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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.

Unapologetic You (Notes from Sep 9 – 15, 2019) October 25, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Every Sunday morning comes in The Profile newsletter to my inbox. It’s a great collection of what drew her eye on the week that focuses on profiles for individuals, good, bad, successful, unsuccessful, notorious, secretive, dangerous and generally people of all ilk. They’re almost all interesting, some more so than others. But yesterday, it caught my eye when Polina introduced the newsletter about her personal experience growing up and the first convention of being different. In reading it, I could see a bit of the problems and commonalities in many students I have seen over the years. And more than that – the ones who I’ve had the most enjoyment in teaching – were those that were unapologetic about who they are.

Many, as kids, were still working through it, but they were questioning the very thing Polina had described. And that’s of increasing importance as we get larger and larger webs of interconnected communities. The aggregate and the averages tell us how we should be or what you’re expected to score and how you fit relative to the rest. Rarely, if ever, does the crowd define any/every individual, though. The sooner we can all wrestle with that concept, the more comfortable we should be. Starting and doing a newsletter, for instance, should be as simple as writing what interests you. Yes, as it resonates and draws others in, there may be some curation to optimize what you decide to make it. And further, it’s probably good form to have some consistency in producing it (frequency/length/formatting) but that’s up to you, the individual.

I’d like to think that people want real, genuine thoughts, and less gimmicky writing. As an aside, that doesn’t mean people don’t consume if it’s not genuine – I just would venture that as soon as you break the mold on what APPEARS real (if actually not) would cause an uproar – as we see via YouTubers/Twitch streamers and even in some blog/vlog stuff. An act that is an act has an end, but an audience doesn’t then know what it’s getting. People don’t typically like change if it’s different, even if it may be “better”.

The best part of all of this? You get to choose what you want to do. Make the decision that makes you happiest and assess the aspects of your life that don’t. From there, create and prioritize how you may make the changes that lead you in that direction.

There are many people that I listened to over the course of this week.

  • Jen Stirrup (@jenstirrup), Data Whisperer  & created consulting Data Relish (Data Skeptic 9/6/19)
    ggkl0ilv_400x400

    • Deploying data science and impacting businesses
    • Last mile of analytics problem – interesting work and how to finalize to take to production
    • Cleaning data properly, putting data into dashboards for proper business intelligence – how long does it take to get to reports?
      • When you get reports, how long is your time to question (vs time to answer)?
    • She takes them a health check and tries to check out where they are vs where they should be
      • How clean is data, what are the real problems
    • Microsoft doing ML Ops and how it can fit into support, how to look after something when it’s gone live
      • Humans don’t want to appear stupid, so they want to be correct before starting
      • Start with end in mine: what are you trying to do?
      • Think about quality of data: still sees bad, missing data, incomplete data and things that they don’t use
    • ML Ops examples of solutions – email management, how do you manage it
      • Program can reach the end bound email, what it can do with the email (cs dept with automated service and pass hard emails to people)
    • Good customer success can be a chat bot – limited and what it can do but proper
      • Easing productivity issues – maybe tell me your phone number or putting in information to the chatbot to the crm
      • More and more requests for serverless technologies – spoke to university about container technology
        • Research can give the container with the paper and give to someone else to validate it
        • REST APIs or serverless or others can glaze over eyes if talking to business but others, early adopters, jump on it
  • Natalie Hampton, Founder/CEO of Sit With Us, Inc (Wharton XM)
    57d6e66a1300002a0039b71a

    • Talking about not having any background in coding, her art teacher pushed her to pursue it
      • Wanted to build the app and just found people/classes
      • Bullied and her art teacher was the one who would keep her door open for her
    • Pledge to use the app – figure out that adults were using the app, as well
      • Good for conferences, schools, colleges, workplaces

 

 

  • Henry Ward (@henrysward), founder & CEO of Carta (20min VC 4/12/19)
    carta

    • Carta helping private, public cos and investors manage cap tables, investments, and equity plans
      • $147mln in funding from K9, USV, Spark and Meritech
    • Originally tried a version of Wealthfront and Betterment called SecondSite – never got off the ground
      • Met Manu, who introduced problem for financing infrastructure easily in private companies, providing liquidity and power
      • Noticing executive half-life of about 18 months (say, $20mln – $70mln – then again from $70-200)
        • Companies scaling from 150 to 500 and then after that
      • People scaling linearly but companies scale exponentially
        • If an exec isn’t scaling, they don’t say “Let’s hire a VP of FP&A to support execs weaknesses” but instead “Let’s replace CFO”
        • Why is it true? – Any particular problem in scaling a company, can find someone that’s done it before.
          • Founder is keeper of the mission – can’t replace that but job changes a lot more
            • Smaller, personal relationships and people understood him for best intentions (but he’s a gunslinger and off-the-cuff)
            • Less mulligans for him as they’re larger now – Jeff Lawson at Twilio had ran into someone for printed t-shirts and Jeff said “not a fan of color”
          • His job becomes very specialized – story for employees, candidates, investors and press; 2 – right execs in right place
    • Was sole decision maker in early stage and he still is but he said it was a liability
      • Fewer day-to-day decisions to make but it matters more that they get it right and understand the context
    • Investors thinking of markets in terms of size / how big could it be / what’s competitive advantage
      • Happy going after conventionally small sizes but he looks for 1 of n – microstructure economics / territory will support multiple competitors
        • If you win market, creates a defensive ability and that’s n of 1 – 1 platform (as ‘small’ cap tables)
        • By owning a market of 1, you have the platform to dominate others
          • Markets were too small – any market would run out of oxygen, so you need an org that can go further in places
        • Data network effects could block all other entrants
      1. Have to be n of 1 market
      2. Have to have a business model that creates n of 1
      3. Needs innovation on customer acquisition model to quickly take over market share
    • In b2b – do you have a product that gives entry to commercial businesses?
      • Product and technology advantage are short-lived – best companies own lines of distribution, not great products repeatedly
      • Can go acquire great products and push them through distribution – both through M&A and through manufacturing
    • Their biggest issue – tying all pieces of network together – 10k companies, 400 a month acquired, distribution to vc – managing electronic stock
      • Law firms are power users of product but don’t have product that tie them all together – linearly
    • They love services markets adjacent to what they do – commodity product differentiated by brand – funded administration, for instance – 4-9a analysts
      • Paired a product team behind services group so the 4-9a runs at 70% margins – automate them to software
    • Goal of R&D is how much value can you provide – go build it, otherwise they won’t
      • Of value created, how much can be extracted – like keeping them as independent variables (when to extract)
        • Early stage, add ton of value and then deliberately say they don’t want to extract much – leave a lot of consumer surplus
        • Investor products: want to extract a lot of value but provide a lot of value and change these decisions (as markets mature, get larger)
    • Favorite book: Essays of Warren Buffett
    • Economic discrepancy is enormous and how to bring wealth to more people – Carta mission for more owners
    • Keeping investors up to date monthly and they love getting board members involved in the company (especially when they have 100 investors)
      • Meeting with VPs or execs to do weekly meetings of sorts
  • Joe Banner, President & CEO for Browns, Eagles (Wharton Moneyball)
    • Discussing needing to find udfa at a time when it wasn’t sexy – needed talent, and cheap
      • Only had 5 draft picks, late rounds mostly but had to fill a roster of 22 more
      • Brought in all of the undrafted free agents and eventually had 20% playing, few starting also
    • Making sure to prioritize talent over anything, not overvaluing high draft picks
    • Culture of change with placing a system around high valued guys who others thought were low value
  • Alina Trigubenko, Founder & CEO of Awarenow (Wharton XM)
    awarenow

    • Holistic and integrative nutrition
    • Corporate and enterprise customers – consumers within those that will do it
    • Calm / Headspace – next level and how
  • Shawn Burcham (@PFSbrands1), PFS founder, Open Book Management (Wharton XM)
    pfsbrandsonlylogo_hompage_2018

    • Being from the midwest and going to Tanzania for farmers
    • Keeps open books, shares with employees, prices with farmers
      • Has 60% more return for farmers and will even return cash (after being above fair price and world commodity)
    • Daughters played on same soccer team as John Sacks – read the book and was interested in changing to open book
  • Tim Chen (@timchen82), CEO of NerdWallet (Leadership in Action – Wharton XM)
    nw-default_og-image

    • Going through board – including AMEX former CEO, Jim (both from Series A investors)
      • Board as governance body, weakness on exec team, okay with level of risk
    • Initially believed he had to be smartest in the room but quickly realized the organization had to be working together
      • Have to switch mindset from point guard to coach – from Dalio
      • Investment committee – reasoning behind requests and resources, exec team reads through it and approves or not
      • Executive team depends and changes over time, common for product dev
        • Marketing, Product, Design, Legal, Eng, People, Content Heads
        • Monitoring (leading exec team similar to parenting) – irrelevant for what you say, but seeing what you do is the arbiter of what’s going on
          • Rewarding and punishing as consistent or constructive
        • Culture for what is okay and what is not, role of hiring and inspiring an adequate team to grow company
          • Maybe they don’t have right network for company, maybe can’t inspire
        • Have to be technically proficient in their space
    • Went from very niche product to being widely known once they started covering nearly all financial products consumers cared
    • Seeing around corners to bring himself and the org up the hill and grow
      • Surrounding himself with execs and others, getting named one of Top Workplaces in 2019
  • Adam Davis, CRO at Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (Wharton XM)
    unknown-4

