The Dronebase Pilot Program

Our portfolio company Dronebase launched a new service yesterday that everyone who owns a drone should check out. They call it the Pilot Program. Basically any drone pilot that owns a drone with the right capabilities can now fly missions for Dronebase.

For several years Dronebase has been connecting drone pilots with aerial imaging jobs in industry sectors like commercial real estate, residential real estate, construction, insurance, energy, and telecommunications. Dronebase’s sales force calls on companies in these sectors, gets assigned aerial imaging missions, and then assigns those missions to drone pilots in their pilot marketplace. This “go to market” model has resulted in Dronebase initiating more commercial drone flights per month than any other company in the market. Revenues will to grow 7x from 2015 to 2016 and they probably will do something like that again in 2017.

But the Dronebase founders have not been happy with their ability to generate work for as many pilots as they can. They know that there are many drone owners who would love to fly commercial missions if they could. So Dronebase launched the Pilot Program this week after beta testing it for the past few months. Here is how it works:

dronebase-pilot-program

Drone pilots can do “Pano Missions” on spec and “Client Missions” for a guaranteed payment.

Here’s how you do a Pano Mission:

pano-missions

And here is how you do a Client Mission:

client-missions

If you own a drone and want to pilot commercial missions, go to Dronebase and sign up. You can also download the Dronebase iOS app and browse and accept jobs on your iPhone. An Android app is under development and will be coming soon.

Happy flying!!!

The Little Search Engine That Could

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo continues to impress me.

By offering one thing that other search engines don’t offer, a promise not to store your search history, DuckDuckGo has grown impressively, year after year, with no signs of that abating.

ddg

It may turn out that in an era of growing mistrust of companies and institutions, DuckDuckGo has a very attractive proposition for the market.

I’ve used DuckDuckGo as my default search engine for years now and though I will occasionally use Google for certain queries, DuckDuckGo gets it done for me the vast majority of the time.

If you want to change your default search engine to DuckDuckGo and see what it’s like to use a search engine that doesn’t track you, go to DuckDuckGo and click the “Install” button on the upper right.

ddg-install

Distraction and Mission

Many of the leaders of our portfolio companies struggled to get their teams focused last week. We heard from many of them asking questions like “If either of you have thoughts on leading a team through exogenous events, happy to take your guidance”

It may sound insensitive or crass to be asking how you get people focused on work when they are upset, dismayed, and devastated. I understand that people need time to come to terms with something that is so emotional for them and that employers have to be sensitive to that. I am all for that. Much of last week was spent  on that.

But I also believe that getting the team off of Facebook and Twitter and back into the code and shipping product is actually a healthy thing for everyone.

Many of USV’s portfolio companies are mission driven. That’s not our investment strategy per se, but it seems to be an output of our investment strategy. We have portfolio companies trying to democratize access to healthcare, education and financial services. We have portfolio companies trying to make it easier to be an artist, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, or an author. We have portfolio companies trying to make it safer to use the Internet without being spied on. I could go on and on.

And so, working in these companies and working to help these companies and the people they support succeed is important. And if you are upset with the world, then one of the most therapeutic things you can do is try to change the world to be a better place. If you work in a company that is mission driven and you connect with that mission, then I would encourage you to throw yourself at that work this coming week. I can assure you that it will help.

And if you don’t work in a company that is mission driven, or if you don’t connect with your company’s mission, then I would encourage you to quit and join a company that you are inspired to work for and then throw yourself at that work. Here is a list of those kinds of opportunities.

Video Of The Week: Albert’s Talk At Web Summit

My partner Albert Wenger gave a talk at Web Summit about the coming Knowledge Age. Many of you have seen previous versions of this talk which I have posted here. But Albert is evolving the talk as he learns more about some of these ideas.

It’s a short talk, about 15 mins long. I have included the video and the slides below that.

Fun Friday: What Is Exciting These Days In Tech and Startup Land?

I figured I’d follow up a post taking a shot at the AVC community with one that should engage the AVC community, including me.

And what better to talk about than what excites us these days?

It is no secret to the regular readers that it is hard for me to get excited about the current state of tech and startup land. David said as much in his comment yesterday.

With the exception of blockchain stuff, which seems very early and not yet investable except for fools and the foolhardy (me), I am struggling to find things to get excited about in tech and startup land.

So, let’s all jump into the comments and talk about what excites us about tech and startups right now. Not yesterday, not last year, not five years ago, right now. And if its your startup you are excited about, that’s cool, but please don’t turn the comments into a pitch fest. That’s my life already 🙂

Some Thoughts On The AVC Community

The community here at AVC is possibly it’s greatest strength. But like most things, it is also it’s greatest weakness.

Over the past five years I’ve gone from the most active community member, to a regular participant, to an observer, to an avoider.

I wrote yesterday’s post for an entrepreneur (and every entrepreneur) who wanted to know what the Trump election means for startups.

As I wrapped up the post, I thought very seriously about closing the comments because I knew what they would become. But I didn’t do it. Because that’s a slippery slope. What is the bright line test for when I should open comments and when I should close them? Frankly I’d rather just shut them down rather than turn them on and off whenever I randomly feel like I should.

But I cannot accept the behavior that goes on in the AVC community whenever politics, or gender, or race, or taxes, some other hot button issue is raised, either by me or by the community when a thread gets hijacked and goes astray.

There is a lack of respect. There is a lack of civility. It makes me crazy. So I just skip the whole damn thing.

But I am enabling this behavior because I choose to make AVC a community instead of just a blog. So it is on me that AVC turns into a cesspool some days

As you can tell I am struggling what to do. I’ve thought about banning certain long standing members of the community. But I also don’t want to censor people. They should censor themselves though.  That’s the problem. They can’t

So that’s where I am. Fed up to my eyeballs and pissed off and struggling with what to do.

If nothing else, consider this a warning. If you don’t police yourself, the community here will be history. There is a very big piece of me that wants that to happen.

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.

Founder Dilution

I saw a blog post this weekend that looked at the IPO filings of 79 tech companies and calculated the ownerships of the founders and the VCs at IPO.

The result of that analysis is that the average founder ownership at IPO was 17% and the average VC ownership at IPO was 56%.

I’ve written a bunch on this topic and here are two posts that address this exact issue:

Founder Dilution – How Much Is “Normal”?

Employee Equity: Dilution

In both posts, I lay out how the equity gets shared with employees and investors as the company grows and scales.

Here’s the most important quote from those two posts:

In my experience, it will generally take three to four rounds of equity capital to finance the business and 20-25% of the company to recruit and retain a management team. That will typically leave the founder/founder team with 10-20% of the business when it’s all said and done. The equity split at 20% for the founders will typically be; 20-25% for the management team, 20% for the founders, and 55-60% for the investors (angel all the way to late stage VC).

I wrote that seven and half years ago, but on this topic, not much has changed over the thirty years I’ve been doing VC.

Raising round after round of venture capital is expensive. There are some entrepreneurs who figure out how to get profitable and not raise round after round (or avoid VC altogether), there are some entrepreneurs who are able to raise a very high valuations and avoid a lot of dilution, and there are many entrepreneurs who choose to sell the business before they take a lot of dilution. But for the entrepreneurs who raise four to six rounds of VC before going public, the math is the math. If you end up owning more than 20% at IPO, you are beating the averages.

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.