Feature Friday: iPhone Hearing Test

Last week in a blog post, I wrote:

My daughter’s iPhone can’t deliver a strep test to her, yet. But it can deliver an eye exam and a hearing test.

So I thought I would showcase one of these iPhone based medical tests on feature friday today.

If you download an app on your iPhone called “Mimi Hearing Test” and install it, you can test your hearing with your earbuds.

I did that this morning.

It is just like the hearing tests you do at the doctor’s office. As I suffer from mild hearing loss, I have done this test a bunch in doctors offices over the years.

You sit in a quiet spot and wait for beeps in your right or left ear and when you hear them you press the right or left button.

Mimi Test

The quick test lasts about three or four minutes and when you are done you get results like this:

mimi results

and

mimi results 2

You then store your profile in the system and are then offered additional services:

mimi extra stuff

And, once you’ve done an in-depth test and stored that, you can use the Mimi Music app to enhance the music listening on your iPhone.

I assume that is just the start of a suite of enhanced audio apps and products that Mimi intends to offer.

Full disclosure – The Gotham Gal is an investor in Mimi and therefore I have a financial interest in the company too.

Best Seed Pitch Ever

I read yesterday evening that our portfolio company Twilio, which priced its IPO last night, is going to live code from the NYSE this morning. That brought a powerful flashback to the first time I met Jeff Lawson, founder and CEO of Twilio.

It was 2008 in our old offices on the 14th floor of the building we still work in. My partner Albert, who led our investment in Twilio, had met Jeff and was impressed with him and his vision for Twilio. He asked me if I would meet with him and so I did.

Jeff came into the conference room, sat down, and said “we have taken the entire messy and complex world of telephony and reduced it to five API calls”.

I said “get out of here, that’s impossible.”

Jeff proceeded to reel them off and I said “wow”.

He then pulled out his laptop, fired up an editor, and started live coding an app. He asked me for my cell phone number and within 30 seconds my phone was ringing.

I said “you can stop there. that’s amazing”.

It was, and remains, the best seed pitch I’ve ever gotten. I’ve told him that many times and have told this story many times. I am not sure why it has never made it to this blog. But this morning is a great time for that to happen.

USV 2016

My partner John has a post up on USV this morning talking about our new fund, USV 2016, which we quietly raised earlier this year. We added our final portfolio company in USV 2014 last week and we are making our first investment in USV 2016 this week, led by John. In John’s post he addresses some changes we are making at USV, most notably the elevation of Albert and Andy to managing partners of our firm. This role has been held by Brad and me since we started USV in 2003.

This sounds like a big change and in some ways it is. Andy and Albert are the future of USV, at least the near term future. They have been providing this leadership role for a while now but it is time to formally acknowledge it. John, Brad, and I remain actively involved in making investments, managing investments, and driving our investment strategy. We all plan to make investments in the 2016 fund, as John is doing this week.

The VC business is a long term game and VC funds have a long time horizon, ten years in most cases, but generally they get extended for a few years more as it takes a long time to liquidate these funds. We are on our second extension on our 2004 fund and I doubt it will be totally wrapped up until the latter part of this decade. What this means for a venture capital firm is that you need to anticipate succession on a longer time horizon. At some point, Brad, John, and I will not want to sign up for investing a new fund. But well before that happens, we need to establish the new leadership at USV and start building the next generation. We have done the former and at some point in the next several years we will start thinking about the latter. Again, we are doing all of this over a long time horizon as is appropriate for our kind of business.

When Brad and I started USV, there were a bunch of things we did not want to do. One of them was stick around too long, taking too much carry, and holding on to too much control. We have seen so many VCs do this at the firms they started and we did not want that to happen at USV. With this change, we are showing ourselves, our partners, and our LPs that we were serious about that.

What we are not doing is retiring. I know there are rumors out there that I have retired, I am retiring, or I will soon retire. I don’t really care about them and have ignored them for the past year or so. But our portfolio companies hear them and it bothers them. And I understand that. So rest assured, I am not retiring. I am handing over the keys to the car and getting into the back seat. It feels good. And I am so excited to see where Albert and Andy drive the car. I know it will be to amazing places. It already is.

Some Thoughts On Ethereum and The DAO

As many (most, all?) of you know, last week The DAO, a large crowdfunding experiment based on the Ethereum blockchain, was hacked and something like $50mm of Ether was taken from The DAO. That Ether may end up being recovered due to a fork of Ethereum that was done in response to the hack. Much of this was covered in Nathaniel Popper’s post in the New York Times last friday.

I won’t say that I predicted this but I certainly saw something like it coming in my blog post on Experiment and Scandal that I wrote a month ago.

Ethereum is brand new technology. The smart contracts that can be built on Ethereum are an entirely new thing and we are just seeing what works and doesn’t work with this technology. It is safe to say that the contracts that The DAO wrote did not work. The DAO is a failed experiment that suffered from more than poorly written and ill conceived smart contracts. It also suffered from way too much money and hype being invested in it. I was thinking of The DAO when I wrote these words a month ago:

I find myself wishing we could keep the dollars invested and hype down when we do these massively public experiments

It is an open question about what impact the failure of The DAO will have the future of the Ethereum experiment. It certainly shows that pairing a public and open blockchain with a Turing complete programming language and a smart contracts system is a very ambitious and potentially very dangerous idea. The price of Ethereum in dollars has been halved as a result of The DAO failure and it is unclear if the bleeding is over on that price chart. There is a very well articulated debate on Hacker News right now about the future of the Ethereum experiment. If owning Bitcoin is like buying an IPO stock, owning Ethereum right now is like buying into a Series A round. Let’s just make sure we all understand that please.

