Posts from August 2020

Some Email Stats

I was looking at my Feedblitz dashboard this morning. Feedblitz powers the daily email for this blog.

These are all of the emails/blog posts I have done this month:

As you can see the open rate hovers between a low of 33% (Ghost Pacer) and a high of 45% (Subscription Agreements).

The unsubscribe rate ranges from 0.02% to 0.075% (on my birthday!).

I suspect the click data is not instrumented properly because I can’t imagine that nobody clicks on any links in the posts. But since I am not trying to generate clicks, I don’t really care too much about that.

I don’t view AVC as an email newsletter. I view it as a blog. But it is both and this data shows that lots of people get it that way and enjoy it. That’s great.


Funding Friday: Isolated On The Road

I backed a bunch of projects this morning on Kickstarter and this one really stuck with me. I like supporting young creators who are putting their work out there and seeking funding for it. And I also like the idea of documenting this pandemic in photos so we can remember it when its in the rear view mirror.


I'm No Good At Numbers

In the final presentation session of our Summer Bridge internship program yesterday, an impressive young man told us that he had stayed away from a career in business because he “was not good at numbers.”

I stopped him and suggested that maybe he is good at numbers but only numbers that interest him. He pondered that for a minute and agreed that when numbers matter to him, he’s interested in them.

That’s how everyone is in my experience. If things get too abstract or too fuzzy, people tune out and then convince themselves they aren’t any good at the subject.

Of course some people are better at numbers than others. I’ve always had a feel for numbers. But I can’t sing. So everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

But I reject the idea that some people are not good at math. I think if you make math interesting and relevant to them, everyone can and will do math.

#hacking education

The Trifecta

A trifecta in horse racing is when you accurately predict win place and show. It is when you get three bets correct.

We’ve had the opposite happen in 2020. We’ve had three things go wrong at the same time.

As my friend David Steinberg said to me last month, we are witnessing 1918 (pandemic) plus 1929 (economic crisis) plus 1968 (racial crisis) all at the same time.

Of course they are related. The economic crisis was brought on by the pandemic. And the racial crisis has been made worse by both.

At some point, the pandemic will ease. I am hopeful that behavior change (mask wearing, social distancing, self quarantining, etc) combined with rapid and inexpensive testing will help contain the spread of the disease while we wait for the therapies and vaccines which will eventually eradicate it.

But when the pandemic is over, we will still have the economic and racial crises to reckon with. And reckon with them we must. The financial markets suggest that the reckoning will be easy and painless. I’m less sure of that.

As I wrote about a few days ago, our public sector budgets have massive holes in them. The inequities that have come to the fore in the racial crisis cannot be swept under a rug. I believe we are in for a lot of change and a lot of pain in the wake of this trifecta and there is no escaping it.

I also believe, as I wrote last week, that this painful period of change can lead us to a better place. But that will take time, energy, and capital to achieve and it won’t come easy.

#Current Affairs

Pay and Precedent

We are finally in an era where an equal role comes with equal pay. This is a very good thing but it comes with some hard lessons. One of them is about pay and precedent.

You cannot make a hire and a compensation commitment without thinking very deeply about the precedent you are setting.

Let’s say your company is now fifty people and you can see that you will need to be a hundred and fifty people in a couple years. You decide it’s time to build a proper senior leadership team. And you want to start with a CTO. That first “C level” hire will set a precedent for what you should be prepared to pay (in cash and in equity) for all of your C level hires. You do not have to pay every C level executive the exact same amount but they need to be in a band and I would argue that they need to be in a tight band. And there needs to be a strong rationale for the compensation for each role.

Let’s say you are bringing on your first independent director and that person is so great and you want to give them a very generous equity grant. You can do that but you should know that you ar setting a precedent for what the next independent director will get.

Let’s say you want to bring on a mentor and advisor for your VP Finance to help her “level up” to a CFO. That advisor will want and should get some equity compensation. What you do for that advisor will set a precedent for all other advisors you bring on.

Many times I hear founders say “this is good enough for now and we can fix it later.” But fixing compensation issues later can be very hard and sometimes impossible, particularly if your company significantly increases in value between the problem you want to fix and when you need to fix it.

These are some of the most painful errors you can make in a startup. It is very important to be thoughtful, diligent, and precise in your compensation decisions and approach and you have to start early in a company’s life. Getting a strong and experienced head of people onboard early on will help you avoid these issues. And trust me, you want to avoid them.


Some Thoughts On New Tax Revenues

Federal, State, and Local governments are facing massive budget gaps and will need to close them with a mix of cost reductions and new revenues. While this is always hard and has a real toll on people who might lose their jobs or have to pay more in taxes, it is also an opportunity to do things that have been hard to do until now. Here are some ideas on the revenue side:

1/ Legalize the cannabis industry and tax it. This has already been done successfully in some states. It is time for it to happen in all states and for the Federal Government to legalize cannabis as well.

2/ Legalize the online betting industry and tax it. This is another thing that has been done successfully in a few states but needs to be done in every state.

3/ Tax carbon. We have a full on carbon crisis and we are not changing our behavior in reaction to it quickly enough. Taxing carbon will not only accelerate the behavior change we need to address the climate crisis, it will also raise a lot of revenue.

4/ Tax unrealized gains that are financed/monetized. There have been calls in state governments to tax unrealized gains. While that idea is unworkable because many people will not have the money to pay for a tax on the appreciation of their home or some other asset, there is a wrinkle on this idea that I like. We can tax the unrealized gain if it is financed or monetized. This happens all the time in real estate and also with stock gains. If those unrealized gains are captured via a loan or some other instrument, they can be taxed like realized gains. This will also have the benefit of reducing the rampant speculation in real estate that has been making real estate so unaffordable for so many.

I am sure there are arguments against all of these ideas, starting with those who are against taxes of all kinds. And we cannot tax ourselves out of these budget messes we are in. We will need to cut costs as well.

But a time of crisis is also a time of opportunity. We should get creative and do new things that have not been possible until now. We need to be open to new ideas like these and others and not just keep doing what we’ve been doing which is not working so well right now.

#hacking government


It’s my 59th birthday today. 59 is a nice number. It’s a prime number.

I kicked off the day by getting a cup of coffee and sitting on the beach and reflecting on things.

I am taking the day off from work and plan to spend the day with our family.

#Random Posts

Sunpower Dashboard

We use Sunpower solar panels and inverters and they have this cool dashboard that shows us a number of interesting things.

This is the percentage of power we are drawing from our solar panels vs the grid since May 1st:

This is how much power we are consuming on a given day and how much we are producing via Solar:

We want the green bars to be higher than the blue bars. It’s hardest to achieve that in the summer months when the temps are high and AC is on.

I love having an all electric house that is powered by solar panels. I want to get to the point where we don’t need any power from the grid. We aren’t there yet in the summer months, but we are super close. Over the course of a year, we are producing more than we are consuming and that feels great.


NYC Is Dead, Long Live NYC

There is a lot of negativity around NYC right now. Bloggers writing sensational headlines. That sort of thing. It makes me want to go out and buy a ton of NYC stock right now.

It is certainly the case that many talented people are leaving NYC right now. It is also the case that the City is suffering from rising crime, filth, etc. And the City is in deep financial trouble and cutting costs everywhere it can. Commercial real estate is facing a huge crisis and residential real estate might not be far behind. Real estate tax revenues (which provide much of NYC’s income) will decline creating an even more difficult fiscal situation for NYC. The short term outlook for NYC is bleak.

When companies go through this situation and their stock prices get clobbered, you have to ask yourself if the company is going to go out of business or not. If the answer is no, then the question becomes what price is the right entry price.

NYC is not going out of business. It will need a turnaround. It will need new leadership, which it will get. The pandemic will end. Restaurants, museums, broadway, nightclubs, etc, etc, etc will re-open.

It won’t be the same NYC that existed pre-pandemic. But that is a good thing. NYC has sucked for the last decade or more.

Many people who can will leave forever. Rents will be lower (maybe a lot lower). Artists will be able to live in NYC again.

We have the opportunity to reimagine what NYC is. We can reimagine transportation, schools, policing, housing, construction. We can create an environmentally sustainable NYC. We can create an affordable NYC. We can create a better NYC.

But the first thing that has to happen is we need all the people who are afraid of all of this change to leave so those who are left can come together and create this better NYC. And thankfully that is happening.