My Happy Place

My wife and I left a day early for Memorial Day weekend.  Last summer, we rehabbed an old family owned cabin in Grand Marais, MN.  This was our first year opening up post rehab.  If I ever retire, this is where I will spend four months of the year.

Needless to say we were excited to get here.

I can understand how my grandfather, who built his cabin in 1974 next door to mine, must have felt each year.  The drive up.  A stop at Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors and if you are really early World’s Best in Grand Marais. We stop at a supermarket in Silver Bay called Zup’s where you can get awesome sausages and bacon.   Get on the dirt road (assess condition of road and hope no trees are down).  Then you pull into the parking lot and hope.

The cabin is smack dab in Continue reading "My Happy Place"

How to Get the Most Out of a Day Off

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The idea of “vacation” often conjures up thoughts of trips to faraway lands. While it’s true that big trips can be fun and even refreshing, they can also take a lot of time, energy, and money. A lot of people feel exhausted just thinking about planning a vacation—not just navigating personal commitments and school breaks, but deciding how to delegate major projects or put work on hold, just so they can have a stress-free holiday. Because of this, some might put off their time away, figuring they’ll get to it when their schedule isn’t so demanding, only to discover at the end of the year that they haven’t used up their paid time off.

In my experience as a time management coach and as a business owner, I’ve found that vacations don’t have to be big to be significant to your health and happiness. In fact, I’ve been

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May 25: Worth Reading


  • Remember GoTV? Or the Verizon’s much talked about the acquisition of once-very-hot Vessel? And all those press releases from Verizon where it talked up its dreams of being an OTT video giant. All those have resulted in nothing, and The company has called it quits and is now looking to partner with former competitors. The latest retreat is not a surprise – it is hard to be anything but a telecom. (LightReading)
  • Talking about Verizon. As a long time customer, I discovered that for a while my wireless network was slower than it used to be. It felt even slower when I used a T-Mobile connection. Well, now I know why. The unlimited data-plans pushed into the market by T-Mobile put Verizon on the back foot. Lately, Verizon LTE has got a spring in its step. My former colleague Kevin Fitchard breaks down the state of mobile broadband Continue reading "May 25: Worth Reading"

Why Traditional M&A Is Becoming Less Important

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From 1870 to 1911, John D. Rockefeller built what was arguably the single most impressive business organization in history: Standard Oil. Mr. Rockefeller’s business strategy was to vertically integrate every aspect of the oil business (exploration, development, logistics, marketing) to assure an ongoing competitive advantage. His vehicles were not just mergers and acquisitions, though there were plenty of both along the way. Rather, they were interlocking series of trusts, partnerships and alliances designed for flexibility and control.

No one’s expecting or advocating a return to Standard Oil’s monopolistic behavior. But some elements of what Rockefeller created may be coming back into vogue.

Consider today’s trends in M&A. Companies are seeking to be quicker on their feet and more innovative. They understand that they often need new capabilities to realize these objectives. So more and more deal activity focuses on acquiring those capabilities. Traditional scale deals now account

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How to Convince Customers to Share Data After GDPR

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In recent years, marketers have lived through the Era of Big Data, and the Era of Personalization, and now we are living through the “Era of Consent.” With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect on May 25th, businesses will be required to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens. For marketers, this means updating your privacy policies, but more importantly, it means finding innovative new ways to connect with customers and gather consent to use their data in order to continue your “marketing relationship” with them.

Marketers across the European Union (EU) have been preparing for this new regulation for months. Yet the regulation impacts all companies globally, including those in the United States, that collect and manage data on citizens in the EU. Many global marketers are still struggling to understand what steps they need to take to

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How Do Consumers Choose in a World of Automated Ordering?

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The term “frictionless commerce” is widely used to describe how digital technologies are blending product purchases seamlessly into consumers’ daily lives. In the ultimate manifestation of frictionless commerce, purchases will be automatically initiated on behalf of consumers (with their advance consent) using real-time, integrated data from known preferences, past behaviors, sensors, and other sources. Envision, for example, a “smart fridge” automatically ordering food items it senses are running low. That is not common yet, but ever since consumers were offered the option to shop online from home, rather than having to go to a store, technology has been rapidly removing friction from commerce.

As frictionless commerce accelerates, so will a momentous shift in the node of commerce. In the era of department stores and supermarkets, consumers selected brands from store aisles and shelves. Over the past several decades, the in-store experience has been increasingly displaced by online shopping,

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The Different Words We Use to Describe Male and Female Leaders

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We like to think of ourselves as unbiased and objective in our employment decisions, but with two equal candidates, who are you going to promote? Someone who is described in their performance evaluations as analytical or someone who is described as compassionate? On the other end of the employment spectrum, if you’re downsizing and have to fire someone and the two people in jeopardy are very similar, who are you going to fire? Someone perceived as arrogant or someone perceived as inept? Leadership attributions in performance evaluations are powerful.

