Fun Friday: Favorite Online Store

It’s fun friday. It’s also black friday. So I thought we would share with each other the best places to shop online.

For me, that’s an easy choice. I love shopping on Etsy. I like the fact that I’m buying directly from another person. I also love that the items you buy on Etsy are largely “one of a kind”.

I’m on the Board of Etsy and have been for eight years. USV owns a lot of the company. So I’m biased for sure, but if you haven’t tried shopping on Etsy, I’d encourage you to give it a try.

Where do you like to shop online?

Giving Thanks

I went back and read all of the thanksgiving posts I have written here at AVC this morning. That’s a good way to remind myself of everything I have to be thankful for and I have a lot.

I found this picture of the Gotham Gal cutting a turkey up ten years ago. I remember that thanksgiving well.

I’m glad that our country takes a day off to give thanks. It’s my favorite holiday of the year because it is not tinged with religion or national pride. Thanksgiving has no baggage. It’s a day for friends, family, warmth, food, wine, and relaxation.

I plan to spend the day mindful of all that I am thankful for. Including all of you here at AVC.

Attention All Software Engineers: Please Volunteer During The Hour Of Code

The Hour Of Code is a great hack that introduces coding to students in K-12 schools all around the country. Most schools don’t have CS teachers and CS classes. But any teacher in any classroom in any school can find one hour to get their students in front of a computer writing code. And so that’s what the hour of code does. Last year 15mm students did an hour of code. Think about that for a second. 15mm students wrote code for an hour last year. That’s a gateway to something more for the students, teachers, and schools. Which is exactly the point.

The Hour Of Code happens during CS Ed week which is December 8-14 this year. And the numbers are going to be even bigger this year. And so here is my throwdown to all of the software engineers and coders and hackers out there. Please take an hour out of your work week and go to a school and code with the students. It’s one thing for a teacher and her kids to code for an hour. It’s entirely another for them to do that with a real life software engineer.

There are many ways that you can do that, but here’s an easy one:

The TEALS program, a CSNYC grantee, is organizing an effort to bring tech industry professionals into schools to help lead Hour Of Code activities during Computer Science Education Week. The volunteers will give career talks and then help students with their first programming experience. If you want to volunteer, or know a school that should host a volunteer, visit tealsk12.org/hourofcode to sign up.

And finally, here’s a 3min video of a teacher who works in an all boys public middle/high school in the Bronx talking about CS, his students, coding, and the importance of role models in the classroom. Please watch it. It’s inspiring.

The Emerging Architecture Of Internet Applications

The bitcoin blockchain is not just going to change the way money works on the Internet (and off). It’s going to change the way Internet applications are built. We have been working hard to understand how things are going to look in five to ten years and Joel Monegro has been providing much of that thought leadership inside our firm.

Since we are not into keeping our insights to ourselves, we have encouraged Joel to publish all of our work in this area (and every area). And today Joel has posted something that is really important and needs to be understood by every Internet/mobile entrepreneur, investor, developer, employee, and analyst. It is the blockchain stack and it looks like this.

blockchain stack

The most important things to understand about this blockchain stack are the overlay networks (most of which are still emerging), and the shared data layer and the shared protocol layer. Please read Joel’s post which describes each of these in some detail.

What is most important about this emerging stack is, in Joel’s words,

This imposes a very interesting set of challenges for developers, entrepreneurs, and investors as so much of the value in the current Internet stack will be commoditized by this architecture.

Differentiation and defensibility and network effects will be much harder to obtain with this architecture. Most things will work like email. Take your keys from one app to another and all your data and relationships come with it.

Fun times are ahead. Time to put your seat belt on.

Orbital Boot Camp

One of the things I am most proud of is the alumni group at USV. It is an outstanding group of men and women who have gone on to do some awesome things. We don’t have a career trajectory at USV. We bring talented people in for a while, we learn from them and they learn from us, and then they head out into the world and do great things.

One of these alums is Gary Chou. Everyone who has met Gary knows he is an incredible person. He is generous to a fault. Which is an asset in my book. He is also very talented. He operates at the epicenter of making, coding, designing, building, and managing product. And I mean product in the broadest sense.

The product Gary has been making for the past year is Orbital, which is in three floors of a tenement on Rivington Street which formerly housed our portfolio company Kickstarter. It’s a space with excellent karma. What Gary has built at Orbital is a school where people can learn skills from those who have mastered them. But it’s not a typical school. It is also a place talented people work and meet and collaborate on projects. Everything is highly considered and curated at Orbital. Gary is not maximizing for revenue. He is maximizing for soul. I do not use that world lightly but in this case it is true.

Right now Orbital is hosting the fall semester of the School for Poetic Computation, which is an awesome thing. Click on the link and check it out.

And this winter, Orbital will be doing the second Orbital Bootcamp, which is a “twelve week course to help you launch your side project”. Gary wrote about Orbital Boot Camp here and I would encourage you to read his post if this is at all interesting to you. Applications are due Monday, December 8th at 11:59pm.  If you or someone you know has a project that they’ve been meaning to launch, they should consider applying.

Finally, Gary is running a Crowdrise campaign to fund scholarships because not everyone who should be in this bootcamp can afford the $4500 it costs to attend Orbital Boot Camp. I donated and maybe you will too. The Crowdrise is here.

Comments Are Dead, Long Live Comments

Yet another mainstream media site took down comments this week. In the post explaining the move, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher explained that “as social media has continued its robust growth, the bulk of discussion of our stories is increasingly taking place there, making onsite comments less and less used and less and less useful.”

That led to a fair bit of discussion around the notion that “commenting is dead.” And like many things that are “dead”, the truth is that they are flourishing elsewhere.

Just this week we had a post here at AVC with 880 comments, which is not a record but is damn close to one. Commenting activity has been fairly steady here at AVC over the past two years with comments down a bit and voting on comments up a bit:

comment history comment history

But let’s look elsewhere on the web.

Let’s take Reddit where comments are the center of activity. They are growing faster than pretty much any site out there and are now #38 globally and #10 in the US according to Alexa. And the time spent on site is a whopping 17mins.

reddit

 

Let’s look at Buzzfeed, another super fast growing content site. Buzzfeed uses Facebook comments as they drive a lot of traffic from Facebook to Buzzfeed. But the comment activity at Buzzfeed is strong and some posts, like this one, get over 1000 comments. Buzzfeed is a top 30 site in the US and is a top 100 site globally.

buzzfeed

 

Here are some stats from Disqus, a USV portfolio company that powers the comments here at AVC (from their about page):

– 20 million comments a month

– 80 million votes on comments a month

– 1 bn visits to disqus comments a month

– 2mm new commenter sign ups a month

And although they don’t show trends on their about page (they should), all of these numbers are up and to the right year after year after year.

Commenting is alive and well on the web and mobile. It’s just dead on sites that would prefer to have the conversation happen elsewhere. AVC is not one of those places, and even though I sometimes find the discussions hard to take here, I am committed to making this a two way experience for everyone who wants it to be.

Video Of The Week: Hating On People

I’m not a celebrity by any means, but I get hated on in public every so often.

It doesn’t feel good to be honest.

I really like what Jimmy Kimmel did here to highlight the issue

Immigration

Damn. The President has done it twice in the past few weeks. He’s showing a new side of him and I like it very much.

Last night he announced a series of executive actions that “will shield up to five million people from deportation and allow many to work legally, although it offers no path to citizenship”, to quote from the New York Times.

It bothers me very much that the US, a nation of immigrants, a place where many (most?) new businesses are started by immigrants or the children of immigrants, a country that has historically welcomed others with open arms, has become closed minded when it comes to the issue of immigration. We have given a lot of time and money, and airtime here at AVC, in support of immigration reform and I have come to understand that the issue is hostage to the politics of our two main parties.

The Democrats want to remain the party of the immigrant and have been pushing for “comprehensive immigration reform” in search of a big win for its constituents. The Republicans don’t want to let tens of millions of likely Democratic voters into the voting booths in the coming years and have been against any path to citizenship and the voting booth. Both positions are understandable and rational in the context of politics. But caught in the middle are tens of millions of people who are in our country, have been in our country for a long time, and who provide much of the foundation of the hard work that gets done every day. This is not right. We must change it.

And so the President has thrown down the gauntlet and said “I’m going to do what must be done, regardless of whether you like it or not, and I have the legal right to do it.” Is this politically motivated. Hell yes. Is it the right thing to do. Hell yes. Now it is time for the Republicans to do the right thing to. Because they really have no choice.

Every once in a while good politics results in good policy. This is one of those times. Thanks Mr President.

Twitter Time Machine

I saw my partner Andy tweeting last night about the first time certain words showed up in Twitter:

twitter firsts

That told me that Twitter had rolled out the ability to search the entire archive. I’m not sure when that happened but this morning I took a trip down memory lane and revisited my first four months on Twitter, from my first tweet on March 12, 2007 until the end of June 2007. The query is “from:fredwilson until:2007-6-30″ and it returned these results.

There are a few gems in there but its mostly “I had grilled cheese for lunch” sort of stuff.

What is more interesting is I did four tweets over the span of two days and then stopped tweeting for three weeks. Then I found myself in LA and for some reason I started tweeting again. From then on, I tweeted almost every day for the next three months, sometimes two or three times a day. I was hooked. And lots of good things came of the habit I started in LA in early April 2007.

Here are a few favorites from those early days on Twitter:

Getting married in a downpour is good luck

I think this was my first visit to Twitter HQ

Still is

What’s a Blackberry?

When I met Ali for the first time (and mispelled her name, sorry Ali). Might also have been when Mark convinced me to invest in Zynga

Anniversaries were big that month for me

I still remember that moment. The kids went nuts.

Values and Culture

If the Uber mess over the past few days tells us anything, it is that values and culture matter more than anything. They seep into the product, the user experience, the brand, and ultimately define the company in the market. And all of this comes from the top.

It is absolutely true that when you hit the bigtime, which Uber most certainly has, the media will take it to you with a vengeance. I still cringe when I think about Jessi Hempel’s Fortune cover story about Twitter in 2011. They build you up and then they bring you down. That’s the media game. You have to expect it. And right now is Uber’s turn to get the takedown.

But Uber makes it so damn easy. The win at all cost approach is so deeply ingrained in the culture that they take that attitude with the media as well. And that’s not a winning strategy with journalists. I prefer the “turn the other cheek” approach when it’s my turn to get savaged. You just have to take the heat and move on. Fighting back will get you nowhere but a world of hurt.

USV has investments in not one, but two Uber competitors. So I’m not the least bit objective here. But I’ve watched this company closely for a long time now and what I see is ruthless execution combined with total arrogance. I am in awe of what they have done. It is about the best execution I’ve witnessed in a long long time. But I am not in awe of how they conduct themselves. And I wonder if the two are connected at the hip. Can they lose the swagger without losing the execution? I guess we will see. That is the $100bn question.