    • Discussing on-ice and on-court revenue for Devils and Prudential Center
    • Coming and expanding Prudential Center into what it is now – leading entertainment center
    • Up to 49 concerts recently, more than Devils games
      • Data driving who wants to go to games, concerts and how that can be used to improve experience
  • Rare as One Project, CDCN, Dr. David Fajgenbaum (Wharton XM)
    logo-1

    • Partnering with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
    • Collective network and how do you widely adopt principles for other diseases
    • Partnerships with hospitals / care providers
    • Having a different background between Penn and medicine, MBA – not great for those that don’t have 5+ years
  • Nick Johnson (@NLJ1), Principal at Applico (Wharton XM)
    applico_company_logo

    • Author of Modern Monopolies
    • Discussion of platform businesses and linear – trying to combine
    • Encouraging linear businesses to, where applicable, try to get into platform business – didn’t provide any concrete details how
    • 3-5 strategies compared to 5-7, where hard for CEO and board to stay the course without “being 1% of 1% of CEOs”
    • Seemed to only mention Amazon, Airbnb, Walmart, Alibaba, ebay
  • Kulveer Taggar, founder & CEO of Zeus Living (20min VC 5/31/19)
    volcp38g_400x400

    • Raised $14mn from Initialized, NFX, Floodgate, YC, GV and Naval Ravikant
    • Co-founded Auctomatic with Stripe’s Patrick Collison and sold for $5mn
    • Angel investments include Boom, Airhelp, Meetings.io
    • Went to work at Deustche Bank and had a friend who had started a company at 15 selling computers, went to uni and offered a PR role
      • Eyes open to entrepreneurship and SV tech start-ups, just before finals got to come to Bay Area and Google office
      • Cofounder Joe was moving from SF to Palo Alto because his wife got residency – took weeks to try to get home rented out
      • What would be the UX quantum leap for your problem? Joe’s problem sparked the idea
    • Go to website, type address for your home and it gives you a price – you hit rent
      • Inspired by Opendoor, Stripe’s 7 lines taking payments, lot more rental data
        • Offer to sign lease with homeowner, gain data and solve the problem on demand side
    • All being impatient and learned that long-term horizons could’ve been better after hearing Zuckerberg/Bezos
      • Being intentional with culture – lot of fun – 5 guys in 2 br apartment where things may have gotten too far
      • Create collaborative environment
    • When you rewrite code, have to redo processes as well in tech-enabled
      • Acquiring and creating physical things – David Han at Instacart said thinking about output
        • Surface area of inputs: Zeus has to be good at many things
          • ID R/E, Pricing, Assessing, Designing, Furnishing, Marketing, Awesome CX, Marketplace matching
        • Then, you can get the output
    • Garry as having a conviction quickly – sees something that can change and invests quickly
      • CoinBase – liquidity crunch and he wired money instantly and is supportive
    • YC had an experiment funding teams w/o ideas – did it with Srinivas who’d done it
      • Got a check w/o any idea (had done YC in 2007) and YC had scaled a lot
      • NFC technology – was too early for scaling pmf and got into NFX with status app – status on your phone
      • Felt like he’d spent 3-4 years of working on stuff and hadn’t gotten anywhere – taking market risk with what you’re building
        • Instead, create a list of top 20 things by $ amount spent
        • List of top 20 things by $ amount frequency
      • If you have to ask whether you have PMF, you don’t – yanking your head forward with your nose, for instance
    • Did 6 weeks of data experiments, conversions tests, 6 weeks of qualitative research talking to users, investors and r/e
      • After 2 months of diligence and testing, partner at NFX sent him a test: In 6 weeks, get 10 homes on your market.
        • What’s margin structure, is there a market? Strangers controlling home.
      • Took about 4-5 months
    • Vulnerability strengthened his leadership, can’t be perfect CEO with all answers – motivated to go for culture
      • Once a quarter off-sites, “if you really knew me…” building stronger connections, team bonding
      • Work is where you have your professional self and you bring your whole self, manifests in itself
    • Fav book: Midnight’s Children – historical fiction with India told; How The Mind Works by Pinker
    • Change the bragging culture in tech – raised this much, vanity metrics and being counterproductive – not open or genuine
    • Running into a bottleneck will use software to break through – automate something that may have been manual processes
  • Michele Romanow, Founder & CEO at Clearbanc (20min VC 5/10/19)
    • Wants to spend $1bn in 2000 companies for access to capital
    • Founded SnapSaves, mobile savings platform acquired by Groupon and before that, Buytopia, one of Canada’s top ecommerce sites with 2.5mn
    • Engineering, started a coffee shop on campus
      • Figured out worldwide supply sturgeon caviar was down by 95% due to overfishing Caspian Sea – built to east coast for fishery
      • Chefs couldn’t get product, so they had a ton of buyers – giant recession in 08 as 21 yr old in luxury good space
        • Went to ecommerce space, didn’t raise funding, bought 10 competitors – controlled CAC and low
    • Canada’s Shark Tank – Dragon’s Den – do 17 days of filming back-to-back, see 200 startups
      • Had a father and son who wanted $100k for 25% equity – really needed $100k but realized she could do different deal
        • Wanted to see Facebook ad account to make sure ROAS was what it was
        • Companies spending a ton on early CAC
      • Estimate that 40% of VC dollars go to Facebook and Google ad spend and marketing
    • Works for positive unit economics and spending a lot of CAC – any ecommerce company, 70-90% spend cash
      • Subscription boxes, consumer apps/subs, b2b box even – can fund it for way less
    • Data science time has to be very good – not lottery tickets, 6% is ideal for them
    • VC as true risk capital – 0 to 1 risk, crazy piece of AI, solving disease, then it makes sense
      • If you know channels are working and repeatable, should be able to get capital
      • Comparison of Gates at Microsoft IPO or Lyft (50% ownership vs 3%)
      • Just celebrating when founders give up control / piece of company
        • Milestones for products, hitting 1mln users, etc…
        • Funding
  • Antonio Garcia Martinez, author of Chaos Monkeys (Launch Pad, Wharton XM)
    • Comparison of Seattle and SF and NY
      • SF being loud, Seattle being quiet but not necessarily huge, NY has less loud but big
    • Good mixture of deciding where to be

Inference Isn’t Just the Data (Notes from Sep 2 to Sep 8, 2019) October 14, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized.
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Internet has enabled more data, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for most. I’ve seen this for all ages – somehow, this deluge of information provides a glut where, instead of doing more research (because more is available), we seem to do less. There’s a laziness that has arisen, where the least amount of work is done because the sources are abundant. And this is problematic. And emblematic for what has transpired over the last decade with the web 2.0.

I say that it is problematic, but I do suspect it’s actually created a ton of wealth. The opportunity of doing a small amount of extra effort to sift through or provide a more nuanced/researched view in order to extract a ton more value from a wider audience is awesome. That’s never before been more evident or available to a wider group of individuals. Especially when, with nearly the world online, communities that would normally (past) not have had markets, all of a sudden have vast reach – internet enabled the connection across many neighborhoods/cities/regions/countries/continents. A magical thing for those that wish to do the research, put in a bit more work, and most importantly here, share the work for the public, at the cost of potential exposure to those that disagree or have reached a different conclusion.

I, for one, am all for this abundance. A sharing of differing opinions and agreement or stories of anecdotes allow us to bring more data into the fold. That should enhance any inference/analysis on the information brought to the table – and real applications, at that. However, like many good things, there will be a small portion of people that are bad actors or looking to just ruin the good derived from a community or topic. Also, may see plagiarism or curation that doesn’t really add anything – worse, monetizing the curation of something where the value isn’t created. For 100 people, 1 bad actor would still be 99% good. 99.9% of 10,000 people is 10 bad. That’s a fair amount, but when you have a commonality among the people where some join for the purpose of providing poor information, or unproductive data or ruin the experience for the rest, it can tear it apart. And that’s becoming harder to gauge, I’d imagine (rise of community managers and insertion of social data and other related ‘checks’ inserted).

So that I can get off this little soapbox, I wanted to bring attention to those that have so far only consumed information – please share and try to bring some new insights. It will hopefully bring in a new person that sees it – refreshing eyes can be useful on new information- we all have different experiences. And for the bad actors, hopefully there’s an end goal that does provide some value – it’s tough early on but the right communities invite opposing views to allow others to draw conclusions. Inferences aren’t merely opinion on the shallowest, easiest data to gather, but rather a collection and reflection on a set that may agree or collectively provide information to allow a deeper understanding.

Enjoy the notes I had from this week! I do suggest going through the a16z podcast 16Min on the News (for news from the week).

