Posts from October 2019

Video Of The Week: The Crypto Custody Business

A few weeks ago my partner Nick and Sam McIngvale, who runs our portfolio company Coinbase’s custody business, did a talk at the CoinAlts conference. In it they talk about the evolving role of custody in the crypto markets, and what they are excited about in crypto in the next few years.

Sensible Regulations Versus No Regulations

I remember back in the early 2000s, the direct marketing industry and the tech sector worked with Congress to craft sensible regulations for email marketing. The result was called CAN-SPAM and it was passed into law in 2003. The law has been modified to clarify certain terms and rules. While it certainly was not perfect (what is perfect?), it paved the way for a lot of progress in making email a workable medium for consumers and businesses.

There are no such rules in the location data business. Any mobile app can collect data on where you are and do what they want with it. That is not good for anyone, including the companies who are collecting that data.

Today, the CEO of our portfolio company Foursquare, which is in the location data business, wrote an op-ed asking Congress to regulate the location data industry.

In the op-ed, Jeff (Foursquare’s CEO) outlines what he thinks would be reasonable regulation. Here are the highlights:

  • apps should not collect location data unless they are using it to provide value to the user
  • there should be transparency to the user around what they are signing up for and how the data will be used
  • there should be a “do no harm” requirement
  • location data should be protected with the appropriate security

The entire op-ed is a good read and Jeff goes into a lot more detail than I did on each of these points.

I hope this leads to action in Congress and we get the right legislation as a result.

Bearing Witness

Normally when we travel, The Gotham Gal posts about the things we do. She is a way better travel blogger than I am.

But today we did something that I want to talk a bit about.

We visited the Auschwitz concentration camps in southern Poland.

This is the first time I have visited one of these camps.

I have been to the various Holocaust memorials and have seen the photographs and heard and read the stories.

But being there in person is something else.

Staring into the rubble of a gas chamber (one of four at Birkenau) where hundreds of thousands were murdered because of their ethnicity and faith takes your breath away and fills your heart with dread.

It is not a pleasurable experience in the least.

But it is a very moving one.

One of the things I have come to understand about life is that bearing witness is something we must all do. We cannot avoid the pain of humanity. We must stare it in the face and feel it.

We did that today and I am glad we did.

The Libra Association

I am sitting in the airport lounge in Geneva waiting to board an airplane. I am here because yesterday was the inaugural Libra Association member council meeting. The Libra Association is a Swiss organization which will operate the Libra blockchain network and the Libra reserve.

Yesterday was an important milestone for the Libra project. We adopted the initial charter for the Libra Association, we elected the initial five board members, and we set in motion a number of important initiatives. “We” are the twenty-one founding members of the Libra Association.

It is fashionable to be negative about the Libra project right now. And it is equally fashionable to call it “Facebook’s crypto-currency project.” Both are understandable under the circumstances.

But yesterday was the beginning of an independent effort, one that Facebook does not control, one where Facebook is one founding member among many, and one where Facebook has one board seat out of five.

But even more important is Libra’s mission to create a stable cryptocurrency that can operate at sufficient scale such that Facebook and others can use it as a means of exchange/payment system in their applications.

The most meaningful conversations I had yesterday were with the members from Kiva and Women’s World Banking who joined the Libra Association because the people they serve are under-banked and under-provided for by the legacy financial system. Like them, I believe a stable cryptocurrency that is broadly adopted around the world will bring new services to people who don’t have access to the financial system that many of us who read this blog do.

One of the powerful things about being in the venture capital business is that we can support projects that are necessary but unproven, unpopular, and/or misunderstood. Not everyone can do that and so it is even more important that we do.

The USB Standard

We are sitting in the gate at London City Airport waiting for an early morning flight. Next to every seat in the waiting area is a bank of power outlets that look like this:

You will notice that there is one UK standard outlet and four USB outlets.

And, no matter where in the world you are from, it is likely that you have a USB cable for your phone.

I am charging my phone while I write this and I don’t have a UK power adapter on me.

That’s the power of a standard like USB which is only getting better and better over time.

I wonder if someday we won’t even have to deal with all of this:

The USV Blog Search Engine

It has always been possible to search AVC. You click on the search icon in a desktop browser or you click on the menu button in a mobile browser.

But there is another way to search my blog posts, both here at AVC, and also the ones I have written on USV.com.

With our recently launched refresh of USV.com, there is now at tab at the top called “Writing.” It looks like this on a mobile phone:

You can search by type (USV blog only, team member blogs only, or all), topic, author, and date.

This search engine includes writing by many USV alums on the USV blog and all of the current USV team members who blog regularly. It is quite a library of content, mostly on tech, venture capital, startups, and that sort of thing. But naturally it veers into many other topics from time to time.

If you want to read what USV team members (current and past) have to say about something, there is now a resource to do that. And we hope to make it even better over time by improving the metadata and search functionality around this large library of content.

Heading East

The Gotham Gal and I are heading to Europe for a couple of weeks of vacation.

I will not be working the next two weeks but do plan to blog about whatever is on my mind.

The Gotham Gal, as is her custom, will blog about the various fun things we are going to do on this trip.

I am looking forward to some down time, some good books, and seeing the sights and sounds of different places.

I am a big believer in vacations. We all work hard, get ground down, and taking some time with friends and family to unwind, clear the head, and refresh is always a wonderful thing. I am excited to do that myself.

Principles Over Profit

I was pleased to see NBA Commissioner Adam Silver say this with respect to the controversy over Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the protest movement in Hong Kong:

The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say. We simply could not operate that way.

The NBA faces the potential of a backlash in China that could impact the league’s business interests there.

That could reduce the profits of the league and players and owners.

But the NBA is putting principles over profits here and that is a good thing.

We have faced this issue a number of times over the years at USV and we have tried to do the same.

We have also been on boards of companies that have faced this issue over the years and we have advocated for this approach.

It is not an easy choice. Companies have employees to pay, families to feed, and customers to serve. And principles are not always shared by everyone and the lines are not always clear

But one thing is for sure. The search for profits can lead a founder, a CEO, a team, a Board, and a Company to forget their principles and that is never a good thing.