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Experimentation & Testing (Notes from March 25 – March 31, 2019) April 17, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, global, Hiring, questions, social, training, TV, Uncategorized.
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I know, I know. It’s a bit of a cop out to use a Game of Thrones image on the back of the Season 8 premiere from Sunday. Sue me [please don’t]. And I’ll give credit to the image creator: Instagram @chartrdaily for the fun visualization. However, after listening to Pinnacle Sports’ Marco Blume, I couldn’t help after hearing deployment strategies for their prop bets on popular TV shows, such as who will be left on the Iron Throne or the ever popular “Who dies first?” props. They experiment, hypothesize, post a line with a limit (hedge risk) and let the market decide from there. And boom – we have the theme of the week!

Antoine Nussenbaum, of Felix Capital at the time, mentioned going from private equity to start-ups and venture funding where they had to decide between backing people or belief in the company. He got first-hand experience by starting a company with his wife, successfully gaining funding, and then exiting – only to fail with a different company that wasn’t scaling. How did he go through frameworks to decide on startups to fund or help?

Mark Suster gave his take on how he comes to investment funding – sales, technical skills and being aware of each. How did his entrepreneurship experience influence his framework for funding new start ups? Why is it that there is a sweet spot for amounts based on run rate? Experimenting, failing and adjusting.

Then I had listened to 2 data scientist / researchers in their discussions of NLP parts – what to test, what they assumed to be true, how to approach new methodology and testing this methodology. Is there a limit to the progression that can be made with NLP? Why might it be relevant to decide on testing state-of-the-art further? Then, ultimately, what’s the applications for how we can use that optimization to improve the current status quo?

I hope everyone checks out what may interest them – this was a fascinating and fun week. So much so, that I suggested to a few different students for them to check out different parts (granted, I do this often, but I was quite excited to share these ones).

Cheers!

  • Antoine Nussenbaum (@Nussenbaum), Principal and cofounder of Felix Capital (20min VC 084)
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    • Partner at Atlas Global prior, p/e fund that was part of GLG Partners
      • Working on digital early-stage, venture fund and helped startups bootstrap after missing the tech side
      • Miraki, Jellynote, Pave, Reedsy, and 31Dover as some of his best investments
      • Helped start Huckletree with his wife
        • Looked for investment of $80mln but got $120mln
    • Backing someone vs backing the company initially in early stage funds
    • Raised in Paris in international environment, lived in UK as well
    • Launched 2004 software-on-demand business with 2 friends “that was not scalable at all”
    • Did M&A in the UK after leaving software
    • Felix Capital at intersection of creativity + technology, lifestyle brands: ecommerce and media, enabling tech
      • Stages – flexible capital, but have made investments from $200k – $6mln, focus on Series A + B
      • Geographic – agnostic, as long as backing entrepreneurs
      • Advisory services and focused on helping their investment companies
    • More entrepreneurs that know the playbook and how they can build, grow and scale
      • Looking for more companies that can scale globally or expanding outside with proper funding
    • Using Triangle as an example – bathing suits on Instagram strategy and launching millions of product via digital
    • ProductHunt as a blog he gets lost in – 15 min of destruction
    • Lifestyle-related excitement: food side, better life, marketplaces
    • Hard Thing about Hard Things and Capital in the 21st Century – relationship of wealth and economic wealth
  • Mark Suster (@msuster), MP @ Upfront Ventures (20min VC 085)
    8647fd890a54e10bd320ada2651040c5

