Posts from Politics

What Does Trump Mean For Startups?

I got this tweet around 11pm last night:

Clearly the news that Trump will be the next President of the US is creating all sorts of financial jitters in the US and around the world this morning. There is a ton of uncertainty right now as many investors, me included, were not expecting this outcome. If there is anything that investors hate, it is uncertainty.

For me the best framework I have is Brexit. I feel that the economic and societal unease that has been brewing in much of the developed world over the past decade is coming home to roost and I believe that we will see more “brexits” in the coming months and years.

I wrote this right after Brexit:

But more than that, going into a foxhole right now seems like the wrong idea. Some of the best companies have been created in times of great economic turmoil. And, because of that, some of the best venture capital investments have been made in times when everyone was risk averse. I am not for getting too excited when times are good and I am not for getting too conservative when times feel bad. I am all for looking for opportunity at every turn.

I am certain that USV will continue to invest capital in interesting startups. While the financial markets may be in for a tough time, possibly a prolonged tough time, there is no correlation between startup success and strong financial markets. And those investors who understand that will act accordingly and be rewarded over the long term for doing so.

For entrepreneurs, this means be cautious and maybe even a bit conservative while all of this shakes out but don’t panic and don’t confuse uncertain times with a lack of opportunity. If you were excited about your business yesterday, you should be excited about your business today. But don’t be blind about the macro environment you are operating in. It’s going to be choppy for a bit here.

Voting On The Blockchain

Blockchains are good at many things that require security, accountability, and rules.

Voting is one of those things.

I don’t expect that we will see Presidential Elections on the blockchain any time soon. Though it could happen in my lifetime.

I do expect that we will see voting happening on blockchains for organizations and efforts that are getting started now and want to do their governance in a modern way.

There is even a project called Tezos which is a blockchain with governance (ie voting) built right into the core protocol.

Imagine if every voter was issued a token/coin and every candidate/issue to be voted on was issued a wallet. Voters send their coins to whatever wallet they want to vote for. And there you have it, a secure, accountable system for voting on a blockchain.

I haven’t placed a vote on a blockchain yet, but it’s so simple to do that I expect I will be doing it frequently soon enough.

If You Need A Drink After Voting

If you are like me, you might want to celebrate the end of a shrill and divisive election season with a stiff drink or a strong coffee.

And our portfolio company Foursquare has the exact tool you’ll need to do that.

Go here and enter your home address and Foursquare will map your voting place and bars, restaurants, and coffee shops nearby.

Here is my map:

foursquare-votiing-map

I plan to vote bright and early on Tuesday morning and then head to one of these many excellent choices for my morning coffee.

And, whatever your political orientation, I hope you go out and vote on Tuesday.

Cranes

I was walking down a street in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC this morning and came across a street closing.

cranes

The entire block was closed to cars because that crane was busy lifting heavy material to the upper floors of a building that is being constructed right now.

This is a common occurrence in NYC these days. There is construction all over the place.

I was in a cab last week and the driver told me that he has never seen more street closings and cranes in NYC than right now. He was complaining about it.

But I have a different view. Cranes, street closings, road construction, manhole work, etc are an inconvenience for sure. But they are a sign of vitality, the look of a city evolving and growing in front of our very eyes. Lose the cranes and the construction crews and you will see a city slowly dying.

I understand the anti-development, anti-gentrification folks. I appreciate that they are trying to maintain some semblance of history and personal scale. And I appreciate that they are trying to protect people from being forced out of their homes, schools, and neighborhoods by the capitalist desire for more, more, more.

But there must be a balance. We cannot decide to stop evolving and growing. We need to find ways to do it gracefully and respectfully. The anti-development forces are doing us all a favor by making sure that happens. But when they dominate the discussion, things grind to a halt and nothing happens. That is not where we want to be.

So when I see a street closed by a crane, I celebrate it. It’s progress. No pain, no gain.

Some Thoughts On Airbnb’s Struggles In New York State

As many readers likely know, this week New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill called S6340A/A8704C, which will levy heavy fines on individuals who advertise short-term rentals of residential multiple dwelling units in New York. This ends an effort that lasted several months to convince the Governor to veto this bill which was passed by both legislative bodies in Albany earlier this year.

Airbnb promptly filed a federal lawsuit as the New York Times reported. The Times piece states that:

In its lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, the company contends that the law violates the company’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process, as well as the protection it is afforded under the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that says websites cannot be held accountable for content published by their users.

It is possible that this matter will be settled by the courts.

But it is my hope that, instead, calmer heads will prevail and New York State will pass sensible legislation that allows short term rentals when the tenant or owner is not present.

Airbnb has proposed a five point plan that attempts to address many of the issues that New Yorkers have with short term rentals.

This proposal is similar to legislation that has been adopted in large urban cities like Chicago.

There are many reasons why the current situation is not ideal for anyone. Most people living in apartment buildings don’t like the idea of an Airbnb in their building. It is also problematic when landlords to take apartments off the rental market and create illegal hotels. And landlords need a way to enforce the rules outlined in their leases.

On the other hand, many New Yorkers use income from short term rentals to allow them to afford an apartment in NYC when they have jobs that require them to travel extensively. There are also many New Yorkers who rent their homes during busy periods to make some extra income.

An outright ban on short term rentals is a bad thing for many New Yorkers.

I am certain there is middle ground to find a compromise that addresses the legitimate issues while allowing short term rentals to continue. And I am hopeful that will eventually happen.

