Posts from August 2017

Video Of The Week: Who Has The Right To Police The Internet?

This week our portfolio company Cloudflare made news when they made an exception to their long-standing policy of not terminating customers for hate speech and terminated The Daily Stormer.

In this interview with Bloomberg, Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince explains why he made that decision and why it bothers him so much that he and other CEOs have that power.

Touchy Subjects

I got feedback from some in the AVC community that the comments on Wednesday’s post were “ugly.”

As many readers know, we have a comment policy at the top of the comment thread and I’ve worked to make sure people know that we try to keep our discussions civil.

Whenever there is a touchy subject, like we had on Wednesday, the comment section lights up and things can, and do, go south.

I took a run through Wednesday’s comment thread just now and while there were some folks stepping out of bounds, likely newcomers stopping by to do their thing, I feel that by and large we kept it civil. Which makes me very happy.

I did leave a few replies for the newcomers asking them to temper down their language and we will see if that works.

I think it is important that we talk about the issues our country faces right now. I have views on them which I’m happy to share from time to time, certainly not all the time, and I’m happy to let the conversation flow. As long as it is civil and respectful. Understanding where the other side is coming from is incredibly helpful. Fighting with each other and calling names is not.

I’m hoping we have got it about right here at AVC now.

Transit

As Co-Chairman of Tech:NYC, I get asked frequently to name the issues that matter most to the tech companies of NYC.

On my list, often at the top, is transit. Getting to and from work matters a lot to the employees of the growing number of tech companies in NYC.

And this summer has been a bad one for transit. If you haven’t been stuck in a subway and found yourself late for work, you’ve been anxious about that happening to you.

I take the subway to work a fair amount. It is simply the fastest way to get around NYC. And I like being in contact with the every day people of the city. You really get a sense of NYC in the subway. You see it all. I love it.

So I am in favor of the City making the needed investment, in partnership with NY State, which controls the transit system in NYC, to modernize and upgrade the subways. It would be nice to see our Mayor and Governor figure out how to do something together instead of just fighting with each other. I’m sick of that to be honest and I suspect most NYC residents are.

I am also fine with chipping in a bit more out of my pocket to pay for this upgrade. The Mayor says it will cost our family another $2700 a year to pay for this upgrade. I’m in on that. I do think the wealthy residents of NYC can and should help the city maintain and improve our transit system.

Finally, I would like to see new transit infrastructure built.

I like the City’s effort to expand the ferry system. I am a huge user of the East River ferries and I would like to see them routed up the Hudson to serve the west side of Manhattan too.

My favorite new transit project is the proposed BQX where I am a Board member and advisor. The BQX would provide street level light rail along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront neighborhoods and make it easier for companies and people to locate there as opposed to central Brooklyn and Manhattan where the density of transit options are today.

I would like to see the tech sector in NYC come together and support these transit initiatives. Elected officials need our encouragement and pressure to do these big infrastructure projects. They are expensive and the payoff is long term, well beyond their term(s) in office. So getting them done requires a lot of activation energy and we can and should provide it.

If You Lie Down With Dogs, You Come Up With Fleas

I don’t know enough to say with any confidence that our President is a supremacist.

But he made a cold hard political calculation that paid off for him when he made these horrible people the foundation of his political base and fired them and their hatred up at his campaign rallies.

He can’t throw them under the bus now, even if he wanted to.

This poses immense problems for him, his ability to govern, his administration, and the people who accepted roles in it.

Supremacists are not fine people, they are repugnant and hateful, and they should be shunned by our society.

Instead, for political reasons, if not for other reasons, we have our President asserting their morality.

That isn’t going to work for our President as I am confident America won’t tolerate this.

This is likely to tear apart the coalition that elected him and make it easier for his opponents to fight him at every turn.

And that is a good thing.

The only good thing to come from this horrible moment that we are going through in America.

How To Hire Executives

Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, writes a regular blog in which he talks about a bunch of things; Coinbase, things he has learned, the crypto market, and a bunch more. If you don’t follow Brian, you might want to.

Last week he laid out the entire process he uses to hire executives and it’s a really great post.

