Video Of The Week: The High Road With Mario Batali

A month or so ago, I taped an episode of The High Road With Mario Batali. We went to the Frick Museum, we bowled in the basement of the Frick, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches, and we rode around on the upper level of a double decker bus. Mario asked me a bunch of questions along the way. It’s about ten minutes long and it came out well. I apologize in advance for the ads at the start and in the middle.

A Fred Talk for Good on Crowdrise

Feature Friday: SoundCloud on Sonos

Yesterday Sonos announced a feature that I have been waiting years for. There is now an official SoundCloud app on Sonos.

To add SoundCloud to your Sonos system, you simply visit ‘Add Music Services’ in the new Sonos app and add it to your music services. SoundCloud tracks are also now available in the universal search feature in the new Sonos app.

We have had the unofficial SoundCloud hack for Sonos running on our systems for a long time now but it was a bit wonky to set up and it was not included in universal search.

If you want something to listen to this morning on your Sonos, you can try listening to my favorite tracks on SoundCloud.

Checking Your Work

I don’t recall who drove it into me when I was young, but I have always been obsessive about checking my work. Whenever I do a math problem, I take my answer and do a reverse check to make sure the answer makes sense. I do this even when adding a tip to a bill at the end of a dinner. It drives the Gotham Gal crazy to see me take so much time to do a simple math problem. It’s not even a conscious thing for me. It’s just how my mind works.

I tell all of you this because it relates to writing. I was talking to an educator that I respect greatly last night and I asked her what is the most effective technique for teaching kids to write. I expected her to say one on one editing sessions with a mentor, coach, or teacher was the most effective way to teach writing. But she told me that forcing kids to rewrite their work, solo, was the most effective technique to improve their writing.

When I write a blog post, I tend to write it as the idea forms in my brain. I write the whole thing out. And then I rewrite it. I go over every line and make sure the spelling and grammar are correct, I look at the phrasing. I consider the flow. I read it start to finish at least three or four times. I think about the whole and then each part. And I’ll cut out paragraphs, move things, rewrite parts, and mess with it for almost as long as it took me to write it in the first place. And I’ll do that even after I’ve posted it. I actually get some extra benefit from editing while the post is live. I am not sure why that is, but often times the best edits come to me after the post is live.

And so it turns out, if my educator friend is right and I would imagine she is, that this kind of obsessive self editing is the best way to become a better writer. I don’t consider myself a great writer by any means, but I have improved immensely over the years I’ve been blogging. Some of that, for certain, comes from writing every day. According to WordPress, I have written over 6,500 posts here at AVC. That’s a lot of writing. But you don’t learn as much from the process of putting words on paper (or online). You learn most from the process of perfecting the piece.

Based on the countless hours I have worked with my kids over the years, getting students to spend time on a project after they feel like they have finished it is really hard. They get annoyed. “It’s done, it’s right, why are you making me do this?” is a common refrain. But if you want your kids or students to learn and improve, you have to force them to do that. Like someone did for me when I was young. It’s a gift that pays dividends for me every day.

Amino

At USV, we have always been interested in communities. They are, in some ways, the iconic representation of our “large networks thesis”. We have been impressed by communities like Reddit, 4chan, and Hacker News. We love what our portfolio company Disqus has done to turn blogs like this one into vibrant communities. And we have turned our own website at USV into community, using Disqus and Twitter and link sharing.

We’ve long wondered what a native mobile community looks like. A few months ago we saw one when the two founders of Amino came into our office. They have built an app constellation of native mobile apps, each focused on a niche topic (like a subreddit). Examples are Minecraft, K-Pop, and Anime.

My partner Andy wrote a short post on USV.com about our investment in Amino yesterday. If you want to see what the future of communities might look like check out Amino. We are intrigued and excited to see how this plays out.

The Basic Income Guarantee

My partner Albert has begun a series of blog posts on a concept called The Basic Income Guarantee. This is fundamentally different than a minimum wage. It is essentially a safety net for a world where robots will be doing more and more of the manual and difficult labor that has, until now, provided income for unskilled workers.

I don’t have a formed opinion on this idea. I know that welfare didn’t work out too well in the last century. So I’m nervous about any system that encourages or incents people not to work. But if we really are headed into a world where there aren’t any low skilled jobs, then I guess we need to be talking about ideas like this.

All of Albert’s posts on this topic are here.

Silicon Valley: A Place Or A State Of Mind?

Marc Andreessen, as is his wont, posted a tweetstorm this morning that was a spirited defense of Silicon Valley. It starts with this tweet:

One thing I always think about in reading things like this is the use of the phrase “Silicon Valley” or SV as Marc uses in his tweetstorm. Let’s look at this tweet:

Does Marc mean “move to Silicon Valley” or does he mean “do a startup or join one and work on this stuff”?

I actually don’t know what Marc meant by his use of SV in this tweetstorm, but having spent 25 years in the tech/startup/VC sector and having done that time outside of Silicon Valley (the place), I am sensitive to the use of those words and always wonder.

We have about a third of our portfolio in the bay area. We have about a third in NYC. We have about a third elsewhere with a large concentration in Europe where I am heading in a few weeks to attend several board meetings. I like to think of the tech startup ecosystem as a global movement. We don’t invest in Asia, South Asia, or Latin America but I see more and more interesting things coming from those regions these days.

Silicon Valley is most certainly a mindset and it is one that is infecting large swaths of the global economy. I agree with Marc’s tweetstorm, in particular this one.

And I think, when applied to the global startup ecosystem, he is absolutely right.

MayDay PAC

Today, July 4th, the anniversary of the day in which our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, is also the final day of a crowdfunding campaign to raise $12mm for a Super PAC to fund campaign finance reform.

This campaign is called MayDay and the person behind it is Larry Lessig.

The idea is to use the $12mm to make campaign finance reform the fundamental issue in five high profile congressional races and win them.

If that works, then May Day PAC will crowdfund a much larger amount in 2016 and do this again in a lot more races.

Larry’s assertion is that the vast majority of americans want big money out of government, but the small number of people with the big money don’t want that to happen and they are calling the shots now.

He believes that the best way to fix that is for everyone with small amounts of money to come together and put together some big money and go toe to toe with them.

I think it is an interesting idea and when Larry raised the first $1mm from the crowd, the Gotham Gal and I participated in the small group that matched the first $1mm. We can and do write big checks to politicians because that’s the way our corrupt system of government works right now. We are happy to write big checks to change that system and make it right.

The second part of the crowdfunding campaign is seeking to raise $5mm and then get that matched in the same way the first $1mm was matched.

With one day to go, the campaign is short by about $1.5mm. It would be amazing if the american public celebrated July 4th by coming up with the final $1.5mm.

If you are so inclined, you can help do that here.

Coinbase Vault

If you want to buy some Bitcoin and store it online and have it on your Android phone or your iPhone, then our portfolio company Coinbase has the product for you.

But what if you own a couple thousand Bitcoin? That’s $1.3mm of Bitcoin at today’s price. Well then you might want something more secure.

Yesterday Coinbase announced Vault, a more secure offering designed for people who own a lot of Bitcoin and want to protect it and are willing to put up with more security as a result.

Like the core Coinbase wallet offering, Vault is free. It is being rolled out now and about 5% of Coinbase’s customers have it already. Coinbase told Coindesk that all Coinbase users will have access to Vault by mid July.

I like to think of Coinbase as the bank and brokerage firm for Bitcoin. They have checking accounts (wallet), CD/savings (vault), brokerage (buy/sell), and merchant services.

And more is coming. Stay tuned. I will keep you posted.