Avoid The Perception, or Temptation of Any Impropriety. Get Deskpass!

The tally of sexual harassment offenders that have been outed in the past few months is too long to name.  High profile journalists, venture capitalists, businessmen, and politicians all have been implicated.  I am sort of surprised we haven’t seen anything in reverse where a powerful woman does something to a man.  When I was in college I had it happen to me once.  I put an end to it.  Had a male teacher in high school do the same thing.  Not cool.

I don’t want to go into the tawdry details.  As a father of daughters, I am shocked it still goes on.  A friend of mine was at a business conference last week and a potential customer shook her hand with a room key in it.  When it dropped to the floor he said, “Just joking.”  Screw him.  Continue reading "Avoid The Perception, or Temptation of Any Impropriety. Get Deskpass!"

Far Out Adjacencies

In Competitive Strategy, one of the things Porter looks at is potential competition to your business from companies adjacent to your business.  Adjacencies are getting a whole new meaning in the digital age.  I think that is what makes it tough to do SWOT analysis with absolute certainty.  Sometimes you have to consider something very outlandish like Amazon entering the food distribution space.

Even though companies are worth billions on paper and seem to have a mature business, it doesn’t mean they have it all figured out.  Uber is an example of one of those kinds of companies.  Uber experimented with UberEats for a while. I just saw this article where Uber’s French competitor, Blablacar, is thinking hard about entering the insurance brokerage market.

It makes some sense although like any business it’s all about the execution and economics.  The long-term value of the Continue reading "Far Out Adjacencies"

The Top Of The Funnel

Whether you have a e-commerce business, a SAAS business, a media business, a marketplace business, or some other business model, you are going to start thinking about customer acquisition at some point.

And there are a lot of options out there for acquiring customers; direct sales, indirect sales, channel, search engine marketing, social media, email, display, etc, etc.

But the best option, if you can pull it off, is to own an organic customer acquisition channel that is large and that sustains itself.

At USV, we have investments in a bunch of companies that have very large organic and sustainable top of the funnel customer flows. Many of these companies use a number of customer acquisition techniques, but they start with the organic channel and optimize it with their product development efforts.

Here are a few examples:

Codecademy – Codecademy offers a number of subscription learning services to people who

Continue reading "The Top Of The Funnel"

The Liquidity Crisis

There is a problem that is solvable when it comes to startups. It’s liquidity. Over the past couple of years, I have seen Fund of Fund managers like Chris Douvos, Michael Kim, and Lindel Eakman talk about this problem on their blogs. I have also seen funds like Calpers talk about the liquidity problem in articles and documents.

Why is it a problem?

If you put money in, and can’t get out, it’s going to disincentivize investing. That means less money flows to innovation. Less money into innovation and that means society doesn’t propel itself forward. In a capitalistic society, it is critical to have creative destruction.

It also means that ordinary people cannot invest their money in public companies that are innovative. They have to wait and that means they can’t build wealth as easily. This also might explain the ICO craze. Risk capital is being invested in it Continue reading "The Liquidity Crisis"

Phrasing Is Important

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”  How many times have you heard that old adage?  I consistently re-learn this.  After being on the trading floor for 25 years, my style of language is a lot different than a lot of people.  It’s not only because cuss words are subjects, predicates, nouns, prepositional phrases, modifiers, verbs, personal pronouns or any other part of traditional English language structure.  It’s because if you took more than a few seconds to make yourself clear, you lost money.  Traders spoke in 140 characters long before there was Twitter.  Emoji’s are like hand signals.

The thought on phrasing occurred to me several times over the past few days.

I first encountered it in the real world back in 2001.  Our house had been destroyed by water.  I was upset.  It was hard not

Continue reading "Phrasing Is Important"


Saw this post from Techstars co-founder David Cohen and thought I’d explore it a little more deeply.  David talks about the moment of integrity.  Your life leads up to that moment.  Sometimes your family values it and so it’s deeply ingrained in you.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

Integrity is messy because even though there is a Webster’s definition, the human interpretation is pretty variable.

When I went to the US Air Force Academy I dropped off my bags and I toed a white line.  An upper-class cadet taught me how to stand at attention.  Then he backed up and uttered these words.  “From this moment on you will say five statements.”

  • Yes Sir/Ma’am
  • No Sir/Ma’am
  • Sir/Ma’am may I make a statement?
  • Sir/Ma’am, may I ask a question?
  • No excuse Sir/Ma’am

Here is a blog post by a West Point cadet on their similar ritual. Continue reading "Integrity"