Posts from March 2016

Feature Friday: Customized 3D Printed Objects

Our portfolio company Shapeways offers customization options in their marketplace of 3D printed objects.

Let’s say you want a “card case” for your iPhone like this:

The 3D designer who designed this case and is selling it on Shapeways offers two ways you can customize it:

customization options on shapeways

You can search for customizable objects on Shapeways by checking this box in the marketplace home page:

check box

Shapeways is a great place to find unique objects for gifts and for yourself.  Customizing these objects makes them even more unique. So the next time you are looking for something special, go check out Shapeways and check the customizable box.

And if you are a 3D designer who sells designs on Shapeways, considering supporting customizable options. It makes your objects even more unique and interesting to buyers.

#BestSchoolDay

Something amazing is happening today.

A philanthropic “flash mob” is closing out projects on DonorsChoose in states and cities around the US in a single day. The event is being called BestSchoolDay and over fifty philanthropists, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs are kicking the day off with their commitments which collectively close out about half of the open projects on DonorsChose.

The best part is everyone can join in. If you want to join this flash mob and close out the projects in your school, neighborhood, or more, head on over to DonorsChoose and join in. Your contribution will be leveraged by Sergey Brin and Brian Acton who have committed to match over $3mm of project funding that happens on BestSchoolDay. If we can close out all of projects on DonorsChoose today, we will raise almost $30mm in a single day for classroom projects around the US.

The Gotham Gal and I are participating in this because we want to help the teachers, the unsung heroes of the education system, who get up every day and bring all that they have into the classroom to help students learn and grow. DonorsChoose is an incredible resource for teachers to get the things they need to help their students. The Gotham Gal is closing out all the classroom projects in Montgomery County Maryland where she went to middle school and high school. And I am closing out all the classroom projects in Orange County, NY where I went to middle school and high school.

If you want to see this event unfolding live, check out BestSchoolDay which has a live map of the projects being closed out.

BestSchoolDay is a call to action for people across America to support classrooms in need. By funding so many books, art supplies, field trips, and other resource requests, this act of mass philanthropy sends a message: students in every community deserve the materials and experiences they need to learn. The Gotham Gal and I are excited to be part of this call to action and we hope that others will join in to make this a very special day for teachers and students.

Carl Rahn Griffith

AVC regular David Semeria reached out to me and my friend Jerry yesterday asking if we had heard the news about Carl. We had not. He told us that he had seen the news on Facebook that Carl had passed away. We all wondered if it was true so David verified it with a co-worker of Carl’s.

Anyone who has been hanging around here at AVC for long enough knew Carl. As David said, “He was a lovely chap, much too gentle for this world.”

Carl and I originally bonded over our fondness for the Arctic Monkeys who were from his hometown of Sheffield England. In the summer of 2008, when our family was in the UK, I traveled up to Sheffield and attended a Sheffield Wednesday match with Carl and his lovely wife Helen. They also treated me to a nice lunch at their local pub. It was the kind of friendship one could only have made on the Internet and maintained over the Internet.

Carl was a kind and decent man who loved to write. It was our writing here at AVC that brought us together and kept us connected. I will miss him and I am sure that others here at AVC will too.

My condolences to Helen and his family. He always signed his emails to me “Carl and Helen.” That was the kind of guy he was.

Collaborating On A List

Every business has this situation, some many times a day.

Over the weekend, our team at USV was discussing an event we are putting together and people we might invite. One of us started the thread and suggested a dozen or so names. Replies started going back and forth with new suggestions. Many great ideas came out quickly via email. Then we decided to put all the names into a google sheet, which was obviously the thing to do to memorialize the suggestions and comments.

But then the discussion stopped. No new names were generated. The discussion ended.

Google sheets does generate an email when a change is made to a sheet, but it is not conversational the way a group email thread or a Slack channel is.

I suggested that we write a script that allows us to have the conversation in Slack and new ideas are autopopulated to the Google sheet. We could also do that in email but Slack felt like the better option.

I’m curious if other folks out there have had this same experience and how they have solved it. You want to database the list in a tool like Google sheets, but doing that seems to shut down the conversation that flows in an experience like Slack or email. It seems like the two functions need to be merged in some way.

What I Use My Phone For

Bijan asked me about this in the hallway chat I did with him and Nabeel last week. 

According to my battery usage data (which may be a bad proxy for usage), I use my phone for:

  1. Gmail
  2. Soundcloud
  3. Chrome 
  4. iMessage
  5. Swarm
  6. Twitter
  7. Phone (voice)
  8. Foursquare
  9. Google Now
  10. Kik

I wrote this post on my phone too

Artificial Art

Last week we opened up a new thread on USV.com to think about and discuss the intersection of creativity (art) and artificial intelligence.

