Asking Questions vs Positing Answers
Both Benedict Evans and I wrote posts about the year we are now in, 2015, as we enter it.
My approach was to take a swing at some predictions. They generated a ton of conversation and are still generating it. It seems that people really love to debate predictions.
Ben’s approach is to put forward a bunch of questions that will likely be answered this year. In many ways, his approach is more helpful. He raises the issue without giving the answer, forcing all of us to think about how to answer it. I suspect Ben has opinions on how all of these questions will be answered, but he left his opinions out so that we can form our own.
That’s not entirely true however. My favorite of his questions was this one:
Is this the year that the Bitcoin blockchain starts producing real consumer products? If so, they’ll be on mobile first
And there you can see his opinion coming out in the latter part of that question. And I agree with him, bitcoin is easier to grok and use on mobile. A native mobile application using bitcoin and the blockchain does seem likely to be the first killer application for this technology. I referenced that a bit in this post from a few months ago.
I don’t regret taking a shot at predicting the future. That’s what we do all day long to be honest. And if we end up with a career batting average of .333, we will go to the hall of fame. I am sure I will be wrong on many (most?) of my predictions. But that’s how it goes. Asking the questions is safer for sure. But answering them is more fun. So when you look at Ben’s questions, try to answer them. It’s a good exercise for everyone to undertake as we enter the new year.
Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, which I have posted here at AVC before:My mother made me a scientist without ever intending to. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: So? Did you learn anything today? But not my mother. “Izzy,” she would say, “did you ask a good question today?” That difference — asking good questions — made me become a scientist.- Isidor Isaac Rabi (July 29, 1898 – January 11, 1988) was a Galician-born physicist, and Nobel laureate.
Yes. And it’s always stuck with me ’cause my dad (a physicist as well) spoke about him, then I was lucky to meet I.I. Rabi at a reception when I was an undergrad. Now I try to tell my kids to ask good questions.
A good way to start is to ask a lot of questions. We started our children young. As we noticed things around us, we would ask them questions. Why do you think that guy is walking around barefoot? Stuff like that.
As I have posted before, 80% of the solution is properly framing the problem……which means: are we asking the right question?Great stuff.
Agree. As a last resort, when I can’t figure out a computer problem, I will decide to write an email to a very knowledgeable person that gets paid to help me with things like this (on retainer if you want to call it that). I would say 7 out of 10 times after composing that email I come up with the solution and don’t need to send the email at all.
Good advice for anyone serving on the board of a startup.
Good story. And it reminds me of another one I read:A layman was watching a scientist perform an experiment. The layman asked: “What are you trying to prove by this experiment?” The scientist replied: “A scientist does not try to prove things. He tries to find out.” (or she, of course.)http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…
Bitcoin/Mobile so true. After traveling over the holidays I am more bullish bitcoin than I was at the beginning of the trip. I wasn’t able to use it in the places I was in, but saw a lot of uses for it. For example, I was out of cash in Kenya, no ATM, no bank and needed to give a person a tip. What if we each had Bitcoin and I could transfer mobile? We also found out that resorts try and find out how much in tips personnel get-and reduce salaries in response. With Bitcoin it stays private.When I saw the currency exchanges and their buy/sell window I cursed it every time I walked by. I know how much big bank currency operations skim out of the system each day in the 3T turnover of intl currency. My ATM charged me 4% on transactions…the resort wanted 10% cut on cash withdrawl. Not having to continuously calculate exchange rates when you haggled with merchants would be a plus too.
it’s interesting that you mention Kenya since you can, in fact, transfer money between phones using M-Pesa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wik… though not, of course, if your phone isn’t on the Kenyan system. During the unrest there a few years ago I remember hearing a radio story of how one person who had to flee his home was without money… but used M-Pesa to get food on the journey.right now Bitcoin suffers from the lack of a significant advantage problem coupled with wildly fluctuating valuations. I can take Bitcoin as payment, but if I do then I need to convert to dollars right away (Since the vast majority of what I buy is not purchasable with bitcoin) or risk the payment devaluing. However, if I’m going to convert to dollars as soon as I get the bitcoin payment why not just take the payment in dollars?