Here is the outline of the process:

  • Speak to subject matter experts [1–2 weeks]
  • Choose the hiring committee [1–2 days]
  • Draft the mission/outcomes/competencies (MOC) document [1–2 weeks]
  • Source candidates [2 weeks]
  • Build the relationship [1 month]
  • Evaluate candidates [1 month]
  • Close them [1 month]

If you plan to hire executives or are already doing it and would like to see how another CEO does it, I would suggest you go read Brian’s post.

One thing Brian leaves out, likely not intentionally, is the role of board members and investors in this process.

I have seen board members and investors play a valuable and highly engaged role in the “hiring committee” and most certainly in the closing process. I have done this for Brian a number of times and so have Micky Malka, Chris Dixon and Barry Schuler. We are very fortunate to have a great management team and Board at Coinbase and that makes a big difference in running an executive hiring process.

I have been an investor in Coinbase and have worked with Brian for almost five years now. I have watched him grow and develop as a CEO. He takes that very seriously and it shows. Putting down things like your hiring process is a great way to pass on to others what you have learned and get feedback too.

 

MBA Mondays

For almost four years, from Jan 2010 to late 2013, I would write a column every Monday called MBA Mondays where I tried to cover the basics of a business education here at AVC.

There are roughly 200 posts in total that I wrote during the time this weekly series was active.

Since many regular readers have shown up since then and may not know about MBA Mondays, I thought I would let all the new readers know about it.

You can see the entire MBA Mondays archive here.

There is a lot of good stuff in there.

Founder Friendly

Long time VC watcher, writer, and analyst Dan Primack suggested on Friday that the days of VCs trying to out “founder friendly” each other are now over.

It is an interesting observation and was worthy of a reply. The VC industry is highly competitive for the best opportunities and we certainly do try to ingratiate ourselves and our firms to the entrepreneurs who will decide who gets to invest in their companies and who does not. Being “founder friendly” is an important way to do that.

But there is another important participant in the VC/entrepreneur relationship and that is the Company the entrepreneur creates and all of its stakeholders; the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and even the community around the Company.

Having worked with entrepreneurs for over thirty years now, I have developed tremendous admiration for what they do and for the Companies they create. Entrepreneurs are a very special breed of people.

But there are times when interests diverge and what is best for the Company and it’s stakeholders may not be what an entrepreneur perceives to be in their own best interest. This creates a conflict situation and VCs are often caught in the middle of it.

I’ve been there many times and my mantra in those moments is “what is best for the Company?”. It has to be that way and, many times, when it is all over and done, the founder realized it was in fact best for them too.

Of course, reasonable people will disagree about what is best for a Company. That is what Boards are for. They are the bodies made up of reasonable people who can and should debate these issues and find resolution and make the hard decisions.

I reject the notion that being led by its founder is always what is best for a Company. It is often so, but certainly not always so.

Orthodoxy in thinking and believing is quite troublesome. There is no one way to do things and no single truth. You have to figure things out all the time based on facts and circumstances, based on a combination of experience and knowledge. If you do that well, you will get a lot right but never everything right.

I have heard from quite a few founders that they read the book Hatching Twitter and came away thinking that they would not want to work with me. That sucks for me but I don’t regret anything I did or said in the events that were described in that book.

You must try to make the right decisions for what is best for the Company and if that means being labeled unfriendly to founders, so be it.

SoundCloud

I have spent much of the last four months working on this and was up most of the night last night finishing it, so I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank today.

But I do plan to write about all of this at some point, maybe soon, maybe not so soon.

It has been one of the most interesting and challenging projects I’ve worked on in my entire career.

And it could not have been for a better cause.

Work Market Acquires Onforce

Our portfolio company Work Market announced today that they have acquired their competitor OnForce from its owner, The Adecco Group.

This combination makes Work Market the undisputed work automation leader in IT services sector, where both companies got their start.

Work Market also offers work automation services for many other verticals, but the IT services sector is very strategic as it has been using work automation software solutions long before other verticals.

Work Market describes the transaction in more detail here.

For those who haven’t read my many posts on Work Market over the years, work automation software allows companies to automate and scale their agile workforce, from W2 employees, contractors, staffing firms, and freelance/1099 workers.

We think this is the future of work and Work Market is powering it for many enterprises, large and small.