Posts from June 2019

The 5G Conundrum

Christopher Mims has a good post on the 5G headaches that are in store for those of us in the US as we roll out 5G:

While getting to wireless speeds that are close to the fastest wired speeds is important, it also begs the question why are we doing it this way.

Jessica Rosenworcel, who is one of the FCC Commissioners, explains why the US approach to 5G is different than elsewhere in this opinion piece:

I was in a meeting earlier this year and there were some execs from the big wireless carriers in the room. They were complaining about how difficult local governments are being on the 5G rollout. I asked them if 5G is really going to work with this network architecture that requires so much infrastructure buildout. They were confident. I am not.

Video Of The Week: What Is Web3?

Juan Benet, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Protocol Labs, developer of the IPFS and Filecoin protocols, gave this talk last fall.

I like Juan’s statement, about 10mins into this talk, that “what Bitcoin did to money, Web3 does to everything.” That is obviously a very big statement/ambition, but I agree with it.

Here is Juan’s talk:

AI and Health Care

David Kelnar sent me this deck that he did on the state of AI. It is very good.

This slide got my attention:

It is interesting, and not totally surprising, that the sector that AI-focused entrepreneurs are targeting more than any other is health and wellbeing.

It seems like there is so much opportunity to improve our collective health and wellbeing with data science and machine learning. This is a big part of our thesis around healthcare at USV.

Graduation Season

If you are feeling a little low on energy and want a pick me up, go to a high school graduation. You could simply crash any graduation, you don’t need to know anyone graduating. They are such feel good events.

I went to the AFSE graduation yesterday.

This is the fourth class that has graduated from AFSE and I think I have been able to attend every graduation. It really is such a great way to spend a couple of hours.

I like the procession music, I like the faces on the students as they walk in. It is a mix of apprehension, pride, and excitement.

I like the speeches by the students. I like the speeches by the teachers and school leaders.

I like the handing out of the diplomas.

I like the joyous hugs from proud family members after the ceremony is over.

There really is nothing quite like the sense of opportunity, promise, and achievement that pervades high school graduations. If you have an opportunity to attend one this week, I strongly recommend it.

New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act

The lawmakers in Albany have passed legislation known as the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) and it is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting signature.

There is plenty of debate on whether CCPA is good policy or bad policy. All you need to do is Google “New York’s Climate and Community Protection Act” and read the NY Post (against) and the NY Daily News (for) and you will see the various sides of the debate.

What this bill does is commit New York State to some of the most agressive goals of any city, state, or region:

This is a legally binding legislative act to achieve an 85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a goal of net zero.

My view is that we need ambitious goals like this and penalties for not reaching them (the stick).

But we also need new policies and new funding/investment to allow us to reach them (the carrot).

Most of the “green new deal” style legislation that is getting passed in NYC, NYS, and elsewhere, and being proposed in many other places, is long on sticks and short on carrots.

I believe CCPA is a good first step for NYS and I hope the Governor signs it into law.

But legislators and activists and the business community should not stop there. We need to follow these goal setting/penalty setting laws with more work around how we get there and there are many good ideas floating around on how to do that.

As hard as if has been to get CCPA done, I think the hard work is just starting because reaching these goals will require creativity, innovation, new technology, and a massive amount of investment and the willpower to see it through.

We really don’t have a choice. So let’s go.

Understanding Gender Bias In Venture Funding

USV portfolio company goTenna‘s founder and CEO Daniela Perdomo and USV analyst Dani Grant did some number crunching on VC funding and published the info last week.

The good news is that in business sectors where women are well represented in the customer set, women founders are raising more (on a pro-rata basis) than their male counterparts.

The bad news is in the rest of the business sectors, women founders raise a lot less (on a pro-rata basis) and in “deep tech” the numbers are particularly bad.

These conclusions ring true to me based on what I see in the market.

I believe women founders have made a lot of progress in the last decade in raising VC. There are many more of them approaching VC firms for capital and many more of them getting funded. But it seems most of the progress has been in sectors where women are well represented.

