Audio Of The Week: A Decentralized AI Platform

My friend Gordon texted me this podcast and said “AI, blockchain, and homomorphic data. Trifecta!”

I gave it a listen and indeed some very interesting concepts are discussed in this one.

Video Of The Week: Is Crypto the Future of Early Stage Funding?

A lot of people in the crypto sector have suggested that ICOs and tokens are the future of early stage investing and highly disruptive to my business (venture capital).

In this video (yet another from the Upfront Conference), VCs and other investors discuss why that may not be the case.

Fun Friday: Skiing

The long Presidents Weekend has always been ski time for our us.

And the same is true this year. We’ve arrived in ski country with a bunch of friends and plan on being out on the mountains for the next three days.

Skiing (and Boarding) is an incredible combination of being outdoors in the mountains surrounded by awesome beauty and an exhilarating athletic experience. I’ve been skiing since I was a teenager and it’s always been one of my favorite things to do.

The Dronebase API – Assign Drone Missions Directly In Your Workflow

Our portfolio company DroneBase announced another round of funding today but the more exciting thing to me is that they have built out and are scaling the operational layer for the drone industry.

From their announcement:

DroneBase recently completed over 100,000 commercial drone missions for enterprise clients across various industries such as real estate, insurance, telecommunications, construction, and media. The company has the largest, most engaged and skilled drone pilot network, having grown it 10x year over year for the past two years. Through this network, DroneBase is able to turn around a client mission in less than 48 hours anywhere in the United States, since its pilots are active in all 50 states and over 60 countries.

And you can access that network via the Dronebase API.

So if you are in the insurance, real estate, construction, media, or telecom business and need to acquire aerial imagery on a regular basis, you can connect your internal systems to Dronebase’s pilot network via this API and assign missions directly from your applications.

More and more of Dronebase’s customers and channel partners are operating this way which is driving the 10x annual growth in mission volumes I cited above.

Drones allow companies to do things less expensively or more safely (roof inspections) or do things that could not previously be done cost effectively (monitor a construction site) and missions are incredibly affordable on the Dronebase network (low hundreds of dollars) and all of this is available programmatically which drives operational efficiencies. If you think your company could benefit from working with the Dronebase Pilot Network, you can contact Dronebase here.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. It’s a day to celebrate and and care for the people we love.

A special shout-out to my son Josh who was born twenty two years ago today.

Stash Your Cash

My partner Rebecca announced our most recent investment yesterday in a company called Stash.

Stash is a simple mobile app that you connect to your bank account and each week (or month) you stash some of your cash away (ie save) and the app invests it for you in a portfolio of funds that it puts together for you based on your investing interests.

Here is my current Stash portfolio:

As you can see, I “auto stash” $25/week and it gets invested in the first three funds.

I have also directly bought four additional funds. I get mobile notifications on my phone when new funds are offered (like “corporate cannabis”, that was an instant buy).

I can move around where I want my weekly auto-stash funds to get invested. I think I might do that today and direct more funds toward some of these other funds that I quite like.

If you want to get Stash on your phone and start saving and investing, you can do that here:   iOS   Android

Clearly Stash is not aimed at people like me. We have traditional brokerage accounts and portfolios that we manage there.

Stash is aimed at young adults and people who are having difficulty saving for their future (home, college, retirement, etc).

As Rebecca wrote in her post:

85% of users on Stash come in as either beginners or without any investing experience and now can open their investment account with as little as $5.

That is a great stat. Stash is helping to build a new generation and a new cohort of savers and investors. With the decline of pension plans and other “safety nets”, it is more important than ever that everyone learn to save and invest. And the only way to do it is one day, week, month at at time and using the power of compounding earnings to your advantage.

When we looked closely at our USV portfolio recently, we realized that most of our best investments are all about expanding access to knowledge, capital, and wellbeing. Stash fits directly in that theme by making saving and investing easy and affordable for everyone (in the US for now).

Pixel Buds vs AirPods

When I got my new Pixel 2XL recently, the Google Play Store offered me to add the Pixel Buds to my cart and get them for half price. Normally they are $159 (same price as AirPods).

So I took up Google on the offer and after I set up my Pixel 2XL, I paired my Pixel Buds to my phone and used them as my headphones.

That experiment lasted less than a week and last Wednesday when I was in SF for the day, I stopped by the Apple Store in Union Square and bought a pair of AirPods.

The Pixel Buds are not great and the AirPods are excellent.

Here are five reasons I feel that way:

1/ The AirPods fit in my ear (and from what I heard most ears) without any issue. The Pixel Buds fit weirdly and require the user to use this rope thing to make them fit properly in the ear. I could never get the rope thing to work right. The fact that the AirPods fit in the ear right out of the box without any work is fantastic.

2/ When my phone was paired with the Pixel Buds, it would not also pair with my car or my Bose headphones (which I prefer on planes and such). I don’t have that issue with the AirPods.

3/ I could not figure out how turn the Pixel Buds on and off when they were in my ear. I know that you are supposed to push on the right bud to turn them on and off but I could not make that work, particularly in a rush when I had a phone call coming in. The AirPods are simple. You just put them in your ear and take them out.

4/ The charging case for the Pixel Buds is kind of lame. I could not figure out when the buds were charging and when they were not. The charging case for the AirPods is a thing of beauty and simplicity.

5/ I hate the cord around my neck that the Pixel Buds requires. I love the nothingness feeling of the AirPods.

So, if it is contest, the AirPods win 5-0. It really is no contest. The AirPods are awesome. The Pixel Buds suck.

So I’m using AirPods with my Pixel 2XL and loving it. And I got this tip (from my Google Now Alerts) to use this Android App to mimic the AirPod battery management on the phone. It works great.

Streaming The Olympics

Yesterday morning something amusing happened.

My friend and I were headed out to go skiing and we both got texts from our children asking for the logins to our cable accounts.

I thought to myself that there must be tens of thousands of those text messages being sent at that moment.

Many of our adult children don’t have cable television. They stream their media over their laptops and AppleTVs.

And so when something big like the Olympics comes along, they head over to the network’s streaming services and they need to log in with their cable television credentials. Which, of course they don’t have. But their parents do.

This has been going on in our family for some time, but I realized yesterday that this goes on in many families these days.

The parents are still on cable, the kids are not, and at times, the kids need their parent’s logins.

The entire system is kind of whacky and designed to preserve the cable company’s relationships with the networks. It works, but it is clunky, and easily worked around.

I wonder how long this charade will continue before a better model emerges.

Funding Friday: Hackers Are Creators

The Internet has given creators a lot of interesting ways to sustain their work and lives. USV has invested in some of them; Kickstarter, Drip, Etsy, SoundCloud, Shapeways, Splice, YouNow, Wattpad, and Skillshare. Other notable platforms for creators are YouTube and Patreon.

The typical creators who take advantage of these platforms are video artists, musicians, podcasters, crafters, designers, and inventors.

But hackers are also creators and they make a lot of interesting things that are worth supporting, even if they don’t turn into popular applications.

AVC community member Kevin Marshall is a great example of a hacker who is always building something new and interesting.

And he has a Drip page where you can support his work. He has 32 supporters as of today but I feel like he should have way more than that. He has made so many fun apps over the years that tens of thousands of people have used.

I really like the idea that hackers are creators and need the same kinds of services to support their work and themselves that other artists have. And I really appreciate Kevin showing the way here.