Posts from Fred Wilson

CEO 360s

I’ve written about this topic before. It is an important topic and I want to raise it again.

Boards often discuss CEO performance without really knowing how things work inside the company. And CEOs often have very little visibility to how they are doing and what the board thinks about their performance. When you work for one person, your boss, it is typical that you will have regular catchups and at least an annual review of your performance (ideally more frequent). But when you work for a group, i.e. a Board, things can get very “squishy” leaving for a lot of guesswork and worse.

Enter the CEO 360.

This is a process whereby the CEO is reviewed by their direct reports and by the Board members and often a few more people (a few skip levels, some investors who aren’t on the board, etc). It is frequently done annually but it could be done more often if the CEO would like that.

This process can be run by the CEO’s coach, an outside facilitator, or someone else. Our portfolio company Bolster offers an excellent CEO 360 at a very reasonable price.

I am often amazed by what I learn from a CEO 360. I frequently see CEOs who are excellent at managing down and run a very solid leadership team but struggle with managing their Board. These CEOs are often seen as weak when in fact they are strong. The opposite is also true. I have seen CEOs who are excellent at managing up but terrible at leading their team and their Boards love them but their team hates them.

What is even more important for everyone is the insights that come from a CEO 360. Like all 360s, they tell the CEO where they are strong and what they need to work on. Armed with that information and a supportive Board and others (coach, mentor, CEO support group, etc), CEOs can take action to get better at their job. Without this information, it is hard to “level up.”

If you are a CEO and don’t do a CEO 360 annually, you should start doing one. And make it a regular occurrence. It will help you do your job better and it will help everyone around you too.

#entrepreneurship#management

Subscribing To AVC

For many years, there were three ways to subscribe to AVC:

1/ Email – Get new posts delivered to your inbox

2/ RSS – Get new posts delivered to your RSS reader

3/ X – Follow AVC on X

X revoked the API access that I was using to autopost three or four months ago. I have not been active on that service for almost a year now and have no interest in dealing with it.

So if you are one of the 25.5k followers on X and want to keep getting alerted when I post, I suggest you go with option 1 or option 2 going forward. There is also a new third option that I will talk about at the end of this post.

If you subscribe to AVC via RSS, you are likely using the old Feedburner feed. That has become unreliable and I would suggest moving to the Feedblitz feed which also powers the AVC email delivery.

I finally moved the email delivery off the old Feedburner feed this week when last week’s post did not go out via email. I suspect most of you missed it as a result.

All of this is a perfect example of the fragility of relying on centralized services like X and Feedburner (owned by Google). USV was an early investor in both services and I was a big user of them.

But all things come to an end in the world of centralized services and the challenges of getting AVC delivered to the ~100,000 subscribers reminded me of that last week.

There is a world where services just keep running because they are open source and decentralized. I wrote about that back in June and I am excited about that world to emerge.

AVC is available in the decentralized world and you can subscribe there if you’d like.

So now there are three ways to subscribe to AVC:

1/ Email – Get new posts delivered to your inbox

2/ RSS – Get new posts delivered to your RSS reader

3/ Web3 – Subscribe to AVC on Mirror

If you are using the email delivery method, you are all good. If you are using the old RSS feed or X, I would suggest moving to something else. Or you could just stop getting AVC if that suits you. Many of you already have thanks to X and Google (and me).

#Web/Tech#Web3#Weblogs

Yubikey Authenticator

I got a new Pixel 7 last week and have started the tedious process of moving over to a new phone.

One of the more painful chores in moving from one phone to another is moving the Google Authenticator app and all of the two factor codes to the new phone.

My partner Nick told me about Yubikey Authenticator and I converted to it while moving phones since I was going to have to get all new codes anyway.

If you use a Yubikey for anything else, switching to Yubikey Authenticator is a breeze.

You download the Yubikey Authenticator app onto your phone, insert your Yubikey and start scanning QR codes (just like Google Authenticator).

Then any time you need a code, you simply insert your Yubikey into your phone and your codes appear in the app.

You can also put the Yubikey Authenticator app on a laptop or a desktop and get the codes that way which is a great backup solution in case you misplace or lose your phone.

And, when it is time to switch phones, you simply put the Yubikey Authenticator app on your new phone and insert the Yubikey and your codes are there.

Even with all of this goodness, I still keep physical copies of my backup codes in a safe. I am also considering setting up a second Yubikey for the two factor codes I use the most just in case I lose my main one.

When it comes to two factor codes, I think you have to have a plan B and a plan C.

If you use a Yubikey already, consider using the Yubikey Authenticator for your two factor codes.

#life lessons#personal security

Helium Mobile

USV has been an investor in the Helium network since 2019. I have always loved the idea of using web3 technologies to let consumers to “peer produce” a communications network creating a people-powered network.

Helium started out powering communications between low-power “Internet of Things (IOT)” devices but with the introduction of Helium Mobile back in May, they are now powering a cell phone network.

My friend Stephen started using Helium Mobile last month and so I decided to join him. I signed up for Helium Mobile yesterday ($25/month but free during the beta period) and added it as a second SIM on my phone.

Now on the upper right of my home screen, I have two cell networks instead of one:

For now, I am going to use Helium Mobile alongside my primary carrier, T-Mobile, but I do plan to eventually scrap T-Mobile and use Helium Mobile exclusively.

Helium Mobile offers members the opportunity to earn Mobile tokens by sharing your location with the network. They call this “mapping”. I turned that on yesterday and should start seeing Mobile tokens in my Helium Mobile app today.

If you want to join me as a Helium Mobile customer, you can do that here.

#mesh networks#Web3

Art On The Wall

I’ve written about this topic a bunch over the years. It is something I’ve been interested in for quite a while.

Our homes are filled with big hunks of plastic hanging on the wall that are off most of the time. They look like this:

Now that’s a lovely scene. Some nice plants. A cool wood cabinet. A nice lamp. A few books. And a piece of black plastic.

Here’s what our family room looks like when we are not watching the TV:

That’s a Sony TV with nothing special in it. I have done some work to make the art run on it, but that work is getting easier and easier. I’ve been playing around with this stuff for almost a decade and I feel like we are about to get to a place where everyone can do this.

Here’s what is involved.

1/ It is now simple to collect digital art that you can show on your TV. Here is the NFT that is showing on that photo. I minted it five days ago for about $90. It is part of a series of NFTs, but mine is unique. There is not another one that looks exactly like this one. There are hundreds of places you can mint NFTs these days and new NFT mints are offered every day, possibly every hour.

2/ It is relatively easy to write software to show NFTs on a TV. My partner Nick did that for the TVs at USV last year. We run that software on an inexpensive device called a Yodeck. I am currently using software written by the Bright Moments DAO for their NFT events and that runs on a Mac Mini.

3/ I expect a number of companies and projects will write consumer-grade software to do this over the next few years and I also expect the big consumer electronics companies to start shipping smart TVs with this kind of software in them.

Here is how I see this market working.

1/ You buy a smart TV with an NFT app in it.

2/ You connect it to the address that holds your NFTs. For me that is fredwilson.eth. You can see my collection here.

3/ You create playlists like you create playlists on your favorite music app.

4/ You tell the TV to play those playlists when the TV is off.

All of the pieces are in place for this to happen. We just need the software to be written and the consumer electronics companies to adopt it. That feels inevitable to me.

#art#Web3

The New York Tech Sector

The New York Times had a piece yesterday suggesting that tech will no longer be a growth engine for NYC and the surrounding metro area as it has been for the last twenty years. I am not going to link to the piece because it is behind a paywall but if you want to read it, you can google “Tech Firms Once Powered New York’s Economy. Now They’re Scaling Back.” I talked to one of the reporters who worked on the piece and told him that their angle was incorrect. But when a publication has their mind made up on the angle, there isn’t much you can do to convince them otherwise.

