Posts from 2015

Feature Friday: 3D Touch

I recently made my annual traverse from Android to iOS. One of the new things I found when I arrived on iOS is 3D Touch, which is a way to access certain features in apps without having to open the app. It’s neat, but I haven’t yet developed the muscle memory to use it frequently.

The other thing about 3D Touch is that it is not universally supported yet. I tweeted this out last week:

I suspect that number will rise over the six months that I will be on iOS before heading back to Android.

I got a bunch of replies to that tweet, but this was the best one:

When I see a really smart use of 3D Touch, I get excited by the potential of this UI feature. But the truth is most of the uses of 3D Touch are not particularly inspired. I suspect that will also change over time.

If you are on iOS, what do you think of 3D Touch?

#mobile

The Hour Of Code

This is Computer Science Education Week. Two years ago, the folks at code.org organized something called the Hour of Code to help celebrate CS Ed Week. The idea was to encourage schools, students, and really anyone to spend one hour writing code during this week. That first year roughly 10mm people did an hour of code. Two years later, during this week, almost 200,000 different groups will do an Hour Of Code, meaning that something like 50mm people will spend an hour writing code this week.

The point of this is not to turn 50mm people into software engineers. The point is to demystify computer science, make it seem approachable, and most of all encourage schools and students to do more with computer science. The Hour Of Code is the gateway drug to a more comprehensive computer science effort in schools.

I have spent much of this week in NYC schools and with students celebrating CS Ed Week and the Hour Of Code. I thought I would share some of my favorite moments. As you look at these pictures, what I most want you to see is what our software engineers will look like in the near future.

This is Luna Ruiz, a 17 year old student at the Academy Of Software Engineering explaining why she likes coding to Hadi Partovi, the founder of code.org, at an event at the Apple Store in NYC on Tuesday:

This is a classroom in Ditmas Park Brooklyn (central brooklyn) doing an hour of code:

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This is a young man explaining to the School Chancellor Carmen Farina why free software is better than expensive software (possibly my favorite moment of the week):

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This is me and Amina Dualeh (a 12th grader at AFSE) ringing the opening bell at the Nasdaq yesterday:

This is a map of all the schools in Brooklyn. The green ones are the ones that did an Hour Of Code this week. If Brooklyn was its own school district it would be one of the top three or four school districts in the country.

codebrooklyn

If you want your students to have this on their whiteboard this week but have not yet done an Hour Of Code I have a suggestion for you.

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If you are a teacher, check out this page on how to get going with an Hour Of Code in your school. It’s actually really easy to do.

#hacking education

Forevery - An iOS App For Searching Your Photo Library

Our portfolio company Clarifai, which offers a visual recognition API to developers so they can understand the images and videos on their service, has released an iOS app called Forevery which allows you to search your iPhone photo library.

If you’ve ever found yourself swiping down and down and down on your iPhone trying to find a photo to show to your friend, then Forevery is for you. It is one of those things when you first see it in action you think its magic.

Here’s the screen you get when you open the app:

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When you type the into the search field, you get this:

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I typed sushi and got these results:

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I was looking for a sunset photo of the Flatiron building from my office so I typed “sunset building” and got these results. The photo I was searching for is the third one.

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But maybe the most amazing thing about Forevery is you can train it to recognize people and things. I’ve trained it to recognize these people in my photos:

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So that’s a quick run through of Forevery. If you want to get it on your iPhone, you can download it here.

#machine learning#mobile

The Kickstarter Fulfillment Report

Our portfolio company Kickstarter released a report yesterday that was published by a Professor at the University Of Pennsylvania named Ethan Mollick. Ethan and his colleagues at Penn surveyed nearly 500,000 backers to look at failure rates across the entire Kickstarter marketplace. They did not survey other crowdfunding services so this data is solely about Kickstarter projects.

Here is what Ethan found:

  • 9% of Kickstarter projects ultimately fail to deliver
  • 65% of rewards are delivered “on time”
  • failure rates are fairly consistent across categories

Here’s a chart of failure rates by category from the report

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I really like what Kickstarter had to say about this report:

Is a 9% failure rate reasonable for a community of people trying to bring creative projects to life? We think so, but we also understand that the risk of failure may deter some people from participating. We respect that. We want everyone to understand exactly how Kickstarter works — that it’s not a store, and that amid creativity and innovation there is risk and failure.

Failure is to be expected in a marketplace. But we should also measure it and understand it so funders can “price the risk”. Right now, it seems that roughly one in ten Kickstarter projects fail. We should all understand that when we back a project. Doing so will be good for everyone.

#crowdfunding

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown

That line is from From Act III, Scene 1, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, in which the king laments his inability to sleep. Leadership is a burden, whether you are the President attempting to calm the nation in the wake of an act of terrorism, or a CEO taking questions at the all hands meeting about the financing everyone knows is going on but hasn’t happened yet.

I work with leaders all day long. I sometimes advise them. I sometimes critique them. And mostly I support them. Someone has to. Because everyone is relying on the leader but who is the leader going to rely on?

The team around the leader is critical. In the case of the CEO that is the executive team, usually the direct reports but sometimes a few more, and the Board who the CEO is accountable to. Get those two groups right and leadership becomes a bit less of a burden.

If you are a CEO and you are feeling that uneasy head right now, look around you. Do you have the support you need from your team and your board? If the answer is no, do something about it. Because you can’t be a great leader without a great support system.