A unique and fascinating data set allowed us to explore the language used to describe individuals in subjective performance evaluations and provides evidence that, as we suspected, language in performance evaluations is applied differently to describe men and women. We analyzed a large-scale military dataset (over 4,000 participants and 81,000 evaluations) to examine objective and subjective performance measures

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Life Changes

One of the fun, and sometimes sad things, for me about being a VC is the life changes that people in companies we are fortunate to be a part of go through.  Babies get born.  People get married.  Kids get sick.  People get sick.  Sometimes people pass away.

I think people get hung up on the numbers in VC.  What’s your cash on cash return?  What’s your IRR?  How much money did you make?  What was the pre-money when you invested?

They forget that this whole VC thing is a people business.  When I was on the trading floor it was the exact same thing.   If you are a good VC, you form a personal relationship with the people that let you invest in them.  After all, even though you can write a Harvard Business School case about every deal, it’s the blood and guts that matters, not what’s Continue reading "Life Changes"

20VC: The Core Lessons From Building a 150 Startup Angel Portfolio, Why Founders Who Angel Invest Have Such Strong Advantages and Why The Lean Startup Makes Less and Less Sense Today with Adrian Aoun, Founder & CEO @ Forward

Adrian Aoun is the Founder & CEO @ Forward, a health care system combining world-class doctors with advanced technology to empower patients to take control of their health. To date Adrian has raised funding from some of the true greats of the business including Marc Benioff, Eric Schmidt, Joe Lonsdale, Aaron Levie and Josh Kushner, to name a few. As a result of the incredible work at Forward, they were named to TIME’s Best Inventions of 2017. Before Forward, Adrian was the head of special projects for the CEO of Google/Alphabet and Adrian arrived at Google following the acquisition of his artificial intelligence (AI) company, Wavii. Adrian is also a prolific angel with the likes of WorkRamp, Atrium, Convoy and more in his incredible portfolio.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Adrian made his way from selling Wavii to running special projects for the CEO @ Google, to now changing the Continue reading "20VC: The Core Lessons From Building a 150 Startup Angel Portfolio, Why Founders Who Angel Invest Have Such Strong Advantages and Why The Lean Startup Makes Less and Less Sense Today with Adrian Aoun, Founder & CEO @ Forward"

Ian Bernstein :  Founder & Head of Product at Misty Robotics

On the latest episode of This Week in StartupsIan Bernstein, former Co-Founder & CTO of Sphero and current Founder & Head of Product at Misty Robotics stops by. Ian introduces his programmable robot, Misty II, and we discuss the current state of generalized robotics, as well as more advanced functionalities that seem to be just around the corner.

Join us for a glimpse into the future of consumer robotics, AI, the brain-computer interface, and more 🔥.

This podcast is brought to you by Weebly. A good looking website is great, but a website that turns into a successful online business is better.

With Weebly, you can manage inventory, collect payments, run promotions and even live-chat with customers. When you’re ready to grow, Weebly can help you get discovered on search engines, create marketing campaigns, and help you with retargeting customers.

Go to today to

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How to Improve Your Odds of Getting to Yes with a VC — “Land and Expand”

If you’ve read any of my ongoing series on fund raising from venture capitalist (episode 1 — controlling your psychology) you no doubt have heard me say that raising capital is a sales & marketing process. You company is the product and you’re selling an equity ownership in your company but much more broadly you’re selling trust & confidence that you’re going to build something enormously valuable and that you’re going to be enjoyable to work hand-in-hand with over the coming decade of each other’s lives.

In order to understand how to “get to yes” with a VC you first need to understand how VC partnerships make decisions and then you can understand how to increase your odds of closing a deal.

VC Partnerships

Start by understanding how many partners are at the firm you are approaching. It’s pretty easy since nearly every VC lists its partners on the website. Some firms are trickier since they artificially call everybody “partner” but they’re not all “investment partners.” It’s super easy to suss all this out. Find a portfolio company or two that they’ve invested in. Find one that’s on the earlier-stage size or one that raised a long time ago and never scaled and get to know the founder & CEO. They can likely give you the entire playbook of the partnership if you build a meaningful relationship with them and they trust you. The key to your “consigliere” is that they can’t be crazy busy because they’re scaling at meteoric rates. You can’t try to meet the executive team at Bird to understand the Upfront Ventures partnership dynamics because they’re too damn busy dealing with explosive growth.