  • Apple Card, BEC Scams Fed (16 Minutes on the News #7, 8/25/19)
    • Became available this week – partnering with Goldman Sachs and Mastercard coated white and titanium
      • Apple moving into financial services, no typical sign-up fees or late / overdraft fees
    • Apple as reinventing existing categories repeatedly, so even changing basic stuff like making the transparency feature
      • Reminder of SMS and Innovator’s Dilemma (making money in core with new business on horizon because you’d cannibalize yourself to enter)
      • B2b2c as incentivized to grow – GS not a big consumer lending (Marcus last 2 years), but can drive growth
    • Offering 3% cash back when purchasing from Apple, 2% with Apple Pay, 1% from card – incentivizing payment mechanism
      • Interchange fee is expensive but if they become default payment mechanism, they can pivot
      • Money as emotionally driven vs functional and product – making sense in rational isn’t the move
      • Nobody wants to budget just as nobody wants to diet – instead, automate small financial decisions to help achieve better outcome
        • Self-driving money: not having to make the decisions to optimize your financial life (too high friction or don’t know about them)
    • GS with $350 to acquire customers – traditionally, credit cards have been onerous
      • Future: everyone should have access to payments via unsecuritized debt without great credit
        • People that are creditworthy with great credit scores but those that never pay bills and have bad credit
        • Overly negative in a different sense (ones that are almost wealthy that end up getting in trouble)
    • BEC scams – business email compromise
      • More than doubling each year – big deal on security
      • Sending email messages to send money – better technical systems are now just asking individuals (social eng as most effective form)
  • Ben Lorica, Chief Data Scientist at O’Reilly (Big Data Beard 8/13/19)
    268x0w

    • Future of Big Data with O’Reilly’s
    • Would take handle “5g” or something related for the future
    • Collecting, aggregating and normalizing big data now – business intelligence reports, simple averages or trends
      • What else can we do? Improve or automate processes/workflows or extract higher revenue from systems
      • Natural evolution and what are the bottlenecks for the AI / ML processes (are you early stages, models in production?)
    • Quintessential marketing for hype but developing a use case for the application
      • Tools for labeling data, data programming
      • Mentioned how to do ML with demo and user cases for interacting by Product Managers – SF O’Reilly conf
    • RPA with proper use case and proper implementation (close to the task)
      • Successful organizations have figured out how to bridge that gap – technologists with communication/collab on business side
    • On open source side, TensorFlow and PyTorch as top 2
      • Data science side – announcements about internal data science platforms to work together (share pipelines / features / models) openly
      • DataBricks, one company that he advises, also works on delivering enterprise data science platforms – IBM, cloud vendors
    • MLFlow as DataBricks’ for managing and tracking ML development life cycle
      • Monitoring alerts for retrain model, feature drift, deploy model against live data (simulating on live data but not production)
      • Model governance as tools that excite him – highly regulated industries like banking, financial services – what models and metadata
        • When was it last touched, trained, on what data, etc…
    • Managed services based on open source – managed Spark, for instance – minimal log in
      • If I have a better model but worse data, the better data should win, and that’s what drives competitive advantage
    • Big push toward hardware space – training at the edge or even model training in general – specialized hardware for accelerating DL / ML
      • More researchers working on data cleaning and data repair
      • Snorkl from Stanford researchers – easier for more people to use the product
      • Reinforcement learning – he’s most interested in UC Berkeley’s RISE Club’s REY (sp?) – distributed computation platform in C++ low latency
        • Building on top of REY as Odin – can cover 80% of Pandas, faster and other libraries
  • Frank, Chief Business Officer at Edge Sports/Analytics (Wharton XM)
  • Becky Miller, co-founder & CEO at Tinyhood (Wharton XM)
    858aeebd82f3bb14afd339eda1db

    • Wanting to connect with other supermoms and doing a community
    • Deciding to do parenting classes online and helping subscriptions
  • Josh Phifer, co-founder at Barn Owl (Wharton XM)
    barn20owl2020rgb20_stagexchange_intro20pic

    • From Wyoming / Nebraska ranching, went to Wharton
    • Starting with water sensors but wasn’t quite working or gaining traction, thought drones would work initially
    • Pivoting as they were running out of money to find a product – camera with satellite / cell connection from China sourcing
      • Bootstrapping about $175k from friends and family
    • Camera use case – all kinds of agriculture applications for checking – can send picture via app, timed or on certain amount of times
      • Solar and battery powered
    • Obsession over the problem, not marriage to a solution – feed the need
    • Initial app created with Bubble.io, introduced at Wharton – low code solution with logic programming
      • Hired on an employee – electrical systems who could help with building out full app and logistics
  • Mark Nathan, CEO of Zapari (Mastering Innovation / Wharton XM)
    • Discussion of moving from engineering, building stuff to the medicine / insurance field
    • Not necessarily working on analytics, but collecting and informing consumers and other stakeholders
    • Doesn’t foresee regulation as a hindrance, since what they’re doing isn’t predicated on that
    • Primarily started with SoCal, Medicare and getting adoption from pharmacies – assisting nurses on customer service end with their call center, ex
      • Not set up to deal with pharmacists or customers, can alleviate this and help with people fulfilling prescriptions
  • JD Long, VP of Risk Management for Renaissance Reinsurance (Data Framed #37, 8/27/18)
    renaissancere-grey

    • Starting in R stackoverflow asking questions / answers and building the community with Mark Driscoll
    • Graduated in undergrad, starting masters and asked where PhD’s were going (of Agri Econ): answers AMEX
      • Due to SAS and mainframes, UNIX, R-Cran hadn’t started
      • AMEX was explicitly recruiting in 1996 for these economists because of modeling, coding messy data, crop insurance, regression (econometrics)
    • History of cultural agricultural yields, weather and prices from before 1996 – which was agricultural crop insurance start
    • Simulate and stochastically getting a bunch of results that give you an idea of the distribution of the model
      • He does very little predicting of what may happen next year – looks at shape of distribution for the following year
      • Looking at improbable 1 in 1000 results that may be possible in that distribution
      • Book: “How to Measure Anything” – what’s the highest and lowest estimate
    • Risk vs uncertainty: Risk is understanding underlying distribution but not sure what you’ll get; Uncertainty is not knowing the distribution
      • Flipping a coin has risk – can model the probabilities if you know the coin, but uncertainty would be not knowing if the coin is loaded / biased
      • Auto insurance is type of product that is mostly risk, less uncertainty – predictable patterns, historical distributions and tail events
        • Terror events – historical categorization of events but no reason to see world events as drawing from the distribution of that
          • Unstable random geopolitical events, component of risk vs higher uncertainty
    • Reinsurance with risks that can be correlated based on underlying physical relationships, such as homeowners insurance in NYC should be correlated
      • Hurricane Sandy would be something that hits everything there
      • P&C companies with casualty claim could be connected among multiple companies
      • Legal change in framework could cause claims to increase 15% – have to understand the correlation when aggregating data
      • 2 distributions can be added or correlations using copula – artifact of some other process
        • Model data should be containing it already but this is only way to insert
    • In 3000 BCE, Babylonians had disaster contingency – loans didn’t have to be repaid if losses happened for certain events
      • Edmond Haley (Haley’s comet) created modern-style mortality table in 1693
      • Lloyd’s coffee house emerged for shipping news and buy shipping insurance (turned into Lloyds of London – marketplace now)
      • 1992 – Hurricane Andrew recharged after ripping Florida and hit Alabama and Louisiana – big catastrophe for reinsurance companies
        • Hurricane reinsurance was a gentlemen’s game – big contraction of market after Andrew, filled by crop of reinsurers in Bermuda
        • Became a quantitative analysis market after this – turning point of reinsurance, reasonable proximity for US and capital-free
    • Heuristics that make certain assumptions for the modeling of both finance, insurance
      • More effective models for sharing and coming together with actuaries, risks and methodology
      • Data science examples, actuaries methodology that would be working together (GLM combined with understanding on actuary side)
    • If asker of question made it easier on the question answerer (on example for Stack Overflow)
      • Incomplete code or maybe not syntactically right so the answerer cannot answer it properly
      • Empathy for the receivers of your opinion or problem or otherwise
      • If doing analysis to equip underwriter for a deal – what information does the underwriter need to be well-equipped for negotiating their deal
        • Influences and drives thinking of how to serve that analysis / information
    • “Hacking empathy”: from Agile development method would be User Stories
      • Hugo is a data scientist who is trying to understand X. He needs this tool to do Y so he can understand X.
        • Forces the person to do this to think about that user or other person
        • Think about who is consuming it to give nudges or reminding someone – doesn’t think that way
      • At DataCamp, how active or users or learning profiles that they are aimed at
        • Designing for average, you design for no one from podcast “99% Invisible”
        • Give target audience a name to relate to them; multidimensional space for ‘tyranny of mean’
          • If you have 3 dimensions of human body (leg length, height, hand size, arm length, etc..)
            any 3 with a small margin of error will be merely 6% of pop
    • Where is market opportunity? Met with a headhunter in space.
      • Deep learning and AI for media and ink spill – interesting and have potential for revolutionary changes.
      • Former guest Jenny Bryan who talked of attempting to get people out of Excel – massive movement there, he believes
    • If we don’t ask “Does our analysis change the outcome?”, we can do infinite analysis since it’s all that we don’t know
      • Never drive organization. Leaders should have candid conversations about if the research is going to change the answer of the decisions.
        • If it’s a no – why put resources toward it?
        • What’s the next best simplest alternative? Not comparing to doing nothing.
          • Deploying a complicated model should be compared to old forecasting method or cheaper, faster one. Is the added complexity worth it?
      • Hugo tells them to deploy basic baseline model, do 20 min of EDA and try to make own prediction. Then test the models against that.
        • In public policy, effectiveness isn’t against doing nothing, it’s the next best. Benchmarks are too often done at base.
        • “Plot your damn data”
  • Matt Lieber, cofounder & President of Gimlet Media (20min VC FF030 1/15/16)
    gimlet-and-spotify

    • Produced radio shows Fair Game and On Point, worked as a management consultant at BCG
    • Radio producer was his lifelong dream after being a radio head growing up
    • Met Alex Bloomberg after his MBA and consulting, who is the cofounder – left to go learn business side
      • Distribution to big audience, too many gatekeepers, market-by-market he had to go to program directors to pick up the show
      • Exciting thing, creative, ambitious work was happening there
    • Constraint breeding creativity – raising a series A
      • Had launched 3 or 4 shows in first year, scaling to some audiences and had worked
      • Revenue from start, ads in the beginning – VCs didn’t want to hear about those
      • Believed they could self-fund through profits, growth with revenues – don’t need to dilute, maintain control
        • Would need to build up the company after building some shows
    • Keeping small culture – fairly strong but not explicitly communicating it yet
      • Behavior of leadership and design of signs – started Gimlet Guides around 25 employees for onboarding
        • Gimlet Guides are the mentors for establishing new employee onboarding – lunch once a month, questions
    • Wanted to get a partner for VC who was aligned with the vision, experience investing in media for different return timelines and dynamics
      • Sea of change of how a whole generation will consume radio and shows
      • Simplest, direct way for market – size of radio ($18bn+ in US in advertising alone) – digital for mobile media market
        • Consumption shifting to mobile – advertisement doesn’t work (Gimlet is ~80% mobile)
    • Deciding how to make new shows? Question from someone
      • Mentioned “Surprisingly Awesome” – people want to be entertained and learn something, recent ep was interest rates and economy
      • Teamed up with Adam McKay and Adam Davidson for it
      • Learning, listen and come away with some understanding, a host to connect with and is there a narrative
    • Mystery Show, Reply All, Startup and Surprisingly Awesome are all the biggest shows
    • Favorite book: Great Plains by Ian Frasier, didn’t have an emulator
    • Challenging aspect of creating it: scaling editorial where you create a system to grow and teach editorial material
    • Most excited about the next shows – this case, a podcast about podcasts called Sampler
    • Best advice: Be nice.
  • Abhinav Asthana, Founder of Postman (Wharton XM)
    postman

    • Talking about why he loved building more than what he had done previously
    • Community for that

Fostering a Community (Notes from Aug 26 – Sep 1, 2019) September 23, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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What a crazy couple of weeks! And it’s not likely to slow – I’ll give some more information behind that very shortly. Exciting new things on the horizon, though – and ones I’ll be proud to announce when I can. August provided a lot of clarity in direction – good because it wasn’t exactly restful.

I mentioned it in last week’s post, as well, but I’ve been hyper-aware of the people around me interacting, enjoying and laughing over commonalities. It’s at every level, though I peruse coffee shops far more often than other places. Interesting stories are almost expected. If you refer to my reading list, you’ll notice a new one, Dignity. As part of a book club, I was hesitant and unsure when it took the lead because of the topic – primarily drugs/poverty/downtrodden/unlucky collection as reported, but halfway through I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much perspective Chris provides. I can’t help but draw that fixture of everyone has their own experiences that provide the lens through which we draw conclusions on everything else. Endless and it’s very tough to remove ourselves or step back – especially with things we’re unfamiliar with.

Ultimately, though, everyone wants to share their experiences with others – whether it’s some depth of despair, depression or building a community, religion, or hiring employees to work with or spending time for fun and adventure. We’re human. We spend time with other humans. There’s a reason we’ve survived this long in groups and why the solo artists end up in peril – this is completely generalized but in MY experience, I’d say I see a truth in this.

Kate Shillo, Director at Galvanize, mentioned her journey for Martha Stewart’s media company to Galvanize where they help businesses grow with their people. Morgan Dunbar, at Bendigo Partners, discussed his involvement in AIR – summit and conference for sharing ideas/businesses for financial services to hopefully rise all boats, as they say. Mike Vernal, at Sequoia Capital, went through how Facebook’s earlier years helped him with approaching problems and the finality of decisions – what they’ve fostered for the boards he is now a member of. He tries to understand the start-up and the founders view of the problem after a quick determination of if they know the idea enough. Others, which I only caught pieces of, had similar views.

I hope your community, whatever that may be, is productive and positive – helping you gain what you’d prefer from it.

  • Kate Shillo (@kshillo), Director at Galvanize Ventures (20min VC 1/13/16)
    gavalize-logo

    • Investing in hardware and future of IoT
    • Got an interview with Martha Stewart’s Omni Media and she was temping for her – living in NYC 2007
      • Would have an idea in her company – create, build & continue w/ mini incubators
      • She wishes Marthapedia was made – hasn’t done it yet
    • Wasn’t quite stimulated enough in 2007, she quit and bought a surfboard – 6 months later she was back in NYC
      • Had met Kenny Lerer (around in interviews) – met before Martha with an internet newspaper (Huff Post)
      • Took a huge pay cut to do some research on other startups as Kenny was on the chair for Huffington Post (~30 employees)
        • He was chair at Betaworks at that time, too
      • She was the human tester for Betaworks (only other one to test)
      • Helped launch Ken Lerer Ventures (Lerer Hippeau Ventures) as formalizing process for his angel investing
    • Help of having Huffington Post (sold in 2011) as starting propelled them into NYC market – unheard of at the time
      • Market down, nobody investing in seed – writing small checks at Lerer “Go by Betaworks and Lerer Ventures is there”
      • First content investment was Food 52
      • Consumer tech pics – paperless post, Warby Parker, Bottle Bar, BarkBox
    • Galvanize (continuous learning – helping businesses and their business grow – new archetype in higher ed)
      • Galvanize Ventures with 3 partners – all of elements to provide their startups
      • Early stage – small, idea from pre-seed to series A (seed process), reserving for follow-ons
      • Small markets like ATX, PHX, SLC to get in – coaching co’s along the way
    • 48 investments in 2 years
      • Consumer mobile-heavy so far, her excitement in hardware – starting in 2014 was IoT hotbed
    • Crowdfunding as a bit of advertising, validating customer interaction and capital as gravy – her opinion
      • Shipping product is usually a hurdle – many people don’t want to invest without seeing this
      • Reflecting on Lerer investments – seeing market share of her old portfolio companies
    • Size of fund is $10.2 mln, $100k checks for pre-seed, seed and series A – get priced out for series A
    • Favorite book: God of Small Things, misconception for VC: that it’s easy (no control for company sometimes but exciting when it works)
      • Sourcing vs existing portfolio co’s helping
    • Favorite apps: Moment app, Twodots (betaworks), Slash, Sunrise calendar, Pant, Wildcard and Venmo at the time
    • Recent investment: msg.ai empowering brands for messaging platforms ecommerce
  • Morgan Dunbar, partner at Bendigo Partners (FYI 8/5/19)
    86aeb71777442ba0eadc52ed226d20ee

    • Capital Market Space within FinTech as principal investors
    • Was mostly on sell-side for analytics on portfolio construction – with Citi Group in Tokyo in 2009 running Japanese equities
    • Bendigo – early stage fintech companies with bias on capital markets, retail, middle and back office
      • Advisor practice with institutional, private equity, large enterprise in capital marketers
      • Transaction advisory, operational consulting and strategy around fintech ecosystem
    • Bill Stevenson partner on AIR Summit – 2013 creation for invitation-only for senior buy/sell-side pros to discuss high-level themes
      • Alpha Innovation Required (AIR) – invite ~20 emerging fintech cos to speak to a use case for front office (alpha generative)
    • Traditional VCs have a fundamental lack of operational understanding in capital markets
      • Secondly, long sales cycle in businesses – thousands at enterprise level vs millions in consumer
      • Regulatory that can be scary without expertise
    • Artificial Intelligence as just replicating a process (as opposed to intelligent)
      • AIR focusing on people, organization, talent and cultural alpha
      • Tradition, trust, not new – center for innovation and trying to do something, be empowered for innovation and development
    • Google pushing into asset management other than cloud, data and analytics
      • Asset managers may start looking at Google like Bloomberg – help build portfolios, vendors to tap for alpha
    • If buy-side problem, then sell-side has a problem, fee compression (growth of passive) – active vs passive (value for performance)
      • Robos (whether or not they’re worth valuations) validated demographics looking for low-cost access with simple UI and intuitive
  • Mike Vernal (@mvernal), Partner at Sequoia Capital (20min VC 8/26/19)
    sequoia