We have seen a lot of interesting companies in this area but have not yet made an investment.

Of course, the entire notion that machines will help us make art or even make it without human intervention gets to the essence of what art and creativity are.

Last summer I posted an art project by Ian Cheng that my daughter was involved in. The cool thing about that art project is that it evolves over time based on rules provided to a machine. The art is initially made by humans but it evolves and changes over time using a machine. That is one of many interesting ideas that artists are exploring at the intersection of creativity and computing.

An existential question that society is grappling with right now is how humans and machines will co-exist in the future. And one of the roles of art, maybe it’s most important role, is to force us to confront issues like this.

So while the idea of using a machine to make a song or an image or a novel or a sculpture without human intervention is at some level disturbing, it is also revealing. We expect that artists will push the envelope of what is possible with technology and we also expect that technologists and entrepreneurs will be willing collaborators in this effort.

Whether this will lead to interesting investment opportunities is anyone’s guess, but we think it might. And so we are going to spend some of our time and energy thinking about it and we’ve created a public space to do that. If you are interested in this area you can follow the thread and contribute to it here.

Hallway Chat

Yesterday I hung out (virtually) with Bijan and Nabeel at Spark Capital and joined them in their podcast they call Hallway Chat.

Here’s what we talked about:

-questions from Twitter, including how Fred started investing in social media, & YC’s recent move to recommend exercising options from 90 days to 10 years

-Fred’s post, “The New Entertainment Bundlers

-Chris Dixon’s, “What’s Next In Computing?

-Why haven’t we seen a new breakout consumer app

-AI

-Steph Curry vs Michael Jordan

So, here’s our “hallway chat”

Become A CSNYC Founding Partner

Three years ago, I co-founded the nonprofit organization CSNYC to address the extreme scarcity of computer science education in the NYC public schools. I am proud to say that we are now reaching nearly 10% of the city’s schools and more than 12,000 students. But our mission is to reach every school and every student.

In September 2015, Mayor de Blasio and I announced Computer Science For All (CS4All), a 10-year, $81 million plan to bring computer science education to every student in New York City public schools. The costs of CS4All will be shared equally between the city and private philanthropy, and CSNYC and Robin Hood have each committed $5 million to get the initiative off the ground.

As leaders in the local technology community, we collectively have the potential to support what will be the largest scaling of access to computer science education in the country. Early, meaningful access to computer science can change students’ educational lives and create pathways to future educational and career opportunities. These students are our future employees.

I am reaching out to NYC tech companies to help fund CSNYC’s ongoing efforts by committing to an annual membership of between $5,000 and $25,000. As a CSNYC Founding Partner, you will support our work in the schools and enable us to connect your company to employee engagement opportunities, internship programs, and more.

csnycpartnersPlease consider joining this distinguished group of companies: About.com, AppNexus, Bitly, Clarifai, Contour Ventures, Etsy, Facebook, HyperScience, Insight Venture Partners, Justworks, Kickstarter, MongoDB, Nestio, Postlight, Resy, Return Path, Simulmedia, Tapad, Techstars, Tusk Ventures, Warby Parker, and Yext. I am hopeful that we can add your company to this list.  

If you are interested in joining as a CSNYC Founding Partner email us and we will follow up with you directly, or you can simply fill out our online membership form.

The New Entertainment Bundlers

One of the things that many of us dislike about our cable company is the bundle. We are required to subscribe to a host of channels when we only want a few. The promise of going over the top is that we can now choose the services we want without the ones we don’t.

But we are now witnessing the re-emergence of the entertainment bundle in the over the top world.

The leader in the new bundle movement is Amazon which is putting entertainment options into its Prime service. Estimates for Prime membership go as high as 60mm households. We are one of them and have been for as long as Prime has existed.

The other bundler is YouTube. Their newish Red subscription service offers ad-free youtube, “original shows”, and premium music.

I expect Prime and Red to expand over time to include additional services (games, sports, etc). They are the new entertainment bundlers. I also expect others to enter this business. The most obvious candidates are the mobile carriers who already have a regular billing relationship with us.

The good news is that the new bundlers do not have a monopoly in their ability to offer entertainment to us. They have to compete with each other in an open market. So I expect that the bundles that emerge will be attractively priced and will be differentiated by price and content options.

Bundling has cost advantages like sales and marketing that can be offset across multiple services. And it is easier to subscribe to one service than ten. But over the top promises user choice over our entertainment options. With the new bundlers, we may be getting the best of both worlds.