Google I/O 2016

I was in meeetings all day the past couple days and missed all the news coming out of Google’s big event.

So I am getting my friends Bijan and Nabeel to explain it all to me.

You can do that too by hitting the play button below.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    So much for slowing down.

    1. jason wright

      boycott avc for a week? i’m beginning to feel uncomfortably complicit.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Why would I do that?

        1. jason wright

          you? me.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Why would you do that?

          2. jason wright

            i feel i might be contributing (in an atomic way) to the unhealthy addictive workaholic behaviour by turning up here.- the ‘take a break or have a breakdown’ may apply to what we are observing.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Get a virtual assistant or create a bot for that.

          4. jason wright

            not my unhealthy addictive workaholic behaviour. the dude’s unhealthy addictive workaholic behaviour.

          5. Mario Cantin

            It’s not like Jim to be slow, ha ha! Must have been a late night πŸ˜‰

          6. JimHirshfield


          7. JimHirshfield

            Fred take a break from AVC? This is therapy for him.

          8. jason wright

            but are we qualified?

    2. fredwilson

      posting someone else’s content instead of mine is slowing down

      1. JimHirshfield

        true that

  2. William Mougayar

    I liked the Google Home (Echo competitor). I think Google has a better chance than Amazon for this thing because of their Google Voice technology and Chromecast/Nest types of integrations.Also, intrigued by messaging apps Allo and Duo (FaceTime competitor).

    1. jason wright

      don’t you think it should be on wheels and follow its owner around the home?

      1. JimHirshfield

        Wheels? Those are so last millennia.

        1. jason wright

          i ride bicycles. watch it πŸ™‚

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        That would be the watch version of a chat-bot.

    2. K_Berger

      FaceTime is so much better than anything else out there in terms of quality and ease of use. It’s just about the only thing Android is really lacking compared to iPhone.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup. Let’s see what Google did with that. I will try then.

    3. LE

      WSJ (attached) did a print article on this yesterday.After Echo launched, Amazon executives were surprised by the immediate demand from software developers, said David Limp, senior vice president of devices.Is it just me or is “Limp” a really bad last name for a guy to have? Jim what do you think?This is the type of thing that shows how useless some of these things are:Jeff Blankenburg, of Westerville, Ohio, says he relies on his Echo speaker to open his garage door, track his car and turn on or off lights around his house.β€œI could walk over and turn on my lamp, but it’s way cooler to ask it to do it,” said the 39-year-old software developer.What about the button in the garage that opens it and what about the remote in the car (or the are built in) that opens it? Not good enough? This is the best example?Do you see what is happening here? Techies not in touch with the way the 99% think. We don’t care about shit like that. Besides they had something like that (it was called the clapper).As the feature set is now, all of this is a non-starter as far as mass market for consumers (that could change of course). The things that it does (now) just don’t matter that much. I mean in this article they even mentioned dominos pizza delivery. Super important ranks up there with global warming. If there aren’t enough compelling reasons to use this device it will never reach a tipping point and right now that tipping point (even if the device were free) is not in view at all. It’s half baked.Meanwhile the remote control that Fios supplies still can’t be used in the dark (not enough backlighted keys and not big enough keys for anyone over 40 years old). Where is the innovation there? And I want something to push I don’t want to have to use my voice (isn’t big in cars either as far as usage)….

      1. Jim Ritchie

        I’m not the Jim you asked, but I’ve known Dave for about 20 years. He’s aware of his “Limpness”…

    4. SubstrateUndertow

      Is Google Assistant their new universal/embedable AI-Chat-Bot frontend-interface to an emerging galaxy of backend Bots/algorithmic-agents that replace traditional APPs with a more universal/dynamic remix-palette of Bot agents?In the end do “Siri” and “Google Assistant” move that AI-Chat-Bot frontend interface down the stack away from first mover APPs like WeChat/Slack/KIK into the OS kernel where they belong?Could it even be possible at soon point to extract/abstract an AI-Chat-Bot frontend interface into a cross platform open standard for accessing all manner of backend Bots/algorithmic-agents for dynamic/universal remix by end users?How granular should backend Bots/algorithmic-agents be to optimize their remix/complexity?Who should own and control access to the collection of Data-Objects that such backend Bots/algorithmic-agents operate on?What constitutes an optimally-parsimonious noun/verb subject/object mass-cultuevocabulary-set/meme for a best fit compromise between natural language simplicity and AI-Chat-Bot frontend interface domain-steerage/hinting?At one point the early engineering focus was on building a vehicle that could manage all types of terrain but that soon gave way to the practical acceptance that road building costs were the optimally adaptive middle ground.

    5. falicon

      I actually think Amazon is better positioned for the win there…they have the e-commerce angle that can be tightly integrated as well as the dominate AWS service(s) that are *very* tightly integrated…google is most likely better at Voice (and maybe AI) but I don’t think that the “tech” alone is enough to win this war…

      1. William Mougayar

        The voice part is actually very important for this, coupled with web services integration to perform actionable work for you. (I was an advisor to a predecessor product to both Amazon’s & Google’s called the UBI, so I’ve had some early insights into this in 2013).

        1. falicon

          Interesting! I’ve built stuff on them and so far the diff. in the voice stuff hasn’t been so far apart as to matter much in my experience (honestly – they both need improvement)…I’m still sticking with Amazon in this one, but I do think it’s a 55/45 kinda odds for the few years between them…so you could easily be the one who is right here!

  3. Sebastian Wain

    Now is clear Google is alone on their league. I am not talking about Amazon Echo competitor but about their unique APIs, Tensorflow, Syntaxnet, deep learning, and their own ASIC processor.There are two kind of APIs on the cloud: the ones you can run on-premises but use it on the cloud for convenience, and the ones that you can’t replicate like Giogle Speech API.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Indeed. I can’t wait until they complete the circle.

      1. Twain Twain

        Except … GOOGLE CAN’T COMPLETE THE CIRCLE since they’re working on the Matrix / box model.The operative insight during Bijan and Nabber’s comments on the 4 big techcos covering same surface area was: “Google’s taste gives us Google Glass. Google has no taste.”The common surface area of Google, MS, Amazon and FB is that of the matrix / box model. Apple’s is the circle / sphere.For taste, Google founders would have to have natural affinity and aptitude for ART & AESTHETICS (like Steve Jobs had), alongside engineering knowhow (software and hardware) and business execution.Google’s data and Machine Learning prowess is still competitively vulnerable once someone partners with Apple to apply ART to Natural Language AI …

        1. Richard

          Amazon is learning this

        2. Lawrence Brass

          Steve Jobs taught this to everybody who wanted to listen, always with the mythical corner projected behind him. He did this repeatedly for several years at the end of his presentations. It is a profound message, hard to grasp correctly, it has to do with balance and staying away from dogma, another of his mantras.This is the last time he told this to us, a few months before his death:

          1. Twain Twain

            Notice, Google Home is same color as my slides. The magenta purple is the product of sky blue and bloodred heart.So … I didn’t have to pay $millions like Google to get a design team to do color palettes.

          2. sigmaalgebra

            Nice.Of COURSE want to please people via some of the best ways the liberal arts do. But that is too narrow, and we should pay attention to much more.Part of what we should seek is new, entertaining, powerful, valuable, information.The emphasis on mobile as a replacement, follow-on, improvement on, say old PCs is just foolish, like saying that a really nifty motorcycle can do some things a car can do and, in addition, some things a car can’t do and, thus, can replace a car. Nope: I still want a car, actually an SUV, and want nothing to do with a motorcycle. I still want a PC and have no significant use for a mobile device.For what to do with the technology Jobs was considering, there is a theme, a special case: Offer new, entertaining, powerful, valuable, information delivered to the users just via a Web site and that the users access just via any standard Web browser. Why? Because the Web remains a relatively powerful user interface, and nearly everyone on the planet has access to the Internet and Web with a device, mobile or not, that has a standard Web browser and knows how to use standard HTML/CSS (with little or no JavaScript) Web pages.The main problem with Jobs is that he was stuck in some parts, relatively superficial parts, of human emotional experiences as understood in art going back hundreds of years but ignoring the powerful, valuable contributions, say, since Shakespeare, from applied math, physical science, medical science, and engineering. He wants to give an entertaining experience more like a play than like, say, alerts about anomalies in the economy. He wanted people to fall in love with the beauty, polish, fit and finish of his little toys, to have pride of owning something like a piece of jewelry, to have a piece of fashion instead of a powerful tool. E.g., Jobs wants to regard PCs are obsolete, but to me, a desktop PC is still a much more powerful tool than a small, mobile device, from Apple or anyone else.

