Everything about venture capital . . . you can learn from music lyrics


Here I go, it’s my shot, feet fail me not
This might be the only opportunity I got


As I get older, I find that I need to give myself mental tricks to remember ideas or concepts.  

A few weeks ago I gave a brief presentation at a USV offsite that uses music lyrics to cover some of the concepts about venture capital that I think about often. My first draft was much longer – 70 or 80 slides. The final one is 36 slides. I have attached it below.






The playlist is:

Drake & Future – Change Locations
Bob Dylan – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Jay-Z – U Don’t Know
Bruce Springsteen – Rosalita
Lou Reed – Some Kinda Love
Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Post Malone – Leave
Ween – Roses Are Free
Lil’ Wayne – 6 Foot 7 Foot
Jay-Z – D’Evils
Rihanna – Pour It Continue reading “Everything about venture capital . . . you can learn from music lyrics”

Everything about venture capital . . . you can learn from music lyrics


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com


Here I go, it’s my shot, feet fail me not
This might be the only opportunity I got


As I get older, I find that I need to give myself mental tricks to remember ideas or concepts.  

A few weeks ago I gave a brief presentation at a USV offsite that uses music lyrics to cover some of the concepts about venture capital that I think about often. My first draft was much longer – 70 or 80 slides. The final one is 36 slides. I have attached it below.






The playlist is:

Drake & Future – Change Locations
Bob Dylan – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Jay-Z – U Don’t Know
Bruce Springsteen – Rosalita
Lou Reed – Some Kinda Love
Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Post Malone – Leave
Ween – Roses Are Free
Lil’ Wayne – 6 Foot 7 Foot
Jay-Z – D’Evils
Rihanna – Pour It Up
Kanye West – Touch The Sky
Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
Willie Nelson – Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain
Lizzo – Juice
Taylor Swift – You Belong with Me
The Beatles – The End


What Do You Think?


The whole freaking world was full of people who were bound to tell you they weren’t qualified to do this or that but they were determined to go ahead and do just that thing anyway 
-Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test


In the mid-90s I worked for a man whose management style we used to call Mentor/Tormentor. He would give us – junior, barely experienced businesspeople – complicated yet wildly interesting transactions to complete (from start to finish) with almost no guidance other than “you’ll figure it out” or “you know my issues.”

Definitely the most stressful professional moments I’ve ever had. Also definitely, the most I ever learned in a work setting. His philosophy appeared to be that he hired smart people and relied on them to figure things out.

Managing a group of people is hard, especially as that group of people gets larger. At betaworks, Continue reading “What Do You Think?”

What Do You Think?


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com


The whole freaking world was full of people who were bound to tell you they weren’t qualified to do this or that but they were determined to go ahead and do just that thing anyway 
-Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test


In the mid-90s I worked for a man whose management style we used to call Mentor/Tormentor. He would give us – junior, barely experienced businesspeople – complicated yet wildly interesting transactions to complete (from start to finish) with almost no guidance other than “you’ll figure it out” or “you know my issues.”

Definitely the most stressful professional moments I’ve ever had. Also definitely, the most I ever learned in a work setting. His philosophy appeared to be that he hired smart people and relied on them to figure things out.

Managing a group of people is hard, especially as that group of people gets larger. At betaworks, I remember the feeling when the company got large enough that when the office door opened and I looked up, I could no longer tell if the person walking in worked with us or not. That feeling was one of intense uncertainty.

At the same time, the “contract” between a company and an employee can be thought of very simply. Patty McCord uses this succinct construct in her book Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility: “Help make our company more valuable, and we’ll make you more valuable.” 

The most effective way I’ve seen to make employees more Continue reading “What Do You Think?”

Ghosts and Ancestors


People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself 
You never really know
-Joni Mitchell


Towards the end of his Broadway show, Bruce Springsteen describes how he’s realized that as parents, we have a choice to make: will we be ghosts or ancestors to our children. As ghosts, we haunt them with our mistakes and burdens; as ancestors, we free them from our flaws and walk alongside (or behind them) and help them find their own way.

