Posts from February 2016

The Twitter Contradiction

So everyone around here knows I’m bullish on Twitter and we own a lot of stock. So take all of this in that context please.

I just don’t understand the narrative around Twitter. “It is in trouble. It isn’t growing. It’s time has come and gone. The kids all use Snapchat and Instagram.”

That last part is true, to a degree. But it isn’t as simple as that.

The presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States has largely conducted his campaign on Twitter and in massive public appearances that feel like rock concerts. He has avoided the traditional media channels and taken his message direct to the people on Twitter. Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not on Snapchat. Not on Pinterest. Not on his website or mobile app. On Twitter.

My brother in law and I watched the best basketball game of the year so far on Saturday night. Steph Curry was unreal. And he won it with a few seconds left in overtime with a bomb from something like 40 feet that everyone knew was going in. And what happened next?

This:

And this:

And this:

Steph’s opponents expressed their appreciation for what he is doing on Twitter in the moment. Not on Facebook. Not on Instagram. Not on Snapchat. Not anywhere else. And you don’t have to be on Twitter to see that. You can see that here and many other places.

Here’s the thing about Twitter. You don’t need to be logged into Twitter to see these tweets. You can see them on Twitter logged out. Or you can see them embedded in other places on web and mobile or on TV and elsewhere. You only need to be logged into Twitter to tweet.

So anyone who is focusing on the logged in monthly active user number is missing something bigger. Twitter is where people who have something to say go to say it. And right now we are witnessing Twitter being used for what is arguably the biggest thing out there. A run for President of the United States.

That is the contradiction of Twitter.

The Retrade

Brad Feld has a post up about The Retrade. This is when you have a handshake or a signed term sheet on a deal (M&A or Financing) and the person on the other side calls you up a day or two before closing and tells you why they are going to have to change the terms of the deal. Go read Brad’s post, it is a good one.

My view on retrades is that they are part of the way the investment and M&A business gets done. You should not get emotional about them. You should not walk away over them unless you have a better option. You should simply accept them as part of the way the game is played and deal with them as best you can. You can often negotiate a retrade. You won’t get back to where you were before the retrade but you can often do better than what is being suggested.

In a market when retrades are common (private equity or the down cycle of the venture business), you should always negotiate more of a premium than you need or desire in the initial signed term sheet or LOI. That way you are building in a cushion for the expected retrade. If you are playing a game, you need to know how the game is played and act accordingly.

The thing about retrades is it is a signal about the person or institution you are doing business with. Sometimes retrades happen for legitimate reasons. A typical one is the due diligence shines a bright light on a problem that was unkown at the time of the signing of the term sheet or LOI. That is the most common explanation for retrades. But sometimes it is legitimate and sometimes it is not. Understanding all of this and how it reflects on the “retrader” is important. Because the one thing you do want to avoid is getting into business with bad people. Retrading is a potential red flag that the person you are dealing with is not a good person, but it is not definitively so.

As always, I suggest doing references, and as many of them as you can, on people you are thinking about getting into business with. If you hear that the person is a serial retrader, then you know that’s what you are dealing with and you might want to think twice about getting into business with them. If you have heard nothing but good things about the person or firm, then I would take the retrade in stride, deal with it, close and get on with things.

Fun Friday: Oscars

It is friday. The end to another fun filled week of tech and business. I am writing this on flight from LAX to SFO that has no wifi. So I am writing it in Google Docs on my phone and I will post it when I land.

I think we should do a fun friday today. We’ve got the Oscars happening this sunday. So let’s talk about the best films we saw in 2015.

My personal favorites were Mustang, a film about teenage girls growing up in a very traditional part of Turkey, and Meet The Patels, a film about an Indian American family’s desire to see their son have an arranged marriage. Both were indie films that did not get a lot of press but were exceptional in their ability to explain different cultures and ways of living.

I saw most of the big films that are nominated for Best Picture. None really touched me like the two I mentioned above. But the story told in Spotlight stayed with me as did the child in Room.

So those are the films that had the biggest impact on me last year. How about all of you?

The CS Opportunity Fair

On April 7th at the Armory inWashington Heights, we will host the third annual CS Opportunity Fair which exposes career opportunities in computer science and software engineering in NYC to over 2,000 NYC high school students who are studying computer science this year.

If you work at or run a tech company in NYC, we want your company represented at the fair. We want you to host a booth and bring colleagues so that the students can see and talk to people working in tech companies in NYC. We have over fifty NYC tech companies already committed to come but we need a lot more. It’s a five hour commitment, 9:30-2:30, but it will make a big difference in our ongoing effort to open up tech jobs to a much broader range of talent and bring much needed diversity to the tech sector in NYC and around the US.