yup. you’ll be surprised how much m-pesa and Easypaisa are advanced. both sms-based banking in Kenya, Pakistan and a few other countries. people get their phone or hydro bills on sms and pay that way.
it’s like sitting at the poker table and you and Ben have pushed a lot of your chips in and are hoping to death for bitcoin to come out on the flop (not be a flop for the poker illiterate).Here’s to hoping you hit your flush.
poker is such a great game for thinking about businessdid you ever see this post from 2004? http://avc.com/2004/11/the_…
Nice. I agree (mostly). Though you can (meaning USV and A16z) have a huge influence on the flop.
I couldn’t get a date in middle/high school. Had no money since I hooped all the time. My buddies and I literally played poker every Friday/Sat night every weekend. I learned a lot about stuff playing cards. Some very good traders I knew were very good at poker. One Monday my buddy asked me, “Hey, how do you sell a construction company?”. He won it at the card table.
Wow…a construction company? Talk about losing your shirt, and then some.
This guy played cards for keeps. Bought a Mercedes with cash in a shoebox once.
Same exact story here. There are 8 of us that still get together for a game every Wed before thanksgiving.
One of my buddies passed away (pancreatic cancer) in November. One of the last things we did with him was have a huge card game. It was fun, and like when we were 14. You learn a lot playing cards.
That’s great. I’d want to do that in my last days as well. I’d bluff the hell out of those fuckers too :)They probably know more about me than almost anyone in the world. They are the complete list of people I wouldn’t want to negotiate against!
I used to have a weekly game. Every Friday night. Miss that so much. Also wish I could play legally here in NYC.
I hate when I have to buy something from a gambler which I often do. Not because they bluff (that’s easy to see) but because they are willing to often go for door number 2 because they’ve been reinforced before with that choice working by a big payout a few times. Also the fact that they have no carrying costs to the object that I am buying from them….Likewise if you approach the same “gambler” trying to sell the reaction is exactly the opposite. They won’t pay .02c with the hope of a future gain. (Many books written on this phenomena..)
“I hate when I have to buy something from a gambler…”Every car dealer is a bluffer, so perhaps they’re like negotiating with gamblers?
No way. Car dealers are not gamblers in the way that I speak of gamblers because they will fully evaluate the upside and downside of their decision to sell at a particular price at a particular point in time. In that sense they are a rational seller and will take into account how long the car will sit if you don’t buy it. They have to move inventory or they will pay carrying costs and can end up with a perishable item. They actually have, depending on the model and their inventory, as well as time and year and incentives, more to lose than you do by betting wrong.The reason why people have a hard time with car dealers is that this is what they do everyday for a living so they have the buyer patterns all figured out. The only way to defeat them, if you want to call it that, is to mess up their pattern recognition.
Fred you should re-post some of those old one from 10 years ago…. instead of those video posts where you kind of mail it in.I’d like to get commentary going around those old ideas again.
that’s the second time this week the phrase “mail it in” has been used to describe things i do here#brutaltruth
I just read that post. It’s an interesting analogy! As an amateur poker player I can definitely see the resemblance. BUT, one thing stuck out at me … the way you describe “folding” as a VC sounded so unilateral. See that it’s a bad hand – sell the company, or failing that, close it. What if the founders and employees want to continue? What if they believe in what they do? Can a VC just force them to close the company?As I am researching raising subsequent rounds I am just interested in finding out the VC’s perspective. We also want to grow fast and to a billion dollars, but what are the major changes that a VC round usually brings to a startup, in terms of governance and risk of compromising the vision (assuming the vision is huge and world changing)? What should founders watch out for, when it comes to terms?