    • Was VP of PM at Salesforce.com before Upfront
    • Late 80s – had an interest in development as a student in college in the UK
      • Worked initially as a programmer at Anderson (Accenture) for 8 years
      • Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – better to start earlier, need to have a fundamental understanding of systems (coding)
        • Python, PHP, Ruby, JavaScript – not trying to become best developer – just knowing the systems
        • Sales experience would be second – telesales or customer support – ask CEO to do an hour a week of calls
    • Started 2 software companies – one in England and then Silicon Valley, selling both – backer brought him in to VC
      • Fred Wilson wasn’t an entrepreneur, but does give you the insight
    • Don’t get the sense of urgency with too long a time – 3 months vs 12 months
      • Too much capital creates laziness and shortcuts that lead to mistakes
      • 18 month run rate for capital – takes 3-4 months to raise (start with 6 months plus)
    • Wants to see early stage companies once a month, roughly.
    • $240mln fund – invest half into companies and reserve the other half for follow-ons
      • 3 year timeframe, $40mln with 5 partners – $8mln per partner
        • Series A, B rounds where each partner is doing 2-3 deals per year when avg is $3-5mln investment
    • On his blog, has the “11 Attributes of Entrepreneurs”
      • Best known post would be “Invest in Lines, not Dots” – x-axis as time, y-axis is performance (any given day, your dot)
        • Interactions create a line that matches a pattern and he can decide if he wants to do business
      • Not a big fan of deal days or investor days where you hype up a company because of this
    • 50 coffee meetings a year – once a week, if you meet 50 entrepreneurs a year, maybe you’ll become close with 5-10 of them
      • Single best introduction is from a portfolio company CEO for an investor
    • He knows and built software company – SaaS-space since he knows how to be helpful
      • Data and video tech industry (has 11 personal investments and 5 are video)
      • AgTech as an underappreciated industry so far – stays quiet until a few investments before hyping
    • Too much company, too much money and entrepreneurs clouding the market for everyone else
    • Book “Accidental Superpower”, how demographics and topology will drive the future and how areas grow
  • Marco Blume, Trading Director at Pinnacle Sports (DataFramed #54 2/18/19)
    pinnacle_logo

    • Got into data science by “sheer force”, building quant team out from Excel going to R
      • Efficiency was by orders of magnitude since R was better than Excel
      • Could do anything with risk management, trading, sports
    • Pricing GoT, hot dog eating contest, pope election and making the lines
      • Use pricing and market analytics to let the people set prices
    • Risk management in general – maximize probability and hedging risk
      • Does the bottom line change? Does it affect anything? Regulations.
    • NBA where all teams have played each other – have a good idea of strength of teams
      • Soccer or world cup – not as much certainty with teams not always playing each other
      • Start of season has a lot more volatility and responsiveness to bets because of uncertainty
        • By end of season, bookmarkers have the price and knowledge, so they’re likely to increase risk
      • Bayesian updating
    • Goals to improve models, open new betting options to clients
      • Low margin, high volume bookmaker – little bit with a lot of options
      • Book of Superforecasting – group of people who are better at forecasting
        • Pays them already at Pinnacle – consultants, betting and paying the price
    • Much bigger R shop than Python at Pinnacle, active in the R community
      • R becoming more of an interfacing language and production language (vs C# or other), can use R-keras or plumbr
      • Teaching dplyr, rmarkdown and ggplot cover 95% of their work outside of specialists
    • GoT as one of his favorite bets
  • Matthew Peters (@mattthemathman), Research Scientist at AI2 – ElMo (Data Skeptic 3/29/2019)
    ai2-logo-1200x630

