Posts from September 2017

GDPR

We have been spending a lot of time in Board meetings lately talking about GDPR.

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is an EU regulation that, as written, will impact most Internet companies regardless of where they are located.

If you have not heard of GDPR and are running or working for an Internet company, you should wrap your head around it asap.

This Wikipedia entry does a pretty decent job explaining GDPR at a high level.

I heard someone explain GDPR as the “privacy equivalent of SOX.” I think that is a decent way to think about it.

This is serious regulation and complying is going to be hard and a lot of extra work. It will also impact product development and add overhead to that. The penalties for non compliance are massive and you cannot simply ignore this.

All that said, we did this to ourselves. The tech/Internet industry has run roughshod over user privacy for almost two decades now and we created the conditions for this regulation to pass.

The privacy equivalent of SOX.

So wrap your head around GDPR and prepare your company to comply. There is no other option.

Longer Tweets

I’ve got mixed feelings about Twitter’s experiment with allowing longer tweets (280 characters vs 140).

Like many users expressed on Twitter (of course) yesterday, I’m quite fond of the 140 character limit.

I don’t like the constraint when I compose tweets, but I love it when I consume them.

There are few things that make Twitter unique, defensible, and essential (contrary to many Twitter haters, it is all of those things).

At or near the top of the list is the sort bursty stream of information Twitter presents to the consumer.

There is no other place where I can consume a firehose of information across so many topics as quickly as I can on Twitter.

Just looking at these tweets from Jack and Biz, I am not sure 280 characters is going to be a good thing for the consumption experience.

On the other hand, I think running experiments like this is the right thing for Twitter and every app out there to do.

And they can’t run an experiment like this without telling the world about it. I’m seeing longer tweets in my timeline. They can’t keep that a secret.

The one piece of advice I would give the Twitter product team (who explained themselves in this blog post) is that they should test 160, 180, 200, 220, 240, 260, and 280.

I suspect they will get the biggest impact with slightly longer tweets but not all the way to 280.

I frequently run out of characters in my tweets. But generally not by a lot. If I had another 20 or 40 characters, that would reduce my character limit frustration significantly.

It’s also easier to introduce gradual change to a user experience than radical change.

And doubling the tweet size is a pretty radical change.

So I’m glad everything is on the table at Twitter in an effort to improve the user experience. That’s how it should be. But I’d be careful about this experiment and test a wider range of tweet sizes if I were them.

Rich Media Art Display

I enjoy rich media art and I’ve always wanted to figure out how to display it in an easy way.

We have some rich media art displays in the USV office. We have an Electric Objects and a Meural. They are nice, but they are proprietary systems and at least one of these companies has folded already.

What I’ve always wanted is the ability to showcase rich media art with standard off the shelf hardware.

So when we recently replaced an old TV with a new one, I took the old one and put it on the wall in my home office.

And when the Gotham Gal got a new Mac Mini, I took the old one and mounted it to the back of that display.

Then I cleaned up the old Mac Mini (basically a factory reset) and then launched a browser and went and found some art.

There is a lot of rich media art on Vimeo and you can put a playlist together and run it in full screen mode in the browser.

Here is my display doing that:

I also have been playing around with Sedition Art’s Art Stream service. It’s a subscription service that lets you stream twelve curated works of art that are updated weekly on your display at any time.

Here’s my display doing that:

There are some services out there that are based on Chromebit that I am interested in trying. I got a Chromebit and am working on setting that up. I will report back on that once I get it working.

My conclusion is this. If you have old displays and computers that you don’t need anymore, they are easy to turn into rich media displays. You should try it. It’s great.

You Make Money With Wins, You Make Friends With Losses

Brad Feld has a great post about the emotional toll of the collapse of the internet bubble.

Near the end, he writes:

When I reflect on my relationship with Seth, Jason, and Ryan much of the intense loyalty between us was forged in the period during and after the debacle that was the collapse of the Internet bubble. Some of my lifelong friendships, with people like Len Fassler, Dave Jilk, Jenny Lawton, Will Herman, Ilana Katz, and Warren Katz were solidified by the intensity of this time frame.

There really isn’t anything like going through a painful process with someone or a group of people to forge the bonds of friendship, loyalty, and trust that make for great professional and personal relationships.

When I look for partners in a business deal, I always start with the folks who I’ve been through tough times with. Because I know that they will hang with me again, just like they did the last time.