I learned in the Army to have a point view. The folks you lead will never be confused where you stand or your approach
that’s a great lesson in leadership
Agree. They should have an entire campaign dedicated to “things that I learned in the Army”.Not to mention that the Army has to do a better job as far as promoting what they teach people to make them more marketable when out of the service. I have a high respect for anyone that served in the military, and it’s unfortunate that they military doesn’t do a better job of advancing things learned there as well as skills. Everyone just cares about “the navy seals” or “the fighter pilots” and so on. Those are the pyramid that sucks in further recruits (reason for “Top Gun” and so on). More effort toward the everyday member is needed.
I did the exercise too (on Facebook) with quite a bit of comments. indeed one of mine is about Bitcoin and it s consumer application (which for me is not necessarily about payments) https://www.facebook.com/ou…
i’m curious why you chose Facebook vs wordpress or medium
good question 🙂 I do have a blog on typepad and medium: i just found out that the level of interaction with users on Facebook is a multiplier of any blog platform. there is also something “casual” i found on posting on Facebook. something that allows me to post 3/4 baked ideas and complete them on the go without the “formalism” of a blog post.overall i stopped blogging actively ever since twitter + facebook have taken off and since time is also limited i guess
thanks. that is helpful
One thing that is odd about Ben’s list of questions: it is totally focused on the existing foundational companies of tech. It is self fulfilling that he will be right that the most interesting thing of 2015 will not be on his list. He only really talked about one non-mainstream concept (block chain).
Many of us are blind as a bat trying to look ahead, and so predictions from a credible source — someone with the right insights — are like being handed down a pair of glasses; and they feel like they are useful, even if it’s understood that not all of the foresights will be spot on. It’s for the same reasons that we all watch the weather forecast…
I think it takes more guts to ‘predict’ than to ‘ ask questions’.
Takes no guts to predict. Takes guts to put money on the line behind your predictions
So true. Predictions are like opinions and ideas. Without the substance of execution and resources behind those predictions, what a person (founder / investor) predicts has 0 chance of becoming market reality.
No cost to paper trade. My daughter interned at Dough.com. After two days she told me she was ready to trade! I told her to paper trade instead. After a couple of months, she really wanted to trade. I told her to put up half using her own money she had earned, and I’d put up the other half. Her first trade out of the box was a bet on Twitter earnings that went bad. She rolled out of her position and wound up earning a little scratch on the trade. It’s different when your own cash is on the line-and not someone else’s. Bank traders that don’t put up cash, or VC’s that don’t put their own money in their own funds have a different experience than those that do.
Paper trading is virtually worthless. It can help you learn the mechanics of actually placing the trade, but you can’t replicate the management of risk/emotions that comes into play when real dollars are ticking.
The emotional investment involved in putting up our own money compared with playing with other people’s money is different. It changes our perceptions of the trade.It’s the emotion and perception factors that affect the VALUE and risks we assign to that money.Yet no economic model — whether it’s Nash’s bargaining one or Bitcoin parity theory or Black-Scholes options pricing — can currently factor in those emotion and perception factors.
some economic scholars would say that because investors are assumed to be rational, emotions are already priced in. behaviorist economists would disagree-yet they can’t perfect a model because of the randomness of emotion. even the same person will react differently at different times of the day etc because hormonal levels in the body are different.
There are a couple of considerations in the classical vs behavioral economics argument.(1.) The randomness (stochasticity) of human behavior is different from the relative subjectivity of our behavior.It’s also different from the stochasticity of the rational dice that Probability was originally invented to measure and model — which was then extended to measure and model how we supposedly think and behave.Relative subjectivity (or biases) exist in our natural thinking, language, perceptions, values, culture and more.The stochasticity of dice is different from our stochasticity because — unlike us — dice can’t think, feel, act, have free will, socially engage, be altruistic and so on.Ergo, Probability may be appropriate for parameterizing the option outcomes of dice but not the option outcomes of our thinking and behavior.(2.) The behavioral economists will likely infer causality from the biometrics that are being collected via smartphones, clicks, time on site, touch pressures, gyroscopic / accelerometer, heart-rate from Fitbits etc.Thereby, enabling them to claim they can measure emotions (by arguing something along the lines of “increased heart-rate = emotional excitement = +1) and so are a more accurate model than the classical economics model.However, those forms of and tools for behavior modeling still don’t enable us to measure, model and understand relative subjectivity (biases) which affect economic consumption.It’s not so much that the outliers cause the boom and bust cycles.It’s that the outliers are biases which haven’t been and aren’t measurable by Probability and don’t fit its over-simplistic curves.This is the question I’m seeking the answers to: How do we measure and model subjective biases that affect everything we think and do and how we make sense and decisions.
