Feature Friday: The One Tap Checkin

In commemoration of my first full day with an iPhone6 (today), we are going to talk about a pretty cool feature that just arrived on the iPhone – the one tap checkin.

If you have the swarm app on your iPhone (get it here), you swipe down to get your notifications, and in the Today tab, you go to the bottom and hit edit.

You will see various widgets that you can add to your today notifications. Select Swarm and hold it down to position it (I put it on top). Then save.

Then when you want to check in, you just swipe down to get your notifications and you will see something that looks like this:

Then you can tap the checkin icon and you are checked in.

I just did this and checked into the Kava Cafe. It works like a charm.

As you can see Swarm will also tell you where your nearby friends are in the notifications timeline.

All in all, a super cool feature. I will be using it a lot.

Values

Most companies have a mission statement and many have a values statement. But not so many companies live their values so much that they permeate the company and ooze out from every pore; the product, the office, the hiring process, the marketing, and so on and so forth.

Last night I did an event with City National Bank and their clients. I did a chat with Robin Gill and he asked me to talk about my most successful investments. I don’t really like to stack rank my investments so I struggle with that question. But I found my footing and started talking about Etsy. Etsy oozes its values from every pore. I am not sure they have a printed out values statement. Maybe they do somewhere but I don’t think I’ve seen it. But it really doesn’t matter because Etsy’s values are hard coded into their culture and they emanate out in every conceivable way.

Kickstarter is the same way. They stand for something. It’s not just talk. It’s real. And you can feel it in the product, the office, the marketing, and in the founder and in the CEO.

Twitter is like that too. I saw that they filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to be able to publish a full transparency report of all government information requests. That’s fucking awesome. And it is not a publicity stunt. Dick Costolo once said “Twitter is the free speech wing of the free speech party” or something like that. That’s a deeply held core belief of the company and it runs deep and strong in the culture.

These are three examples that folks will have some connection to and are easy to talk about. They are not the only three companies I work with or we have invested in that live their values. Meetup and SoundCloud would be a couple of other obvious examples. But they are good enough for the point of this blog post.

Values matter. A lot. In a hypercompetitive world where technology eats at every advantage you have over time it is good to have unique and distinct values that you live as a company. That’s a form of differentiation that is not easily copied. It matters and is at the core of building great companies. The kind of companies I like to talk about when people ask me about my best investments.

Bitcoin Adoption Metrics

I said in yesterday’s post that price and volume charts were not what I look at when I think about Bitcoin. I mentioned Github repos, hackathons, and teams in accelerators working on bitcoin projects. This morning I came across an excellent slideshare on the state of the Bitcoin ecosystem. It had this slide in it.

These are the kind of metrics we need to be looking at to decide how Bitcoin is doing. And on these measures, I’d say 2014 has been a great year for Bitcoin.

bitcoin adoption metrics

I bumped into a friend of mine last night who said “all you write about is Bitcoin.” That may well be true. But I write about what I think about. So take that for what it is. I’m not going to apologize for my obsession with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin – Price and Promise

I’ve written a lot about Bitcoin. I’m a believer as I think it will be the transactional plumbing of the Internet and mobile and lots more in due course.

But the story right now is the sagging price of Bitcoin.

In full disclosure I’ve started buying it again after staying mostly on the sidelines for most of the past two years.

I have never owned much Bitcoin. I give away or spend what I buy. I am not a hoarder of Bitcoin. I don’t care about that aspect of Bitcoin, although many (most?) do. I care about it as programmable money.

But, of course, Bitcoin’s price is a function of its promise. Why own Bitcoin if it has no future?

So does a sagging price mean sagging promise?

In the long run, absolutely.

In the short run, not so much.

The market price of an asset in the short term is driven by emotion (greed vs fear), liquidity, technical factors, and a bunch of other things. Right now, those factors are driving down the price of Bitcoin. Last year they drove it up.

I continue to believe that the thing to watch is not the price chart, the volume chart, or any chart. The thing to look at is Github, Hackathons, Accelerators, and everywhere else that entrepreneurs and developers showcase their work. That’s where the future of Bitcoin and its promise will be determined. And right now, based on what I’m seeing, it’s future is very bright.

For another take on this same question, William Mougayar has a post up today on the same topic.

A Couple Of Good Books For Entrepreneurs

I feel like we are in this zone where everyone is doing a startup. Of course that is a great thing. Getting people out of dead end jobs and into their creative zone seems like a good thing no matter what the outcome. There is a flood of angel and seed capital flowing through the economy and it is easier than ever to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Another thing that is driving this startup phase is the plethora of information on how to do it. It started with blogs, like this one, but has moved to podcasts, videos, and books. It is so easy to share what you’ve learned these days that more and more people are doing exactly that.

Two friends of mine have recently published books that are excellent and quick reads for entrepreneurs.

Randy Hunt is the Creative Director at Etsy. He built and leads Etsy’s team of designers who help create Etsy’s web and mobile applications. He has taken everything he’s learned in that role over the past five years and put it down on paper. The book is called Product Design For The Web, but it is highly relevant for designing mobile applications as well. The great thing about Randy’s book is you don’t need to be deeply technical to get value out of it. In fact, I think it might be most useful to someone who is just getting into designing interactive applications.

But knowing how to design and build something is not the only thing you need to know. Maybe most importantly you need to know what to build.

My friend Frank Rimalovski has been a VC since the late 90s. He currently runs the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and the NYU Innovation Venture Fund. He explains in this blog post that in the 16 years he’s been working with entrepreneurs, he has seen countless numbers of them build something first and only then seek customer feedback. Frank believes that seeking feedback after you’ve built the product is tough because by then you are so invested in your product that you don’t hear the negatives well enough. And so he and another friend, and sometimes commenter at AVC, Giff Constable, have written Talking To Humans, a book that explains how to do the customer development interviews in a way that will get you the most accurate and actionable feedback.

Reading these two books in tandem will help you figure out exactly what to build and how to design it in a way that users will love it. And that is a recipe for success in the startup world.

The AVC Community Is An Optimistic Bunch

The results of the poll we ran on Friday are interesting:

poll results

62% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be flat to up 10% in six months. That means continuing the steady march upwards that it has been on for six years.

6.5% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be up big (>30% in the next six months). That would be a blowout. Hard to imagine how that could happen but there are some among us who can.

32% of AVC readers think the NASDAQ will be lower in six months with half of them thinking it will be down a bit (10%) and the other half of them thinking it will be down big.

I will say that I’m in the latter camp. I can’t recall if I voted for 4000 or 3500. I did not vote for below 3000. I hope I’m wrong to be honest. We’ve got plenty of assets that are in some way or form tied to the markets and I’d prefer not to see them go down. But I am mentally prepared for it.

Fearful Friday: When Will This Bull Market End?

We are going to do a variation on Fun Friday today. We are going to discuss the near future of the public stock markets, particularly the NASDAQ, where so many of the tech stocks trade.

Here’s a chart of the NASDAQ over the past six years.

NADAQ chart

What you see is a big run upwards since the last downturn (and the election of Obama). He’s been great for the stock markets. If you had bought the NASDAQ on his inauguration on Jan 20th, 2009, you’d have tripled your money in six years. A 3x in 6 years is a 20% compound annual return. Whatever you might think of the President, he surely has been great for wall street.

But I am not really interested in the rear view mirror. What I am curious about is when this bull market will end.

I’ve posited on this blog that rising interest rates will eventually suck the wind out of our sails and bring stocks and valuations back to earth. But we could get a break before that happens. Ebola could start spreading in the US, ISIS could take all of Iraq and Syria, Putin could take the Ukraine and then start thinking about the Baltics. Or something else could happen.

We could do this via the comments section, and I am sure we will discuss this there, but I’ve created a poll so that we can easily see where the sentiment of the AVC readership is on this issue. So please vote away and add any color you’d like in the comments.


Paul Graham Dropping Serious Wisdom

Every so often Paul Graham will email me something and say “can you read this before I post it?”. He did that last week. It was a talk he was going to deliver in Sam Altman‘s startup class. It was great. I told him I wouldn’t change a thing. I am not sure if he changed it before he delivered it, but what I do know is he posted it yesterday. And here it is.

I just went back to my emails with him and pulled these quotes out for all of you. These are some nuggets that I particularly liked.

On Investors – “our function is to tell founders things they will ignore”

On Selecting Investors, Co-Founders, Etc – “If you’re thinking about getting involved with someone– as a cofounder, an employee, an investor, or an acquirer– and you have misgivings about them, trust your gut. If someone seems slippery, or bogus, or a jerk, don’t ignore it.”

On Knowing About Business Before Doing A Startup – “The way to succeed in a startup is not to be an expert on startups, but to be an expert on your users.”

On Success – “Y Combinator has now funded several companies that can be called big successes, and in every single case the founders say the same thing. It never gets any easier. The nature of the problems change. You’re worrying about construction delays at your London office instead of the broken air conditioner in your studio apartment. But the total volume of worry never decreases; if anything it increases.”

On Finding The Next Big Thing – “If you think of technology as something that’s spreading like a sort of fractal stain, almost every point on the edge represents an interesting problem.”

Those are the quotes I called out in my emails back to Paul. They all resonate hugely with me. But the whole post is great. Give it a read.