Posts from November 2012


Folks in the AVC community are well aware of my passion and energy for bringing programming education and curriculum into our classrooms, both at the K12 and Higher Education levels. I feel like good things are starting to happen but we need to do so much more. We are not aligning the needs of the 21st century workforce with the skills we are teaching in our classrooms and that is a big mistake.

Congress has endorsed the week containing December 9th as Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) to recognize the critical role of computing in today’s society and the imperative to bolster computer science education at all levels. I am involved in some local efforts in NYC around CSEdWeek and I would like to highlight it to all of you because it is coming up.

The CSEdWeek website has resources for all the key consituents in this effort. Look for the box on the website that looks like this:


You can also sign the pledge for CSEdWeek. I just did that.

But most importantly, you can celebrate CSEdWeek in your school, your community, your company, and anywhere else you think it is relevant. This is at its core a movement by regular people trying to stimulate change in our education systems and help them make needed changes.

My partner Albert posted yesterday about what he is doing in his kids' school. It is efforts like that, which many of you have also taken on, that will bring the change we need. And that is what CSEdWeek is all about.

#hacking education

MBA Mondays: Revenue Models

We are kicking off our next series on MBA Mondays with an assignment. We are going to peer produce an exhaustive list of revenue models for web and mobile businesses. Then I will publish that list and use it as a template to do this series. I am not going to write a post on each revenue model but I am going to write posts on the top ones as well as discuss the pros and cons of each.

I've created a hackpad that we will use to do this assignment. I've filled in a few of the most obvious revenue models and have started grouping them into the big categories (advertising, commerce, subscriptions). There are certainly more revenue models and additional big categories that aren't on the list yet. So please go take a look and add anything that you think is missing.

I will publish the comprehensive list next monday and use that to kick off this series.

#MBA Mondays


The Gotham Gal and I saw Lincoln yesterday. I would encourage everyone, certainly every american citizen, to see it. Spielberg creates a time machine via the magic of film. And Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln is masterful. I feel like I got to spend 2 1/2 hours with my favorite President yesterday.

We all know the stories we were told in elementary school about the heroic President who went to war with his own country in order to save it. We all know his speeches and about his upbringing in a one room log cabin. That was enough to make Lincoln a hero of mine since childhood.

But what Spielberg and Day-Lewis capture is Lincoln's masterful manipulation of the american political system to cause it to do things considered impossible by both sides, most notably the passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery once and for all.

The film is based loosely on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team Of Rivals which is about Lincoln's political genius. I haven't read that book but I am certainly most tempted to after watching Lincoln.

But more than anything, the film conveys the greatness of this man. In the scene where he lies in his deathbed after the doctor declares the fight for his life over, you get a sense that Lincoln was a saint sent to our country in a time of need. There's also this one scene I can't get out of my head where he sits in the telegraph room trying to figure out what to tell Grant about the delegation from Richmond. He wonders outloud about his purpose and God's role in it.

The history of the United States is one where the right person showed up in times of need. Washington, Lincoln, FDR. We have been blessed to have heroic leaders in our most difficult moments. If you want to get a real sense of Lincoln's greatness, go see the movie. It is terrific.


AFSE Open House This Morning

I am not doing a regular post today because I am spending the morning helping to recruit eighth graders to attend The Academy for Software Engineering next fall

This is our second class for AFSE and this year we get to recruit in the fall alongside all the other high schools. Plus we get to do the open houses in our own school, which did not exist last year.

It is a great feeling to see an idea turn into a reality and then grow from there.

#hacking education

Feature Friday: Etsy Gift Cards

It might seem strange that a service that is seven years old would just be getting around to gift cards, but Etsy did not have its own payment service until this year. Paypal was the default payment system on Etsy for the first seven years of its life. Sellers can still accept payments via Paypal and for international sellers, Paypal is still the only payment option on Etsy.

One big benefit of having its own payment system, called Direct Checkout, is that Etsy can now offer gift cards which can be used to purchase from sellers on Direct Checkout. The majority of Etsy sellers in the US now accept Direct Checkout so that means hundreds of thousands of sellers will accept payment with Etsy Gift Cards.

As you might imagine, sending and receiving a gift card on Etsy is a beautiful experience.


So if you have a friend or loved one who enjoys buying on Etsy but you can't decide what to get them this holiday season, head on over to Etsy and buy them a gift card. I plan to do that a fair bit this year.


