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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Mementos

I keep little things that remind me of events over my career in venture capital. And I have been doing that for most of those thirty plus years. I keep them on a bookshelf I have in my office at USV.

It started with the lucite “tombstones” that bankers would make up when a deal closed. I started collecting them in the late 80s and had them on my bookshelf until recently. I finally got rid of them. Over time, I moved onto more interesting things and started putting them on the bookshelf.

I moved offices at USV this fall and I had to put my bookshelf back together. I did that on Saturday afternoon this past weekend.

The new configuration looks like this:

The third shelf has my collection of useless consumer electronic devices that were a big deal at one time. I have a Apple Newton there, a first

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What Happens When A Founder Is Fully Vested?

Let’s say you are the founder and CEO of a startup and you have now been at it for four years. The company is doing great, you’ve raised several rounds of financing, you have a product in the market that is solving a real problem, you have a bunch of customers, you have a growing team, and things are stressful but largely great.

And you realize that you are now fully vested on your founder’s stock which means if you were to leave the company tomorrow, you get to keep all of it. What do you do about that?

This is a common question I hear from founders. They ask me what is standard in this situation. And I tell them that not only is there no standard answer, that this is one of the most emotionally charged issues to come between founders and their investors and boards and companies.

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Audio Of The Week: Turning Buildings Into Power Plants

The Gotham Gal and I are investors in Blueprint Power, a company that helps landlords turn their buildings into mini power plants.

Robyn Beavers, the CEO of Blueprint, was on the Gotham Gal’s podcast this past week. They talked about how Robyn spent fifteen years working in the tech, energy, and real estate industries and took all of those work experiences and combined them into the idea for Blueprint. They also talk about how the changing supply and demand for energy is opening up new revenue streams for property owners and how Blueprint enables that. 



USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Want a mentor? Stop asking for one.

Bethany Crystal — November 9, 2018
Protecting your tribe

The Anchor Tenant

Malls need anchor tenants. These are the stores that bring the folks to the mall so that they can discover all of the other amazing places to shop that sit between the big tenants.

Cities need the same. Particularly cities that are trying to develop new industries.

NYC’s tech sector has had an anchor tenant since the early 2000s in Google. I wrote a bit about this a few years ago and cited my partner Albert’s line that 111 8th Avenue (Google’s NYC HQ) is the “gift that Google gave NYC.”

Big anchor tenants to a tech ecosystem provide all sorts of benefits but the biggest impacts are that they are both talent magnets (they attract people to relocate to the region) and talent sources (you can recruit from them).

Rumor has it that NYC is going to get a second anchor tenant as Long Island City is apparently

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TYWLS Digital Dance

I blogged about this in the spring of 2017 but I am back with more.

TYWLS stands for The Young Women’s Leadership School, which is located in Astoria Queens in NYC. A few years ago the students decided to show off their computer science coding skills by making a “digital dance.” I posted the first one they did at the link above.

I just saw a video about their most recent digital dance and I just had to post it here.

I love this digital dance thing so much. It shows that coding skills can be used creatively. It shows that young women, particularly young women of color, can be coders and be proud of it. And it shows that technology is everywhere.

I have met some of these young women and they are impressive and I can’t wait to see what they are going to do when they

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If You Do Just One Thing Today, Vote

Today is Election Day. Polls are open in every state in the US. It is time to stop the incessant back and forth, and do the one thing that counts – voting.

There is very little on my ballot here in NYC that matters much to me. The races are not close. The ballot referendums are not on issues that matter a ton to me. 

It would be easy for me to blow off voting today.

But I am not going to do that.

I plan to go to my polling place, stand in line for however long it takes, and fill out the ballot and submit my choices and be counted.

I hope everyone who reads this blog that lives in the US will do that today unless they have already done it via early voting.

I feel that voting is not only our right, it is our

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Pixel 3 XL

I spent a fair bit of time this weekend moving phones from the Pixel 2, which I have loved using, to the Pixel 3 XL.

It is drop dead simple to port over all of my accounts, data, and apps from one Pixel to another. Google has made that as easy as moving from one iPhone to another. You just connect both phones with the cable that comes in the Pixel 3 box and in about ten minutes the new phone has everything that was on the old phone.

But getting all of my security set up on a new phone (2FA, passwords, etc) and then logging into all of my apps (because I don’t like to log in with Google or Facebook or anyone else) is a massive pain. 

But at least I feel more secure.

After using the Pixel 3 XL for the last couple days, I

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Broken Syndicates

One of the most challenging situations in startup/venture capital land is the broken syndicate. It is not a topic that is talked about much, but it is fairly common, particularly for companies that succeed in building a business but falter at achieving escape velocity.

A syndicate is a group of investors that come together to support a startup financially. They tend to be built over time. Some investors get involved with a company in its seed round. Others get involved in a company in the Series A round. And some get involved in the Series B round.

By the time a startup has raised three or four rounds of venture capital, it is likely to have built a syndicate of between three and five venture capital firms and other investors (corporate, strategic, individuals, family offices, etc).

The idea is that the syndicate supports the company financially until it no longer

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Video Of The Week: Ethereum 2.0

I just watched Vitalik Buterin’s keynote at Devcon 4 in Prague last week, on Halloween and on the tenth anniversary of Satoshi’s whitepaper.

In this keynote, Vitalik explains what has taken so long in getting from Ethereum 1.0 to Ethereum 2.0, what Ethereum 2.0 will include, and how we are going to get there.

It is a bit geeky, I can’t say that I understood everything, but if you own Ethereum, or if you believe that a scaled decentralized smart contract platform is important, and I can say yes to both of those emphatically, then this is worth watching. It is 30 mins long.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — November 2, 2018
Listening vs. sharing

Albert Wenger — November 1, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Thinking about Ruin

Bethany Crystal — November 1, 2018
31 days of blogging

Funding Friday: Misen Non Stick Pan

Earlier this week, I talked about the D2C consumer products sector and how it has exploded over the last decade. Another contributor to that explosion are crowdfunding services like our portfolio company Kickstarter that allow entrepreneurs to launch their products and quickly get feedback and funding for them.

The Gotham Gal has made a number of these D2C investments and one of my favorite of hers is Misen, a D2C manufacturer of cooking products.

They launch their products on Kickstarter and then take them to market direct to consumer over the Internet, thereby taking out the cost of the retail channel which allows them to sell high end products at mid-level prices.

They have a product launch on Kickstarter right now called the Misen Non-Stick Pan. I backed it earlier this week and the project funding ends this weekend.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — November 1, 2018
Uncertainty

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Dapper

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post on the USV blog announcing our investment in Cryptokitties

A lot has happened since then. The company that made Cryptokitties is now called Dapper and it has raised a couple rounds of financing which will allow it to do a number of things:

  • Continue to invest in Cryptokitties, which remains a vibrant game experience and is the world’s most used consumer blockchain application outside of exchanges, with 3.2-million transactions and tens of millions of dollars transacted on the platform
  • Work with the world’s top entertainment brands to bring compelling brands, communities, and intellectual property to the blockchain. This means more game experiences, often in partnership with existing brands and game developers.
  • Build out the infrastructure to make blockchain games, including cryptogoods (ie NFTs), accessible to a mainstream audience.

It has been exciting to watch a small team that built Cryptokitties at

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D2CX

One of the big trends in startup land over the last decade is consumer brands getting built direct to consumer (D2C) on highly efficient advertising channels like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. In these online channels, brands can test, measure, test, measure, test, measure, and then figure out what works and scale.

But these channels are getting more challenging as they have been optimized and scaled by thousands of brands over the last decade and the marketers in D2C land are increasingly looking around to see if there is anywhere else they can go.

Enter our portfolio company Simulmedia, which we invested in almost ten years ago to bring the transparency and efficiency of online advertising to television.

Simulmedia has launched an offering for these D2C companies to help them add television to their marketing mix. Television is hard for small companies. The initial buys are large and

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Vertical Accelerators In NYC

The Partnership For New York City operates some excellent “vertical” accelerators for companies that are getting started and are focused on serving industries with big footprints here in NYC.

Financial Services – FinTech Innovation Lab

Health Care – Digital Health Innovation Lab

Fashion – Fashion Tech Lab

Biotech – The BioAccelerate Prize

Transit – Transit Tech Lab

Both the Transit Tech Lab and the FinTech Innovation Lab are accepting applications right now for their next programs.

You can apply here:

Fintech Innovation Lab

Transit Tech Lab



USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 29, 2018
Thanks for sharing your story, too!

Albert Wenger — October 29, 2018
Voting in the Midterms:  Rebuking Trump’s Tribalism and Hate

Nick Grossman — October 29, 2018
Suffering, Self, and Service

Creating Surplus

Consumer surplus is the delta between what consumers expect to pay or are willing to pay for an item and what they actually have to pay given market dynamics. A good example of where we are generating a lot of consumer surplus is technology. I would be happy to pay for my email (and do) but I can get it for free from Gmail. A 49″ smart TV sells for about $300 on Amazon. A Samsung Chromebook is $200 on Amazon.

I like to think of all of this “found money” that consumers are getting from technology as the dividend we are getting from the technology revolution. It is also true that technology takes jobs out of the market, and adds them too, and that it may be a zero sum game or worse.

But the truth is many things have gotten a LOT less expensive over the last twenty

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Funding Friday: Cryptopia

Four years ago, filmmaker Torsten Hoffmann raised $AUS 17,000 on Kickstarter to make a documentary about Bitcoin called The End Of Money As We Know It. The film was released in July 2015 and I watched it and thought it was very good.

Torsten is back with a follow-up film project called Cryptopia and I backed it today. 



USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 25, 2018
Going off script

andy@usv.com — October 25, 2018
Scroll

Bethany Crystal — October 24, 2018
Introducing the USV Talent Network

Engaging In Cryptonetworks

Ever since the first cryptonetwork, Bitcoin, was created, investors have had the opportunity to earn returns by engaging in the network. In Bitcoin’s case, that was done by mining the network, effectively powering it.

As the sector has grown, investors have largely turned their attention to buying and holding cryptoassets, and not that many of us are actively engaging in them.

But that is likely going to change for several reasons.

First, in proof of stake networks, asset holders will want to stake their tokens and earn the rewards of doing that, or risk being diluted/inflated. Conversely, those who do stake will earn rewards that will feel a bit like collecting interest or dividends on a bond or stock.

This technique of turning an idle asset into an incoming producing asset by engaging in the network is part of the design of many cryptonetworks and investors are going to increasingly

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