          3. cavepainting

            Technology + Humanities + Social Sciences is a profound message. Just like our bodies are a direct function of what we eat, our minds are shaped by the information we put into it. And our relationships and views of the world are shaped by our minds. Behind every smart phone and device is a real person whose mind is being actively molded by what he is consuming.

          4. Lawrence Brass

            Your exact definitions amaze me cavepainting. This bidirectional modelling happening, because products are theroretically modeled for people too, is a key concept. I want to learn more about this.

          5. cavepainting

            Lawrence, I believe the same concept is also related to ancient principles in Eastern traditions related to how we are not our bodies or minds, but something else that is more permanent, joyful and aware. I believe Steve Jobs referred to this several times and even made arrangements to give out copies of the book “Autobiography of a Yogi” to the people who attended his funeral.

          6. Lawrence Brass

            My spiritual travels are very limited. As far as I know nature brought me here, and I am very thankful for that and for having the opportunity to share with other beings created by nature or by god.I will look for the book , thank you cavepainting.

          7. cavepainting

            Lawrence, you are welcome. In Hinduism and Buddhism, there is this belief that spirituality is really inversely correlated to the level of activity in the ego-mind. Thus activities that are ostensibly spiritual but in effect are boosting the ego, deepen the illusion vs. creating more awareness. By that token, those who may think they are very spiritual may not be so, and those who have deep gratitude and concern for others may well be. It is a complicated subject.. and my travels are also very limited.

        3. Dan G

          Apple’s AI will be for the 1% few rich people, while Google’s or some others, will be accessible to the rest, the 99%

  4. Jess Bachman

    Whats the over/under on how many of these initiatives will be around in 12 months?

    1. JLM

      .What is interesting is to see how directly these initiatives are targeted against other apps. It is hand-to-hand.There can be only one?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Jess Bachman

        There absolutely can be more than one. But the benchmark for a “success” is high, and those that don’t reach that benchmark are scuttled, present adoption be damned.

  5. Richard

    While you were gone, theranos happened. has a vc fund every been held liable for the torts of a portfolio co ?

    1. LE

      Well no because the company is a corporation and the purpose of that is to “protect and shield”.Nothing however that on Shark Tank Mark Cuban has passed on investments saying that he is a target for lawsuits. What I suspect he is thinking is not that he will get hit with a lawsuit (what would the standing be for that?) but that the company is more likely to be sued if they know he is there to provide a backstop of further investment in order to make a settlement. Also that he doesn’t want the publicity that comes with a dubious investment. PR wise, a company that is linked to a high profile investor (or more importantly a celebrity) gives the “aggrieved” parties leverage from someone who would want to protect their reputation. [1][1] Apparently not something that Trump gave much thought to when he got involved with Trump University (which I thought back then was shady, before it was was reported as being shady).

      1. Richard

        The corporate veil can be pierced, wondering if it has happened at the VC level.

        1. LE

          Well sure but you can also fly in an airplane that can crash. The question is what is the probability of that shield being pierced since we don’t hear many high profile cases of it happening (because it would be very interesting news in high profile cases and they are good targets) we can assume the risk is fairly low (vs. other risks).Not many news stories on this that I could find. Here is one of them:http://www.thelegalintellig

    2. JLM

      .Not directly for torts but absolutely for their role in supporting IPOs and such. Dr Koop comes to mind.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        I am not seeing how what happened to Dr. Koop relates to the question posed by Rich (and what the impact other than the obvious loss).

        1. JLM

          .The VCs got sued and lost 2X their investment for the role they played in the IPO. They settled a lawsuit. Bit of Austin inside baseball. As I said, it was not directly for a tort.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          1. LE

            Major fraud involved in that? I am finding zip to read about what happened in that particular case.

