Old Man Yells At Clouds (and Aspiring VCs As To What This Industry Really Is About)

I get a lot of inbound from friends, acquaintances and Twitter followers about making the transition from Operator to VC. Here are the top three reasons – lightly paraphrased – for why venture interests them:

  1. “I love working on products and it seems awesome to be able to work on 10 at one time instead of just one”
  2. “It seems intellectually stimulating, spending your days talking with the smartest people and investigating new technologies”
  3. “I enjoy helping entrepreneurs and could see myself doing that as a career”

I have never heard someone say “I want to be an investment manager and a salesperson” despite this being THE fundamental job responsibility of a venture capitalist. And I think that’s one reason why we’re seeing more boomerangs from Operating to Venture and then back to Operating (or changing VC firms). People didn’t actually realize what the job was going to be and

🙂
Continue reading "Old Man Yells At Clouds (and Aspiring VCs As To What This Industry Really Is About)"

Boobs, Muscles & Fairy Wings: Everything I Know About How Humans Design Their Avatar Selves

It was a combination of early career anxiety and actual startup struggles which combined to make my years working on Second Life personally stressful. I remember my parents visiting our office and casting a sideways glance at the bottles of Mylanta and hard alcohol sitting side by side on my desk, like the cartoon angel and devil characters sitting on the shoulders of an 80s movie character wrestling with his conscience. With some hindsight perspective though, the tremendous benefits of the experience became clear – I had the opportunity to work on a thoughtful, innovative product with an amazing technical team and together we produced what is ultimately an ongoing, profitable company (even if it failed to achieve its full potential).

Besides the meta-learnings about how startups function, there were a [NeesonVoice] very particular set of skills [/NeesonVoice] that I took away from my years at Linden Lab. The other

6a00d8341bf74053ef01157223cd8a970b-320wi
Continue reading "Boobs, Muscles & Fairy Wings: Everything I Know About How Humans Design Their Avatar Selves"

Communities Can Grow Too Quickly

I was recently granted access to a Slack community associated with a newsletter I’ve been reading for a while. The kinetic energy of new members started on the #Welcome channel and then flowed to other discussions on themed channels. Whether intentional or not, the batched admissions – we were added as a cohort – created its own dynamics. It felt like an fun event. Reminded me of bit of when a startup we’ve recently invested in announces itself to the rest of Homebrew’s founder group.

Communities can grow too quickly and lose some of the camaraderie which comes with being part of a group. There are a number of dynamics which factor into the carrying capacity of an existing community to absorb newbies. Product designers and communities themselves will build in techniques to manage this scaling – for example, a hardcoded onboarding tutorial when you start an app or even

richard-bartle-player-types
Continue reading "Communities Can Grow Too Quickly"

The One Problem Most Publishing Platforms Forget To Solve

 

joanna-kosinska-669797-unsplashDo you get excited reading about email newsletter platforms? I do. And there were two notes in this week’s article about Substack which made me clap my hands. First, they’ve hired Nathan Bashaw, previously of Gimlet and Hardbound, who is someone I believe thinks about storytelling, content and software in compelling ways. Way to go Nathan!

Second, that they’re not ignoring the Discovery elements of Substack’s platform:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 2.13.44 PM

Imagine a spectrum where on one side it said “Utility Platform” and on the other end it said “Community Network.” So many publishing platforms get “stuck” on the Utility side. They keep building the longtail of software features to assist creators in serving their audience but leave it to the creator themselves to find and grow that audience.

The real value to creators – and I’d argue this is what YouTube got so right early on with Related Videos and Continue reading "The One Problem Most Publishing Platforms Forget To Solve"

What Do You Want From Me Besides Capital?

I live for that moment of flicker in an entrepreneur’s eye during a pitch discussion. The one which suggests I’ve asked a question which is simultaneously both new to their fundraising experiences AND interesting to them personally. “What do you want from me besides capital?” is flicker-producing more often than it should be. Maybe it’s because raising money itself can be such a trudge or many investors over-promise and underdeliver, that you’d be happy to *just* get capital and be done with it. But Homebrew is founded upon the belief that we’ll put sweat and reputation behind your startup, not just a wire transfer, so to me it seems like a normal question to help understand if you need things that we can, or can’t, provide.

