“Whether we will ever cross that sea nobody can say.”

"Whether we will ever cross that sea nobody can say.": Dennis Overbye on the exploration of Pluto:
But the inventory of major planets — whether you count Pluto as one of those or not — is about to be done. None of us alive today will see a new planet up close for the first time again. In some sense, this is, as Alan Stern, the leader of the New Horizons mission, says, “the last picture show.” It’s hard to write these words and know what they might feel like 50 years from now. I never dreamed, when Apollo astronauts left the moon in 1972, that there might come a day when there was nobody still alive who had been to the moon. But now it seems that could come to pass. How heartbreaking is that? You could say that we have reached the sea, the Continue reading "“Whether we will ever cross that sea nobody can say.”"

The Logic Behind Amazon’s Prime Day

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Amazon has boldly anointed Wednesday, July 15 as Prime Day. Most holidays revolve around religion, historical events, or appreciation for someone special. So what’s Amazon Prime Day? At root, it’s a self-interested homage to rock bottom prices and free expedited shipping. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Amazon has pledged more deals than Black Friday, exclusively for Amazon Prime members – as well as complimentary 30-day trials of its Prime membership. Prime, which normally costs $99 annually, includes benefits such as free two-day shipping, same-day delivery in some areas, streaming video, streaming music, Kindle library, photo storage, and early access to sales. So why do we care? We’re interested because Amazon doesn’t seem particularly concerned about earning profits. In FY14, for example, Amazon had an impressive $89 billion in revenues. However, operating income was $178 million (thus, a measly 0.2% operating margin) which resulted in a $241 million net
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Dear Brad, Fred & Mark: How The Hell Do You Do It?

A few weeks ago, I tweeted out the following: Existential vc questions: Am I an investor, therapist, consultant or content marketer? — Ezra Galston (@EzraMoGee) June 4, 2015 Let’s be clear: I am blessed. Being a venture capitalist is an extraordinary job. Within a single title & firm, I have the platform to be a [...]

20 VC 053: Inside Union Square Ventures with Jonathan Libov @ Union Square Ventures

unnamed-2 Quote of the Day: ‘Keep an open mind from an early age’. Jonathan Libov, 20VC Jonathan Libov joined the investment team at Union Square Ventures in September of 2014. Jonathan hails from New York but has lived for the last few years in Tel Aviv, where he most recently worked as a Product Manager at Appsfire. He’s a graduate of Vassar College with a degree in Cognitive Science and began his career in neuroscience research. He designs and codes, with Fifty among his side projects.

In Today’s Show You Will Learn:

Startup AdYapper Raises $4.5 Million, Promising to Fight What It Sees As Rampant Waste In Digital Media

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AdYapper, an ad technology startup that promises to help marketers keep better track of where their ads are running online–and ultimately save them money–has raised $4.5 million in new funding. The Chicago-based firm, launched in 2013 via the startup accelerator program Techstars, pulled in the Series A funding from KGC Capital and a handful of other investors. The firm had previously raised $1 million from angel investors. While the digital ad business is not lacking in companies claiming they can help protect advertisers from buying bogus ads, or to make sure their ads are viewable on all digital screens, the team behind AdYapper says its set of software, Web crawling tools and digital interface can do both, and better than anybody else. The founders are looking to portray themselves as outsiders ready to point out the many flaws in the digital ad Continue reading "Startup AdYapper Raises $4.5 Million, Promising to Fight What It Sees As Rampant Waste In Digital Media"

20 VC 053: Inside Union Square Ventures with Jonathan Libov @ Union Square Ventures

Quote of the Day: 'Keep an open mind from an early age'. Jonathan Libov, 20VC

Jonathan Libov joined the investment team at Union Square Ventures in September of 2014. Jonathan hails from New York but has lived for the last few years in Tel Aviv, where he most recently worked as a Product Manager at Appsfire. He's a graduate of Vassar College with a degree in Cognitive Science and began his career in neuroscience research. He designs and codes, with Fifty among his side projects.

