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Builders for the Future (Notes from Dec. 24 – 30) January 16, 2019

Posted by Anthony in experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, questions, social, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Hello all! It’s good to write again this week! And this one sent us back to the week of Christmas. Appropriate for this edition because I spent mine with my mom. She’s one of the strongest women that I know – the stars of their respective companies/start-ups/brands. They’re asking questions that affect all of us, whether it’s when we literally stay a Marriott Hotel, question our job choices going forward, try to learn a new skill, or even debating on jumping into a start-up with an idea.

I know I took quite a bit of the segments to heart and reflected on them. They covered a wide range of topics but ultimately, how do we move forward in whatever we’re doing.

  • Nicola Corzine (@ncTheCenter), Exec Director at NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center (Bay Area Ventures, Wharton XM)
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    • Enabled 7500 entrepreneurs in 65+ countries
    • 49% female and 65% minority as a big driver for her
    • KPIs as solving the business problems that are presented
  • Stephanie Linnartz, Chief Commercial Officer at Marriott International (Wharton XM)
    • Discussed how they had positioned to make sure certain hotels stand by their values
    • After buying Ritz Carlton, keeping it as Ritz Carlton brand
    • Host / rent-type brand and partnership to ensure that they can offer amenities in line with brand
    • Structure of Marriott being franchised, primarily
  • Ellen Ruppel Shell (@EllenRuppelShel), author of The Job (In the Workplace, Wharton XM)
    • What’s it mean to be satisfied at work? Depends on the person.
    • How gig economy changed mindsets – if it did? Many people want consistent paycheck
      • Control isn’t super valuable if they don’t know when the next paycheck is coming
    • Disagreements of people seeking ‘satisfaction’ or ‘meaningful’ employment – falsehood that has been pushed onto workers
  • Alice Bentink (@Alicebentinck), co-founder of Entrepreneurs First (20min VC FF 014)
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    • Founded Girls Code
    • Was originally at McKinsey when she started – best way to think about next steps when they were graduating from university
    • Ingredients for EF: exceptional technical talent, co-founders that matter
      • Idea is important but not perfect idea (doesn’t exist)
        • Idea that resonates with you to attack and start to build
      • Non-technical people need to bring domain expertise (used a translation expert with contacts/work in the space)
        • People with years of expertise don’t want to work in their domain – EF is pained by this
      • Selection based on the talent over ideas (changing them 2-3 times)
    • What makes a great founder?
      • Thousands of applications – built companies or startups or products
        • How to keep an open mindset and willingness to learn
    • First time founders worry too much about the startup than the product being built
      • Don’t worry about accounting, incorporation, logo
      • Do built a test product, get feedback, iterate quickly
    • Friends and family rounds can be dangerous if there isn’t an understanding of the risk or time horizon (say, pensions or house deposit)
    • Scaling from 15 companies a year to 40 companies
  • Kirsty Nathoo, CFO of Y Combinator (20min VC 075)
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    • Went from PWC in Cambridge, UK to YC and do-everything at a start-up accelerator
      • Got involved with YC through her husband, funded in 2008
      • Had a 3 week window to close up Cambridge and get to SV – was doing a ton of responsibilities
        • Control of all bank accounts, access to everything and it made her more trustworthy
    • First batch she was involved with was Winter 2010 and had 26 companies
    • 10 minute interviews questions – how big does it get? How does it adjust with getting customers what they want?
      • Have the founders thought about enough to make each other learn something new?
    • Obvious business expenses vs controllable business expenses – spending investor money and when to vary / change these
      • Founders can break up and it often isn’t ideal – YC makes sure to pay founders and payroll
    • Founders should be able to report a lot
      • How much $ in bank? Runway? Growth rate? Burn rate?
    • Most impressive interviews are ones that founders can articulate answers to questions because they’re so matched with their mission
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Across the Board! Digitization, Health, Systems, and Strategy (Notes from Dec. 10 to 16) January 3, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, experience, finance, global, medicine, Politics, questions, social, WomenInWork.
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Happy New Year’s, everyone! Hope people had a safe, relaxing and fun holiday. I also hope it provided some time to pause, reflect and wondering for what has happened and what may come in the next year.

I’ll preface my notes by informing you that they are short snippets, as you’ll observe. This was not necessarily by design, but necessity. I listened to a higher number than I should have in this week, as I needed to procrastinate – for what, you may ask? – for my MBA Final exam. Knowing how much drop-off in any online programs there is, I was hesitant in sharing this with others. Hate to tell someone you started something and then pause it, right? I sit here, now after receiving my Smartly Institute email saying I’ve completed the program and should receive the MBA Degree shortly!

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For those curious about the online program, reach out! Or maybe I’ll sure the exit survey that I am supposed to complete here.

Getting to my notes / snippets of what I listened to during that week, check below! I do think I’ll go back and listen to a couple of the segments fully because I found them very interesting. Whether it was strategy for Hasbro and eSports’ future or the author of Loneliest Generation or the Brightseed founder – some very interesting research and data being collected and reported on for whatever tickles your fancy. Whatever you may in interested in, there are plenty of overlaps. Know this.

  • Hasbro/Wizards strategy for esports, how DnD came about, Magic, (Work of Tomorrow, Wharton XM)
    • Magic was a request on finding a game between DnD games – revolutionized with trading card game
  • HBR article – business models for healthcare: https://hbr.org/2018/11/3-business-models-that-could-bring-million-dollar-cures-to-everyone
    • Business model needs to be reinvented if we’re to have million dollar treatments/cures
      • Ensure that insurance co’s are willing to cover expensive therapy – provide outcome-based results
      • Economics tend to be difficult if consumers are switching every 2 – 3 years with employer switches
    • HealthCoin securitizing improvements in health that can be passed from one stakeholder to another
      • Generates credit like a bond, can sell later to recoup cost
    • Annuity-based model for diseases/costly procedures, collect dividends after monthly premium investments
  • Million Dollar Women, Julia Pimsleur, (Women @ Work, WhartonXM)
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    • Changing mindset, upping skillset, expanding network
      • Trying to get them to think bigger and get rid of imposter syndrome
      • Develop their 8 pillars
      • Network by talking 1 on 1 with established mentors in the program
  • Mene founder (Wharton XM)
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    • Talking about the gold standard – Reagan’s temporary mission, haven’t come off
      • Inflation has been resigned to just sticking with the faux environment we’re in now – printing money
      • If gold wasn’t a store of value, it wouldn’t have risen from $30 – $1200+
  • Cotopaxi Founder, Davis Smith (Wharton XM)
    • Why SLC? He and his wife were deciding between Seattle and Salt Lake City – she chose SLC (having grown up in Seattle)
    • Created tribe / community of supporters
      • In Korea, someone shouted across the way Cotopaxi – to which he informed them he was the founder
      • Validation for what he had been working to create (although network effect bigger than anticipated)
    • Owning the omni-channels and why he chose D2C (virtual presence a la Warby Parker, Away, etc…)
      • Online and then a retail presence to own their own brand, before moving out to partner with places that help them reach others
      • Had to sell via Amazon as well to own that channel (otherwise someone would definitely be selling on that channel)
      • Partner with REI and other retailers in order to gain visible traction with places that had strong digital presence
        • Not the full catalog, but a few of the higher margin SKUs
      • Talked about how Vans originally rolled out to skaters/surf shops – top of pyramid before moving down to Zumies (frequented by those)
        • After a long while, they’re finally selling in JC Penny’s and others like it (well-established brand first)
    • Vertical digitalization above and then has a very lean business on the other side (outsources much of the fillers, suppliers, distribution)
      • He knows what he knows and then learns from those he works for – lets them do their thing
  • Author of Future Politics, Jamie Susskind (Wharton XM)
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    • Why do we insist on allowing politicians to not be knowledgeable in digital age
    • Odd that these are legislators attempting to update the digital companies
    • Should be obvious that we ask the people creating regulation should be involved in the technology that they’re attempting to design around (apparently our votes say otherwise)

 

 

 

  • Loneliest Generation author (not wsj one)
    • Costs an estimate $7bn, more than arthritis or high blood pressure combined
  • Brightseed founder, (Wharton XM, Thurs Dec 13)
    • Search engine with thousands of plants to identify empirical evidence of eastern medicine
      • Which plant consumption triggers improved physical / health properties?
      • Headed to market with one that improves liver toxin fat breakdown
    • Cheaper aspect because they’re plants compared to new drugs which can take hundreds of millions of 7+ years
    • Features of plants aligning with human function

Tech Trends for Business (Notes from Dec. 3 – 9, 2018) December 28, 2018

Posted by Anthony in education, experience, finance, global, medicine, questions, social, Uncategorized.
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Okay, a busy week! Hope everyone had a great Christmas, safe and won all your family games. Earlier in the month, I listened to a couple 20min VC’ episodes that focused on tech trends (episodes from 2016). Looking back, healthcare is still being worked on, and we have definitely expanded into Europe being a larger hub for startups and tech origination.

Then, there remain questions of how we will replace or fundamentally alter the processes that seem ubiquitous such as transaction methods and recording as well as the old rules of portfolio formation.

I hope you guys enjoy some of the notes and feel free to explore further depths on your own!

  • Michael Treskow, Morgan Stanley IB former, VC at Accel Partners (20min VC 073)
    • Investment environment of London vs SF – tons of entrepreneurs in both
    • All else being equal – all experience (prior founder experience) is typically good
      • Gets bug for creating his own thing but then is quickly reminded of how difficult and time-consuming it is
    • He said he looks for market size and ability to attract is what draws him in
      • Obsession for the topic / market / expertise
    • Wunderlist (made in Berlin) for productivity tool.
    • European tech hub: didn’t think there’d just be one – mentions Madrid, Nordics, Tel Aviv and the excitement of all
    • Blog – Term Sheet, big name others

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  • Bob Kocher (@bobkocher), Partner at Venrock (20min VC 074)
    • Focuses on healthcare IT, Alidaide / Jif / GrandRounds / DrOnDemand
    • Consultant at Stanford and Harvard Med – served in Obama Administration, prior at McKinsey
    • 20% of economy is healthcare, aligning incentives and getting people to use it is the main challenge
    • Main changes as byproducts of recent: amazing glut of new information, changes to incentives
      • Healthcare was textbook information asymmetry (getting 90% of doctors/hospitals on board with payment models and data coordination)
      • Consolidation on the providers side which has killed competition and innovation, increased prices
    • Way that care is delivered is one of the biggest challenges – matching right person to the right doctor leads to better outcomes
      • No matter how expert a doctor is, they can’t know everything
    • He didn’t believe that regulators are a big challenge because they’re looking to help the right cases
      • Imagination and scoping solutions to be massive
    • Find joy in what you do every day – skipping the ‘do a job for x years before getting into a job that you like’
      • Trying to make healthcare better each day, if possible
      • The System by 1983 Clinton failure
  • Technological Trends with Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures & Chris Dixon, Crypto GP at a16z (a16z from Sep 24, 2018)
    • Cars as software / hardware (talking of Elon’s OTA push for services) when Ford broke down often the innovation was a bunch of service centers
    • Google Maps as the app for ALL car service providers (default interface for dispatch of any medium – cars, bikes, scooters)
      • Wants this to happen for functionality
    • Google made advertising was the monetization of internet usage (explorer, outlook, etc…)
      • Thinks crypto would be the similar disrupter (look at movies from the 1990s)
      • Dotbomb game that turned into nearly ALL the current unicorns – needed bigger broadband
      • Youtube needed social sharing and broadband – existed as destination previously, eyeballs/stickiness that prevented wide distribution
    • Cloud infrastructure still pushing innovation, developer experience (10+ years)
      • Cloud as 3 player game – Microsoft, Amazon, Google and enterprise customers
    • He said 90% of developers and start-ups are on AWS and eventually can move to others
      • In enterprise, you have biggest winner as 3x as second, then 3x as 3rd, etc…
      • More room for players, but people treat it as first-movers or incumbents are the toughest
    • Making it possible for everyone to invest in high growth opportunities in capital growth – ICO is complex
      • Allow early adopters to be early investors with tokens – combining them (Tech & Money)
      • In tech, substitutes aren’t the big battles – it’s the combination of experience, ads appearing (hot dog vs hamburgers or buns)
      • Commerce vs ecommerce (IRL commerce, transition period) – emotes, digital motes and resources, domain names
    • Esports as more innovative – real sports will go by the wayside of vinyl, horse riding, etc…
      • Similar to crypto goods and internet domains
      • Shifting digital scarcity (songs aren’t scarce because you can share them – experience is)
      • Business model innovation
    • Internet move initially was moving media / goods to the internet (newspaper, songs)
      • What’s the NEXT move? Bitcoin – mining/release over time, for instance compared to porting
      • Numerai playing with staking (Skin in the Game – Taleb) – crypto-tokens make it easy to do.
        • Governance, on-chain

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  • Carey Lai (@laicarey), Managing Director with Conductive Ventures (Wharton XM)
    • Talked about funding and proper allocations
  • Connecting the Dots author, John Chambers – former Cisco (Leadership in Action / Wharton)
    • 25 years with Cisco, leaders, culture – have to make mistakes with risks
    • Top 3 takeaways included taking risks, know your culture and know your strengths
    • One of the best leaders in talking was the Israeli leader, Shimon Peres, former Pres
    • Kissinger’s quote

Investing Profiles and How Businesses Adapt to Digital Age December 20, 2018

Posted by Anthony in Automation, education, experience, finance, medicine, questions, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Producing valuations over the past couple years has allowed me an easy opportunity to keep up to date with an ever-changing sector – fintech. To see what has been done on the finance side with data as more and more is collected is fascinating. I think it’s great that more people are curating ideas on how it may be best for like-minded people to invest responsibly. Individuals, not just institutions, pensions and private practices should be comfortable in the process and be able to see how they want to be invested.

Happy holidays everyone and travel safe!

On to the notes:

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  • CSO of OpenInvest, Josh Levin (@joshlevin11) (Bay Area Ventures)
    • Talked about trying to find exactly what people want in funds
      • Example was green + gender focus (he said they don’t exist together, or they’d be expensive)
      • Gender focus does a lot of Oil + Energy (specifically oil, where women are on boards more often than other sectors)
        • Green energy might be another profile
    • People are increasingly wanting to be aware of what companies are doing and how they’re invested into these companies
  • Book – Go Long: Why Long-Term Thinking is Your Best Short-Term Strategy, Rodney Zemmel segment (Wharton XM)
    • Check
  • Grant Geiger, EIR Healthcare (Wharton XM)
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    • Started at Siemens Healthcare, eventually developed the first modular hospital room
    • Hospital of the future – rooms that can be converted as needed for patients
  • EQUILEAP founder, Diana van Maasdijk (Wharton XM)
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    • Nonprofit foundation for accelerating gender equality in workplace
      • Focused on the ETF/Fund (but failed at statistics aspect of the fund – $2bn market cap ~3000 companies
      • Scored them on various equality / csr requirements, then back-tested
      • Said they outperformed (but didn’t note the survivorship bias)
  • Forbes Marketing, Director CMO, Stephen Diorio
    • How did Forbes continue to market?
  • Integrated Beverage Group CEO Ari Walker (Wharton XM)
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    • Former owner of Baroness Wines, grew to largest independent alcohol distributor in CO
    • Focused on innovative process in wine and spirits (engineering the flavors based on input from sommeliers and makers)

Engineers, Research & Starting Up! Also, Women in Work (Notes from Week of Nov 12 – 18) December 4, 2018

Posted by Anthony in education, experience, finance, global, questions, social, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Hello all! Hope everyone’s Thanksgiving went well and the start of December hasn’t been too cold. By California standards, we’re freezing. Literally only for a few minutes (frost warnings) and no snow in the bay area, but we’re used to much warmer weather. It’s delaying my morning routine. May have to zoom to Chicago and colder weather this weekend just to come back and act like it’s warm (comparatively). It’s definitely part of my hesitation in doing client engagements east of California.

The past few weeks were busy! Now that I have my Surface up and running again, though, we’re back in business. The week of notes came from a variety of people, primarily researchers we’ll say, who dove into businesses that sprung from that work. What did they learn in their time as operators? What did they learn in building / searching for funding?

Later in the week, as I was driving back to the Bay Area and attempting to avoid smoke inhalation, I caught the end of a women at work segment on Wharton’s Business XM channel with George Yancy (author of #MeToo article) questioning the foundation / construct of our environment that’s fueled the movement, as well as a very quick (but didn’t catch the name) piece of SheEO and HeyMama founders/members (?) that I’ll need to search further for. The women there were entrepreneurs that wanted a community of like-minded successes juggling family, life, work and everything in between. I bookmarked it as something to pass along to my sister and those I know who are questioning that juggling while venturing into family life.

Let me know what you think!

 

  • Fabrice Grinda, Super Angel at FJ Labs, BeepBeep (20min VC 072)
    • 200+ investments, start-ups, FJ Labs, former co-founder of OLX
    • Treats himself as an entrepreneur vs investor – built ebay-type company 18 years prior (late 90s)
      • From start, other entrepreneurs would come for advice as he gained traction and notoriety
      • Increased volume and pace of investments at start of 2000s (up to 20-30 in 08-09 and more)
    • No time to sit on boards – 200+ investments
      • Few % of ownership, don’t often lead rounds – lead VC A, seed and maybe a later one (3-5 board members only)
    • Deal flow from all kinds of people, LinkedIn, websites, etc
      • Has invested in 200+ companies which lends them to 500 founders and they can talk to them that way
      • Other countries where they may be able to invest, as well
    • Mentioned his 2014 book of What If?, Think Like a Freak
    • FlexPort and freight forwarding where B2B platforming, product people inline with end to end consumer bases
  • From Research to Startup, John Hennessey – chairman of Alphabet (a16z 10/6/2018)
    • RISC – sentence with hard words vs clear, precise English for faster computing
      • IBM and Deck in 1980s, first thing you had to do to find info was go back east and ask
      • Early 1980s initially invented architecture, dominant nearly flipped in late 1980s
    • Server cost is first, then the power or energy cost is next
      • Embedded space was the one where RISC made a breakthrough because of computing necessary
    • He was a reluctant entrepreneur (had a paper and figured people would take it and run – they didn’t because it didn’t sell east)
      • Gordon Bell came to him and said John would have to run a company
      • Said he thought engineering should get 50% of revenue (quickly learned sales needed them)
      • Selling to people was easier than to give it away and have impact
        • More you charge, more successful the implementation – people will have to commit
    • Had cut from 120 people to 80 and then give a TGIF speech on being a “great company”
      • 28% of Stanford’s endowment disappeared in financial dot-com bubble and meant the company couldn’t spend how it had
      • Decided a big cut to lean out was the method to continue forward
    • Technology licensing is like extracting blood vs being partners with the entrepreneurs (unis should get tech out there – be respectable of faculty, as well)
      • Wider range of experience and students will typically go into industry vs education
      • Universities are the hub of innovation starting – Silicon Valley elsewhere
        • SV has gotten larger over last 15 years (he said, no doubt, China is 1)
    • In leadership, humility as important, as long as you maintain ambition
      • “If I show weakness, my people will lose faith in me” – humble with a decision made
      • Talked about expanding Stanford (and now, changing education) – “Everyone should watch more Shakespeare”
        • How to leverage technology to get cost of education down, otherwise more and more expensive since they’re less able to save
          • Bryan Caplan’s “Case Against Education” (7/8 of education and out, don’t get 7/8 of value so the value is in the signal of the finish)
        • Interdisciplinary and how comp sci is a meta-discipline (algorithmically thinking)
    • Has been a shift from research at universities to industry, driven by data at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon
      • Prior industry research with IBM, Bell Labs pre-1980s, they had long-term driven research because they were all monopolies and could afford it
      • Waymo winning self-driving car with DARPA project was tipping point, Cisco as a different form of acquiring businesses with interesting tech
        • Spin-ins that have been immensely successful (send team out to develop, build a company, and then bring back in)
    • Computer Science and Women in the Business
      • 1980s they dominated the field until it absolutely blew up in the 1990s, and now it’s getting closer to critical mass
      • Tools are much more sophisticated and being able to learn
  • Author of #IamSexist article, George Yancy, prof of philosophy at Emory (Women@Work, WhartonXM)
    •  Author of Dear White People and the #IAmSexist articles that tried to deconstruct some of the inherent biases that many people grow up with
    • Clearly a majority of people aren’t blatantly racist or sexist, but rather it’s a construct of our environment that we’ve grown up in
    • He declared himself an Antisexist Sexist (has to fight his notions each day)
  • SheEO  & HeyMama (Wharton XM)

    • Community of empowering mothers / women in business, connecting them to discuss their problems/solutions juggling successful careers with life
  • James Borow, Chief Product Officer at Brand Networks (20min VC FF013)
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    • Planned on being a lawyer – was at Vanderbilt, took off a year before graduating, and worked for an internet company
    • Deferred Georgetown (de-risked because he could do this), eventually met his co-founder of Shift
      • Created Buzzfeed before Buzzfeed (GirlsGuideToo?)
      • Had to programmatically get advertisers onto the social platforms before it was accessible
        • Educating clients in new market as difficult – reached a whole new audience as part of value pop
      • One marketing platform for all stakeholders and across all social networks (now vs then)
    • Make bets and invest to grow, mentors to help – not looking to reinvent the wheel (but can waste years figuring out your way)
      • Giving up equity to people for help – want investments and a piece to motivate them to help
    • Approached by Brand Networks because they were better at content – James’ team better at payments
      • As product focus, he can pay attention to things he wanted to do in the past
      • If weak in finance or product or anything, tell cofounders/advisors and get help
  • Karl Friston, Wired article
  • Shane Parrish

Changing What We Expect From Medicine (notes from Nov 5 to 11) November 22, 2018

Posted by Anthony in experience, finance, global, medicine, questions, Uncategorized.
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I have mentioned Singularity University a number of times over the last month or so, in addition to suggesting books that have come out of it. I had the pleasure of listening to a number of the conference talks from the Exponential Medical Conference that was held in Coronado, CA over the first week of November. You can find many of the talks available at that site above, also. This was the theme of the week, along with a few listens to a16z on cryptocurrency and 20min VC on seed investing. Hope you enjoy!