    • Research for the common good, Seattle, WA research
    • Language understanding tasks – ELMo (embeddings from Language Models)
    • PhD in Applied Math at UW, climate modeling and large scale data analysis
      • Went to mortgage modeling, tech industry with ML and Prod dev in Seattle
    • Trying to solve with very little human-annotated data, technical articles or peer-reviewed
      • Very difficult, very expensive to annotate – can you do NLP to help?
    • Word2vec as method for text to run ML on text, context meanings of say, bank
    • ELMo as training on lots of unlabeled data
      • Given a partial language fragment, language modeling predicts what can come next
      • Forward direction or backward direction (end of context), neural network architecture
    • Research community may want to use ELMo, commercial use to improve models already in prod
      • Pre-trained models available and open source
    • In the paper, evaluated NLP models on 6 tasks – sentiment, Q&A, info extraction, co-reference resolution, NL inference
      • Got significant improvements on results from the prior state-of-the-art models
      • Character-based vs word approach
        • Single system should process as much text as possible (morphology of the word, for instance)
    • Paper over a year old now but Bert was put up on ArXiv to improve upon ELMo (transformer architecture for efficiency)
      • Scaled the model that could be trained by many X’s, quality is tied to the size / capacity
      • Language modeling loss changed, as well (word removed from middle of sentence and predict before/after)
      • Large Bert models have computational restrictions – how far can you get by scaling the model
  • Kyle and early Data Science Hiring Processes (Data Skeptic 12/28/18)
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    • Success isn’t correlated with ability to give good advice
    • Conversion funnel for businesses: website that sells t-shirts, for instance
      • Tons of ways to bring people into the door / website (ads, social media campaign, ad clicks)
      • Register an account or put into cart (what %, track it, a/b test and improve)
      • Cart to checkout process (how many ppl? Credit card entered, goes through, etc…)
    • Do any sites convert faster than others? Keep track, find out why / focus on continuing it
    • Steps for job hire: video chat / task / phone screens / on-site next / offer
    • Resume should be pdf (doc may not open nicely on Mac or otherwise) – include GitHub
    • SVM – should have margins or kernel trick on resume (otherwise, don’t include it)
      •  Ex: ARIMA (auto-regressive integrated moving average) – time series data
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Striving to Learn Yourself (Notes from March 18 – 24, 2019) April 11, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Altucher, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, TV, Uncategorized.
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There’s nothing wrong with the selection of a well-traveled path. It’s paved with a full network of people who have gone ahead of you. If you’re active and curious enough, that can lead to opportunities aplenty. But some of us feel as if that can lead to a pigeon holing or limit on what we FEEL like we could achieve. For better or worse – maybe we’re curious along different lines – following a boundary, or making a new path altogether into the woods. Jump into a new space or, adjacent markets, as popularized by Peter Thiel.

It’s hard to go against what we’re generally comfortable with. Habits have been grooved into our system of processes for a reason. I believe that if something is eating at you or there’s an overarching sense of obligation toward a challenge, relishing that opportunity is vital – and should be celebrated. 25+ years ago, maybe less so – as the fallback could have been harder. But now? Nonsense – networks are as connected as we make them out to be – reach out via Twitter to someone, LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Slack or the tried-and-true in-person coffee chats, conference meet-ups or otherwise. Interconnectedness has never been this high before. But you have to put in the effort.

 

  • Ashish Walia (@AshishW203), co-founder and COO at LawTrades (20min VC FF 019)
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    • Portfolio company of 500 Startups
    • Undergrad in Queens, then law school – read through entrepreneurship opportunities, spoke to lawyers – knew he didn’t want to be full time
    • Decentralize major corporate law firms – before you’d have to go to bottom barrel legal service or stuck paying $600 an hour for routine stuff
      • Middle boutique firms could save money and they were looking for work
    • Joining law firm is like everyone wanting to get in and everyone in wants out – if he knew this already, why not do a different thing
      • He wanted to figure things out for himself and work his tail off for what he wanted to do
      • Idea for LawTrades came up in his 2nd year of law school – businesses and lawyers-directory service, terrible traction initially
      • Using all of the resources – blogs, podcasts, videos, etc… diving in
    • Gary Vaynerchuk as sales and customer experience, as he wasn’t a tech/coder
      • This Week in Startups, Jason Calicanis as well
    • Law school as encouragement for a corporate firm, not to apprentice and then start your own thing
      • More legal technology and open, incubators popping up but not traditional
    • Attorneys with big law experience that want more control over their work-life balance are their target for LawTrades
    • Had started a podcast to drive traffic to LawTrades – had a guest on as founder of Pigeon and he thought they should apply to 500
      • Applied a few days before deadline, had Brian Wang interview while in NYC the day after, then a skype with Elizabeth Yang
        • For LawTrades, they cared about 2-3 recs after learning about the business
      • 4 days after, got in and moved from NY to CA
      • Really wanted 500 Startups because they wanted to drive distribution (vs YC as product-focused)
    • Raised small seed round with the vision, no customers that were just angel investors
    • Enjoyed BrainTree founder Brian Johnson as a nontechnical founder to make it large
      • Altucher, Thiel’s Zero to One, Quora, Medium
  • Dave Sonntag, Gonzaga Associate VP / CMO (Launch Pad, Wharton XM)
    • Discussing university brand, marketing
      • Smaller school of 6000 comparatively, but large brand name
    • Funny to me that he said that the basketball brand was priceless – invaluable
      • Primarily over last 20 years
    • Only the 2nd CMO in the history of the school
    • Started as marketer at Eastern Washington before seeing opening at GU (alma mater)
      • Trying to line up brand exposure to campaigns – bracket + donation set up for the week of tourney start
      • Last year, drove about 1/4 of the site traffic – had to prioritize the home page and stories to make them compelling
      • This year, accentuating professors and their stories (named #1 university professors by US News)
  • Chris Riccobono, UnTUCKit founder (Wharton XM)
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    • Had failed at multiple companies before thinking of returning to finance but landing on doing this co
    • Building a brand around shirts that aren’t to be tucked in – seasonality isn’t necessary
      • Built to have that offering as compared to types of shirts (Tommy Bahama – floral, Armani – club, etc…)
      • 50 stores now and the plan is to have them distribute clothing to better control distribution/supply
    • Increasing market in areas that they put a store – both online and in store
      • Tracking customer data as they go back & forth between online and in-store
      • Control experience of touch and customization to drive conversions
    • Doing once a month “fast fashion” with 4-6 designs that are only available for 48 hours or limited time for attention and marketing – demand driver
  • Linda Crawford (@lcrawfordsfo), CEO at HelpShift (LaunchPad, WhartonXM)
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    • Getting over imposter syndrome, realizing she is certainly an expert
    • From Salesforce and Siebel, had ran and grown a ton – wanted to get into start-up land again
    • Building the right team immediately, making sure everyone was on the same page
      • Had been recruited by headhunter and wasn’t predicting going into CRM, again – maybe fin or healthtech
  • Denali Therapeutics, (WhartonXM)
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    • Focusing on neuro degenerative diseases, isolating proteins that cause damage
  • For the Billions of Creatives Out There (a16z, 3/16/19)
    SHOW_KO.eps

