Founder Led Businesses

I’ve written about this issue a number of times on AVC. There are some advantages to having a non-founder run the business, but over the long run it seems that founder led businesses are the best businesses.

This rant about Apple by Bob Lefsetz is a fun read and regular readers will know that I am mostly in Bob’s camp on this issue.

The ending is great.

There’s a fiction that corporations rule in America.

The truth is it’s all about individuals. Sure, a group can effectuate the vision, but it always comes from one person, maybe a team of two, certainly not a committee.

Jeff Bezos is Amazon.

Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook.

Larry and Sergey are Google.

Daniel Ek is Spotify

Evan Spiegel is Snapchat.

Who is Apple?

Resilience

One of the things about Bitcoin that I’ve always been amazed by is its resilience. It goes up, it gets knocked down, but it hangs in there, and then it goes up again.

It’s happening again now.

coindesk-bpi-chart

It is unclear what is driving this recent move, maybe its Greece, maybe its China, maybe its something else.

But every time this happens, I gain a bit more confidence that Bitcoin is around for the long haul.

Fun Friday: Summer Reading List

It’s the dog days of summer. The Gotham Gal and I spend our weekends at our beach house and I read a lot more.

Right now I am reading Dead Wake, Erik Larson’s story of the Lusitania’s last voyage.

I’m interested in what the AVC community is reading this summer.

So let’s crowdsource a summer reading list in the comments today.

Some AVC Stats

Mario Cantin asked me to post some stats on the AVC readership in the comments to yesterday’s post. So here is some data from Google Analytics, Disqus, Feedblitz (which powers the daily email), and Feedburner.

Here are the high level google analytics stats for avc.com for the past twelve months:

avc readership TTM

That works out to be about 240,000 sessions per month and the average number of users per month is about 180,000. New visitors represent about 50% of visitors so about 750,000 visitors in the past year have come to avc.com at least once before.

There is a loyal readership that reads via email (using feedblitz). The total email subscribers right now is 10,972. These people read the daily post in their email and often reply to me via email and generally don’t participate in the comments.

There is also a RSS audience though it is relatively small. Feedburner provides these stats:

avc feedburner stats

The 14,804 total RSS subs number includes the 10,972 that subscribe via email via Feedblitz. I power Feedblitz via my RSS feed via Feedburner. The “reach” number is the daily number of people who actually read the post. That’s about 60%. The people who subscribe via email or RSS are truly regulars although they don’t visit the website and they normally don’t comment.

If you buy that reach number, then roughly 8,500 people a day read AVC via email or RSS. That is about the same number as the daily sessions on AVC. So I’ve generally assumed a daily readership of around 15,000 people.

The commenter community is much smaller. Over the past year, 4,036 people have commented on AVC and have left a total of 46,100 comments (an average of 126 comments a day). Certainly a lot more people than that read the comments, but I don’t have a number for that group.

The geographic distribution of people who visit avc.com (a subset of the total audience) looks like this:

avc geo distribution

I’ve been told a number of times that avc.com is blocked in China but I have never verified that and it may not be true now or in the past. If it is true, I am very proud of that fact.

Here are the top cities and countries:

avc top cities

All I have to say about this list is “fuck yeah Buenos Aires”.

 

avc top countries

 

I just turned on demographics yesterday so this data is brand new and only reflects yesterday. I will publish it again after a few months as one day of traffic may not be representative (you can click on the image to see it in a larger form):

avc demographics

The avc.com readership is young and male. No surprises there. The 19% female audience something I don’t feel great about and hope to change over time. I got some great suggestions on how to do that yesterday in the comments.

That’s about it for now. I hope you enjoyed this data dump. I try to do this once a year but Mario said he’s been reading AVC for over a year and hadn’t seen a post like this in his “tenure”. So we’ve fixed that now.

400,000 Followers

I got a notification from Twitter last night that I had passed 400,000 followers. I don’t pay much attention to my follower count on Twitter but I did pause at that number. It’s a lot of people.

In light of this milestone of sorts, I thought I’d share some details on the people who follow me on Twitter. All of this data comes from the analytics service that comes with every Twitter account.

Not surprisingly, my Twitter followers are interested in technology and startups:

twitter follower interests

They are overwhelmingly wealthy men:

twitter demographics

They lean democrat

twitter follower party affiliation

And they prefer iPhones:

twitter follower mobile preferences

I’ve run these sorts of analytics on the readers of this blog and the results are pretty similar. Similar size of audience, similar demographics, interests, and mobile preferences.

If I had a wish, it would be for a more global audience, a more female audience, and a broader demographic in terms of wealth (or lack thereof). But the content I produce determines the audience. And I’m pleased that all of you are interested in what I have to say and I’d like to thank you for listening.

Access Code

Access Code is a free 9 month mobile development program, which enables talented adults from low-income and underrepresented communities to learn iOS or Android and get jobs in the NYC tech economy. This program raises the average income of graduates from less than $26,000 a year to $73,000 a year, and brings them from the poverty line to the middle class in the process. Access Code was developed by Coalition For Queens (C4Q).

I believe that people from every community and background should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech, and pursue entrepreneurship. By working deeply within local communities to identify talent, C4Q is creating a tech community that is representative of the diversity of New York, with cohorts that are over 50% women, 60% African-American or Hispanic, and 50% immigrants. Furthermore, they serve the 65% of New Yorkers who don’t have a college education. If you never graduate from college in New York City, your average lifetime income is $27,000 a year. C4Q rigorously selects the top 5% of applicants, and opens new career opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship for them. There are graduates who are former administrative assistants who have now become mobile developers at companies such as Buzzfeed and an Egyptian immigrant raised in Queensbridge Public Housing has graduated from Y Combinator and raised venture capital.

