Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace

There aren’t many similarities between the workplace of an NFL football player and that of a tech entrepreneur. My body doesn’t get pounded each week. Decisive critical thinking and typing speed are valued more than the last time I ran 40 yards in under five seconds. In both places, though, competitiveness and operating at peak performance are prized.

But what if someone falters? Or a friend or family member needs help? Over half of all humans will experience a major mental health challenge in their lifetime. This includes the VC listening to a pitch or the linebacker staring down a receiver.

Few of us show this in the workplace. Even though many of us struggle at one time or another, needing help is not part of our cultural norms as founders, entrepreneurs, and investors.

This is why I took notice when the NFL Players Association recently spoke up for mental

Continue reading "Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace"

Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace

There aren’t many similarities between the workplace of an NFL football player and that of a tech entrepreneur. My body doesn’t get pounded each week. Decisive critical thinking and typing speed are valued more than the last time I ran 40 yards in under five seconds. In both places, though, competitiveness and operating at peak performance are prized.

But what if someone falters? Or a friend or family member needs help? Over half of all humans will experience a major mental health challenge in their lifetime. This includes the VC listening to a pitch or the linebacker staring down a receiver.

Few of us show this in the workplace. Even though many of us struggle at one time or another, needing help is not part of our cultural norms as founders, entrepreneurs, and investors.

This is why I took notice when the NFL Players Association recently spoke up for mental

Continue reading "Mental Fitness, the NFL, Active Minds, and the Competitive Workplace"

Create An Endowment Effect

Professor Richard Thaler just gave his Nobel lecture.  He is a pioneer in behavioural economics.  Often times, behavioural economics flies in the face of classical economics.  However, there are some pieces of behavioural economics that are really interesting to think about when it comes to startups.

Here is his lecture.

In the lecture, he talks about a few things that I think could really help startups. The Endowment Effect is particularly powerful. This bias occurs when we overvalue a good that we own, regardless of its objective market value (Kahneman, Knetsch, & Thaler, 1991). It is evident when people become relatively reluctant to part with a good they own for its cash equivalent, or if the amount that people are willing to pay for the good is lower than what they are willing to accept when selling the good. Put more simply, people place a greater value Continue reading "Create An Endowment Effect"

Do good companies ICO?

 There has been a veritable explosion in the use of initial coin offerings (abbreviated ICO, sometimes also referred to as a token generating event or TGE, or a WTFLOL) to fund startups. Calculating the total investment in these offerings is complicated, but Coindesk puts the total right now at about $3.8 billion cumulatively, with the bulk invested in 2017. That total volume pales in comparison… Read More

A Clarification

I made a point in this post inelegantly in a way that was easy to misunderstand, so I’d like to clarify it.

I didn’t mean that we need to tolerate brilliant homophobic jerks in the lab so that we can have scientific progress.  Although there are famous counterexamples, most of the best scientists I’ve met are unusually nice, open-minded people.  Generally I expect that labs that don’t tolerate jerks will produce more impressive results than the ones that do, and choosing not to employ jerks is a good idea—jerks usually reduce the net output of organizations.

What I meant is simply that we need, as a society, to tolerate controversial ideas.  The biggest new scientific ideas, and the most important changes to society, both start as extremely unpopular ideas.

It was literally heretical, not so long ago, to say that it was ok to be gay—the Bible Continue reading "A Clarification"

Ending My Service On Non-Profit Boards

I’ve decided to stop serving on non-profit boards.

I used to have a rule that I’d only serve on three non-profit boards at a time. I let this get out of control and found myself on eight non-profit boards with a commitment to join a ninth one.

During our Q4 vacation last month, Amy and I talked a lot about this. I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the non-profit board service, even though I deeply enjoy my personal engagement and support of the organizations I’m on the boards of.

There was an intellectual conflict here that Amy and I spent a lot of time discussing. Our philanthropic work is important to us. However, the actual board service part of it, while fulfilling to Amy, is not fulfilling to me.

It’s also very time-consuming. While most of the boards only meet four times a year, each board meeting is three hours

Continue reading "Ending My Service On Non-Profit Boards"

The Net Neut

This week, the FCC rolled back the Obama regulations on “net neutrality”.  The deeper we get into the 21st Century, the more different pieces of legislation proposed by both parties start to resemble Ayn Rand’s descriptions in Atlas Shrugged.

