E-Bikes

I used to ride a Vespa around NYC. I rode it to work and back for about ten years, from roughly 2003 to 2013. I stopped riding it when Bloomberg’s Traffic Enforcement people starting towing it when it was parked between cars on the street (something I had been doing since I started riding it). A few visits to the tow pound will do that to you.

Since then, I’ve been Citibiking to and from work when it is nice out and subwaying when it is not. That has worked fine.

A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with my friend Alex Ljung, who co-founded our portfolio company SoundCloud with his friend Eric Wahlforss. Alex and Eric are back at it with a new company called Dance which makes a beautiful e-bike that is sold via a subscription service, currently only in Berlin, but coming to your city sometime in the future.

I told Alex that I was nervous about riding e-bikes. He told me to get over it and get on one. So I have been doing that, using Citibike’s e-bikes, for the last few weeks.

Alex was right. I love riding e-bikes around NYC. I can see riding them out to Brooklyn and back for meetings, using the new Brooklyn Bridge bike lane.

I still like riding my traditional bike for exercise, something I do three mornings a week, and something I will do when I finish this post.

But for getting around NYC, in the awesome bike lanes that have been created all around our amazing city, I think e-bikes are the way to go. I put in an order for one this weekend.

I’m sold.

#climate crisis#NYC

Citibiking (Continued)

Yesterday I wrote about NYC’s Citibike system, which I love, and said this:

There should be financial rewards for taking a bike from a kiosk that is completely full or nearly full and returning to a kiosk that is empty or nearly empty. There should also be a financial reward for docking an E-Bike in a kiosk where there are no E-Bikes or very few.

I got a ton of feedback via email and Twitter that Citibike already offers this via a program called Bike Angels that rewards riders for doing things like this. I know about that program but there are three big problems with Bike Angels that Lyft, the owner of Citibike, needs to fix.

1/ Bike Angels is not part of the core service, available to everyone by default.

2/ The rewards are too small. They need to be increased significantly.

3/ Angels is not a cash rewards program and you cannot take cash out of the system. It needs to be like Venmo.

Basically Angels sucks, but it is directionally correct.

If Lyft fixed all of this and offered attractive cash rewards for moving bikes and E-bikes around the system, it would be a game changer. But Bike Angels is not that. It is not even close to that.

#NYC

Citibiking (Continued)

I have written about my love for NYC’s Citibike service many times. This will be one more.

Yesterday I left the USV office at the end of the day and hopped onto a Citibike E-Bike at the brand new kiosk that has been installed in the “no cars” section of Broadway between 23rd and 21st.

I rode that E-bike all the way to Central Park West and 81st Street to get to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. I was able to stay in a bike lane for that entire ride and it took me about twenty minutes.

There is no way I could have gotten from 21st and Broadway to the Delacorte Theater in less than twenty minutes any other way. Google Maps told me it would take 28 mins on the subway and I’d have to make at least one transfer. I did not check Uber, but given how Uber is working in NYC these days, it would have been at least a ten-minute wait just for the car to arrive. It would have likely taken twice as long in a car as a Citibike.

When the weather is good, like it has been in NYC the last few weeks, there is no better way to get around the city than Citibike. The subway is a close second, but there is something about being out and about, a breeze in your face, seeing the sights and sounds of NYC.

The addition of E-bikes has made longer rides, like the one I did yesterday evening, a good option. I generally take the regular bikes to commute to and from work (a roughly ten-minute ride), but the E-bike makes the 60 block trip, or a trip to Brooklyn or back, a decent option.

I do have a suggestion for Lyft, the owner of NYC’s Citibike service.

There should be financial rewards for taking a bike from a kiosk that is completely full or nearly full and returning to a kiosk that is empty or nearly empty. There should also be a financial reward for docking an E-Bike in a kiosk where there are no E-Bikes or very few.

The single biggest challenge with Citibike is the empty kiosk and the full kiosk. And the lack of E-Bikes in many kiosks is also a challenge.