Diversification (aka How To Survive A Crash)

I was emailing with my friend Harry this past week and we started talking about crypto and the inevitability of a massive crash. I am certain the big crash will happen. I don’t know when it will happen and I think it may be some time before it does. But better safe than sorry. So I’m going to write some thoughts about how to survive it.

I told Harry my personal story of having 90% of our net worth go up in smoke in the dot com bubble and crash.

The only reason it was not 100% was that we owned two significant pieces of real estate that were about 10% of our net worth before the crash and became our entire net worth after the crash.

We were not diversified. We had all of our money in venture capital and internet stocks and had ridden that wave all the way up. Before Flatiron Partners (the venture firm I co-founded at the start of the Internet boom), we had no net worth. So everything we had, we made in the 1996-2000 period. And we essentially lost it all when the bubble burst.

Had we not sold Yahoo! and other stocks to purchase the real estate and pay the taxes on the gains, we would have been wiped out completely.

You might think “you could have sold when things went south” and that is a good point. But when things blow up, your first instinct is that they will come back. They didn’t this time. The selling just continued. A few companies we owned a lot of went bankrupt. These were public stocks that went all the way to zero. So, while it is true that we could have and should gotten out when the bubble burst, we did not, and in some cases could not.

So selling when a market blows up is not the best way to protect yourself from a crash. Selling long before it blows up and diversifying your assets is a much better way. Like we did with real estate, but with a lot more than that.

I like a mix of cash (t-bills, money market funds, etc), blue chips stocks (Amazon, Google, etc), real estate (income producing with little to no leverage), and a risk bucket (venture capital, crypto, etc). I think 25% in each would be a good mix. We have more in the risk bucket but I am in the VC business professionally and have been for 30+ years. 25% in each is where I’d like to get to in time.

I have advocated many times on this blog that people should have some percentage of their net worth in crypto. I have suggested as much as 10% or even 20% for people who are young or who are true believers. I continue to believe that and advocate for that.

But we don’t have that much of our net worth in crypto. We probably have around 5% between direct holdings and indirect holdings through USV and other crypto funds. I think that’s a prudent number for a portfolio like ours.

I know a lot of people who are true believers in crypto and have made fortunes in it. They are “all in” on crypto and have much of their net worth (all in some cases) invested in this sector. I worry about them and this post is aimed at them and others like them. It is fine to be a true believer and being all in on crypto has made them a lot of money. But preservation of capital is about diversification and I think and hope that they will take some money off the table, pay the taxes, and invest it elsewhere.

That is the smart and prudent thing to do. I wish I had done it during the internet boom. I did not, but the next time we made a bunch of money, I did. I learned the hard way. I share my story so that others don’t have to.

Feature Friday: Coinbase Vaults

Vaults are the crypto equivalent of a savings account.

If you have crypto assets that you don’t plan to spend/send frequently, you can put them in vault and get increased security.

Coinbase has had a vault offering for Bitcoin for the past three years and they have now launched the same vault product for ETH and Litecoin.

It appears as an additional account in your Coinbase accounts screen:

With the vault, you get a 48 withdrawal period (so nobody can move funds out of your account for 48 hours) and multiple signers on a withdrawal.

You can have three signers and require all three to sign a withdrawal or you can set up five and require three of five to sign a withdrawal.

I like to keep some crypto assets in my wallet and the rest in a vault. It is more secure.

If you have crypto assets at Coinbase, I encourage you to set up vaults for them.

Happy New Year

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

I’d like to wish a happy new year to all my Jewish friends and colleagues and readers.

I don’t personally identify as any particular religion.

I was brought up Catholic, married into and raised our children Jewish, and I appreciate both of these religions.

I also feel great connectivity to Buddhism and have many wonderful Muslim friends.

There are bits of all of these belief systems that I connect to and appreciate.

But mostly I am a fan of spirituality and belief systems.

Being human is a strange, wonderful, and, at times, unnerving experience.

Spirituality and belief systems help us with our humanity and make our time on earth a bit easier.

If we could have that without all of the other stuff religion brings, that would be a wonderful thing.

Today is a day for my Judaism. I will attend services with my family, hear the shofar, wish everyone Shanah Tovah, and celebrate with a big meal with friends and family.

Rosh Hashanah is my favorite Jewish holiday and I plan to enjoy it. Shanah Tovah.