Climate Adaptation?

While society debates how to deal with climate change, there are some scientists who are now saying that that time has passed and we now need to start planning society’s adaptation to the climate tragedy we have created on planet earth.

This scientific paper from roughly one year ago is super depressing. I am linking to it because I read it this week and it certainly made me consider how our way of life may change dramatically in my lifetime.

I am not yet ready to throw in the towel on our ability to react to the mounting evidence of a rapidly warming planet and dramatically slow it down with actions like the Paris Accords, recent laws in New York City and New York State, and everyone’s personal actions in what we do and how we do it.

And there is no benefit in getting depressed or defeatist about the climate change threat.

I think the opposite is true. It is time to stop debating whether the planet is warming. It is even time to stop debating about who is going to pay for the massive investments we need to make immediately to slow that warming. It is time to start making them.

Abridge

We seed funded a company late last year called Abridge and the company went public yesterday with their iOS and Android apps. Naomi wrote about the investment on the USV blog.

I want to focus on the product because I think it is a game changer for all of us that access the health care system regularly.

The Abridge mobile app (get it here) allows anyone to record a medical visit with a doctor, a nurse, or any other health care professional.

It works like this:

You open the app to see your visit history:

You tell the doctor, nurse, etc that you are going to record the session and hit the record button:

Then you record the session.

When you are done Abridge saves the audio recording of the session and also immediately (in way less than a minute) provides a transcript of the session with the key medical terms called out in bold.

That is me making stuff up this morning. I sure hope I don’t need a knee replacement any time soon.

This is one of those ideas that is so simple and so obvious that you wonder why nobody has done it before.

The team is a combination of physicians and machine learning people from University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon. It’s a combination of domain experts and technologists who are extremely well suited to make this work and work simply and elegantly.

I would encourage everyone who sees doctors regularly or has a loved one that does to get Abridge on your phones and their phones.

I think it’s a game changer for how we access and understand the medicine in our lives.

Dronebase Insights

I was sitting in my backyard this weekend looking up at the roof on my house, which I can’t see because of a parapet, and wondering how all of the solar panels we put up there a few years ago are doing. I was also wondering how the roof itself is doing.

Then it hit me that USV has a portfolio company that can help. I went to my Dronebase account and ordered a drone mission that will do an aerial inspection of my roof and also a thermal inspection of our solar panels.

Yes, one drone pilot with an off the shelf drone can do all of that for me in less than an hour.

I scheduled the flight for next week and should have a full report with aerial imagery and video and thermal scans of the solar panels within a few days after that.

And I am going to get all of that for a less than it costs me to keep my pool serviced!!

But it gets better. Today, Dronebase is announcing that it has acquired the Drone Reports business from Betterview and will turn that into a new product line called Dronebase Insights.

From that blog post:

DroneBase Insights aims to help insurers and property managers assess damage and mitigate risk for commercial properties, and we’ll expand our offering over time

So now you can get a full blown report from Dronebase in addition to aerial imagery and video and thermal scans.

I didn’t order that myself this weekend but maybe I should have. I probably will next time.

Immigration Makes Us Stronger

It is ironic and upsetting that a nation built on immigration is increasingly unwelcoming to immigrants and that the words ” go back” are becoming a political rallying cry.

I am for immigration full stop.

I think opening our arms and borders to people who want to come here, work, build their lives and businesses and futures makes our country stronger.

It always has. Nothing that is great about the United States was accomplished without immigrants.

Immigrants built our docks, they built our railroads, they built our automotive industry, and they built our technology industry.

If we were to close our borders completely, I believe we would be a second rate country within a couple of generations.

Immigration is new blood, new ideas, a work ethic, a belief in a better future, a willingness to take enormous risk, burn the boats, and get it done.

We need that in our society. We will die without it.

Whales Not Unicorns

I have been vocal here that I do not like the term Unicorn to describe highly valued venture-backed startups. Unicorns are mythical creatures that don’t really exist and highly valued venture-backed startups do exist. They might be rare, but they are not fictional.

A better word would be Whales. And it turns out that the Whaling industry in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries looked remarkably similar to today’s venture capital business.

Some of my friends and colleagues have been texting and tweeting about a book called VC: An American History by Tom Nicholas. So I got it on my Kindle and the first chapter is all about the Whaling industry and its similarities to the VC business.

Here are some photos I took of the first chapter on my phone.

This is a chart that plots the distribution of returns by whaling voyage vs venture capital fund.

This is a diagram that compares the structure of the whaling industry to the venture capital industry.

And this is a chart that shows the performance of the top 29 whaling agents. This is very similar to charts I have seen that compares the performance of the top venture capital firms.