If you figure that one out, set up a hedge fund, back test it and go for broke.
@twaintwain:disqus if you set up the hedge fund, I want to watch that. because that would be fun
Haha, actually I put my money where my beliefs are and am going for broke with my system.Imo, relative subjectivity (aka perception biases) are a key variable in risk arbitrage as much as price fluctuations, and it would be possible to put those variables into a Black-Scholes.To date, a handful of hedge funds have tried to do market prediction based on sentiment analysis (to include a form of bias), including on data from the Twitter firehose:* http://www.bloomberg.com/ne…However those funds didn’t work out because it hasn’t occurred to Twitter or to the Machine Learning/AI folks who classify sentiments that the classifications for sentiments and words since the 1960s have been fundamentally wrong. We’re talking about the lexical databases of Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon…even the W3C.That’s also why none of the AI — whether it’s Google, FB, IBM Watson, Apple SIRI, MS Cortana etc — can understand natural language. Get the sentiment classifications wrong and the sentiment analysis on the sentence (even if it’s only 140 characters) is wrong.Anyway, the hedge funds will continue to try and extract the market sentiments from social media firehoses:* http://www.hedgethink.com/n…Twitter, meanwhile, has invested $10 million to try and understand its tweets better, e.g.: “the tendency of social media to be better at generating negative energy than positive energy.”* http://www.businessweek.com…Peter Thiel and Chris Dixon both mention that it’s important for founders to “know a secret”, i.e. something that no one else knows.This means knowing the problem better than anyone else, and knowing the tools that may / may not be available to solve that problem.If the tool doesn’t exist, the founder can do what Elon Musk advocates: invent it from first principles.The secret that lies in open sight is this: Probability was invented to measure and model the rational behavior of dice. It wasn’t invented to measure and model the subjective biases of the human mind and behavior.Yet we’ve used probability as a proxy for us without questioning why we are — when we could simply invent.So invent the tools and system for measuring subjective biases and that changes about 500 years of history wherein Probability has underpinned our systems — whether economic, relating to Bitcoin (bits 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc are derived from Pascal’s triangle) or AI wherein Probability is applied as Hidden Markov for speech recognition as well as Natural Language filtering.Simple enough, see? :*).
Socialmarketanalytics.com is scraping tweets and delivering them in machine readable format to HFT. Their claim is increasing alpha by 10%. Not sure if it works but they have sales revenue. Point and click trades can’t use that. Only machines. In the old days it was possible to see emotion in a trading pit and take advantage (hence the value of poker) herder to do on a screen. BTW these pro poker guys that play with hats hoodies and sunglasses should get some nuts and play old school poker. Face up no barriers.
There’s software like this for detecting moods and emotions:* http://thenextweb.com/apps/…
emotions aren’t random, but I would suggest the pattern is quite complicated and we need better math.
Oh I think they are pretty random in aggregate. There is sometimes cause and effect. But hormones and lots of other things affect emotional response to things. The same stimulus given to two separate people can produce drastically different emotions and outcomes Seen it happen enough to know.
Well, FB already did its emotion experiment to test if emotions are random in aggregate:* http://www.wired.com/2014/0…
Emotions are biochemical in the brain. However, for expediency, the mathematicians and Computer Scientists (including W3C) give a probability to it like so:<emotion category-set=”http://www.w3.org/TR/emotio…”> <category name=”sadness” value=”0.3″/> <category name=”anger” value=”0.8″/> <category name=”fear” value=”0.3″/></emotion>Four years ago, a Professor of Neuroscience at University College London told me that our minds think of everything in terms of mathematics and probability first. He said we’re constantly calculating risks because that’s how we evolved and that’s how we measure our values. By probability.So I replied, “Wow, so you’re constantly thinking “I love my mother 88% right now and 33% the next minute”?”That made him do a double-take and say, “No, of course not!”He hadn’t even been aware of the fallacies in his own insistence that we think about everything in terms of maths and probability.
ouch. I wonder how his mother took that
Lol, exactly.We’ve become so misinformed about what probability, percentages and other metric tools are designed to do and what their limitations are that we fall into self-created fallacies of assuming we value and validate everything by those metric tools — when, clearly, they can’t measure WHY or how much we love our mothers.By the way, you may enjoy Evan Williams’ thoughts on the time metric:* https://medium.com/@ev/a-mi…
indeed I would
It Certainly takes more guts to ‘predict’ if you are a popular person with fan following and people in your field look up to your views. You do put some reputation on the line and if predictions go wrong some damage is done.There is a saying “Be careful what you predict. It may come back to haunt you… or laugh at you””I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”– Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943″There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”– Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977″640K ought to be enough for anybody.”– Bill Gates, 1981″$100 million dollars is way too much to pay for Microsoft.”– IBM, 1982
As kids, we love asking questions without filters. As adults, we learn to ask appropriate questions that help us filter towards the answers faster and more effectively.My preference is to discover and answer the questions.
“If you want to change someone’s mind, ask them questions.”
Is that you, or are you quoting someone?(see what I did there?)
Since you asked, it was me…one of my 46 Aphorisms I blogged about Jan 1.http://startupmanagement.or…
Hilarious. You’re on a roll today !
You’re too kind
one question: well, OK how would that work? Meaning, depending on context, how does that square with the environment? What would be the next steps?
That’s the Socratic method, isn’t it? 😛
There is no doubt that for Bitcoin and/or the blockchain to succeed, compelling end-user products have to emerge, and I would add they need to go beyond just the money related features. (that’s what i’ve been blogging about mostly now)
I love the idea of a diffuse arbitration-mechanism for value/trust exchange with no central human controllers.It is kinda the intersection where Socialism’s apparatchik and Capitalism’s monopolist rent seekers both implode into a post-idealogical technology-based commerce solution for the rest of us.Mostly speaking in ignorance here but as much as I would like to embrace the the “Blockchain” as the holy grail for distributively-enforced equitable exchange I have one nagging doubt.That being the sustainability of the massively distributed statistical policing efforts presently executed by the so called mining community.Do you have any good links to help shore up a simpletons confidence in the long term sustainability of that process ?
Fred, on the topic of healthcare (one of your predictions), what are your views on Theranos?If they can achieve an end game of enabling consumers to sample their own blood each day or week (via a droplet) and measure it within an app in real-time via a sensor that plugs into a smartphone, I think they have something that can is an “Apple” or “Tesla” kind of story. Imagine having an app that shows you in real-time your Vitamin D levels, etc. It will revolutionise diet, food content etc. We could self optimize and fine tune our bodies using an app.
i think this will be huge if it works
Predictions without money behind them are almost worthless. Actually they probably have negative value.It’s why I find it so funny that the people screaming most about global warming continue to bid-up oceanfront property on islands made of concrete.Do the opposite of the professors and get rich.
Yes and no Andy. You could think about this from a different point of view:I believe that we are all futurists. Each one of us thinks of the future in their own way.
But if you’re not doing anything about it then why should I?
At least it gives you more knowledge about what other people are thinking. Everyone has the right to have ideas. I’m with you that few act on them in meaningful ways.
Oh I agree completely. What you’re saying is the entire foundation of LikeFolio. We actually find it much more useful to determine what people are thinking when they don’t know they’re thinking or “predicting” anything. That’s where we get alpha.I think we agree on this one William.
I often think, I don’t know what I was thinking. This is the first time I’ve heard that phenomenon was useful data.
Similar to my theory that to get the most honest answers you don’t ask a questions you tell stories and see how people react to the stories.