    • Citizen, rideOS, Rockset, Threads & Houseparty board
    • Spent 8 years at Facebook as VP of Product
    • Sequoia – Brian, led A to join board for his roommate’s company and his former PM at Microsoft started a co in 2009 and Brian joined
      • Joined Scouts program early on
      • Had first child a week prior to 8 years at Facebook, took paternity leave to reflect
    • Really enjoyed Facebook first few years – tremendous energy and optimism to create something from nothing
      • Early stage founders in a garage for idealism and irrational energy, switched to Sequoia (been there 3 years)
    • Entrepreneurs that can explain entirety of business in 3-5 min, rest of meeting is the details of the pitch
      • Feedback cycle for great and enduring company – decision-making is a short or longer memo and reading through them
      • For his mistakes, thinking and writing and playing out future – each case was instinctually being interested but not trusting instincts
        • Try to be rational and analysis-driven
      • More importantly, internal conviction on a company, founding team and working on
      • If not at Sequoia, would he go work for that company?
    • Terminal and non-terminal decisions – once you’ve made it, you can’t make it again
      • Do something, if wrong, do it again – try to hire, realize mistake, hire again
        • Pick one, roll out to some, figure if it’s working or not, and iterating
      • Venture – most important is decisions – if you pass a round, you’re done maybe until next round
      • In operations, tempo and learning for decision-making
    • Bundling vs Unbundling – past 10 years will be unbundling of SaaS and best in breed
      • SaaS that are more niche – features as something larger, $1 or $2 / ee / mo
      • Thinks there will be a consolidation of the apps, incumbents that will integrate and put them all-in-one (Notion)
      • Meta-SaaS apps that will put them together as the market matures
      • SaaS as software, business software (maybe banks that are on-premise)
    • Book: 100 years of Solitude, almost every startup underprices their product
    • Time management is the challenge – constant battle, reading quickly and get the ones he finds most interesting
    • Verkada as most recent investment – can build a great experience
  • Kash Mathur (@kashmathur), COO of Chewse (Wharton XM)
    chewse-open-graph-e1559782200236

    • Tracy and cofounders starting it in LA originally, in 2011 before bringing it to SF for 500 Startups
    • Attracting Kash in 2016 as they were figuring out SF before relaunching LA
    • Corporate culture, enterprise dealing and owning the customer service – blended marketplace
      • Starting each executive, strategy board with a “One thing most people don’t know about me is…”
      • Connecting between people
    • Why they have connected Hosts for each enterprise – owning the location, service and whole process
      • Important value and differentiator from other catering companies
  • Linda Crawford, CEO of Helpshift (Wharton XM)
    helpshift-logo

    • Being named top 50 SaaS CEO of 2018, joining HelpShift after Salesforce
    • CCO (customer) at Optimizely, as well as Board Member at Demandwise
  • Rob Farmer, Independent Advisor Study and assets at Schwab (Wharton XM)
    • Talking about participants and customers

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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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

Big Goals: Being the First (Notes from Aug 5 – Aug 11, 2019) August 27, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, NLP, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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A friend recommended the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast. I wish I could shout out that friend, but I currently have no recollection for who it was. Sorry! I’ve been recommending it to anyone that wants an intriguing documentation and story for the decade sprint to putting a human on the moon – and everyone that contributed to that goal. If you need more convincing, Hans Zimmer did the music production, as well. So, it has to be epic, right?

So, that’s what I would strongly suggest everyone listen to. The rest were incredibly interesting, as well.

The co-founders of Original Grain discussed watch making, selling out of backpacks and getting the approval of their military brothers before finally catching on and building the business. Setting out their approach and moving back to the PNW. Co-founders of Lovevery talked about mixing the product, box subscription service with educational, proven research and why Jessica chose this model and building their own over the licensing / branding other toys/puzzles.

Nick Maggiuli, of Ritholtz and Of Dollars and Data discussed why he’ll follow / listen to others that he may disagree with in case something clicks that makes him update his information to change his mind. Then, discussing that the market isn’t zero-share after Ken Fisher mentioned that his firm ($30bn plus) could be wiped from the face of the planet and nobody would ultimately notice when the market handles $50tn overall. 30bps – can aim high and ultimately it comes down to your execution, rarely others.

Then, Morten Lund talked of the EU investing scene, his success early, bankruptcy soon thereafter and deciding what he wanted to see and do. Sometimes you have to toil in decisions before landing what you seek.

Hope everyone enjoys the notes and checks the episodes out!

  • 13 Minutes to the Moon (BBC Worldservice)
    • First episode – ‘We choose to go’
      • Lousy communication as they dropped thrusters to 10%
      • Something happening in computer that caused issues – Armstrong was nervous (rarely)
      • Worry when Sputnik was placed up and a dog in the next month before putting a person there (BBC / Moscow reported)
      • Not having hopeless odds – could do a crash program to get men on moon by 1967, 68
        • German (vonBrown) who set up the rec for the course to get on the moon – recognized Russians needed 10x improvement
      • V2 rocket program – never having wide support but post-demonstration, went to mass production
        • Nordhausen – very aware of concentration camp workers, mistreatment and threat of sabotage
        • Surrendered and Americans were all-too-happy to accept them for rocket program (and space)
    • Second episode – ‘Kids in Control’
      • Steve Bales as the 26 yr old kid who could shut off the mission
        • Guidance officer in mission control team – lunar modules onboard computer by MIT design – controlled flight to moon’s surface
      • Junior technical in backrooms to Gemini flight controller for Apollo by age 23
      • Rapid recruitment style in technical and sciences – just threw them in for trainings and went from there
        • Hiring on rapid basis – bring on board, operations, engineering, training
      • John Aram – math and physics in North Texas to mission control – recalled so many acronyms (never been to a big city)
        • Moved to murder capital of the world, 6 weeks later and told his wife – maybe we need to load up and go back
          • We ain’t going back, she said.
        • Looked over electrical systems and the spacecraft’s electronics.
      • Average age of operators was probably 27 years old, grads of 1964 or so (older didn’t work out as well)
      • Simulations would run 20 different scenarios to demand engaging reminiscent of a fighter squadron
        • Had to trust each other well, kids and wives knew each other – risky things
        • Apollo I that killed the crew in 1967
      • Not enough time at home – many divorces from not being at home and holidays missing
      • In the trench – Gene Crantz: room bathed in blue light by the screens, smell of the room, people in for long time
        • Stale sandwiches, old pizza, full wastebaskets, coffee burnt into the hotplate, but you get feeling something will happen
        • System needed Gene’s toughness, former Marine, constant chain-smoking and needed that guidance from the flight director
      • Calling program error 1210 – never seen it in simulation and Steve had called abort – in actual mission, they got 1202 from Buzz
        • Setting a set of rules for program alarms – Steve got help from a 23 year old in the back – Jack Garmin
        • No call to abort if everything else is good – took 15seconds to push
    • Episode 3 – ‘Long Island Eagle’
      • Slowing descent was the plan, but they ended up going faster
        • Surface wasn’t what they had anticipated
      • Why is the lunar module the way that it is – way it looks? Form follows function.
        • Landing and flying in space – very different than aerodynamics for earth atmosphere
        • LTA1 – cleaner than a surgical room, higher pressure (dust and contamination avoidance)
        • Puncture a hole in skin with a pen – needed lightness and fuel efficiency
        • All engines in lunar modules had to be without electrical failure, so they were just latches with combustible gases
      • Lunar module designed by aeronautical engineers – aerodynamic and smooth, glass but had to evolve
        • Glass was too heavy and crew survival was supercritical
      • December 1968 was supposed to be lunar module flight but they flew around the moon instead
        • Would make it, but it would be close to the decade
    • Episode 4 – ‘Fire to the Phoenix’
      • Fire in the spacecraft – BBC report of Apollo I explosion, January 27 1967
        • Lost 3 heroes – Roger Jaffe, Ed White (first to walk in space in Gemini program), Gus Grissom (piloted Gemini flights)
        • Mercury and Gemini – everyone working there, 350-400 working on Apollo but at the height, it was 400k
        • Management challenge to build the program
      • Here to find out about Mr. Johnson for Block 2 design (Houston didn’t know who was in charge by 1964)
      • First space module in August 1966 delivered for flight testing, behind schedule
        • Jan 26, 1967 with service module perched on top of an Apollo rocket
        • Sitting in pure oxygen for the flight vs testing scenarios (t-shirts, atmosphere at sea level)
        • 30th of January, killed in the first / explosion of the Apollo I rocket
      • Accident had been an awful wake-up call but no national clamor for stopping the program
      • Hatch needed to be redesigned, reduce oxygen while on launchpad, new fire resistant found, electrical circuitry adjusted
        • Heat shields and modules to be tested, Apollo II to be canceled, 21 months to Apollo VII
          • Backup crew for Apollo I was the crew for VII – phoenix patches and honor the first
        • Spent 11 days in space and go around the moon – testing all systems that it could, from engine to navigation
  • Matt Britton, CEO of MRY, Suzy (Wharton XM)
    • Media entrepreneur and consumer trends expert
    • Suzy is ‘Siri for brands’
  • Ryan and Andrew Beltran, co-founders of Original Grain (Wharton XM)
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    • Watch category, growing up in the PacNW and serving in the military (Marines)
    • Trying to find a product that he wanted to start a brand of
    • Going to China to see manufacturing and get ideas
    • Selling the first out of his backpack, initially, to military guys
      • Got buy-in on quality that they stood up but not a ton of traction
  • LovEvery – Love Every – Jessica and Rod, founding partners (Wharton XM)
    loveveryforweb

    • Jessica worrying about giving her babies the best nutrition, and curious about what the brains craved
    • Approaching research and deciding on toys

 

 

 

  • BERT (Bidirectional Encoding Reps from Transformers) (Data Skeptic 7/29/19)
    • Neural network with input arbitrary length of text – minimal form and characters
      • Output is a fixed length vector, numeric rep of the text – can do automated feature engineering for ML
      • Translation step for encoding for the machine using masking
    • Chatbot for question answering – wouldn’t do specialized tools for observe
    • BERT develops a general option (vs ML where there isn’t enough training data)
      • Trained on general knowledge, wikipedia corpus or reddit, etc… and apply transfer learning
  • Nick Maggiuli, Of Dollars and Data (Standard Dev 5/30/19)
    • Head of Data Analytics at Ritholz Wealth – data and interesting
    • Behavioral investor line test – being the 8th person in line and hearing others in Ash experiment
      • People purposefully tell you the wrong matched line and 76% of time, switches idea – changes vision in this case
      • Connecting to fake news in the realm of bias – pie chart that showed top 5 S&P 500 on right side, bottom 282 on left
        • Data just tells you the biggest 5 companies – may be just the 5 largest that represent a total share (consistent)
      • Crowd makes the narrative, often and then people agree and it becomes an echo chamber
    • Following crypto people despite not believing in it because they may know something that he hasn’t seen or know
      • Change minds based on some information. Trend following, for instance (price signal, 200ma – will stop working at times – Corey Hoffstein)
      • Doesn’t believe in technical analysis but has to be convinced by some information to make the jump
    • Blog post: Most Important Asset (host ran the survey) – bet that none of you offered every $ of Buffett wouldn’t want to be him
      • 5%, so maybe 3% are trolls. But he wants to live his life. Human capital and time is the optionality.
    • Best book he’d read about retirement “Retire Happy, Wild and Free” and doesn’t discuss money
      • Financial crisis isn’t the priority – it’s existential – what’s your time that you want to worry about
      • Some people could go to the beach every day and not care, others do differently
    • Trading his time for tasks and outsourcing things – working otherwise and doing it via his hourly wage
      • Anything you’d regret on your deathbed for missing things that you’d want to do – ends meeting, one thing but otherwise, go for it
    • Ken Fisher at Investment Conference (EBI with Barry and Ken talking)
      • “We have no market share” – 30bps as money to be managed out of $50tn when they’re $30bn
        • Could disappear and nobody would notice (except their clients)
      • Enough pie overall where they’re not competing against each other
      • Not interested in the discipline, so any general discussion is improved and bringing people in
        • Rise of politics and twitter probably keeps some viewers away but looking at competition and peers for learning
        • Brian Portnoy writing at the same time, sharing information and going back and forth with same publisher
    • Funniest fintwit: Ramp and Josh Brown, smartest Jim O’Shaunnessey and Jesse Livermore, MMT – “Trusts Cullen Roche”
    • Book that he read early in his career when he was bored – What It Takes by Ellis – best firms in handful of industries
      • If they ‘reject us, we made the wrong choice on the person so it’s good anyway’ – Korbath in legal
  • Morten Lund, seed investor in Skype (20min VC, 1/4/16)
    • Investor, co-founder including Airhelp, 100 other startups
    • Visiting university before getting kicked out – used computer to get premade direct marketing which wasn’t possible prior
      • Turned it into a digital ad agency and made it the largest in Scandinavia and sold to Leo Burnett (ad agency) as digital acquisition
      • Could build company by then
    • Made a small incubator by then with the money he had
    • Called for investments in Kazaa initially – wasn’t comfortable with that because biz model was for iTunes but no power to negotiate with labels
      • Was helping business development at the time
    • Guys had idea of doing Skypr – wifi sharing network – shut down by 10-15 investors who didn’t want to go further
      • Calls couldn’t be afforded so why not do a digital phone with the sound cards – helped fundraise and paid founders’ apartments
        • 300-400k users after 20 days launch – roughly $50k brought back $50mln
        • When it took off and worked, it was exciting – Estonia guys being crucial and understanding p2p from Kazaa, as well
      • Very involved in the brand – ICQ (impossible to understand)
    • Bankruptcy 7+ years prior had to refocus him and figure out what he wanted to do – nothing wasn’t working
      • Co-founding, starting and investing all kinds of 70-80 startups
    • Learning that things will take 3-4x longer and 3-4x costly
      • Founder in mind for admiring – David Hilge (Unity), Reid Hoffman, demonstrating stamina
    • Spending time at TradeShift – empty on cash and barely surviving holding onto his house – internet as media business that was fairly large
      • Every bank has a budget of $1bn in tech spend – immense amount of people running around doing nothing
      • Partners came to him to do digital invoicing structure for English structure and wanted to do consulting (agreed on cloud-based platform infrastructure)
      • Every company has different file formats and being consistent (Christian becoming a rock star) – ability to close huge clients
    • EU fintech community – browser era in 94-95 and nobody knowing how to handle it – legislation is getting easier to deal with
      • Web bank is a media but can do all kinds of interesting things with accounting – unwind IBM and legacy providers from cloud
      • If you want to sell big, have to go to US but if you want to do early or continue building, can be in the EU
      • Becomes obsession for $1bn level – consequence shouldn’t be this, though – not justified without revenue
    • Favorite book: Shantaram, fun with Richard Branson (knowledge exchange), The Economist as blog, Hippocorn – placeholder or executor affiliate

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

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

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

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

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

  • Neuralink & Brain Interface (a16z 7/21/19, 16min on the News)
    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

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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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

Universal Laws: Parkinson’s Law (Notes from July 15 – 21, 2019) August 6, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, Real estate, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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I included in my thrice-weekly newsletter the blog post by Morgan Housel espousing some of the most common universal laws of our world today. Once you know of them, it’s tough to not consider them in your everyday life. I’ll be honest and say that I hadn’t heard / didn’t know the name or origination of a few, including Parkinson’s. However, I wanted to comment on it because of its commonplace position on my timeline (and in the way I generally price much of my consulting work).

Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

ML and apps – attention. Phones and apps have stolen hours of attention over the last 3-4 years (Wharton XM blog) — 3 hours to 4+ hours for the average, now

How do they squeeze in more DAILY? Work efficiency, likely. Most probably don’t have 8 hours of real work – ask anyone. What do we think the % is? I understand there are roles that probably see a full day a few times a week or in certain weeks (looking at you, auditors/accountants/finance/strategy/consultants) where projects line up or during busy times. Even retail / seasonal / cyclical has busy seasons – boosts that require full focus. But generally, not.

Work time vs value – if you can finish a project in 24 hours, charge more because the allowable time outside of that is higher or do you take the full time or project out for time in case of a problem / feedback / there? See: consultants working with a client, maybe a new client? Value = price but want to keep them. Can’t do too low. Can’t go outside of the range. Sweet spot of pricing and expand the time. Expensing to look like the time is filling. I can’t knock any firms taking advantage of this, especially when most have derived the business model from value creation, but it does seem that as time goes on, keeping that price premium and time valued becomes less of an advantage used for good and merely an indicator of what they should bring.

Time will tell for those that hang on the longest. Hope you enjoy the notes.

  • Cynthia Muller, Dir. of Mission Investment at WK Kellogg Fdn (Wharton XM, Dollars & Change)
    • Discussing consulting and the people or culture parts (@cynmull)
      • Merger where everything, paper and number-wise, looked like a perfect match
      • Failed miserably – many of the top producers were unhappy and the merger allowed them to leave easily
    • Satya Nadella at Microsoft reimagining the purpose – got to everyone PC-front but had to overhaul
    • Measuring people – upper quintile in survey of 500k employees (~500 companies) – middle management ratings of purpose
      • 7% YoY performance over others – not lower or upper – middle management was determining factor
  • Scott Kupor (@skupor), MP at Andreesen Horowitz (Wharton XM)
    • Discussion of becoming full-shop, including investments and RIA
    • Value add other than capital is very important to him
    • Tries to make decisions and No comes with why?
      • Sometimes they are wrong, see founders again and some have come back with addressing the reasons “no”
    • IPO extensions to 10+ years vs 6-8 – private and liquidity-driven
      • Discussed employee needs as a big reason for why it will stay 10-12 and not increase
      • Can’t compete with Google or others if you aren’t liquid
      • Early on, private companies aren’t worried about that with the people that can take the risks
    • Secrets of Sand Hill Road book, going through that
  • Brian Kelly, co-founder of The Points Guy (Wharton XM)
    tpg-primarylogo-color-28129

    • Selling to Red Ventures – taken private recently, also
    • Partnering with hotels and airlines to build an app in Austin – connect accounts, personalized, direct to airlines/hotels
      • Make it easier and hopefully change it for the better consumer experience
      • Turning it into a tech company moreso than a media one
    • Blogging initially, leaving Morgan Stanley – consumer-focused and not driven by partnerships
    • Only takes credit card partnerships instead of airlines or others
  • Benito Cachinero, Senior Advisor at Egon Zehnder (Wharton XM)
    egonzehnder_logo

    • Former CHRO at DuPont, ADP and leading succession processes
      • VP of HR for JnJ Medical, Corporate HR VP for MA Divestitures at Lucent Tech
    • Born in Spain, knew he wanted out at an early age
  • Eric Hippeau (@erichippeau), MP at Lerer Hippeau Ventures (20min VC 12/21/15)
    lerer_hippeau_ventures_logo

    • Chairman of RebelMouse, co-founder of NowThis Media
    • CEO in 90s of Ziff Davis initially as media company, the publisher of PC mags as well as conferences
      • Being in tech business moreso than media – sold to p/e firm before they sold to SoftBank
      • Before selling, they were about to be 2nd institutional investor in Yahoo but SoftBank made bid for 1/3 of Yahoo before IPO
      • He went to Yahoo Japan which allowed them to get a lot of source just due to the company
    • Sold business in late 90s, joined SoftBank as investor and opened firm in NY with them before his own
    • Backing company or business requires some business experience and growth/hiring and strategizing are all important
      • All partners at LHV have operating background – biggest difference is probably the time horizon (need really long view as VC)
      • Had just closed 5th fund, very satisfied with the work life instead of operating – running as a startup
      • $8.5 mln initially – no full-time employees initially, until the 2nd fund
    • First investments are at seed level, have always kept money in reserve for follow-on
      • 70% of co’s are in NY
    • Value add for LHV, generally – 2 levels of support
      • Product that is a technology platform that they plug everyone into
        • Recruiting and marketing database, best practices, current series A/B investors and what they’re seeking, Comms layer
      • Each company assigned to one partner and associate – bespoke plan and a to/do list for each company
        • Intros, branding, pricing, organizational structure and growth
    • Biggest problems for portfolio co’s – dependent on sector
      • Ex: SaaS: correctly size marketing opportunity for going after the right, big companies – largest/most important get a premium on the valuation
    • First check is typically $750k – $1mln – characterize this as collaboration between other funds
      • As long as terms are acceptable, let others lead or whatever is best when the companies are the best
    • Best pitch: what they’re looking for is the Big Idea – original, large market, tech-enabled, timing
    • Drone Racing League as public, recent investment: fantastic idea as drones are becoming more popular, variety of them, popularity of video games
  • Sumeet Shah (@PE_Feeds), Investor at Brand Foundry Ventures (20min VC 12/23/15)
    • Investments include Warby Parker, Birchbox, Contently
    • Grad from Columbia in 2008, biomedical and went to p/e through Gotham Consulting Partners (engineers at firm, diff industries)
      • P/E as two party system – deal team of firm and the client portfolio company
      • Lots of outside the box thinking, project work for 2 and B/D for 3 years
      • Met Andrew Mitchell who is the boss at Brand Foundry
    • July 2013 moved into start-up with friends with Gist Digital – help with bizdev
      • 6 months in, help with capital – Andrew reconnected – was offered a full-time job into vc
      • March 2014 was when he went full-time and after the first year is active – seed rounds, pre-seed occasionally
    • Paul and Sarah Lacey – series A crunch with tech/software/app-focused
      • Invested into Cotopaxi for $3mln seed round
      • Working alongside Indiegogo and Kickstarter and have invested in crowdfunding
    • Marketer, operator and technician and his due diligence takes between 2-4 weeks, typically
      • Take on doubles/triples compared to unicorn returns that are worth it – Eilene’s opinion to do unicorns
    • Believes over time that building reputation with doubles and triples, will stumble on a unicorn – those are the ones that can make the fund
    • Most value from investors – sign of weakness is not reaching out to investors
    • Different mindsets of East vs West coast
      • NY looks at building sustainable businesses, SV/SF is a $1 to a dream mentality (need this, still)
        • Want to look at revenue streams, traction, etc… but loonshots are ‘safer’ in SV
      • Founders as female-led – 7 of 13 of their investments have female founders and 3 of them are 2 co-founders female-led
    • No general people in the startups that may catastrophically fail in SV, so it’s okay for the funding to be gone
      • Bullish on TechStars Boulder, looking at ventures or accelerators that are growing in that region
    • Things A Little Bird Told Me as favorite book and most recent investment with LOLA – women’s biodegradable tampons
  • Carolyn Witte (@carolynwitte), co-founder & CEO of Tia Clinic (Wharton XM)
    z6kdoir2_200x200

    • Going from a tech AI program / chat – making women be comfortable with talking to a message
    • Before doctor appointments to after, and then having them bring her in with the doctors
    • How to interact – realized that they needed to complete the offering with their own clinic

 

  • Jessica Bennett, gender editor at NYT, “In Her Words” (Wharton XM)
    • Sympathetic attitudes and gender
  • Boris Wertz (@bwertz), founding partner of Version One (20min VC 12/28/15)
    4z_wfx6c_200x200

    • Top early-stage tech investor, board partner at Andreesen Horowitz, COO of Abebooks.com that sold to Amazon in ’08
    • 2005 named Pacific EY Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Internet 1.0 in 1999 – wanted to be apart of it – started JustBooks with some friends
      • Built it to Europe’s market leader and then sold to competitor AbeBooks before Amazon
    • Took proceeds and put into 35 internet and mobile companies – early wins, early exits and decided to do it professionally
      • First fund was $18mln
    • Power of bringing together customers across the world and finding the book – buyers/sellers in small marketplace with hard-to-find
      • Years and years of book fairs or local inventories that they were limited to
      • Passionate customer stories and being part of the company – personal way to see how marketplaces are important
    • Transportation vertical with Uber as unlocked in marketplaces
      • Mobile first, others – and their investments
      • “A Guide to Marketplaces” book by VersionOne
        • Precision for a thought that may have been in your head when you write – clarity
        • As supportive as possible to the startup ecosystem and how to impact entrepreneurs in portfolio or outside
        • What does VersionOne get excited about and how do they contribute or help?
        • 50 page guide put together for a framework and concise – depth but not overly so
    • Attractiveness of marketplaces
      • Fragmentation of supply/demand – more people on either side of marketplace, buyers/sellers
        • Buyers/suppliers sometimes want a monogamous relationship – doctors, cleaning personnel – don’t want to get someone new
        • Cab driver / uber – doesn’t matter who drives A to B as long as it’s safe
        • Transactional relationships vs monogamous
      • Size of underlying market, ebay grew from collectibles to all sort of products
      • Specific niche market – what is the kind of market you can address – specially-crafted goods
        • When he looks – lens of VC that needs a return, so needs to see a return on capital in 5-7 years
        • Operators can be great in this case because it can be very profitable, bootstrapped or friends/family money to get and grow
    • Demand or supply first? Any marketplace chicken and egg.
      • Depends on marketplace but once you have network effects, it takes off
      • Uber paying drivers to be idle just to have people in the area and have the supply
      • Addressing supply – how much to have? Hotspots.
        • Which transactions work really well?
        • Price point? Vertical? Certain buyer/supplier? AirBnb doubled down in NYC higher value rentals. Just needed that initially.
    • Trust and safety becomes more important after some attention – supply side with hobby sellers with a little bit of their inventory
      • Power starters are the ones that are stronger. Professional sellers.
    • Mobile first marketplaces and on-demand marketplaces excite VersionOne the most.
      • Services / products as on-demand (Fueling of cars, for instance)
      • Fascinated by decentralized marketplaces built by blockchain – will they ever make money but can’t generate money on own?
    • Measuring as VC: how happy are entrepreneurs, were ones that they met with taking away stuff, serving/help them and get feedback
    • Favorite book: Hard Things, Blog/newsletter – Fred Wilson’s
    • Overhyped: on-demand, Uber for X thing – underlying drivers for Uber’s success, for instance
    • Underhyped: quicker hype cycles – blockchain, VR/AR, drones and anything new is all over it in few months
    • Marketplace Key Metrics: gross merchandise sales and take rate (revenues compared to the gross sales)
    • Recent investment: HeadOut mobile first marketplace for travel experiences (NY, LA, Chi, SF, LA, Vegas)
      • Upcoming experiences in next 24 hours in that city

Refresh the Old and Tired (Notes from July 8 to 14, 2019) July 30, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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For the abundant discussion on big tech, rise of tech and the valley’s obsession with all of it, there are quite a few industries that have had much longer staying power. They’ve proved their worth, decades and decades in. There are still railways. There are still cars. Manufacturing persists. CPG and everything that that entails last. Walmart, as much as people love (or don’t) Amazon, it’s still a lion’s share of commerce. Tech has improved and allowed them to have this staying power. Additionally, enabling improved efficiencies can allow new players in the industries to fundamentally change how they’re viewed.

Industries include tv – nonpartisan and bipartisan news with Carrie Sheffield. a16z gets into online from offline forms of services, restaurants to tech-enabled deliveries, as well as the rise of CAA and the agency fights. Then we have traffic and building with a consultant in that space. The next industry was making the legal space a little more transparent – provide a marketplace where information becomes symmetrical. I believe these are ways that simple pain points that can be improved through a technological lens give access to a value that wasn’t there before.

Hope you enjoy the shorter posting and the notes as more detailed. Check each of the wonderful people out!

  • Carrie Sheffield (@carriesheffield), co-founder of Bold TV (Wharton XM)
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    • Discussing bipartisan vs nonpartisan
    • Growing up in very conservative areas and then going to the coast – seeing both sides, especially media
      • How it was to be in media
    • Fake news as non-fact-checked as well as actually fake – ~70%+ considering bias
    • Intellectual diversity along with everything else – thinking differently vs looking diverse
      • Used example of Google AI conference canceling on a colleague who was a conservative, black woman
  • Chia Chin Lee, CEO of BigBox VR (Wharton XM)
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  • Initially trying VR and finding it sickening – didn’t work (Oculus)
    • Tried HTC Vive and fell in love – had a room set up and felt enthralled
    • Hardware and platform may get cheaper with tech
      • Opportunity lies in the software side – connecting to others and industries

 

  • Entrepreneurs, Then and Now (a16z 6/29/19)
    • With Marc, Ben, Stewart Butterfield (@stewart)
    • 10 year anniversary for a16z in late June – how has the environment changed?
    • Class of 2009 entrepreneurs were some of the most special: Todd McKinnon, Martin, Brian Czesky
      • To get to that point, needed to earn your stripes
    • O2O – online to offline (AirBNB, Uber, DoorDash, Postmates, etc….)
      • Founders that may be more operationally-focused since those require that
        • Maybe more similar to semiconductor founders from the 1970s, start of 80s
    • Dual discipline people as they got more involved in healthcare or bio-related
      • 10 years ago, Bio PhD wouldn’t know much on computers but now, dual PhD’s
    • Economics + CS – discussion of field of economics with empirical / quantitative economics compared to physics or formulas
      • New inventions by economists with machine learning and data
    • New ideas – thought venture firms had lost way, founders/operators that built businesses who would help out on boards
      • GPs started to get more abstract ideas, professionalized
      • Institution and ecosystem, network and fundamental staffing model – pay at a16z is different than other VC’s
    • If priority was to find best founders at the best opportunities, shouldn’t matter which stage they’re at – miss things, maybe
      • Skype deal early, multiple entry points – working with entrepreneur and being stage-agnostic
      • Tech bubble bursting – “can’t possibly start fund” – 2009 was Khosla and them
        • Mentioned ‘crusty’ or ‘grouchy’ VC’s
    • Much of the tech was at an inflection point – Salesforce as only SaaS, iPhone not quite there yet, Uber, Airbnb
      • Maybe the main response should be “No, this thing is stupid” as more accurate
      • Never thought it was a bubble – prices of companies are always incorrect (future performance, which nobody knows)
      • East coast vs West coast – not obvious, find what each argue about
    • How high is up? Online pet delivery, all actually happening
      • What are the exploratory bets? Are markets ready? Are people ready? Regulators?
        • Sometimes it’s the pioneer, sometimes it’s the last – time and effort for founders, personality, other
    • No individual company gets 25 years to prove something – maybe 5 years for a hypothesis
      • Morale issue losing faith or architecture issue – prior architecture (ex: mobile dev in 2002, system on archaic and aging-in-place)
      • VC’s will do the same thing – kid doesn’t know about failed experiments – VC freeze themselves out (ones who don’t know will often invest)
        • Can you learn lessons from failure – maybe you should learn nothing – “That doesn’t work.”
        • Edison as trying 3000 combinations before the filament, Wright brothers trying many
    • Copying the model from CAA – Michael Lovitz and describing the whole thing – not a collection of individuals
      • Operating platform, system and infrastructure with professionals across the network
      • Compounding advantage year over year – but why can’t they copy? They were paying themselves all the money
        • Nobody wanted to take pay cuts – 80% to hire everyone at such a scale
    • Top end venture investment – need something working (product-market fit, product)
      • Do they know what they’re doing? Can they do their job scaling?
      • Second-time or later founders – can do what they want and figure stuff out?
        • Problem may be with the good idea – investments on that idea or otherwise (fragmented idea with nothing)
      • Idea maze to find out what the ideas are – haven’t gone through that
    • VCs can’t invest more than 20% of funds that aren’t primary equity investments – crypto, for instance (vs RIA)
    • Deadwood as creation of city or state – horrifying obstacles
      • Why History is Always Wrong? (Taleb’s narrative fallacy, for instance – often more complex)
        • Don’t even know body, climate still (too complex) – can converge on science to Newton’s laws, others
      • Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  • Scott Kuznicki, Pres and Managing Engineer at Modern Traffic Consultants (Wharton XM)
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    • Traffic control tech – California high speed rail vs autobahn style
      • Autonomous lanes?
    • Designated autonomous – level V vs others, depends on density and adoption
    • Thinks parking structures with flat tops could be converted or pay for cost
      • Multipurpose, solar, green or plants etc…
  • Risk, Incentive and Opportunity in Starting Co (FF 027, 20min VC)
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    • Daniel van Binsbergen, CEO and co-founder of Lexoo
      • Online marketplace connecting businesses and lawyers
    • Founded it in 2014, got an investment for $1.7mil
    • Friends always asking for referrals – kept a short list of them
      • Seemed great, “quoted $X – is that good?” – perception of complexities
      • Could put make a marketplace together for transparency
    • Kept 100% of his income boosts – got used to his training salary so it wasn’t as big a risk
      • No kids meant it may have been easier – really disappointed if you didn’t give it a go – decision already made
    • Legal space’s lack of progression in tech – incentives in wrong place
      • Hourly model still for law – if you spend less time on work, you would make less money
      • Risk-spotting for lawyers
      • Senior partners have heaviest voice – not exactly lining up for retirement in the near term vs long term
    • Highest goal may not be senior partner – fixed fee, sharing risk, more open to innovating with own practice
    • Lexoo initially – didn’t have tech skills for it, had a vision in his head but didn’t know best way
      • Didn’t build full-scale solution, did a forum for $15 website, form to fill in
      • Arrived in his email – he would then contact lawyers and fill in Word template – get their responses and quotes
      • Attached the lawyers’ quote and response to a doc and pdf and send back to clients
      • Automated only when he couldn’t handle the workload – hit limit on evenings and quit
        • Lawyers paid 10% commission on the quotes
    • Focus on business ideas – tech isn’t the big solution – market innovation (access to litigators)
    • Investors at Forward Investors – introduced through a friend who knew them through squash partner
      • Difference between FOMO on being convinced vs other investors who have a sense of opportunity
    • Fav book: The Mob Test – how to ask questions to get useful feedback, asking questions to customers in the wrong way
      • Would you use the product if it does X, Y, Z – most definitely? Instead of asking what the customer problems are.
    • A lot of work in Trello, for goals, and Sunrise app – Microsoft’s indispensable for calendar meetings
  • Facebook Bargaining Bots Invented a Language (Data Skeptic 6/21/19)
    • Auction theory and econometrics – equilibrium strategy
    • Neither agent is incentivized to change strategy if the other stays the same
    • Plateau of events in real life – baby, marriage, life changes, job, lease ends in time
    • Discount is a single floating-point decimal, ex 0.99 ^ t
      • Everything known – can calculate based on common knowledge and discounts
    • Gaussian distribution, mean 100k, 10k – ignore tail in negative and renormalize
      • Rubenstein one-sided incomplete
    • Game: don’t know private value now, but can have probability distribution
      • Update with Bayesian with behavior
      • Classic ML: corpus of examples of negotiation, mark up conveniently, objective function to maximize reward (post-agree)
      • Opportunity for RL – patterns for language utterances, insult or compliment or neither – recognizing strategy
        • Character level or nothing to ask it
        • Conversations for language you don’t understand and the reward – can you do this optimally?
    • RL + Roll-out with 8.3 to agent and 4.3 to other algorithms (94.4% agreement)
      • Roll-out was 7.3 and then RL – 7.1 and last place was 5.4 for likelihood model
    • Training data was in English, negotiating over 3 items – shortcut its job, RL wants the short path to reward
      • His example – loses points if you went to pits but to reward – chance at falling
      • Wasn’t worth it to move, so he had to do a penalty for not moving
      • Penalty for Facebook example was agents continued to communicate in English
      • Put a time constraint, maybe
  • Transfer Learning with Sebastian Ruder (@seb_ruder), D/S at DeepMind (Data Skeptic 7/8/19)
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    • Generally, TL is leveraging knowledge from different tasks or domains to do better on another task
    • Not a lot of training data, may want to pretrain – models to train on imagenet, for instance
      • Language modeling to train on large corpora and use that on a bunch of other tasks
      • Source vs target data: task stays the same but can adapt between source and target, say sentiment of reviews
    • Classic benchmarking, may have ImageNet moments over last year – features of pretrained models applied on more powerful NLP
    • Google XLNet’s most current, BERT and ELMo as others – pace of improvement has been great
    • Difficulty of target tasks – can be good for 100 samples in target source on binary tasks, maybe, 50 even?
      • 200 examples per label, question-answering or reasoning, examples must be increased
      • If we can express target task as a conditional language modeling, can do fewer or even inference
    • Pretraining is costly due to large clusters on your own, but now can be public pretraining where you can finetune quickly
    • Area of common sense reasoning – infer what a question means or expressed depends on what may not be said
      • Grass is green, entity facts (son of a son), inquiries for language model – incorporate to modeling
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