If riders were rewarded financially for taking bikes and moving them to where they are most needed, the distribution of bikes would become more even. And there would be a “cottage industry” of people who ride Citibikes around the city for a living making sure that the bike distribution is optimal.

This would require the Citibike app to be like Venmo, with a wallet that builds up or down over time, and where balances can be transferred out.

That’s not very hard to build in this day and age, and would be a game-changer for the Citibike system.

#NYC

Blinking

Back in 2005 Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Blink that was about how our subconscious allows us to make fast decisions that are often as good or better than slow considered decisions.

I was talking to someone yesterday evening about how the venture capital business has changed over the last decade and I explained that we used to have weeks, if not months, to make our investment decisions and now we have days or if we are lucky a week or two.

And I observed that the rapid pace of venture investing and decision making has not, yet, impacted the quality of our portfolio and that it may have actually improved it.

The woman I was talking to said “like Malcolm Gladwell describes in Blink.” And I nodded affirmatively.

There is another thing going on with our decision making at USV, which is that we are regularly taking the time to articulate to each other, and ideally the world at large, what we want to invest in and why.

That work, which we call thesis building, helps us make rapid decisions in the absence of time and information.

It is tempting to mourn the loss of careful and considered investing but from where I sit it seems gone for good, at least for early stage venture capital, so I think it’s a better use of our time to spend adapting to the market, as my partner Brad likes to say, and building the conviction to act quickly and decisively.

#VC & Technology

Large Group In-Person Meetings

I have been doing a bunch of large group in-person meetings in the last few weeks and I must say that it feels great to be doing these large group meetings in person. There is a different energy in the room than on the screen.

In order to make everyone comfortable meeting like this, the way these meetings typically happen is everyone provides a proof of vaccination and everyone gets a covid test within 24 hours of the meeting. It is best if the host of the meeting can provide rapid tests so anyone who wants to arrive in advance of the meeting can get tested right there.

It is also the case that in each of the large in-person group meetings I have done in the last few weeks, there have been a few folks on video. I think that is likely to be the new normal for large meetings and it really helps to have great audio and video in the room so the people on the screen feel as much like they are in the room as possible.

But I must say that I am very happy and very relieved to be meeting in person again in large groups. I missed it a lot and I am glad to be back doing it.

#Current Affairs

Generalist vs Specialist

At USV, we have a fairly narrow thesis that sets out what we want to invest in, but all of us work across all of our thesis areas. We see ourselves as generalists not specialists.

In an environment when everything is moving so fast, that can be challenging, as I wrote about on Tuesday.

But there are also great benefits to working this way. As a team, we benefit from working together on everything versus having silos within our partnership and firm.

And as individuals, there is something quite helpful about moving back and forth between domains. It stimulates the mind in ways that going deep and staying deep on one thing cannot.

There are many ways to build a successful investment business. Specializing in a specific domain works well for many firms.

But I personally prefer being a generalist. Being able to meet founders in multiple different sectors back to back to back is really something special. It challenges and opens the mind in a way that really works for me.

#VC & Technology

Staying Plugged In

I wrote in my 60th birthday post that my late career mantra is less hustle more conviction. It has been working for me and has kept me in the game.

But there are times, usually after an opening emerges, when a market moves so fast it is hard to stay on top of it all.

I don’t worry about missing out. That’s part of the venture capital business. Fear of missing out is a counterproductive emotion and I refuse to engage in it.

But I do worry about not understanding what is going on. When you stop understanding things, you are done. There is no way to be a great investor if you have no clue.

It is possible to surround yourself with others who can help you understand what is going on. I do that and I have terrific colleagues who keep me engaged in what’s happening. These colleagues are inside USV and also spread around many other firms too.

But at some level, you have to understand things yourself. Osmosis only works to a point. I find that you have to get your hands on the technology, use it, and feel it to understand it.

And that is the hard part when things go bananas as a market opens up. Less hustle works against you. And you have to find a way to engage in it all. That’s where I am right now.

#crypto#VC & Technology