My partner Albert who is way smarter about the technology here than I am wrote a post on his thoughts on this subject over the weekend. You will see that he and I see things pretty much the same way (shock!). He ends his post with this thought:

Blockchains and smart contracts are amazing new tools in our overall technological toolset. We have to learn how to deploy them to the best uses (many of which have yet to be invented). That will take failures. The DAO is not the first one (e.g., Mt. Gox) and won’t be the last one.

I could not have said it better.

The Will To Win

Will is the word that comes to mind after watching the Cavs fight back from a 3-1 deficit and take the title last night. Of course, the Warriors did the same thing in the western conference finals against the Thunder. Those two series were two of the best NBA playoff series I’ve watched and I watched both cover to cover.

LeBron James is 31, at the peak of his career and capabilities, with six consecutive NBA finals appearances. He’s mature, seasoned, and understands what it takes to prevail. He’s left the court three times in those six finals with the same feeling that the Warriors left with last night. And although winning is what is celebrated, and rightly so, losing is what teaches you things. LeBron knows these things now. The Warriors are just learning them. They will be better because of this outcome although I suspect they aren’t feeling that today.

I think the Warriors are a dynasty in the making but they need to understand what LeBron has learned over the past ten years. Last year’s win came too easy in some ways. I think they will be better next year and I bet they won’t be as concerned by how many wins they get in the regular season.

I think this championship is LeBron’s crowning achievement in a career full of achievement. There may be more rings for LeBron but I don’t think there will be another that means as much as this one. And this image, which I’ve already posted once on this blog, will stay with me for a long time. It reeks of the will to win.

LeBron

Father’s Day

So today is Father’s day. I will get a gift from my wife and kids and they always do a great job with that. And I appreciate it very much.

But honestly the greatest gift I have ever received is my three kids (and my wonderful wife who made them in more ways that one). I get so much joy from my kids. They make me laugh. They make me proud. They test me. They teach me. And it gets better and better over time. I don’t live with them anymore (our son does still live with us in the summer) but I continue to have meaningful relationships with them and as they mature and become fully productive adults they have become friends, confidants, and partners.

I know that father’s day is a day for my family to thank me but I honestly feel like I am the one who should be saying thanks today. And so consider this post just that.

Feature Friday: Voice Interface For Music

We finally got an Amazon Echo in our home a few weeks ago. We have had one at USV for quite some time and have had fun hacking around on it. But I really wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen when we got one at home.

We have Sonos in our homes. I often joke that I have more Sonos devices than any other person. It may be true.

But since we’ve been able to just call out the music we want to listen to and get it, I have been using the Amazon Echo a lot more and the Sonos a lot less. And we only have Echo in one room whereas we have Sonos throughout our house, connected up through in wall/ceiling speakers. I wrote that convenience trumps quality many years ago, and I am reminded again how true that is.

The other night we were at the dinner table in the kitchen hanging out and chatting after dinner and there was no music on in the kitchen where we have Sonos. I desperately wanted to call out some music but obviously could not. I could have gotten up and gotten my phone and put some music on via the Sonos app. But I didn’t. That got my attention.

We’ve already had this on our phones (Google Now and Siri) but there is something about having this on your home audio system that is really sweet. I suspect many of us will be calling the music we want to hear using voice commands in the coming years.

If you haven’t seen the Amazon Echo playing music, here’s a short video of made of the experience just now.

Voir Dire

I am doing jury duty this week. I am not supposed to blog, tweet, or email about the cases and I won’t do that. But I thought I would talk a bit about the Voir Dire process which is the way the judge and lawyers select the jury.

In NYC, which is the only place I’ve ever served on jury duty, the judge calls up to the jurors room and a whole bunch of prospective jurors are sent down the courtroom. The clerk then selects twenty random jurors from the group that was sent down and they are seated. The judge and the two lawyers then ask the jurors a host of questions that will help them select the jury they want to hear the case. They are looking for life experiences, prejudices, and other situations that would make it difficult for the prospective juror to be impartial and fair in rendering a verdict.

It is a fascinating process. I’ve been through it a bunch of times now. It reveals a lot about people quickly and efficiently. I picked up a few really good tips for interviews yesterday.

Try as I might, and I have tried, I have not been able to convince any judges and lawyers to seat me. I’ll see if I can change that again today.

Patient Centric Healthcare

My daughter went to see a doctor a month or so ago. She thought she had strep throat. The doctor checked her out and said that she did not think she had strep. My daughter wanted a strep test but the doctor talked her out of it. A week later, my daughter was back at the doctor with a massive case of strep throat. I told her the lesson of that experience was the the doctor works for her, not the other way around.

I was reminded of that story when I read my partner Andy’s long and wonderful post on USV’s approach to investing in healthcare.

In that post, Andy quotes Jay Parkinson:

People are the CEO of their health, and doctors are just consultants.

And that is what I was explaining to my daughter last month.

The good news is that technology is changing all of this.

My daughter’s iPhone can’t deliver a strep test to her, yet. But it can deliver an eye exam and a hearing test. So I am confident strep will come to a phone someday. And in the process our phones are becoming our electronic medical records. But we own them. That’s a big deal.

Andy gets into it more in his post which I re-tweeted with this observation: