Posts from July 2013

Mailing It In

We flew down to Williamsburg Virginia yesterday to attend my dad's 85th birthday. He and my mom are in great shape and my brothers and their families were there. It was a great evening.

On the flight down, Josh and I read the Jay-Z article in NY Magazine and the review of his new record where the consensus was he "mailed it in". On the one hour drive from the airport Josh played the new record on his phone aux'd into our rental car and we talked about Jay-Z, the songs, and what mailing it in really means. At one point, Josh said "he didn't write this song, he barely raps on it, he just put it on the record". And I explained to him that Jay-Z might not be the rapper he once was but he's well on his way to becoming one of the biggest media moguls of his generation.

The song Jay-Z "didn't even write" made me think about my Video Of The Week posts. For me, those are "mailing it in." I don't feel like writing on saturdays so I post videos that I think you all might like to watch.

I worry a lot about mailing it in. Not just on AVC, but in all aspects of my business career. I don't worry about mailing it in when it comes to my family life. The Gotham Gal would never allow it.

There comes a time when you have had all the success you can ever imagine and it's tempting to kick back and enjoy life a bit more. There are days when I wake up and look at the blog post compose screen and think "what the hell am I going to say today?" There are days when I wake up and think "I'd like to blow off all of my meetings, go on a long bike ride, have a late breakfast sitting outside at my favorite cafe, and then read and nap all day long." And yet I don't do either. I keep grinding away.

Part of it is relevance. You are either relevant or you are not. And relevance is critical to the business I am in. I don't think you can be somewhat relevant. That's called "over the hill" "past his prime" "semi-retired."

And part of it is that the next big deal is just around the corner. I've been getting busier lately. Looking to make more new investments. I'm seeing opportunities I can't stop thinking about. I am starting to see around the corner. That feels good to me.

And part of it is that feeling when you realize that the two person startup you backed four years ago is a juggernaut now, they are going to absolutely kill it, realize their dreams, and create an iconic long standing game changing company. It doesn't take too many moments like that to keep you in the game. It's like making a birdie in golf. It doesn't happen to me very often, but it happens enough that I can't stop playing golf, as bad as I am at the game.

I may not be good at golf, but I've gotten pretty good at blogging and being A VC. I may mail it in every now and then, but I feel like I am still at the top of my game and have no intention of calling it quits any time soon. So if you are that two person startup that will give me my next birdie, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I don't reply to every email that comes in but I reply to a ton of them and I sure hope I reply to yours.

By the way, I am listening to Jay-Z's new record while I am writing this. I am enjoying it very much.

#VC & Technology

Video Of The Week: Albert Wenger at the Delaware B Corporation Announcement

This week Delaware, where many of the top US companies are incorporated, announced that their corporate statutes will recognize the B Corporation (Benefit Corporation).

My partner Albert Wenger, who has been a long and loud champion of the B Corporation, spoke at the event in Delaware this past week about why this is so important for both entrepreneurs and investors.

At 3:39, this is short enough that everyone should give it a watch this weekend.


Fun Friday: Staying Cool

It's time for a fun friday again. I'm not sure when the last time we did this, but it's been a while.

I've been in europe all week where it has been warm. But I've heard that its been steamy in NYC where I am headed this evening.

So with that in mind, how do you keep cool when the temps reach 100 degrees and it feels like a sauna outside?

The obvious answer is air conditioning. But I am looking for other options.

I like to go for a bike ride in the early morning, like 6am, when its still bearable out, and I also like to take a walk along the hudson river in the evenings where there is often a breeze when there isn't one anywhere else in the city.

How do you stay cool when it gets hot outside?

#Random Posts

Transparency Please

[crossposted from]

Today, we have joined a large and diverse group of companies, non-profits and consumer advocates in an open letter urging the US government to allow internet and telecom companies to freely report statistics on government surveillance requests.

As we've discussed before, standing up for your users is a feature. As we all move more and more of our lives online and into our phones, the data we are producing — and sharing, whether we know it or not — is growing exponentially. The extent to which we can trust the services we use to steward our data appropriately is a matter of global economic importance.

At the same time, our understanding and expectations of privacy are changing quickly. We are using network analysis to solve problems on every front — whether that's finding a cure for cancer, selling products more effectively, managing our energy consumption, or fighting crime. In every case, that means looking for patterns and connections in the vast quantities of data we produce. Our colleague Albert has argued repeatedly that we as a society need to be having an open discussion about the risks and merits of network analysis, and the tradeoffs we're willing to make in terms of privacy, innovation and security.

One thing that's clear is that we can't have that conversation in the context of vast, secret, unaccountable and unchecked surveillance programs. Rather, we need to bring more transparency and more data to the discussion.

We can start to do this by being open about the extent of data sharing between internet companies and governments. Google pioneered this approach in 2010 with their Transparency Report, and Twitter has done the same since 2012. However, it has become clear over the past month that even when a transparent relationship with their users about the use of user data is an important brand promise, companies are prevented by the government from delivering on that promise when confronted by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests and National Security Letters.

Today's letter requests that internet and telecom companies be allowed to freely publish data about the volume and character of the government surveillance requests they receive. This is a small, but reasonable and necessary step towards increasing the public dialogue around privacy, surveillance, and network analysis.

To sign on to the public petition for transparency around internet surveillance, visit



Misunderstanding Twitter

I am writing this on my phone in a Hailo cab in London so forgive the typos and lack of links. I will clean this up later.