Both sides are to blame for where we are right now. Airbnb allowed the NY short term rental market to emerge over the past seven years without sufficient concern over the negative impacts of unregulated short term rentals. It took way too long to engage in a real and substantive discussion with legislators and regulators and when it did, there was a lot of bad blood between both sides.

On the other hand, the hotel unions and the real estate industry have used their significant clout in Albany to push for a law that is overly restrictive and hurts many New Yorkers. And they got the legislature and the Governor to support it. It shines a bright light on the kind of back room dealing that voters are sick and tired of, in Albany and all around the US.

I would urge the Governor to provide some leadership here now that he has satisfied the legislature by signing their deeply flawed bill. There is a proposal on the table from Airbnb to regulate short term rentals sensibly. The Governor and the legislature should engage with that proposal. And the real estate industry should engage as well. Short term rentals can be a good thing for them too.

I am confident that we have not seen the end of Airbnb and short term rentals in NY State. If calmer heads prevail we can get short term rentals that make sense for NY State and NY City. And that is what we should do.

How About A City Instead Of A Wall?

Sometimes the best answer to a challenging issue is the exact opposite of what the conventional wisdom is.

We just spent a week in Mexico City and, as I always do when we travel to Mexico, I came away impressed with the character and work ethic of the Mexican people. They are entrepreneurial and hard working and always have a smile on their face. I have great respect for the people and culture of Mexico.

So when I read this piece on a proposal to build a “binational border city” instead of a wall between the US and Mexico, it got my attention.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has proposed a new city be built between New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. and Chihuahua in Mexico. It would look like this from the sky.

border-city

I like the contrarian thinking. Instead of restricting trade and cross border economy between the US and Mexico, expand it.

It is my strong belief that globalization is a reality and we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We should accept it and figure out how to work with it to everyone’s advantage.

USV Endorses Hillary Clinton For President

From the USV blog this morning:

Hillary Clinton for President

This is the fourth presidential election during the existence of Union Square Ventures and the first one in which we as a firm feel compelled to endorse a candidate: Hillary Clinton.

As investors in technology companies, we believe that technology and innovation create broad opportunity and improve lives. But we also know that, to date, the benefits of technology and globalization have not been evenly distributed. People with access to education and capital have prospered while many others have seen good jobs lost to automation or offshoring. We understand why people whose lives have been upended are frustrated by politicians who squabble for partisan advantage instead of developing consensus solutions. We are not surprised that many feel the urge to reboot the whole system.

We agree that more of the same is not the answer. In the next few years, we need to make the necessary smart policy adjustments to ensure that the benefits of technology and innovation are shared by society as a whole.

Shutting out the world is not an option. We don’t think it’s desirable, or even possible, to return to an earlier era when America was less diverse, or the economy was less global. There is no wall big enough to protect us from a changing climate or the unintended consequences of new technologies like artificial intelligence or DNA manipulation. Now, more than ever, we must work together. We cannot unilaterally set the rules for the other seven billion people on the planet. The only way forward is through an open, respectful, and rational dialogue grounded in science.

Of the two major party candidates, we believe that only Hillary Clinton has the temperament and experience to lead us at home and represent us abroad.

We hope that everyone, no matter how frustrated with our current politics, will get out and vote. We applaud the movement to give employees extra time off on election day. If you’re not registered and don’t see the point, we hope you will reconsider and register here orhere.  This is an important election and we need to make a choice among the two leading candidates — we believe that a protest vote is a wasted vote — and for us the clear choice is Hillary Clinton.

Temperament

If I think back to all the Presidents I’ve known in my lifetime; LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton, Bush Junior, and Obama, the one thing they all had in common was a Presidential temperament. Putting aside all of their differences, they were solid, steady, measured, calm, and collected, at least in their public presences.

Last night in the first Presidential Debate we saw an incredible contrast in temperament.

Hillary Clinton, a difficult candidate to love, passes this presidential temperament test in spades. Think about the pressure she was under last night. I don’t think I could have even gotten up there with the stakes so high on the singular goal of her life. And yet she delivered a masterful performance.

Donald Trump is, for many, an easier candidate to love. He’s a character. He’s a successful entrepreneur and businessman who brings a different, and, at times, refreshing perspective to our political discourse. But on the temperament issue, he is  a non-starter. He’s immature, impetuous, angry, hostile, and given to bouts of rambling like a mad person.

I don’t think last night’s debate settled this election. This race is close and may well go down to the wire. But it settled something for me. Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be President and Hillary Clinton does. She is by far the better choice to lead our country for the next four years. If there was any question on this issue, let me settle it once and for all. I am with her.

How To Watch Tonight’s Debate On Twitter

I wrote about this on Friday. I think Twitter is going to be a great way to watch the debate tonight.

Here’s how you can get Twitter on your big screen and watch the debate on Twitter:

  1. if you have a “fourth generation” AppleTV, you can add the Twitter app to it using the AppleTV app store
  2. if you have an older AppleTV, you can mirror your phone to your TV and watch the debate on your phone’s Twitter app
  3. if you have an Xbox One, you can add the Twitter app to it
  4. if you have an Amazon Fire, you can add the Twitter app to it
  5. if you have an iPad, you can watch on the Twitter app on your iPad

The debate video will be front and center in the Twitter TV apps.

On the Twitter smartphone app, you can go to the Moments tab and the live video of the debate will be there.

For an event as important as this one is, I think having Twitter side by side with the live video is the way to go.