          2. JLM

            .Major, minor? In the eyes of the beholder.A confidential settlement — is there any other type — will not provide much grist for your mill.I think it was in the Austin Business Journal. Austin Ventures was the VC group.I heard the story from one of the founders of AV.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    3. Lawrence Brass

      Sad news. Where were the board members and regulators all this time?Theranos was very secretive about their core technology, I can’t believe it was a scam, more likely the tech flopped along the way and the carrousel was already spinning too fast to jump.BTW, does the FCC look inside the devices? What if Apple tech is just a breed of intelligent shell-less oysters inside? I will crack open my watch right now.

  6. LE

    5 minutes into this there to much joking and not enough good content. Plus soundcloud doesn’t embed in a way that you can continue to listen on AVC. You have to click over to soundcloud and then you are faced with a bunch of other episodes (not knowing which one you should click on it isn’t the first). And if you pause there is no indication of the episode you were listening to. This is ironic given the “advanced” topics that are being discussed on the audio recording which (so far at least) is a bunch of dudes shuck jiving.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      In an old version of Firefox on an old version of Windows, I got all the audio to play without difficulty just by clicking on the double vertical bars.Yes, since the industry is still trying to get the bugs out of Web browsing, f’get about lots more from new APIs, etc.!

  7. Shaun Dakin

    Like many things that Google does, I’ve become wary that they will announce, release, and then give up. As such, I now hardly ever am an early adopter of Google stuff as there is a 90% chance that they will stop supporting it in about 3 days after the launch.Personally I have 2 Amazon Echo systems in my townhome and they are the most useful gadgets that we have in the house. All the family love it.I doubt that Google can come close to getting me to switch.

    1. Rick Mason

      They say a startup has to be 10X better and that is a hard bar to beat. But I was with a dozen people last night who had never even heard of the Echo. So if Google’s marketing is better…

  8. sigmaalgebra

    The Good NewsThey are correct about the prominence of “me-too” among Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.The Bad NewsThe are stuck in a mud hole of trivia, and that’s no way to make the big bucks.E.g., the chat is wrestling with, “What is the best, Android or iOS …, etc.?” Or “Who should developers follow, Apple, Google, Facebook, or Microsoft?”. For what Bijan and Nabeel, in the VC business, need, that is like “In biomedical, what is the better band aid, white or pink?” or in the TV business, “What is best, a sitcom or a reality show?” Or they are like the pundits looking at the Republican primary picking among Jeb, Ted, Marco, and Carly. That is, they are discussing just trivia.They have a concept, “The consumer surface” or some such. Mostly that concept won’t help; it is like the debates in 1990 at CBS, NBC, ABC for the consumers’ TV time, that is, before the explosion of the commercial internet, that is, trivia.They are focused on user interfaces via mobile apps: That’s like being in the high end wine business and focusing on the bottle instead of the wine. Instead, for a lot of what might give users, just use the Web on just simple HTML Web pages with just the standard HTML controls — push buttons, links, one line text boxes, multi-line text boxes, check boxes, and radio buttons because essentially everything that a person will look at that has a screen and an Internet connection will also have a standard Web browser.Their concepts of new content are limited to what they call machine learning and AI from existing data, say, about people and their e-mail and images, but that’s too simplistic and superficial to be useful, like thinking with just check boxes.They are still focusing on social, mobile, local, images, UX, APIs, and apps. If they were in the high end wine business, they would be focusing on bottles, labels, corks, and caps and viewing the wine as just a few choices, red, white, or sparkling.They are still looking too much at e-mail, messaging, chatting, maps, selfies, and vacation pictures.There is no substance to what they are thinking about. Maybe they are looking for the next SnapChat or some other fad among teenage girls.They are doing big game hunting in their 1/4 acre suburban back yards. About the best they will find, and that only by thin chance, is an itinerant male racoon looking for a mate.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      I see Google filling the gaps in their product line, but if you look at the complete set it seems disjointed. Cool but unrelated. Usually inside mamooth companies you have several departments competing with one another, not always in a very constructive way, so the ‘better’ ideas surface by competition, at least that is what upper management thinks about it and expects. But what really happens is that departments or power groups battle inside the company and they get better at politics, often degrading the company’s culture. I don’t know about the innards of Google management, but this phenomenon is what hurted Microsoft so much.I think that Google greatest asset is also it greatest weakness, the business model: own the data, understand it, run ads. When was the last time you credit card was charged by Google? OK, you run some ads. It would be nice to see Google getting income from a more diverse service and product matrix. I have nothing against adtech really, but if almost all of your revenue comes from ads, you business becomes that, you are what you sell. Internal priorities will tip the balance in favor of the cash cow. I am probably wrong on this because Google is a great company.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        To get away from just their Web site keyword search engine is likely much of why they formed Alphabet — to permit other projects to be successful.But, their view for the new parts of Alphabet seems to be to go comprehensively for “the users’ surface” like, say, a grocery store with a lot of private label offerings for the full range of what is commonly offered in a grocery store. So, as in the audio clip, what they are doing is “me too”.So, they can assume that there is some high potential value in that collection of common offerings and just want to be one of the best, especially most comprehensive, in that market, ride the wave of that Silicon Valley theme.But I’m not convinced that there is a significant future for anything or even everything on the shelves of their grocery store.Sure, in the last 15 years, it was much easier in a lot of poor areas of the world with no good cable TV service or even good land line telephone service to put in cell phone towers, connected to both the voice network and the Internet, and have people, some billions, use Android smart phones for voice and messaging, but that fact, along with SnapChat, PINterest, InstaGram, and Twitter, doesn’t look to me like a powerful wave to ride or a significant future. And, to me, tacking on Google’s machine learning and AI doesn’t much change that situation.In a medical analogy, they are playing with just skin creams and band aids. In a grocery store analogy, they selling, say, Pop Tarts and Hot Pockets and are missing anything as important as any of milk, bread, butter, eggs, sugar, flour, beef, chicken, pork, fish, etc. In a hardware store analogy, they have some throwaway toys but nothing as important as any of hammers, nails, wrenches, paint, or brushes, etc.In simple terms, they are having one heck of a time thinking of anything new, powerful, valuable, and important to do with microprocessors, associated hard/software, and the Internet.