Net Neutrality is a convenient way of saying “one price fits all”.  Whether you agree or disagree, I’d encourage you to open your mind up to both arguments.

One thing that nobody really knows is if and when a new technological solution will be on the horizon that will leap over existing infrastructure and deliver the internet to us in a whole new way that is more efficient, faster and cheaper than it is done today.  HFT traders used to use broadband pipes but now use microwave technology now because it is faster.

What I find with public policy and politics from both sides of the aisle is Continue reading "The Net Neut"

Challenges in Healthcare Innovation

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The U.S. spent $2.6 trillion on healthcare in 2010; this is expected to double by 2020. Why so expensive? And why has healthcare been so resistant to the innovations that could bring costs down; why is …

Yes, You Can Start a Business and Have a Baby at the Same Time

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Henglein and steets/Getty Images

The stereotypical image of startup life is a handful of scruffy twenty-somethings working 24/7 in a garage. No one has kids, needless to say, because no one has a life outside of work. That image of workaholic, childless founders is often reinforced by founders who recount stories of their firms’ exhausting, around-the-clock early days. I worry that the pervasiveness of that image – of startup life as a zero-balance zone, where kids aren’t allowed — could be keeping some talented would-be founders from striking out on their own, starting new companies, and growing the economy.

In fact, when I speak with entrepreneurs, the message I hear is that having a baby and a business at the same time is daunting, but entirely doable. Moreover, I’ve seen how these founders are committed to creating company cultures where everyone – not just the boss – can enjoy family-friendly

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Most Doctors Have Little or No Management Training, and That’s a Problem

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Nicholas Blechman for hbr

Rising pressure to achieve better medical outcomes with increasingly limited financial resources has created an acute need for more physician leaders. Several studies (including this one) have shown that doctors want to be led by other doctors; they trust physician leaders to make the right decisions about redesigning health care delivery and balancing quality and cost. Fair or not, they believe it’s harder for leaders without clinical expertise to see how cutting costs impacts quality of care.

Yet most doctors in the U.S. aren’t taught management skills in medical school. And they receive little on-the-job training to develop skills such as how to allocate short- and long-term resources, how to provide developmental feedback, or how to effectively handle conflict – leadership skills needed to run a vibrant business.

A popular way of bringing physicians up to speed is to elevate them into management roles

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You Don’t Need an “India Strategy” — You Need a Strategy for Each State in India

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Linda Coussement/eyeem/Getty Images

The Indian economy has long been an attractive investment destination for multinational corporations. Already a large domestic market, Frontier Strategy Group’s estimates suggest the country will average growth rates between 7.4% and 7.6% over the next three years.

However, India remains a difficult market for multinational firms to enter. My conversations with executives, particularly those from western multinationals, often focus on the high cost and difficulty of doing business in India as one of the biggest disincentives for them to invest in the country.

In one illustration of these difficulties, consider that India currently ranks 100 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, 22 places behind China, 39 places behind Indonesia, and just nine places above Papua New Guinea. The country’s ranking in dealing with construction permits (181) and enforcing contracts (164) is particularly bad.

The main reason for the poor performance

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So You Did An ICO and Raised A Yacht-full of Cash, Now What?

A lot of startup firms are doing ICO’s.  There seems to be no end to them.  If you are just waking up and don’t know what an ICO is, it’s an initial cryptocurrency offering.  What’s that?  A company creates a token and literally auctions them off in a manner similar to an IPO.  There is no dividend, claim on the future profits of the company embedded in the token.  The token is simply a ticket to use the blockchain it is associated with.

There are a lot of reasons for the success of the ICO market.  Over $3B has been raised.  Without delving deeply into the details, here are a few generalizations:

  1.  It’s hard to raise venture capital money and there is a fixed supply of venture capital money.
  2.  There is money in places like China and Russia that are looking for Continue reading "So You Did An ICO and Raised A Yacht-full of Cash, Now What?"

Why Cutting Taxes Won’t Make America More Innovative

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CSA plastock/Getty Images

As the U.S. Congress considers the tax proposal put forward by Republicans, there has been plenty of debate over how it would affect innovation. Proponents argue that lower taxes would increase corporate investment; critics contend that the bill would hurt research universities and that the bills as written would neutralize the R&D tax credit for businesses.

