NYC Tech Companies: Please Consider Participating in Summer Bridge

NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program is the nation’s largest youth employment program, historically connecting NYC’s neediest young adults (between the ages of 14 and 24) with a paid work experience every summer. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into it this summer and it was canceled. In response, the City and State and over 50 nonprofits have come together to design the Summer Bridge program for summer 2020. Summer Bridge will provide low-income NYC students with City and State-funded professional workplace experiences in the tech industry and beyond.  

Summer Bridge will provide summer internships to 35,000 young adults this summer.  Student interns will participate in workplace challenge projects for 10-20 total hours (2-4 hours per week for 4 weeks.) The program begins on August 3rd and finishes on August 28th.  Summer Bridge and its non-profit partners will match student interns with companies, compensate students with a stipend ($700-1000 for the summer), and manage day-to-day-student relationships.

We want the NYC tech sector to be a big part of Summer Bridge this summer. Please consider having your company involved. Here is our ask of your company:

  • Design a “workplace challenge” for students based on a real business need or problem in one of four areas: product, engineering, marketing, or design.  Tech: NYC is providing templates for these challenges.
  • Recruit employee volunteers to meet weekly with small groups (15-20 students) for hour-long virtual interactions. Ideally, each volunteer would see 2-3 groups a week.
  • Offer feedback to students at a virtual final workplace challenge presentation.

We hope your company will participate in Summer Bridge this summer. If you would like to participate, go here and sign up.

#Current Affairs#employment#NYC

Short and Sweet

My friend Jonathan sent me a couple graphs he made of the content on AVC over the years.

Here is how word count has evolved over the years. I started out with short posts, got longer for a while, and am now back to the short post.

Here is how post count has evolved over the years. In the early days of AVC, I would post multiple times a day (like many people use Twitter today). I moved to the once a day post around the time Twitter came along, although I don’t think they are related, and have been doing that ever since.

So that’s how the short daily post format evolved here at AVC. It is neat to see it visualized like this.

#Weblogs

Crawl, Walk, Run

I am a fan of the slow and steady approach to building a business. I call it “crawl, walk, run.”

I have seen many founders try the “run right away” approach and it is super hard to make that work.

An example of “run right away” would be to raise a $30mm seed round, hire a couple of hundred employees, and go for broke. That mostly results in being broke.

Of course, there are examples of founders who did that and succeeded. But they would be the exceptions that prove the rule.

Crawl, walk, run generally means start small, do one thing really well, then get a little bigger, do a few things really well, then get a little bigger and do a few more things really well.

Crawl, walk, run is more resilient. It allows for mistakes that aren’t fatal. It takes a bit longer to get to the finish line this way, but the probability of success is way higher with crawl, walk, run.

Crawl, walk, run is a mantra for doing a startup and I recommend it to everyone.

#entrepreneurship

Masks

I’m sitting outside of my favorite coffee shop sipping on a coffee and writing. I do this many mornings.

When I walked into the coffee shop this morning I was wearing a mask:

I counted all of the people in the shop waiting in line (six feet apart) and waiting for their coffees. There were twelve people in total, including two people behind the counter making coffee and taking payment.

Everyone in the store had a mask on and was wearing it properly.

That’s how it is and how is has been in that coffee shop since May 1st when we arrived here.

Wearing a mask is easy. I keep a bunch in my car and one in the pouch on my bike. It’s no big deal to put it on every time I go indoors anywhere other than our home.

I can’t think of anything simpler and more powerful that we can all do other than wearing a mask. I wear one proudly and I hope everyone else does to as long as the pandemic continues.

#Current Affairs

Mail Hosts

I got a question this past weekend that kind of stumped me. The question is – are there any really good mail hosts other than Gmail and Outlook?

I realize that Yahoo still operates a mail host as does AOL. And that many of the ISPs offer mail hosting. But all of those feel like 20 year old technology. Of course I could be wrong about that.

I am not talking about mail clients like Superhuman and Hey and others (including Apple and Microsoft’s mail clients). I feel like there has been a lot of innovation in that area over the years.

I am talking about the hosting platform that receives the email, filters out spam, and provides the connectivity to the mail client.

If you know of a modern and reliable mail host that supports the various third party mail clients, I would love to know about it.

If you are reading this on the web, please click on the button that says “Discuss On Twitter” and share your suggestion with me and everyone else who is interested.

If you are reading via email, please reply to this email or go to the web and share it with everyone via “Discuss On Twitter.”

I appreciate the replies!!

#Web/Tech

Working Virtually

Many of us have been working from home or some other remote location for over three months now. We have learned a fair bit about this approach to work and we have more to learn in the coming months. I don’t think we will be done with remote work until the pandemic is over.

It has taught me three conflicting things:

1/ I can be a lot more productive working remotely than many of us believed before the pandemic

2/ Those with kids at home don’t experience the same productivity boost

3/ I can’t wait to be back working together in person

On the first point, I am able to get a lot more done in a day working remotely than I am able to do in the office. I now regularly do days with ten to twelve meetings/calls/videos. I don’t think I was able to do that in the office.

I have also found it easier to find time for work that requires a lot of focus (writing/modeling/analyzing/etc).

And I’ve been much better at keeping my inbox and other communications up to date and current.

And I can do all of that while making time to go biking, do yoga, meditate, etc.

It is a revelation to me how productive I can be working remotely, particularly when our entire team is doing the same.

All of that said, my friends and colleagues with kids at home have not experienced the same productivity boost. They get some of the benefits of working from home, but they also face distractions, double duty, and more. If we cannot reopen schools in the fall, it is going to be a very challenging time for parents.

It is also the case that I miss the feeling of being together with my colleagues. Today we will spend four to five hours on Zoom in our weekly team meeting. It is way more enjoyable doing it in person around our conference table.

Reconciling these conflicting realizations will be the key to what happens when the pandemic ends. I am certain that we will all want to retain some of the convenience and productivity that comes with working remotely. But I am equally certain that we will want to work together again.

#Current Affairs#management

Funding Friday: Checking In On The $1k Project

I wrote about this project to financially support people who were laid off because of the Covid pandemic back in early April. We also participated in the project and supported a family in the NY metro area back then.

I saw this tweet yesterday:

$1mm in funding, almost 350 families supported, in ten weeks. That’s terrific.

If you want to participate, you do so here.

#crowdfunding#Current Affairs

Board Diversity

This is a topic of great importance and one that we in the tech/startup sector have not done a good job with. We wait until a company is ready to go public and then address it. While that is better than nothing, it is not good enough.

The board diversity problem is a symptom of a much broader problem around lack of diversity in founders that get funded and lack of diversity in VC firms. Most startup boards are made up of a few founders and a few VCs. No wonder you have no diversity on the board.

Here are some suggestions for addressing this situation. I am working on this in my portfolio and USV is working on this in our broader portfolio. We are not control investors so this is a process of advocacy and persistence. This post is a part of that effort.

1/ When a startup board is created, there should be two independent seats on it. Day one. I know that will mean that founders will be unable to control their boards early on but these “independent seats” can be nominated by the founders to allay those concerns. And founders should put diverse people (gender, race, life experience, etc) into these independent seats.

2/ VCs should accept observer seats instead of board seats when they invest in companies. Boards don’t need three or four VCs on them. One is often enough. Two maximum. Instead VCs should negotiate for an observer right and the ability to nominate an independent director. And they should nominate diverse people for those seats.

3/ There should be term limits on board seats. Nobody and no investor should have the right to sit on a board forever. I could argue that in some situations, the founder might be the exception to this statement. That does not mean a valued board member should step down. That valued board member can always be asked to serve another term. What term limits do is raise the question about whether a person is the ideal board member for the company for the next few years. Often the answer is no.

4/ We need more resources like The Board List, Athena Alliance, and ELC to surface great board candidates. One of the many problems with boards that aren’t diverse is that they are not well connected to diverse candidates.

5/ We must commit to addressing this issue and make it a priority. Board development in general is not a high priority for founders. They are rightly focused on their company, their products, their customers, and enormous challenges of building a business from scratch. But boards are important. They need to be a priority and a diverse board is a better board for everyone. So we need to increase our efforts here.

Ten years ago the the tech/startup/venture industries started to make gender balance a priority in management teams, boards, and the venture capital industry. While we are not where we need to be, we have made good progress. We can do the same with diversity across the board. We can use the same approaches and the same persistent approach to the issue.

I am committed to making this a priority with the founders and companies I work with and I hope that all of you will too.

#entrepreneurship#management#VC & Technology

Stablecoin Adoption

I was perusing the crypto markets today and noticed that Tether, the grandfather of all stablecoins, is approaching a $10bn market cap, making it the third most valuable crypto asset after Bitcoin and Ethereum.

I also noticed that USDC, the US Dollar stablecoin that Circle and our portfolio company Coinbase are behind, is approaching a $1bn market cap.

Unlike other crypto assets, the value of stablecoins, particularly “fiat backed” stablecoins, is not theoretical. These coins are backed by fiat deposits of people who have bought them. It is not entirely clear to me how fully reserved Tether is. But USDC is 100% backed by fiat. So that means that almost a billion USD has been paid for and set aside for USDC.

I’ve been spending a lot of USDC lately. I keep USDC at Coinbase and can spend it via the Coinbase mobile app. I’ve settled some golf bets with it, bought crypto with it, and am starting to use to buy crypto gaming assets.

I used to settle golf bets in Bitcoin. I have friends who claim they have tens of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin from golf bets I settled with them six or seven years ago. And we don’t play for a lot of money. So I don’t do that anymore. Settling in a USD backed stablecoin seems a lot more sensible. The same is true of most commerce and p2p payments applications.

I’m bullish on crypto as most readers know and I’m quite bullish on the stablecoin sector in crypto. I think their utility is just beginning to be understood in the west.

#crypto