If you take a real estate angle, which is how the New York Times approached the story, it is true that technology companies, large and small, are cutting back on their space needs. But that is more a reflection of the era of remote/hybrid workforces than anything else.

Here is what I told the reporter working on the story:

1/ Office leases to tech companies are down. The tech sector has embraced remote and hybrid workforces and their office space needs reflect that.

2/ Rank and file tech workers in NYC are roughly flat as many workers have left the NYC metro area but just as many have come here from other locations.

3/ Top talent in tech has massively increased in NYC since the pandemic as people with in-demand skills can now work anywhere and don’t have to be in the Bay Area anymore. There are significantly more USV portfolio company leaders in NYC today than there were before the pandemic.

I saw a headline the other day that said that more than half of the top 50 AI companies are in the Bay Area and another 10% are in NYC and nowhere else has a significant number of them. So in many ways, not much has changed with respect to the centers of gravity of the technology sectors.

Technology is the growth sector of this century and new sectors like AI, renewable energy, web3, etc will power the economies of many regions around the world. NYC will be a significant beneficiary of this, as it has been for the last twenty years.

The idea that the tech sector will not be a growth engine for NYC anymore is laughable. But that won’t stop people from suggesting otherwise.

#NYC#VC & Technology

How This Ends (Part Three)

The venture capital sector has been in a sustained downturn for almost eighteen months. How does this downturn end? Well, it may have already ended, but let’s see about that. We will know for sure in a few quarters.

The NASDAQ peaked at roughly 16,000 in November 2021. By June 2022, it was down 33%. It stayed down for all of 2022 and ended the year at roughly 10,500.

But this year the NASDAQ is up almost 40%.

What is driving this? If I had to pick one thing, I would say inflation and interest rates. Yeah, those are two things but they are tied together in times like this. As I laid out in the prior versions of How This Ends (here and here), I believe post-pandemic inflation forced the Fed to raise rates aggressively, blowing a huge hole in the asset bubble that built up during the pandemic.

Last week we got some great news. Inflation is way down in the US. That means rates may have peaked and will stabilize or possibly come down. I don’t know if the Fed makes any more moves or not. But I am not sure that really matters. What matters most to markets is expectations and I think inflation and interest rate expectations have settled down.

Private capital markets, like venture capital, lag public markets by a few quarters. That is because it takes time for private market investors to react to the public markets. The NASDAQ peaked in Nov 2021, but VC markets did not really start slowing down until the second quarter of 2022.

Now that the NASDAQ has posted a couple of strong quarters, I would expect venture capital to respond. But it won’t happen overnight. We are in the summer doldrums. It takes time for VCs to raise new funds. And deals take months to come together.

So my guess is we are mostly through this downturn. We will know for sure in a couple of quarters.

#stocks#VC & Technology

Flooding

I spent a good part of my childhood at West Point, the US Military Academy. I got an email yesterday with photos of the flooding at West Point.

My dad and brother used to work in that grey stone building called Mahan Hall.

And the same storms that did this to West Point did worse to many parts of New England, particularly Vermont.

USV’s climate thesis is to invest in companies and projects that provide mitigation for or adaptation to the climate crisis. Adaptation means accepting that we’ve made the climate worse and adapting to it.

Flooding is a great example of that. As the earth warms, storms are capable of carrying a lot more water and dumping it quickly. West Point took ten inches of rain in a few hours.

USV has made investments in two companies working on flood adaptation; Floodmapp and an unannounced investment in a company helping communities become flood resilient. Flooding will be more common and we are going to need better tools to mitigate and manage it.

Along those lines, NYC’s Partnership Fund recently announced a new accelerator program focused on water. Their partner on this accelerator is the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) which manages NYC’s water and wastewater treatment operations.

This accelerator is called the Environmental Tech Lab and they are looking for early and growth-stage companies that have products that could be used by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

If you are building such a company and want to apply, you can do that here.

Flood and water management will be critical in adapting to the climate crisis and, unfortunately, is going to be a big business.

#climate crisis

Threads

Like tens of millions of others, I downloaded Threads onto my phone yesterday and signed up.

The thing that Twitter has been missing since it killed off its ecosystem over a decade ago is competition. And as we all know, lack of competition is a very bad thing. In governments and in products.

Competition keeps you honest. Competition makes you hustle. Competition forces you to innovate. Competition makes you better.

So I am thrilled to see some real competition emerge for Twitter.

I am also excited to see a scaled social media platform embrace an open protocol. In the case of Threads, that protocol is Activity Pub.

As far as I can tell, Threads does not yet support ActivityPub but has committed to doing so.

I have not enjoyed using any social media apps built on the ActivityPub protocol, most notably Mastodon, but I am not sure if that is the fault of the protocol or Mastodon’s implementation. Hopefully, we will see a better implementation with Threads.

But more importantly, protocols that are widely used bring lots of developers to them and those developers bring lots of different ideas and products.

So to me, Threads is about two really important things:

1/ Competition for Twitter. Long overdue and badly needed.

2/ The emergence of a widely supported social media protocol. Which should produce a vibrant and interoperable social media ecosystem.

I’ve got some questions in my mind about how all of this will work.

What will identity look like in this “vibrant and interoperable social media ecosystem?” It can’t be and hopefully won’t be my Instagram handle. Ideally, it would look something like ENS where each and every one of us will own and control our own identity/handle, like we can own and control a domain name.

Will there be one protocol for all of social media (short form text, long form text, audio, video, etc)? Will Instagram support ActivityPub too, for example?

What role will web3 play in all of this or will web3 social emerge on a different dimension entirely?

The ability to even ask those questions and ponder the answers is a gift to me and to the world. And so, therefore, is Threads.

#Web/Tech

Bi-Directional EV Charging

EV sales in the US are on the rise, reaching 7% of all car sales in Q1 2023, up from 4.6% a year earlier. If that rate of growth continues, EVs will be 10% of the US car market by next year.

Most people who own an EV charge it at home, using an EV charger. Our family owns a few different models. Here are two of them.

The reason we have two chargers right next to each other is one charges our Tesla and the other charges our other EVs. It is like an iPhone and an Android. Each has its own charging cable. I expect that is going to get sorted out soon as the EV market will work a lot better with a standard charging cable.

But what is even more interesting to me is the idea of bi-directional EV charging.

Right now, EV charging is “one way”. Those chargers take power from our home (either from our solar panels or the grid) and send it to our EVs.

But it does not have to work that way. There are bi-directional chargers that can take the power from our EVs and send it to our home.

That would be very useful in the event of a power outage. But it could also be useful to supplement our solar panels at night. Imagine our solar panels filling up our EV batteries during the day when it is sunny out and our EVs powering our home at night when it is not.

This is a nice primer on the topic of bi-directional EV charging. I like this diagram from that primer.

That is the simplest version of bi-directional EV charging. That primer has a bunch more diagrams of more sophisticated versions.

As we transition from a centralized electrical grid to a decentralized electrical grid over the next few decades, storage on the edge (homes, etc) will become critical to making the transition work. And EVs are a huge source of storage that are mostly not connected to the grid right now.

That is going to change and there are lots of opportunities to build innovative services around bi-directional charging as a result.

The Gotham Gal and I make environmentally designed apartment buildings and the one we are making right now has eight parking spots in the basement. We will outfit those parking spots with bi-directional chargers so that the cars in the garage will be connected to the apartments and they can power them in the event of a power outage. We expect to be able to offer additional services to our tenants over time using this technology.

The forty years that I have worked in information technology have seen a remarkable decentralization of computing from mainframes to computers in our pockets. And that has unleashed an enormous wave of innovation. I expect we will see the same thing in the energy grid/market over the next forty years. I am really excited to witness that.

#climate crisis#entrepreneurship#hacking energy