In the past few months and without really thinking about it, I’ve started to get my morning coffee set up in place before I go to bed. On the kitchen counter I place the coffee dripper, filter, and scale, and then I weigh the beans. Last night at dinner I realized this was what my mother used to do every evening when we Continue reading “Ghosts and Ancestors”

Ghosts and Ancestors


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com


People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself 
You never really know
-Joni Mitchell


Towards the end of his Broadway show, Bruce Springsteen describes how he’s realized that as parents, we have a choice to make: will we be ghosts or ancestors to our children. As ghosts, we haunt them with our mistakes and burdens; as ancestors, we free them from our flaws and walk alongside (or behind them) and help them find their own way.

In the past few months and without really thinking about it, I’ve started to get my morning coffee set up in place before I go to bed. On the kitchen counter I place the coffee dripper, filter, and scale, and then I weigh the beans. Last night at dinner I realized this was what my mother used to do every evening when we were kids. 

Was she now being a ghost to me, or an ancestor with me? Maybe it’s not so easy to tell.

She never said to do it this way, I just watched her. Mornings were busy – she alone had to get two boys off to school. This made it a little easier. 

In Martin Gurri’s The Revolt of the Public, he makes the provocative point that we are in a period of crisis resulting from the switchover from an “industrial” world to an “information” world. In that industrial world, trusted institutions mediated the flow of Continue reading “Ghosts and Ancestors”

Control

What is the future that will unfold?
Some like it hot, others like it cold
But we all want to hold the remote control
-Beastie Boys


Sometimes a service provides a value to its customers that may not be readily apparent at first glance. And sometimes that value can be more fundamentally important to those customers that the actual “widget” that is being sold.


Netflix is a good example. Their stated service is simple: “Watch Netflix movies & TV shows online.” But if you listen to the words of the people that run that company, something different emerges.


CEO Reed Hastings has in the past described how viewing works on Netflix:

“Binge-watching is great because it puts you in control. You have complete flexibility.”   


These words don’t appear to be an accident. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was very specific in February 2018 when he stated Continue reading “Control”

Control


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com

What is the future that will unfold?
Some like it hot, others like it cold
But we all want to hold the remote control
-Beastie Boys


Sometimes a service provides a value to its customers that may not be readily apparent at first glance. And sometimes that value can be more fundamentally important to those customers that the actual “widget” that is being sold.


Netflix is a good example. Their stated service is simple: “Watch Netflix movies & TV shows online.” But if you listen to the words of the people that run that company, something different emerges.


CEO Reed Hastings has in the past described how viewing works on Netflix:

“Binge-watching is great because it puts you in control. You have complete flexibility.”   


These words don’t appear to be an accident. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos was very specific in February 2018 when he stated that “the core to the consumer proposition of Netflix is consumer control.”


Clearly, Netflix provides a service to view content. But it also delivers something much more powerful to people – the ability to determine how and when to spend their time, attention and focus (a form of self-actualization). To compete effectively with Netflix would require that another service competes on the axis of control. Not as easy as delivering content.


Having and giving control is very empowering.


This gets interesting if we view control as a way to evaluate markets or companies. What other services deliver control to Continue reading “Control”

Addition by Subtraction

“Dangerfield eliminated everything from his act
but the setups and punchlines”

Alex Halberstadt’s essay on Rodney Dangerfield is a masterclass on how to improve by reduction. Dangerfield worked for decades as a comedian until he figured out the thing, his insight: “by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that.”

Dangerfield reduced his act to just two lines: setup and punchline.

There are other examples. Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Get Out) uses only micro-budgets of $3-5 million per film. This limit doesn’t come solely from frugality. Rather, from the idea that

“Anytime you limit somebody, it always – in terms of resources – kind of creates opportunities. Our movies have few visual effects”


Blumhouse films have grossed over $2 billion worldwide.

Steve Martin writes about this in his memoir Born Standing Up. He describes more than a decade

Continue reading “Addition by Subtraction”

Addition by Subtraction


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com

“Dangerfield eliminated everything from his act
but the setups and punchlines”

Alex Halberstadt’s essay on Rodney Dangerfield is a masterclass on how to improve by reduction. Dangerfield worked for decades as a comedian until he figured out the thing, his insight: “by eliminating every extraneous element, you could isolate what makes it work and just do that.”

Dangerfield reduced his act to just two lines: setup and punchline.

There are other examples. Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Get Out) uses only micro-budgets of $3-5 million per film. This limit doesn’t come solely from frugality. Rather, from the idea that

“Anytime you limit somebody, it always – in terms of resources – kind of creates opportunities. Our movies have few visual effects”


Blumhouse films have grossed over $2 billion worldwide.

Steve Martin writes about this in his memoir Born Standing Up. He describes more than a decade of performing with only marginal success before it occurred to him to reduce his act:

“What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation”

In this case, Martin’s constraint was Continue reading “Addition by Subtraction”

Dreams

If dreams came true, oh wouldn’t that be nice


Most of my sleep dreams are mundane if I can even remember them. The other night I dreamt that I missed a flight to Toronto because I didn’t have my passport.

There are other dreams that are more profound. Those are the dreams of one’s life – how it turned out, how you wanted it to turn out. We often evaluate our life based on its relation to those earlier dreams we created. Sometimes that hurts.


But maybe instead of being ends, those dreams are means. Guideposts, data points, simple memories.


Bruce Springsteen’s new show Springsteen On Broadway makes this point. It comes on the heels of his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run. That book – as I read it – was not specifically about dreams. Instead, it begins:


“I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with Continue reading “Dreams”

Dreams


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com

If dreams came true, oh wouldn’t that be nice


Most of my sleep dreams are mundane if I can even remember them. The other night I dreamt that I missed a flight to Toronto because I didn’t have my passport.

There are other dreams that are more profound. Those are the dreams of one’s life – how it turned out, how you wanted it to turn out. We often evaluate our life based on its relation to those earlier dreams we created. Sometimes that hurts.


But maybe instead of being ends, those dreams are means. Guideposts, data points, simple memories.


Bruce Springsteen’s new show Springsteen On Broadway makes this point. It comes on the heels of his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run. That book – as I read it – was not specifically about dreams. Instead, it begins:


“I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I.”


Here we have the artist messing with our mentals – trying to flip every preconceived notion of who we thought he was. Springsteen, though, is too clever for something as simple as that. His autobiography too is a work of art.


Thus, On Broadway backs off from – indeed, alters – his earlier self-classification as a fraud. Instead, in the show, he calls himself a “magician.” What is that magic? A songwriter whose famous songs are about busting out of your hometown, yet now lives 5 miles from where he grew Continue reading “Dreams”

The Future and the Process

“People are often asking me what’s going to happen next in science that’s important, and of course, the whole point is that if it’s important, it’s something we didn’t expect. All the really important things come as a big surprise.”


Uncertainty about the world, desire to control our destinies,  maturation – all make us want to understand what’s going to happen in the future. Similarly, one of the jobs of the investor is to buy an asset today that in the future increases in value. Thus, investors – and particularly early stage venture investors – often are asked what they think the future holds: “What’s next? What’s the new new thing?”


I have no idea what the future holds. When asked I supply generic answers.


What if the role of the venture investor is not to predict the future. What if the job is to Continue reading “The Future and the Process”

The Future and the Process


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com

“People are often asking me what’s going to happen next in science that’s important, and of course, the whole point is that if it’s important, it’s something we didn’t expect. All the really important things come as a big surprise.”


Uncertainty about the world, desire to control our destinies,  maturation – all make us want to understand what’s going to happen in the future. Similarly, one of the jobs of the investor is to buy an asset today that in the future increases in value. Thus, investors – and particularly early stage venture investors – often are asked what they think the future holds: “What’s next? What’s the new new thing?”


I have no idea what the future holds. When asked I supply generic answers.


What if the role of the venture investor is not to predict the future. What if the job is to develop a process to evaluate enormous amounts of data and ideas(quantitative and qualitative), collaborate on making decisions with that data, and then choose a set of investments which represent different possibilities for the future.


In other words, the VC job is not to peer into the future but instead to come up with a process that allows you to construct a large set of different choices about what the future potentially could be.  Perhaps, then, venture capital is about the process, not the outcomes. Trust the process.


Process means you think about situations in two ways – those you can Continue reading “The Future and the Process”

The Riff

Today we have have posted The Riff #1 to Soundcloud (and soon to iTunes, Google Play and other places I suppose).


