Posts from life lessons

We Will Miss You Arnold

I learned yesterday of the passing of Arnold Waldstein. Arnold was as regular a reader of this blog as there ever was or ever will be. His warmth is what I will remember most. He cared about people.

Arnold was a born and bred NYer who went to Silicon Valley and built a career in marketing. He was an early employee at a number of well-known tech companies. Sometime in the 2000s, he relocated back to NYC and found his way to this blog where he became a regular commenter on tech, NYC, and pretty much everything else.

I met Arnold a few times and found him to be a lovely human being, everything he was online and more.

Online relationships, like the one I (and many AVC readers) had with Arnold, are very real relationships. Though I did not know Arnold well in person, I knew him well. And I will miss him a lot.

#life lessons

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

Vote

I am not working today. USV gave everyone the day off. It is Election Day in the US. I believe it should be a national holiday so everyone can have the day off and vote. I can’t think of many things more important than participating in the selection of our government.

I saw that over 100mm people have already voted in the US. And I’ve read that another 50mm people are expected to vote today. That would mean that about 60% of eligible voters will have voted in the 2020 Presidential election. I hope the numbers are even higher.

High voter turnout is a good thing. It means we are engaging in democracy.

So I am going to be in line this morning when my polling place opens. If you live in the US, I hope that you have already voted or plan to vote today. It is important.

#life lessons

Removing The CEO

In almost thirty five years of working on boards, the hardest decisions I have had to make involve removing the CEO. It is an important decision and one that must be made from time to time. I am not a fan of removing the CEO until and unless it is abundantly clear that it must be done.

But when the CEO has failed to manage numerous important challenges, when the senior leadership team has been a revolving door, when the CEO has messed up important relationships with customers, employees, and other important stakeholders, when the organization has become toxic as a result of the CEO’s abrasive personality, then the choice is abundantly clear and must be made.

It is an even harder decision to make when you don’t have an obvious replacement, or when you are not 100% confident that the obvious replacement will be an improvement over the current CEO.

But those are not reasons to wait. You must act and replace the failed CEO with whomever is the best option in that moment and work with the new CEO to address the challenges facing the company, many a result of the failed CEO’s poor leadership.

Waiting is never the right answer. Failing to act is never the right answer. You must remove a failing CEO.

#life lessons

Extending And Improving Bluetooth On A Mac Mini

As I have written here a few times, I prefer to do video meetings from a couch (vs a desk). I find it allows me to stay present in the meeting and not get distracted by everything on my desk. I call these couch setups “Zoom Rooms” and I have been doing this long before the pandemic but this approach has been incredibly helpful to me during the pandemic.

I use a Mac Mini powering two screens and a lot of bluetooth devices; a keyboard, a trackpad, a Jabra speakerphone, gamer style headphones, and a Smart Mic. The multiple audio devices are for different situations. If the Gotham Gal and I are doing a call together, we use the Jabra speakerphone. If I am doing a meeting solo, I tend to use the Smart Mic. If I am doing a presentation, I use gamer style headphones with a great mic on them.

Here’s the issue. The bluetooth that comes standard in a Mac Mini doesn’t like multiple bluetooth devices and the range is just so so. The farther you are from the Mac Mini, the worse this situation gets.

I’ve struggled with this issue quite a bit and I think I have finally found the fix. I got a USB extension cable and this Bluetooth dongle. This approach both extends the Bluetooth into the room better and the third party Bluetooth dongle supports multiple devices better than what comes native on the Mac Mini.

It is not drop dead simple to make this fix. You have to muck around with the bluetooth settings on the Mac to make the dongle work. The best approach is to get into Terminal and type in some instructions which is absolutely not user friendly.

But it does make Bluetooth work a lot better for me. If you are having similar issues, you might want to try it too.

#life lessons

Priorities

I am in the middle of a week of back to back to back to back all day meetings. Which means I am not responsive on email, which means I am not getting anything done, which means I can’t be easily reached. Which means I am stressed.

In times like this, I like to remind myself of my priorities. What matters most?

For me, I like this line of f words which does not include the one I want to use when I feel like this 🙂

Family, friends, fitness, firm, fires.

Family comes first, always.

Friends are next. They keep us sane and laughing. I have a number of text chats with friends. Thank god for them on days like I’m having this week.

Fitness is next. I make time to ride my bike, do yoga, eat well, meditate, etc. I make time to see my doctors on a regular basis and engage in preventive healthcare. The more stressed I am, the more I do this.

Firm is USV. It takes priority over all other business activities.

Fires are the things that are burning right now and need my attention. This last one is hard because how do you know what is really a fire and what is posing as one to get your attention? That is something you learn from many years fighting fires.

Everything else has to wait on weeks like this. I use weekends to catch up after weeks like this one. That helps. But the thing that helps most is knowing what matters most and focusing on it at the exclusion of everything else.

#life lessons

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

Landline Phones

I know so many people who don’t have landline phones. They simply have their cell phone and use it for everything.

But I also know a lot of people who are working from home (or a rented place, a vacation home, etc) right now and struggling with their cell phone reception and other issues.

I grew up in a time before cell phones and have always had a landline phone. I still use a landline phone. But I have used the power of voice over IP (VOIP) and the cloud to make landline phones work better for me and I thought I’d share that “hack” with all of you.

I’ve ported all of the landline numbers I’ve had over the years to the cloud and host them in a cloud-based PBX called Onsip.

I then use a VOIP phone (my favorite right now is a DECT-based VOIP phone from Yealink) to connect to one or more of those numbers in the cloud.

That way, my landline phone number can follow me from my office, to my home, to my Airbnb, to my wherever.

This also allows us to have different numbers; a home number, a work number, multiple work numbers, and even a number that only a few people have (which I like to call “the batphone”).

If you would like to combine the reliablility of a landline phone with the mobility of a cell phone, try a cloud based PBX and VOIP phones. It’s a great combination and works great for us.

#life lessons

Reading On Paper

I’m staring at a pile of paper on my desk that is my stack of things I found on the Internet that I want to read.

It’s a bit ironic to write this on a blog, but if I come across something on my computer or phone that is longer than a page or two, I print it out and read it on paper.

I have found that when I read on a computer screen or phone, I tend to skim. That’s fine for a short email or a short blog post (as this will be).

But it is not great for an eight page blog post, a white paper on a new crypto project, or a memo from one of my colleagues or portfolio companies.

When I read on paper, I often will use a pen to underline or mark-up the document. I find that leads to better comprehension and retention of the concepts.

I’ve noticed that our children, all of whom are in the mid to late 20s, also read books in paper form and mark them up when reading them. So while reading on paper may be a generational thing, I believe it is also a valuable technique for all ages and all generations.

#life lessons

Two Screens

Last December, my friend Brad Feld stopped by to see me in Los Angeles and I proudly showed him my home office with a separate Zoom Room. He looked at me with a quizzical look on his face and said “why don’t you have two screens on the wall?” I asked why and he explained that Zoom allows you to have the gallery on one screen and the person or material presenting on the other. So I added a second screen and was blown away by the better experience in video meetings.

When we left Los Angeles at the beginning of May and returned to NY, I added a second screen to my home office setup here. I honestly can’t imagine a video heavy work day without the second screen.

We have offered our USV employees to pay for upgrading their home work setups. New chairs, new desks, second screen, etc. Many have taken us up on that and I am glad they have. Working from home can be a challenge, but it is way better if you have the right setup.

I would encourage all companies to invest in their employee’s work from home setups and I would especially recommend getting a second screen.

#life lessons