The progress in sectors where women are not as well represented is almost non-existent. We in the VC sector need to understand the conscious and unconscious biases at work when we meet with a women founder working in one of these under-represented sectors and fight them off.

Founders like Daniela, when they are successful, will help a lot. There is nothing like success to change people’s opinions, conscious and otherwise.

Pixel Slate RIP

I got a Pixel Slate last December and wrote several blog posts about it at the time.

I use it when I travel and just spent two and a half weeks with it as my only computing device other than my phone.

It is fantastic on an airplane as it is equally great for watching video and doing work (on or offline).

At the tail end of that two and a half week stretch I read that Google has decided to stop making Pixel Slates. It will continue to support the current devices but will not come out with a new model.

This means the Slate is a dead platform and that I will need to find another answer for my travel tablet needs. I’m not eager to get an iPad Pro and will probably continue to use the Slate until I find a better answer.

This bums me out. I like the Slate. It has its issues. But I think Google could have easily addressed them over time.

We need competition to the iPad in the tablet market and Google was on its way with Slate.

Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up

Jerry Colonna‘s book, Reboot, came out this week.

He had given me the manuscript to read so many months ago that I had to go back and read it again before I could write about it.

So I bought the book yesterday and read it again over the last twenty four hours.

AVC regulars don’t need any introduction to Jerry. I’ve been writing about him, citing him, and telling stories about him since the very start of this blog.

Jerry is my friend, my former partner and co-founder of the first business I ever started, Flatiron Partners, and one of the best people on planet earth.

Jerry’s book is about two things that are really the same thing, himself and his work to help people, mostly entrepreneurs, discover themselves.

Jerry describes this work as “radical self inquiry”:

But the most challenging piece of the formula—indeed, the most important—is the notion of radically inquiring within. I define it as the process by which self-deception becomes so skillfully and compassionately exposed that no mask can hide us anymore. The notion is to recognize that, if things are not okay, if you’re struggling, you stop pretending and allow yourself to get help. Even more, it’s the process by which you work hard to know yourself—your strengths, your struggles, your true intentions, your true motivations, the characteristics of the character known as “you.” The you behind the masks, the stories, the protective but no longer useful belief systems that have been presented for so long as the “you” that you would like everyone to see.

Invariably such inquiry involves getting to know, as the poet Adrienne Rich says, “not the story of the wreck but the wreck itself.” With help, patience, courage, and guidance, we explore the wreck and retrieve the treasure. Knowing how to survive and understanding what it takes to thrive are skills that come from our childhood. Take any random group of entrepreneurs, for example, and do a quick unscientific survey by asking them to raise their hands if they grew up in an environment where at least one parent had disappeared or left or was never present. Most hands will shoot up. Early promotion into adulthood is often painful and equally often a sign of an early promotion into leadership. Probe a bit further and you may find that leaders who have built their company may have unconsciously stacked the team with other folks who experienced such early promotion.

Radically inquiring within allows us to step back and see the patterns of our lives not as random acts of a willful or even vengeful God but as forces that shape who we are. It’s this understanding that will make us not only better leaders but better, happier, more resilient people.

Reboot, the book, is about Jerry’s radical self inquiry to discover who he is and then his work to help others do the same.

He tells his own personal story over the course of the book and also weaves in the stories of others who he has worked with along the way to explain what the work of radical self inquiry is and why it must be done and the rewards that come from doing it. He is teaching by example.

Jerry started his career as a writer and he is a wonderful one. It is a joy to see him go back to those roots and exercise those muscles again.

Let me put it to you this way. You are reading AVC for a reason. Maybe you are an entrepreneur. Maybe you want to be one. Maybe you work for one. Maybe you are investing in entrepreneurs. Or maybe you are married to one. Or maybe your daughter is one. No matter what the reason, you are here at least in part because you are interested in entrepreneurs and the work they do. And so as part of that interest, I would recommend you pick up Jerry’s book and get inside the head of one. It will flip some switches on for you.