Turntable 2.0 and Passion Pit

The folks at Turntable aren't calling it 2.0, but it sure feels like a massive upgrade to me so that's what I call it when I talk about the new UI and big rooms concept that Turntable quietly launched yesterday without much fanfare.

Full disclosure, USV is an investor in Turntable and I am on the board., for those that don't know, is a live social music experience. Anyone can start a room in the service and a room features up to five users who jump up on stage and take turns DJing, and then the rest of the folks in the room listen, rate the songs, and chat. It is the most social music experience I have ever experienced online. I spend most mornings between 5am and 7am eastern hanging out in Turntable. Like most social online services, I have friends there who I have never met in person. I get better music discovery at Turntable from people I have never met than I get from anywhere else.

It makes sense if you think about it. Folks who are so passionate about music that they get up on stage and DJ live in front of everyone else will also likely have spent countless hours finding music that nobody else knows about yet. That's how music has always worked and how it will always work.

Turntable's achilles heel has always been that the rooms didn't scale. In version 1.0, when a room got to 200 people, it closed up to new entrants. So if you showed up looking to get into your favorite room you could often be out of luck. That is not and never was a good user experience.

Worse is that when a musician, artist, or celebrity showed up in one of the rooms, only 200 of their fans could get in to hear what they were up to. So the whole viral nature of an artist with hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans tweeting out that they are in a room in Turntable was mostly wasted in version 1.0.

All of that has been fixed in Turntable 2.0. The rooms scale up as more users show up. The UI changes in real time. A room starts out feeling like a tiny club and could end up feeling like an arena concert. Here's an example of a "big room" in action:

Turnable big rooms

It's a real work of UI art and kudos go out to Billy and Byron for their work in building the new Turntable UI.

They've also made a bunch of smaller changes, cleaned some things up, moved some things around, speeded it up considerably, and made the service easier to join and get into quickly. I've been watching this new version emerge over the past few months and am so excited as a user to be able to experience it myself now.

If you want to see a big room in action, you can log into Turntable today at 3pm eastern to catch the electropop act Passion Pit playing some of their songs in Turntable. I expect that room will fill up nicely. I am going to try to get in and check it out myself in between running around SF between meetings. I hope to see you there.


DuoLingo iPhone App

Our portfolio company DuoLingo has released its first mobile app, DuoLingo for iPhone.

Language learning is definitely something that lends itself to doing here and there when you have some downtime, like standing in line, sitting on the train, waiting for the movie to start.

So if you really want to learn a new language or improve your mastery of another language, check out DuoLingo on the iPhone. It's an entirely free app and they are supporting French, Spanish, and German to start. More languages will be coming soon.


How Well Do You Take A Punch?

I was talking to a friend who has been displaced because of Sandy. They are struggling to get back to their daily routine and it is hard living out of a suitcase without access to the things they rely on from day to day.

I was talking to the CEO of a company whose business was negatively impacted by Sandy. They are struggling to get the business back to where it was before the hurricane.

One is a personal thing. The other is a work thing. But they are the same thing. Life punches you in the face and you might get knocked out. The question is can you get back up and keep going.

The best entrepreneurs do this well. They can take a hit and keep moving forward. And they can rally their teams to do the same thing. That latter point is so important. If the leader is down for the count, the team doesn't have a chance. But if the leader is up and moving forward, with passion and committment to the goal, then the team will follow.

Sometimes a crisis is a good thing for a company. Recovering from a knockout punch often requires heroic efforts from the team. I have seen engineers get things built in a week that might take a quarter under normal circumstances. I have seen sales teams bring in business that kept the company afloat at the last minute. These heroic efforts can energize an organization and give it new life.

Normal operating conditions can lead to an organization getting fat and happy. A crisis can shake things loose that need to be shaken loose. I would not suggest an entrepreneur manufacture a crisis when one does not exist. But when one comes along, I would suggest seeing it as an opportunity not a problem. Because the best entrepreneurs and the best companies can take a punch and keep going. It is a defining trait of winning teams.

#VC & Technology

MBA Mondays: Next Topics

Back at the end of April I wrote a post asking for ideas for the next few topics for MBA Mondays. Out of that came the series on People which I followed with a series on Sustainability. It's time for a new series and I want to check in with everyone to see where you'd like me to go next.

The Disqus thread from that post in late April are full of suggestions so you might wade into them and see which suggestions interest you most. Or simply leave a comment with a topic you'd like to see me do a series on.

#MBA Mondays