On the flight over from Brussels I read the International Herald Tribune. In today’s copy was an opinion piece by Joe Nocera where he explained why he doesn’t like (and doesn’t use) Twitter. The piece is here

His two basic complaints are the short bursty nature of the discourse and the hate that is spewed at him on the service.

I cannot argue with either observation at face value but when you dig deeper his arguments come up empty for me.

First as to the bursty nature of Twitter, I would argue that is what makes Twitter so great. But Twitter is more like the old stock and news tickers that ran headlines all day long. We still have long form discourse but you have to click on the links and leave Twitter to get to it. You can come back and react on Twitter but honestly the better discussions often happen in the comment threads like the one here at AVC or on Reddit or Hacker News.

As to the issue of hate spewing, that is an issue with all open social platforms. I have experienced people taking aim at me on Twitter, but also on blogs, and in communities around the web. Many traditional journalists have been somewhat protected by the closed nature of their publications. The hating that is aimed at them has mostly happened offline so its not in their face. When it hits them in their face they are shocked.

I’ve gotten used to it. Some people don’t like me or what I say and write That is a good thing. Getting sucked up to is way worse and trust me I get plenty of that too.

So my reaction to Joe’s piece on Twitter is he should dive in, get involved, and see why it has become the open communication channel of this century.


Back In Ljubljana

Back in 2008, we invested in a small team out of SeedCamp called Zemanta. They were located in Ljubljana Slovenia but I met them in London. The following summer I visited the company in its hometown along with the Gotham Gal and our son Josh. I blogged about that trip here at AVC.

In the ensuing years, the founders moved back and forth between the US and Slovenia, encountered significant visa issues, and eventually built a strong business team in NYC and SF and Seattle. So the board meetings have been held in the US for the most part over the years with a few in London as well.

The founders decided that it was time to have a board meeting in Slovenia again and I made the trip yesterday (with some delays as noted in yesterday's blog post). Last night, as we walked through the lovely center of town along the river I was reminded of that trip we made four years ago and the wonderful time we had here.

We have a few portfolio companies that were started outside of the US and where the dev and product teams are still located in the home territory but the business team has moved to the US. This is a time tested model and has certain advantages. But it is easy to focus on the business team in the US and forget about the folks back home who are actually building the stuff.

I am excited to spend a morning with the "home team" and get to see the new offices. I've learned a lot working on the Zemanta investment, most notably that entrepreneurship is alive and well in many places around the world. It's great getting out and seeing that in action.

#Blogging On The Road#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology

The Joys Of Business Travel

I took the overnight flight from JFK to CDG Paris. We arrived an hour late and even though we rushed through the maze of terminals that is CDG, we got to the gate a minute or two before the departure time and were told we could not get on the plane to Ljubljana. To make matters worse there is only one direct flight from CDG to Ljubljana each day and that was the flight we were on. It was painful to watch it fold up the stairs and back away without us on it.

So now we are in the gate awaiting a flight to Frankfurt where will will attempt to race across the airport and catch a connecting flight to Ljubljana from that airport.

Anyone who does a significant amount of business travel has had this sort of thing happen to them multiple times. I used to let it stress me out. Now I am pretty zen about it.

If we miss our connecting flight in Frankfurt I may be in need of restaurant recommendations in Frankfurt.

#Blogging On The Road

The Sharing Economy

There's a piece in the NY Times this weekend about Lyft and Sidecar changing the dynamics in the Los Angeles taxi market. Get ready to read lots more pieces like this in the coming years.

The internet, mobile phones, native transaction systems, and a global network that connects billions of people in real time are changing a lot of things and assets that sat wasting are now going to get activated.

None of this is news for readers of this blog. In fact, this is all old news. But I think we are just seeing the start of this trend.

Let's look at self driving cars, another topic that the NY Times wrote about recently. Maybe we won't all own one of them. Maybe investors will own them and put them into networks like Lyft and Sidecar which will then dispatch them to pick us up and take us where we want to go. Self driving cars may turn out to be more like income producing homes, apartments, and oil wells than something that sits in your garage.

Investing in the networks that light up the sharing economy, like Airbnb, Lyft, Sidecar, and many others certainly looks like a good idea. But they may just be opening up a massive new investment market in physical assets that produce income. We are seeing lenders move their money from banks and bonds to peer lending markets like our portfolio companies Lending Club, Funding Circle, and Auxmoney. I think in time investors will move their capital into the assets that power the sharing economy as well. And that may turn into a very large capital asset class.

#hacking finance

Feature Friday: Buying Bitcoins Instantly

Our portfolio company Coinbase introduced a new feature yesterday, the ability to buy Bitcoins instantly. I've always thought speed was the single most important feature of any app. And in the case of buying Bitcoin, the four day wait time that was the norm at Coinbase was certainly problematic. Now, if you are a fully verified user, you can buy and sell up to 50 BTC instantly.

Bitcoin is a fairly immature technology at this time. The opportunity for entrepreneurs is to build technology, systems, processes, procedures, and a lot more on top of it so that it can become something "normals" will be comfortable using.

There are reasons why it used to take four days to settle a BTC purchase at Coinbase. And they've done a bunch of things to make it possible for a verified user to buy instantly. Over time, I expect they will build more things that will make it easier for a new user to get this kind of capability.

Many people are focused on the price of BTC and whether it is going up or down. Speculating on BTC is obviously one way to make (or lose) money right now. But I think the bigger opportunity is in making Bitcoin easy to understand, buy, stell, store, and transact in. And that will take a lot of engineering, innovation, and other efforts. So I am glad to see Coinbase engaging in that activity and rolling new stuff out. That is going to be good for both them and the market in general.

#hacking finance