165. AV, Mobility, and the Disruption of Big Auto (Evangelos Simoudis)

Evangelos Simoudis of Synapse Partners joins Nick to discuss AV, Mobility, and the Disruption of Big Auto. In this episode, we cover: Backstory / Path to becoming an investor What is the investment focus/philosophy of your firm? What are the key drivers of automotive disruption? Can you talk about the...

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20VC: Why VCs Are Wrong About Single Founders, The Benefits of Party Rounds At Seed and How To Pre-Game Your Launch To Have Customers From Day 1 with Amanda Bradford, Founder & CEO @ The League

Amanda Bradford is the Founder & CEO @ The League, the exclusive dating app that wants you to spend your time a little more intelligently when it comes to finding the perfect match online. They have raised funding from the likes of Aileen Lee @ Cowboy Ventures, Sherpa Ventures and Alex Rosen @ Ridge Ventures just to name a few. Prior to founding The League, Amanda spent time at Evernote as a Product Manager, as an investor with Sequoia Capital and started her career in the strategic partnerships team at Google.

In Today’s Episode You Will Learn:

1.) How Amanda made her way into the world of startups and how she came to want to change the world of dating with The League?

2.) Why does Amanda totally disagree with the conventional wisdom that you cannot be a single founder? What are the benefits of being a single Continue reading "20VC: Why VCs Are Wrong About Single Founders, The Benefits of Party Rounds At Seed and How To Pre-Game Your Launch To Have Customers From Day 1 with Amanda Bradford, Founder & CEO @ The League"

Ether Is Not A Security

Yesterday, a top official from the SEC said what many of us in crypto land had been wanting to hear from the SEC for the last year:

According to Bloomberg:

“Putting aside the fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether, based on my understanding of the present state of Ether, the Ethereum network and its decentralized structure, current offers and sales of Ether are not securities transactions,” William Hinman, who heads the Securities and Exchange Commission’s division of corporation finance, said in remarks prepared for a Yahoo Finance conference in San Francisco. “And, as with Bitcoin, applying the disclosure regime of the federal securities laws to current transactions in Ether would seem to add little value.”

For me, this is not about Ether, but about the fact that a token can be used to raise capital (the “fundraising that accompanied the creation of Ether”) and at some point

Continue reading "Ether Is Not A Security"

Bourdain On Writing

I’ve been listening to lots of old Bourdain interviews and episodes. This re-run of a 2016 Fresh Air interview caught my ear, specifically the excerpt below.

DAVIES: Now, the book and the article is this, like, grab-your-attention look at things you don’t know about what goes on inside the restaurant and all kinds of things. But, I mean, it’s – the writing is powerful. Had you been writing while you were cooking? Creative workshops, creative writing classes?

BOURDAIN: I had done a writer’s workshop with Gordon Lish, the notorious creative writing teacher, at one point many years earlier. But I’d never actually written. I was – I never had the time to sit there in my garret, you know, writing unpublished novels. I just didn’t have the time, and I think to a great extent, the reason “Kitchen Confidential” sounds like it does is I just did not Continue reading "Bourdain On Writing"

Leica, ready to flip?

After five years of using Leica products, I can safely say that Leica does make fantastic products, and expensive as they might be, they are going to last what seems like a lifetime. I bought my Leica SL, about three years ago. It was so advanced and perfectly built that even today, I find it at par with recent competitive products. The lenses — especially the M class of lenses — cost a lot of money, but I am leaving those for my godchildren. In other words, the very qualities that make Leica products expensive, make it hard for the company to monetize their customer base. With overall camera market shrinking, thanks to the rise of computational photography, like all its rivals, Leica must see the writing on the wall.

Continue reading "Leica, ready to flip?"

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.


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?"

Annoying Subordinates

Does your direct report get on your nerves? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and cohost of the podcast Two Guys on Your Head. They talk through how to manage someone who is unlikable, overly polite, or passive-aggressive.

