If You Get All Your Information On The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem From HBO, You’re Screwed

This is the best quote I’ve seen all week. It’s from Greg Sands post on TechCrunch titled The Real Silicon Valley Greg is a long time friend and co-investor. I’m on the board with him at Return Path and he’s on the board with my partner Ryan at VictorOps. Along with my partners, we are all LPs in Greg’s fund Costanoa Ventures. Greg’s post is great. Here’s the windup:
“Every time I hear people talking about unicorns, I think “all hat, no cattle” or “another person living in the land of style over substance.” I’ve found myself blurting out, “F$&@ Unicorns!”* twice recently, including when I was on a panel at Stanford School of Engineering on Entrepreneurship from Diverse Perspective. (Yes, I get the irony.)”
Go read it. I’ll be here when you get back. It’s useful to recognize that the two companies Greg mentions in his
Continue reading "If You Get All Your Information On The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem From HBO, You’re Screwed"

Is A Cyber Attack an Act of War?

This past week it was revealed that the Chinese hacked into American government computer systems and stole sensitive information about 16.9 million military and intelligence employees applying for security clearances. Is this an act of war or not? We could tell an act of war in the old days.  People were killed. Land was taken.  Military force was used.  If it walked like a duck, talked like a duck, and looked like a duck we could reasonably conclude it was a duck. Russians have been hacking at computer systems for years. But mostly the hacks were on credit cards or bank accounts.  They were after money.  But, as Putin starts to salivate and try and re-establish the old Soviet Union, why wouldn’t he use every weapon at his disposal?  Clearly the action in Ukraine is an act of war.  They are asserting Russian dominance.  When will the Russians feel Continue reading "Is A Cyber Attack an Act of War?"

A Blast From The Past

I’ve been assisting with a project that is attempting to document the history of tech in NYC since Samuel Morse helped to bring the telegraph to market in the 1830s. I can’t help much with what went down in the 19th and early 20th century. But I can help with what happened at the very end of the 20th century. And in the course of doing that, I came across this video of Pseudo Entertainment’s offerings in the late 90s. What is interesting is the similarity in many respects to the services that our portfolio company YouNow and Meerkat and Periscope have in the market today. The broadcast and consumption devices have changed (from PC to mobile) but the user experience is remarkably pretty much the same. There’s something important in that realization. Along the same lines, this conversation between Mark Suster and Ryan Hoover, starting at 8mins, is quite relevant. I love how they take it back to the early days of Howard Stern.

Slack in the Bedroom and the Boardroom

Slack in the Bedroom and the Boardroom: Sarah Kessler on the rise of Slack in the home:
Every day, 750,000 workers log into enterprise chat software Slack to communicate with colleagues. Todd Kennedy, a 37-year-old CTO at a software startup, also uses the service—to talk with his wife, Julie. The couple created a fake company name, “TheKennedys,” to sign up for the two-member Slack chat that has replaced iMessage for them as the way they discuss everything, from coordinating childcare to potential Ikea purchases. “Fifty percent of my Slack communication is work, and 50% of my slack communication is nonwork at this point,” says Todd, who also uses Slack to keep in touch with a group of Brooklyn-based programmers. “It’s on my phone. It’s on my iPad. It’s on my computer. And it’s always open.” This is a very odd way for someone to talk about enterprise software. Continue reading "Slack in the Bedroom and the Boardroom"

FaceTime Elmo

In the absence of living near family or having “help” with our toddler, we have consciously succumbed to, at times, letting her enjoy an old iPhone here, the iPad there. On the one hand, I wanted her to get comfortable with the OS, and it’s been fun to watch her learn so quickly — one of the first things she learned, of course, was how to turn off the Airplane Mode setting her dad would enable. She can consciously take pictures and scroll through photos, but there’s also a cost — try getting any kid to put the device away, and may the force be with you. Like many kids living away from family and grandparents, our kid loves using FaceTime. She’s more than familiar now with the user interface for FaceTime, the large screen devoted to the other person, with a picture-in-picture for her face. In her mind, I think, Continue reading "FaceTime Elmo"

What are you afraid of?

As a company moves from insurgent to incumbent, and gets big and complex and involved in lots of different things, it tends to end up with lots of different objectives, tactics and strategies. At that point, trying to understand it from outside, it can be useful to think not about what it's trying to do but what it's afraid of. This company want to do lots of things, but what's the existential threat? What does it want not to happen? What scares it, late at night? For Google, the fear is around reach. Google is a data company, and a machine learning company, and everything it does is about reach - reach to get data in so that it can understand everything better, and then reach so that it can serve that understanding out to the users. And so Android exists partly to enable the expansion of the mobile internet, but also, and more fundamentally, to ensure that no-one (meaning first Continue reading "What are you afraid of?"

