felt it was a mistake—he needed to assign the extra stories, he

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DROOM and SOM

Entrepreneurship at Cornell (which I run with a great team) just held one of our big annual conferences called Summit.   Summit is in NYC.  The photo gallery and speaker videos will be posted in about 10 days to the Summit site.  We had some fabulous speakers and tried out “real time” audience Q&A with hand held microphones.  That actually worked out very well and the speakers seemed to truly enjoy the unscripted questions.  Summit is held at the Times Center in midtown Manhattan.   The venue auditorium holds 380 and we had over 520 registered.  Just like an airline!

One of my favorite speakers of the day was Barry Beck, the co-founder of Blue Mercury.  His Q&A was hilarious actually and he really opened up on some of his experiences.  Anyway, in his prepared remarks, he commented on the concept of DROOM. Continue reading "DROOM and SOM"

Why It’s Easier to Make Decisions for Someone Else

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Why is it easier to see the best solution to other people’s dilemmas than our own? Whether it’s about someone deciding to pursue a new job, or ask for a raise, or someone simply mulling over which ice cream flavor to choose, we seem to see the best solution with a clarity and decisiveness that is often absent when we face our own quandaries.

People have a different mindset when choosing for others: an adventurous mindset that stands in contrast to the more cautious mindset that rears when people make their own choices. In my research with Yi Liu and Yongfang Liu of East China Normal University in China and Jiangli Jiao of Xinjiang Normal University in China, we looked at how people make decisions for themselves and for others. We were interested in the process and quantity of information a decision maker uses when choosing for

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Containing the Latest Ebola Outbreak

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Last month, a rebel attack in Beni, the epicenter of the ongoing Ebola outbreak near the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), once again halted the efforts of response teams working to contain the virus. With over 10 major episodes of violence since the outbreak was declared in August, insecurity and community mistrust has made it difficult to gauge the true extent of Ebola’s spread. Though the outbreak could still be limited, cases appear to be increasing — especially in Beni, where cases have doubled in recent weeks — with 80% of new infections arising among people with no link to “known transmission chains” (where everyone who is infected is known and you can track who has been exposed with some accuracy). This means that we might only be seeing the tip of an iceberg of hidden transmissions and the outbreak could spiral out

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There are Right and Wrong Ways to Add Amazon to NYC

I’m not a fan of protectionism.

If I’m going to call it out when Donald Trump does it, trying to block the flow of free trade with tariffs, or block the flow of people through immigration bans, then I should be consistent about it on the local level. I would never say that one company shouldn’t be free to expand to a new city.

That being said, I don’t like paying people to do anything they were going to do anyway—and this is especially the case when it comes to economic incentives. It bothers me, for example, when condo builders get tax incentives to build luxury condos in NYC when it’s pretty clear you can still make plenty of money without them—and it’s not like they would pick up and start building condos in West Virginia if they got better tax treatment.

So when it comes to Amazon’s “HQ2a”, my Continue reading "There are Right and Wrong Ways to Add Amazon to NYC"

How We Help Employees Pay Down Student Loans and Save for Retirement at the Same Time

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A small percentage of U.S. companies — including PwC, Fidelity, and Aetna — have stepped up to help their employees cope with the education loans weighing them down by offering them cash to help them reduce their debts. While I applaud them, one downside of their approach is simply giving their workers cash raises their income taxes, diminishing the impact of their efforts.

To address this dilemma, Abbott, where I lead Human Resources, took a different approach. We introduced a program last August to contribute 5% of pay to a tax-deferred 401(k) plan for full- and part-time workers who direct at least 2% of their pay toward paying down their student loans. The Internal Revenue Service reviewed — and ruled favorably on — the 401(k) plan structure we came up with to make this possible.

In addition to the tax issue, our program — called Freedom 2 Save — helps tackle another

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5 Ways Smart People Sabotage Their Success

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Mark was always one of the smartest kids in his class. He’s done well in his career, but when he checks Facebook, he sees people he outperformed at school who have now achieved more. Likewise, there are colleagues at his firm who have leapfrogged him. Sometimes he wonders, “What am I doing wrong?”