Thinking is indeed an instance of “DOING” something!It is a process we choose to DO or not DO.Volitional thoughts/framing, both individual and collective, are the seminal prelude/prerequisite mandatory actions required for successful external actions.Collective thoughts/attitudes, even without the individual conviction to act, often sets the stage for politically or commercially actionable change by softening social resistance or consolidating collective confidence/resolve toward such changes.Collective thinking/attitudes are really the poster child for the organic concept of “Non-Trivial causal spread” where complex webs of interdependencies coalesce into meaningfully actionable outcomes.I though that was what is going on here in these comments, a holographic interplay/mashup of thinking out loud that hopefully leads everyone here toward better actionable decisions ?
i can name at least one guy who followed a professor and is crazy rich….
“I wonder” invites others to wonder with you – to wander and explore in an open-ended funnel around a topic. “I think” invites a different dialogue – the obvious risk of being partially right or wrong is part of owning that risk of reversing the funnel to a target. Each topic needs different styles of creativity to solve.
welcome back panterosa 🙂
In reading Ben’s list of prediquestions, I’m 99% sure he’s saying the Apple Watch will be a flop. Alert the media. 😉
are you angling for a job at BI 🙂
😀 Much respect for @hblodget & @julie_hansen When I was briefly at MongoDB, I worked in the same space as BI – both part of the Kevin Ryan & Dwight Merriman Keiretsu. BI was house in one large conference room at the time.
I would add a couple of points regarding bitcoin and the blockchain:1/ there may be more than one killer app. this is about decentralization, so the apps and usage might very well be quite distributed. they are meant to empower the individual.2/ we may be using these apps without even knowing that the blockchain is somewhere behind the scenes. we won’t feel it, just like we don’t feel the internet when we use it.
But we do have you down as predicting that Apple will lose billions on the Apple Watch. That’s how Twitter reports that TechCrunch says that CNBC aired that Business Insider wrote what you said.
Can I quote you on that?
You can take that to the bank: Fred Wilson says the Watch will bankrupt Apple. I heard someone tell me that.
What’s a bank?
That said, they’re still constructing banks in my neighborhood. In all seriousness, physical construction of bank branches. The only reason I can think of where this makes sense is there’s a psychological phenom where a building of substance is equated with legitimacy in consumers’ minds.
That is absolutely the case.There are a large volume of humans unconcerned about paying 1% of assets for a human advisor to manage the money, because it gives them a neck to wring when something goes wrong.
When I was a kid I used to take deposits “to the bank” at this place located at 3rd and Arch in Philly.It was used on “Real World Philly” years later. Now apparently it’s some kind of luxury mansion:http://pagesix.com/2014/07/…Note the pricing in Philly. This is a really nice neighborhood. Only a matter of time before all those foreigners who love NYC so much discover they can park their money in other cities in the country which stand a much better chance of appreciating than NYC.
Asking Questions is pointless if no one is posting Positing Answers.Okay all of You post questions and I will post answers to those questions.
What kind of questions?
What ever sensible questions You want to ask.
What do you do for a living?
I sell Firewood.
Oooh. Burned. OK, I’ll play along…What’s the best wood for burning?
Birch is the best but there is not much around here.The best wood around here is Pine.
Pine is fine, but birch is better? OK. Good to know.
Oak is even better than both of those but there is no Oak around here.
This is shapin’ up to be a fine set of blues lyrics…Ain’t no oak ’round here, Oh, said there ain’t no oak ’round here.They sez pine is fine, but birch is better.They sezzzz pine is fine, but birch is better.Gotsta burn these firewood blues, I swear.
Cool and You can have the rights to it.
Fu$$$k ya, you are the mofo
the other thing Birch is good for is tree skiingthere is something about the spacing in a birch grove that i love and can’t find anywhere else on the mountain
** Newsflash on bitcoin/blockchain: We need to think more in terms of Blockchain Apps, and less in terms of Bitcoin users. The Bitcoin currency is one App of the blockchain. There will be several more.
