Exposure Notification Express

I have New York State’s exposure alerting app on my phone and check it every day. It gives me great statistics about what is going on in my location. You can download it here for iOS and Android.

It will also notify me if anyone who is using the app and has been with me gets Covid. I have not gotten any alerts in the month or two since I have had it on my phone. That’s great news and I have been healthy and that is good too.

But there is an issue with the uptake of this app in NYS. The last numbers I have heard suggest that less than 10% of NYS residents have installed this app on their phones. That compares with closer to 20% and rising in some other states.

Part of the reason other states are doing better getting their residents to install an exposure alerting app is they are promoting both their own app (like the NYS app) and also the “native” exposure alerting that became available in iOS 13.7 and soon will be available in Android.

This “native” exposure alerting is called Exposure Notification Express and this Lifehacker piece explains how to turn it on in iOS.

I like having the full NYS app on my phone. But for those who would rather just flip a switch on their mobile phone, Express is the better option.

Because all of these apps and native operating system features run on top of Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification system (GAEN), all of these systems are interoperable with each other and you will be alerted if someone using any one of these services who you have been in contact with becomes infected.

Fighting this pandemic is hard. But we can make it a bit easier by doing a bunch of simple things, like wearing a mask, social distancing, getting tested regularly, and using an exposure alerting app or service.

#Current Affairs

Thoughts On Charles Duhigg's New Yorker Piece

I saw this tweet in my feed yesterday and read the New Yorker piece when I woke up this morning:

Here’s what I think. There is more truth to that article than anyone in the venture capital industry wants to admit.

The idea that capital alone can create a strong company is a flawed idea that the VC industry pursued with a lot of passion for most of the last decade. The flameout of WeWork and the tarnished stories around other “fundraising as a strategy” startups will hopefully put an end to that approach of building companies, but I won’t hold my breath until that happens.

It is true that we VCs enable the bad behaviors outlined in that piece and we must look a little more carefully at ourselves in the mirror in the morning and, as the Gotham Gal likes to tell me, “get over ourselves.” I won’t hold my breath until that happens either.

All of that said, the vast majority of VC-backed companies are not WeWork. The vast majority of VC-backed companies are innovative, led by good people, and are creating value the old fashioned way, by supplying their customers with high quality products and services. We should not let a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch.

Cautionary tales like WeWork and the others outlined by Charles Duhigg are healthy. But they are not the entire story, thankfully.

#VC & Technology

Knowing What You Are Looking For

There are many ways to invest successfully. Public stocks, bonds, private equity, real estate, venture capital, etc. And within each category, there are so many different investment opportunities.

In public stocks, there are something like 5,000 listed stocks in the US. In venture capital, there were something like 30,000 companies that raised venture capital in 2019.

How do you make sense out of all of that opportunity?

I’ve always been a fan of knowing what you are looking for and ignoring everything else. We call that thesis based investing at USV, but it is actually more than that.

We can say that we are looking to back trusted brands that increase access to capital, wellness, and knowledge, and we do. But we do more than that. In each of those sectors, we go deeper and identify specific areas within them that we want to target. We call those “deep dives.” We identify areas we want to focus on and areas we don’t want to focus on.

All of this is a relentless effort to figure out what we are looking for and then go out and find it. It is not a static thing. It is a dynamic thing. A pandemic comes along and rocks our world. Time to revisit the thesis and the deep dives. When the pandemic ends, and it will, we will factor that into our thinking too.

In a world with so much opportunity, it pays to ignore the vast majority of it and focus on a tiny bit of it. That may seem counterintuitive, but I am certain that it is the right thing to do.

#stocks#VC & Technology

Funding Friday: Remotely

I was on a zoom board meeting in early July and one of the board members started whipping out cards instead of interrupting. I captured the moment because I thought it was awesome.

Since then, I have wanted my own set of zoom meeting cards, but never took the initiative to make them.

So when I saw this Kickstarter project, I backed it immediately and went for the reward (which I rarely do) of the complete set of cards.

Email readers should click on this link and watch the video. I think you will want to get some cards too.

#crowdfunding

Link 230 Protections To Opening Up

The latest charade of bringing Jack and Zuck in front of Congress to yell at them reminds me that our elected officials and regulators don’t have a plan for how to properly regulate social media. Jack and Zuck probably do have a plan and if they play their cards correctly, they will be able to use regulations to lock in their dominance for many many years to come. That should scare us all.

So what would a good plan look like?

My partner Albert laid it out plainly and simply in this post a while back and I thought I would recirculate it.

Give a Section 230 like protection to companies in return for providing a complete set of enduser APIs. In other words, require Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. to be fully programmable in order to have their liability limited.

https://continuations.com/post/619477235088457728/the-social-media-triangle

It is really simple. Allow third parties to build interfaces on top of these networks if they want to maintain section 230 protection. Those new interfaces will allow massive user choice in terms of algorithms, curation, moderation, and more.

We need 21st century forms of regulation for 21st century problems. And we are not seeing much of that from our regulators right now, sadly.

#policy#Politics

Some Thoughts On The Pandemic

When I go back and read my Jan 1st post on what would happen in the 2020s, I am reminded how hard it is to predict the future. The Covid Pandemic changed everything in 2020 and likely for years to come. And yet it was not one of my predictions, even though Covid was already spreading in China at the time I wrote it.

We are nine months into the pandemic in the US and there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have two vaccines that have reported fantastic results and will soon be approved for emergency use by the FDA. I have heard people who know about such things say that those approvals could come as soon as the end of November. They cannot come soon enough in my view. We have two safe and efficacious vaccines and we should get busy vaccinating people, starting with those in the greatest harms way (health care workers, first responders, essential workers) and then on to the rest of us. I would take either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine right now if it was offered to me. Vaccines are the way out of the pandemic and we have known that since it started. What is amazing is how quickly safe and effective vaccines have been developed and tested by our pharma/biotech industry. Science to the rescue.

We are also in the third wave of virus cases in the US (and around the world) and it appears that the virus is everywhere these days. Our family has locked things down pretty significantly in the last week and we are hunkering down for a rough patch. We figure that we did it in March and April. We can do it again this winter.

The other big deal is the availability of rapid and accurate at-home tests. I figured out how to get cheap antigen tests from Asia for our family this summer and we have been testing ourselves regularly. They are not as accurate as PCR tests and they have not been approved by the FDA. But I figured some data that was fairly accurate was better than no data. It has helped our family stay safe and healthy and it upsets me so much that our FDA has not prioritized getting these tests into everyone’s hands.

There are also more expensive and not exactly rapid (30-60 mins) at home tests that are as accurate as PCR coming out now. This is a post about one of them. When you think you might be infected, a test like this is super helpful to have at home. And yet we have not prioritized these either.

Operation Warp Speed to get vaccines into the market quickly was a great success. But the lack of a similar coordinated strategy around mass, rapid, convenient testing was the big miss of the pandemic in the US. We should learn from that.

I believe this winter is going to be very hard. But getting through it safely will likely get us into the end game of this pandemic. So keeping things locked down, masking up out of the home, testing yourself and your loved ones, and following the rules seems like the thing to do. It is what we are going to do.

#Current Affairs#life lessons

Starting At The Start

A reader emailed me yesterday and I replied:

Hi Fred, do you have any suggestion for good primers/book explaining cryptocurrencies a bit better to the inexperienced and uninitiated?   

i would start at the start

https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

The Bitcoin Whitepaper, originally published in October 2008, is a work of art. Eight pages long and it describes most of what we now know as the crypto sector.

If you want to understand crypto, I recommend starting there.

#crypto

Bitcoin - The Gateway Drug

The first crypto asset most people purchase is Bitcoin. It has the highest market capitalization. It has way more search interest.

But Bitcoin is not all there is to the crypto sector. There is about $160bn of market value in the crypto sector outside of Bitcoin.

The “non-Bitcoin” portion of the crypto sector has risen over $100bn in 2020 and is up 2.7x this year.

Bitcoin is up about 2.2x in 2020.

What seems to happen is that individuals, and increasingly institutions, purchase Bitcoin to start their crypto portfolios and journeys, but over time they move some of their gains into other assets.

According to Coinbase, there are now 24 crypto assets with a market capitalization of greater than $1bn. I expect that list to expand greatly over this crypto bull run we are in that started this past spring.

We are starting to see sectors of the economy decentralize using blockchain technology, starting with the finance sector, naturally. This is a ten to twenty year trend that is just getting started. And owning crypto assets is the way to play that trend. Starting, but not ending, with Bitcoin.

#blockchain#crypto

Funding Friday: Lifted

AVC regular Charlie Crystle told me that his neighbors are doing a fun Kickstarter. So I went and watched the video (here for email readers):

The video is only 30 seconds and it sold me instantly. I backed it and I bet you will too if you like to drink beer with friends.

It’s a beer opener and a game all in one. It reminds me of what our family does with the chicken bone. So much fun.

#crowdfunding

Educating Electeds

A number of members of Congress sent a letter to the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday. I have embedded it below but readers via email may need to click here to read it.

Letter to the OCC on Fintec… by CoinDesk

These elected officials are correct that way too many people in the US are unbanked or underbanked. They are also correct that community banks and minority owned banks are closing at a rapid rate, which is contributing to these alarming unbanked and underbanked numbers.

However, I think that the OCC and, more importantly, the crypto industry, owe these elected officials an education on how crypto can address these important issues and why it is not a distraction from them.

In the letter, the members of congress mention “the immediate needs of millions of at-risk individuals who have not yet received an economic stimulus check and/or cannot deposit their funds in a bank.”

If the United States was developing (as is China), a digital currency stablecoin (a digital dollar), then those millions of at-risk individuals would have been able to receive their economic stimulus funds via any one of the popular mobile apps that support or will soon support digital assets, like Coinbase, Square, PayPal, Robinhood, and many more.

It would have been less expensive (by an order of magnitude or more) and much simpler to get funds to these at-risk individuals with blockchain based assets vs outdated technologies like paper checks.

I am not taking a swipe at these well-meaning elected officials. I am saying that the crypto sector needs to sit down with them and their staffs, pull out their phones, have them do the same, and send them some money. And then talk about regulations that will accelerate the adoption of these new technologies among the at-risk communities instead of what we have now which are regulations that are holding all of this progress back.

#blockchain#crypto#policy#Politics