But the tax bill’s effect on innovation won’t depend solely on the provisions dedicated to universities or corporate R&D. As two recent studies remind us, the likelihood that would-be inventors live up to their potential depends on many other factors — not just their abilities but also the environment they grow up in; the incomes of their parents; the quality of the public services they receive, particularly education in science and math; and the health of their communities. And those things depend on public policy, including taxes. The weight of

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Train Your Employees to Think Like Hackers

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Alan king/unsplash

Companies that want to help their employees become better stewards of cybersecurity need to go beyond regular trainings on password security and other basic protocols. The best way to train employees to defend against hackers is to teach them how to think like one.

The first step is getting smart about what it actually means to be a “hacker.”

Start by forgetting everything the media and entertainment industry has told you about hackers. The media has a history of sensationalizing the term by using it to denote cybercriminals. This is too narrow a view.

In many ways, hackers are the model citizens of the digital era. They are creative, persistent, and resourceful. They think in digital terms and have the curiosity and drive to figure out how technology works. They view every problem as an opportunity. They stand up for what they believe in and they want the world

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The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the U.S. Antitrust Movement

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Tim Evans for HBR

What happened to the antitrust movement? This was the question asked by Richard Hofstadter in the mid-1960s. Antitrust, observed the historian, once was the subject of a progressive movement in the U.S. that stirred public agitation and imagination, despite few antitrust prosecutions. By the 1960s, there were many antitrust prosecutions (by both Democratic and Republican administrations), but without any antitrust movement. Fifty years later, the U.S. has neither an antitrust movement nor much enforcement. That needs to change.

To understand the current moment in antitrust and what should come next, let’s take a historical perspective. U.S. antitrust policy and enforcement have waxed and waned over four cycles:

20VC: How To Upscale Management Teams Effectively, When Should The CEO Play The Role of “Lifeguard” & What Role Does The Board Play In The Team Upscaling with Matt Straz, Founder & CEO @ Namely

Matt Straz is the Founder & CEO @ Namely, the leading HR platform for mid-sized companies. Since founding Namely, Matt has grown Namely to over 1,000 clients, 150,000 users, and has raised $158M from the likes of Sequoia Capital, True Ventures, Matrix and Bullpen, just to name a few. Prior to Namely, Matt was co-founder of Pictela, an ad tech company he sold to AOL in 2010, and a long-time media and advertising executive. Due to this success, Matt has been named one of the 100 most intriguing entrepreneurs by Goldman Sachs.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Matt made his first forays into the world of tech and startups and the a-ha moment for the founding of Namely?

2.) When does one go from a world-class startup team to a world-class leadership team? How did Matt go about making this transition? What were the core challenges? Does Matt Continue reading "20VC: How To Upscale Management Teams Effectively, When Should The CEO Play The Role of “Lifeguard” & What Role Does The Board Play In The Team Upscaling with Matt Straz, Founder & CEO @ Namely"

Office Hours with an Engineer Turned VC

Last year, I experimented with VC office hours for the first time. People were invited for 25-minute sessions where they could ask me whatever they wanted for 20 minutes, and then they would teach me something for 5 minutes.

The experiment was a success and a lot of fun, so I'm going to repeat it this year. The first part of this post covers details for 2017 office hours, and the second part of the post covers some of the lessons that I learned while conducting this experiment last year.

2017 Office Hours

What?

40-minute time slots for office hours with me. I was a software engineer for 10 years (very early at LinkedIn and Factual, not-so-early at Google). I transitioned to venture capital about 5 years ago, and I'm a cofounder/partner at Susa Ventures, a $50m seed stage venture fund.

When and Where?

What I Think We’re Talking About When We’re Talking About What We Can’t Talk About

It’s no longer worth it to vocalize controversial beliefs. Silicon Valley has become a PC echo chamber. I can’t say what I think without fear of reprisal.

These are not beliefs I personally hold but ones which I’ve heard expressed with increasing volume from people I know well and people I don’t know as well, in public spaces and in private conversations. Often these sentiments are expressed by 30 – 50 year old white men (and women) of economic privilege. I say this not to discredit their feelings or observations but because (a) it does seem to be relevant and (b) that’s the group which dominates my own social circles, which means that my POV is constrained by my own limitations in perspective.

But obviously since you’re reading this, I felt confident enough I had something to say that I’m wading into this conversation. Not to dissect a blog post.

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