Karma

A friend of mine sent me this the other day.

Two AVC posts were at or near the top of Hacker News.

But I did not go and read the comments as I have found the comments at Hacker News emotionally challenging for me.

As many of you know, I have also found the comments here at AVC emotionally challenging for me.

One of the suggestions I received when I blogged about that recently was to charge for comments.

I don’t want to charge for commenting because I want this to be an equal opportunity place for people to speak.

However, when something is free, it is abused. We have spam and trolls.

One mechanism that I like is Karma. You are given Karma when you join a system, and you may earn more Karma every month to replenish your supply. You spend Karma to make a comment. And if your comment is popular, you can earn more Karma. If your comment is deemed to be spam or against the community rules, you lose Karma.

Creating a native currency inside a social system is powerful. It allows you to start “charging” for things that should have a cost associated with them while still allowing the system to be “free to use.”

I am not planning on adding Karma to the AVC comments because Disqus doesn’t support this feature and I’m not eager to make any changes to the technology I use to put this blog out every day. I mean that. So if you email me or leave a comment suggesting I move to a new comment system, I am going to ignore it.

But this idea, combined with the ability to spin up a crypto-token simply and easily, is pretty powerful. A number of social platforms are doing this. Reddit is one that seems to be making a version of this work.

If I was starting over from scratch, I’d build on top of that idea. I think it would make things a lot better.

Audio Of The Week: Chris, Joel, Jesse, and Denis on Crypto

One of our first crypto investments maybe five years ago was Mediachain, founded by Denis Nazarov (@Iiterature), and Jesse Walden (@jessewldn). They sold that company to Spotify and eventually landed at A16Z crypto. One of the USV analysts who worked on our Mediachain investment was Joel Monegro (@jmonegro) who later teamed up with Chris Burniske (@cburniske) to start Placeholder, a crypto VC fund.

So we know these four people very well and all of them are now deeply involved in funding early stage crypto projects.

This podcast is a great conversation among the four of them on how to design cryptonetworks so that they function well over the long term.

Full disclosure: USV is an investor in Placeholder and my wife and I are individual investors in A16Z crypto.

An Open Letter To Jeff Bezos

This ran as a full page ad in the New York Times today. I signed it along with the top labor leaders in NYC, the top political leaders in NYC, top business execs, and the leaders of NYC’s higher education institutions. I believe it was a mistake by Amazon to pull out of NYC and I very much hope they will reconsider.

Token Summit IV

Chris Burniske reminded me yesterday of something I said a while ago:

We are in the post crash cycle in crypto and that has made the sector interesting to me again. Prices are way down and there is a lot of great work being done on projects we are invested in and projects we want to invest in.

And no better place to soak up all of that progress than at Token Summit IV, run by our friends William Mougayar and Nick Tomainoon May 16th in NYC.

When William asked me if I thought they should do it this year, I said “hell yes” but also suggested that they dial it back in line with crypto prices. And that is what they have done.

They are capping the number of attendees at 550, about the same number they had at the inaugural Token Summit in May 2017. They are planning to do it at an intimate venue and keep the content and attendee list very tight.

The first 200 early bird tickets are available for purchase immediately at a price of $699. After 200, anyone can sign up but they will be “invite only” and they are selecting signups based on quality, experience and diversity of thought they bring.

This year’s Token Summit will focus on the following issues:

  • Cryptonetworks and open source blockchain protocols versus startups: what are the differences and similarities?
  • Open finance: what are the challenges to getting open, global financial products in the hands of millions of users?
  • dApp development: can next-generation dApp platforms be a catalyst for greater adoption?
  • Latest practices in extracting blockchain data for insight: what can we learn and why is this important now?
  • Are we decentralized yet? Is there an optimal criteria for decentralization, and how do we get there?
  • How do we quantify the value of blockchain protocols, and applications?
  • What are the success factors in deploying decentralized protocols?
  • Decentralized governance – what is working now versus what is experimental?
  • Tokens evolution- what are the best cases with real innovation, real users and real benefits?
  • The regulatory front: Is the US losing its position as the standard bearer? Is there a perfect jurisdiction?


Carbon-Offset Shipping On Etsy

I don’t write a lot about Etsy here at AVC. It is a public company and I am the Chairman so I have to be careful.

But today Etsy is announcing something that makes me so proud. I have to tell you about it. Etsy is the first major online shopping destination to offset 100% of carbon emissions from shipping.

Here is Etsy CEO Josh Silverman’s blog post on this news.

Etsy has been committed to clean energy for a long time. They will power 100% of their operations with renewable energy by next year. But the company understood that they could not stop there and needed to think about the carbon footprint of their network of sellers shipping products to buyers. And so they have taken the next step of offsetting all of the carbon emissions related to shipping on Etsy. This initiative comes at no additional cost to Etsy buyers or sellers.

To celebrate the launch of carbon offset shipping on Etsy, they are going to do something tomorrow to make a splash.

