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.


The White House is hosting a “festival of ideas, art, and action” today on the South Lawn (the SL in SXSL). We will have someone from USV there to participate.

If you want to check in on what is happening, you can watch the live stream on YouTube which I have embedded here.

Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Bluetooth Headphones

I came into the office a few weeks ago and Nick was sitting at his desk working with over the ear wireless headphones on. I started talking to him and got no reaction. I spoke a bit louder and eventually he heard me and took off the headphones. I said “what are those headphones you have on?”  He said “the new Bose wireless headphones, they are great.” Joel heard us talking about them and chimed in. He had just gotten a pair and seconded Nick’s recommendation. So I went to my desk and ordered a pair on Amazon.

A few days later I was watching The Circus and my friend John Heilemann walks into an arena where a big campaign event was happening wearing these headphones. I tweeted at him:

He replied:

As I tweeted back to John, the thing I love most is that the bluetooth implementation on these headphones is fantastic. You can pair with multiple devices at the same time and the headphones manage the interrupts. When I am paired with my desktop and my smartphone and listening to music or a podcast or a video on my computer and my phone rings, the headphones pause the computer connection and my phone rings on my headset. The mic on the headset is great and I use it for conference calls all the time.

If you are in the market for a new wireless headphone, check out the Bose Quiet Comfort 35s. You won’t regret it.

Relaunching At Age Fourteen

Our portfolio company Meetup was launched in June of 2002. We invested five years later, in 2007, when the company was already profitable and was approaching double digit revenues. Nine years later they are 3x the size when we invested in revenues, meetups, and more. But the founder and leaders of Meetup feel like they are just beginning to scratch the surface of their mission which is to get people out of the house and into the real world doing things they enjoy with other like minded people.

This video, which they created as part of their re-launch this week, shows the range of things people use Meetup to do with others:

Many people associate Meetup with night time events where people with name tags on them walk around and introduce themselves to others. Those sorts of things happen on Meetup for sure. But the more common uses are runners using Meetup to schedule group runs, moms using Meetup to hang out with other moms, and, apparently, jugglers using Meetup to juggle together.

So Meetup is relaunching the Company this week, fourteen and a quarter years after its initial launch. This means a new logo (the name badge is gone), new mobile apps that use deep learning to understand what you want to do and encourage you to do more of it, a new team (with women leaders in both product and engineering) with lots of new engineers and data scientists, and a sharper focus on marketing.

If you want to see what the new Meetup is all about, download the new app (iOS and Android) and check it out. Maybe you will find yourself juggling in the park this weekend. I sure hope so.

Machine Learning As A Service

Our portfolio company Clarifai introduced two powerful new features on their machine learning API yesterday:

  • visual search
  • train your own model

Visual search is super cool:


But I am even more excited about the train your own model feature.

Clarifai says it well on their blog post announcing these two new features:

We believe that the same AI technology that gives big tech companies a competitive edge should be available to developers or businesses of any size or budget. That’s why we built our new Custom Training and Visual Search products – to make it easy, quick, and inexpensive for developers and businesses to innovate with AI, go to market faster, and build better user experiences.

Machine learning requires large data sets and skilled engineers to build the technology that can derive “intelligence” from data. Small companies struggle with both. And so without machine learning as a service from companies like Clarifai, the largest tech companies will have a structural advantage over small developers. Using an API like Clarifai allows you to get the benefits of scale collectively without having to have that scale individually.

Being able to customize these machine learning APIs is really the big opening. Clarifai says this about that:

Custom Training allows you to build a Custom Model where you can “teach” AI to understand any concept, whether it’s a logo, product, aesthetic, or Pokemon. Visual Search lets you use these new Custom Models, in conjunction with our existing pre-built models (general, color, food, wedding, travel, NSFW), to browse or search through all your media assets using keyword tags and/or visual similarity.

If you are building or have built a web or mobile service with a lot of image assets and want to get more intelligence out of them, give Clarifai’s API a try. I think you will find it a big help in adding intelligence to your service.


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.

Blockchain Nation States

I went on a walk through the Chelsea Art Gallery district yesterday afternoon. One of the galleries I visited was the Petzel Gallery and they have a show up by the New Zealand artist Simon Denny. The show is called Blockchain Future States and it compares Blockchain efforts like Ethereum and Digital Asset Holdings to the board game Risk.


Given the comparison to Risk, I thought the name Blockchain Nation States would be more appropriate for the show.

As I was walking out of the gallery, I saw a tweetstorm come through on my phone from Naval Ravikant. It’s a good one, talking about how open protocols are going to change a lot of things.

But given the context of what I had just seen, this one particularly got my attention and I replied to it.

I agree with Naval that open protocols and the blockchains that underly them will be the driver of the next big wave of technology and that they will force big changes that will ultimately impact the global economy. That’s a big statement and I don’t make it casually. I do believe this.

The questions in my mind about this are when it will happen, which blockchains and protocols will emerge as the most important and valuable, and which nation states will embrace this and which nation states will not.

Sitting here in the US, I think the US is not likely to be one of the winners in this next big technological wave because our government and institutions are captured by the incumbent economic system and companies that define it. So many of the blockchain companies we invest in are forced to seriously consider leaving the US or get bypassed by companies and technologies that are being developed more freely outside of the US.

So what nation states are playing this game (of Risk?) better? That was the question I asked in my tweet reply and I got a lot of replies. Here are some of the top suggestions:

  • China (2)
  • Hong Kong (2)
  • Canada (2)
  • UK
  • Japan (2)
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Singapore
  • Switzerland
  • Rwanda
  • Zimbabwe
  • Barbados

It is revealing that the big conferences where entrepreneurs, developers, and computer scientists gather to discuss the latest in blockchain technology are not often in the US. Last week, many in the blockchain world, including two people on our team, were in Shanghai to discuss the latest developments around the Ethereum blockchain. It does seem like China and its environs are emerging as an important center of gravity for blockchain technology.

It is not too late for the regulators in the US to change their tune and become more open to these new technologies and the capabilities of them. But, like the game of Risk, large pools of talent are being built on other continents and countries now and eventually they will be unbeatable.