Tech Jobs For All Who Want Them

The tech sector is the fastest growing sector of the economy in NYC and around the US and around the world. The tech sector offers high paying jobs and a growing number of them.

But, as we all know, the tech sector lacks the gender and racial diversity that would allow everyone to benefit from this growing sector of the economy. Most of the studies that have looked at the lack of diversity point to a skills gap standing in the way.

So last year Tech:NYC (where I am co-chair) and a few large employers (Google, Verizon, Bloomberg LP) and the Robin Hood Learning and Technology Fund commissioned a study of the skills training programs in NYC to see where there are gaps and what must be done to close them so that tech jobs are available to everyone in NYC who wants one.

This report was done by the Center for an Urban Future and was released yesterday. You can read it here.

What the report reveals is that NYC has a rich and expanding ecosystem of tech skills training opportunities, including K-12 and adult education. But, as we all know, the quality is uneven and so are the outcomes.

The report makes twelve recommendations which are detailed here. They are:

1. Make a significant new public investment in expanding and improving New York City’s tech education and training ecosystem. 

2. Set clear and ambitious goals to greatly expand the pipeline of New Yorkers into technology careers. 

3. Prioritize long-term investments in K–12 computing education. 

4. Scale up tech training with a focus on programs that develop in-depth, career-ready skills. 

5. Build the pipeline of educators and facilitators serving both K–12 and career readiness efforts. 

6. Close the geographic gaps in tech education and skills-building programs. 

7. New York City’s tech sector should play a larger role in developing, recruiting, and retaining diverse talent. 

8. Increase access to tech apprenticeships and paid STEM internships through industry partnerships, CS4All, and the city’s current Summer Youth Employment Program. 

9. Expand efforts to market STEM programs to underrepresented students and their families. 

10. Develop and fund links from the numerous computer literacy and basic digital skills-building programs to the in-depth programs that can lead to employment. 

11. Expand the number of bridge programs to provide crucial new on-ramps to further tech education and training for New Yorkers with fundamental skills needs. 

12. Develop major new supports for the non-tuition costs of adult workforce training. 

I participated on the advisory board of this study and support all of these recommendations. Elected officials and policy makers in NYC (and really everywhere) should read and heed these recommendations.

The tech sector faces many headwinds in society right now for a host of reasons. Not all of them can be solved by an employee base that mirrors the planet. But many of them can be and we need to work to get there.

I want to thank the Center For An Urban Future, Tech:NYC, Robin Hood Learning and Technology Fund, Google, Verizon, and Bloomberg LP for giving us a roadmap on how to get there.

#economics#employment#enterprise#entrepreneurship#hacking education#hacking government#management#NYC#policy#Politics

Andrew Yang

I am sorry to see Andrew Yang leave the race for the Democratic nomination last night. He brought a sense of humor, fun, and a ton of new ideas to the slog that is called the primaries. He will be missed. I hope he shows up somewhere else and lends his considerable talents to our nation.

Our portfolio company Recount Media did a really nice tribute to his time in the race and there is a short version of it on YouTube which I’ve embedded below (which won’t come through on email). If you download the Recount mobile app or go to their website you can see the longer version.

#Politics

USDC

I just bought some US Dollars today. I do that many days. But the dollars I bought today are crypto assets, like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These US Dollar assets are called USDC and they are issued by an industry consortium called Centre, led by Circle and our portfolio company Coinbase. I expect many other companies will join the Centre consortium in the coming months and years.

I have been waiting to buy USDC for quite a while. As a NY State resident, I was prohibited from buying them on Coinbase, where I like to buy and hold my crypto assets. I read this morning that the NYS DFS had finally greenlit the sale of USDC to NYS residents and I went to Coinbase and made my purchase.

USDC is a stablecoin, like Tether or Libra. It is designed such that it has a stable value. I bought my USDC tokens for a dollar each this morning. The idea is that I will be able to sell them for a dollar each in an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, or a decade.

They way Centre does this is they have a reserve. Everybody that spends dollars to buy USDC invests those dollars in the USDC reserve. And so when I want to sell USDC, the reserve is there to supply real dollars to me. The USDC reserve is audited and you can see the audit reports here.

So why would I want crypto dollars vs paper dollars or dollars in a bank account? Well for one, crypto dollars, like other crypto assets, ride on crypto rails. I can send my crypto dollars from my Coinbase wallet to your Coinbase wallet, your Ledger wallet, or many other crypto wallets.

USDC is built on Ethereum and is an ERC-20 token. So it uses crypto standards to ride on these crypto rails.

But more than all of that, USDC are programmable dollars. This is a big deal. Kind of like the difference between an MP3 file and song on a cassette tape. Once an asset is natively digital, without any strings attached, and can be programmed and routed digitally, interesting things happen.

If you have cash balances in your Coinbase account, consider using at least some of them to buy USDC. Then send them around to friends and family. It will feel like using Venmo today. But that is just the start of a lot more to come once programmers start building apps that accept USDC and other crypto assets.

We are emerging from a two year crypto winter right now. Lot’s of interesting things are starting to happen. It’s exciting to see.

#blockchain#crypto

Computer Science For All NYC

About ten years ago, I started asking why were weren’t teaching computer science to every student in the NYC public school system. That led to a journey that started with some computer science high schools and eventually got to a ten year program to get computer science teachers in every school building in NYC and computer science classes for every student. That program is called Computer Science For All and this short three-minute video explains what it is and how it works.

#hacking education#NYC

Funding Friday: Squids In Disguise

Kickstarter CEO Aziz Hasan is running a Make 100 project called Squids In Disguise where he will make 100 surprise sticker packs.

  • 80 packs will contain 5 limited edition art stickers at random from at least 
  • 10 packs will be a special edition of 5 Super Squids (Superhero exclusive)
  • 10 packs will be a special edition of 5 Kickstarter-themed squids

The reference for the artwork will be all nostalgia from my childhood, specifically cartoon and video game characters that I loved growing up, reimagined as squids. 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ahzzzz/squids-in-disguise-limited-edition-art-stickers

I really like it when the CEO of a company uses the product or service publicly. I backed Aziz’s project today.

#crowdfunding

A SEC Safe Harbor For Crypto

SEC Commissioner Hester Pierce proposed a “safe harbor” for crypto projects that raise money before they are sufficiently decentralized.

I am a big fan of “safe harbors”and wrote a bit a few years ago about why I like them so much and why a crypto safe harbor is such a needed and good idea.

There is a chicken and egg problem in financing crypto projects. These projects need investment capital and community involvement/buy-in to get to market and begin the process of decentralization. But the SEC views crypto-tokens as securities until the crypto-networks are sufficiently decentralized. And so crypto projects get stuck in this never never land and have to craft crazy frankenstein financings or risk getting sued by the SEC (and/or both) in order to raise money and get their tokens in the hands of community members.

I encourage the SEC to take Commissioner Pierce’s proposal seriously and adopt a workable safe harbor for crypto projects here in the US. We have seen the crypto capital markets and so much of the innovation in the sector move offshore and a safe harbor would be incredibly helpful in getting it back onshore (I couldn’t help the nautical metaphor).

#blockchain#crypto#policy

The Zoom Room

A year and a half ago, I converted my office at USV from a classic office with a desk to a small conference room with a couch, a chair, and a display for videoconferencing. I call it my “zoom room.”

It looks like this.

You can’t see the display because it is on the wall that the couch is facing. But that is my zoom room office at USV.

I like it so much that I have recreated it elsewhere and my friend Brad Feld gave me a tip that I am now using which is to have two displays on the wall, one for the people you are meeting with and one for the presentation material. That is a big improvement to version 1.0 which I have running at USV.

My day is usually all about meetings. I meet with people in conference rooms, I meet with people in my zoom room, and I meet with people on Zoom. So I don’t need a desk and I don’t need a traditional office anymore. The move to this new office model has been very positive for me.

#life lessons

Creating A Competitive Shaving Market

The FTC filed a complaint to stop the merger of Edgewell (Schick) and Harry’s yesterday. I don’t have a vested interest in this case in any way (other than having had a summer job working for Gillette in 1980). But it is a very curious action in my view.

Over the last decade, two new competitors have emerged in the shaving market in the US, Harry’s and Dollar Shave. They have brought innovation and competition to a market that has long been dominated by Gillette and Schick.

In 2016, Dollar Shave sold to Unilever, joining Gillette (owned by P&G) in the hands of consumer packaged goods giants.

In May of 2019, Harry’s and Edgewell (Schick) announced their intention to merge and create a strong competitor to Unilever and P&G in the shaving market. As I understand it, the leadership of Harry’s plans take over the Schick brand and bring its marketing and innovation talents to the combined business.

This Recode post on the FTC action has some interesting numbers in it:

According to the research firm Euromonitor, Gillette held 47 percent of the US men’s razor market in 2018, with Edgewell’s brands, which include Schick and Wilkinson Sword, combining for 13.6 percent of the industry. The Harry’s brand, which started selling online but now has a large presence in both Target and Walmart stores, had just a 2.6 percent share at the time, according to Euromonitor. Dollar Shave Club owned 8.5 percent of the US market in 2018, according to Euromonitor, and is owned by Unilever, following a $1 billion acquisition in 2016.

https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/2/3/21120169/harrys-ftc-acquisition-edgewell-schick-gillette-dollar-shave-club

So the FTC thinks that stopping a merger of the number two and four brands in a market is good for competition?

I think it is bad for competition and keeping Harry’s and Schick separated will just allow Unilever and P&G to dominate this market going forward. I don’t understand what the FTC is thinking or doing with this case in the least.

#policy

Tech in 2020: Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Our friend Benedict Evans posted his annual “macro trends” deck this weekend.

You can also download the PDF here.

In the deck, Benedict poses the question “what is the next S-Curve?”

And while he doesn’t exactly answer that question, these two slides are revealing:

There is a lot more in the deck, particularly around regulatory issues in tech and it is well worth a quick skim this morning.

#mobile#regulation 2.0#VC & Technology#Web/Tech