So while Unicorns are made up creatures, Whales are not. And given the similarities between a highly successful venture capital investment and a highly successful whaling voyage, I am going to start calling the big winners in the venture industry Whales. I hope it catches on.

Video Of The Week: Fireside Chat With Brian Armstrong

Back in May, during Blockchain Week in NYC, I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, Brian Armstrong.

We started off talking about their rapidly growing institutional business, but quickly got to talking about everything Coinbase.

Brian also gets a question in for me about 17mins into the talk.

It’s about 10 minutes of me asking Brian questions and then another 20 minutes of Q&A from the audience.

Funding Friday: Bowling The American Dream

“Like many suburban kids growing up in the 70s, I was no stranger to the local bowling alley.”

So starts the video below for this Kickstarter project to make a photo book about the classic American bowling alley.

That line got me as I grew up a suburban kid in the 70s and spent many an afternoon and evening at the local bowling alley.

I backed this project and maybe you will too. It has three days to go and only needs $1200 to get across the finish line.

A Doctor For Sensitive Issues

Our portfolio company Nurx started out offering birth control prescriptions on a mobile phone delivered to you in the mail. This has been a game changer for many women who live far from a doctor or a pharmacy or live in places where it is not easy to get a birth control prescription.

But they have not stopped there. They added HIV Prep for people who are at risk for HIV and want to protect themselves. And then they added emergency contraception (the morning after pill).

And this week, Nurx added at home testing for sexually transmitted diseases. From that blog post:

The tests offerings include: The Full Control Kit, which tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia (throat, rectal, urine swabs), syphilis, hepatitis C, and HIV (blood sample), and is $75 with insurance or $220 without; The Healthy Woman’s Kit, which tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia (throat and vaginal swabs), trichomoniasis (vaginal swabs), syphilis and HIV (blood samples) and is $75 with insurance or $190 without; The Covered With the Basics Kit, which tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia (urine sample), syphilis and HIV (blood sample) and is $75 with health insurance or $150 without. The goal is to make STI testing easier, more affordable, and with fewer awkward face-to-face interactions with a potentially judgmental lab tech or doctor. The tests are available in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

The idea behind Nurx is that too many people put off going to see the doctor because they are ashamed, it is awkward, or it is inconvenient. And this is particularly true for sensitive issues.

Nurx believes that technology (the mobile phone, telemedicine, logistics, etc) can and will change this for most people and that we can all become healthier as a result. Preventive medicine is the most efficient and affordable kind of medicine and we need more of that in society.

Nurx has grown like a weed over the last two years which tells me that there is a large unmet need for this kind of health care and I am excited to see the Company continue to add more and more services as they grow.

Otis

One of USV’s newest portfolio companies, Otis, had a coming out party yesterday.

The idea behind Otis is that cultural assets like fine art, rare books and comic books, jewelry and watches, sneakers and skateboards, etc are appreciated by everyone but are only collectible/affordable by wealthy people.

Otis intends to change that by securitizing these cultural assets and selling them off in shares for as little as $25 per share. These fractionalized cultural assets will be shown publicly while they are owned collectively.

You can see how this all works by downloading the Otis mobile apps here.

I did that yesterday and I have already set myself up to try to buy a share of Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Jerome Hearing The Trumpet Of Last Judgement on August 13th.

I’ve also opted to be notified when these assets “drop” so I can purchase a share of them too.

I am not a sneakerhead but for those of you who are this might be of interest to you:

This is just the start of what will hopefully be a highly liquid secondary market for the trading and collecting of shares of cultural assets. The market is starting out highly curated by Otis but that may change over time as things develop.

USV’s focus right now is on backing trusted brands that can open up access to captial, knowledge, and well-being and Otis fits in all three of those categories. We are very excited to be involved in this ambitious effort.

The Heretic

I am reading a friend’s book which is still in proofs and so I’m not going to talk about it yet.

But there is one part of the book that really rang true for me and that is when he talks about certain kinds of problematic employees, particularly one he calls The Heretic.

This kind of employee, and we have all seen this up close, is negative about the Company and disses the management, coworkers, the board, the strategy, the workplace, and everything else under the sun. But for some reason the heretic prefers to stay and be miserable than to move on and find another place to work that is more to their liking.

My friend states in his book that you have to part ways with heretics in your company, regardless of how talented they are, how connected they are, and even if they are protected in some way. You have to find a way out of the heretic mess.

I agree with this advice and I have seen this play out in many ways. The worst way is to let this behavior go on unchecked. As painful as parting can be, and it can be incredibly painful depending on the circumstances, letting this behavior stand is worse.