In Today's Show You Will Learn:

A Refresher on Debt-to-Equity Ratio

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When people hear “debt” they usually think of something to avoid — credit card bills and high interests rates, maybe even bankruptcy. But when you’re running a business, debt isn’t all bad. In fact, analysts and investors want companies to use debt smartly to fund their businesses. That’s where the debt-to-equity ratio comes in. I talked with Joe Knight, author of the HBR TOOLS: Return on Investment and cofounder and owner of www.business-literacy.com, to learn more about this financial term and how it’s used by businesses, bankers, and investors. What is the debt-to-equity ratio? “It’s a simple measure of how much debt you use to run your business,” explains Knight. The ratio tells you, for every dollar you have of equity, how much debt you have. It’s one of a set of ratios called “leverage ratios” that “let you see how —and how extensively—a company uses debt,”
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A Way to Know If Your Corporate Goals Are Too Aggressive

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Has your company inadvertently set a goal with just a 1-in-20 chance of success? That can happen all too easily, and the consequences are potentially serious. Setting financial performance targets that are too aggressive can mean that even the best efforts go unrewarded, leaving people demoralized. Worse, in an attempt to meet unrealistic targets, people may feel increasingly tempted to cut corners or to resort to unethical or illegal behaviors that they would otherwise be loath even to contemplate. Setting overly conservative goals is hardly an alternative, however; they can leave money on the table, leave people unmotivated, and lead to accusations of sandbagging. For better goal-setting, it will help to understand where financial targets typically come from. Often, they’re based on past performance. But a company’s recent track record says nothing about how much its performance could or should improve; what’s needed is a useful assessment of a company’s
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Financial Regulation is Gerrymandering At Its Finest

The other day I mentioned gerrymandering in a blogpost.  Political parties have gerrymandered their states to ensure dominance of their parties. The same thing goes on in government agencies in a different way.  Big corporate players use money and influence to dominate agencies.  The SEC and alphabet soup of agencies that regulate the US financial system is a case and point.  This is also the major reason I was against net neutrality regulation.  The FCC is not any different and over time the advocates for net neutrality will find the big corporates gaining more, not less, power.  Professor George Stigler was correct in his analysis that big government creates big lobbying.  It’s not the other way around. Today in the Wall Street Journal is an editorial by Antonio Weiss.  He makes the case for not repealing legislation like Dodd-Frank.  It’s not just my opinion that Dodd-Frank was one of the Continue reading "Financial Regulation is Gerrymandering At Its Finest"

The Daily Startup: WuXi PharmaTech Plans $250 Million Health-Care Fund

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WuXi PharmaTech (Cayman) Inc., the U.S.-listed contract R&D services provider that is reviewing a take-private offer, is looking to set up a new venture capital fund focusing on health-care companies in China and the U.S., Anette Jönsson reports for Dow Jones VentureWire. The fund aims to raise up to $250 million, according to a regulatory filing last week. In its annual report in mid-April, Shanghai-based WuXi PharmaTech said it would put up $50 million of that as an anchor investment. WuXi PharmaTech already has an internal venture capital fund under the name WuXi Venture Fund that focuses on life-sciences companies. Set up in 2011 with a $50 million contribution from the parent company, it had invested a total of $36.1 million into about 18 companies by the end of last year and realized $17.8 million of gains. ALSO IN TODAY’S Continue reading "The Daily Startup: WuXi PharmaTech Plans $250 Million Health-Care Fund"

How to Manage a Team of B Players

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In 2004, Greece surprised the world by winning the European Championship, the toughest tournament in international soccer. Despite not even being a dark horse in the competition, and with a team of mostly peripheral and unremarkable players, they overcame France and hosts Portugal (twice) to lift the trophy. Even hardcore soccer fans would be unable to name more than two players in that Greek squad, yet few will forget the remarkable collective achievement of a team that faced odds of 150/1 for winning the trophy. What allows a team of B players to achieve A+ success? A great deal of scientific evidence suggests that the key determinants are psychological factors — in particular, the leader’s ability to inspire trust, make competent decisions, and create a high-performing culture where the selfish agendas of the individual team members are eclipsed by the group’s goal, so that each person functions like a different
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Just Because You’re Happy Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Burned Out

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A new survey report just published by Staples Advantage offers a paradoxical set of findings about US office workers. Overwhelmingly, they are happy. Yet the majority of them feel burned out.  How could both things be true? First, a look at the statistics.  The good news is that 43% of respondents report being “very happy” at work, and another 43% say they are “somewhat happy.”  That is a fairly ringing endorsement of office work, especially in a culture where Dilbert comics and The Office have seemed to strike such a chord. The bad news, however, is that 53% of the same office worker population report feeling burned out at work. My guess as to how these numbers can be reconciled would be that the overwhelming majority of these workers like the nature of the work they do. Perhaps, to borrow Gallup terminology, it gives them the chance
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Founder Led Businesses