For sure. But as Fred and others point out (oops, I’m putting words in their mouths…might get me in trouble) the price of Bitcoin drives miners and devs to work on the Blockchain. So the price isn’t about speculation, but just about making sure the ecosystem is sustainable <– perhaps that’s the unwritten message in what you’re saying? (since this is the week to reinterpret what others are saying).
yup, then you’ll need to read my last post on network effects for bitcoin. the mining is one aspect, but there are costs involved in mining, and it gets complicated after that. There will be lots of apps on the Bitcoin blockchain and on other blockchains too. It’s not a prediction. It’s a fact.
i believe that is true
Not every statement about a future event is a tech prediction. More commonly it is a prophecy. Digging deeper, a prediction is a testable hypothesis, the sales of the apple watch in its first month will exceed both the iphone and iPod combined, etc.
Can you prove that?
Here’s a way to look at it:
I’ll play a bit of devil’s advocate, here. Most of this very good list read to me like assertions that are then formed into questions. Take the first question in the list:”Will Facebook relaunch Messenger as a Wechat-style sharing and discovery platform – which would be Facebook’s first real ‘native’ mobile experience?”Said another way:Facebook will relaunch Messenger as a Wechat-style sharing and discovery platform. It will be Facebook’s first native mobile experience, and David Marcus’ chance to shine.I read these as almost the same, the only difference being Benedict’s quote is hipper than mine because he’s awesome.This is a small point but I have a real aversion to voicing an opinion as a question as a way of softening or hedging. Making every single one of these questions weakens the ones that are genuine questions, such as the Google Glass one, vs ones that are clearly opinions. I’d find it more impactful to see a mix of both.obviously just my opinion.
I’m sure Facebook will try. That doesn’t mean it will work.
The holy grail is where Bitcoin is the transactional foundation for all mobile and mobile-based transactions.Buying goods and services through mobile devices, at present, requires me to enter my credit card information manually with each service/provider (e.g. Google Wallet, Amazon, etc.)Whoever gives me a way to effortlessly pay for anything through any app using a single Bitcoin wallet on my mobile device will win. Tie in the real-world NFC payments and the game is over.Sorry to be slightly off topic. I fully agree with Fred, but if I started asking questions we’d be here all day!
In my opinion, the differences are more fundamental. Ben is more upbeat and optimistic about things. And as such, he fits well into a16z culture. All high profile partners in the firm default to saying YES… they love anything and everything related to tech. This is reflective in their portfolio size as well as number of companies they manage to invest in. If the team is great, they will probably invest and not worry too much about problem space or market (in contrast, e.g., you initially passed on Airbnb).Neither is good or bad practice, they are just different. Their right vs. wrong ratio is probably far lower than other top tier firms, but they perhaps also manage to hit more home runs. And as such, their net *batting average* ends up at same or higher than other top VC firms.
I greatly preferred looking over Fred’s shoulder as he peered into 2015’s crystal ball. It looked like that future might be interesting!As I read Ben’s questions, I realized that I didn’t care about the answer to a single one of them. Correction, the bitcoin question is intriguing since it could actually change a bunch of things. Apparently, I’m the kind of guy that rounds 5% to 0%.They all felt like “forest for the trees” questions, that might have some value to the individual companies involved, but that won’t change larger environment much at all. Maybe that’s naive, because all of his questions were about what public-traded companies with many-billion dollar market caps, who certainly have the ability to effect change on some relatively massive scale. But they all felt like questions about increments: will this little widget get better? Will this giant company grow their giant market share by another 10%?They didn’t seem like the questions that homerun-seeking VCs would be spending their bandwidth on.
Almost all of the questions are centred on fundamental change. What is mobile going to be? How will we use them? Find things? Who will control that?The individual questions focus of different levers or points of control. But they’re all about major change.
why not just ask the fundamental question directly then – it could lead to a path you don’t know about yet :)(also, welcome to the community at large 🙂 )
and nevertheless get exposed to Shana’s barrage of questions day in and out
yes, which means more community stickiness, and there is data to back that up, which is why i get the banhammer.