Download this podcast

Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Send in your questions about workplace dilemmas by emailing Dan and Alison at dearhbr@hbr.org.

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBR: How to Help an Employee Who Rubs People the Wrong Way by Rebecca Knight — “If you’ve ever cringed in a meeting when your direct report was talking, you know how tough it can be to watch a team

Continue reading "Annoying Subordinates"

What’s Real?

In all the excitement about fake news these days I see that most people are in two different tribes.  They see the same information and process it differently.  Sometimes it’s because of their own confirmation bias and sometimes it’s because of the way it is served up.  I am going to give you an example of that as it relates to my own city and state.

I am concerned because we cannot have a brain drain out of Chicago if we want to have an entrepreneurial community.  We need to be attracting people like a magnet.

Chicago has always had a natural draw for Midwesterners.  I think it can be a draw for people from all across the globe.  I am typing this outside on a beautiful summer day.  I am on a balcony looking at a fantastic skyline with a city abuzz.  I am blocks from a lake.

It Continue reading "What’s Real?"

To Retain New Hires, Make Sure You Meet with Them in Their First Week


First impressions in the workplace really matter — and not just to the employer. New employees can begin to formulate impressions about organizations from the get-go, influencing their decision to stay with the company in the long term. Poor onboarding experiences can lead to unnecessary and preventable turnover, the cost of which can be as much as twice the employee’s annual salary.

It’s difficult to measure whether your onboarding efforts are succeeding, however. At Microsoft, where we hire thousands of people every year, we lacked a good way to measure the perceptions of our onboarding experience, aside from trying to draw conclusions from attrition numbers.

In an effort to better understand what we thought of as “early attrition,” we turned to an obvious opportunity that had been overlooked. We started to simply ask employees about their experiences. We created a survey and reached out after their first week and then again after 90

Continue reading "To Retain New Hires, Make Sure You Meet with Them in Their First Week"

The 6 Ways to Grow a Company

Juj Winn/Getty Images

The term “innovation” is often associated with geniuses turning startups into gold mines — the next Google, Apple, or Amazon, with products no one even knew they needed. Private equity firms place hundreds of little bets on these startups, hoping one produces a windfall that covers the rest. These bets on the next growth engine often depend on luck more than insight.

Meanwhile, every company aspires to be as innovative as these startups. Many companies invest in or buy them, unsure what they’ll yield other than the halo effect they may overpay for, made worse by the fact that most don’t align with the company strategy or meet a market insight. The same is true of ideas: Knowing which to fund without making random bets is key. But according to a series of three surveys conducted over six years by Maddock Douglas, the consulting firm where I work, while 80% of

Continue reading "The 6 Ways to Grow a Company"

To Compete with Amazon, Big-Name Consumer Brands Have to Become More Like It

Kulka/Getty Images

Over the last decade, e-commerce has imposed a painful profit squeeze on big-box retailers, resulting in layoffs, store closings, mall reconfigurations, and even bankruptcies. With no reprieve in sight for retailers, the online world is poised to do the same to brand-name consumer products companies.

One of the core reasons that this is happening is that in addition to providing always-on, on-demand convenience, online retailers know so much more about their customers than their offline counterparts do. In fact, they have mastered the art of creating a direct connection to their customers, which in turn allows them to collect massive amounts of data about them. Then, by applying tools like artificial intelligence, the online retailers are able to create more-personalized customer experiences, fostering levels of satisfaction, connection, and customer loyalty that traditional retailers just can’t compete with.

And when it comes to consumer goods companies, that same artificial

Continue reading "To Compete with Amazon, Big-Name Consumer Brands Have to Become More Like It"

When Workplace Cultures Support Paternity Leave, All Employees Benefit

Gary John Norman/Getty Images

Employers are increasingly finding ways to meet the needs of working fathers, offering them family leave, flexible scheduling, and affordable child care options. But fathers remain reluctant to take full advantage of this support, despite professing to want to be equal partners with mothers in child care, with all the diapering, meal planning, and carpooling that entails. In our research on family leave policies and parenting culture in Scotland, we heard repeatedly that fathers felt worried and even embarrassed to use offered leave and flexible working entitlements.