    2. cavepainting

      There is only limited mental bandwidth among consumers to absorb new technology. Anything new has to first penetrate the noise and also prove to be useful or entertaining in life or work.The advantage of me-too is that consumers already know the category and what to expect. If someone does it significantly better, the consumer is more open to shifting for he already knows the job he or she wants to get done.The things that change the game by creating the desire in consumers for doing new jobs or dramatically enhance the way they do existing jobs are few and far between.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        All true.Going DeeperBut for what Silicon Valley (SV) wants, what the limited partners (LPs) need, and what the venture capitalists (VCs) should be pursuing is your “few and far between” or the first good or much better or the exceptional.The ExceptionalThe problem is, the system of the Stanford Computer Science department, the SV VCs and SV hacker entrepreneurs are not where we should expect to find the first good, much better, or exceptional.Can’t expect to be exceptional in the wine business worrying only about just the bottles, labels, cores, and caps. Instead, need to know and make good use of a lot about wine making. Can’t expect to be exceptional in the medical products business worrying only about band aids and skin creams. Instead, need to know and make good use of a lot about medical science.Getting the ExceptionalAn exceptional product or service in information technology (IT) needs the advantage of good use of unique, new, powerful, valuable, proprietary applied math, physical science, or engineering at its core.The Junior VarsityThat SV system really is the junior varsity (JV) and not able to pursue the exceptional.The US DoD ExamplesThankfully for US national security, the US DoD knows about the exceptional and, for new, powerful, high end military systems and pays very little attention to the SV JV.Problem SponsorsThe US DoD has something like VCs but calls them problem sponsors at Office of Naval Research (ONR), Naval Research Labs (NRL), Air Force Cambridge, Army Durham, Department of Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA), and more.Problem Sponsor QualificationsTake a look at some of the biographies and observe that usually those problem sponsors have serious backgrounds in technology, way beyond the SV hacker technology, and for their project evaluations draw heavily from the best of US academics. Generally the DoD has done much better with high end electronic engineering (EE) departments than with computer science departments.The Silicon Valley BottleneckYes, now the wins that are desired really are your “few and far between”, but the bottleneck there is just that JV culture.Speeding up the Clock of ProgressIf remove that bottleneck, then “first good or much better” and very valuable can be much more common. That is, we can speed up the clock of progress.The Biomedical VC ExamplesActually, some of biomedical VC knows much of the importance of qualifications: VCs there commonly have MD or biomedical Ph.D. degrees.SV IT VC QualificationsAlas, SV VCs can be history majors, MBAs (when I was a B-school profs, I taught MBA students — not good), former newspaper writers, and partners with qualifications for a tenure track slot in a STEM field at a good research university or a DoD problem sponsor position are “few and far between” and a bottleneck.Two Sides of a CoinFor an IT entrepreneur eager to speed up the clock on progress and swing for the fences with a quite good chance of sailing over them, the JV bottleneck is an unanesthetized root canal procedure, “barbed wire enema”, huge detour with chuckholes in the road, and a huge waste. But the flip side of that situation is an astoundingly open green field essentially devoid of any credible competition and, thus, a fantastic opportunity.Or the Internet and Web, astounding computing hardware, and fantastic