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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
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • Advertising in LA helping acquire new customers and branding
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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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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

Sharing, Building and Community (Notes from June 24 – 30, 2019) July 16, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Leadership, medicine, questions, Real estate, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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If you hadn’t noticed or read from the start, you should know that I’ve gone in order from the start on the Twenty Minute VC episodes. Many of the conversations are from 2015 and 2016 so they end up as a bit of a history lesson and window into the mindset surrounding capital / founding at that time. Bubble discussions or higher capital raises are comical when we now know what today looks like – higher, still. Although I’d say geographically, expansion has exponentially grown as it’s become easier and more common for firms to seek out what they really believe is an edge for them. Interestingly enough, people also don’t stay where they were, especially over a few years. As I look them up to refresh and review for these posts, it can be very enlightening to see where they are currently – did they start a new project? Open a new fund? Move on to different industry?

David Teten was one of those switchers, as he was with ff V/C at the time, and now over at HOF Capital. Similar role but perhaps more focused on what he’d like to see. Also, many of the firm founders and partners aren’t heralded for having more than a few roles – some probably for different reasons, but I look at that for myself as a way to stay extremely excited about continuing to learn every day, every week. To believe in yourself to be capable of doing great work, helping to create as much value as possible in the most efficient manner, hopefully. Weird that many people receive flack for multiple positions when many of us strive to follow a few particular, but potentially different, things. For this, I admire David in keeping up with his roles, while keeping us all in the loop of his thoughts, generally, as well.

Next, there were two involved in real estate, housing and construction that were pretty much aligned. What do I mean? Both believed the rising housing (and estate, generally) costs have come as construction costs have increased significantly. This is creating unduly pressure, and making it more difficult for projects to get done. Maggie Coleman went through real estate differences for certain types, while John Rahaim of SF mentioned precautions that are being taken for the coastline and bay.

Then, we had Ryan Hoover, who runs ProductHunt, and is one of my favorite follows. He built what he and his friends wanted – a place to share ideas and products to try. And 5 years later, here he is. I won’t spoil some of the nuggets that he shared, including a few of his favorite books and monetizing once he knew it was real. Not to be outdone, a discussion with Phil Southerland covered how he has built a strong community of athletes born or having diabetes. To demonstrate how they can grow, he helped form a team of all diabetics and professionally rides to bring awareness and improve the lives and conversations surrounding them.

There is important work being done by many people, including ourselves. If we can better someone’s life, it’s likely worth doing it if you’re enjoying it. We can help by just being who we are and doing what we would like to do. I’d love to hear some of your ideas or thoughts regarding the people covered in this week’s notes.