  • Moira Gunn, Professor at UCSF (ExMed Live Conference)
    • Tech Nation Health on NPR radio podcast, International Bio Conference
    • Makes a good point of competing for attention, not ears anymore – everyone is everywhere
    • Top biotech/biopharma trends: protein degradation
      • Biopharma as part of Big Pharma
  • Rachel Thomas of Fast.ai (xMed Live Conference)
    • 5 myths of AI
      • Needing “Big Data”; Deep learning only works for very limited problems;
  • 3 Common Myths About Crypto with Katie Haun (a16z, former fed prosecutor) and Paul Krugman
    • Crypto is anonymous (only criminals)
      • Dark net markets in 2012 were 30%+ of value of Bitcoin transactions, now down to only 1%
      • Pseudonymous – government can easily trace crypto, as well as some individuals
      • Financial institutions spending $20bn to fight and stay AML compliant – 99.9% launderers succeed anyhow
    • Besides speculation, no use
      • Speculation as loaded term – wheat farmers, ex
      • Venezuela 10% of localbitcoins transactions there
      • 2bn unbanked people, 86% in Middle East – bitcoin was an option (one of Time’s Top 100 who employed women s/w eng)
      • Cryptocurrency allowing transfers that would often lose out 7.5% (avg) or up to 30% in fees to Western Union or other agents
      • Stores of value – digital as photos, songs, music, etc..
        • Gold vault compared to bitcoin
    • Crypto is just about currency
      • Stores of value, intermediary removal (or transfer), dapps (tokenization and scale)
  • Salim Ismail (xMed conf)
    • Disruption of institutions (marriage, religion, education, taxis, etc…)
      • Marriage updating of institution
      • Pope trying to update religion – where you’re selling the afterlife
      • Education and cramming topics into students heads
      • Higher education where you try to study tech that, when done with program, is outdated
    • Music, car, energy industries that will go from physical to informational service
      • Cut middle men as you go end-to-end – deflationary effects are massive (used music as example from peak to trough)
      • Humans are poor in recognizing linear vs exponential paces
    • Drones, lidar, 3d printing (35+ years)
      • Price per performance dropping quickly
    • “Any company designed for 20th century success is doomed to failure in the 21st century” – Ghoas
    • MTP and mentioned GitHub / Microsoft purchase of $7.4 bn for company with no assets, workforce or ip
    • Advice to large companies
      • Transform leadership (mindset, education)
      • Inspire ExOs at edges (change makers at edges and next to market) – Apple’s true innovation is organizational
        • Nestle has research on creating diets based on DNA, Corona into marijuana, IKEA into vertical farms
        • “Exponential Transformation” as opensource, FastTrackInstitute – try to solve problems for 1/10 cost (project: corruption in Medellin)
      • “We can’t fix that, it’s too big” – regulatory issues (think, people leaving to do stem cell research elsewhere, or ultrasound opioid addiction)
        • Retrofitting to the legacy challenge – set up a clinic outside of the hospital or other corporation and spin it off (Nestle and Nespresso)
  • Nicolas Chirls, Founder and Partner of Notation Capital, Pre-seed Investing (20min VC 071)
    • Pre-seed investing in pre-growth startups
    • Fascinated with the company – find a way to join the company regardless of the role (For him, that was BetaWorks)
      • Seed investing business start – knew very little, but others had already left so he got in to learn to the basics
    • His mentors – Andy Weissman, Collaborative Funds
    • Notation Thesis (had started a year prior): NY can produce $1bn exits (Etsy, Mongo, Tumblr, etc…)
      • NY has a critical mass of talent, engineering and designers
      • $150k checks into pre-seed rounds ($500k or less – don’t need millions to show traction and a big team for early product-market fit)
    • Running fund for 6 months and made 8 investments – thinks he can work with top founders disciplined with money raised early
      • He counters that repeat founders are best founders (they often choose to raise more – compared to first timers who don’t)
    • Has interactions with founders (likes in person) about capital raising and product architecture
    • Not a fan of demo days – prefers meeting and getting to know founders
    • Has a fund of $8mln – initial checks range from high single digit ownership % and follow ups
      • LP universe is hard to navigate as opacity increased
    • Blog – Wait, But Why (profiling various topics/authors)
  • Jay Parkinson? (xMed before Laura Jana)
    • Eugene Debs (president candidate garnered 5% of vote, from prison) talked about people that ended up being wrong in new ideas were the majority
    • Healthcare moves very slowly – 20-30 years – but advantage is that there’s a framework / playbook for improving this by other industries
  • Andrew Pelling, U of Ottawa (xMed)
    • Just stretch (mechanical force) as cells start to destroy other cells, physical (dye) difference meant they changed or separated
    • Little Shop of Horrors – Ideal biomaterial
      • Sustainable/ethical source, minimal foreign body response
      • Example of apple-ears (and other type), “designers for ears or other body parts”
      • Regenerative medicine
    • Plant cellulose as being overlooked (flesh, bone, spinal tissue/nerves)
  • David Karow, Health Longevity CEO (xMed)
    • Discussion of various diseases rid from stem cell
  • Osman Kibar, Samumed CEO
  • Bob Hariri, Celularity
  • Group of 3 above – 23&Me, Ancestry – 1000 medically significant variants (but they only look at 3)
    • Layperson algorithms that integrate quantitative data with the actionable

Problems Require Passionate Solutions (Notes from Oct 22 – 27) November 6, 2018

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This was a week for venture, seed investing combined with a number of episodes diving into psychology and differences of people.

Week of October 22, 2018

  • Jeremy Gilbert, Strategy and Product Initiatives at WaPo (Work of Tomorrow, Wharton XM)
    • Talked about how automation has helped free up some of the repetitive processes for journalists and editors
    • Can never have too many editors – who say that there can always be more journalists
    • WaPo has looked to scale the number of stories, and that’s allowed them to provide smaller stories to more people
    • Automation in the form of Heliograph system for the election – newsy material that updates automatically
      • Don’t want journalists spending time on curation or number-gathering, should be on analysis and interviews and getting the story
  • Defy.VC co-founder, KP Trae Vassallo (WhartonXM)
    • Talking about seed stage venture and series A – 7 in less than a year and closing fund
      • Doesn’t care if bootstrapped or crowdfunding, though her and partner have invested/worked with 5 of 7 founders teams
    • Institutional start-ups have boards that could be very beneficial in identifying business models, proper ear but doesn’t exclude others
    • Co-wrote Elephant in the Valley, on women / diversity harassment in the Valley
      • Did a short poll of other women ~50 when she realized she wasn’t alone for the culture in the valley
      • Not a feeling exclusive to SV – very prominent in Hollywood, Madison Ave, Wall St, etc…
    • Doesn’t care about failures if founders have generated a learned knowledge for how to avoid or change what went wrong
  • Using Facebook to Understand Depression, Andy Schwartz and Johannes Eichstaedt (Wharton XM)
    • Surveyed some 1500+ people, actual data and analysis in World Well-Being Project
    • Went through Facebook to determine usage of certain words and language that gave indicators of depression
      • Ex: me/I when used often typically signified a higher sign of depression
      • Usage of the word ‘alone’, at all, may be a signifier (but multiples didn’t seem to enhance case)
    • Data questions of health – if you assess the subjects’ mental health status (or in general), that information becomes subject to HIPAA and other privacy laws
      • Had to control who is looking, every stroke gets logged and people must be hyper aware of what it is they’re a part of
      • If this can be used for treatment or further diagnosis, ramifications of data privacy and health are a big challenge
  • Debra Mashek, Professor of Psychology at Harvey Mudd (Women @ Work, WhartonXM)
    • Talked about how 60% of college students are women but not taking the higher-paying wages still (or majors that’d pay that)
      • Mentioned HMC’s success: Dean/President is woman and 54% of CS and 56% of Physics majors are women, going to better things
    • Often, women were deterred by initial hurdles
      • Survey/study where an online course had a pre-quiz: women that performed poorly would drop the course; males – no such thing
      • How to fix this, and make it so they aren’t put off
    • Online platforms enable women professors to be scaled (women will take a course or be drawn to it with a woman professor)
      • Easier because there still aren’t enough or haven’t been enough women in the field to draw the necessary influx of women talent
  • Javier Sotero, Corp VP of Outlook @ Microsoft (20min VC FF012)
    • Moved to Outlook after his startup, Accompli, was acquired by Microsoft for $200mln
    • Was chief architect at a startup, where he partnered with other 4 engineers at the company to buy out the product they built (for $1)
      • Company was failing, but they believed in the product and market there and transitioned into that
      • Company was called Hypeeric (sp?)
        • Sold in 2009 when they had 1000s of customers, $10mln+ in revenue, to VMWare and wound up as CTO
    • Accompli started as EiR at Redpoint, failure was Covalent (tremendous amount of capital)
      • New game, new rules (but they fell prey to old stuff – top down, Seibel-style business)
        • Showed him that you can have top tier money and intelligent people and actually fail still
      • Bootstrapped for multiple years before taking institutional money
    • Good investor for him: pushes founder to think and achieve more than you may have thought
      • Growing business with 0 capital, $15million to build already and got it for $1
      • Respecting the amount of capital brought in
      • Investors as being very helpful through the crash in 08 – maintaining build, product and the customers
      • Find a simple, straight forward approach: vitamin product, painkiller product, viagra product (blog post, not his)
        • Vitamin: not felt immediately – felt down the line (hygiene for instance)
        • Painkiller: attractive (everybody needs to fix pain) but “tolerance” or how “long-lived” product is – churn issues
        • Viagra: previously thought impossible become possible
    • His belief: venture capital as fun sheet bs and an illogical attraction toward terms
      • Remembered at Hypeeric that people would ask about valuations and he hated it
      • Incestuous, passing deals back and forth (“VC is not a true market”) – limited number of players managing flow
        • Amazing part of US and global economy – “great valuation” not a marker for anything from the business side
    • Reasons for selling to Microsoft – middle of transition from deeply loved, widely-adopted to enterprise business (and really make money)
      • Fortunate to already have multiple $ of sales and customers – 2 in Europe, 1 more in UK, and 2 in US to work closely and craft Accompli service
        • He was already familiar with that and growing up as team/company
      • Says nobody was searching app store for Accompli, so they needed to somehow deal with marketplace, such as Microsoft
    • Wait But Why blog
  • Jeff Clavier, King of Seed Funding (20min VC 069)
    • Founder and Managing Partner of SoftTech VC, closed 150 investments
    • Born and raised in France, did a start-up in fin services that was acquired by Reuter’s in the UK
      • Moved in 2000 to SV to a venture capital firm – partner at Reuters Partners fund
      • Started SoftTech in 2004, focused on early stages of industry – gap for people in few $100k’s for funding vs millions ($10mlns)
    • Been working for a few years, FitBit was his investment – ~15 per year
    • Asked if it was efficient to build hardware companies on cheap capital – introduced to founders as he was finding out about this
    • 250 microVC funds have gained $4b in funding
      • Thus, understand the type of company, location and market of your start-up
        • This should narrow your VCs that you want to target for funding/partnership (~5-10) that should have interest in what you’re building
    • SoftTech is a B2B and SaaS investor, vertical/horizontal/mobile and marketplaces, as well as connected devices (home, payments, healthcare)
      • See 3000 companies and only invest in 10-15 of them
        • Prioritize deal flow, typically, with in between connections (can get on calendar much easier with them)
    • It’s been said they’ve “forced” larger seed rounds – they look at roughly an 18 month runway (hiring eng, product to market, traction, few iterations)
      • Growth path should follow and clear the series A hurdles – ($2mil – $4mil – hardware taking more time, usually)
    • Only build a start-up about something you’re very passionate about
    • Best thing about being a VC – seeing the world through the lens of some of the most crazy and expansionary minds

Lessons from Jack Ryan, S1 September 11, 2018

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Summer is nearing an end. As September dawned, Amazon treated us to their series release of Jack Ryan, starring Jim from The Office [re: John Krasinksi] and Wendell Pierce (of The Wire, Suits or Ray Donovan fame). Pierce plays James Greer, the new head of TFAD for Jack Ryan, though not necessarily by choice. Why do I bring James in, other than being a powerful actor? The answer is the dichotomy that is so quickly evident between Jack and James. Without revealing too much [I will try to avoid big spoilers],  each made a major mistake that placed them into their position where we jump into the story arc.

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Analysis Paralysis

In the workplace, there are many types of people. We get to witness this firsthand, especially early on. Jack plays a quiet role, trying to “blend” in without attention. However, he is still deeply rooted in his quest to make up for a mistake and provide the most concrete, clear analysis that he can. I think MANY people, including occasionally myself, fall victim to analysis paralysis – the idea that there is so much to analyze or go into decision-making that you don’t take action, or don’t make a decision. Brutal for results! Especially if one is on to something in the first place. Jack Ryan is an economic analyst working for the CIA, lording over a ton of financial and transactions data of key targets / suspected affiliates. We see that he owns his data and recognizes tons of patterns [in the books, there’s a deeper insight that we read about but in the show, we merely get a glimpse]. However, it takes a massive push in a meeting to say that he has something. Again, he was unsure – a product of his new persona [post-mistake Jack] and wasn’t certain of what his analysis ultimately meant, yet. Too much data or limited communication or, due to his mistake in the past, hesitation for fear of being wrong kept him from making a conclusion or actionable communication.

jack-ryan

Communication

A memorable episode and collection of scenes for me occurred between Jack and the director of the French intelligence agency. He was frozen in a few moves, both personal and what they should do next for finding the bad guy. He explicitly states that he isn’t sure because it isn’t certain – the viewer can see the discomfort in him not being able to figure out the course of action. Thankfully, only a very few of us have life/death situations sitting on these decisions. Although, that doesn’t discount the many decisions that are still important.
Some find it much easier to communicate what they’re doing than others. Some are comfortable making mistakes and owning them [or not] and others want to be absolutely certain that they’re comfortable in whichever way a decision will go [because their data / reasoning supports it]. Much of what we do can never be 100% certain or right. Communication is extremely important. But it has to be thoughtful. Additionally, we all benefit from clear, concise [business] questions decided ahead of diving into the data or exploration. That way, there’s a goal in mind – teams can get on the same page to know what they’re working toward and how. Developing this skill or coaxing it from team members can be the difference between success and failure, both in the show and our own work environments.

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Individual Action

This goes with both of the lessons above. Individuals can excel on their own, but even the most individual jobs require communication and supporting evidence to complete them. Whether it’s a back and forth between clients or customers and even team members, I’d imagine the people who produce to succeed most often are ones that can involve the right people at the right time in the process. Better yet, we should all try to leave a trail of production / processes so that we can decide how to operate better in case of a mistake, or repeat the process if there is a success. Allow others to share as necessary. This was in short supply in the series – Jack and James, though together, worked far too often as individuals when chasing (resulting in getaways). As they adapted to each others’ styles, there became a better understanding of each other, guided by their common goal. Hopefully, in the next season, we see them further gel as a duo while growing as individuals, continuing to learn and make up for their past mistakes.

Despite some cheesy scenes and a few plot holes, I found this first season a necessary prelim to what I believe will become of Jack Ryan – seeing what he tries to improve as an analyst, operative and individual. I enjoyed being able to see a character struggle through these lessons that so many of us encounter in our everyday lives.

 

Checklists?!?! April 17, 2018

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My weekend reading consisted of Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto after completing Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness. Each were fantastic, and I would recommend both. However, Checklist was a reminder to all of the things that we think we can memorize but often leave out a single step. Dr. Gawande uses anecdotes from his surgery background as well as riveting stories from across multiple industries known for going through checklists (mainly, airlines / flight and construction).

The juxtaposition of the two books allowed me the time to compare and reflect on each as they related to each other – an intertwining in heuristics, as it may. Taleb presented reminders of the ultimate affect of randomness that surrounds daily decisions. Remaining even-tempered throughout a journey if there is an actual strategy in place from beginning to end (or until an adjustment is made given new data). The process is important and should be the primary recipient of our determination of success/failure. By not taking the overall strategy into context, humans are more likely to be emotional/reactive to natural fits of randomness in the path (whether good or bad). Observing and noting these but not reacting can be key in avoiding biases that may otherwise lead someone to do something irrational. What drives these strategies and keeps us on the process path? I, for one, would often say that the knowledge gained through reading and experience. However, as a human, I don’t have the capacity to remember, upon perfect recall, all of the requisite experience at once. So, organization becomes paramount and explicit processes can be put into place – visible, not mental. This is where Gawande’s book helps.

Succinct processes can be made into a checklist. If I’m honest, I am terrible with To-Do Lists, checklists, notes, etc…. If I am good in making them, they fall away quickly to memory cache and out (until I know I need it again). A VISIBLE checklist of processes, especially when my next venture will require others to know what we’re doing, is the best way to be clear and concise. I will say that in my work as a start-up valuation consultant, I do use an ordered list for what I want to go through for a project and that has yet to steer me wrong. When I want to explain something, most is by memory, but in many lines of work, it may be best to go with a checklist that you can recall and share. Gawande makes a point that the checklists aren’t long or drawn out – more a reminder of what to consider/do in certain cases. There is a requirement for expertise and familiarity, not a step-by-step beginner-friendly mini-book.

This reminds me of PowerPoint presentations that try to include paragraphs of information on each slide. This will detract attention and reduce the power of a point you may be trying to make. Yet I see presentations done like this all too often, and it’s such a turn-off. I shut it out or turn off the video. Own your project, research, data. Set reminders for yourself to engage the audience with your short, succinct points or pictures. Have a checklist of things you wanted to cover and touch on them accordingly. Checklists shouldn’t be shameful – read the book and see how many times Gawande’s research found errors – they’re minimal but can have lasting consequences. There are consequences to not providing certain details in other fields (maybe not as life-threatening) but maybe they do affect livelihoods.

Maybe above all else, Gawande’s usage of checklists enabled communication around a common goal for a team, regardless of being a team previously. As much as each actor in the checklist believes to be an independent agent, aligning a common goal means everyone should be on the same page in the process. Feedback can be as important as execution if it can improve the overall effort. I hope to be able to utilize and refine this tool in order to better my processes and my work. Good luck to everyone!

Productive Purge: Less is More March 21, 2018

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There may come a time where I don’t feel this relief. Where you don’t question the purpose of keeping 10-15+ year papers that have collected dust from middle, high school and college. Some may say there is a novelty of being able to reflect upon the papers and compare but honestly, if you’ve learned, I would say that you’ve chosen what sticks to mind and what doesn’t.

In Algorithms to Live By, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths demonstrate how sorting algorithms run our decision-making processes, both in the short-term and long-term. The default? LRU – Least Recently Used. Our memory stacks on new things learned repeatedly, pushing further the less recent events down the stack. What is concrete, reviewed, fully understood may maintain a cache available on call but the percentage of material we see that falls into place is minimal (and as we age, a smaller percentage still – albeit more knowledge overall). One of the most rewarding [re: relieving] feelings was ridding myself of materials that no longer seemed relevant, especially when space can be limited. There was a weight per space allocation that had to be measured. All of the feels or none of the feels?

What did I keep, you ask? Books. I am keeping an entire me-sized bookcase worth of books, a majority of them classics or favorites from college and my push to read more since exiting. I did also keep the Harry Potter series (it can live appropriately in my mind instead of the awful recreation the movies were – don’t @ me). From my youth, I threw away many of the fantasy and science fiction stuff. I kept WWII, military aircraft, Star Wars and Star Trek spacecraft/weapons books. The amount of creativity that went into those books to create possibilities that we have seen or may see bits of in the future is astonishing. Then I felt obligated to keep textbooks I refer back to, both for valuations/corporate finance, as well as multi-variable calculus, analysis (complex & real) and interestingly enough, my sociology and bio-engineering ethics materials.

Currently, my dresser is emptied, desk is cleaned, nightstands donated and bookcase emptied. I have my laptop bag and a closet filled with necessary bathroom materials, dress shirts, blazers/sport coats, suits, long sleeves and then 2 suitcases of t-shirts, shorts and the rest of clothes. And don’t forget the shoes. Oh, and the Xbox One to go with the stereo (which is currently on the fence for donating). That’s it, and it feels good. Again, the attachment isn’t there. James Altucher mentioned often that he has no attachment to his place of residence – not owning a home, renting as needed and in short-terms so he could move at a whim. I’m not quite there (I like the idea of returning to a place to sleep that’s consistent as I don’t strike myself as one who can just take a 1-way ticket without a time frame), but I feel closer, and it’s freeing.

We attach ourselves to the past and present and the more we do this, the more I believe there’s an anchor. Now, if it’s seen in a positive light, this isn’t a negative. They’re reminders of where all of us have been. However, attitude dictates that. And I, for one, would love to continue to be more mindful and positive of these circumstances.

I am excited for what is ahead and hope the lessons from the past influence me to provide an easier path, one filled with only new challenges to learn from.

Let’s go forward!

p.s. There’s something to be said for this in lieu of Stephen Hawking’s death last week on Einstein’s birthday / pi day (he was in Cambridge at the time of his passing, a day ahead of U.S.). A Briefer History of Time was provided as summer reading entering UC Berkeley as a freshman. This was a readable (even for non-engineers/mathy-types) book that simplifies concepts that are both taken for granted as well as presenting the inconceivable in a simple manner. I had the pleasure of attending Hawking’s lecture in the spring of that year, as well. It will remain one of my personal highlights. This is a man who wanted to feel what it was like to go into space and got the opportunity to do so after his condition worsened. We should all aim to go after what we’re passionate about – forward, upward and onward.

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