Rebuilding NYC

The Gotham Gal and I spent a good part of saturday walking around NYC. At one point, we walked through the massive and amazing Chelsea Piers complex and saw this plaque:

Think about that. In one four year period, the New York Public Library, Grand Central, the subway, the Queensboro and Manhattan bridges, the fire hydrant system, electrical street lights, firehouses, schoolbuildings, and 51 piers, including the Chelsea Piers, were built.

That right there is a recipe to get NYC back on its feet once this pandemic is over. We can and should build our way out of this downturn.

There is no shortage of things to build in NYC. We need more housing, particularly affordable lower and middle-income housing. We need more transit. I am a fan of light rail, like the proposed BQX, throughout the outer boroughs. We need fiber to every block in NYC, not just the wealthy neighborhoods. We can build zero carbon buildings out of mass timber and reduce our carbon footprint. These are just a few examples of things we can and should build in NYC.

Building can be financed with bonds. Building puts people to work. Building makes our lives better. Let’s do it NYC.

#NYC

Mobile App Stores and Crypto

I have written extensively on this blog over the last decade and a half about the significant negative consequences that the two large mobile operating systems have on distribution of software. I am strongly opposed to the monopolies that Apple and Google have over mobile apps that run on iOS and Android.

I am rooting for Epic/Fortnite in their battle with Apple over the 30% tax that Apple charges developers for distribution in their app store. But more than the tax, what bothers me about these monopolies is the innovation tax they impose on the broad tech sector with their terms of service/rules.

There is no better place to see that than crypto, the next big wave in computing (after web and mobile). There are a number of reasons that decentralized crypto apps (dapps) have not gone mainstream, but certainly one of them is that the Apple and Google app stores don’t allow a number of important features that decentralized apps require.

The founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, Brian Armstrong, explained this well in a tweetstorm last week:

He ended with this tweet:

Coinbase, Epic, and Spotify are not alone in their struggles with Apple and Google. They are simply large enough and protected enough to go public with their struggles. The truth is every developer that distributes software through these two app stores struggles with them.

In what world does it makes sense for two large and powerful companies to completely control software distribution on mobile phones? In no world does it make sense. It must stop.

#crypto#entrepreneurship#mobile

Circulate Networking Events

My friend and former colleague Charlie O’Donnell created a new kind of networking event for the moment we are in. These are virtual networking events designed to “include diverse perspectives in the innovation community.” They are called Circulate.

These are curated discussions, meaning you sign up to participate and the right group is selected to attend.

These industry-specific events will bring together a who’s who of accomplished and influential professionals as well as the most promising and most curious people from underrepresented communities that represent the future of these spaces.

http://www.brooklynbridge.vc/circulate

The next three events are shown here:

If you are interested in participating in a Circulate Event, pls sign up here. There are a few remaining spots open for the event Thursday night on Education.

#entrepreneurship#NYC#VC & Technology

Home Sweet Home

We have been back in NYC for about a week after being away for the entire pandemic. We were in LA when the pandemic hit and then spent the summer on the east end of Long Island.

Like everyone, we have read the horror stories of NYC being a wasteland of homelessness, crime, shuttered storefronts, filthy streets, and more. These stories occupy the front page of the NY Post every day and cannot be avoided.

While we have not ventured into every borough and neighborhood, we have been in downtown Manhattan and North Brooklyn, and what we have found is almost the exact opposite of what is being reported.

New Yorkers are out and about, wearing masks, keeping their distance, and enjoying our city very much. Fall is the best season in NYC and New Yorkers are taking advantage of it. My daughter and I biked in Prospect Park yesterday like we do most Sunday mornings and it felt as busy as any Sunday morning in my memory.

The Gotham Gal and I have been going out to dinner at our favorite restaurants in lower manhattan, sitting outside, and enjoying the experience. The walks to and from dinner through lower manhattan are amazing, the streets are bustling and NYC feels very much alive.

It is true that the streets are filthier. It reminds me of NYC in the 80s and 90s when we first fell in love with this place. It is also true that many storefronts are empty, a continuation of something that has been going on in NYC for the last decade and has been accelerated by the pandemic.

I am sure there are parts of the city that are not doing so well. I’ve heard that midtown is empty and facing challenges. I know that the neighborhood around the USV office in Flatiron is not as vibrant as it usually is. And I am sure that there are challenges in the neediest neighborhoods where the pandemic hit hardest and the economy is the most challenging. I am not saying that NYC is doing great.

What I am saying is the demise of NYC seems to have been greatly exaggerated by the media and others. The NYC that we are experiencing is showing its resilience and makes me very confident that it will once again get back up from the punch it just took and start swinging again.

#NYC

My "Zoom Room" Keyboard and Trackpad Setup

I’ve written about the power of having a really great setup for doing long video meetings. I call it my “zoom room” because it rhymes. I use Google Meet and a bunch of other video services regularly in my Zoom Room so it’s not so much about the video service I use.

One of the challenges of using a computer (in my case a Mac Mini) from a couch vs a desk is the keyboard and pointing device setup.

My partner Nick suggested this trick and I use it in the office and at home. I buy an Apple Magic Keyboard and an Apple Magic Trackpad and then I snap them together with this piece of plastic called the MagicBridge.

It looks like this:

I find this works really well and if you are putting together a similar setup, I highly recommend it.

#life lessons

Bolster Your Management Team And Board

I have had the great pleasure of working with Matt Blumberg and the senior leadership team of USV’s former portfolio company Return Path (which was sold in 2019) for much of the last twenty years. Matt and many members of his leadership team got the band back together early this year and started a new company called Bolster in partnership with Silicon Valley Bank and the early-stage VC firm High Alpha. A few months later, USV joined that investor group along with our friends at Costanoa.

Matt is a great CEO and has even written a book about leading and growing a company called Startup CEO. Their new company Bolster is all about scaling and building a great management team for your startup. The Bolster team believes that scaling a high growth company means that you need to adapt, grow, and supplement your management team continuously along the way. And a big part of doing that is accessing “fractional talent” which means people that don’t work for your company full-time and permanently. All of this is outlined in the Bolster Founding Manifesto which explains why they started this company.

Fractional talent can be a fantastic independent board member, fractional talent can be a CFO mentor for your VP Finance that you want to grow into a great CFO, fractional talent can be a VP Product that can cover for your VP Product while they are on family leave, fractional talent can be a part time Chief Revenue Officer that you want to “date before you get married”, fractional talent can be a part time Head Of Insights that will allow you to understand if you need a full-time Head Of Insights. I could go on and on because there is no end in sight for the various ways a CEO can leverage fractional talent to make their company and their management team better.

Bolster came out of stealth and into a beta period today and is opening up its marketplace to companies that want to access fractional talent and to executives who want to work at high growth companies in interim, fractional, advisory, or board roles. Bolster also will allow venture capital firms and startup investors to participate in its platform as super users. If you are any of the above and want to engage with the Bolster network, you can sign up here. The full marketplace will launch soon.

We have already introduced Bolster to a bunch of USV portfolio companies and the enthusiasm for this model is really high. I love the idea of USV investing in a company that can help our portfolio companies do things better. We have done that before with Twilio, MongoDB, Carta, Sift, and a host of other companies. It’s a double whammy and it pays off in so many ways.

#entrepreneurship#management

Honoring Labor

Something that bugs me about our tax code in the US is that we tax labor more than capital.

If you make $100,000 of gains on your purchase of Tesla stock you pay 15% of those gains to the IRS.

But if, instead, you earned that $100k of income as a school teacher, you would pay 22-24% of that income to the IRS (depending on if you are married and filing jointly or single).

This tax policy values capital over labor and seems wrong to me.

I think it would be better policy to lower the income tax rate and raise the capital gains rate to something like 20% so that all income is taxed equally no matter how it is achieved and so they the net impact on revenues is neutral.

It’s fine to have a federal holiday called Labor Day to recognize the contributions from working people but an even more powerful gesture would be to stop taxing their work more than your stock market gains.

#hacking government