The Riff is a 24 minute, unedited single conversation about one topic with one person who knows something about that topic (ie, a riff). David Tisch and I are the interviewers. We conceived of this idea and after a few months of planning we have started to put these into the wild. A few times over the past few months I have asked myself why we are doing this, have questioned it really, and I’ve come up with some reasons that make sense to me. So, why does the world need anymore stuff to listen to, and why would we be so arrogant (or narcissistic) to think that such stuff should come from us?


Well, the main reason is that we are doing this for ourselves, not anyone Continue reading “The Riff”

The Riff


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com

Today we have have posted The Riff #1 to Soundcloud (and soon to iTunes, Google Play and other places I suppose).


The Riff is a 24 minute, unedited single conversation about one topic with one person who knows something about that topic (ie, a riff). David Tisch and I are the interviewers. We conceived of this idea and after a few months of planning we have started to put these into the wild. A few times over the past few months I have asked myself why we are doing this, have questioned it really, and I’ve come up with some reasons that make sense to me. So, why does the world need anymore stuff to listen to, and why would we be so arrogant (or narcissistic) to think that such stuff should come from us?


Well, the main reason is that we are doing this for ourselves, not anyone else. By that I mean these riffs are hard to do. Hard in that this does not come natural for either of us. The Riff forces us to beg people to join us, to prepare to interview them, and then be engaged enough to try to keep a conversation going on one subject for 24 minutes. I think we’d both rather be quiet listeners rather than upfront talkers. On top of that, we are committed that these Riffs are recorded live and in person – no phone or skype. So, in short, we are doing this because it feels like Continue reading “The Riff”

People


Much ado is all I see
And feel like it’s surrounding me
The crowd intrudes all day
‘Til I’m finally swept away


A few weeks ago I had the extreme privilege of going to a meeting in Washington, D.C. at a building called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This the building that houses the offices of the executive branch of the United States government. It is a great old building the majesty of which you feel as you enter it via the multiple layers of security.

Then inside, there are . . . offices. Some of them reflect the architecture of a building built in 1917, but they are otherwise for the most part nondescript and surely less opulent or fancy or technology-laden than the average mid-sized venture capital firm. There are simply rooms designed for groups of people to meet with each other.


Which took me aback at first until I Continue reading “People”

People


This post is by Andy Weissman from aweissman.com


Much ado is all I see
And feel like it’s surrounding me
The crowd intrudes all day
‘Til I’m finally swept away


A few weeks ago I had the extreme privilege of going to a meeting in Washington, D.C. at a building called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This the building that houses the offices of the executive branch of the United States government. It is a great old building the majesty of which you feel as you enter it via the multiple layers of security.

Then inside, there are . . . offices. Some of them reflect the architecture of a building built in 1917, but they are otherwise for the most part nondescript and surely less opulent or fancy or technology-laden than the average mid-sized venture capital firm. There are simply rooms designed for groups of people to meet with each other.


Which took me aback at first until I thought to myself that, at its core, the business of government is just groups of people attempting to make decisions – negotiating, cajoling, arguing, attempting to build consensus. It’s just people.

As a venture investor, one obviously gets the opportunity to back entrepreneurs – people – and different firms place different levels of emphasis on people, ideas, stage, and other things. Regardless, the people part is one of the best aspects of the job.

Which brings me to the blockchain. Our firm has what is now a well documented, ongoing and evolving thesis and related ideas about why we Continue reading “People”

The Reordering of Medicine

The Reordering of Medicine


When you wake up in the morning
You’ll have a brand new feeling
And you’ll find yourself healing
-Daniel Johnston
The nature of the way we interact – or desire to interact – with medicine and our medical care is starting to change fundamentally. This is less about the unbundling of medicine (which may also be happening) but instead the reordering of it. Stemming from a combination of user desires (driven by the mobile transformation of the last 10 years) and software and device capabilities, the reordering can be seen acutely in some conflicts that are now occurring.

Take just one example: UnitedHealthcare recently decided to make equipment by Medtronic its preferred in-network device for insulin pumps. This is a Medtronic device.


revel-pump-introducing.png

The diabetic community was incensed by this decision. Why? Because alternative device manufacturers had been delivering insulin pumps with different features that users wanted. Like touch screen devices

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 7.54.54 AM.png
tslim_Hand_View.jpg

Continue reading “The Reordering of Medicine”