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplash

The answers I receive typically fall across four categories:

1. “Vertical Expertise” – More hands and minds around the industry maze they’re traversing. Continue reading "What Do You Want From Me Besides Capital?"

FAANG Anxious

Subconscious anxieties hover over my FAANG relationships

FB: eventually every product becomes 50% ads

AAPL: they’ll release a $10k iPhone I can’t resist

AMZN: beats everyone & raises prices

NFLX: they’ll realize my HunterPatel login isn’t Satya Patel’s kid

GOOG: they’ll randomly kill my fav product

Cancer is Bad. Bid On Lunch With Me To Raise $$$ To Fight It.

Lunch or coffee with me and Satya. Money goes to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.26.49 AM

Auction ends May 31st.

We are tossing in BONUS ITEMS to raise even more money!

The winner gets:

  1. Lunch/coffee with me and Satya Patel
  2. 30 minute call with Beth Scheer, Homebrew’s Head of Talent. She spent her career at Google, Salesforce and now venture capital. Talk recruiting strategies, compensation best practices, how to hire passive candidates, how to deal with a Google/Salesforce counter-offer to a candidate you want to land, etc

AND IF BIDDING REACHES $2500 WE’RE GONNA GIVE YOU ANOTHER PRIZE -> 

3. 30 minute call with ONE of the following founder/CEOs to get advice on whatever you want – company building, bootstrapping, raising venture capital, building a brand. These founders have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from top VCs, celebs and strategic investors – maybe their advice helps YOU land the big

🙂
Continue reading "Cancer is Bad. Bid On Lunch With Me To Raise $$$ To Fight It."

“I can tell if a podcast is going to stink beforehand if the person has a PR person asking for questions.” Digiday’s Brian Morrissey on Digital Media, VC and Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Twitter Friend. Digiday’s Brian Morrissey is a Twitter Friend. That is, we’ve never met IRL but through his tweets, his podcast and our occasional DMs, he feels, well, familiar. So I decided to ask him Five Questions and get to know Brian a bit better.

BM

Hunter Walk: What’s Digiday and how’d you end up there?

Brian Morrissey: Digiday is a media brand focused on the changing nature of the media and marketing businesses as they collide with digital technology. I joined Digiday seven years ago after many years reporting on the industry. At the time, Digiday was mostly an events-focused company. The idea was to build a publishing-focused brand with events as a revenue base while we figured out our own differentiation in a crowded market — and then added business lines around advertising, custom content and now subscriptions.

We’ve since expanded under Digiday Media to have other Continue reading "“I can tell if a podcast is going to stink beforehand if the person has a PR person asking for questions.” Digiday’s Brian Morrissey on Digital Media, VC and Light at the End of the Tunnel."

CoLiving & Shared Housing Isn’t Just for Urban Millennial Bros

“Luke opened the shared fridge and, since it was after 4pm, chugged his Kombucha/Soylent Keto shake. ‘I go no-solids after 3pm’ he said, something the rugged 23 year old couldn’t have imagined thinking just six months ago, before joining this shared residential collective in SF’s SOMA. ‘I pay $650 a month for a closet but the real value is being among this crew, we’ve even nicknamed ourselves the ‘Code & Hodl Crew.’ Luke flashed a goofy gang sign, where his fingers kinda made the shape of a B-T-C, the abbreviation for bitcoin.”

aquiles-carattino-572334-unsplash.jpg

THAT’S the way most stories about coliving sound today and whether or not such prose accurately represents the current state of the market, it certainly won’t be the future. My belief is that we’re going to continue seeing movement towards various coliving/shared housing arrangements, among a broad swarth of socioeconomic, demographic and geographic cohorts.

