Monthly Match: Planned Parenthood

The House is planning to vote today on a bill that will repeal Obamacare.

Included in that bill is a provision that would prohibit Medicaid from paying for services from Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is an organization dedicated to women’s reproductive health and more broadly women’s healthcare.

It does fantastic work and provides treatment for women who cannot get it otherwise.

Our monthly match efforts are designed to combat the efforts in Washington to undo things that are near and dear to us.

And Planned Parenthood and low cost/free women’s reproductive health care is one of those things.

So today, we are launching a $30k match offer for Planned Parenthood.

Amy, Susan, Joanne, Brad, Albert and I will collectively match $30k of donations made to Planned Parenthood.

Our match offer will end when we reach $30k of collective donations or Friday night at midnight pacific time (May 5th).

Here is how the monthly match works

  1. Go to our match offer page and click the big Donate button
  2. Select any amount (min is $10) and click the big Donate button again
  3. Enter your payment credentials and click the big Donate button again
  4. Click the big Tweet Your Donation button
  5. Once you have done all of that your donation will automatically be matched
  6. If you don’t have Twitter, forward your email receipt to [email protected]

I hope you will join us in supporting Planned Parenthood on this difficult day for all who care about women’s reproductive health and women’s health more broadly.

Being Public

Two former USV portfolio companies had tough earnings calls last night.

And you look at that and you might say “why would any company want to go public?”

But here is the thing. Being public is about being transparent, accountable, and owning up to the issues and dealing with them.

I think it makes companies better.

If you are losing your biggest customer, you have to tell the world and deal with the consequences.

If you are making a leadership change, you have to tell the world and deal with the consequences.

Both of those companies are great companies, in which the Gotham Gal and I are a very large shareholder, and in which we believe in totally and completely.

Nothing is always up and to the right, even though you might want it to be.

The great companies are the ones that have the guts to bare it all and keep building.

Which is why I think being public is a good thing for the companies we work with that are large enough and have unique and differentiated businesses and business models.

I think more tech companies should be going public and I have been saying that for quite a while now and last night doesn’t change my views one iota.

Some Thoughts On Net Neutrality

Yesterday a federal appeals court declined to rehear a challenge to the Obama Administration’s Net Neutrality rules.  This was yet another victory for the fans of a neutral Internet, me included.

But Ajti Pai, the new FCC Chair, is hellbent to decimate these rules and everyone expects him to try to do just that.

Which led to a Twitter exchange with my friend Tom Evslin yesterday:

Tom argues that tightly regulating ISPs will only help incumbents and hurt innovators in the access sector. That has not been our experience. We have backed a number of alternative access providers, in fiber and in wireless, over the last few years and they are not struggling one bit with Net Neutrality regulations. They are struggling with all sorts of barriers that the incumbents have convinced elected officials to erect on their behalf.

The inability to use existing telephone poles that I mentioned on Twitter is just one of many of the things that the big telcos have done to stop innovative young companies from entering their business.

Here’s my thinking on Net Neutrality. We only need it because of the corruption that exists between large telcos and elected officials. If we had an entirely open playing field, we would not need regulations in the least. Competition would solve all of our problems. But not if you can’t compete.

Investor VCs and Operator VCs

The Venture Capital business is full of great firms that were founded by entrepreneurs/operators who became investors mid/late career. From Gene Kleiner and Tom Perkins in the early 70s to Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz at the end of the 00s, this is the iconic model of the venture capital firm and the formula that built Silicon Valley into what it is today.

When young people ask me what the best way to get into the venture capital business is, I tell them “go work in startups in your 20s and 30s, and then turn to venture capital in your 40s and 50s.” That is certainly the best way to do it. You build domain expertise, operating experience, and relationships/networks that help you win deals and help entrepreneurs by doing it this way.

The only problem with that advice is that is not how I did it. And it is not how Mike Moritz did it. And it is not how Jim Breyer did it. And it is not how Bill Gurley did it. And it is not how Peter Fenton did it. And it is not how most of my partners at USV did it. It is not how many/most of the top venture capitalists in the business did it. And I have been mulling over this fact since coming to that realization a while ago. I ruminated a bit on it in the Q&A after the lecture I gave at MIT a few weeks ago.

I think there are a bunch of reasons why many of the best VCs, at least of my generation, were not entrepreneurs and operators before becoming VCs.

First on my list is “avoiding the temptation to operate.” Jerry Colonna tells a story about one of the first Boards he joined at Flatiron. Jerry had been an operator before leaving to form Flatiron Partners with me. He joined the Board of an early stage company and on it were a couple experienced VCs. Every time the Company struggled with an issue, Jerry jumped in and tried to help. Eventually, one of the experienced VCs pulled Jerry aside and said “You aren’t an operator anymore Jerry. You have to let them run the Company.” I have never had that issue. I am not an operator and have never worked in a startup or a company, other than a short stint in an engineering firm the first two years out of college. I wouldn’t know how to manage a team, run a business, lead a company. But I know how to manage the people who do know how to do that. There is a huge difference and I think that VCs who aren’t handicapped by operating experience bring great respect for operators. And that helps a lot.