The (lack of) app store metrics

Apple and Google both give headline statistics of how well their respective app stores are doing, generally at their summer developer conferences. These are rounded numbers at scheduled events and they're not always comparable, but they do give us a sense of what's going on.   Last summer, at their developer events, both Apple and Google gave numbers for the money they had paid to developers in their respective app stores: $5bn in the previous 12 months for Google Play and $10bn for the iOS App Store. Given Android has double the user base of iOS, this meant that the average iOS user was worth around 4x the average Android user in app store revenue.  This year Apple gave the same number - $10bn (more precisely, it gave a cumulative figure of $30bn this WWDC versus $20bn last WWDC). The lack of growth may be partly due to rounding but still implies that people are spending less on
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Continue reading "The (lack of) app store metrics"

Startup Best Practices 13 – Patience with Unit Economics

Financial discipline is a hallmark of great companies. It’s what enables businesses to build exceptional go to market models, weather difficult times, and ultimately succeed. Sometimes, financial discipline in startups is imposed by financial markets, like in 2008 when the total amount of venture capital investment plummeted after Lehman imploded. Other times, financial discipline is imposed by founders and management teams. The tweet above is from Lew Cirne, founder and CEO of New Relic, a $1.

Startup Best Practices #13 – Patience with Unit Economics

Financial discipline is a hallmark of great companies. It’s what enables businesses to build exceptional go to market models, weather. Difficult times, and ultimately succeed. Sometimes, financial discipline in startups is imposed by financial markets, like in 2008 when the total amount of venture capital investment plummeted after Lehman imploded. Other times, financial discipline is imposed by founders and management teams. The tweet above is from Lew Cirne, founder and CEO of New Relic, a $1.5B market cap company serving developers, who deliberately raised small arounds at the outset of the company to impose financial discipline on his business. In other words, Lew valued patience with unit economics. When it’s easy for startups to raise capital, there is an easy way to solve most problems: hire more people. When the sales team needs more leads, hire more marketers. When the engineering team has fallen a bit behind in the Continue reading "Startup Best Practices #13 – Patience with Unit Economics"

The Real Silicon Valley

svworking Every time I hear people talking about Unicorns, I think “all hat, no cattle” or “another person living in the land of style over substance.” In spite of the fact that I’ve never been diagnosed with Aspergers, I’ve found myself blurting out, “F$&@ Unicorns!”* twice recently, including when I was on a panel at Stanford School of Engineering… Read More

Do You Think History Matters?

This weekend I was in New Orleans.  I am on the Board of Trustees of the National World War Two Museum.  This weekend was our Victory Ball.  Next year, maybe you can join me and dine under the airplanes in the Boeing Pavilion. It’s June 10, 2016.  Get your tickets now because it’s always a special night.  Something pretty cool always happens at the Victory Ball. Our board is made up of people of all races and political stripes.  The museum tells history as it was.  We don’t sugar coat it.  We don’t cover up the mistakes America made leading up to, and during the war.  But, we don’t embellish either or slant the coverage to cram an opinion down a person’s throat. This year, two vets spoke for a few minutes. One was Hal Baumgarten.  He was in the first wave at Omaha on D-Day and survived.  He Continue reading "Do You Think History Matters?"

“We have to be very clear here. Luxury business is coming either from Paris, or it’s coming from…”

“We have to be very clear here. Luxury business is coming either from Paris, or it’s coming from Italy, and watches are coming from Switzerland. They’re not coming from the U.S. Silicon Valley — my God, what they’re wearing and everything! They really don’t have this culture of refinement. We bring something else to the story.”

- Peter Stas, chief executive of Frédérique Constant, on Apple’s entry into the watch business.

Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age?

Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age?: Lots of good tidbits in this piece by Clive Thompson:
Swiss watchmaking emerged from a radically different background, one rooted in meticulous manual labor. The industry got its start in the 16th century after John Calvin persuaded the City Council in Geneva to impose sumptuary laws banning jewelry, and the city’s skilled jewelers joined forces with the makers of pocket watches instead. Later, French Catholics chased Protestant Huguenots out of their country; many of these French exiles happened to be watchmakers, and they settled in Switzerland. In the mountains of the Jura region, they encountered local farmers who spent half the year indoors and idle and who turned out to be extremely patient and detail-oriented. The émigrés hired them to spend their winters hand-polishing tiny metal components for the “movements,” the watch’s spring-driven inner workings.
By the 20th century, Swiss watches Continue reading "Can the Swiss Watchmaker Survive the Digital Age?"

Beau Biden And Climbing The Right Hill

If you haven’t already, make sure to watch and/or read President Obama’s eulogy for Beau Biden, the son of his Vice President. It’s such a textured speech that reveals so much about Obama’s relationship with the Senior Biden, Biden’s family and son, and what it means to create and leave a legacy. In re-reading the speech and all the rich characteristics that made up Beau Biden, it reminded me one of my favorite blog posts (back from 2009) called “Climbing The Wrong Hill.” This post has had a huge influence on me as I’ve traversed a career here in the Valley. Here’s the post, and here’s a short video clip we recorded with the author of the post. Obama goes into great detail about Beau’s history. A sample paragraph goes like this:
Beau didn’t cut corners. He turned down an appointment to be Delaware’s attorney general so he Continue reading "Beau Biden And Climbing The Right Hill"