  • David Teten@dteten, Partner at ff Venture Capital, founder and Chairman of HBS (20min VC 095)
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    • Alumni Angels of Greater NY, largest angel group in NY
    • How to Disrupt the Investing Business
    • Grew up in Marin Co, played with computers – consulted and taught Excel as a kid – bah mitzvah on knowledge test
      • Fired when he was 16 from financial services company because they figured out password was pw for admin
    • In college, worked briefly in strategy consulting before investment banking in tech – business school where he started multiple ventures in Israel and US
    • Joined ff VC in 2011 when it was 3 – now 27+ people, as largest headcount seed VC in Canada, Amsterdam, Israel, UK, US
    • Company ff should be generalists – broadest possible but don’t invest in life sciences due to no expertise there yet
      • Can’t predict in advance, so they want companies that are interesting with high growth potential
      • Admires outbound of TA or Summit, but something like SignalFire to look at data for high growth
        • Resources to help founders to reduce write-offs (1 in 6 fail for them) which attracts inbound (2000+ a year)
          • Filters down to ~12 a year to invest
    • Google Ventures / SignalFire and others as algorithmic approaches to source – increasing importance but not validated thesis
    • Loves their model as efficient – frustrations at other vc’s (80% of time with people / co you can’t invest in – partying and not meeting anyone)
      • Nobody at ff has a job as origination, Angelist as disrupting the generalist VCs (those that don’t have added value)
    • Top 3 Important Ways to Support Companies: capital raising, finance acceleration team – CFO acting, recruiting
    • How to determine value add as entrepreneur
      • Reference check
      • Do the math on portfolio: for ff, 60 portfolio co’s (active in 2/3), 24+ ee’s
        • How many people in the team? How many portfolio co’s? How many checks?
          • Use that to determine person-hours you can expect
        • What sort of technology platform to support the company?
      • A16z as huge operational side – finance, marketing, etc…
        • Short list for companies doing this – very capital intensive
      • Believes that there will be some shrinkage in the model in a downturn if it’s not fully thought out
    • Very illiquid asset class (mentioning to LPs) – 12 different academic studies for 18-54% median returns
      • 10+ years for cash returns, lot of institutions aren’t okay with that time range
      • David Swenson (head of Yale endowment) has argued long-lasting liquidity premium for illiquid asset classes
        • Even the most liquid asset classes aren’t liquid when you want them to be (2008, for instance)
    • Indiegogo as seed – crowdfunding space, competitors aren’t invested in – watch Angelist very closely, though
      • Services from Angelist as they look around at different parts of deal flow
      • Encourages member space to get involved in angel investing for next generation of companies – exposure to ecosystem
        • Promote economic growth
    • Research study: Disrupt investing – security, for instance
      • Secure (ID verification), Distill Networks (blocks bots), IONIQ (from Atl, secure cloud usage)
      • New processes and make them efficient: Addapar (Excel/PDF), Earnest Research (nontrad datasets eg: cc info, email receipt mining)
    • VC usage of social media: much more aggressive, judicious but no breakfast tweeting – sell
    • Edward Tufte – Yale prof, must read
    • PandoDaily as top blog – not afraid to make enemies, discuss what they do
    • SkyCatch as most recent – drone tech, set of tools for collecting data via drones – construction use case (Kamatsu client)
      • Monitor exact status of project, imperative they know where everything is
  • Maggie Coleman, MD and Head of Intl Capital at JLL RE (Wharton XM)
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    • Looking at different real estate measures – single family homes, for instance
    • Do different assets in real estate require a different measure to draw attention from foreign investors?
      • Didn’t seem so – would depend on where the capital was coming from (their own environmental basis)
    • Construction costs as outpacing many other costs – affecting many markets

 

  • John Rahaim, Director at SF Planning Dept (Wharton XM)
    • Having to adjust for the changing seaboard – will regulatory measures be taken?
      • No mechanical or living people in commercial buildings on the first floor, for instance
    • Says there are already precautions being taken on the bay – 5-8 feet, for instance
    • Construction costing so much already that it’s been very difficult to get building done post-land acquisition
      • Estimates of $600-800k for this due to inflationary and costs passed from the building companies
      • Said he had some 36? Projects that are being held up
  • Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover), Founder @ ProductHunt (20min VC FF026)
    ph-logo-3

    • Best community builder, Twitter engagement, winner of TC Best New Startup of 2014
    • Just wanted to build a consumer-focused thing to discuss with his friends about app ideas or companies
    • Put it on Quibb and Twitter – manual things initially, set up an email subscription, personal email connecting with people
      • Keep building communities otherwise it peters out
    • First iteration was RoR built over 5 day Thanksgiving holiday – core is the same, people using and community growth
      • Having people tell them and comment on ideas (used it as their new home page)
    • How to plan to go from early adopters to mass market?
      • Eager enough to participate, engage and not necessarily representative of the common users
    • Categorizing Podcasts and putting them on the home page – barrier before, now based on episodes
      • This Week in Startups, Startup Show (by Gimlet founders), Jake Gyllenhaal ep of Mystery Show (Gimlet media) – is he 6′ tall?
    • Worked on Hooked with Nir Eyal, using some in ProductHunt
      • Email digest is the trigger – action is to open / click on something to find inspiration or interesting
        • Built email variability – some consistency, surface different titles and content
      • Follow collection, clicking follow, reward is updates on the collections – permission for emailing to reinforce and come back
    • Ryan’s favorite collections: featured ones, Russ has game collections (browser ones), Julie created bakednight
    • Betaworks kept popping up on their engagement charts – Twitter very active, products (Without, where would he be?)
      • Always tagging the authors and being genuine, personable, funny or light-hearted
    • Monetizing PH – at its core, download/use/purchase products with the right intent
      • Over time, will explore more of this
      • Fundraising: first time for Ryan, different as a side project and growing
    • Quibb as newsfeed other than Twitter and also Crunchies where they announced Shipt but said “Actually, it’s PH”
    • Sunrise as calendar app, Pomodoro – no longer. Favorite book: Art of Game Design by Arty Shell
      • User psychology and game mechanics, how it applies to tech products as well. Game design not always thought about.
  • Brian Solis (@briansolis), author of Lifescale (Wharton XM)
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  • Survey on how social media has changed / warped views for girls
    • Hadn’t fully released yet