[Plug: if Continue reading "CoLiving & Shared Housing Isn’t Just for Urban Millennial Bros"

Future of Commerce and Retail Hot Takes With Web Smith

When a guy has the Twitter handle @web, that makes you want to learn more. I’ve been fortunate enough to hang virtually with Web Smith for the last few years which has exposed me to sharp thinking about brands, retail, parenting and, uniquely in my echo chamber, Columbus, Ohio. Web’s 2PM email newsletter is a Must Read for anyone trying to stay ahead of the curve on where commerce is going (it’s free but there’s a membership program providing access to additional analysis and data resources, which I recommend). Web let me shoot him some questions and his Five Question Interview is below.

3949a157-32d0-46d9-8265-54fad35e0e3d

Web Smith

Hunter Walk: Tell us what you’re up to now and a little background about how you got here.

Web Smith: Well admittedly, I’ve bounced around a bit but I’ve had the pleasure of building some great relationships within the industry. My wife’s career is Continue reading "Future of Commerce and Retail Hot Takes With Web Smith"

We’re Running Web 2018 With Web 2008 Dashboards. And That’s a Problem.

The dashboards we look at to monitor the health of our products are lagging the experiences our user communities are having.

nasa 11

Back and forth flame wars on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere register as “engagement” and high clickthrough on “new comment” mobile notifications. As cortisol levels spike and keyboards get punched and one or more users eventually abandon the service, or feel a little angrier, or radicalize into an identity at odds with where they started out, just because that’s what makes them feel like part of a tribe.

“Time on site” and “minutes of video watched” are up-and-to-the-right indicators. More is better, caveated that we also measure “short clicks” and other indications that the user can’t find something to do or isn’t getting the right answer. But so long as they’re watching more, reading more, going deeper down the rabbit hole, that’s fine. A user eating snacks engineered to take Continue reading "We’re Running Web 2018 With Web 2008 Dashboards. And That’s a Problem."

A Nutrition Label for Internet Privacy. And Apple Should Lead the Way.

WANT: a more standardized, human-readable format for conveying Privacy Policies and Terms of Service.

FDA Nutrition Labels, which were only first required within the last few decades and underwent a reformatting a couple years back, seem to be a reasonable direction to follow.

nutritionfacts2016

There’s a site called TOSDR (Terms of Service Didn’t Read) which tries to simplify this complexity into a summary [Wired article].

Screen Shot 2018-05-02 at 9.23.52 AM

That’s an ok start but I’d prefer to see this integrated into the products themselves versus third party destination. Apple is in a great position to drive standardization here – what if 2018 was year of the Privacy Label in the iOS App Store? Elevate this display to the same level of importance as User Reviews. Perhaps even factor into App Store ranking and promotion. Would Tim Cook go so far as to say that Apple shouldn’t promote any app that abuses user data? Continue reading "A Nutrition Label for Internet Privacy. And Apple Should Lead the Way."

In Living Color: Pantone’s Palette and Popular Culture

Forget “person of the year,” how about “color of the year?” #MAGA Red would definitely win for 2015 and it seems somewhat fitting that only a year before that, the blackest black possible was invented (and subsequently licensed by an artist for his exclusive use).

 

This NYTimes article on color king Pantone was just plain fun – filled with lush tones and genesis stories for the seminal colors of our recent history.

 

It’s also a business story, noting how the company has expanded their own brand into Pantone notebooks, products and even a children’s book. Seriously, this children’s book is gorgeous. No judgment if you order it for yourself!

 

Colors impact us in ways we’re not always conscious of – for example, pink prisons result in fewer behavioral issues for incarcerated juveniles. There’s been other research about red, blue and green offices walls being best for

Screen Shot 2018-04-28 at 8.33.57 PM
Continue reading "In Living Color: Pantone’s Palette and Popular Culture"

And When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough: Fred Wilson’s Post on ‘Time & Money’

Like many in the venture community, especially us newer investors, I enjoy Fred Wilson’s “process” posts, where he shares a POV on the practice of our profession. Even more than his answers, it’s his questions I find so valuable, because those questions are universally applicable while his answers might differ from my answers, just as USV and Homebrew are different. But asking myself Fred’s questions clarifies my own approach.

