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Fun Founder Stories (Notes from July 29 – Aug 4, 2019) August 21, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, TV, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Starting with a discussion of Neuralink (Musk’s… brain-child of a company for neural lace) and how it reminds the a16z crew of invasive compared to non-invasive surgeries / medical tech. How did TikTok vary itself in the social space and explode in popularity? Harry Stebbings of 20min VC had been going on and on about HiringScreen and finally had the founder on which was fun to hear. Richard’s origination story for the company and his path that he took was fascinating.

Then I happened to listen to a few different shoe companies with founders on serendipitous and creative stories. One traveling to a new and different country and absorbing the culture to his story. The others, seeing a problem that seemed to arise and noticing there should / could be a solution. Then catching breaks for each of the 2 companies – including the bootstrapping and doing it on their own as something that was fun enough helping people solve those problems / be happy with their footwear. I strongly suggest looking at Sabah shoes for men’s drivers-ish and Birdies for women who go to parties where they may need slippers or comfortable everyday ones.

E-sports and digital discussion for a16z was fun in how society is adapting to digital experiences or how they meld entertainment. For those that don’t think esports may be viable, it’s easy to argue in the cases where they watch reality tv or even game shows (which have been around since tv). It’s just changed how we consume and perceive it as interactive live games vs recordings. Also, malls that are less successful or in areas have been able to take advantage of the space available.

Vivino’s CEO joined and talked about how he is trying to socialize and give people options in the wine space – which, let’s be honest, is always a good thing. Goldie Chan discussed filling the gap in an employment by consulting, by accident, nearly. She turned it into a full pivot consulting and has taken advantage of her great skills at marketing. Hope there’s something for everyone!

  • Neuralink & Brain Interface (a16z 7/21/19, 16min on the News)
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    • With Vijay, Connie Chan, JPM
    • Announcement of neural lace – culture sci-fi by Ian Banks – processor & sewing machine
    • Non-invasive vs invasive (femoral artery all the way up to the brain)
      • LASIK as invasive / dangerous (still even, but now much better, accepted)
    • Announcing in rats and in monkeys now (surprising his president)
    • TikTok as 3rd most dl app behind WhatsApp and FB Messenger, 1.2bln MAUs – having huge influence at VidCon
      • Sponsored by YouTube but TikTok had a large presence, the ban in India
      • Short, 15sec videos – 1 hit piece can trigger enough people
    • How would they make money? – ecommerce, restaurants, retail – short videos for ads/commercials
    • FaceApp – probably nothing to worry about – unless high profiled public official, NatSec Space, leverage
      • Someone getting negative information or leakage – accusations of the country in general is silly
      • Countries consider privacy differently – in the US, convenience / UX will trump privacy for 15min of joy
        • Europeans, Germans, Italians for instance are more private
    • iHeartRadio announcing direct listing – before, emerging from bankruptcy or spinning off
      • Repurposed after Spotify / Pandora
  • Mobile malware and Bipartisan drug pricing (a16z 7/28/19, 16min on the News)
    • With Martin Casado, Jorge Conde, Jay Rughani
    • Monacle as mobile malware – March 2016 Android-based application
      • In security, netsec and endpoints – protecting desktops, for instance
      • Attacks phone with 2FA, even, and less secure
      • Can take calendar event, account info and app messages, reset PINs
    • Drug pricing – Medicare Modernization Act – why can’t Medicare use its purchasing power to negotiate medicine prices?
      • Part D – Medicare covering prescription prices, prevents HFS from negotiating any part of the value chain
      • Price of insulin where they get price hikes – new therapy gets $2mln for cures (R&D) differences, conflation
      • Price of successful drugs have to make money for drug and all of the failures
        • Counterargument – US subsidizes R&D for the world
        • Complex industry structure: manufacturers, distributors paid to move drugs through channel
          • Pharmacy benefit manager – who is eligible, who’s not – what are drugs for conditions and prescriptions
            • Helps insurers who gets the drugs – takes an economics layer
          • Insurers reduction drug spends, for $1 spent, manufacturer gets a small %
      • Dropping from $8k to $3100 out of pocket
        • Cap by tying to inflation (for growth) or annual price increases
        • May start higher prices because you can’t increase it much
    • Chain is not transparent, but also complex – tech can have an impact but needs help from policy to drive out some inefficiencies
      • Free market works if there’s transparency – what is a medicine and can you make it fair enough for everyone
      • Current system is not set up for the new medicines (extending life from 10 years to a cure)
  • Richard Hanson, CEO & cofounder of HiringScreen (20min VC FF028)
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    • Founded in Hong Kong in 2015
    • Studied law in Cambridge, did 11 years recruitment consultancy in London before moving to Hong Kong
      • Then created his own recruitment firm – had his own looking at 196 cv’s for an EA for someone
      • Score, sort and select candidates
    • Tech advances in recruiting industry – job boards and sourcing is at all-time highs
      • Barrier to application is all-time low but have too many to look for (especially manually)
      • Psychometric and phone facility stuff to find relevant candidates – get on with themselves
        • Go through rest of funnel to invest in the process in more efficient manner
    • Had always wanted to live in Asia – pretty exciting, bullish for Asia in general
      • Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan as hubs
    • If you have an idea, try to find someone or go ahead and do a view of what it may be executed on
      • He had the idea, went to his cofounder Luke (better at project management side)
      • Prototyping mockups and getting through the first steps efficiently – may hit a dead-end a few weeks in
        • Validating idea as soon as possible – customer or problems for people (heads of recruitment firms for his problem)
    • Making an effort to code or understand a bit of the UX (in his case, CSS and HTML to understand a bit)
      • Compared to languages in a foreign country
      • When his CTO introduces people, he wants to be confident about what the developer has been doing and understanding their past
      • His responsibility to show an effort/commitment in the job role
    • Looking to raise a round – HiringScreen did it in 8 weeks
      • Competitive slides, why you want to raise, how to convey mission statement, skill and productivity gaps
      • Understanding his potential investors, as well
    • Accelerators – choosing the right ones? He’s with the Blueprint Accelerator by Swire properties
      • B2B focus, no equity in startups – working space and Swire network of companies (conglomerate of different co’s in verticals)
      • Sponsored him and tried to help advance the company by talking to other HR talks
      • Mentions Brinc as hardware accelerator near the top
    • Idea of equity early on would depend on your assessment of what the startup needs?
      • Super low cost – accelerator with working space?
      • Product but proven use case – Blueprint to trial product and test it
      • Balance the need with the equity they’re taking
    • The Alliance book by Reid Hoffman for looking at employee and employer workplace, tour of duty principle
    • Brad Feld and Jason Calacanis’s blogs, Reid Hoffman as the most admirable founder – better people to take LinkedIn on
  • Jennifer Golbeck, College of Information Studies and Affiliate Professor at UMD
    • Talking about social media research, truth and justice
  • Carl Ericson, CEO & cofounder of Atomic Object (Wharton XM, Mind Your Business)
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    • Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor software product development company and why he chose there
    • Sails at Grand Rapids Yacht Club
  • Bianca Gates, Marisa Sharkey, Birdies co-founders (Wharton XM)
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    • Discussing how they started them and Feb 14 – when she landed an article with a SF Chronicle fashion correspondent at a dinner party
    • Driving up to the other in order to get all 2000 orders packaged and sent out