    • Brian Koppelman, Marc Andreessen, Sonal Chokshi
    • Creativity of business, talking about Brian’s original script with his partner – Rounders
      • Failed initially, people turned down and it wasn’t even a box office hit – super small chance to get the repeated viewings
      • Only about doing the work themselves, the rewards would come
      • Worked as bartender / music exec – would work for 2 hours to write a script
      • Were given a chance $5k to be partner – took advice from Horowitz of Beastie Boys’ sister
        • She said “if someone would pay you money without seeing it, then you should write it and you’ll have options.”
    • Balancing the success – his state initially (creative impulse being down)
      • Toxicity that made him bitter if he let the creative impulse die, even if he had other stuff going on
      • Knew he needed to do the work even if it meant failing
      • The job that was mundane / bitter (music exec), he felt better doing because he had already put in 2+ hours of writing to try
    • In Rounders – rejected by every Hollywood agency
      • Some said overwritten, some said underwritten (he still says unsure)
      • He sold the script over a weekend and Monday to Miramax
        • By Tuesday, every agency that had passed tried to sign them – he read them their notes on why they’d passed
        • All told him that they didn’t read it (assistant, reader)
      • Wanted to overstep to make success by getting a director that they agreed on the vision/leverage
    • Up to you to manage the relationships (founder and investors)
      • Learned at a young age how to talk to powerful people – outside of having college paid for or something
      • Father would put him in position to talk to people – in meetings, in production studios, etc…
      • Don’t treat them with a sense of awe or condescending. Also, make them laugh and you’re comfortable in your own skin.
        • Be able to grow, better yourself, relax and they’re not all-knowing.
      • For shows – make it on budget, crew taken care of, make people heard and listening – take notes only on what can make show better
        • Artie from Larry Sanders (show) – network executives discussion
    • Podcast Brian is not script writing Brian – major leagues now, not getting nurturing Brian
    • New Brian and Adam wouldn’t pitch movie Rounders now, it’d be show Rounders
      • Movies were the way that they communicated from the time
      • Televisions now and visual literature as much better than movies
    • Not letting emotional response dictate your actions – how do YOU comport yourself, not the other
      • Especially in partnership types (founder / CEO or other setup)
      • Has to be more important that the other gets to make the decision than you to be right (both need it)
    • Tim Ferriss w/ interviews, 90%+ meditate (quickly Marc says never so in the minority)
      • Brian does 2x / day, 20min & reduces the physical manifestation of anxiety
      • David Lynch for Transcendental meditation (David Lynch foundation)
      • Argue about journaling for introspection vs meditation as a respite or calming of thoughts
    • Billions stuff: As Good as It Gets scene response to how he writes women so well
      • More the result of everything he’s ever read, done, watched while he sits on his couch with music blasting with his laptop
      • Wants to write the characters to all be smarter than the writers are
      • How he stumbled on Vince Staples’ Street Punks in Axe’s bachelor pad (the scene and debauchery and debased)
  • Tony Kunitz, StatsBomb (Wharton XM at SSAC)
    • In london now, paying attention to premier league
      • Progression passing and going through pressure
      • Building the data, paying people to note and augment with computer vision
    • How baseball has gone through 3 stats progressions
      • First value of players and contracts
      • Changing how to play on the field
      • Now changing training and player development (swings, angles, etc…)
    • Also have changing coaches guard – need people to be able to coach properly or the new developments
  • Maria Konnikova (@mkonnikova), The New Yorker (Wharton XM)
    Books: Confidence Game & others

    • Psychology study and approaching poker after reading John von Neumann’s work on game theory
      • Appropriate mix of human decision making – very different than Go or chess
      • Luck and imperfect knowledge of others – strategy vs luck
    • Approaching Erik Seidel to be her coach – intrigue at her book research, and figured if it succeeded or not – could build a bigger audience
      • Still gives her a tough time at not knowing how many cards in a deck (52 vs 54)
      • Using the “marshmallow test” decision-making of Walter Mischel to see if people with high levels of self-control made better risky conditions
        • Made me think of how high school students beat AI experts at Berkeley AI conference after just an hour of teaching
    • Frame of references and deviations can thrive in environments of change
    • Talked about how pros de-leverage themselves by buying in on other pros (can be up to 75-80% of each other)
      • Know that one thing can boot them from a tournament, even if the math is in their favor
  • David Blanchflower (@d_blanchflower), Prof of Econ at Dartmouth (Wharton XM)
    • Children, Unhappiness and Family Finances paper, with Andrew Clark
    • How to gather the data for unhappiness and finance – not based on income
      • Did it based on “Do you struggle to pay bills?” – always, sometimes, never
      • Found that more people with kids struggle to pay bills
        • But children make them more happy, when asked and measured
    • How to change this – other countries have tried to address child care subsidies or tax breaks
    • Younger kids were also considered to be more happy than teenagers or older ones
  • Steven Rogelberg, author of The Science of Meetings (Wharton XM)
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    • Employees suffering by tons of meetings that don’t return as much
    • What type of meetings would be preferred? – Remote. What type of meetings are the least productive? – Remote.
      • Have to dial in how to make meetings more productive, especially when remote.
      • Shorter, planned meetings are better – Remote < 30min, for instance.
  • Caring Capitalism, Miriam Schoning author (Wharton XM)
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