Track and Measure

If you listed the habits of successful people, tracking and measuring would be near the top of that list. I see it with people, companies, and teams that I work with. I see it in my own behavior.

When the Gotham Gal started making angel investments with our personal capital nearly a decade ago, I put together a spreadsheet to track all of them. That spreadsheet is now almost 100 rows long. If she wants to know how it is going, I can give her the numbers ten different ways. And we do that from time to time. A portfolio review of sorts.

When our best portfolio companies start building a new product or feature they scope out how much investment they are going to make in this new product or feature and they build a base case for what the results of this investment will be. They instrument the product or feature to make sure they can track the results they expect to get. And they track the actual investment vs budgeted investment and they measure the actual results vs the expected results. Not only do they know how they did versus expectations, they also know whether they got a positive return on the investment or not. This informs how they approach the next investment.

I see people doing this with their health, their education, their finances, and, most commonly, their work.

Technology helps immensely with this desire to track and measure things. From google sheets, to Fitbit, to Duolingo, to Foursquare, I find myself tracking and measuring more and more of my life every day, and its easier and easier to do so.

But technology alone will not get you there. You have to want to do this. Some of that is learned and some of that is innate. But it can be taught. I’ve tried to pass my track and measure habits on to our kids. And it makes me happy when I see them doing it.

If you want to get sharper and better at something, track it and measure it. It will help you do that.

Feature Friday: Etsy Shop Updates

Our portfolio company Etsy launched a super cool feature called Shop Updates a few weeks ago that I would like to talk about today.

Etsy sellers have always been great marketers. They bring buyers to their shops on Etsy in a myriad of ways. I remember back in the early days seeing Etsy sellers promoting their shops face to face at craft fairs. They still do that, of course, and much more.

Social networks are an obvious place for sellers to reach new buyers and Etsy sellers are all over them. But it hasn’t been that easy for a seller to be creative on social networks. Posting a link to their shop on facebook, or tweeting or pinning their latest item is fine. But doing that over and over quickly gets boring for everyone.

Enter Shop Updates. They allow a seller to take photos of their items in the real world and share them on social networks and into the Etsy mobile apps with links back to their shops and item pages.

An example will be illustrative.

Glittery Moon Vintage has this porcelain vase for sale on Etsy.

porcelain vase

She can post that image to facebook, pinterest, twitter, and instagram and get buyers to come and take a look.

But with Shop Updates, she can take a picture of that vase in the real world and post it to facebook or some other social net.

vase on fb

My favorite thing about this feature is the orange shopping tag that signifies that the shared image is “shopable” or “clickable”. You click on that orange tag and are taken to Etsy where you can look at the item and buy it.

These items also show up in the Etsy app to everyone that has liked your shop. Here’s a screenshot I took of my Etsy app this morning:


Here are some more details on Shop Updates in case you want to learn more.

So don’t be surprised if you start seeing orange tags showing up in your Twitter feed, your Facebook feed, your Pinterest app, and your Etsy app this holiday season. Shop Updates also show up in Instagram without the orange tag because Instagram doesn’t make their images clickable.

And when you see those tags, you should think about clicking and buying something unique and special for your loved ones this holiday season!

$2 billion in fives and tens

Our portfolio company Kickstarter announced yesterday that it has passed $2bn in total project funding since it launched six years ago.

This page has a ton of stats on the $2bn of pledges.

My favorite is this graphic:

fives and tens

The studio system funds creativity in million dollar increments.

The Kickstarter economy funds creativity in fives and tens.

I love it and I love Kickstarter.

Startup Physics

I have used the word “physics” to describe a few things here at AVC over the years. I am tempted to write a “textbook” on this topic as I have observed many “formulas” over the years that seem to repeat themselves again and again.

A few examples are this post on the relationship between monthly actives, daily actives, and concurrent users, or this one on the elasticity of paid vs free services. I also wrote one about the numeric relationship between creators, curators, and consumers on a platform but I’m having trouble finding it and linking to it right now.

Yesterday I suggested another to William Mougayar via Kik when he observed to me that valuation mania has emerged in the blockchain for financial institution space.

I told him that when you are looking at financial manias, the amplitude of the mania is inversely correlated to its duration.

I like to think of these manias as waveforms. When they build slowly they last longer. When they develop overnight, they dissipate quickly as well.

This rule also works pretty well for consumer internet services.

Mobile Apps For Both Sides Of The Market

In the web era, if you had a two sided marketplace, you had one app that served both sides of the market.