 

 

 

  • Phil Southerland (@philsoutherland), CEO of Team Novo Nordisk (Wharton XM)
    novo-nordisk

    • Living with T1 diabetes and bringing awareness
    • T1 and T2 can be helped, dealt with and he’s trying that
    • Cycling team focused on it
      • Full team is athletes with diabetes
        • triathletes, runners and cyclists

Different Ways to Create (Notes from June 10 – June 16, 2019) July 3, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, NFL, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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3 fantastic sounding women to start. One in VC and finance, discussing the difference between NYC and SF for her. The second compared in-house marketing strategy and outside influence. What’s that look like? How much control is there? Last, but certainly not least, was an author who discusses something that I’ve seen with family and my sister – the challenge of raising a child while balancing some semblance of normalcy in work. What’s expected from yourself? What should be reasonably expected from work? What’s a balance?

Those women: Erin Glenn, Julie Scelzo and Lauren Smith Brody.

A few sportsmen discussed data and capital. Sixers Innovation Lab and former exec for And1 mentioned how they think about growth in Philadelphia and the brand, who can they support in the community that can also help with the team. John Urschel, former Baltimore Raven, is a published mathematician now who discussed the influx of data collection and analysis among all sports and teams. What they can do makes a great athlete experience, fan experience and overall performance improves.

A plethora of rising stars followed, from Kanyi of Collaborative Fund to Sofia Colucci of Coors and the co-founders for SHINE text. Hope you enjoy my notes and you check out the podcast episodes!

  • Erin Glenn (@leeeringlenn), CEO of Quire (20min VC FF025)
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    • Entrepreneur as kid – day business for summer camps, then management consulting, IB and took a company public (econ consulting firm)
    • Got bug to start own thing in 2010 – joined KIXEYE in SF for 4 years, video game company
    • Wanted to go to NYC (as kid in OK) – went to meet w Betaworks, fell in love with Quire
      • Mutual conv to join Quire – loved it – equity crowdfund co
      • Venture-back co’s enabling portion to raise for community & mission
        • Min. investment is $2500 – supporting larger investments as well, up to $250k
    • Likelihood for investors to get taken advantage of – Title III discussion (investors with <$100k income/net worth can invest up to $2k or 5% of income)
    • Mattermark study on investor bases that exist and why people do invest
      • Investor and diversity – minority, gender, big differences in those that follow Mattermark or others
    • Crowd won’t provide scaling / grow money (the $50mil+ rounds), but community can help participation at a lower level
    • Motivation to invest, other than financial incentive – supporting company’s mission + founders, spurring economic growth + innovation
      • Real commitment to realize dreams, grow economy
    • Benefits with crowd investing for company – moral and psychological
      • Supporters of the company can invest, which is reinforcing for doing it – customers that are owners of the business spend more, loyal, etc
    • SF vs NY startup ecosystems and CEO role
      • Had joined Quire with 2 suitcases, dog and air mattress after 2 days there
      • CEO role – really fun and exhilarating with challenges daily, gained confidence at eliciting feedback from ideas
        • Coming up with better solutions and getting them to help because we don’t have all answers
      • Intensity and vibrancy, competitive spirit in NY even though it’s smaller-feeling
        • Want to take on SV and not give up the competitiveness
        • More female founders in NY – fashion, finance, media in senior executives trying new things
    • Favorite book: Magic Mountain ahead of WWII in Europe, Switzerland
    • Favorite blog: Fred Wilson’s and Tim Cook as favorite innovator
    • Gimlet Media (first investment), Kano, Duel as others
  • Julie Scelzo, executive creative director at McGarryBowen (Wharton XM)
    mcgarrybowen-logo-2