Eliza

In his recent entry “Time and Money,” Fred covers the relationship between the two in working with, and supporting, a company. Like we do at the seed stage, USV almost always plays the role of “lead investor.”

He writes: “Time is a valuable resource for all parties and it should be a factor that both sides include in the deal making analysis. But it often is not.”

And later: “The truth about these situations is a

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 6.02.37 PM
Continue reading "And When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough: Fred Wilson’s Post on ‘Time & Money’"

And When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough: Fred Wilson’s Post on ‘Time & Money’

Like many in the venture community, especially us newer investors, I enjoy Fred Wilson’s “process” posts, where he shares a POV on the practice of our profession. Even more than his answers, it’s his questions I find so valuable, because those questions are universally applicable while his answers might differ from my answers, just as USV and Homebrew are different. But asking myself Fred’s questions clarifies my own approach.

Eliza

In his recent entry “Time and Money,” Fred covers the relationship between the two in working with, and supporting, a company. Like we do at the seed stage, USV almost always plays the role of “lead investor.”

He writes: “Time is a valuable resource for all parties and it should be a factor that both sides include in the deal making analysis. But it often is not.”

And later: “The truth about these situations is a

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 6.02.37 PM
Continue reading "And When My Time Is Up, Have I Done Enough: Fred Wilson’s Post on ‘Time & Money’"

The SF Scooter Wars & Proposal for Urban Safe Harbor Zones

In case you haven’t heard, civil war broke out in San Francisco last month, and it’s over dockless scooters. Battery-powered single-rider scooters which can be signed out using a mobile app and then left wherever the rider disembarks. The economics only work when you’ve got a density of riders so multiple companies descended on San Francisco, each hoping to beat the other in a landgrab. My understanding is that most (all?) of them launched without any particular outreach to SF city government, preferring to take an “ask for forgiveness” approach given that (a) they’re not illegal, (b) regulatory impact falls between multiple agencies and (c) venture-backed startups live and die on growth.

[*since publishing, one person reached out to say at least two of the scooter companies reached out to one of the city departments pre-launch and got implicit ok. I don’t have details to confirm one way or

scooters
flying scooter
Continue reading "The SF Scooter Wars & Proposal for Urban Safe Harbor Zones"

The SF Scooter Wars & Proposal for Urban Safe Harbor Zones

In case you haven’t heard, civil war broke out in San Francisco last month, and it’s over dockless scooters. Battery-powered single-rider scooters which can be signed out using a mobile app and then left wherever the rider disembarks. The economics only work when you’ve got a density of riders so multiple companies descended on San Francisco, each hoping to beat the other in a landgrab. My understanding is that most (all?) of them launched without any particular outreach to SF city government, preferring to take an “ask for forgiveness” approach given that (a) they’re not illegal, (b) regulatory impact falls between multiple agencies and (c) venture-backed startups live and die on growth.

[*since publishing, one person reached out to say at least two of the scooter companies reached out to one of the city departments pre-launch and got implicit ok. I don’t have details to confirm one way or

scooters
flying scooter
Continue reading "The SF Scooter Wars & Proposal for Urban Safe Harbor Zones"

The Empty Chair at the Table During Meetings: Who Should Be In The Room That Isn’t

When you sit at a management meeting are you representing yourself or someone who isn’t in the room? I was recently chatting with a startup CTO, who recently joined his company’s Board, about the responsibilities of being a Director. That it’s not a role about advocating for your own interests but instead trying to make the best decisions on behalf of the company. There’s a great passage about this from a podcast with USV’s Fred Wilson and Reboot’s Jerry Colonna:

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 8.55.32 AM

I also recently came across another variation of this “who isn’t in the room” metaphor in a conversation Greylock’s Reid Hoffman had with Starbucks’ Howard Schultz.

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 4.22.36 PM

I really like these ideas as guardrails to make sure that as individuals and as groups, you’re not making decisions that run in opposition – strategically or ethically – to the constituencies which aren’t – or can’t be – represented in management conversations.