In the mobile era, it seems that it is better to have different native mobile apps for both sides of the market.

Ridesharing and delivery companies like our portfolio companies Hailo and Sidecar have apps for the rider/buyer and apps for the driver.

Etsy has the buyer focused Etsy app and the Sell On Etsy app.

And yesterday our portfolio company SoundCloud launched Pulse, their creator app, on Android.

This requires more development and marketing resources for each side of the market, yet another reason why building a business in the mobile era is harder, more complicated, and more expensive.

But it sure feels like this is how you have to do it. I’ve seen folks try to put both sides of the market in a single mobile app and it doesn’t work that well.

Code Brooklyn

If Brooklyn were its own city, which it was until 1898, it would be tied with Chicago as the third largest city in the US. It is the largest borough in New York City.

So I am excited that the Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is going to announce Code Brooklyn today at PS/MS 282 in Park Slope.

Code Brooklyn is Brooklyn’s effort to get every one of its elementary, middle, and high schools teaching computer science. It is highly complimentary to the City’s effort, announced by Mayor de Blasio earlier this fall, to get computer science into all of the city’s schools over the next ten years. Brooklyn is stepping up and getting out and leading the city in this effort and I’m really pleased to see that.

The signature element of Code Brooklyn is to get all 500 of its public schools to do the Hour Of Code this year during computer science week which is December 7-13th. For that to happen, they will need a ton of parent and community support.

CodeBrooklyn needs volunteers to help run “Hour of Code” activities in schools. This is your chance to inspire in students an interest in computer science. The commitment will take about 2-3 hours of prep time and then about 3-5 hours start-to-finish on the the day of the school’s Hour of Code. You can volunteer at – CodeBrooklyn partners NPower and #NYCEDU will match you to a school based on your interest and experience. I hope you’ll you’ll use this opportunity to start a long-term relationship with the school community with which you’re matched or be inspired to volunteer for a CSNYC supported program like TEALS or ScriptEd.

If you would like to get your child’s school involved in Code Brooklyn and the Hour of Code, you should  connect with CodeBrooklyn to find out how to make that happen.

I’d like to thank my friend and occasional AVC community member Rob Underwood for his leadership in the Brooklyn public school community and his passion for getting computer science into our schools. Code Brooklyn would not have happened without him. I’d also like to commend Eric Adams for understanding the power of computer science education to improve the lives of the students and families of Brooklyn and to change the trajectories of their lives and their neighborhoods.

Are Bitcoin and the Blockchain Joined At The Hip?

I saw this statement in the Economist piece on Blockchains:

Bitcoin itself may never be more than a curiosity. However blockchains have a host of other uses because they meet the need for a trustworthy record, something vital for transactions of every sort. Dozens of startups now hope to capitalise on the blockchain technology, either by doing clever things with the bitcoin blockchain or by creating new blockchains of their own.

Obviously Bitcoin could become “nothing more than a curiosity” if all the action moves to other blockchains. But right now the Bitcoin blockchain has an order of magnitude more hashing power and market cap, so we are certainly not seeing any other blockchains developing the kind of network effects that Bitcoin has. Of course, that could change. It is something I check on at least once a week and will continue to do so.

But if we see “a host of other uses” materialize “by doing clever things with the bitcoin blockchain”, I have always assumed that would be a catalyst for Bitcoin itself, both in terms of value, but also liquidity and importance of the currency.

Is that a flawed assumption?

Fun Friday: Funding Silicon City

AVC regulars will recall that I blogged about a Kickstarter that the NY Historical Society is doing to bring the Telstar satellite back to NYC for its Silicon City Exhibit.

The project has four days left and is still a few thousand short of its goal. I’d like to have some fun on AVC today and get this project funded.

So here’s how its going to work. If you go to Kickstarter and back this project, please leave a comment letting me know how much you funded and I will then go to Kickstarter and match whatever you backed. If you do $5, I will do $5. If you do $10, I will do $10. And so on and so forth.

Once the project crosses its $10k goal, I’m out. You all can continue to back it. I am sure they would love to raise more than the $10k goal. But I’m matching all funding that is made on Kickstarter and reported on AVC today until the project reaches it’s $10k goal.

UPDATE: At 10am EST, Larry Erlich backed the project for $250 and I matched it and we are now at the $10k goal. Well done AVC community!!!!!!

In other fun matters, here is AVC community member Jeff Carter wearing a Mets t-shirt (1969 vintage!). This was the result of the bet we made on this blog over the Mets Cubs series.