The New York community is generously contributing time, skills, and funding to these efforts to expand opportunity for others. C4Q is able to provide these programs with the support of leaders in technology, business, and philanthropy such as the Robin Hood Foundation, Blackstone, and Google. Many leaders in the New York iOS and Android community are involved with curriculum, teaching, and mentoring — including Otra Therox and Ash Farrow of CocoaPods and Art.sy, Brian Donohue, the CEO of Instapaper, as well as Kevin Galligan of Touch Lab, organizer of DroidCon NY and the NY Android Developer meetup.

In our recent Techcrunch Disrupt interview, I spoke about the need for the tech community to be civically engaged and the importance of expanding access to education. Many organizations are solving this problem by teaching coding in schools and increasing the K-12 STEM education pipeline. Providing coding training to underserved adults who can fill tech jobs, as Access Code is doing, is another part of the talent equation that can make significant immediate impact. If you feel like you can support this effort with your time or your money or by hiring Access Code graduates or by teaching a class, please do so.

Carrying Two Phones

I’ve been carrying two phones for the last week. I’m trying Google Fi on my Nexus 6 and so I put my TMobile sim card into my old iPhone and now I’ve got two functioning phones.

I’ve never liked carrying two phones. It creates cognitive dissonance for me. I like the simplicity of having one phone that does it all for me. And that’s the way I’ve operated since getting a cell phone over twenty years ago.

However, because most of my apps are completely interoperable across iOS and Android and sync data in the cloud, it almost doesn’t matter what phone I take out of what pocket right now.

I can do gmail on my Nexus 6 and then pick up my iPhone and the reply is there. I can take photos on both devices and they are all in Dropbox syncd across both devices. Instagram Snapchat and Twitter work identically on both platforms and it doesn’t matter which device I use to access them.

The phone number on the device does matter a bit but I’ve forwarded my Google Fi number to my TMo number so I get all my calls and texts on my iPhone. Sadly the forwarding doesn’t work in reverse which means my iPhone becomes the default voice and texting device in this current setup. It would be cool if you could virtualize a number across both devices and make that irrelevant too.

What this experience has taught me is the device and OS almost don’t matter anymore. If I want a big screen to read on I pull my Nexus 6 out of my pocket. If I want small and light, I pull out my iPhone.

I might stick with this two phone approach for a while. Google Fi is not available on iOS yet and as much as I want to move to Fi from TMo, I don’t think I want to be locked into any device or OS. And the cool thing is you don’t have to be locked in anymore. The smartphone and the smartphone operating systems have become a commoditized layer of the tech stack and users are benefitting from that.

The Decentral Authority

We’ve been big fans of Reddit since it was part of the first Y Combinator class ten years ago this summer. We’ve watched closely as it emerged as a community powered mostly by its users. There was a period when the entire company was one or two developers. And yet not only did Reddit survive that period, it actually thrived during it. It is a quintessential example of the lightweight people powered app that we look for and love at USV.

The growing pains that Reddit is going through as it evolves into something more are particularly interesting to us. We’ve always wondered if a people powered community that is owned as much by its users as anyone can work as a traditional corporate entity. We’ve been through similar situations in our career (Geocities and Twitter among them) and we know how hard it is to reconcile the needs of the users, the management, and the shareholders.

I am not going to come down on the side of any of these stakeholders in this current situation. They all have very valid needs and desires and there are no easy answers to the struggle that Reddit faces. I am particularly sympathetic to the need to manage the trolling activity. Twitter also struggles with this issue. Free speech has an ugly underbelly and when you stare at it up close and personally, it makes you want to puke. And yet where do you stop on the slippery slope of deciding what is acceptable and what is not?

We have also wondered what the first killer app of the blockchain is going to be. Is it going to be personal finance (bitcoin), is it going to be peer to peer connectivity (mesh networking), or is it going to be something else?

There’s a chance that the answer to the struggle that Reddit is going through will also answer this question. It may be that there is no viable middle ground between a centrally controlled media platform and an entirely decentralized media platform. You are either going to police the site or you are going to build something that cannot be policed even if you want to.

The interesting thing about an entirely decentralized media platform is that you can have clients that choose to curate, police, and censor and clients that choose not to. Twitter, as originally architected, could have headed down this path. But for many reasons, reasons I supported to be clear, it chose not to.

But someone is going to go there. And I think it will happen soon. And I think it most likely will be built on the blockchain. There have been plenty of attempts to do this before. And none have succeeded. So why now?

Well for one, the blockchain is here and waiting for its killer app. And there are no shortage of entrepreneurs who want to build it. And platforms like Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan, and others have fed the desire to have something more but for reasons that are entirely valid are coming up empty for some.

The demand is there. The supply (technology) is there. And we’ve seen a bunch of teams working on this. I think one or more will get it right. And I think that will happen soon.

To be clear, this does not mean the end of Reddit or Twitter or any other of the current media platforms that are out there. They will likely move more and more into a centrally controlled media platform. I think that is the natural evolution of platforms that need to cater to the needs of management and shareholders. There is a good business to be had in a centrally controlled platform.

But there is also a very interesting opportunity to build a truly decentralized media platform. I am not sure it will be a good business. I am not sure it will even be a business. But it can be a very powerful community and platform. And there is a market for that. A big one I think.