Pixelbook Reactions

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was getting more interested in a Chromebook.

And I got a ton of great feedback from all of you. Thank you for that.

I purchased a Pixelbook and have been using it at the USV office for the last few weeks.

Here are my initial thoughts on it:

1/ I quite like the lack of a desktop OS in the computer. The Pixelbook boots right into the browser and you do everything there. That is great for me and the way I work.

2/ The keyboard took me a bit of getting used to. I am used to the keyboard shortcuts on the Mac and it’s hard to switch away from them.

3/ I still use a Mac at home so it is a bit strange going from one computer to another and back during the day. But it is not terrible.

4/ I would really appreciate a biometric login, like a fingerprint or a face recognition. Having to enter my long and strong Google password every time I wake the computer back up is a challenge. I have heard that the next Pixelbook will come with biometric login. If so, that would be a big improvement in my view.

5/ The size, shape, screen, and weight are all great. It feels roughly equivalent to a MacBook to me.

I plan to continue to use the Pixelbook at the USV office for the foreseeable future. If Google makes one with biometric login, I will get that one instead.

However, I am not yet ready to move my entire computing experience away from the Mac. That is going to take me getting a lot more used to the Pixelbook and ChromeOS. It could happen, but not yet.

How Diversity Happens

Henry Ward, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Carta, wrote a post yesterday outlining the gender inequity on cap tables throughout the startup landscape.

It is a good post and I would recommend you click through and read it.

In it, Henry writes:

When I started Carta I didn’t focus on diversity because I was worrying about staying alive. Then we hit our growth phase and went from 20 employees to 400 in 48 months. I assumed diversity would happen on its own. Of course it didn’t. I didn’t realize how much deliberate focus it takes. I do now.

That is a pretty typical story.

A few years at our annual CEO summit, Scott Heiferman, founder and CEO of Meetup, told a room full of startup CEOs that you have to build diversity into your company from day one because if you don’t, it becomes so much harder later on. He explained that nobody wants to join a company where nobody looks like them. That really hit home and woke quite a few people up.

All companies and people suffer from back burnering things. You focus on what you must get done and everything else takes a back seat.

That doesn’t work when it comes to hiring and diversity. You have to prioritize it and make it intentional.

We have done that recently at USV and we are getting the desired results.

That is very exciting to me.

Cloudflare’s IPFS Gateway

This post is jam-packed with conflicts. It is about not one, but two, of USV’s portfolio companies. The more the better in my view.

Our portfolio company Cloudflare announced yesterday that they have launched an IPFS Gateway.

IPFS is an open protocol built and supported by our portfolio company Protocol Labs that facilitates a peer-to-peer file system composed of thousands of computers around the world, each of which stores files on behalf of the network.

So why is this a big deal?

Well, here are a few reasons. You can all add more in the comments.

1/ Cloudflare is a massively scaled infrastructure company. By offering a hosted IPFS gateway, none of us need to download and run IPFS software on our computers anymore. Cloudflare will do it for us.

2/ IPFS is awesome. It decentralizes file hosting, which has historically been a centralized affair on the internet. The Cloudflare post has a really great primer on IPFS in it so go there if you want to learn more.

3/ We are one step closer to the decentralized blogging platform that I have long wanted. From the CloudFlare post, “Using Cloudflare’s gateway, you can also build a website that’s hosted entirely on IPFS, but still available to your users at a custom domain name. Plus, we’ll issue any website connected to our gateway a free SSL certificate, ensuring that each website connected to Cloudflare’s gateway is secure from snooping and manipulation.”

And yesterday’s announcement is just day one of “crypto week” at Cloudflare where each day they will be announcing support for a new technology that uses cryptography to make the Internet better. I love that. I love Cloudflare. I love Protocol Labs. And I love IPFS. /fin

Creative Prompts

The Gotham Gal and I listened to the recent Howard Stern interview of Paul McCartney yesterday on a drive from long island to NYC.

It’s a great interview, about 1 1/2 hours long, with incredible stories and lots of music.

Howard picks out songs, plays them, and Paul talks about how each one came about.

If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, you can listen on the web or SiriusXM mobile app.

I highly recommend it.

Near the end (1 hour 17 mins into the interview), Paul tells a story about being challenged by Dustin Hoffman at a dinner party to write a song “about anything.”

Paul accepts the challenge and so Dustin and the other guests decide Pablo Picasso’s last words should be the thing to write a song about.

Those words, as Picasso was heading to bed, were “drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore.”

And so Paul wrote this song to those words.

And as he was telling this story to Howard, Paul says “I kind of like it, it puts you outside your comfort zone for an hour.”

I can totally relate to that.