What do you want to know?

  • How many partners are there?
  • Which partners are active and which are less active?
  • Who in the firm has “pull” to get deals done when they want to?
  • Which partners work well with which other partners?
  • Who are the most optimistic partners and who are the most generally skeptical partners?
  • How does the partnership typically make its final investment decisions?

Decision Dynamics

Each firm makes decisions in different ways so understanding the firm’s decision framework matters. Some firms are “consensus driven” and look for unanimity in the decision or near unanimity. Some partnerships are “conviction driven” meaning they’re looking for a super committed partner who will slam his or her proverbial fist on the table to push through a deal. Those partnerships want to know that the “sponsor” of the deal is willing to have his or her head on the chopping block advocating for this deal. In larger partnership you often have “shadow partners” who serve as the role of an advocate (or detractor) to the main sponsoring partner.

In any

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Automation Will Make Lifelong Learning a Necessary Part of Work

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President Emmanuel Macron together with many Silicon Valley CEOs will kick off the VivaTech conference in Paris this week with the aim of showcasing the “good” side of technology. Our research highlights some of those benefits, especially the productivity growth and performance gains that automation and artificial intelligence can bring to the economy — and to society more broadly, if these technologies are used to tackle major issues such as fighting disease and tackling climate change. But we also note some critical challenges that need to be overcome. Foremost among them: a massive shift in the skills that we will need in the workplace in the future.

To see just how big those shifts could be, our latest research analyzed skill requirements for individual work activities in more than 800 occupations to examine the number of hours that the workforce spends on 25 core skills today. We then

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Perpetrating a Fraud

I noticed Elon Musk wasn’t too happy with the press he has been getting.  First the wild melt down on the analysts call and now the tweeting.  Holman Jenkins of the WSJ wrote an article yesterday about it.

There have been other frauds out of the startup world.  The idea seems so magical and the person behind it is so good at selling it along with other tailwinds propelling it we want it to be true.  Theranos, UBeam, and others have proven to be snake oil.

I was involved in a deal in Chicago where a guy took a photo of himself, gave a fake Fed wire and wired a rubber check to an entrepreneur.  People are not always what they seem.

I think Musk is a tremendous entrepreneur.  I don’t think Tesla is a fraud.  It just doesn’t make money.

In startups, really stupid ideas that are cool if Continue reading "Perpetrating a Fraud"

How to Help the Employees You Gain in a Merger Succeed

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The term “acqui-hire” is a nifty neologism that enjoys the virtue of being well-defined in M&A circles while suffering the vice of being misunderstood. Ostensibly, young companies are “acqui-hired” more for their best people than for any real interest in their products, services, or ongoing operations. Talent acquisition is acqui-hiring’s main purpose, say innovation pundits — everything else matters less.

This is true in much the same way television can be defined as “radio, but with pictures” — technically accurate, to be sure, but missing the larger value and impact of the experience.

Consider founder Marc Lore: Walmart paid $3.3 billion in 2016 for Lore’s company in its increasingly desperate efforts to more effectively compete against Amazon. It was arguably the most expensive talent acquisition in e-commerce history, and many observers agree that it’s been paying off: “Walmart’s acqui-hire of Marc Lore and was brilliant,”

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The 3 Types of Diversity That Shape Our Identities

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Diversity means different things to different people. In a study of 180 Spanish corporate managers, we explored perceptions of diversity and found that depending on who is answering, diversity usually means one of three things: demographic diversity (our gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on), experiential diversity (our affinities, hobbies, and abilities), and cognitive diversity (how we approach problems and think about things). All three types shape identity — or rather, identities.

Demographic diversity is tied to our identities of origin — characteristics that classify us at birth and that we will carry around for the rest of our lives. Experiential diversity is based on life experiences that shape our emotional universe. Affinity bonds us to people with whom we share some of our likes and dislikes, building emotional communities. Experiential diversity influences we might call identities of growth. Cognitive diversity makes us look for other minds to

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GDPR Is Upon Us

As we all know from the flood of emails coming into our inboxes explaining that privacy policies have changed and more, the dawn of the GDPR era is upon us.

Technically companies have until tomorrow, May 25th, to get into compliance with GDPR.

USV portfolio companies have been working on getting compliant for more than a year and we have been active in helping them do so and advising them on best practices.

I blogged about GDPR here at AVC last September in hopes that all of you would also start working on getting compliant.

If you have customers or users in Europe, you must comply with GDPR. But many companies are taking the approach that they will be GDPR compliant with all of their customers, regardless of geography.

For this reason, GDPR is the biggest user data privacy regulation to hit the Internet, at least in the last decade,

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