Posts from February 2021

Digital Art

My friend Seth is an entrepreneur and an artist. I have two of his paintings hanging in my office in NYC. His latest work is taking photographs of the sunset every day at Venice Beach and then training an AI model to turn it into a 30 second video. The work is published in a MP4 video. Therein lies the challenge. Anyone can copy an MP4 video so how does he make this work unique?

He turns it into a “non fungible token” or NFT.

I have written about NFTs a lot here at AVC over the years, most recently on how our portfolio company Dapper has used them to invent a new kind of basketball trading card.

But NFTs are also a very powerful tool for digital artists to bring scarcity/uniqueness to their work. And we are seeing a fair bit of activity starting to happen in and around digital art and NFTs.

Seth minted an NFT of his work and listed it for sale yesterday and then tweeted this out:

I saw that tweet and placed a bid on it this morning. If you would like to do the same, you can do that here (you will need a Metamask wallet holding Ethereum).

There is still some geekiness/wonkiness about digital art NFTs (like needing a Metamask wallet and Ethereum) and I expect that will go away in short order and the experience of buying NFT art will be more like the experience of buying a rare Luka Doncic Holo MMMX card on Top Shot which requires none of that.

Crypto technology has many uses and is absolutely not limited to speculating on meme coins. In fact, the emergence of real utility (vs speculation) is the single most important thing that needs to happen for crypto to live up to its potential (and current market values). I think NFTs and digital art is likely to be an early example of that utility emerging.


What Problem Are We Trying To Solve?

Pro-Publica has an excellent interview with Jeff Kosseff, the author of The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet, a book about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Those 26 words are:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

In the Pro-Publica interview, Jeff makes a fantastic point:

I think it’s possible to reform Section 230. But there are a few barriers. First, we haven’t agreed on what the problem is. There are very different conceptions of what is wrong. Half of Washington thinks that there should be more moderation and that the platforms should be more restrictive. The other half thinks that the platforms need to be less restrictive, and in many cases say they shouldn’t do any moderation at all.

Also there’s this: If you’re saying that there should be more moderation and less harmful content, the big problem with that is that we still have the First Amendment.

With elected officials all clamoring to enact Section 230 reform, we are in for a mess if we don’t start with the problem we are trying to solve. I have not yet heard any elected official or staffer clearly articulate what exactly they want to achieve with Section 230 reform, except to earn political points with people who don’t actually understand the issue very well, like the New York Times.

This point, again made my Jeff, expresses my personal fears about Section 230 reform:

Both sides are to a certain extent under the illusion if you got rid of Section 230, that would magically fix all of their problems.

I worry that the compromise is going to be this jumbled-together mess of a bill that does not make any sense.

In my view Section 230 is sort of like what Winston Churchill said about democracy:

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

Section 230 is certainly problematic in many ways. But when you sit down and really think about alternatives, it becomes clear that it is better than any alternatives that have been suggested.


Most Read Blog Posts On AVC

Last month, I wrote about the value of having a list of the most read posts on a blog. I said I wanted to create that for AVC.

Well, I am pleased to let you all know that we built it and it is now live on the AVC archives page. It looks like this:

I am very happy to see Fake Grimlock’s “Minimum Viable Personality” guest post on the list. I stopped having guests posts quite a few years ago now, but no question that was the very best of them.

The other one that I am happy to see on the list is “Employee Equity: How Much?” I know that post has helped so many founders think about that topic over the years.

This is a dynamic list. It pulls from AVC’s Google Analytics account and it will change over time. But some of these posts will stay on it, like the two I mentioned and probably a few others too.

I hope you all like this new feature. I think it is quite useful.


Computer Science Is For Everyone

Many/most of you know that a lot of my philanthropic time and energy is dedicated to making sure that all K12 students, but particularly young women and students of color, have access to a high quality computer science education.

When I started this work a decade or more ago, I would regularly run into well-meaning people in the education system who would say something like “oh, that’s not for my students” and it would piss me off and I would try to explain that anyone can learn to tell a machine what to do. Often, it fell on deaf ears.

So when my friend Hadi sent me this video that his organization,, made, it warmed my heart. The whole thing is great, but at 1:42 in, a woman named Amaya completely nails it when she says “Computer science is for everyone, literally everyone. Some people think you have to be a genius to get it, and that is so far from the truth.” Right on, Amaya.