This blog is that way.

I wake up every morning not knowing what I am going to write and before heading off to the gym or work, or both, I have written something and posted it.

Most frequently I wake up with something on my mind that leads to the post of the day.

Which, coming back to Paul McCartney, is how many of Paul’s songs happened. He would wake up with a song in his head and then he’d get out the guitar or sit at the piano and play it.

The creative process is hard to comprehend, but working with what is on your mind, challenging yourself, and getting outside of your comfort zone are three tricks that have worked for me and apparently also Paul McCartney, arguably the greatest songwriter of our time.

Marathon Man

The New York Times has a piece up on Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s best marathon runner.

I read it with interest yesterday as I like to think of startups as marathons and I am always on the lookout for ideas and insights that can help entrepreneurs and investors.

Eliud is an impressive person and, as you might expect, he is extremely disciplined.

He says in the piece:

Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.

That rings so true to me.

It is true in investing, where I like to have a framework and stick to it and not let my emotions get in the way.

But it is also true in building companies.

Being focused on the long game and what you want to achieve is the best way to get there.

I see many teams looking around at what others are doing and it makes them crazy.

And I see a few teams heads down, executing their plan, and it makes them calm.

In the short run, it can often seem like nothing is getting done, and your competitors are passing you by.

But, like the marathon runner, it is never the sprinter that wins the race, it is the dogged and determined that is there at the end with the trophy in hand.

Eliud just broke the world record in Berlin today. He finished in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds.

He’s an inspiration to all of us.

Video Of The Week: Brian Armstrong at Disrupt

There is a narrative in crypto land that you are either in the “crypto is money” camp or the “crypto is tech” camp. This blog post from Erik Torenberg sums that up pretty nicely.

The interview below is from TechCrunch Disrupt a week or so ago. Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, was interviewed by Fitz Tepper.

There are a couple points in this interview where Brian is presented with a version of that narrative. For example Fitz asked Brian “are you a tech company or a finance company.”

I like how Brian acknowledges that framework but ultimately concludes that the answer is neither, that Coinbase is a crypto company and that crypto is both tech and money.

I am of that view as well and I am glad to see leaders in the crypto sector articulating it.

Funding Friday: The Reflection Ritual

A friend of a friend is doing this project to make a workbook that can help us step back and take measure of our lives, what they are, and what we want them to be.

It’s a neat idea and I think it can be quite helpful, particularly if you feel stuck right now.

I backed it earlier this week and you may want to do the same.

Voting

Today is primary day in New York State. The polls open at 6am and stay open until 9pm.

There are primary races for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General as well as a bunch of statewide races for State Senate and State Assembly.

In NYC, and to a lesser extent in New York State, the primary can be the election as the city and state lean left.

So I encourage everyone in New York State to go out to the polls and vote today.

It all comes down to voting in a democracy. Marching feels great. Tweeting feels great. Polls make the news. But voting is the political action that really counts unless you can give gobs of money to candidates which most voters cannot and don’t do.

I plan to get to my polling place early on the way to an early start to the workday.

I always feel great pulling that lever. I hope you do too.

The Unbundling Of Health Care

Naomi Shah, one of our analysts at USV, has been doing a deep dive on health care since she joined us this past spring.

She has started to publish a series of blog posts on what she has learned and what she thinks is investable at the intersection of healthcare and consumer tech.

Kind of like putting our playbook on display before we have even implemented it.

But that is how we roll at USV.

At least this way, we get feedback and input on these sector theses which ultimately make them even better.

And we get a lot of incoming pitches from entrepreneurs working in our target areas as a result of making our playbooks public.

She starts off her series with a post on the unbundling of health care and compares it to what has happened in financial services.

Naomi ends this post with this observation:

these observations seem to indicate some unbundling of the existing large, monolithic systems in healthcare towards a more open, local, independent and transparent model, with control residing with individual users. And ultimately, this could change the way healthcare is delivered to consumers.

“A more open, local, independent and transparent model, with control residing with the individual users” sounds exactly what we like to invest in at USV so expect to see more investing in health care from us and more posts from Naomi. You can find her posts on USV.com and/or follow Naomi here.

Remembering 9/11

On Sunday morning, I rode my bike by the memorial in lower Manhattan where the twin towers used to stand.

They have done a wonderful job rebuilding that area and the memorial itself is inspiring in just the right way, somber and reflective and serious.

Seventeen years is a long time.

Children, like ours, who were just old enough to know what happened and why, are now adults, living their own lives, going to work every morning.

Life moves on, the wounds heal.

But the scars are still there, in our hearts, our minds, and on the ground where it happened.

I am taking some time today to remember that day and the people we lost.

This post is part of that.