I’ve written about this issue a number of times on AVC. There are some advantages to having a non-founder run the business, but over the long run it seems that founder led businesses are the best businesses. This rant about Apple by Bob Lefsetz is a fun read and regular readers will know that I am mostly in Bob’s camp on this issue. The ending is great.
There’s a fiction that corporations rule in America. The truth is it’s all about individuals. Sure, a group can effectuate the vision, but it always comes from one person, maybe a team of two, certainly not a committee. Jeff Bezos is Amazon. Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook. Larry and Sergey are Google. Daniel Ek is Spotify Evan Spiegel is Snapchat. Who is Apple?

Slack’s New Emoji-Based Reactions: Way, Way More Than A “Like” Button

Slack's New Emoji-Based Reactions: Way, Way More Than A "Like" Button: Harry McCracken on Slack’s new emoji reactions:
Emojis are normally associated with quirky self-expression, not mundane business communications. But Slack points out several ways they can let colleagues work together more efficiently—which is, after all, the whole idea behind the service. The tallying, for instance, allows them to be used for mini-polls in which people pick one of several emojis to register their vote. If someone asks you to perform a task, responding with a checkmark might be the swiftest way to indicate that you’ve taken action. And if enough coworkers use emoji reactions rather than text posts such as “Hi” or “Thanks,” it might clear out some of the clutter of a bustling Slack environment. “It helps the more important messages stand out,” says Simon Vallee, a product manager at Slack. In the company’s own internal tests Continue reading "Slack’s New Emoji-Based Reactions: Way, Way More Than A “Like” Button"

Equating Uber With Transport Innovation Considered Harmful

There were two tweets about Uber recently that I found myself disagreeing with somewhat. Paul Graham tweeted
Uber is so obviously a good thing that you can measure how corrupt cities are by how hard they try to suppress it.

And on the same day Chris Sacca (who is an investor in Uber) tweeted

Before Uber came along, I never understood how deeply corrupt so many American cities and politicians are.

What do I not like about them? Equating Uber with the much larger idea of using technology to efficiently connect people who are driving with people who need a ride.  Yes, Uber is by far the most visible company competing with traditional taxis but it is not the only one. And yes subtlety is not the strength of 140 character expressions (and clearly making the tweets Uber specific made them easier to understand and share). But it Continue reading "Equating Uber With Transport Innovation Considered Harmful"

Calling All Entrepreneurs: Give Back To Your Community

At Foundry Group, we have a deeply held belief that we benefit from our local community (Boulder, in our case) and that we have a responsibility, as we have success, to give back to our local community. My partner Seth Levine just had an excellent OpEd in the Boulder Daily Camera explaining this. It’s titled Entrepreneurs can give back, by giving early to EFCO. In it he explains more about Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) and Pledge 1%, two organizations we have helped create. Seth also describes our recent gift of $300,000, via EFCO, to Boulder-based non-profits, to fill a gap in funding from Foothills United Way that happened recently.
“The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County announced last week it will grant an additional $300,000 to local Boulder County nonprofits this summer in response to a 62 percent cut in funding from Foothills United Way. The grants will be funded by
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The Daily Creative To-Dos

Chris Michel, a dear friend and an amazing photographer recently went on a trip to the North Pole. An explorer at heart, he shared his journey to the top of our planet through many different social networks including Instagram. But on the first day of his trip, his laptop failed and now he has to process 30,000 or more photos. It is a daunting task — especially for someone who takes his photos and processes them in Lightroom pretty much every day, if not multiple times a day. I can see why. As a photographer these days, you need to process the photos as quickly as possible because most of us tend to take a lot of photos. Digital makes us all dip our toes in the chimera of excess. I personally have about 1000 photos from my recent visit to Iceland. Add to it another 1000 from a recent visit to Paris Continue reading "The Daily Creative To-Dos"

Resilience

One of the things about Bitcoin that I’ve always been amazed by is its resilience. It goes up, it gets knocked down, but it hangs in there, and then it goes up again. It’s happening again now. coindesk-bpi-chart It is unclear what is driving this recent move, maybe its Greece, maybe its China, maybe its something else. But every time this happens, I gain a bit more confidence that Bitcoin is around for the long haul.