    • Talking about marketing difference between in house and outside
      • Going from Creative MD for Pandora to take on MGB AMEX
    • Moving from agency to internal at Facebook – not even a salary bump, but just felt right
      • Worked helping clients was rewarding but she missed creating
  • Lauren Smith Brody, author of The Fifth Trimester (Wharton XM)
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    • Discussion of parental leave in the workplace – if uneven with your partner, mixing it up or staggering
    • First 6 months as crucial for development – how to best alleviate this
      • Every person is different and has different attitudes
      • Nobody can generally be told how something may feel for them
    • Having the partner available in the first 6-9 months provides evidence that they’re capable, and can understand some of processes
    • First day of work being scary – moreso as a parent – train whole life to be in workplace
      • Can be comforting back at work, not so much for first days as a parent
  • Dilip Goswami, Molekule Air Filters (Wharton XM)
    • Being his father’s son, a typical engineer
    • Developing and deciding what part of product to have in house vs outside
      • Hybrid model
    • Having customer support and knowing it worked – shipping and using that as validation
  • Seth Berger, founder and CEO of And1, Sixers Innovation Lab (Wharton XM)
    170718_innovationlab

    • Discussing how coaching basketball to young adults was so helpful
    • Marrying And1 with his passion for basketball and teaching and being around it
    • Sixers Innovation Lab – knew Josh from the 90s working on a failed internet co originally
      • Helping with capital up to $1mn and seeing 10x returns so far
  • John Urschel (@johnCurschel), Former lineman with Ravens, MIT mathematician (Wharton XM)
    • Talking about the lifelong balance of math / football from his memoir
    • Thinking about where analytics may be super exciting in sports – real-time strategy if they’re allowed the computers / data on-field/court
      • Tracking data is so strong, it’d be interesting to see what coaches may do to get there
  • Nathan Furr, Curtis Lefrandt, Innovation Capital author (Wharton XM)
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    • Author discussing how innovation costs resources
    • Talking with Marc Benioff and others for the most innovative leaders

 

 

 

 

  • Sofia Colucci, VP Innovation of Miller Coors (Measured Thoughts, Wharton)
    • Introducing a new brand, Cape Line, into the world
      • Usually a 1.5 – 2 year process for a corp this size
      • Cut it down and released in 2019, dropped the other project (Project Sprint)
    • Had already done market research, wanted a more healthy, alternative to beer for women – cocktails in a can
      • Packaging and what that would look like after tasting
  • Jennifer Pryce (@jennpryce), President CEO of Calvert Impact Capital (Wharton XM)
    • Impact capital and how they grade different companies on the degrees for investment
    • Infrastructure, seeing them surpass $1bn
  • Marah Lidey (@marahml), Naomi Hirabayashi, co-founders of SHINE app (Wharton XM)
    246x0w

    • SHINE as a wellness app for meditation
      • Gaining ground with their superusers – seeking feedback
    • Self-care platform, weren’t sure how they attracted so many men – but it’s definitely catered to their experiecne
      • Reached out to one of the first superusers that was male to get his input and to have influencers help
    • Product-market fit and development was always based on how they wanted the app to be- what they were searching for
  • Kanyi Maqubela (@km), Partner @ Collaborative Fund (20min VC 094)
    deuobz-u8aarwgs

    • From South Africa originally, investments into CodeAcademy, Reddit, AngelList, AltSchool, TaskRabbit
    • Founding employee of Doostang, attended Stanford Uni & worked on Obama campaign in 2008, as well
      • Dropped out of Stanford, compelled by interest to see other part of world – did a startup, $20mil of VC funding for a couple startups
        • Being young, decision to leave was easy but once he’d left, it was tough
        • Making friendships and lasting connections easily in college – some communities outside, in pro world, was rough
      • Met his partner, Craig, while finishing school and doing work in design – convinced him to help him with CF
    • Investors are those that believe in collaborative economy – nodes, peer-to-peer and nodes for networking
      • Every consumer/employee/companies have obligation to align interests and value sets
      • Looking at companies to focus on impact and values – aspirational culture as outcome of collaboration
    • For the fund – stage specialization or theme?
      • Theme may be time-efficient-oriented. Reminder that many of most successful people have skipped on massive wins multiple times over.
        • Altman mentioned about having a point of view and heuristic to drive decisions (whether it’s stage or theme)
    • Being a partner at 30 – GPs with skin in the game
      • As young, have to have been very successful early or came from money to get into the fund
      • Needs to prove himself but as younger, may have been very risk adverse in the sense he wasn’t free-swinging
        • Facebook went public 7 years (quick for industry, but not necessarily quick for a fund) – feedback loop timeframes
      • Million ways to market as investor, drive value as portfolio, data, theme or stage specific
        • