Prioritizing Content Consumption

A reader recently wrote me this email:

I’d be very interested in a blog piece from you on how you prioritise what content to read/watch/listen to. There’s so much out there, and it doesn’t stop. You seem to balance a very busy job with significant content consumption and some healthy time off.

Curious as to how you do it without it becoming a major distraction.

The key word for me in that email is “prioritise” because it suggests a system in which I conciously decide what content is most important to consume.

The truth is pretty much the opposite. I don’t have much process, system, and organization in my life.

What I do have is routine and I use that routine to set and keep priorities.

This blog is a big piece of that routine. I post an audio or video piece every Saturday so I want to check out audio and video that I think the AVC readership would be interested during the week so I have something to post.

Similarly, I need things to write about and reading what other people think and write about is quite helpful to me in figuring out what to write about.

I have several dozen friends who are always sending me things to read or watch or listen to. Many/most of these people do not work in tech but are hyper-curious and have great breadth of interest. They are my most valuable source of content and inspiration and I have cultivated these relationships over my entire adult life. This was not calculated or planned. It is just happened.

Most importantly, I do not allow technology to drive what content I consume. I use Twitter but drop in and out of it occasionally to get a taste. I don’t drink from it’s fire hose. I let Google Now send me alerts but I understand they are filter bubbling me and mainly use it to make sure I see certain things. I have a Facebook account but have not actively used it since they went hostile on Twitter almost ten years ago.

Maybe some day technology will be able to do for me what humans can do, but today it is the exact opposite. Technology shows me things I already know about. Humans show me things I don’t know about.

I have a very strong bias to read/watch/listen to things that I know nothing about. I can go deep if I need to but I would prefer to be a mile wide and an inch deep in terms of what I know about.

I wish I read more books. I can’t read business books. I find them dull and boring. I love novels and read them when I can but I maybe read five to ten novels a year. Books are the biggest casualty of the current demands on my time.

We also don’t watch a lot of TV in our home. I like to watch live sports and often wind down with sports before going to bed. But we don’t binge on Netflix or anything like that. This provides us a lot of time for other things.

So that’s how I approach content consumption. It works for me. I don’t know if it will work for you. This is not a recommendation as much as an answer to an interesting question from a regular reader.

Why Decentralization Matters

As you can see, I am not writing this presidents day weekend. I explained why on friday.

Instead I’ve been posting things that I found worth sharing with all of you.

Today, I want to share a blog post written by my friend Chris Dixon about decentralization.

This is a portion of the post that I like very much.

Decentralization is a commonly misunderstood concept. For example, it is sometimes said that the reason cryptonetwork advocates favor decentralization is to resist government censorship, or because of libertarian political views. These are not the main reasons decentralization is important.

Let’s look at the problems with centralized platforms. Centralized platforms follow a predictable life cycle. When they start out, they do everything they can to recruit users and 3rd-party complements like developers, businesses, and media organizations. They do this to make their services more valuable, as platforms (by definition) are systems with multi-sided network effects. As platforms move up the adoption S-curve, their power over users and 3rd parties steadily grows.

 

When they hit the top of the S-curve, their relationships with network participants change from positive-sum to zero-sum. The easiest way to continue growing lies in extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits. Historical examples of this are Microsoft vs Netscape, Google vs Yelp, Facebook vs Zynga, and Twitter vs its 3rd-party clients. Operating systems like iOS and Android have behaved better, although still take a healthy 30% tax, reject apps for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and subsume the functionality of 3rd-party apps at will.

For 3rd parties, this transition from cooperation to competition feels like a bait-and-switch. Over time, the best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms. We now have decades of evidence that doing so will end in disappointment. In addition, users give up privacy, control of their data, and become vulnerable to security breaches. These problems with centralized platforms will likely become even more pronounced in the future.

Click here to read the entire thing.

Audio Of The Week: A Decentralized AI Platform

My friend Gordon texted me this podcast and said “AI, blockchain, and homomorphic data. Trifecta!”

I gave it a listen and indeed some very interesting concepts are discussed in this one.

Video Of The Week: Is Crypto the Future of Early Stage Funding?

A lot of people in the crypto sector have suggested that ICOs and tokens are the future of early stage investing and highly disruptive to my business (venture capital).

In this video (yet another from the Upfront Conference), VCs and other investors discuss why that may not be the case.

Fun Friday: Skiing

The long Presidents Weekend has always been ski time for our us.

And the same is true this year. We’ve arrived in ski country with a bunch of friends and plan on being out on the mountains for the next three days.

Skiing (and Boarding) is an incredible combination of being outdoors in the mountains surrounded by awesome beauty and an exhilarating athletic experience. I’ve been skiing since I was a teenager and it’s always been one of my favorite things to do.

The Dronebase API – Assign Drone Missions Directly In Your Workflow

Our portfolio company DroneBase announced another round of funding today but the more exciting thing to me is that they have built out and are scaling the operational layer for the drone industry.

From their announcement:

DroneBase recently completed over 100,000 commercial drone missions for enterprise clients across various industries such as real estate, insurance, telecommunications, construction, and media. The company has the largest, most engaged and skilled drone pilot network, having grown it 10x year over year for the past two years. Through this network, DroneBase is able to turn around a client mission in less than 48 hours anywhere in the United States, since its pilots are active in all 50 states and over 60 countries.

And you can access that network via the Dronebase API.

So if you are in the insurance, real estate, construction, media, or telecom business and need to acquire aerial imagery on a regular basis, you can connect your internal systems to Dronebase’s pilot network via this API and assign missions directly from your applications.

More and more of Dronebase’s customers and channel partners are operating this way which is driving the 10x annual growth in mission volumes I cited above.

Drones allow companies to do things less expensively or more safely (roof inspections) or do things that could not previously be done cost effectively (monitor a construction site) and missions are incredibly affordable on the Dronebase network (low hundreds of dollars) and all of this is available programmatically which drives operational efficiencies. If you think your company could benefit from working with the Dronebase Pilot Network, you can contact Dronebase here.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. It’s a day to celebrate and and care for the people we love.

A special shout-out to my son Josh who was born twenty two years ago today.

Stash Your Cash

My partner Rebecca announced our most recent investment yesterday in a company called Stash.

Stash is a simple mobile app that you connect to your bank account and each week (or month) you stash some of your cash away (ie save) and the app invests it for you in a portfolio of funds that it puts together for you based on your investing interests.

Here is my current Stash portfolio:

As you can see, I “auto stash” $25/week and it gets invested in the first three funds.

I have also directly bought four additional funds. I get mobile notifications on my phone when new funds are offered (like “corporate cannabis”, that was an instant buy).

I can move around where I want my weekly auto-stash funds to get invested. I think I might do that today and direct more funds toward some of these other funds that I quite like.

If you want to get Stash on your phone and start saving and investing, you can do that here:   iOS   Android

Clearly Stash is not aimed at people like me. We have traditional brokerage accounts and portfolios that we manage there.

Stash is aimed at young adults and people who are having difficulty saving for their future (home, college, retirement, etc).

As Rebecca wrote in her post:

85% of users on Stash come in as either beginners or without any investing experience and now can open their investment account with as little as $5.

That is a great stat. Stash is helping to build a new generation and a new cohort of savers and investors. With the decline of pension plans and other “safety nets”, it is more important than ever that everyone learn to save and invest. And the only way to do it is one day, week, month at at time and using the power of compounding earnings to your advantage.

When we looked closely at our USV portfolio recently, we realized that most of our best investments are all about expanding access to knowledge, capital, and wellbeing. Stash fits directly in that theme by making saving and investing easy and affordable for everyone (in the US for now).

Pixel Buds vs AirPods

When I got my new Pixel 2XL recently, the Google Play Store offered me to add the Pixel Buds to my cart and get them for half price. Normally they are $159 (same price as AirPods).

So I took up Google on the offer and after I set up my Pixel 2XL, I paired my Pixel Buds to my phone and used them as my headphones.

That experiment lasted less than a week and last Wednesday when I was in SF for the day, I stopped by the Apple Store in Union Square and bought a pair of AirPods.

The Pixel Buds are not great and the AirPods are excellent.

Here are five reasons I feel that way:

1/ The AirPods fit in my ear (and from what I heard most ears) without any issue. The Pixel Buds fit weirdly and require the user to use this rope thing to make them fit properly in the ear. I could never get the rope thing to work right. The fact that the AirPods fit in the ear right out of the box without any work is fantastic.

2/ When my phone was paired with the Pixel Buds, it would not also pair with my car or my Bose headphones (which I prefer on planes and such). I don’t have that issue with the AirPods.

3/ I could not figure out how turn the Pixel Buds on and off when they were in my ear. I know that you are supposed to push on the right bud to turn them on and off but I could not make that work, particularly in a rush when I had a phone call coming in. The AirPods are simple. You just put them in your ear and take them out.

4/ The charging case for the Pixel Buds is kind of lame. I could not figure out when the buds were charging and when they were not. The charging case for the AirPods is a thing of beauty and simplicity.

5/ I hate the cord around my neck that the Pixel Buds requires. I love the nothingness feeling of the AirPods.

So, if it is contest, the AirPods win 5-0. It really is no contest. The AirPods are awesome. The Pixel Buds suck.

So I’m using AirPods with my Pixel 2XL and loving it. And I got this tip (from my Google Now Alerts) to use this Android App to mimic the AirPod battery management on the phone. It works great.

Streaming The Olympics

Yesterday morning something amusing happened.

My friend and I were headed out to go skiing and we both got texts from our children asking for the logins to our cable accounts.

I thought to myself that there must be tens of thousands of those text messages being sent at that moment.

Many of our adult children don’t have cable television. They stream their media over their laptops and AppleTVs.

And so when something big like the Olympics comes along, they head over to the network’s streaming services and they need to log in with their cable television credentials. Which, of course they don’t have. But their parents do.

This has been going on in our family for some time, but I realized yesterday that this goes on in many families these days.

The parents are still on cable, the kids are not, and at times, the kids need their parent’s logins.

The entire system is kind of whacky and designed to preserve the cable company’s relationships with the networks. It works, but it is clunky, and easily worked around.

I wonder how long this charade will continue before a better model emerges.