infrastructure software are all so readily available, and there are so few people who can think of good things to do with them. The number of such people is so few what we get is a lot of social fads for teen girls.Why the BottleneckHere is a simple explanation for part of the reason for the JV and the bottleneck: One of the most valuable products and services now and for the future is new, powerful, valuable information. So, we’re talking information. The SV JV IT culture is fundamentally weak working with information, and this weakness is a bottleneck to progress.InformationWell, one way to get information is just to have it already exist and, then, just look it up.More InformationMuch better in principle and now feasible in practice is to take in available data, manipulate it, and report the resulting information.Manipulations from MathematicsWell, the data manipulations are necessarily mathematically something, and for more powerful resulting information we should look to more powerful manipulations, and those about have to come from appropriate, often new, applied mathematics. So, the core is a math problem.Phone Booth ConferenceGotta tell you, can have an SV IT industry conference in a phone booth with all the SV VCs and SV entrepreneurs, all of both, with a good Ph.D. research degree in applied math. A computer science degree? Doesn’t really count.Necessarily RareYes, my views here are rare, unusual, with people agreeing with it “few and far betwen”, but that is nearly a necessary condition for the coveted exceptional. If many people agreed with me, then I’d know that my startup was less promising than I expect now!So, it’s good here at AVC for me to post and observe that not many people agree with me! I’ve posted such thoughts before, and so far nearly no one has agreed with me! So, in particular, my startup is still safe from any serious competition! Good to know!

        1. cavepainting

          I like your new writing approach of shorter paragraphs with bold headers. A lot easier to read and understand.

  9. sigmaalgebra

    From the chat here and a little looking, it appears that what Bijan and Nabeel want to do is to keep up on the buzz, especially fads of teenage girls, find recent little mobile toys, especially social, play with them, pick the ones they like, and maybe invest in them.To me, that’s a nearly hopeless way to make money, for anyone, especially for their LPs.

  10. yojak

    These guys should try using Ringr to record their podcast.

  11. cavepainting

    Google has a significant edge in any service that involves NLP, computer vision, voice recognition, search, data and machine learning. Does not really matter if they start late or if it appears me-too at the beginning. They will eventually catch up and do a much better job. Google Search, Google Photos, Gmail etc. were all late to the market but ended up becoming the best products in that category.In areas like VR, messaging, video conferencing etc., they may not have the same competitive advantage and the strategic moat of services like whatsapp is pretty significant.

  12. Rob Larson

    My biggest problem with soundcloud is that I’ll be listening to an interview / podcast / or something, press pause, then come back to it later and my place where I was has disappeared. Can’t remember where I was. Drives me crazy. Worse yet, if I’ve been listening in the soundcloud app, I can’t even find the interview when I come back to it. Where’s the “recently listened” button or anything that might be helpful like that? I don’t see it. User experience fail. It is the most frustrating user interface of all the audio players I have ever tried. Maybe it’s good for music discovery, but it’s not very good for “normal” listening needs.

  13. Dave Pinsen

    Turned it off after the first 20 seconds.

  14. jason wright

    the dead wood’re on. see you for Fun Friday next week.

  15. Jim Peterson

    You are very informative and entertaining Charlie. And relevant.