Ben, thanks for chiming in.I’m not a hardware or software developer which may leave me short of insight onto how these would bring about major change.But I do know that as a mid-30-something consumer of technology, none of those (or the answers I could imagine) hit my “I can’t wait to buy or use that” nerve.
Agree – they are inside baseball questions — certainly important to investors in these companies, but not getting at the larger, more difficult issues. How is mobile life evolving? How will the convenience vs. privacy dynamic change? Bitcoin/blockchain are riveting, transformative technology but still germinating during 2015.
First, on Bitcoin:Maybe mobile, but as I said to someone last night, this is all a useless discussion until you can bitcoin to really conform to the definitions of money (store of value, medium of exchange, and a unit of accounting) on a very day to day, micro level, eg: I can go to the corner shop and buy some bubble gum, or whatever the equivalent is, wherever I am, in the world, for what it wants to be. Even gold can’t quite do that – actual greenbacks, despite being a fiat currency with a fluctuating value between bands based on other things in the world, do this way better.(also, for goldbugs and hard core bitcoin people – hard core traditional economists, and even classical reads on heterodox economics like parts of the austrian school, admits that at some point you got to trade, and if everyone suddenly decided gold as silly in the trade, the reasons behind the gold standard do fall apart)Mobile may make it easier, but it doesn’t actually solve the problem of making bitcoin money.For his questions about phones and oems – Phones and second screen behavior is fun. what’s more fun is thinking about the home. Yay digital but physical deadbolts! Thermostats!, Floorboards as sensors! If the economy grows, so does construction. Oil prices may be hovering at the awkward price point, but I am not sold that consumers want to go back to gas an electrical hovering after dead growth for a decade and will spend in construction to keep the prices down, which means smarter homes that need to provide more for more people/more complicated family structures in them. The phone thing is a bit of a sideshow and a shakeout because the companies behind them are now big – but many people in the US have smart phones, so eh. Africa could be the fun story.Wearables and Glass – I think we are seeing a East Coast?new York fashion luxury thing ++ old school status doctor/lawyer/banker/politician/media type and West coast techie social mindset clash which makes for few actual trick ups of “unclear binary choice tastemakers”^ to sort out the mess. In the background of wearables, you are also seeing a bunch of clashes about being and eating healthy, what is beautiful, what is fashionable to wear, how to exercise, how to be polite, what is cool, what is not, what is rude, what is good, etc. These two groups intermix heavily, interdependent on each other (from what I can see in NY when I go out) but they sometimes seem to be talking past each other at the same parties. The way different pieces individuals in these groups self-construct these values, especially since the boundaries of an individual’s identity within these groups seem to be interfering in the shakeout for wearables, particularly for glass. Getting the story straight about how these value works would help, especially since these group represent some very aspiration class growth for the rest of the country and the pricepoints for these objects could be done right that many people could be Glassing or wearabling if the messaging and ethics behind it was consistent (which it is not)Finally, about the Fire, Apple Music, Facebook, Google what have you: Sometimes I think the Valley has some brilliant opinions on media, sometimes not. I think the questions are phrased in a way that make me think we’re avoiding the issues around how, when, and where people are interacting with media of all type, how media gets paid for, who is getting paid for it, what are its real production costs, marketing costs, maintenance costs, how it gets found and lost, what makes media type a different from media type b, how each peice of content within type a or type b different and how the interactions behind it are different. I think that we are just finding out we know so little, because the way people got paid meant we got to hide behind those questions. And I think I am not even listing even 1% of questions I could ask. The golden age of media, advertising, and audience development still hasn’t happened, and the big question is what are these companies thinking there place is 10 years, 20 years down the line is in terms of shakeouts and why these shakeouts are happenings for various things, along with their more traditional counterparts.^ask me about what I mean
also, feel free to post questions or something 🙂
Google and Apple baking VR into android and iOS is the future I want to see. But unfortunately it won’t happen in 2015. I hope I am wrong on this one.
It takes much more courage to give answers and predictions, versus asking questions.