The CS Fair also showcases colleges from around the region and the country where students can continue their computer science education as well as extra curricular programs students can enroll in to further their studies.

I hope I have convinced you to get involved in this fantastic event. If so, here are the links you need.

CS Fair website

To register to host a booth

To email for more information on the fair

To email for information on becoming a sponsor

I plan to be at the fair for the entire event and I hope I will see you and your colleagues there.

And props to AVC regular Kirk Love for his work on the CS Fair artwork and website. Thanks Kirk.

INTP

Our daughter took a Meyers Briggs personality test the other day and asked us what our personality types were. I searched this blog and found a post on that topic and told her that I’m an INTP.

Last night while we were waiting for a dinner to start we went and looked at what the Internet says about our personality types. This is what it says about INTP:

people with the INTP personality type tend to share thoughts that are not fully developed, using others as a sounding board for ideas and theories in a debate against themselves

Well that sounds like me and it is what I do here at AVC.

So thank you for being a sounding board for me. I really appreciate it.

I know that I haven’t been serving up much new stuff this past week. It’s a combination of being busy (I got on back to back calls at 6am yesterday and realized mid afternoon pacific time that I had not yet posted) and working on a lot of things I can’t talk about, and being a bit empty in terms of new ideas right now.

That will change. It always does. But I’m a big believer in showing up every day and keeping the conversation going. I guess that’s what an INTP does.

Startup Porn

I like Bryce‘s post so much I am cross posting here in its entirety.

The Problem With Startup Porn

I found a box of old Playboy magazines buried in the woods behind my house. I couldn’t have been older than 10 or 11 years old at the time. I spent that afternoon flipping through the pages, discovering a whole new world of excitement, curiosity and wonder.

Hours later, as I warmed my hands by the fire of these same magazines my mom set ablaze, I was left only with the images of naked ladies dancing in my heads.

In my haste, I did not read the articles.

At the end of last year, Playboy announced that they would no longer be printing photos of the naked ladies they’d built so much of their brand around.

Their rationale for such a radical shift- images of naked women, no matter how tastefully done, had simply become too passé.

“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.

What began as simple, racy images of women spiraled into a web of extreme images and acts mere clicks away. At each step the visuals required to elicit a reaction, or even register a response, became so much more graphic than the last that the originals hardly elicit a speeding of the pulse.

As porn goes, so goes Startupland.

It begins with entrepreneurs in the press as heros of creation and innovation. Then comes the stories around how much money these heros are raising. Feel

Feel your blood racing yet?

Then on to quantifying the net worth of these founders and the valuations of their companies. Finally, they’re christened as Unicorns even Decacorns!

Wait for it.

Then Unicorpses.

At each stage the reader becomes more desensitized to the imagery and storyline. They need more. A billion isn’t cool. A unicorn is passé.

So the tables turn and they turn quickly.

5 months ago we saw the advent of the Unicorn Leaderboard.

Yesterday we welcomed the Downround Tracker.

As exciting and evocative as the headlines are while the market heats up, they’re going to need to be even more salacious going down.

That’s the nature of porn, startup or otherwise.

What’s Next In Computing

Chris Dixon posted an excellent roadmap for thinking about what is next in computing.

I particularly like this visual from Chris’ post:

steadily smaller

My big takeaway from Chris’ post is that these cheap embedded processors are going to be built into everything in the coming years (cars, watches, earpieces, thermostats, etc) and advances in AI will make all the data they produce increasingly useful and disruptive. Chris goes on to tie this megatrend to things like self driving cars, drones, wearables, and VR.

While I think all of those things are coming and investable, I wonder if there is something more fundamental in the combination of ubiquitous computing and artificial intelligence that would be the next big computing platform. We are due for one soon. This visual is also from Chris’ post.

every 10-15 years

What is the dos/windows, netscape, and iOS of this coming era? If we can figure that out, then we are onto something.

Maybe it looks like this, or this, or this?

The Exponential View

I don’t have much to say today so instead of writing something, I am going to promote something.

My partner Albert turned me onto Azeem Azhar‘s weekly newsletter called The Exponential View.

I’ve been getting it for a couple months now and I really enjoy it, particularly the section called “Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties.”

So, in summary, check out The Exponential View .

Video Of The Week: LinkNYC

The LinkNYC project has been under development in NYC for years, going back to the Bloomberg administration. At its core, LinkNYC is an upgrade to the public telephone system in NYC. Since all of these phone booths are “wired”, the city’s partners in this project are running fiber to many of them and are running broadband to all of them. They are upgrading them with tablets and charging stations. And they are providing free wifi around them.

Here’s a short (~2min) video about LinkNYC the Verge made this week: