Posts from Current Affairs

Funding Friday: Bail Funds

The Gotham Gal and I have been donating to bail funds for a while now. This Positively Gotham Gal podcast from April 2019 with Robin Steinberg of The Bail Project is a great education into the bail system and why it is so problematic.

Now, with protestors around the world being arrested, bail funds have become part of the protest movement. This Atlantic piece describes why that is.

One of the issues with giving to bail funds is figuring out which one to support.

An AVC reader recently pointed me to an Act Blue page that allows you to make a single donation and support over 70 bail funds and other similar organizations. I donated via that page today and I am sharing it with all of you who may want to join me in doing that.

#Current Affairs

Behavior Change

As I’ve mentioned a few times here during the pandemic, I’m very interested to see what behavior changes that we adopted during the pandemic will stick when it eases and which will not.

Mask wearing, for example, has been commonplace in Asia for many years but not so in the west. I suspect that will change now. Anytime I don’t feel well and need to go out, I plan to wear a mask as is the practice in many Asian cultures. My guess is the Covid pandemic will make that quite common in most parts of the world now.

Another one is food delivery. Apparently only about 3% of US households used online food delivery services before the pandemic. Many more adopted them during the pandemic. Some will go back to the grocery store in the coming months but many will not. The adoption hurdle has been cleared and online food delivery is now in the mainstream. Full disclosure, USV has a few companies in our portfolio that benefit from this trend.

Another is telehealth. Many of us did one or more doctor appointments over video during the lockdown. For something simple like a prescription refill or a checkin, it worked quite well for me. I don’t plan to stop seeing my doctor in person when I feel it is necessary, but I welcome the option to do it over video when it is not. USV also has a few companies in our portfolio that benefit from this trend.

Maybe the most impactful behavior change that many of us have adopted during the pandemic is working from home. The home part has been challenging for many. But the idea that we can be productive and effective outside of the office is a game changer for many employees and many employers. I suspect most knowledge industries will make material moves toward hybrid models post pandemic.

The next 6-18 months, the time most experts think we will still have material risk from the virus, will be an interesting period to study these behavior changes and get a sense of what will stick and what will not. Now that most parts of the US have reopened but are still being careful, we can watch and learn and possibly get a head start on understanding how all of this will play out in the future.

#Current Affairs#VC & Technology

Reopening

Today, NYC starts the process of reopening its economy from almost three months of lockdowns to halt the spread of Covid 19.

It is time. The city has massively reduced the spread of the virus in those three months. Here is a chart of infections and testing in Brooklyn over the last three months:

The two things about that chart that get my attention are that the virus is still out there and that testing has massively increased.

Almost 80,000 people were tested in New York State last Thursday, almost 30,000 of them in New York City.

I hope we keep up this level of testing. If we have a uptick in cases as a result of reopening, we can see them, trace them, and react to them. I hope we don’t have an uptick in cases, but now we are so much better prepared to deal with them if we do have them.

Phase one of NYC’s re-opening plan means construction, manufacturing, wholesale and non essential retail businesses will be allowed to reopen.

We are reopening several construction sites that the Gotham Gal and I are running right now. They have been closed since early March. I am so happy that the workers are coming back to work. And we will run those jobs with the proper safety precautions on the job sites to make sure they are safe for the workers.

I am excited to see stores reopen. The lockdown has been very hard on small business owners and I am hopeful that they can rebuild their businesses while remaining under constraints. I plan to shop at stores that are reopening.

But even with all of this energy around reopening, I expect that we will continue the mask wearing and social distancing that we perfected over the last three months. I know that I will.

NYC was the hardest hit of any location in the US this spring with over 200,000 of known cases and likely millions of actual infections. Over 50,000 people were hospitalized and over 20,000 probably died from Covid related illness.

That’s a huge toll. I have lived through many tough moments in my adopted hometown over the last forty years and I think this is the toughest of them all. I think NYC faces enormous challenges recovering from the pandemic, which is still going on and will continue to go on until we have a widely available effective vaccine.

But today is step one of that recovery and I am hopeful and excited to get going again.

#Current Affairs#NYC

Funding Friday: The George Floyd Memorial Fund

I saw this tweet last weekend and immediately thought “he is right.”

So under the theory that late is better than never, I made a donation to The George Floyd Memorial Fund and I am highlighting it to all of you today.

This fund was set up by George’s sister to “cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counseling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George.  A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.”

This campaign is now approaching $13mm and will cover all of that and also possibly much more. This fund won’t make George’s murder right, but it will help his family do right by his memory. And that is a very good thing.

#Current Affairs

Black Lives Matter

I believe that Black lives matter.

I understand that the phrase Black lives matter speaks to a movement to stop the murders of Black people at the hands of the police. I also understand that it speaks to a broader protest movement seeking to reduce the unchecked power of the police. I support these efforts and am sympathetic to them.

But the words Black lives matter mean even more to me.

They mean that a Black person’s life matters as much as any other person’s life.

They mean that the living situation of a Black person matters as much as anyone’s living situation.

They mean that the food a Black person eats matters as much as the food anyone eats.

They mean that the health care that a Black person has matters as much as the health care anyone has.

They mean that the education a Black person has matters as much as anyone’s education.

And they mean that the economic opportunity that a Black person has matters as much as anyone’s economic opportunity.

My record and that of the USV is poor on that last measure.

We have spent much of the last week at USV talking about that and we talked about it publicly on our blog and Twitter yesterday.

When the collective minds at USV focus on something we have always met our goals.

While we are late to put our collective minds on this opportunity, we are not too late. And we have already started our work on it.

We will do this the way we do everything at USV. We will stick to our thesis of access to capital, knowledge, and well-being. We will back teams that are working on these problems in ways we think are impactful. And we will be engaged, honest, and present in the work.

#Current Affairs#VC & Technology

Talking About It

I took the day off from AVC yesterday in observance of the moment we are living through. It is a very difficult time.

I spent part of yesterday talking to a number of the leaders of our portfolio companies who are trying to find a footing in this moment and provide the right leadership for their teams. My main advice to them was to talk about what is going on with the entire team, listen to how they feel, and engage now more than ever. I’m hopeful that the right answers for each team will come out of that. I think it is a time to be talking right now.

While I did not write yesterday, my partner Albert did. And he didn’t say much, but what he said was powerful. I agree with him.

It is a confusing time, an infuriating time, and a difficult time.

It is also time to take stock of what we believe, as Albert did, and act accordingly.

#Current Affairs

A New Month

I woke up at dawn today. The sun was lightening the sky. The birds were chirping.

I was reminded of the power of a new day, a clean slate, new opportunities.

It is June.

After three months of pandemic lockdowns, job losses like I have not seen in my lifetime, and a week of turmoil in our streets and in our hearts, we have the hope that comes with a new day.

Clearly we have problems in our country and our world.

When the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked. And so many of us have been swimming naked. The pandemic has been quite revealing.

It is time to make some changes. Big changes. Long overdue changes.

We can start by acknowledging that.

And then we should seize the opportunity that comes with a new day, a new month, a new set of priorities, to make those changes.

We simply need to courage and conviction to come together and do it.

#Current Affairs

Contact Tracing and Technology Conference

As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I am excited about the possibility that technology, particularly mobile computing technology, can supplement the work of manual contact tracing to keep us all safer until a permanent solution is found to this pandemic.

But there is a ton of confusion about what contact tracing is, what exposure alerting is, what the role of legacy contact tracing systems are, and what role new applications can play in this moment.

So I was thrilled that a group of organizations that operate at the intersection of public policy and tech innovation are putting on a series of online conferences on this topic.

The first one will be next Wednesday from 11am ET/8am PT until 2pm ET/11am PT and will focus on the consumer apps that are being built on top of the Google and Apple APIs. There will be demos of many of these new apps and a series of panel discussions. If you are interested in attending (attendance is unlimited), you can RSVP here.

There are four of these online events planned over the next two months (roughly every two weeks) and they will cover enterprise contact tracing applications, what is happening internationally, and more.

The organizations behind this series of online events are The COVID Tech Task Force, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, NYU’s Alliance for Public Interest Technology, TechCrunch, Betaworks Studios, and Hangar.

If you work in government and are involved in making tech decisions in this area, if you are interested in how tech can help address large scale public health issues, or if you are just curious about all of this, I hope you will attend. I plan to do that myself.

#Current Affairs#entrepreneurship#health care#mobile

Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers

On today, Memorial Day, we remember our fallen soldiers.

I spent some time today going back over old blog posts I’ve written on this topic and landed on a post I wrote almost ten years ago, when I visited the Normandy beaches with my wife and son. It was a very powerful and moving experience for us.

I am glad we take a day every year to remember the men and women who lost their lives in service of our country.

And while we can’t all go lay a wreath or march in a parade today, we can take a moment of reflection on their sacrifice and what it has meant for our country.

#Current Affairs

The Startup Job Market

My colleague Matt Cynamon told our partnership last week that the number of jobs on the USV job board had declined from 1,553 to 871 in the past month. So we suggested he share that data and some observations on the USV blog. He did that yesterday.

Here is the chart of open jobs on the USV job board:

https://www.usv.com/writing/2020/05/how-covid-is-impacting-hiring/

A large number of those 871 open jobs are in a handful of larger USV portfolio companies that are leaning into this moment to build their teams. Many USV portfolio companies have frozen hiring or have tightened it significantly. And there have been reductions in force as well in some parts of our portfolio.

But all is not bleak. Matt ends his post with the following observation:

In our next post we’ll explore some areas where we’re seeing major opportunities for job seekers.

https://www.usv.com/writing/2020/05/how-covid-is-impacting-hiring/

I am hopeful that hiring will start to pick up in our portfolio in the second half of the year as our portfolio companies start to understand where their businesses are now and where they are headed this year and next.

#Current Affairs