Sound familiar? You might relate to Mark yourself, or have an employee or loved one who struggles with similar feelings. Raw intelligence is undoubtedly a huge asset, but it isn’t everything. And sometimes, when intellectually gifted people don’t achieve as much as they’d like to, it’s because they’re subtly undermining themselves. If you’re in this situation, the good news is that when you understand these foibles you can turn them around. Here are five I’ve seen smart people particularly struggle with:

1. Smart people sometimes devalue other skills, like relationship building, and over-concentrate

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Hedge

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nicolas Colin. I’ve been an admirer of his writing in the past, and we had a delightful conversation at one of my favorite breakfast spots in London. For those of you who don’t know, Nicolas is a co-founder of The Family, an early-stage investment firm started in Paris and now operating in London and Berlin.

He is also the author a new book Hedge: A Greater Safety Net for the Entrepreneurial Age, which I’m happy to have completed just this week.

Hedge hits three important notes for me: it is meticulously researched (527 references! 😍), very well-written, and has a point of view that stands out from the others. Nicholas has a broad intellectual range, and his mastery of many topics spanning technology, economics, politics, history, and culture is on full display throughout the book—not to mention an impressive native-like

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Fleece vs Future: How Small Companies Can Help Build Biotech Talent

This blog was written by Aoife Brennan, CEO of Synlogic, as part of the From The Trenches features of LifeSciVC.

A lot has been written about the biotech talent war in the Boston area including the availability of talent as the major limitation to venture creation and the increasingly lavish perks designed to attract and retain experienced staff. As the leader of an organization attempting to grow within this ecosystem, I am acutely aware of the challenges. I also have an additional vantage point however due to an affiliation with several academic programs and mentoring organizations. I frequently meet with talented and ambitious men and women who are frustrated by attempts to get a foot in the door or to explore career opportunities beyond their current role. I believe that small and mid-size companies can and should do more to contribute to the development of a broad and diverse talent

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Welcome Amazon

The New York Times is reporting that Amazon has officially chosen NYC and DC as the locations for its big planned expansion, known as HQ2.

This is big news for NYC, as I wrote about last week.

I would like to welcome Amazon to NYC. I think this is going to work out great for Amazon and for NYC.

I know there are plenty of “not in my back yard” opponents to this idea and folks who think growth is bad and we should not grow until we fix things that are straining under the load.

I appreciate all of those concerns. They are valid at some level.

But I am a fan of grow, prosper, invest, fix, grow, prosper.

And we are doing that in NYC right now.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 13, 2018
Noise-cancelling headphones

Albert Wenger — November 12, 2018
World After Capital:

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10 Things That Require Zero Talent But Show You Care

I saw this on a private Facebook group I am a member of and then clicked the link.  I am shamelessly stealing it.

One of the greatest lessons I learned in my short stint at the US Air Force Academy was a sentence.  It was “No excuse Sir/Ma’am.”  If you were late, if you performed poorly, if you didn’t have the right level of intensity, energy, passion and if you weren’t prepared, that was the answer.  Period.

When I played basketball, it was the same.  When I traded, the same.  Funny how those ten simple things can thread their way through anything.  Not making excuses means you take responsibility for your actions, including how you mentally prepared prior to whatever it was you were doing.

Woody Allen said that 80% of success is just showing up.   Showing up on time that is.  Funny thing is if you don’t do Continue reading "10 Things That Require Zero Talent But Show You Care"

Your Parental Leave Stories

We bring you three stories about parental leave, from listeners whose experiences with it changed them, for better or for worse. They talk about having to fight for more time off, go back to work before they were ready, care for sick babies, and try to hide their exhaustion and stress. Ultimately, they’re stories about how inadequate leave policies hurt families and companies.

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How to Engineer Biology

Because biology is the result of evolution and not human development, bringing engineering principles to it is guaranteed to fail. Or so goes the argument behind the “Grove fallacy,” first invoked by drug industry observer Derek Lowe in a critique …