 

 

 

  • Mickey Ashmore, founder of Sabah Shoes (Wharton XM)
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    • Doing a 6 month project after Seattle in Turkey – turned into 2 years as the only non-Turk
      • Grew an affinity for the people, culture, food and trends – girlfriend’s grandma at the time gifted him a pair of handmade shoes
    • Returned to NY and beat the crap out of the shoes – wanted another
      • Reached out to the maker (current partner) and bought another pair
      • Ended up getting 5-6 in different colors, customized without the flip – people said they were awesome
      • Ordered 300 – could get 150+ and did a party to showcase them with cocktails, enjoyed hosting
        • Got 30-40 orders on the first night, decided to do it for the rest of the summer “Sabah Saturday/Sundays”
    • Realized it could be a business after in the summer he was making more from shoe sales than his NY P/E job
    • Expanding from 3-4 employees to 40 and expanding from a home to a warehouse – border of Syria/Turkey
      • Has a few key employees that are Syrian refugees – part of the brand and they showcase it on the site
        • Not branding directly, but definitely part of the story
  • Goldie Chan (@goldiechan), digital marketing expert of LinkedIn and actor (Wharton XM)
    • Discussing quitting her job and making a fake company while unemployed
      • Turned into a marketing consulting gig – had a few clients, had to create a company
    • Now doing talks and discussions
  • Kurt Seidensticker, CEO of Vital Protein (Wharton XM)
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    • Collagen and explaining to people how it was – getting some in to Whole Foods through them asking
    • Didn’t hit him until he was in Italy and 2 random women at a café pulled their Vital out
    • Did about 10 companies, 2 succeeded enough to pay for kids college and allow him the freedom
      • Was doing Vital during another company until it surpassed the other
  • Fortnite, esports, Gaming (a16z, 16min on the News)
    • 2 million concurrent livestreaming – not as big as GoT, for instance
    • With Andrew Chen, Darcy Cooligan (investing team on consumer)
    • Bigger prize pool for Dota 2, $3mil for Bugha’s win was larger than Tiger’s Masters victory
    • 10 years for Riot and League – still grossing billion, WoW / Runescape
    • Billions of video consumption between Twitch, YT (and now Microsoft Mixer)
    • iPad can play Fortnite pretty well, for instance – massive multiplayer opportunities
      • Instagram and this generation for coming together as people – Minecraft/Fortnite
      • Gaming and cultural zeitgeist to hang out with friends
    • Sonal did a fight with editorial desk and had seen it for a profiling in 2013 – argued it was similar to sports
      • Big business and much of the same thing – management company, played 2+ years for 6-8 hours, sponsors, fans
      • Performance entertainment and personality-based
        • Comparative for game shows – other people answering trivia, reality tv
    • Strong incentives to keep games going – user-generated content
      • Established player leading way to user-generated thereafter
      • For Fortnite, building levels (similar to mods and mod community in Minecraft and Roblox)
    • Games stadia for esports and digital dualism (in real life compared to virtual – game is the bridge)
      • Malls building areas for this part
  • Chris Tsakalakis, CEO of Vivino (Bay Area Ventures, Wharton XM)
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    • Having users and getting customers – at least 1 employee in each region where they sell
    • Mostly in US, Europe – hq in Dublin
    • Bunch of users in Asia / South America (Brazil, specifically), but don’t sell there yet
    • Not taking VC until more recently

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