And get a coach. I’ve written about that frequently here at AVC. The leadership team and the Board, as important as they are, have complicated relationships with the CEO. A coach should be a person who can be completely and totally focused on supporting the CEO. There are many good ones out there.

I also encourage CEOs to join a CEO support group. Meeting regularly with peer CEOs is a great way to vent with each other about the nonsense that goes on in a company, but it is also a great place to get actionable advice and learn from each other.

Most org charts have the CEO on top and then a triangular outline of the team underneath. But the correct visualization is the CEO on the bottom with a triangle outline of the team on top of them. That’s leadership. And it is not easy.

Bonus:

Jason Wright posted this into the comments. Thanks Jason. I’m posting it here too.

#management

The $5 Computer

The mobile phone has made it possible for most people to carry a computer on them all the time. You can buy an unlocked Moto E at Amazon for $99. That’s pretty amazing. A powerful mobile computer for less than $100.

But what is more amazing is a computer for $5. That’s what The Raspberry Pi Foundation announced a week ago:

If you watch that 2 1/2 minute video, you will see that they gave away 10,000 of these Raspberry Pi Zero computers on the cover of the December issue of their magazine. Giving away 10,000 computers seems expensive, but not when the cost is $5.

My colleague Joel showed me a chart last week of the most called resources in GitHub and right there at the top of his list was Raspberry Pi. These cheap computers are finding their way into all sorts of applications these days. Many of these use cases are hobbyists building stuff for their own use or just hacking around. But what Chris Dixon said a few years ago comes to mind

Raspberry Pi also powers two of the more interesting new computers to hit the market this year:

  • The 21 Bitcoin Computer which comes will the entire blockchain in its 128 GB SD card and a dedicated Bitcoin mining chip
  • The Kano computer kit which allows kids to build their own computer and program it

Buy your child the Kano this year and the 21 Computer next year when they are ready for something more. You will be doing them a huge favor as they will be figuring stuff out that will change the world in the coming years.

I am not sure if there is anything more heartening to me than the rise of the nearly free general purpose computer. I’ve been worried that general purpose computing was on the decline as we move to locked down devices with limits on what you can do with them. Raspberry Pi is the counterweight to that trend and such an important force for good things in the world of computing.

#Web/Tech

Fun Friday: Holiday Shopping

Between Black Friday and Cybermonday, it would seem that the big holiday shopping days have already come and gone.

I saw a report this week with holiday shopping market shares for the 2016 holiday season. Are we already done with this year end burst of ecommerce and can now report the winners and losers?

For Fun Friday I thought we’d do a Twitter poll to see what percent of the AVC community has completed their holiday shopping already vs those who procrastinate until the last minute.

In my case, I don’t do a lot of holiday shopping. It’s not that I’m Ebenezer Scrooge, but I prefer to give as often as possible throughout the year and not do all of my giving at the end of the year.

#Random Posts

WE Festival 2016

we festival logoThe sixth annual WE Festival will take place in NYC on April 13th and 14th 2016. The Gotham Gal has built this event into the premier networking and learning event for women entrepreneurs. After five years of doing it in partnership with NYU, she has taken it over and is running it together with her sister Susan. I’ve had a front row seat to this process and I can tell you that they have taken it up a notch. I am confident that this year’s WE Festival will be the best yet.

As usual, the event starts with an evening conversation keynote (Rachael Ray is doing it this year) followed by a networking event. The next day is packed with talks, workshops, and networking events. The theme for this year’s event is Resilience, a great mantra for entrepreneurs of all genders.

If you’ve been to the WE Festival in the past, you will know what a special event it is. If you haven’t been to one before, check out this page for an idea of what the event is like.

The central idea of the WE Festival is showing women entrepreneurs that they aren’t alone and that there are many others just like them, some of them farther along, and some not yet even started. It is, at its core, a celebration of women entrepreneurs, thus the term festival in the name.

Attendance costs $100 if you are a student, $350 if you are a WE Festival alum, and $375 otherwise. If this sounds like something you’d like to attend, you can apply here.

#entrepreneurship

Giving Back

Yesterday was Giving Tuesday. I hope everyone participated. I backed my friends Bijan and Lauren’s Crowdrise campaign for Charity Water. They made it easy for me. Technology makes it easier to give back.

I spent most of yesterday raising money for CSNYC and CS4All. It started with my blog post and ended with a pitch for a big gift. There were a number of other meetings in between. I have never chaired a big philanthropic campaign before. It’s an interesting experience. It reminds me a bit of raising our first fund at USV. But we get more yeses. And these people aren’t getting a return. It’s very gratifying to have another person or organization support your philanthropic work.

As I was on the subway yesterday evening headed to an event in Harlem where a non-profit called Hot Bread Kitchen thanked the Gotham Gal for five years of service as Board Chair, I got a text from my daughter Emily. She said “did you see the news about Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan?” I had not seen the news, so she sent me the link. I texted Emily back “giving back is a wonderful thing and I’m so pleased to see news like that. It makes me so hopeful for the world we live in.”

I like the dual focus of the work Mark and Priscilla will support, advancing human potential and promoting equality. Most of what ails our world is a result of not doing those things.

Giving Tuesday has come and gone. But hopefully our charitable giving has not. Whether it is giving money or giving time or just caring about something or someone, giving back feels great and is great.

#hacking philanthropy