Posts from 2013

Fun Friday: My Favorite Songs Of 2013

As promised in last friday's post, I am going to share with all of you my favorite songs of 2013. This list is a mix of indie, pop, and hiphop. That's what I listen to. There are 17 songs on it – one cover, and sixten originals. The record of the year for me was the Arctic Monkey's AM and there are two songs on here from it and we kick it off with a Drake cover from Alex. And in another homage to the boys from Sheffield, it is called Mad Sounds of 2013. Enjoy.


Markets and Clearing Prices

Last saturday night in NYC was a bit of a moment for Uber and their surge pricing mechanic. Most people were seeing 3x-5x in manhattan for most of the night and there were reports of 10x for some people.

There was a snowstorm, people were out at holiday parties, and there was more demand for rides than there were cabs. So in some sense the market worked and rides went to those who were willing to pay the most for them.

The next day Mo Koyman tweeted about it and one of the larger twitter conversations I have seen developed.

Today my partner Albert wrote a post about it and noted a couple issues with the way surge pricing works and the way the urban transportation market works. He also points out that the best way to get around NYC is the subway, which is how I got home from a holiday party last night around 10:30pm. I love the subway a lot more than I love any other form of transportation in NYC.

However, this is an interesting discussion because it points out that as markets/networks (Uber) replace hierarchies/bureaucracies (the TLC), we are running into issues that are going to have to work themselves out over time. As Albert points out in his post, the current yellow cab fare model is even more flawed than Uber's surge pricing model. Ideally we will see more supply emerge and a real marketplace structure develop in urban ride sharing. Then we may get reasonably priced rides on a wintery and festive night in NYC.

And then, of course, there is always the subway.


Crowdfunding Brooklyn Castle: An Update

I woke up to this email:

Hi Fred,

This weekend our team traveled to Florida to compete in the National Grade Chess Championships.

We won!

Our sixth graders and our seventh graders each won the team championships after three grueling days of seven games each of which could last up to three hours.

Thank you for your support!

here is a link to a little video the kids made today…sorry to say i am better at chess that video production..if the kids look exhausted it is because we arrived back in NY at 1 am last night.



To everyone in the AVC community who contributed to the DonorsChoose that made this possible, thank you.

And do yourself a favor and click on that link from the email and watch the 30 second video. It made me happy and I think it will do the same for you.

#hacking education

Targetspot and Radionomy

Yesterday we announced a deal that I have been working on for the past three months. Our portfolio company Targetspot has merged with Radionomy, the leading streaming radio company in Europe.

The combination creates the largest global audio ad network and brings Radionomy to the US. It also gives the Targestpot network an anchor tenant that will make it easier to do sophisticated targeting campaigns that require both scale and reach. Advertisers can now leverage the capabilities of a digital audio network with reach to over 75M listeners and more than 80 publishers in both the U.S. and Europe.

The streaming audio business has gone mainstream in most parts of the world and is operating at a very large scale now. The advertising opportunities in streaming audio are attractive and there is no better place to reach a large and diverse base of listners than the Targetspot network.

I always look for mergers where 1+1=more than 2. This is one of those. And I am excited to see what Radionomy and Targetspot can do together.

#streaming audio

Taking To Dos and Moving Up The Y Axis

I chromecasted the kitchen laptop to our family room TV yesterday morning and watched the entire Sarah Lacy interview with Dick Costolo. Yes, I had posted it as the video of the week without watching it in its entirety. But I knew it would be good. And it was. All two plus hours of it.

Dick has this management framework that I've heard him talk about before. He and Sarah talked about it in the Pando talk. It goes something like this:

If you think about what you are trying to accomplish in a meeting with someone you are managing and you plot the following:

one the x axis – whether you clearly communicated the issue to the person

on the y axis – whether they walk out of the meeting happy or mad at you

Dick's point is you want to optimize for the x axis, clear and crisp communication, and not worry too much about the y axis.

In his talk with Sarah, they talked about meetings that "move up the y axis". Dick put it this way.

In delivering difficult news to the person, you start trying to make them feel better. The next thing you know "you are taking to dos and moving up the y axis and you are going to spend all afternoon on those to dos you took".

Dick's meta point here is your job as a manager is to give people direction not to make them feel good. And if you, in an effort to make them happier, take on a bunch of work that you shouldn't, you will be less effective too.

As Sarah put it, "don't move up the y axis". It's good management advice and I thought I would share it with everyone who did not watch the whole video on this MBA Monday.