To jumpstart our efforts and celebrate this milestone, tomorrow (February 28), we will also offset shipping emissions for the entire US ecommerce sector for the day. In the US alone, every day approximately 55,000 metric tons of CO2e are emitted into the atmosphere by delivering packages from online orders. Offsetting this impact for one day is the equivalent of protecting 100 square miles of US forests for one year.

https://blog.etsy.com/news/2019/on-etsy-every-purchase-makes-a-positive-impact/

I am a believer in doing well by doing good. There is a lot of that across our portfolio at USV and across our personal investments in tech and real estate. One of the good things we need to do for our world right now is reduce our carbon footprint. And we need to do that urgently. So I am thrilled and proud of Etsy’s leadership and work here. Well done Etsy.

Progress Is Ugly

I walked out of my house in LA this morning and was greeted with this sight:

I thought “ugh” and debated picking it up and putting it where it belongs.

I am all for progress and understand that there are costs and benefits with everything.

This post explains how electric scooters can and likely will result in massive reductions in carbon emissions (and that Steve Jobs was a big fan of electric scooters).

With that electricity subtracted, the net amount of mitigated carbon equals 17,130 metric tons. Let’s reduce this number by 20% for people who would have walked and for chargers picking up scooters in their cars. Now we’re looking at a total amount of 13,700 metric tons of CO2 mitigated by not driving a car.That’s the equivalent of taking 105,000 cars off the roads around the world, each day.

https://medium.com/cleantech-rising/the-environmental-impact-of-electric-scooters-8da806939a32

That is a big deal. It is really hard for me to be against electric scooters when I see people riding them to work instead of driving or being driven in cars.

But the way electric scooters have been rolled out here on the west side of LA leaves a lot to be desired. I have counted at least five suppliers of electric scooters in my neighborhood. There seems to be no limit on new entrants. And the big product market fit innovation that unlocked electric scooters, the dockless network (which I’ve been a fan of on this blog), is also the cause of much of the “ugliness” of them.

I have no doubt that the electric scooter providers will innovate on the model and the product and figure out how to alleviate many or possibly all of this ugliness over time. But until then we will be picking up scooters from our lawns and sidewalks.

It is no wonder that large swaths of society are getting tired of tech companies, startups, and disruption and are starting to say “no mas.” We in startup land have learned that the winners beg for forgiveness instead of ask for permission. And you won’t find a bigger fan of and promoter of permission-less innovation than me and my colleagues at USV.

If we wait for those in power to grant permission to innovate we won’t get anywhere. Most everyone understands that.

So we end up with ugliness. And that is a big challenge for innovators. Can we innovate a little more beautifully? I don’t know but I hope that we can try. If we don’t, we will see even more backlash than we are seeing now.

How To Be A Good Board Member

Mark Suster wrote a post this weekend laying out some rules for being a good board member before the meeting, in the meeting, and outside of the meeting. It is a very good list. I particularly like his rules for outside of the board meeting and agree with him that is the most important part of being a board member.

I try to follow these rules except “let others speak.” That is a joke but I am known for taking up a lot of airtime in meetings, not only board meetings. It is something I’ve been working on for thirty-five years and something I expect I will be working on for the rest of my life. I just get so into it and can’t help myself.

Which leads me to my rule for being a good board member.

It comes down to one word.

Care.

If you care, really care, deeply care, like the way a parent cares for a child, you will be a good board member.

Of course, you have to do a lot of work; preparation work, people time, relationship work, reading, studying, etc to be good at this job.

But all that comes easy if you just deeply care about the company, the people running it, and everybody in and around it.

The “Doubling Model” For Fundraising

I was talking to a friend this past week who is looking at an early stage company and trying to figure out how to value it.

He pointed to a similar company that has a public market cap of $250mm.

I asked him how many rounds of financing or how many major milestones does this early stage business need to accomplish before it can get to the same place the similar publicly traded company is at.

He said he thought it was going to take three big steps after this financing to get there.

So I said, “it is worth roughly $30mm after this round.”

He said “how did you determine that?”

I said “If you assume the value will double from round to round or milestone to milestone, and after three more of those it will be worth $250mm, then it should be worth $30mm after this one.”

I then said “work back from $250mm, to $125mm, to $62mm to $31mm.”

I call this the doubling model and I’ve used it as a framework for thinking about value appreciation in startup financing for over thirty years.

Here is a simple spreadsheet that shows how this works. It does not include the impact of employee equity grants in it so the numbers would change a bit if I added that. Assume the employees would own 20% of the company at exit.


This is just a framework, nothing more.

But I find it is very helpful in thinking about what is fair and reasonable at various stages of a companies development.

You can also scale this back. If a company only needs ~$20mm to get to positive cash flow, but only has $150mm of potential value at exit, you would get something like this:

The two big assumptions that drive this framework is that a company should always target to double valuation round to round and never dilute more than 20% per round. That minimizes dilution and also gives the existing investors the comfort and confidence that things are going roughly to plan.

If things are going great, you can take valuation up more than that from round to round, but in my experience that often catches up to you and the next round is flat as a result, which is not a great thing for anyone.

And everything is ultimately governed by the total size of the opportunity (TAM), how the market will value that at time of exit, and the capital requirements to get there. Those are the fundamental drivers of value in startup land and this framework attempts to respect them.