The second reason on my list is “a strategic mindset.” I think of strategy as the opposite of execution. Strategy is about setting the stage for execution. Many of the best strategic minds I know aren’t operators. They are consultants, analysts, investors, pundits. I don’t know exactly why brilliant strategists often make terrible operators but I see it all the time. And all of the best venture capitalists I know are brilliant strategists. They understand where value is going to be in an emerging market, they understand how to get to the best strategically positioned companies first, and they understand how to guide those companies toward a strategy that wins the market.

The third reason on my list is “being a portfolio player.” Operators work on one thing all the time. VCs work on many things at the same time. In one day, I can be trying to win a deal with one company, working an M&A situation for another company, doing a strategy offsite for a third company, helping a fourth company develop its compensation plan, and sitting in a board meeting for a fifth company. That’s a typical day in the VC business. You have to love having your hands in multiple things all the time and the diversification that comes from that. You aren’t all in on anything but you are all in on all of it.

I am not saying that entrepreneurs/operators don’t make good VCs. Obviously, they do. The entrepreneur oriented mindset that firms like Kleiner Perkins brought to the VC business is why Silicon Valley emerged as the best place in the world to do startups. And being too financially oriented is why Boston failed to keep pace with Silicon Valley in the 70s and 80s.

What I am saying is that there is something about the other pathway into VC, via investing, consulting, writing, that works equally well, or better in some cases. And all you have to look at are the top investors in the business to know that.

AVC – Issues With The Site

As many of you know, AVC was down for most of yesterday. We were experiencing what WordPress folks call the “white screen of death” issue. This issue emerged just after I posted the video of the week around 6:45am ET.

I was in Philly goofing off all day with some friends and couldn’t work on it until I got back early evening. Bill Soistmann was very helpful and we got the site back up by making some changes to the header code.

But as of now, the main page header is missing, and there are no comments.

I plan to work on this some more today with Bill and I expect we will get everything working before the end of the weekend. I appreciate everyone’s patience while we work through this today.

Video Of The Week: Why Toddlers Are Smarter Than Computers

I saw Gary Marcus give a talk at the NYU AI Event I blogged about this past week. In that

In that talk, he suggested that Deep Learning wasn’t going to get us all the way to where we want to get in AI.

I thought it was an interesting take on AI, particularly right now when the buzz and hype is so high.

This TedX talk makes the same argument and so I am sharing it with you.

The AI NexusLab

NYC is an emerging hub for AI and AI startups. That is because of the large number of mathematicians, scientists, and programmers trained in AI who work on wall street, because of leading institutes like NYU’s Courant School that work on cutting-edge science in the field, and because of a number of programs aimed at AI startups here in NYC.

A few weeks ago I was at the Future Labs AI Summit to hear about AI from Yann LeCun, Gary Marcus, and many others. Below is a short highlight video of the summit.

Here is a short highlight video of the summit.
 

 
The Future Labs at NYU Tandon are now accepting applications for the second cohort or the AI NexusLab to find AI companies to support.

Applications for the next AI NexusLab cohort close Wednesday, May 3rd and conclude with the next Future Labs AI Summit in November.
 
If you are and AI startup or you are familiar with any early stage artificial intelligence startups who you think could benefit from our program, please have them apply at www.nexuslab.ai/
 
Accepted companies receive
• $100K in funding
• An NYU student fellow for the duration of the program
• mentorship from leading AI faculty and industry experts
• Access to papers and academic research
• Access to data sets
• Partner opportunity to pilot partners (the last cohort included Daimler, Tough Mudder, Quontopian, and others)
• More than 400K worth of support and services.
• Present at the next Future Labs AI Summit (last speakers included Yann LeCun, Gary Marcus, and others)

The Future Labs are also hosting office hours this Friday, April 28th from 1:00pm-5:30pm for teams who have questions about the program at the Data Future Lab – 137 Varick Street, 2nd Floor.

Etsy Studio

Yesterday was a big day for Etsy, a company that I have been invested in for eleven years and on the board of for ten of them.

The company launched Etsy Studio, an entirely new marketplace dedicated to craft supplies.

Craft supplies have always been available on Etsy and still are. But they are a category and, while they make up a material amount of the total volume sold on Etsy every year, they are not front and center in the buyer experience. Etsy thought they could do better for buyers of craft supplies and so, about a year ago, they went about making an entirely new marketplace dedicated to craft supplies.

Etsy Studio leverages all of the considerable investments Etsy has made in its technology stack over the years; search, discovery, checkout, promoted listings, machine learning, and more.

Etsy Studio launches with over 8 million items, compared to something like 200,000 to 300,000 at a typical craft store.

In addition, Etsy Studio features project-based shopping.

You find a project you want to do, like this paper flower spring wreath, and Etsy Studio will allow you to fill a shopping cart with everything you need to make it.

If you are a crafter and are looking for a better way to buy craft supplies and find new projects to do, check out Etsy Studio. I think you will find it to be a delightful experience.