Our analysis estimates that about 78% of Scottish fathers take some leave after the birth of a child, but only 18% take more than a couple of weeks. And that means 22% do not take any time at all. Low-income fathers are even less likely to take meaningful time off, fearing how deeply unpaid or reduced-pay time off would impact

Continue reading "When Workplace Cultures Support Paternity Leave, All Employees Benefit"

Drowning in Work? Here’s How to Ask a Colleague for Help.

HBR Staff

Raise your hand if you have an insurmountable pile of projects on your to-do list and an inbox so terrifying to behold that you can hardly bear to behold it.

Cue the sea of arms waving wildly.

You have too much to do. You can’t do it alone. You need people to help you. Why aren’t they helping you?!?

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: If you aren’t getting the support you need with your crushing workload, odds are it’s kind of your fault.

Cue the sea of angry readers giving their screens the finger right now.

What I mean is, you probably aren’t asking for the support you actually need, and if you are, you probably aren’t asking for it in the right way. Loads of studies have found that people have an innate desire to be helpful, by and large. (This is one reason the “givers”

Continue reading "Drowning in Work? Here’s How to Ask a Colleague for Help."

Leading The People Side Of The Organization

In yesterday’s post, which seemed to touch a nerve, something I certainly seek to do from time to time, I mentioned the “talent organizations” of our portfolio companies. These are the people who help a founder/CEO build and lead the people who make up the company. It’s an undervalued and under-discussed function.

I have heard multiple founder/CEOs tell me that the biggest sigh of relief they had in building their companies was when they finally hired a really strong leader to sit at their side and help them with the people side of the business. It is not even accurate to say “people side of the business”. People are the business!

I recently listed to two Reboot podcasts in which my friend and former partner Jerry Colonna talked with two people leaders, Nathalie McGrath at Coinbase, and Patty McCord, former people leader at Netflix.

It is worth spending

Continue reading "Leading The People Side Of The Organization"

a16z Podcast: Tech Under Construction: Flows

By definition, construction has been one of the ‘brick-and-mortar’ industries most resistant to innovation and change over the last decades. So how are new technologies beginning to transform the most brick-and-mortar of the brick-and-mortar industries?

This conversation with Tracy Young, …

Our Investment in Kustomer

We’re excited to announce our partnership with and investment in Kustomer. Kustomer is a New York City-based company building the next-generation of customer support platform.

In my first role at Google, I provided account management and customer support to internet publishers.

I remember trying to understand the context around a particular customer case. How large is the customer? What recent interactions have we had with the customer? How satisfied are they? Who is the point of contact? Which products are they using? The information was found in five or six different systems.

I also remember trying to remediate problems. Some were simple. Password reset or account balance inquiries. But others required coordination with different systems and teams: refunds and policy review. Orchestrating those processes isn’t easy.

Kustomer is the software I wish I had when supporting customers. Brad, Jeremy and the rest of the Kustomer team have operated in the Continue reading "Our Investment in Kustomer"

The AT&T Ruling Shows That U.S. Regulators Don’t Understand Media’s Present — or Future

HBR Staff/George Caswell/Steven Errico/Getty Images

This week’s decision by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon to allow AT&T and Time Warner to complete their merger will bring to a close a deal that has been pending for almost two years.

In his blistering, 172-page decision, Judge Leon did much more than simply reject the government’s claim that combining two companies that do not compete with each other would harm consumers. He also made clear, as a matter of federal law, that the U.S. Justice Department’s view of a static media landscape is dead and buried.

“If there ever were an antitrust case where the parties had a dramatically different assessment of the current state of the relevant market and a fundamentally different vision of its future development,” Judge Leon began his decision, “this is the one.”

The judge was faced from the outset with a stark choice: Was the relevant

Continue reading "The AT&T Ruling Shows That U.S. Regulators Don’t Understand Media’s Present — or Future"