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Back from Vacation (Notes from Nov 11 to 17, 2019) February 11, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, cannabis, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, gym, Leadership, marketing, NFL, NLP, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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It had been a long while – 9? months since taking more than 1 day off extra and closer to 20 months since I’d had a week off in a row. I visited the Big Island in Hawaii and stayed primarily on the west side of the island. Gorgeous weather and awesome beaches will bring me back, hopefully shortly.

I want to write a bit further about the escape, but I also want to get these notes out, so I’ll write further in later this week – Thursday.

Enjoy these notes on some of the fascinating people of Eniac Ventures, other investors, founder of EasyPoint, ReSolve quant, research professors, former professional football player and a Nascar driver.

  • Hadley Harris (@Hadley), Founding GP at Eniac Ventures (20min VC 2/3/16)
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    • First mobile venture, Soundcloud, Airbnb, Vungel
    • 2x entrepreneur in mobile – Vlingo (acq by Nuance for $225mln) and Thumb (acq by Wipulse)
      • Was one of first employees and execs running marketing and bd while working with product
    • Worked at Samsung and Charles Rivers Ventures
    • Studied engi & math as undergrad @ Penn, joined MSFT & Samsung
      • His 2 really good friends at Penn and him came together for Eniac in 2009
      • Mobile – next place for computing – cleantech was hot at that time, as well
    • SF was 50%, NY as 25% and the rest was elsewhere – won’t lead but will do a pro rata and be key in fundraising for next
    • Living & breathing the co – coming to right valuation, inevitable for down or flat rounds
    • 18-24 months from seed to series A or pre-seed to seed – funds becoming more institutionalized
      • Leading rounds for Eniac at $1.2 – $2mln
    • Favorite book: Freakanomics, read it in one sitting
    • Tools: gmail, relayedIQ for deal tracking, as todo list, also
    • Don Valentine – godfather of VC, great investors but great entrepreneurs and fund raisers
    • Favorite blog: Nuzzel – curation of reposts
    • Underhyped: mobile enterprise; Overhyped industry: big fan and he does work in social, but lot to weed through
    • Most recent investment: Phhhoto – knew the founders, they’d known each other for a while, great design and numbers – self-funded
  • Zach Resnick (@trumpetisawesom), founding EasyPoint (IndieHackers #130, 10/28/19)
    easypoint2

    • Iterating your way to founder-product fit, currently at 10 people, 5 full-time, $600k ytd with 15% yoy organic growth
    • Traveled, worked and lived abroad in Jerusalem before school, infected with wanderlust
      • CC churning and manufactured spending while he was learning at school in Ohio – VISA gift cards to $1k
    • Banking often makes more money on the chance that you’ll become a customer for other areas of business (mortgage, checking account, brokerage, etc)
    • Started when he was 19 – would give advice to parents/family/friends on the year before getting an hourly rate for paying customer as consultant
      • Enjoyed his help, he liked helping others – he was getting $1k/mo from hourly before going up
      • Consulting clients – he was helping optimize for business or vacation trip for the points
    • Started Land Happier to solve a problem of having everything in one place
      • Cultural norms, transportation, 6 other things for information in a fun and compelling app product (MVP on app store)
      • Wasn’t solving a problem that nobody has, but nobody would pay for – product/founder fit wasn’t there, either
    • What he wants – enjoys negotiating, strategic thinking, interesting conversations and sales moreso than product focused than customer focused
    • While working on Land, he productized his consulting – generally was helping family friends that were parents’ age
      • Amount of effort he was putting in compared to the value wasn’t the same – not high enough
      • Started to focus on small business or medium enterprise owners to put spending on the right cards and get 6 figures on spend return
      • Focused on people he knew through referrals, points optimization plans for small owners – acquisition and spending for more value
    • Early stage owners – hey, this isn’t free
    • Playing poker for relatively high stakes – teaching important principles, statistics, risk management and psychology
    • Consulting to productized consulting service – had a family friend with small business who would see a $50k in increased return on spend
      • He could do a quick analysis and understand business more, try to get a customized points optimization plan for points
      • Small business owners are leaving 1.5%, maybe 2.5% on the table – using points better for things you already want to do
    • Providing value but people didn’t know what it is or weren’t hurting – show them math for 5 figures within a year saving
      • Guarantee: if you sign up points optimization plan, if he doesn’t get you double what his fee is within first year, he gives money back and $10k
      • Making people aware of the problem was going to be a lot of work – never really got off the ground for outbound
        • Was just a way to make money, not necessarily grow it really fast – customers’ needs
    • Concierge service now (v3 EasyPoint) focusing on business and first-class international long-haul service
      • Over whatsapp and telegram groups – makes a flight request and they get back to them 24/7
      • They use miles and points that they buy from clients and then use those to book for others
      • Brokers buying all kinds of points and miles – so the arbitrage there contained issues with ToS and such
        • They’re buying transferable points like Chase / AMEX directly to frequent flier accounts
    • Working for someone else – interned with The Points Guy and when he was looking at doing it, he posted on the Facebook group
      • Cameron, now their COO, was very good – would he want to have his hires over for dinner?
      • Team of 10 now: Cameron manages concierge, growth marketing (5 on team, looking for Asia now)
        • Part-time business development consultants, full-time that have been searching
      • Revenues and loans for growth/cash flow, venture debt and possibly equity raise
    • Concierge service with product-market fit and being focused – enterprise value of $100mln probably but not billions
      • Not much needs to be tweaked for core product – fund raise would be for a different product
        • Help consumers decide on if they want to use their points or cash when booking – trying to automate this for concierge/back-end
        • Chrome extension and booking engine to use or not – this may be billion dollar opportunity
  • Andrew Butler, ReSolve’s Head of Quant Research (Gestalt University, 10/2/19)
    podcasts-thumbnail-300x300-1

    • Machine learning in markets: Silver bullet or Pandora’s box
      • Unsupervised, supervised and reinforcement learning differences in application or finance
    • Student of mathematics, physics in undergrad, keen on not memorizing a lot of stuff – enjoyed the applied side
      • Oil reservoir simulators that modeled tidal flow in Bay of Fundy, wind turbines in giant field for optimization
      • Next step was working on a sub problem of simulators – complex, computationally expensive and trying to optimize NPV in 60d oil field
        • Navigating the nonlinear, nonconvex solutions – how to make a reasonable model approximation by sampling sparse reps of simulator
    • How would simulator/emulator apply to financial world in momentum and moving averages
      • Sample distribution would fit well to out-of-sample distributions in physical world but finance wouldn’t – nonstationary
      • Caused him to use simpler models, momentum models (and transformations) and ensembles of simple factor models
        • Mean-variance optimization, error maximizing, in-sample won’t perform well out of sample
    • Wanted formal training in financial engineering, so went and got a MFE
    • Practitioner compared to theorist – after a conference talk, his construct was mean-variance was same as regression
      • Subspace reduction and regularization as identical terms for mean-variance
    • Machine Learning as 3 subspaces
      • Unsupervised learning -> clustering and dimensionality reduction
        • Targeted marketing, customer segmentation and in finance: signal processing, optimization or portfolio construction
        • Trying to uncover relationships/groupings/clusters contained within a dataset
      • If total error is dominated by bias, it’s likely overly simplistic – X as model complexity and Y as Total Error (Bias / Variance)
        • Increase complexity, bias term can decrease, increasing the variance (instability/overfitting)
  • Kelly Peeler (@kellypeeler), founder / CEO NextGenVest (20min VC FF#034, 2/5/16)
    nextgenvest_ai_serieslogo_blue

    • College Money mentor, empowering students to live full lives, history of financial crisis for motivation to start
      • Went over to Iraq, started and enabled some companies to build there in 2012
    • Went to JPMC after graduating to make some money before starting NGV for students
    • Financial organization to financial efficiency – going from Mint (organizing money for a user’s financial lives)
      • Now people need efficiency – time priority, optimizing time through automation and personalization
        • Leverage trust to improve time in the background (automation and not wanting to have to look)
    • High school trust and students have nobody they can trust for guidance – 8% trust banks and financial institutions
      • If you can build a product/service, on your way to building trust
        • Save users time, money, customized experience
    • Serving their customers with SMS and Snapchat – smarter push notifications for the right service in the right way
      • Couldn’t customize communication inside an app, so they did channels that they chose
    • NGV clubs at high schools across country – new high schools brought in, engagement and grassroots
    • First product that they brought on was for the financial literacy test that 17 states need
    • Favorite book: The Thank You Economy – best people outhustle to get more customers
    • As visual person, can focus on 1-3 things at a time – preps in the evening, large index cards
    • Adam Nash at Wealthfront – build trust with dynamics of product and the culture of company
    • Spent too much time at focusing her weaknesses but has tried to get better on that side
  • Sam Yagan (@samyagan), Starting OkCupid, Sparknotes (Wharton XM, Marketing Matters)
    • Turning down consulting job for OkCupid start – told he was crazy but wanted to take the chance
      • Free model and how do you value customers but competitors were Match and eHarmony
      • Had to get enough people on all sides of the market and then could use the data to help
    • Internet wasn’t designed to take an expert’s ideas and just use those – bigger than that
      • “You know what you want.” We’ll pull it out and figure it out.
      • Google comparison – index all the pages and figure those out to place on first page
      • Creating a platform to ask all the questions and focus on them
    • Sold Sparknotes in 11 months, took OKCupid 8 years (sold to Match, was there for a year)
      • Got the job running the company for another 3.5 years as Match CEO and created Tinder
  • Rob Gronkowski (@robgronkowski), All-Pro tight end (The Corp, 10/1/19)
    • A-Rod investing into Rob’s brother’s, Chris, company Ice Shaker
      • Were able to put money in, along with Mark Cuban, when they were on Shark Tank (all brothers)
      • Rob, upon retiring, bought Arod out of his shares in the business with Chris
    • Fitplan – Arod gave Rob a discount on the shares in Ice Shaker and he just wanted Rob to look through his company
      • Rob invested with Arod – parents were in business (gym equipment for retail/commercial for 28+ years)
    • Kraft being an owner for the team and being around the game – interested in everything
      • Rare to see owners in the locker room and talking with players – many players say they’ve never seen others
      • Brady, Kraft and Belichick as being the greatest people and diagnosing problems/plays and adjusting
    • Rob wants to travel – done a lot in the US
      • Traveling a week from that day to Israel with CEO Barry of CBDMedic there
    • Being reckless as single Gronk in the NFL (loves Camille now, though)
  • Horst Simon (@hdsimon), Chief Research Officer at LBNL (Curious Investor 9/3/19)
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    • Difference between ML and programming – validity of an email, for instance
      • Computer looks for “@” and domain name, iterative of if-then’s, marking valid or invalid
      • ML – give details of valid and invalid email addresses and have the computer figure it out with a statistical model for rules
        • Relationship between information
      • ML more as being able to see if something is a cat in a picture – hard to program that
    • Helped establish the Berkeley supercomputing center – big role all across the world now to complement theory by simulations
    • More data than ever before, 90% of digital data created in last 2 years – more in 2018 than all of human history
      • Finance can’t generate more data like autonomous cars, for instance (100 cars means 100 more data points)
      • Markets/economics are dynamic – return predictions of signal:noise approaches zero
        • Driven by economic features of markets – competitive, profit-seeking traders that act on it
      • HFT as real barriers to entry so they’re less efficient and more predictable, potentially
      • Quantitative traders don’t use raw data – they use transformations such as log of equity, cross-sectional rank of book to market ratio
        • Neural network tries to find what the best transformations are (X -> Y and explore all the connections)
    • Bonds example: predict if issuer will default or not with firm information using random forest
  • Rajiv Shah (@rajcs4), Data Scientist @ Data Robot, Adjunct Prof UChicago (DataSkeptic, 10/22/19)
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    • Started engineering, studied philosophy and law, PhD in Comms before doing research as academic
      • Worked at State Farm and Caterpillar before going to Data Robot
    • Deep learning applications in motion data like NBA player data, motion tracking arms and legs (PoseNET, for instance)
      • Nature paper published that used deep learning to study after-shock patterns for earthquakes
    • Going through paper – simple starting point or baseline model was skipped – how much value is really added, then?
      • Looking at the 6-layer problem – approach wasn’t unexpected when using keras to add layers
      • Results generated: AUC of 0.85 compared to naïve benchmark of simple, physical model – AUC of 0.58
      • When he reproduced it, test set results were higher than training set – yellow or red flag for model
    • Group partitioning – 130 earthquakes happening right after each other, near each other and related
      • Make sure the information for an earthquake/customer doesn’t get split between training / test sites to avoid leakage
      • Basic grounding of fundamentals for setting up initial training data, partition based on time to avoid that, as well
    • As community, ensure that there are best practices and guidelines – reproducibility as a large problem lately
      • How to police boundaries for the general field – influence of institutions in publishing (for this, Harvard/Google/Nature mag researchers)
      • Good from them: the data and model for the code was freely available and he could do it on his laptop / notebooks
      • Academics from the earthquake field reached out to him with some qualms and he’s partnered with them for a blog on efforts
    • Interpretability focus trade-off with accuracy – that he’ll speak on at Open DS Conf
      • Lots of tools for explaining models with transparency now, though
  • Julia Landauer (@julialandauer), NASCAR driver (Stanford Pathfinders, Wharton XM)
    • Being on Survivor (suggested by a friend while Soph in college), racecar driver
      • Picking Stanford because of so many people that were awesome / ambitious
      • Mentioning Andrew Luck saying that this was why he chose it – people wouldn’t particularly care
    • Driving at such a young age and in Manhattan – not getting a license there until 18 on campus
    • Having to pitch and learn how to pitch at a young age for sponsorships, running a team and the cost, even at minors – $500k+
    • Some 12 female drivers and being competitive

Find Your Own Value (Notes from Nov 4 to Nov 10, 2019) January 21, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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One of my favorite pieces and follows on Twitter of the last 3 months has been Tyler Tringas, founder of Earnest Capital. He came to realize that there existed a massive opportunity to fund companies that may not require or need the VC model of capital infusion – just a starter amount to do testing, easiest when people look to make sales and revenues early (maybe not the model for certain industries – marketplaces/user-dependent network effects not-withstanding).

Wild for micro and seed funding, when companies have yet to establish a true product-market fit or business model each time, typically stick with one financing style. I wonder how much innovation has been restricted by the funding style. There are advantages and disadvantages for each of those. But I’ve yet to come across more than 2-3 VC’s (out of 1000s) that do multiple and have a separation / adjustment. Makes sense from the LPs sense, but not necessarily if you want the companies to be SOMEHOW getting to a growth/scale that fits.

Less Annoying CRM Tyler King was cognizant about the capital and efficiency standpoint in business – everyone that doesn’t create value seemed expendable. Those that did will make it. I find that an important takeaway and general attitude toward either doing your own thing or being a part of a bigger company.

Hopefully each of these excite everyone enough to check the fantastic people/content out further!

  • Tyler Tringas (@tylertringas), founder of Earnest Capital (Indiehackers #131, 11/1/19)image02

    • Funding for entrepreneurs, founders, outside of the ecosystem – profitable and sustainable
      • Not competing with other options – just found a large group of bootstrappers that aligns with the goals
      • RBF doesn’t work for some
    • Green field space in the past – no competitors and could gobble the market – big risk early but if it’s worked, it can be massive
      • Launching and building became cheaper and more niche for diversifying the opportunities – limiting VC scale
      • When he sold his first business, he handed over his Stripe account, Github and Roku
    • Software companies – no retail shop meant your option was “raise money” = “raise venture capital”
      • If you were doing a bakery or something, you had a plethora of options
    • 5 years ago, he was one of the loudest critics and blogger
      • If he was bootstrapping, can you work backwards and what would you have wanted to work with
        • Is it actually a fit for you
      • No board seat, mentors for long-term
    • Raise money when you believe the money will unlock value in the business
    • Had Storemapper – where he figured out what he wanted to do next
      • Derek Sivers – Tarzan move – need the second vine before letting go of the first vine
      • Pivoted to finance to do finance models behind wind/solar farms
      • Then to micro SaaS Indiehacker before noticing people struggled to get businesses off the ground early (his $50k cc debt)
    • His basic bet is that it’s not an iron law of physics that 90% will fail
      • His fund will fail if it is an iron law – and his investors are aware of this
      • He believes the VC model is circular in that if you require growth is 11% a month for 12+ months, more likely to become unicorn
        • But if they don’t hit that, then they’re failing
    • Really interested in niche markets for a piece of software that serves a market – eg Hostify, Endcrawl post-production credits, etc
  • Tyler King (@lessannoyingcrm), cofounder of Less Annoying CRM (Indie Hackers #128, 10/21/19)
    5bac7c2c446aa-resize-710x380-1

    • Bouncing between companies after college, had joined a startup that grew after Series A, only to be acquired
      • Everyone was fired except for 5 cheapest employees (including him)
    • Marketing channels not working – word of mouth, sometimes paid ads, Google AdWords or Facebook
    • Customer support – competitive advantage as going slow, not being held to revenue standards
      • Can focus on customer service and product features
  • Maren Bannon (@maren_bannon), cofounder & Partner at Jane VC (50inTech Podcast #11)
    https3a2f2fblogs-images.forbes.com2fcarisommer2ffiles2f20182f102fjane-vc-logo-text

    • Cold-pitching VC – for cold emails, take time to research the investor and explain why they’d be interested
      • Adjacent industries, past role in competitive area, resonating project
    • Nailing the one-liner / 10 second offering in a sentence
    • Bullet points, succinct including certain things
      • Traction for user/revenue/notable customers
      • Advocates, angels with industry expertise
    • Why you? Brief description for the ideal team.
    • Include an ask – why are you contacting? Advice, seed round, etc…
    • Include right materials (letter can be brief, but more info attached or deck or 1-pager)
  • Ok Boomer, Microtransactions (16min on the News by a16z #13, 11/3/19)
    • NYT Taylor Lorenz – (perennially behind others but gets credit for the writing of it)
    • Taking on a meme, protest for what’s rigged – Gen Z affected by Boomers “hurting us”
      • How memes can turn into clothing, sales for songs, be further monetized
      • Social media generating social phenomenon and transactions and merchandise
        • V1 was ad-based, then quasi-based for sponsored ads (protein powers and such), direct transactions for monetizations
        • Can get demand and feedback for multiple types of merchandise before launching and sending out efficiently
    • In China, commerce is already in the app – button after 2nd loop you can complete purchase inside the app
      • Close the loop on-platform in China
    • Marketplace on games for platform – supporting size/scales that fraudsters can open up accounts and quickly find monetization structure
      • Build false economy and cash out quickly – advanced fraudsters for automation, maybe with virtual trades and purchases
      • If it’s $10k, they’re wrong – probably multiple millions, if not more
  • AI in B2B (a16z 10/23/19)
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    • Oleg Rogynskyy from People.AI, for sales and marketing
    • Very few users that give you private, anonymized data is much harder to make them comfortable with this data
      • How valuable is the promise you’re making to customers vs the cost to achieve it
    • For entrepreneurs: if there is human activity that generates data for how they do it that isn’t being captured, there’s a ripe opportunity
      • Shipping containers, wind farm, location of Uber driver – reliable data, aggregate and figure out what may be the next best action would be
        • Significant growth and acceleration for these actions once network effects apply
      • More sensors, edge computing, salespeople, drivers in network – more data collected and more patterns you can see
        • Smarter the graph becomes, better the predictions may be allowed to become – then, more money and lures in other network participants
      • Wind farm operators: know it will break after it breaks but someone in comes in that was there collecting data ahead of you, they are up still
        • Competitor automates process, you can go to same vendor and catch up but if you miss AI, you can’t catch up
      • Oleg mentions that he thinks AI is zero-sum and that the Fortune 500 will look very different in 10 years
    • All customers benefit from generalized data – first customers have to do a lot more than others
      • People writing contracts: only sell to me, but customers would be relics
    • When the data model changes, systems of records die – Andreesen
      • Hierarchical first, then on SQL, then cloud SQL and Salesforce
        • Next gen data model should be graph – federated shared graph model – instead of you pulling data and searching, it will push to you
        • Personalized actionable insights – pushed through the channel you’re most likely to engage with – maximum focus
      • Level of intent for the user should be known – don’t have to expose the complexity but you can be shown and execute that
    • Difference between autopilot and co-pilot
      • As human, something mundane or repetitive – automating the functions to make it more efficient use of your neurons
      • Augmenting ability to make decisions – racecar that may know what’s around the curve, making us super-productive – more human
    • Needs to be 10x on the platform vs off the platform if you’re afraid of the set-up
    • Sales & Marketers specifically
      • Shifting how they work – day-to-day: 1/3 of time on manual data entry, 1/3 on prospecting (classic problem), 1/3 on face-to-face doing selling
        • First should be gone, 2nd should be done with help on ML and AI for value-add prospecting and automate outreach
        • Face-to-face: Machines can’t replace this but may be able to help out
      • Training on the end point – best way to sell, unbundling learning management system
    • Wants to do bottoms-up but currently top-down – through standard procurement channels
      • Users will demand data-hungry approaches and solutions – apps that built AI on user data but not merging with enterprise data
        • Have easier time for value adding in these cases because you just want data to increase (single player can do single player)
    • Biggest surprises: inside sales for Oleg starting in 2006 pounding phones, went out and did a software change before downturn
      • Learned timing matters at that time.
      • Then started Symantria – sentiment analysis API in 2011, size of market matters – 20-30 companies needed it (80% of market)
      • Remembered that he was put into a conference room with COO (head of sales), cleaned Salesforce and within a month it was in ruin again
      • Couldn’t understand sales team when he took over, why it wasn’t ramping up quickly, losing deals, hiring more people but productivity was fine
        • Supposed to have data in CRM but never had it
  • Martin Mignot, Investor at Index Ventures (20min VC 2/1/16)index-ventures-768x469-1

    • Investments including Deliveroo, Blablahcar, Algolia, SwiftKey, others
    • Worked on 50 transactions like CodeAcademy, FlipBoard, Soundcloud
    • UBS Investment Bank on TMT team and co-founded beauty subscription company called Boudoir Prive (acquired by BirchBox)
      • Comes from entrepreneur family and action/doer and the creative
      • VC seemed to be between acting and thinking part of the job as he’s followed it for 10-12 years
    • Split on idea of career VC without operating experience
    • 3 ways to look and slice companies: at Index, they have thematic and geographical approach since they need to have ppl on ground in Europe
      • Stage-focused: seed / growth
      • Thematic: fintech, adtech
      • Geographical: Germany, France, London, Amsterdam and building the network there with angels, seed funds
    • 6 hour drive test or drunk test with founders – no formal founder test to determine invest-ability
      • Are they able to attract and hire the people they need
      • Trying to decide if the risk is worth reward – not beholding themselves to a valuation cap if they believe
    • Favorite book: I have America Surrounded by Tim Leary
    • Investor who has shaped his theses is Fred Wilson – being right, companies and sharing insight, communicating as USV and himself
  • Elaine Beak, consulting and HBS (Career Talk, Wharton XM)

    • She wasn’t too scared but whenever she had problems, the solutions would arise
      • For others, the security blanket is the scariest for most people when she tries to help them on decisions or convincing them
    • Writes her books in 2 weeks each – written and published 80+
    • Word of mouth, should have 6 months saved up, and have 50 people that you can contact for saying you’re going out on your own
    • Following own rules:
      • Billing clients the same day that you finish a project.
      • Clients may have 30 day billing window, so if you waited 2 weeks, they’ll forget or not be as appreciative.
    • Don’t discount, add to the service instead – charge more
      • Bad reputation for discounting.
    • Go for the big fish – large companies but the time to get smaller companies is the same for larger. Repeat business is there
      • Repeat business and more of a budget to continue work.
    • Learn to say no. Non-paid speaking engagements should be limited.
    • Manage your time well – make sure it pays off.
      • Find ways to automate things – invoices, payroll, accounting, responses to common questions
        • Make a standard paragraph or find an app/template once you have these
    • Project will end but not relationship – stay until the end and do a good job for the client.
    • Incorporating, LLC for sure

Reflect After, Not Before (Notes from Oct 28 – Nov 3, 2019) January 14, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized.
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I was a madman and finished through StartUp Podcast and their Gimlet story during the week of these notes. Pretty cool to hear a play-by-play for what was going through their thoughts, especially when they’re simple questions but hold such a vital block until the next challenge. It’s comforting, as well, that many people go through this. It truly doesn’t matter the size of a company or the hoopla associated at the start, there is a huge weight on the shoulders of first-time entrepreneurs coming from full-time employment. Even with the best managers or people in their roles, there are so many things that go into building – and it’s always changing.

Thankfully, there is an increasing amount of resources now to help you. A large number of people who have scratched the entrepreneur itch have produced reflections, notes and strategies to succeed/fail/avoid mistakes – all through the eyes of those who have succeeded marvelously, exited, failed spectacularly or even quietly. We’re lucky that we’re in this time, now, simply for the reason that all it takes to DO is just that – ACTION, DO. No longer is there a lack of playbook for the particular road to the madness. More tools, more options and it’s whatever you decide to go with. So, the biggest problem is probably now analysis paralysis. Want to make an educated guess as to what may work BEST, but it’s hard to know that. Experiment where you can and take leaps everywhere else.

I should take more of my own advice, and I’m glad I heard a few podcasts that push me further into this train of thought. The ideas will eat at you until you do it. Don’t want to regret inaction – hard to regret action since it’ll be what you did and how you took that path. Hope you all enjoy the notes / podcast in each of these paths.

  • Jeff Seibert (@jeffseibert), Sr Director of Product at Twitter (20min VC FF032)
    crashlytics-logo

    • Former founder of Crashlytics, 2011 with Wayne Chang for 300mil users worldwide
      • Acquired by Twitter in 2013 for $259mn
    • Cofounded Increo in 2007 and served as COO and lead architect until acquisition by Box in 2009
      • Build, share and innovate on their ideas – idea-sharing (doc-sharing, feedback, collaboration)
      • Had raised seed $500k in early 2008 – thought it would last about 18 months – for 2009 start, had 6 months to raise
        • Investors were pulling back, taking meetings but not investing – met with 34 / 36 firms on Sand Hill (says it was too much)
    • Grew up in Maryland, got Mac for Dummies and had visual application where he changed “Hello, World” to orange color
      • Went to Stanford for college, wanted to think about startups so started group
    • Transparency – full may be healthiest culture but it’s crazy high, crazy low (so CEOs should moderate) – entire team through cycle is actual stress
      • Productivity can dip if whole team feels this – at Increo it was very transparent
        • Acquisition discussions meant they had 2 months of not being productive – founder has to swallow the ups and downs
          • Box – still was furthering the mission for the acquisition – they had tons of documents and could provide lots of value
    • For Twitter acquisition – their executive team had a deeply nuanced view of the mobile ecosystem
      • With one of largest apps, had tons of connections, users, and feedback – lead them to have a good scale and vision for the next few years
        • Mobile developers and could succeed in that environment – could provide Crashlytics to grow team and build out products
      • Twitter was acquiring 2 companies a month – total transparency of motivations for acquisition and why they were in plans
        • Why was it being considered by company – couldn’t guarantee technology, headcount but they were open
          • He moved out to SF because they wanted rep for the company
    • For Crashlytics – he took both coast moneys – Flybridge (Jeff Musbridge who suggested a question for how he met cofounder)
      • Wayne Chang – few big startup events that people go to – friend had invited Jeff, was talking about side projects – agreed to meet later
        • He had a very deep understanding of the technology and intuition for mobile developers
          • Gave him a list 3 weeks later out of the blue with mobile apps, their lead, interview notes for feedback and commitment to use beta
          • Executes like crazy – fantastic relationship
      • Thought they were set up for success when they were acquired and reporting to VP of Eng – didn’t anticipate that they had a re-org
        • May put you on other location, lose some activity – should have been a “we want 6-9 months to report / integrate”
      • Goal for Crashlytics was to solve mobile bugs/crashes – 100s of millions of devices, 10s of k’s of customers
        • Could leverage Twitter name and offer the product for free – so instead of doing freemium and enterprise, they could do free everyone
        • Total distribution – it was the perfect opportunity – now have 1billion devices
      • Have entire team (save for 1) and it has tripled
      • He spent 2 years after deal leading developer’s platform (all over world on Twitter’s services) before moving to consumer product (BlueBird, Twitter app)
    • Daring Fireball (Apple fanatic) for favorite blog, career highlight was speaking at Stanford (one of student coordinators originally for Entrepreneurship)
    • Acquihires – not a fan for startup perspective, but understands from other side
  • Gimlet 8: Our New Show (StartUp Podcast 11/22/14)gimlet-and-spotify

    • Hiring new people that could be superstars – TLDR hosts WNYC
      • Offering lower salary than before but a revenue sharing – “incapable of feeling joy, has had an anxiety stomach ache for the past 5 days”
      • They had a bunch of questions: Editorial/managerial relationship (bosses), ad spots for numbers, CPM rate, $ for ongoing web support, logo
        • Had gone through budget stuff initially – PJ & Alex had been part of a union, stability – 6 months later – can they get a commitment?
      • Tough to give security if they don’t have the security – 4 year vesting plan
  • Gimlet 9: We Made a Mistake (StartUp Podcast 12/6/14)
    • Uploading first episode of Reply All – new podcast show
    • Making a terrible mistake of not clarifying an ad intention for “This American Life” for a son’s Minecraft website for Squarespace
      • Having a discussion with Ryan’s (son) of Laura, who eventually came on to talk with Alex about how she’d felt and interpreted
      • Establishing processes and policies for the advertisements
  • Gimlet 10: Mixing Art and Business (StartUp podcast 12/22/14)
    • Not wanting to add to spending part of business (75% pay cut for Alex)
    • 3 months of initial episode of StartUp, 1 month for ReplyAll, and 8 employees in an office with salaries/benefits and advertisements
      • Brought in old spreadsheet for month to month project
      • Miscalculated the audience numbers – said they’d have 20k listeners after 4 months and they’re at 10x that
        • Plan was to have 3 shows and then spend a year to build audience
        • That plan is gone for audience numbers-wise, but to do another show would cost more money
    • Ramping up spending is scary if the audience didn’t continue to grow
    • Talked to their first hire, Caitlin, producer and her knowing and shouldering a lot of the anxiety
  • Nick Craig (@nickcraig1), author of Leading From Purpose (Wharton XM)
    covermsall

    • Love as part of purpose statement when he was with West Point staff
      • Love of family, country, service
      • Where service meets purpose
    • Purpose is what everyone can take between business and personal
      • Most people are smart but asked, as fish, to climb a tree (Einstein)
    • Ben & Jerry’s turnaround – schweaty balls flavor – M&A / movement guy that stayed at B&J’s
      • Doubled revenue to $1 bn from 2011-2019
    • Level of uncertainty has risen for almost every company
      • Used automotive example – what are we going to be selling, buying
      • Banks
      • Timelines are shrinking
    • Talking to Bryn Abraham – love to figure out her purpose
      • Figured it out, then she says she wants to write the foreword for your book (what book – his response)
        • Set him up with her agent (Ariana Huffington and Peter Schultz’s), who had taken his Wharton class
        • The agent told him she’d represent him for his book

Paralysis of Planning (Notes from Oct 7 – Oct 13, 2019) December 12, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Hello everyone! It’s been forever – a few weeks. That wasn’t my intention and my head’s been spinning around topics. However, nothing was clearing up idea-wise, at least enough to fit something in. As writing is an intentional habit of mine to try to memory-dump and stay organized, the slowdown has been a poor fall off from my routine. We’ll get it back.

I forget where I’d read it first, but there are some long-form bloggers who said just writing to write daily has helped them get to coherent, well-written posts about once a week. I may try a medium there and plan to write 3-4 days, even if it’s brief. Let’s see what comes of that (on initial thinking, I’d like to get 1 or 2 of those data-focused).

Last week, I attended #HustleCon in Oakland, which is focused on entrepreneurs (mostly non-technical) and the strength of pattern recognition and actions on ideas. A few of my prior posts have mentioned the flood of information available, so long as you have a plan to go through it. It’s likely why I found it funny to hear various founders with their “definitive” takes on fundraising, hiring and culture building processes. It’s possible the thing they all agreed on was just to focus on the product/customer feedback. The rest was completely in the air – some swore on fundraising and it was easy, others thought it was only necessary to scale to size they wanted later, some wanted to just get large customer traction, etc…. There’s no single track except your own past experiences. That’s the one track for ‘worked’ vs ‘doesn’t work’. Everything else has examples on both sides.

The commonality aside from product/customer-focus was in reflecting on actions – can you test an idea? Can it sell? Will there be a proper response? Is the response as you expected? Iterate from the basic idea that you had to begin with and see if you can’t improve it further. I am starting to agree that there are many ideas that fix many things we each interact with – our experience (usually bad) influence our ideas to improve them once you have that “I wonder why it can’t be easier – or why can’t it be done like X”. Acting on that idea to see if you can fix it is at least better for you and a handful of likeminded people – “2x improvements”. The iteration to move from that to providing an easier/painless/smooth/updated experience is the rest. And that determines success/fail of the business (if there was one). That’s a large jump but one that I may unpack in the future.

I think the notes below contain a solid mixture of hope for the future, business building, medicine and exploration.

  • Trae Vassallo (@trae), founder at Defy.vc (Wharton XM)
    favicon_200px

    • Looking at focusing in early-stage connected software companies
    • Avoiding stigma of young and white and male – although that’s lore/myth, despite what we see in SF
      • Founders as average age of 40
      • Very diverse, including in their portfolio co’s
    • They lean on founders who they may have backed before
    • Attending Stanford for Bach, Masters and MBA
      • After undergrad, interned at Boeing for summer before realizing corporate wasn’t really for her, true engineering
      • Had more of a design mind – Ideo (design firm) kept intriguing her in SF
    • Niche for funding between big moves and some that don’t want massive venture deals – thought it was common enough to fit
  • Seyward Darby (@seywarddarby), Editor-in-Chief at The Atavist (Wharton XM)
    atavist_logo_2015

    • Discussing paper
  • Amazon to Deliver Healthcare, Google Quantum & VR/AR (16 Minutes on the News #10: 9/29/19)
    • Cost of employer-based healthcare just passed $20k annually for the first time
    • Often hear about “At least Amazon doesn’t deliver healthcare” – their position in the market is the source of fear
      • Haven’t hired nurses or physicians, partnered with Oasis
    • What would counterpart for realities of healthcare working
      • How do you integrate into supply chain of broader healthcare landscape (Amazon as just inserting into primary care, not others)
        • Primary care is a minor part of total spend
      • Game for startups is to get distribution before incumbent gets innovation
    • Oculus – advancing AR/VR very quickly – selling as fast as they can make them with Quest
      • Hand-tracking is working much better, technological advances
      • Verifocal lenses – different ways for seeing 3D
        • Big Screen as watching 3D films – true eye separation, although in VR, you don’t see great depth
    • Eyes trade off high resolution (central) compared to the outside which would be low res
      • Mobile GPU for glasses as less powerful but improving compared to ones that are plugged into the pc
      • Enough users where developers can be incentivized
    • Quantum computing as here – yes, but not broken for cryptography
      • You can run a computation / calculation on quantum computer
  • James Beshara (@jamesbeshara), cofounder at Tilt (20min VC FF#031, 1/22/16)
    crowdtilt-to-tilt-image_28305

    • Micro-crowdfunding platform, founded dvelo.org for crowdfunding loans and donations to poverty-alleviation
      • Then moved to friends funding
    • Khaled as co-founder – said “he’s the luckiest thing that happened to company”, introduced by a friend
      • 26 yr old running strategy at Rackspace – needed someone to develop because he didn’t have the development skills
    • College kids as the largest demographic here – wanted to make crowdfunding very easy
    • Fundraising process for the two of them, trying to get investments from real estate, oil & gas, hardware – didn’t understand
      • Were in ATX and had to do value prop for 90 seconds – duh?
      • Got into YC and grinded until that point, even for raising $500k
      • Helpful for Series A – growth graph that they didn’t have for seed
    • Destination in mind for investors – standalone, durable company (likely public)
    • 5 years away – building crowdfunding platform and taking it mainstream
      • Update: Didn’t make it.
  • Bryan Johnson (@bryan_johnson), founder of OS Fund and Braintree (20min VC 1/25/16)
    braintree_logo

    • Bought by ebay in 2013 for $800mil, and launched OS Fund with $100mil in personal capital to benefit humanity
    • Extend human life, replicate visual cortex, reinvent transportation and food
    • Key question of building technology and the world we want – governmental systems improvement
      • Balancing returns – money is a tool of power and influence
      • Can be decades and he’d be fine with it
    • Interested in materials science and rearrangement of atoms – raw source inputs, business services and how to consume them
      • His portfolio is mostly genomics and synthetic biology
      • Has a sizable chunk of experts that they get advised by on specialties
    • Blockchain technology – thinks of the start to the printing press
      • Tools of creation and platforms of creation are hard to predict what would be next
    • Fav book: Shackleton’s Endurance Voyage, favorite person: Craig Ventur
    • Most exciting recent investment: Ginkgo Bioworks
  • Kamran Fallahpour (Director at Brain Resource Center in NYC) and Geoffrey Woo (CEO, Founder at HVMN) Brain Hacking (Wharton XM, Dot Complicated)b593e157-b9cc-4762-b437-ff43ca3f731e-1498462151992

    • Bryan Johnson on Brain Hacking and founder/CEO of Kernel, not a matter of if / when
    • Coming to Brain Resource Center: both children and adults, ADD, ADHD, brain injury, migraines, anxiety
      • Families with kids with attention issues or doing fine but want an advantage
    • First do a brain mapping using EEG – over- or underactivation
    • For Geoffrey, he had friends after Stanford trying to make machines or robots smarter, better and more efficient
      • He wanted to wonder how he could get humans to perform better – tinker with the body
      • Cognitive functions as being why we’re above the animals – n=1 experimental starts
    • Pubmed research articles on nootropics, reports on Reddit for chemical stacks, substances that were supplements or foods
      • Prescription or off-label, scheduled drugs legal or illegal
    • Improved sleep as best biohack, exercise for cardiac health and now regular exercise/weightlifting as brain cognition
      • Neuroplasticity growth and improving brain functions – any way to stimulate the brain, puzzles/language/out of comfort zone
      • Plateaus when looking at neural feedback
  • Andres Barriga (@andresbarriga), cofounder of Portola Growth Partners (Wharton XM)
    • Chilean venture capital after business school in the states
    • Growth in LATAM – primarily western countries and then up to Mexico for growth
    • Talent is starting to be attracted to possibilities
    • They got 3 US funds to invest
  • CRISPR! Policy, Platform, Trials (16 Minutes News by a16z #11)
    • CCR5 gene as preventing HIV
    • Alliance of 13 companies in the space to not do germline editing, but would still do therapeutic somatic cell genetics
      • Genome that runs the body and the one you pass on to generations – germline
      • Somatic cells will not be passed down to future generations (eyes, liver, etc…) and germline would
    • 1970s had discovery of recombinant DNA – tech to cut/paste genes
      • 1980s had genetic applications outside of the body – initial cut healthy copy of gene and put into virus and stick into humans
      • Late 90s – patient Jessica Zellwinger – can’t randomly do gene splicing
      • Talons – gobbler proteins – zinc fingers took forever to remove mutated genes but would take PhD students months and $10ks
    • Emergence of CRISPR as way to treat disease, in short order
      • Gene therapy, CRISPR, engineered cells to treat cancer, for instance
    • Legislation in California – preemptive for what could go wrong and how to be productive
      • What if the kit is used improperly
    • Applications – ex-vivo vs in-vivo (outside of bodies compared to in)
      • Vehicle/delivery compared to the load – which is ex-vivo and can be Quality Controlled
      • Eye as initial in-vivo CRISPR use since eye is immune-privileged (bacterial components of delivery)
      • CAR-T therapy for cancer patients – usually send cells to get edited and then put back in
  • Sarah Hum (@sarahhum), founder of Canny (Indiehackers #124 10/7/19)
    logo

    • User feedback tool, feeling the pain of the data and trying to combine customer data
    • Just crosses $50k MRR – team of 5, transparent and paying team with money they make
    • Digital nomad – she was in the same place in SF with her cofounder – quit her full-time job but wasn’t making much
      • Team of 2 was easy as she traveled initially, couple

      • Indiehackers Courtland with his brother – know how to argue and disagree
    • Had done quite a bit of hackathons – worked at Facebook for 1.5 yrs before starting
      • Worked on Messenger as product designer – felt limited by what she wanted to do
      • PD is ~20%, she’s learned about marketing and pricing and sales otherwise
    • Started Product Pains as a community for people giving feedback over things – didn’t monetize initially
      • Had a community of 5000 people that primarily did consumer products
      • Rebranded to turn it into b2b and monetize – could change products with Product Pains (give them feedback, for instance)
      • Andrew had worked on team working with React – teammate had asked him after he left about what he was doing
        • Started using Product Pains to get information about developer pains – still a big mechanic
    • Eventually they had companies join Product Pains who asked if they had a widget
      • Didn’t have widget initially, but they asked if they built it, would they pay for it? Basically said yes – $19/mo
      • Had been 3 months after she quit to rebrand and launch as Canny
        • Had to get a pricing page going for payments
    • Get Satisfaction around 2008-2009 as Yelp for customer service / user feedback that got a ton of investor money
      • Raised $10-20mln and cratered in a short amount of time
    • Launched Canny on Product Hunt as a good initial feedback and went to Oct ’17 for profitability (hit Hacker News)
      • May / June talked about digital nomads – week or so before leaving and took off – first little tour of US and then went to London
      • 26 cities in 2 years, Seoul as reliable cafés and wi-fi – Nomadlist and about a month in each place
    • Writing 200 words a day – blogs every week then are almost 1400 words
      • Levers to grow a business (via Patrick Cambell, CEO of ProfitWell)
        • User acquisition – blogging, product via word of month
        • Monetization – pricing, how often to charge, how to upgrade, paid plan, etc
        • Retention – how long do people stick around
    • Pricing strategies: haven’t tried freemium
      • SaaS, thought about – started initially at $2/mo (cheapium)
        • They’d have to chase people for this
      • May be a good time to try again – never set it and forget it – should be able to charge more for it
      • Tried to charge based on people as what they thought it was the business / how much willing to pay / user base
        • As they figured out the market niche, they landed on the best to target
    • Having monthly goals and try to develop features or business things to help achieve those
    • Hiring – her never being a manager
      • Helping people do what they’re supposed to be doing and supporting their jobs
      • Openness as key – working together much of the day and being on the same page, feeling good
      • They do 3-4 meetings a year
    • For 1-2 years, they have quite a bit they want to build, features to grow bigger
      • Can see Canny working for larger businesses that have reached out – catered to small/medium-sized so far
      • Giant impact with very small teams
  • Amir Haleem (@amirhaleem), founder / CEO of Helium (talk on AVC / USV port co)
    5xvzlvyv_400x400

    • Former esports champ in 90s, during dial-up days
    • Dial-up days – most competitive time for internet access, separation of those that provided services
      • US Robotics for modems, ISP like Speakeasy, telephone co like Verizon
      • Once internet got adopted and page loads enlarged, they merged
    • No option to use dial-up, cable appeared – “Internet got terrible”
      • Cable provider merged with ISP – physical lines vs provider
      • Comcast in SF as his example – local loop – LLUs – similar to telephone providers originally
    • Google Fiber – became extremely challenging for them to dig – cities wouldn’t let them dig, so they converted to wireless
      • 75-85% of customers use whatever the cable company gives them
      • Hardware in home – LoRa network or “sharing” hotspots to clog networks
    • Cellular market as too expensive soon, maybe contraction
    • Net neutrality – internet access as common carriers (2015)
      • FTC won’t mandate to cover common carriers
      • Net neutrality was only rules that were in place to rule against – until it died and how we govern ISPs
    • Cool companies in the decentralization of the internet
      • Orchid: tor-like system and rewarding nodes
      • FileCoin: store files anonymously, encrypted and hashed out
      • Brave: forced https and ads blocked, Tor as tab version
      • Helium: how to decentralize wireless links to base, especially with 5G and unlicensed spectrum
        • Blueprint of mesh of open technologies owned and operated by those that own and use the internet
    • Helium: IoT of low power sensors, tracking devices, network devices for access by others
      • Fundamentally do it and reward people with coins for holding it and for others to use it
      • Talking about using applications for the IoT world
        • mentioned the fires in NorCal in ’18 and not being able to tell the air quality within 20 mi radius
        • IoT seems to be ripe for improvement but hasn’t seen the network yet
  • Dennis McNannay, CEO & founder for Curadite, Inc (Wharton XM)736x196xcuradite-logo_long_gry.png.pagespeed.ic_.gqdo0yxdcw

    • Bioscience focus on medicine adherance

Push back from a Raise (Notes from Sep 30 – Oct 6, 2019) November 27, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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In the Bay Area, it’s inevitable to see and come across people celebrating rounds of fundraising, especially via the internet/news/Twitter/tech scenes. Primarily this is the case if you’re involved in start-ups, VC, finance and related meet-ups or online communities. Those are often great results for the investors (probably not celebrating, otherwise), but not exclusively great for the team of the company. Hopefully the raise or exit is by choice, part of the strategy in the short and long-term that the founders/team had in mind to either grow or expand or keep doing what they’d envisioned. Execution of the strategy and for it to go as planned is celebratory, don’t me wrong – but it’s a means to an end, not the end.

I don’t want to complain, but I think, along with many others, that the celebration of these types of wins give the wrong feedback for what constitutes celebration / achievement. This is simply a byproduct of this being the most visible / public part of a company’s journey, and certainly an investor wants to share what they can (especially seeing as they have plenty of updates that they’re often not allowed to disclose). Funding raise and new rounds, once public, allow them the chance to congratulate and feel accomplished on the journey. Though, really, capital is merely providing readiness to the next step.

The opposite side of this would be in sharing numbers, customers and wins outside of funding, a company/founder leaves themselves open to competitors or unfavorable partnerships/cycles/etc. There ends up being an information asymmetry that could be detrimental to the business. Or, worse, put it out altogether. Somehow, I find that even if you’re sharing in an effort to be transparent, at this current business climate and consumption of business/funding, there would be those that may complain even about a seemingly arbitrary high-margin or poke holes in pricing, despite offering a seamless customer experience, high value to a business or create ample time value for the enterprise. I’ve seen a few bootstrapping/side-project companies go from transparent early and once they hit traction, the growth and curve stage will prioritize the privacy of the business going forward. Who can blame them once there is the semblance of confirmation of a growing business potential?

I wanted to bring this up and I hope in the future there’s a designed method to somehow make more company information public/transparent (Baremetrics is one such company trying to make it more accessible). Maybe it will be an aggregation system that anonymizes data but has enough companies in certain spaces that you can compare (sorry consultants, that probably gets rid of quite a few of you). I think that would be a new frontier and create excitement that would get people other than investors and exit/money-focused-seekers on board with the true fun/value of creating something.

Hope you enjoy the rest of my notes!

  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon
    268x0w

    • Ep. 8: We’re Go for Powered Descent
      • Final 13 min begin in this episode
      • The team, on this day, will either land, abort or crash. 102 hours and 12 minutes into mission, 2 minutes 53 seconds to the acquisition
      • 1 million miles away at 1mi/sec moving toward the moon
      • Program 63 to determine when and where to fire off the engine – how to point for the proper trajectory
      • Radio link was lacking once they were in view, again – needed this to get telemetry data, for instance
        • Go or no-go for descent based on stale data and then had to make it through Michael Collins to relay to team
      • Lunar module was going 20 ft/s faster than it needed to be – if it went to 35+, they’d have to abort
        • Radar pointed at surface and ready to lock on – said that it’s going too fast
        • Episode 2 on Steve’s point of view on how the overloading machine – Eagle’s altitude vs estimates sense
      • High stress at that point, 150+ for Armstrong at 12:02, even though they weren’t doing anything at that point
        • Had to prioritize the mission critical tasks and lose some of the computer functions
        • Computer was diagnosed – delta h coming up was problem for P1668 – lot of alarms and wouldn’t have to do operation cognitive load
    • Ep. 9: Tranquility Base
      • Halfway down, about 16000 feet above surface
      • Fuel as critical, but said as Fuel 2 gauge – needed a bit of gas when they land
      • P1202 Eagle computer coding too hard, overloading – repeatedly as they get to 2000 feet and 50 ft/s
        • All flying done by Eagle – thrust, rate of descent and flying (no video displays)
        • LPD (Landing Point Designator) – where to look for landing zone on degrees
      • Gas for hover level and below hover level – timing from controller within 10 seconds
      • 10 years and 400 engineers finally landing on the moon as they hit contact light – fall and shut off with 18 sec of abort time
      • Had dust kick up as falling – caused jerky movement and couldn’t see surface
        • Had to go through stay/no-stay calls to be ready to leave within 40sec of landing
      • Watch used for the timing had changed times because his daughter kept on timing herself as a twirler – he sent it to Smithsonian
  • Reshma Saujani (@reshmasaujani), CEO of Girls Who Code (Wharton XM)
    eb61dc56f4b5cc4002b007e255d8bb00

    • Author of Women Who Don’t Wait in Line
    • Discussing how her failures running for public office as motivation to continue working
    • Wanting to work at things you’re bad at (compared to an
    • athlete repeatedly being told to perfect)

      • Guys will naturally have these things that they are poor at but continue with them, either out of enjoyment or otherwise
      • Girls often only want to do things they’re good at
    • Not quitting a job, potentially, because of the comfort and not wanting to be bad at something
  • Barry Zekelman, Exec Chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries (Wharton XM)
    0718zekelmanindustries-logo

    • Discussing being nearly broke in 1990s and then again in early 2000s
      • Getting lean, working on the business and margins
      • Got a $bn offer from Russia steel conglomerate in headed into 2008 – fell through with crash
        • Said this was one of best things that had happened to him
    • Having the right people
  • CEO of Mirror.co
  • Patrick Conway, CEO of BCBS-NC, How to Pay for Healthcare based on Health (a16z 9/6/19)
    (@patrickconwayMD)

    • Started as state resource – TX – teacher unions, PNW – timber, NC, and 2 Blues brands (cross / shield)
    • Need a willing payer to drive change, virtually integrated system at a state level (doesn’t think you can do it with single provider)
    • All drivers of health and healthcare – biggest driver of readmission to hospital, couldn’t get transportation home
      • If you had to give a bus token and they had congenital heart failure – chance of seeing primary doctor – some will pick people up
      • Hospitalization and drugs for biggest costs for health care
    • Food insecurity – failure to thrive
      • Hospitalized kid for lack of food cost $40k (could have fed kid for years)
      • Had a for-profit payer that was confused on why they were doing it – huge, positive outcomes for child obese
        • 10-15% of population, churn for term (vs near-term) – insure people often for decades, right thing to do
    • Insure 60-70% of population so they can look at long-term view
      • Some countries will measure outcomes (churns may pay toll, or collect toll) – Medicare Advantage for 3-5 year cycle
        • MA instead of paying for service, you pay for health plan for year and they get better plans for controlled care ($0 premium)
      • Broadening investment window so they’ll take care of you
    • What rarely happens (but more effective) to think about what makes the system better – policy proposals
      • Autism arena: here’s what you need to do in benefits, coverage and here’s a child/mother that brings personal side – data for effect
      • Drugs: pharma says PBM and middleman (senator called him Chair of the Death Panels) – wanted to pay for value for drugs
        • Everyone was against it (pharma lobby and doctors vested in drug prices going up)
    • Interesting areas for real progress
      • CMMI Innovation Center for delivery system reform – bipartisan and paying for value
        • Social determinants – opportunities/drivers for health polls better with Democrat and Republicans (will pay taxes, uncommonly)
      • Effectively coordinating care across silos (especially with food, housing)
        • Ear infection – can click a button and it’s instant but for a kid that’s hungry, it takes forever – needs to be the same
    • One of the board level metrics in company is food insecurity for the state – think they can bring it down 20% (state is 20% – some counties have 9 of 10)
      • Looking at partners for data analytics for screening, identifying and getting the next step – close the gap
        • Any state in America: who in the state is food insecure, needs housing and transportation
          • CDC data measures on an annual basis compared to real-time – needs to be at-scale through technology
          • Build the connectivity – scripts are now all electronic, for instance – clicks button to cosign
      • Benefits for scale across multiple states – investing in same things, data analytics, CX, seamless platforms, tech – accelerate pace of change
    • Second day at BCBS was retirement party for Brad Wilson, former CEO after 20+ years – governors, CEOs, 1000s of people, donations
      • Fundamentally different than a national payer – not the same connective tissue than them for NC and Oregon
      • Partners across state (like theirs with Cambia) does drive value, lower cost and improve value and care
      • If you dominate a market and price set, it has negative effects (can’t recall any 2 hospital systems that merged where costs came down)
        • BCBS reduced individual costs by 5% driven by value-based arrangements with providers – UNC said they were willing, Duke said no
    • Building the link between tech and total cost of care – new shiny thing “AI” and data and ML – what does it do?
      • Connective tissue has to go to outcomes and costs of outcomes – his hypothesis is for the companies to focus on the actual problem to solve
    • Value-based care – independent physician groups (larger, organized) are the best
      • Hospitals are least successful
      • Advanced primary care models – compensation for primary care goes up, including down to provider level – most payers pay 6% (8% at BCBS – 10%+)
        • If you spend 10%, you get better health outcomes at a lower cost – become front door and invest in care management
      • How do you integrate and treat mental health conditions
    • EY’s concentrate on administrative fees – he’ll guarantee savings of $15-30mln “Don’t know”
      • Guarantee he’ll beat them on price, then get them to join – done it multiple times, making it simple
      • “Don’t believe our simple math? Fine, we’ll guarantee it.” Every business is a healthcare business.
  • James Cameron (@jamesdcameron), investor at Accel (20min VC 1/20/16)
    logos_master_accel

    • Focuses on marketplaces, enterprise software, security and fintech
    • Founded BipSync, SaaS-based research platform for investment management and was on tech banking team at Morgan Stanley
    • Corp lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London, Hong Kong, and Shanghai
    • Aussie originally, wanted to get out and went to London and worked with M&A and IP law in UK
      • Law wasn’t for him, tried some other things like Morgan Stanley – went to SV and Stanford after a few years
    • Pitched at Accel for BipSync and was turned down initially before getting the role he has now
    • Ton of time on planes covering massive geography – methodical, premeditated approach with a prepared mind with ideas/areas
      • Helps identify what they want to find in great companies – prior year, looked at API companies, web hits
      • Uber, HotelTonight, InstaCart all connected and built on other people’s services and API – Apx conference
        • Algolia and Jason Lemkin, French company – CartaDB mapping company by API
    • Opportunistic approach for being at right place right time – relationship driven and warm intros, relationships with VCs or angels, meeting early co’s
      • Approachable, open with events
    • Exciting among B2B and enterprise, IT Infrastructure, security space (from UK to Israel)
      • Docker and container ecosystems – shift from VM to lightweight containers
      • CrowdStrike, Israeli one (country with 8mil ppl with more NASDAQ-listed companies than all of Europe, Japan and China combined)
    • Expanding industries – Ireland, Spain along with typical start-up ecosystems in Europe
    • Reads a lot of history books, Peter Akroyd, classics for Crossing the Chasm – scaling enterprise software companies
    • Favorite blog – lots of Medium articles, but “The Morning Paper” for science explained simply
    • Favorite founder for Will at Deliveroo – sheer willpower
  • Farbood Nivi, CEO cofounder of Coinmine (Lindzanity 9/25/19)
    blockfipluscoinmine-768x512

    • First time on show was in April with BTC at $5k
    • Randomly taking an Ambien or Adderall
    • Coinmine – automating financial world, interoperable mining whatever exchanges to BTC at best rate
      • Handshake mining parallel DNS
      • Facebook and Shopify as the 2 main consumer markets – Shopify makes it so easy, Facebook – he said he’d give $1mil / month
        • Instagram is too good as a physical product and sharing
    • OpenSource wins because of practical revolution – F500 can use them for better software for 200 less engineers
      • All big tech contributes to open source community
    • Original Linux administration / system admin predicting 8th and 9th layers of internet
      • First 4 layers (OSI model) – data and physical layers, wiring, packets, buildings
        • Customers were academics, companies were Cisco, IBM, Deck winners
      • Internet portion – apps, websites are layers 5 through 7
        • Users, session, front end application layers
        • Businesses and eventually went personal
          • IBM, Apple as winners of business chunk (hardware, software, services)
      • 8th layer is finance, 9th layer is governance
        • First protocol was Bitcoin for finance – first solution for this layer
        • Discussion of governance – open protocol (vs closed protocol of army owning / developing it in the first place)
      • Tezos – really defined governance model, for instance
    • Citizen tech for 8th and 9th layers – replacing a functional piece of society with Bitcoin participation
    • What could go wrong? Gutenberg press as example – people sharing nasty things vs lead to Renaissance, Enlightenment
    • Framework that captures societal level – sovereign individual (too big a word, book was good) – citizen / societal
    • Problem with money being pushed in, formal understanding (YC as a factory, don’t leave the machine)
    • Act like the CEO – service worker, just managing people above and below, provide services to entrepreneurs
      • Need to get out and have epiphanies by traveling or face-to-face with people

What’s Important for the Business (Notes from Sep. 16 – 22, 2019) November 5, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, training, Uncategorized.
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Ah, the art of learning. What can you absorb in the time that you allotted? Hopefully it was the good stuff, the one you can apply and remember. We’re not going to retain it all – far from it. Different surveys and studies will say between 10-30%, depending if you’re reading, listening, seeing things. Repetition, talking about details or applying what you’re picking up can improve those numbers – and it’s why there is still a ton of money being raised/made on improving it (Blinkist, Anki, Quizlet, rise of audio books and podcasts). This is all without bringing in the idea that the internet has allowed such a flood of ideas that opposing ones can exist simultaneously, persisting through its strong supporters. So, if you’re not doing research and coming to your own conclusion, it’s likely to be lead to whichever way you resonate with someone/something most (or first).

In reading through Constellation Software President’s letters to shareholders, you see a valiant attempt at conveying how he, executives and board members looked at the business health for the year – and refreshingly so, not explicitly through rose-tinted glasses. He critiques and suggests an option that reversion to the mean is possible based on a lower adjusted net income and cash flow from operating activities per share. Then he went through the shareholders returns on invested capital, average invested capital, and questioned the organic net revenue growth’s performance (as he notes that this is a primary core to the main metric for their performance: ROIC+OGr). Once he goes through the metric and it’s cash flow, he mentions that they’re looking to increase acquisitions, but the environment isn’t conducive to great values, so FCF may not be fully invested at attractive levels for the future. Then, he suggests a metric to cover this with a reasonable pattern, one less subject to shareholder alterations. Open to suggestions while he develops the reasoning for what another member has suggested for a good metric, he settles on FCF increase per share compared to average net income per share.

I loved his breakdown for the shareholders – mentioning half the shares trade for the year. He breaks it down simply as short-term, indexers, enterprising investors (including institutional, but also generally long-term, long-haul holders). He openly asks them to help find directors and members of the board and the difficulty that they saw initially after their IPO. The next paragraph was a big one, so I’ll include it:

Qualified and competent Directors are very rare, and not surprisingly, the track record of most boards is awful. According to the 2017 Hendrik Bessembinder study of approximately 26,000 stocks in the CRSP database, only 4% of the stocks generated all of the stock market’s return in excess of one-month T-Bills during the last 90 years. The other 96% of the stocks generated, in aggregate, the T-bill rate over that period. This means that 4% of boards oversaw all the long-term wealth creation by markets during that period. Even more disturbing, the boards for over 50% of public companies saw their businesses generate negative returns during their entire existence as public companies.

Wow. A) The recognition of wanting to be the best and provide a great board of directors for a long-time and B) genuine concern for the long-term view and suspicion of complacency arising. Both, I’d imagine, lead him to mention that vision / strategy are not necessarily courses of action – instead, perpetual objectives as the guiding point. Whether that’s seeking them out or maintaining what they had, he made sure it was top of mind. He sees that profitable VMS businesses may no longer come to be acquirable, and that he’s on the lookout for other opportunities – without them being attractive, though, he’d responsibly return FCF to investors.

Interestingly, he looked for Constellation to be devoid of “sycophants, mercenaries and spin-doctors” and wanted it to be a place where meritocratic results bring in “entrepreneurs and corporate refugees to invest their lives and and their capital and thrive”. Quite the statement for a business of such magnitude, when, especially from the outside, many succumb to the former (hell, take a look at Tech Twitter these days and a complaint I’ve had is that people seem to be comfortable bouncing between 2-3 companies a year for 5, 8. 10+ years). I’d love to build something that sustained a drive through many levels of employees.

“I find there is no magic to managing and leading. If you are smart, work harder… treat people fairly, do not ask them to do anything would not or have not done, share the credit, keep learning and keep teaching, then pretty soon you have followers. If you make sure that the team members are energetic, intelligent, and ethical people….”

Yup. That’s the way to build a company. Find that and hold on. And then he finalizes with the board requirements (which I’ll include at the bottom).

Hope you enjoy the notes this week.

  • Mike Strasser (@mstrasser), Motiv ring founder (Wharton XM)
    • Talking about the ring and how he knew the wearable would work
  • Lee Thompson (@flashpacklee), Flashpack founder, Marketing on a Budget (Wharton XM)
    flash_pack_logo_block-1

    • Photo journalist for 15 years
    • Talking about creating a brand through pictures, story-boarding, ethos of brand
    • If you can’t tell what your hook / pitch is, probably won’t sell
    • Went on first date with his now-wife from Match, wouldn’t tell him a great business idea
      • Post-wine glasses, she had a business idea for 30+ year olds wanting to travel – friends having too much of a family/kids
      • Adventure travel company for solo travelers in 30s and 40s, not tours via bus and such
      • Next few dates were researching travel industry, setting up a business
    • Book trip as solo traveler, then have others that you are meeting everyone else
      • Boutique hotels, price points established and like-minded – typically well off in careers, cash-rich
    • Launched with $15k each, savings and jumped in
      • Nobody would spend $1k+ on trips for a company that had no reviews
      • Generated a lot of PR, did a lot of viral videos by responding to twitter hashtags
      • Spent on Google ads and lost lots of money – built the website
    • Took a trip to Egypt on a budget, “come to Jesus moment”
      • If I can get on top of that and take a picture (Christ the Redeemer picture of a workman doing damage repair)
      • Wanted to take a picture on top and took a selfie
  • Mehrdad Baghai, Alchemy Growth cofounder & CEO (Mastering Innovation)
    the-alchemy-of-growth-full-1-638

    • Boutique strategy advisory firm advising large companies on innovation strategies
    • Designing organization architecture for growth, 5-10 years
    • Active investor in tech and p/e spaces with Macquarie Group
    • Former partner at McKinsey leading Growth Practice and then 3 years as Exec Dir at CSIR, Australia’s national science agency
      • Dozens of new tech companies
    • Also launched High Resolves with his wife, Roya, in 2005
  • Fred Destin (@fdestin), GP at Accel (20min VC 1/18/16)
    logos_master_accel

    • Former partner at Atlas Venture working with Zoopla (public), Secret Escapes, Integral Ad Science, Dailymotion (acq by Orange), PriceMinister (acq by Rakuten)
    • Studied life as derivatives at Goldman Sachs, first team on credit derivatives
      • Securitization of movie rights, derivatives in Pacific region for about 7 years
      • Opted out when it went from risk hedging to arbitrages
    • Moved to Speed Ventures for investing at really early seed
    • Spending a lot of time hiring the best 1-10 executives because you can’t spend time getting this wrong
      • Take a model that worked in 1 city (like Deliveroo), scaling it to 30+ and got there in under 3 years old
        • Fit consumer model and offering for the ones – brought new kinds of service to non-delivery food
      • Seed companies failing because you hire something you don’t understand – wrong team kills the team
        • Second mistake – overestimating the things you can do in the time – reality doesn’t match
    • Setting arbitrary goals for not being worthy of being funded – most companies run out of money or come close, being patient and empathetic with founders
    • Investors need mental plasticity for adjusting expectations on what to best deliver
    • Founders feeling screwed over because it was never possible for them to communicate the right decisions being made
      • Mix of market difficulty or overambitious of timing – how to improve intimacy and mutual trust
    • He likes to spend 3-6 months knowing founders – wants to do strategic sessions, whiteboard issues how you would solve it – discovery and disagree
      • Can work through disagreements, see how people work collaboratively
      • Engineer a situation of tension – hiring / decision made, create it to see pushback
      • Could we do an 8 hour wine test / road test – can we banter and have a pleasant time being together (Boston to Montreal, London to South of France)
    • Needs to ensure performance and milestones, sounding board, interest of company / employees / customers and investor with fiduciary standards
      • Had to tell guys at Real3D and say that they couldn’t invest – told them early, though
      • Mentioned Boston VC that said he’s said “No” so often that he just fizzles out – Fred said he tries to give constructive feedback but not always
        • He used to send very detailed No emails but would receive replies about not understanding opportunity and pushback – called stupid or not getting it
        • Now he responds with “Busy with other opportunities”, but sometimes he has things fall through the cracks
    • Favorite book: Mastering Margarita, missing and saying No to successful opportunities – doesn’t rue or look back like that because portfolio co’s do well enough
      • Success measure – how long it takes for knowing (16 years for him), took 10-12 for success as investor
    • Wasn’t super excited about returning to London but was pleasantly surprised about how vibrant it was – still US is more tolerant about money and quicker pace
      • Competitors share, acquisitions are faster – Accel moves fast so it’s advantageous but not overall
      • Boston wants to import the well of technical talent and ML – hubs working together in Europe will improve it
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon
    • Episode 7: Michael Collins: Third Man
      • Command module pilot for the mission
      • Test pilot before being selected as an astronaut – 90% luck he landed in that role
      • Someone wrote to Eisenhower that the best option for selection for astronauts would be experimental test pilots because apt to new scenarios and flight
        • Compared to deep sea divers or others
      • Collins had been turned down the first time to supplement that first 7 – after a year of more experience, selected in class of 1963 with Aldrin
        • First flight was 1966 on Gemini X, rendezvous and docking maneuvers
        • Once LEO Gemini flights were successful, Apollo XI was announced in January 1969
        • July 16, 1969 – launch sequence day – was responsible for launching lunar module to turn it around from Saturn V rocket
      • Was an English major and just did guidance verbs/nouns memorization to control it
      • As they neared moon, they were on far side and lost contact with Houston
        • Takes back everything bad he ever said about MIT – accuracy of system was ridiculous, 3000 ft/s and only had 0.1 ft/s in any one direction error
        • If something went wrong for landing lunar module, Michael couldn’t change his speed but it’d be up to him to figure out what to do
        • Mathematicians were responsible for coming up with a list of 18 variations for problems and what to do – some they hadn’t trained for
      • He felt alone, awareness of being on the other side of the moon, solo after Aldrin and Armstrong picked up speed on their way down

 

CSI Board Role Search Criteria
THE ROLE
Thought Partner – Thought partner for senior leadership.
Long-term Orientation – Unfazed by short term pressure. Focused on CSI’s long-term issues.
Timeframe – Able to serve on the board for 20+ years.
Investment in CSI – Willing to make a significant equity investment in CSI, above and beyond board comp.
THE CANDIDATE
High Quality Business – Understands what constitutes a high quality business.
Autonomy -Appreciates the motivational power of autonomy, decentralisation.
Cultural Fit – Respects and gets along with the current senior CSI management as well as the board.
Ownership – Believes in the motivational power of equity ownership.
High Impact / Low Ego – Will intervene when necessary, contribute meaningfully, but not dominate discourse.
Out of Kitchen – Can resist the urge to get into the kitchen when there’s a chef already in there.
EXPERIENCE
Builder – Helped build or maintain (as a director, manager or major shareholder) a large
organisation (>1000 employees) over an extended period, while providing a superior
return to owners (ideally including employee owners).
Decentralized – Experience with a decentralised company (nice, not necessary).
Capital Allocation – Experience in a capital allocation role (nice, not necessary).
LIKELY BACKGROUND
Family owned business operator or director.
CEO / #2 for exceptional business.
Entrepreneur
SEARCH PATHS
Multi-generational family owned businesses with high ROIC within reach of our
network and ideally local to CSI (increases involvement, eases reference checks, more
likely to know CSI, decreases absenteeism).
High quality businesses with strong shareholder alignment.
Great capital allocators in the corporate world.
CEOs with great shareholder letters and high quality businesses.

Transformation of Innovation (Notes from Aug 12 to Aug 18, 2019) September 4, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, NLP, Politics, questions, Real estate, social, Uncategorized.
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Hello! Hope Labor Day treated everyone properly, whether you snuck in some time-and-a-half pay for work, avoided it altogether or vacationed. I am going to keep the brief at the start short today because there’s a common theme. And I have been considering longer form writing without the notes on other topics maybe once or twice a week.

From last week – I still am working on the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast – excellent. And it’s engaging as they went through the building and prep work that went in to getting there before decade-end.

The new segment that a16z has produced with the 16 minutes on the news has been fun, especially if you like an audio version of what’s been popular in tech/news. Sonal has done a great job leading most of them. I found the two that I listened it related to the title – transforming innovation. Software as eating the world (any company/product/service that can be digital will force the company to become software company), along with digitizing many of the slowest movers because the pressure has become high enough (re: Fed with ACH Now). At some point, in order to command more control or to make sure you aren’t disrupted out of the market, companies have to compete and give the customers or users what they want – faster, easier transactions in Fed Now’s initiative.

There were also some fantastic investors / founders that are included. How they developed and framed their careers to step from one thing to the next. If you noticed, many of the 20min VC episodes I listen to are in order from 2015 to now 2016. Fascinating to hear the comments made at that time to update to 2019 (as many of the same bullish comments are made with caveats that have yet to come to fruition – and valuations increased accordingly).

Hope you enjoy the listens!

  • 13 Minutes to the Moon
    268x0w

    • Ep 05 – “The fourth astronaut”
      • Intertial navigation – if you have your speed and know where you are, can control where you’re going
      • Self-guiding ballistic missiles that couldn’t get thrown off course via radio or otherwise – knew where it was
        • GPS, primitive computer received navigations and could adjust course if necessary
        • Charles Stark Draper who founded MIT’s guidance instrumentation lab
      • Had been a grad of Stanford and went to MIT and became leading expert in aircraft instrumentation / guidance
        • Dedicated to the astronaut program, so much so that he applied – was turned down
          • Practical application with such sensors to be useful was his expertise – size / practicality in flight control systems
      • Had to convince everyone that the computers would work and be trusted
      • Apollo bought 60% of the chips that were out and being manufactured – huge boost for computer industry
        • Good hardware required good software (an afterthought)
      • Called on programmers for building the software Margaret Ate Hamilton (started as programmer, then was in charge as program manager)
        • Developed a system to write software so that it would be reliable and she sought out the bugs/errors – no way to do it otherwise
          • Right times vs wrong time, wrong data, wrong priorities (interface errors) – we take for granted everything we have now
        • No rules or field at the time (akin to “Do you know these English words?” – yes, you’re qualified)
        • Don Isles – math graduate looking for something to do next who joined in 1966, software had been written initially – app code to fly was starting
          • Lunar landing phase commanding – in retrospect, huge – but it was a job at the time
      • Apollo Guidance Computer – 70 lbs in 1 cu ft, 55 W with 76kb, 16-bit words, 4 kb were RAM R/W memory, rest was hardwired
        • Got to the moon on punch cards – 100 people working on it at the end – submit in one run overnight and run simulations
        • 2 women that worked to keypunch before working as full-time – printed lines of code to turn into punch codes
      • Noun-verb inputs for flying – lunar landing, for instance
        • Built the computer interface with idea of “Go to moon” and “Take me home” but it instead had 500 buttons and was much more interactive
          • First system where people’s lives were at stake with it – fly by wire system. Astronauts didn’t control it, they controlled the joystick, etc…
    • Ep 06 – “Saving 1968”
      • Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
  • Fed reaction (a16z, 16min on the News, 8/12/19)
    ah-logo-sm

    • FedNow – 24/7 open service for access to checks faster to launch in a few years
      • Half the population lives paycheck to paycheck and should care for the $30 overdraft fees that a ton of people do
      • Massive amount of losses to banks here in the US
    • ACH batches all payments in a day or maybe twice vs instant
      • Realtime payment network – 26 banks but need all banks to be a part of this network
    • Against Fed would say to just run the regulatory part vs the operational side
      • Obligate banks to join ACH, etc…
      • Infrastructure for checks has not updated to the tech advantages that we’ve gotten to now
      • Catching up to rest of world, which is 10 years ahead
    • Death of retail – Barney’s filing for bankruptcy, closing 15 of 22 stores
      • Been around since Great Depression
      • Ecommerce coming and direct to consumer is going toward market share
      • Highly leveraged fixed costs, inventory but can go sales to hemorrhaging money and become unviable
    • Grocery is largest single category of US retail, more than apparel and personal – completely immune to digitization historically
      • Inventory is better served close to consumer, physical grocery as distributed warehouse
  • Philipp Moehring, Head of Angelist EU (20min VC 1/6/16)
    1_n4gganmndofil1udzwkgca-300x225

    • First European hire for Angelist since Jan 14, venture partner at 500 Partners and Principal at SeedCamp
    • Angelist Syndicate for his
    • Worked for a bunch of startups during his studies, but realized he didn’t want to work for a large company or consultancy like when he started
      • Worked for a professor that was doing research on VC – did his thesis on same topic, asked for data
      • Fulltime job came from a guy who went off on his own to start firm and he was asked to join
    • MBA in Tech Management and Tech Entrepreneurship, where management is very different there
      • Analyst and associate work can be a great job but it’s not a quick way to partner or anything
      • Seeing founders doing a second business after 7-8 years, even after do great and get raises
        • People don’t usually stay at their first job for 8 years but starting at VC, people will jump to a startup second
    • EU vs US scene – SV where VC started and is much more advanced, simply due to a lack of epicenter
      • Angelist looking to get into Series A (not necessarily leading, though) – movement
    • Certainly London for VC – number one ecosystem in Europe, as the largest metro area, tech and VC and money
      • Hard to copy for other places – culture, politics and what makes the city to be interesting
      • Berlin has the momentum as the number two, as well as Stockholm or in Finland, maybe Paris (inward), Lisbon and distribution of eastern Europe
    • $400mln funding for Angelist from CSC Upshot into syndicates – GPs investing directly
      • Does his 500 Partners role on the side – usually someone with investing on the side and has more firepower
      • Wants the deal flow or coverage in the areas they won’t have
      • Knows an entrepreneur and can get in the chance on seed or small amounts to invest in
    • Known the partners at 500 Startups for a bunch of years and could invest similarly to his Angelist style
      • Could be flexible and born out of the way the fund is positioned and investing
    • Most exciting for him is having people that he’s invested in hitting their stride and succeeding
    • William Gibson as a writer who influences his thinking, Snowcrash as a book that depicts the future
      • Looks more at science fiction for tech advances now
    • Most read blog – too many to count, Brad Feld – has a tool called SelfControl against social media
  • Phil Libin (@plibin), co-founder and CEO All-Turtles (Mastering Innovation, 8/8/19)
    220px-at-logo-red-label-stacked-opaque-2048

    • Discussing real problems with AI

 

 

 

  • Andrew Chung, Founder and CEO Innovo Property Group (Marketing Matters, 8/7/19)
    • Partner at The Carlyle Group, US real estate
    • Started IPG in 2015
  • Stefan Thomke, professor at HBS (Wharton Knows, 8/13/19)
    31ii5kqtk5l._sx330_bo1204203200_

    • Discussing his paper on magic stick of customers
    • Online experiments – running them quickly and decisively

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ivan Mazour, (@ivanmazour) founder and CEO of Ometria (20min VC FF 029)
    ometria_owler_20160227_081547_original

    • Serial entrepreneur, author, investor – Ometria: predictive/marketing analytics platform
    • Born in Moscow, parents PhDs – mom brought him to UK to study math @ Cambridge
    • Started his first thing in property since that was biggest, public industry to get involved
      • Around 26, didn’t utilize any of his studies and data-focused nature, so he leveraged proceeds with his cofounder to make angel investments
    • Wanted to become relevant and learn about tech industry – made 30 investments in 4 years, stopped prop dev, did a Masters in App Prob
      • Refreshed knowledge to build a data company
      • Founding after investing – wrote a blog post as his approach to investment and his dream
        • Build a truly world-leading tech company but accepts lack of experience
    • Thought about how much capital to allocate to invest and how much to invest to be taken seriously – needs to be able to learn from it
      • Angel investor as $20-30k pounds
      • Received a second seed or extension round with Ometria – significantly bigger than seed, but reality is not enough for Series A
        • Hire more engineers, increase team from 20-30. But Series A would be to set up internationally and expand S&M
    • One-sided barbell – huge amount of funding on early, early stage investing
      • Anyone can work to get funding at early, small stage – lots of companies are vying for more eyeballs from bigger ones they need
      • At late stage, if you have the metrics, you’ll have the funding – growing 300%, hit $1m ARR and no question you’d get round, SaaS-wise
    • Launched as an ecommerce analytics company, wanted massive market for data – $3tn ecommerce and retail
      • Launching 2013, analytics was hottest thing (KPMG raised $100mln fund for this only) – by 2015 for big round Ometria, analytics wasn’t relevant/interesting
      • Fascinating to experience – marketing was far more important – actions engaging revenue and data, leveraged
    • First ones to come in were validating – people who he worked/invested with previously
      • Angels that were amazing, AngelLab’s Rachel that was meeting best founders and seeing best companies
      • Had tried to sell Phil as a customer on Ometria and he ended up investing – Alex is on board as 2nd largest institutional investor
    • Pitching angels vs other investors
      • With angels, he had engagement metrics, not revenues – introduced team and had beta user metrics (logging in 7x a day and loving it)
      • Four founders and engagement of platform that allowed closing of round
      • For VCs, chart of MRR that was up and right – increasing growth
    • Several funds liked the company and wanted to consider investing – said he should’ve held off, probably – got excited and continued conversation
      • Waste of time for both sides – hadn’t moved far enough on VC metrics to get a big enough investing for what you’re raising
    • Offline retail – stores won’t go away – thinks there will be an entire platform that will be an ecommerce platform that is based on personalization
      • Product recs, change website and order them – complicated and difficult – best platforms aren’t designed to do that – $1bn company
    • His highlight: sitting in his boardroom after increasing it, Elizabeth Ying (PayPal, head of D/S), Mike Baxter, Allie Mitchel (Huddle founder)
      Looking around that they were talking about his company and making a few investments that he was CEO of and they had 10-20 years experience
    • Favorite productivity tools: ToDoIst, Google Keep for managing main reports, HangOuts
    • Favorite books: Rich Dad, Poor Dad as formulating a way of thinking, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • David Tisch (@davetisch), MP at BoxGroup, Inc (20min VC 1/11/16)
    site-logo-home

    • Also, cofounded Spring – brands to consumers via mobile with his brother, Allen
    • Coded as a kid, kept using the internet, entryway into internet and software – didn’t think of it as investor
      • Went to college and law school, became a lawyer and joined real estate finance in m&a but he did that for a year and wasn’t into it
      • Started a company, experimented and sucked – sold to a larger company and was there for 2 years at KGB
      • Went to TechStars – launched and run the NY program after he had made 3-4 investments
    • Cementing of the NY scene would be a magnet company like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google – huge magnet for talent
    • The Box in NY as a cool club that he hadn’t been to and his first investment was in a company called Boxy
    • A 20th employee is exponentially more valuable than a seed stage investor – tries to be an valuable investor, though
    • Magical utility or happiness for user or incredibly polished path to where you’re going – different from early days of mobile
      • Should happen soon – hasn’t happened since Snapchat/Tinder as consumer
    • Spring for him – exact opposite of sitting above the clouds as VC and strategy – incredible other side with his brother
      • Mall on your phone – 1200 brands directly (Etsy as maker’s story) – single mobile experience to make it better
      • Free shipping and free returns in 2015 for marketplace and working with their partners
      • VIP, customer service, making a single experience
      • Apparent that the opportunity was sitting there – he had told his brother “Don’t start a company”
    • Doesn’t read much – watches a lot of tv and consumes that as a way to learn
    • Finding his partner Adam at Techstars is probably the highlight
    • Reads online a lot – design blogs/architecture/city – Fred Wilson as successful VC in NY
    • Invested in SmartThings – sold to Samsung a couple years prior and built into products
      • Deep affinity for space, so he invested into Nucleus – video intercom in houses but it allows outbound, also
      • Uncomplicates the phone – primary thing on cell (voice, messenger and text bringing into house)
  • John Wirtz, CPO at Hudl (Wharton XM)
    hudl-logo.1de182540fb461fded02ad2cb75963d4945c560d

    • Coaching and products innovation – getting cameras at 50 yd line or in arenas
      • Not so much looking at point-to-point tracking or high speed for baseball, softball
    • More on tracking all high school players and colleges – uploading of highlights and working with coaches
    • 95% coverage now
  • Software has eaten the world (a16z 8/18/19)
    • Marc and Jorge Condo discussing computer science and its eating healthcare
    • Term from his essay in 2011 after starting firm, tech industry is 70+ years old after WWII, packing $500 that used to be $10-15mln
      • Pessimism after recession – Marc held opposite opinion as just starting (platform built)
      • 3 claims: any product/service that can be software product will be software (boomboxes, cameras, newspapers, etc…)
        every company in the world in those products will become a software co
        as a consequence of 1 and 2, long run the best software company will win
    • Incumbents in auto industry – cars are very dangerous, very hard and software companies think otherwise – value of car is in software (500 in 50 mi radius)
      • Surprising innovation fields: legal, insurance, real estate, education, health care
    • Never imagined investing in new car companies – new industry in 1890, 1920s Henry Ford
      • One new major car company attempt by Preston Tucker (Automotive – Tucker movie, catastrophe)
      • Went from hundreds in 1910s to 3 in 1920s and after
    • Profound technological revolutions as ML/DL/AI as incredibly innovative and cryptocurrency
      • Software founders for how to use and those that haven’t – can be quite transformative
    • Fundamental transformation with internet was music industry – triple whammy – people loved music (? Often dogs eat dog food? – not case in music)
      • Isn’t it great customers love music so much? They want the thing – showing consumption. Music executives said no. Suppliers refusing the demand increase.
      • Pricing issue – want 1 song vs 12 songs on label. Price-fixing collusion by the 4-5 labels. Could overcharge by factor of 10.
      • Consumers were breaking law but the correct reasons. Was immoral, illegal by price collusion.
      • Went from Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Frostwire, BitTorrent (all investor catastrophes as too early since they couldn’t get pricing from labels)
        • Spotify as 15 years later where investors were scarred but time had come
    • When layer commoditizes, the next layer can become massively valuable – focus is on commoditized layer (contraction for recorded music purchases)
      • US market for live concerts grew 4x in aggregate demand – unlimited access to music, so fun is concert and experiences
    • Marc as serving on board of hospital – mission in terms of health care and medical research and school – nonprofit with highly motivated people
      • Design and build a new hospital – finally opening in 2019 (2005 green light)
      • Well-functioning boards that he sees as 7 people vs 25 or so in hospital
      • Quality problems in auto industry in 1950s / 1960s initially, unsafe at any speed – 70s/80s/90s was TQM – debug quality manufacturing
      • Medical compliance issues – 1/3 not filling prescriptions, 1/3 just take cocktails of them
        • Organ transplants are only 60% compliance
        • Assembly line requirements to motion – decode for running properly, maybe do that for hospitals and doctors – Purell, even
      • EMR at Stanford – $400mil one bid, $100mil to Epic and $300mil for implementation system Perot Systems
        • Interoperability and open source, building on everyone’s creativity (except Epic) and APIs
    • Eroom’s Law – price of bringing new device or drug to market doubles every 10 years – VCs in both decided the economic cycles were too different
      • Names now for VC are ones that aren’t the same big firms
      • Founders are different, as well – PhD in bio but programming since 10 or hybrid tech to pitch
      • Missing middle as converging of scientific domains and getting a16z’s new partner, former Stanford professor in the middle who helped spin it up
    • Digital therapeutics, cloud biology, IT applied to Healthcare
    • Defend market or advance innovate market but SV is starting from scratch – experiments in tech, or business (famous train wrecks)
      • Portfolio approach to experiments – 10 experiments in 10 different parts of biotech / industry – look at successes and asymmetric returns
      • If there are big companies that can do obvious things, they’ll be good at increment – industry does different ones
    • Need evangelical marketer or sales – Jobs’ saying how to envision the picture because consumers have no ability to project this
      • Elon’s Model S – no superchargers or charging at home – had to paint a picture to demonstrate it, get enough sales to build the chargers
  • Dan Granger, CEO founder of Oxford Road (Wharton XM)
    oxford-road-agents-of-influence-logo

    • Advertising in LA helping acquire new customers and branding

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

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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)
    1200px-neuralink_logo.svg_

    • 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)
    psrzsqo86j9gj71wrqli

    • 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)
    atomic-object-wordmark-500x265

    • 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)
    m_5a61f34b331627f3f88fe26b

    • 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)
    sabahtwotone

    • 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)
    ca400555-4bb7-4c66-a217-b5ac910cba73._cr5101107332_pt0_sx600__

    • 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)
    aws_vivino_logo_600x400.cb594b3d79815eece9e8c685a7b8d043b7910b95

    • 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

Idea Conversion to Algorithms (Notes from July 22 – 28, 2019) August 14, 2019

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There is quite a bit in this week’s notes to unpack. Most of the stories and experiences provided by the guests, though, premised around testing a hypothesis or quickly trying to solve a problem in a manner that, once validated, could become much more efficient. When trying to make the solution more efficient, whether data or AI-driven, then further questions have to be asked to ensure a proper, scaleable and ethical solution. Lauren deLisaColeman discussed the ML application ethics and what guides them. Karim Galil observed that patient history was stodgy and doctors weren’t in to new things that could save them time because of the catchup time. So he had to produce a solution that could be effective immediately and worth giving back doctors time – he chose oncology to do it in.

Alyssa Dineen discussed profiles as well, but of the dating variety. There were more ways to screw up than attracting attention. At first, she could do it manually before realizing she could improve the work she did and make it better for both business and clients. Khartoon at Spotify talked about how they started at Spotify with freemium model and the streaming aspect before connecting that with all of the data to their corporate and enterprise partners. In turn, the two-way data sharing enabled them to pivot nicely to provide more value and eventually into a paid model that helped the business. Lastly, Max Bruner talked about his hell of a journey where he eventually landed at Metromile, but not before building Mavrx in the best form of dirty solutions – cameras from planes. Then realizing what could be attached and automated to be a full provider to farmers in much of farmland US and improving it. Quite the product path.

Curious about this concept for much of college / graduates.
Idea possibly worth pursuing – saw post on similar idea. Fake VC – take seed or series A opportunities, combine with data plan (via other post). Have various students make their opinions on what to seek, whether funding was good. How to think of next steps? Make action plan, but templated and maybe try to get an argument. Podcast/videos presenting either side. Try to talk to startup that received. Good sourcing examples, data (limited) problems, industry seeking.

Hope you enjoy the week’s notes and check everyone out!

  • Lauren deLisa Coleman (@ultra_Lauren), Digi-cultural Trend Analyst (Wharton XM)
    • Forbes contributor, discussing AI and ethics of ML applications
    • Who makes the rules – is the data guided?
  • Karim Galil, Founder of Mendel.ai (Wharton XM)
    mendel-logo

    • Working in Egypt initially, wasn’t in Cairo but started in Sinai – beach and did surf/kitesurfing lessons deal
      • Talent was not as abundant, but did a project with Pfizer, Dubai government and others
      • Egypt had free healthcare but hospitals couldn’t pay for procedures that may have been experimental – trials would allow it
        • Wouldn’t hear about trials until it was too late in his oncology rotation
    • Observed that you could have a dating record online and perfect match, but not catch up on papers in context in industry
      • Had to start somewhere – landed on oncology – wasn’t a junior vs senior thing – few doctors had the time
    • Losing patients to cancer and messy medical records – trying to improve the healthcare industry
    • Can get a bunch of oncologists to drop everything and work as data scientists
      • Cheaper in Egypt and feasible – fair salaries to do this
      • In the US, very unlikely to happen as oncologists are far above data scientist salary
    • Medical matching service – AI-powered to do trials for language content
    • Paying ~30 employees, where 15 of them are oncologists
  • Alyssa Dineen, Style my Profile founder (Wharton XM)
    style-my-profile

    • Personal stylists online and in NYC
    • Wanting to expand – mentioned Forbes article and expanded 3x
      • Mostly from out of the NYC area
      • Would love to open LA, SF, Chicago, most urban areas
  • Daniel Korschun, assoc prof of Marketing at LeBow Drexel (Wharton XM)
    • Marketing and branding for Kaepernick’s Betsy Ross argument
      • Nike blew opportunity to turn the flag into a very big positive – “Unity” or 13 civil rights activists
    • Owning the branding, making sure to keep it different
    • Making statements or seeing both sides can attribute your opinion without actually doing so
      • Being “informed” by museum after making case for both sides
  • Chandra Devam, CEO of Aris MD (Wharton XM)
    arismdlogo-tealrevised

    • Discussion of iTech NASA competition with Star Trek-surgery
    • A/R and V/R applications – board with the tech
  • Rachel Glaser, CFO of Etsy (Mastering Innovation)
    sell-jewelry-on-etsy

    • Search algorithms to increase sales
    • Etsy as vintage space – defined as 20 years, or handmade materials or put together
    • Have to stay ahead of counterfeit and trends

 

 

  • Sitar Teli (@sitar), MP at Connect Ventures (20min VC 12/30/15)
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    • Doughty Hanson Tech Ventures, series A round in SoundCloud
    • Dual degree in MechE and Econ from Duke
    • Taught English in South Korea for a year, 3 years in IB in US – Broadview (M&A, tech focused)
      • Enjoyed working with the companies but not the banking side – best part was to hear how companies started and early days
      • Hadn’t considered London in 2005 when headhunter had reached out
    • Gaming, fintech, music & content, adtech where Europe is producing big, growing companies now (2015)
      • More cross-pollination of entrepreneurs going back and forth or partnering with others
      • IB moving into VC – different perspectives for her 2 other partners
    • Starting a new fund – “one of worst startups you can think of” – competitive against established funds
      • Build brand, reputation, product and designing it (not just money but experience) – how to work with the founders
      • First year – founders aren’t necessarily eager – want a seriousness that came with business cards
      • Allocating $100 – she’d do $90 to the portfolio and investments, $10 to rejections and focus
        • For No’s, make it quick and even in the meeting or cut short
    • Looking for companies
      • Founders that really understand the market they’re building for – how passionate, how much time to understand, experience
        • CityMapper founder – public transport and how they move through the city and how it can help
        • Stockholm-based Oxy – music creation app (prior at SoundCloud) – digital music tech, digital to greater number of people
      • Founders on a mission (other than $)
      • UX-focused and at the center of what they do
      • As an aside, whole lot of $ (maybe at seed) but it’s not the only bucket – ecommerce, adtech, depending on what founders are
        • Thesis: investors can dictate the entrepreneurs and align them
    • Crowdfunding alongside VC – many biz don’t need venture capital but do need capital
    • Amazing Adventures of Kavalier as book
  • Khartoon Weiss, Global Head of Verticals at Spotify (Wharton XM)
    open-graph-default

    • Starting with the streaming service as free and eventually getting into freemium / subscribers
      • Providing value to users and charging for it
    • Analyzing usage data from subscribers and free users to personalize the experience for listeners and serving brand partners
    • Core value of giving creative artists the opportunity to live off their art
    • Advertisers will see data in events that drive music playing
      • For example, an eclipse occurring will produce more song plays with eclipse themes – can drive user advertising for it, connect brands
  • Max Bruner (@maximusbruner), VP CorpDev at Metromile (Wharton XM)
    metromile

    • Talked about Mavrx, geospatial and agtech company
      • Flying drones and then planes over farmland to assess and improve efficiency
      • Didn’t have the initial equipment when they went to South Africa (needed data during US’s winter)
        • Had pilots take their cameras, IR and others
    • Most of clients were in the midwest – eventually sold to various parts of the vertical
    • Attended UW-Madison in econ and Arabic – did a year abroad between Egypt and Qatar (at the time, nice and hadn’t been through revolutions yet)
      • Felt like something was missing so returned to DC where he worked in the DoE under Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Innovative Investing (Notes from June 3 – June 9, 2019) June 25, 2019

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The primary theme of the week seemed to be how data can get pooled together to determine a signal and how to learn to seek the best way we, as individuals or teams, can discern valuable content to motivate actions on that information. Data is plenty – it’s a matter of gathering, curation, analysis and testing before putting it into action. This is done by any number and types of companies nowadays – this is a source of advantage seeking that forward-thinking ones make, in my opinion.

Since my notes were more detailed, I’ll try to keep this brief. The wonder people below hailed from banks (First Republic Bank), funds like Emerson Collective and Womens VCFund, marketing company like BEN or LikeFolio and then David Epstein’s Range, Sinead O’Sullivan’s work on space or the data Rohan Kumar collects with Azure Data.

Create a hypothesis. Test the hypothesis. Put into action, or iterate. Rinse, repeat. Good luck!

  • Samir Kaji, (@samirkaji) MD @ First Republic Bank (20min VC 093)
    first20republic20logo_gkg

    • Leading private bank and wealth management, before at SVB
    • 1999 – “anyone with a pulse could get a job” but he was working selling vacuum cleaners at dept store
      • Was told by family to get a real job – applied to first business SVB, got resume in and interview immediately before starting
      • First couple years were tough – learned a lot, but was 2004 until companies had scaled and were getting bigger
    • First 10 years were tech companies, series A and B and venture debt – post 2009 Lehman / Bear, went to venture group at SVB for 4 years
      • Made the move with a few others from SVB to First Republic, now leading team in micro-VC and early-stage tech co’s
    • Says the micro-VC is more entrepreneurial & collegial compared to extended stage VC’s
      • First fund is that you can get traction for a second or third one, fees as pressure – most likely why many people come from some wealth
        • Writing large checks as GP, as well
      • 2-2.5% management fees initially vs 1 / 25 or 1/30 model
      • 1999 – 2002 distribution was 0.9x and you’d get 10x return (whoops) – very difficult for funds to get 2-3x for LPs
    • Barriers to entry much smaller for $20-25million as compared to $500mln – institutional, etc — he can go to family friends and high net worth
    • Seed over next 5 years: contraction in space (wrong), but said there isn’t enough returns for funds to max it
      • 1100 in the 2000 year and burst
      • Continued prominence of Angelist platforms, maybe an integral part of the ecosystem
      • Starting to see use of data (Mattermark, CBInsights, SignalFire) to more efficiently identify and action at this level
    • Favorite book is Phil Jackson’s – behavioral psychology, Give and Take is another one
    • Really respects the pioneers of the industry and first-time fund-raisers
      • Mike Maples, Michael Deering, Steve Anderson, Jeff Clavier when it wasn’t a thought
    • Habit – reading book or blog post for 20min in the morning before email
      • Disconnect from audio / video devices and reflect for an hour
      • 2 hours a day for family/friends and disconnecting, as well
    • Thomas Redpoint, Mark Suster, Brad Feld, Strictly VC, Ezra at Chicago Ventures
    • Knows awesome fundraisers but terrible at returning capital – didn’t mention any
  • Collectively Driving Change, Laurene Powell Jobs and Ben Horowitz (a16z 5/27/2019)
    emerson-full-logo

    • LPJ – founder, president of Emerson Collective
    • Grew up in NJ – father passed away in a plane accident when she was 3 – 3 children.
      • Mom remarried so there were 6 of them. Wooded area of NJ.
      • Core values and dedication to education to get out of the area.
      • She went to Upenn – first student from her high school that went to Ivy League – ~20% went on to more schools
    • Addressing East Palo Alto school as a volunteer to help – 1st talk, 0 had taken SATs
      • What happens when you’re first to graduate high school? What’s it mean to the information from family?
      • What happens to be first to want to go to college, thrive&complete it?
        • To have the aspiration, can be a leader in the family – translator, get sucked into all problems
      • Started with 25 freshmen – would have to come with friends for responsibility mechanisms – for College Track
        • 3000 high school students, 1000 college, 550 grads
    • Collective of leaders, innovators – education inequities, access and need for enhanced/robust curriculum
    • 10 year time horizons – getting them together is scheduled with Monday all-staff meetings (3×3 matrix of videos)
      • 5 cities, sometimes philanthropic speakers or reports
      • Discussion of reading as you fall behind through third grade before switching to reading to learn – already behind
    • XQ as SuperSchool dream – 17 of 19 will open in August
    • Caring about impact and solving problems, not wealth increasing – wants access to policy or money and not taxes
      • Judged Giving Pledge for not wanting to be more philanthropic
      • Environmental, edtech portfolio, cancer / oncology investments, immigration incubator, new thinking to old problems
    • How do you know when you’re succeeding? Collecting data on everything they do.
      • Example: XQ – schools and districts, state of RI as switching to statewide competition
      • Chicago has good data for fatal/nonfatal deaths (I disagree)
    • Imperiled or important institutions like journalism and media need to be sustained, how many join?
      • Concentrating and following where IQ is migrating (hahaha – what a joke)
  • Data Infrastructure in the Cloud, Rohan Kumar at BUILD conference (Data Skeptic, 5/18/19)
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    • Corp VP of Eng of Azure Data Team at Microsoft – SQL and data services, open source, analytics, etc
    • Trends in data engineering in the cloud, serverless and hyperscale
      • ML and AI and enabling applications – shifting to edge vs cloud – analysts predict 70% will be on edge devices
      • Solutions and private edges – training in the cloud and deploy them on the edge applications
        • Data platform needs to be the right foundation
    • Highlight for him from conference: work they’ve done on relational databases in the cloud – as volumes grow, scalability challenges
      • Hyperscale for Azure and PostgreSQL, as well as MS SQL soon enough – system scales with needs (they’ve tested <= 100TB)
    • Acquired Citus Data, support scaling out the compute layer – strong team, great product, matches in Azure and open-source
    • Releasing serverless option for Azure database – costs designed to stay low and optimized
    • Analytics side: customers wanted to do real-time operational analytics – didn’t want to move them outside of their core product
      • How is data distributed and having compute be co-located with the data to gain Spark efficiency being nearest to node
      • Support Jupyter notebooks across all APIs to modernize to do more predictive analytics
      • Attempting to build out pipelines requires too much scripts, instead have Data Flows in Azure Data Factory – no-code and UI
      • Wrangling data visually and seeing if something can be recognized or learned to repeat across other columns/tables
    • Latency won’t be ideal if compute nodes occur nonlocal to the data changes – can’t do 50,000 nodes all at once
    • Excited for the future: Horizon 1 (next 8-12 months), Horizon 2 (~3 years), Horizon 3 (moonshots)
      • H2: Hardware trends, what do customers want? Pushing boundaries of AI and ML, healthcare, gaming, financial services, retail
  • Wide or Deep? David Epstein, author of Range (Invest like the Best, 5/28/19, ep. 133)
    • First book’s research lead him to get into specialization and finding kernel for next
      • Some countries: turning around national sports teams – why don’t we try other sports? Contrary to 10,000 hour rule.
      • SSAC – debating Gladwell – athletes have a sampling period instead of first gene – delay specialization
        • Used Tiger vs Roger – Roger had tried a ton of sports vs Tiger who was born and was playing golf
    • He was not good at predicting what people/public would attach themselves on to – 10,000 hour rule – race/gender as most talked (but weren’t)
      • 10,000 hour rule were based on 30 violinists in world famous music academy (restriction of range)
      • Height in American population vs points scored in NBA (positive correlation) but if you restrict height to NBA players, negative
    • Finnish cross country skier who has genetic mutation similar to Lance’s boosted
      • Sensitivity to pain and modification to your environment – also sudden cardiac arrest in athletes (what pushed his interests)
      • Book as opposition to Outliers and Talent Code – interpreted a lack of evidence as evidence of absence (genetics matter)
        • First year he read 10 journal articles a day and not writing – they were making conclusions they could not make based on their data
      • Differential responses to training – best talent were missed because we don’t know about training responses
    • Collection and exploration phase – competitive advantage for expansive search function to connect sources or topics
      • Has a statistician on retainer, essentially, to check models or surveys
      • Wanted to know what he was missing – “how come I broke the 800m women’s world record after 2 years of practice? – genetic difference”
        • Racing whippets – 40% had a genetic defect that gave them more muscle and oxygen
    • All of sports as a limited analogy (problem after Sports Gene; now, more tempered)
      • Robin Hogarth addressed “When do people get better with experience?” Don’t know rules, can try to deduce them but can’t know for sure.
      • Kind learning environment: feedback immediate, steps clear, information, goal ahead
      • Wicked learning environment: can’t see all information, don’t wait for others, feedback delayed/inaccurate
    • Study at Air Force on “Impact of Teacher Quality on Cadets”
      • Have to take 3 maths – calc I, II, III (20 kids randomized) – professors best at causing kids to do well (overperforming) systematically undermined their performance thereafter
        • 6th in performance and 7th in student evaluations was dead last in deep learning
        • Narrow curricula were better at the test that they had at the end would be negatively correlated with going forward in performance
      • Teachers that ignored what was on the test taught a broader curriculum (making connections vs procedures)
    • Learning hacks: Testing (wonderful – primed to test ahead of learning), Spacing (deliberate not-practicing, Spanish ex spread 4 hour twice, 8 hours), Mixed practice
      • Ease is bad – known time horizon for when you have forgotten again – interleaving and spacing mixed
    • Passion vs Grit (“Trouble with Too Much Grit” – Angela Duckworth’s research)
      • Duckworth did a study at West Point for East Barracks cadets – candidates score (test + leadership + athletic) was not good prediction of doing this (overall it was good)
        • Grit was a better predictor for making it through East Barracks – she questioned whether it had an independent aspect
        • Variance for grit was probably 1-6%, especially after “flattening” groups – looking at people that had a narrowly defined goal for short periods (cadets or spellers)
      • Cadets were scoring lower on grit at late 20s vs earlier – tried some things, learned others about what they want – grit is poorly constructed
        • Look holistically – if, then signatures (giant rave – introvert, small team – extroverts) right fit looks like grit – developmental trajectory as explosion matching spot
    • Choosing a match for a future them who they don’t know in a world they can’t comprehend – people that find good fits (in practice, not theory)
      • Paul Graham’s “Commencement Speech” that he wrote “Most will tell you to predict what you want in 20 years and march toward it.” (premature optimization)
        • Everything you know is constrained by our previous experiences – limited as a teenager – just expanding and learning as you go forward
    • Gameboy example – with so much specialized information that can be disseminated easier – can take from all types of domains and recombine them
      • System of parallel trenches – can be broader much easier now – hired people for Japanese and German translations
      • Japanese man profiled in his book – technology was changing faster than sun melts ice – didn’t get Tokyo interviews
        • When he got to Kyoto company making playing cards, he was a tinkerer who was maintaining machines – started to mess with them (arms)
        • Turned them into a toy, and it was Nintendo – cartoon-branded noodles (failed), and had toy development
          • Lateral thinking with withered technology – stuff that’s cheap, easily available – takes into other areas
            • Remote control, more features – wanted to democratize this and strips it down – LeftyRX only left-turns
        • Sees calculator from Sharp and Casio and thinks he can do a screen and handheld game – small games
          • Had issues with Newton’s rings so he found other small tech (credit cards embossed) to fix small pieces
      • What it lacked in color, graphics and durability (could dry it out, batteries would be fine, split it up, “app” developers because it was super easy to understand)
      • In areas that next steps were clear, specialists were much better – less clear, generalists were more impactful – depends on the specificity of the problem
        • 3M had a lot of areas for this, “Periodic Table of Technology” – post-it note came from reusable adhesive that had no use for
        • Only Chinese national woman to win Nobel – “Three No’s” (No post-grad, foreign research, membership in academy)
          • Interest in science, history – Chinese medicine for treatments of malaria – world’s most effective treatment from ancient text
  • Greg Isaacs, BEN (Branded Entertainment Network) (Wharton XM, Marketing)
    Print

    • Discussion of getting data from Netflix / Amazon / Hulu / tv to better match brands and advertising
      • Dirty data via a wharton grad who set up a survey style
      • Cohorts and demographics, along with psychographics
    • After getting data, attempting to approach Youtubers / social media influencers, tv spots and channels or shows to get their brands in front of the right people
      • More pointed, depending on what interests are for their cohorts
      • Creative storytelling as the change of cultural mind shift has increased
  • Understanding the Space Economy, Sinead O’Sullivan (@sineados1), entrepreneur fellow at HBS (HBR IdeaCast #684, 5/28/19)
    • Facebook, Amazon (3000), SpaceX (12,000) and other funding like Blue Origin / SpaceX / asteroid mining or travel
    • Global space economy as $1tn by 20 years – currently $325bn so it would need to 3x
      • Breaking apart space resources and otherwise – earth-focused (delivering or existing in space that helps earth)
        • Exploration or creating interplanetary existence
    • Running out of space in space for satellites – comparing to airplane docking / loading
      • $2500 per kg now to launch, used to be $50k / kg
    • Reliance had been on unilateral agreement for space policy – one tech startup launched a satellite that didn’t have permission (but no fall-out)
      • Food / grocery stores, wifi, phone, insurance pricing due to satellite data – reliance on services are increasing as the market increases
      • Thinks that we’re close to seeing the cheapest cost of launching – cites SpaceX, but won’t allow everyone to participate
    • Ultrahigh accuracy will require higher powered satellites – GPS, nonmilitary grade is ~0.5 m – thinks it will prevent autonomous vehicles solution
    • Ton of money going into asteroid mining but thinks it’s better for testing missions to Mars and figuring out the problems for future
      • Looking at Uber at start and say “people won’t get into a stranger’s car” or other cases as how we see the future – going to Mars, etc
    • Earth-focused space technology – 100+ launched satellite start-ups, micronano satellites, relay companies, downstream analytics
      • More touchpoints for everything in this manner
      • SpaceX will increase public and government intervention and within 50 years, maybe see a human launched there
  • Investing w Twitter Sentiment, Andy Swan (@andyswan), LikeFolio (Standard Deviations, 4/25/19)
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    • 1700+ tweets examined per minute in LikeFolio – discovering consumer behavior shifts before news
      • Direct partnership with Twitter to create massive database and how they’re talked about to look for mentions
      • Purchase intent, sentiment mentions – trends across product categories or brands
    • Example – Delta (as host is a loyalist) – making adjustments
      • Expectations are the relative part – comparison to the baselines (metrics compared to itself as baseline)
    • Put out a comprehensive report on Apple day after keynote event – September 14, 2018
      • Consumers were unimpressed with iPhone lineup – more price sensitive than maybe they’d considered
      • Apple Watch was the silver lining – stock / sales may struggle over 3-9 months (upgrade cycles)
    • WTW version of keynotes – NYE resolutions – subscribing early to drive revenues the rest of the way
      • Purchasing mentions were only up 30-40% compared to 5 or 7x weekly mentions (big difference)
    • Shelf-life and how to consider the sentiment data – lead time may be binary corp event (same store sales or year)
      • Couple months with Apple, for instance, but with Crocs – resurgence that persisted to current time
    • Set up keyword structure and brand database – “I’m eating an apple” as opposed to an Apple mention – human eyes to ‘label’
      • “Closed my 3 rings” – apple watch but sarcasm / spam that wasn’t caught (estimates at 2-3% of data)
      • If spam / sarcasm are consistent portions of the data, doesn’t really have an effect
    • Twitter Mood Predicts Stock Market – Bollen, Mao, Zeng (88% and 5-6% predictions) – fund closed up shortly
    • Advantage being better than analysts or pricing and codifying sentiment behavior compared to past quarters, data
      • Some consumer trends analyzed as true tipping point or actual movements
      • Public prediction before productizing their modeling – made 40 and were 38-2 (confidence as highest)
      • Investing as very specific, concentrated and holding ammo compared to trading with option spreads and has risk profile built
    • https://arxiv.org/pdf/1010.3003.pdf
    • Diversification as 20-25 stocks, doing it over time and with conviction can be done
    • Starting in Louisville for his fintech company, host in Alabama, for instance
      • Talent can be more difficult to seek out but the world is globally flattening via the internet
      • 70% lower overhead cost than being in SF, for instance – developers would anyhow be in Slack channels / not a big deal
      • Reduction in cost maintains greater control of company since they don’t have to take reduction of equity to gather more
    • Network effects don’t matter if you don’t have a great product or product-market-fit
    • Free association game
      • grapenuts: best cereal (Co’s been around for 100+ years, branding and $ spent and they can’t figure it out)
      • Fintech Future: individualization and customization
      • Victory: most important thing in life, achieved what you set out to do – setting goals and achieving these
      • Bourbon: pappie von winkle – collecting for dust on shelf 10 years ago and now going for $3000
  • Jonathan Abrams, co-founder Nuzzel news (Launch Pad)
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    • Landing hedgehog as the mascot – animal as cute, 99designs and surveying 50 friends – 25 men/women
    • Discussing how VC’s don’t have great advice, especially when general – too hard to be an expert in such a wide range
      • Finds it easier to be very context-driven and providing solutions or action-oriented questions to founders
      • Investing now easier with YC and Angelist, etc…
    • Timing and other mistakes he made – out of control, losing equity part early (but depends on where you are / what you need)
  • Etan Green, professor at Wharton (Wharton Moneyball)
    • Discussion on paper of how sharp money comes in at horse racing tracks
      • Difference between sites – fairground action compared to tracks, and specific to region (New Orleans, Minnesota, for instance)
      • Big sharp money comes in very late, pushing the underdog prices to higher values
        • More expensive to bet while at the track than the APIs enabling higher volume bets
        • Books at the track are incentivized to bring in as much $ as possible, so $0.20 on $1 vs $0.15 rebate on $0.20 for volume
    • Value and differences in how people will bet
  • Edith Dorsen, Women’s VCFund founder, MD (Wharton XM)
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    • Talking about their focus on first fund, approach
    • Opportunity for finding diverse founders, 25% of their fund had a woman founder
    • Starting a second fund
    • Had consumer tech, enterprise and not so much b2b, but trying to increase
      • Hard to say or give advice if one of their partners don’t have expertise in the domain
  • Sophie Lanfear, Silverback Films producer on Netflix “Our Planet” (Wharton XM)
    • Species that are dying, going extinct
    • What we can do about it
  • Aliza Sherman, Ellementa co-founder, CEO (Wharton XM)
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    • Discussion of client talks when she made them aware of her cannabis endeavors
    • How friendly the community is
      • Then knocked the idea that ~30% was female to start before diving off a cliff
    • CBD to mask opioids – does it really do anything from a pain/treatment perspective, though?
      • Anti-chemo because of CBD – really?
    • Sounded too rehearsed – made it sound fake, not genuine
      • Passion/motivation/mission and kept repeating as the best advice she could give – painful
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