#MBA Mondays

The Smartphone As A Wallet

Last night the Gotham Gal and I went out with a bunch of friends. We met at a restaurant on the upper east side that had recently opened. It was snowing pretty heavily all day yesterday and we were worried about getting a cab on the street. So as we were getting ready to leave, I hailed a cab on my smartphone so that it would pull up in front of our apartment building. The car came more quickly than I thought it would and we scrambled out of the apartment and got in the car and headed uptown.

When we arrived at the restaurant, I realized that I had left my wallet in the apartment. Because the cab was paid for on my phone, the driver had been paid and tipped. But I was concerned about paying for dinner. So I told the Gotham Gal that she would have to pay for dinner. And then she told me that she too had walked out without her wallet.

Fortunately we were having dinner with friends and I asked one of them to pay for our share of the dinner, which he was happy to do. When the check came, I asked him how much our share was, he told me, and I pulled out my phone, opened my Coinbase app, and sent him a fraction of a Bitcoin to cover our part.

I then hailed a cab to get us back home and when we walked out of the restaurant the car was out front waiting for us. We got in, went home, and walked the dog and went to bed.

We paid for every part of the evening on my smartphone. Had we been going out solo last night the Bitcoin bit would not likely have been possible. But my gut says that will change pretty quickly. We are not the only people getting used to paying for things on our phone and doing it frequently. The experience we had last night seems likely to be normal and customary in a few years time. And I can say that it is a convenient and pleasant and I am excited to see it coming.

#hacking finance

Fun Friday: Year End Lists

It's been a month since we've done a fun friday around here. Getting much too serious it seems. So let's do one today. It's year end and time for year end lists. Here are some that I saw and liked:

The New Yorker's Best Books of 2013, Part 1

The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2013

The New Yorker Best Movies of 2013

Cliff Chenfeld's Music Picks for 2013

Kirk Love's Top 10 Albums and Songs for 2013

works in progress:

my songs of the year (i will publish this at some point in the next week)

Brian's best of 2013

Ok, that's enough from me. Please share your favorite year end lists in the comments.

#Random Posts

The Limits of Capitalism

I am a capitalist. Contrary to the occasional community members who call me a socialist or a techno communist, I believe wholeheartedly in the power of markets to efficently determine what's best in most cases.

But I am not an absolute capitalist. I believe that markets do break down from time to time and we need to recognize when those things happen and do something about it. The labor movement, when it was not corrupt for the most part, is an example of a societal response to a market breakdown.

When we stare into the future, we see that our cars will not have drivers. We see that the stuff we buy from Amazon will be delivered by drones. We see that the foundations and structures of our homes will be built by 3D printed concrete. We see a world where many jobs will not exist anymore. Taken out by technology. The very technology that many of us here at AVC are working hard to create and that many of us here at AVC celebrate.

My partner Albert has been talking about this on his blog for a long time. If you want to see the totality of Albert's thinking on this topic, read the economics tag on his blog. One of Albert's thoughts is that we may need a basic income guarantee to redistribute the consumer surplus we will be creating when we no longer have to pay for drivers, delivery people, and construction workers in our lives (and many others). He's now doing a research project to look into this idea in greater detail and is looking for a research assistant.

But Albert is not the only one thinking about this stuff. Bruce Bartlett, a senior policy advisor to the Reagan and Bush administrations wrote a piece in the NY Times earlier this week advocating for a basic income guarantee.

And if you haven't read David Simon's rant on this topic in the Guardian, I would suggest you do.

I am not sure about the basic income guarantee. It feels like welfare to me and that system destroyed many productive lives. People need to work. They need to have something to feel good about doing every day. Work is a big part of self image and self worth. Any system that makes it possible for people to sit at home eating bon bons (as the Gotham Gal likes to say) is not a good system.

That said, we do need to recognize that technology is taking massive costs out of our collective P&Ls and creating a large surplus for many of us. At the same time, the people who made up that cost structure are out of work and struggling to put a roof over their head and feed their families. Shouldn't that surplus, at least part of it, go to assisting those people?

So I welcome this debate and I will not be principled on this point. I will not let ideaology and orthodoxy drive my thinking here. And I don't think anyone else should either. Because this is an important discussion to be having. And not just for the US, but for the entire world.


My Talk At LeWeb Yesterday

I'm back in the states this morning and up early (jet lag). The main purpose of my trip was to give a talk at LeWeb, which I did yesterday morning. Loic asked me to talk about the next ten years and what is going to happen. That's a big ask and so I dodged it a bit and instead talked about the framework we use to try to predict the future. I talked about three big trends (networks, unbundling, and smartphones) and four areas to watch (bitcoin, wellness, data leakage, and trust/identity). The talk is 25 minutes with a brief Q&A with Loic at the end.

#mobile#VC & Technology#Web/Tech