Check out the video. It’s great.

#hacking education

Funding Friday: Fresh Start Farm

My friend Joseph and his wife Mikayla have started a dairy farm called Fresh Start Farm. They will be using regenerative grazing techniques.

Mikayla writes on her Kickstarter, “Regenerative agriculture refers to farming practices that reverse climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and improving the water cycle. I plan on dividing the pasture into smaller paddocks that allow me to move the cows in a way that maximizes soil and root recovery. The more the roots can recover and grow deeper underground, the more carbon we can sequester from the air. “

I backed Mikayla’s project earlier this week and you can too.

#climate crisis#crowdfunding

A Nice Zoom Hack - Take Two

I wrote yesterday about a couple of Zoom tricks I learned last week. Unfortunately, I messed up that post and conflated two different features and confused everyone. So I am going to try this again.

If you are tired of looking at yourself on the endless Zoom meetings we are all doing all day long, you can click on the three little blue dots on the upper right of your own “box” in Zoom and select “Hide Self View.” Everyone else will continue to see you on their screens, but you will no longer see yourself on your screen.

If you want to literally disappear from the Zoom meeting you are in, but still be in it, then you can go into Zoom settings and select “hide non-video participants”. Then you can turn your video off and nobody will see your profile hanging out there with video off.

I am now using a combination of these two features to reduce Zoom stress in my daily grind.

I am sorry for mixing them up in my post yesterday and confusing everyone. Hopefully this fixes that mess up.

Update: I still don’t have this right. My friend who showed me these tricks wrote me this today: ““Hide non video participants” only works on the screen of the person who checks that box.  You can’t force yourself to be hidden on other people’s screens – only they can check that box. “

#life lessons

A Nice Zoom Hack

After almost a year of being on Zoom all day, I am sick and tired of looking at myself on the screen. But I don’t love going off video and then everyone seeing a black box with a profile picture of me.

So I learned a new Zoom trick in a board meeting last week.

If you check the box in the Zoom video settings called “hide non-video participants”, then you can turn your video off and nobody will see your profile hanging out there with video off.

When you turn video back on, you will be seen by everyone.

It’s a bit like muting and unmuting. But for video.

I like it.

#life lessons

Learning From Your Mistakes

Show me a successful person and I will show you someone who has made a ton of mistakes. That’s how things go. You can’t really learn from your successes. You can try to replicate the wins and sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. But mistakes – those are powerful learning moments.

I have made my share of mistakes over the years and continue to do so, particularly in new areas where I am not experienced. It’s always a bummer when the mistake comes home to roost and you have losses, egg on your face, a problem, a mess, or any and all of that. You feel terrible, you are angry at yourself and possibly angry at those who were involved in the mistake. I think it is best to own it, fix it if possible, and mostly to learn from it and not make that one again.

There will always be new mistakes to make. It is best not to repeat the ones you’ve already made.

#life lessons

Rooftop Solar

I’ve been thinking a lot about the economics of rooftop solar. Our family has invested in rooftop solar over the last five years in an attempt to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce our electric bills. When you do that in combination with electrification of your heating and cooling (using electric heat pumps vs gas or oil), you can save money and live a more sustainable life.

We have used SunPower solar panels and inverters and they come with a nice analytics service that shows how much of your electric consumption is being generated with solar power.

Here is a chart from our SunPower dashboard that I looked at this morning:

You can see that we generate about 2/3 of our energy consumption with solar. I believe that with some additional conservation efforts, we can get to 75%+ solar.

The installation cost of the rooftop solar was about $24,000 after the federal solar tax credit.

Had we taken a 30 year self amortizing home equity loan to finance the solar installation, we would be paying $1900 a year in principal and interest payments at current home equity rates.

As you can see, Sunpower estimates that we are saving $2854 a year with our rooftop solar, so there is quite a nice profit in rooftop solar at current interest rates if you live in medium to high energy cost locations in the US.

I think there are a number of good business opportunities in and around rooftop solar. For one, making it drop dead simple for a homeowner to finance, order, and install rooftop solar and start getting paid for doing so feels like a winner to me.

#climate crisis#entrepreneurship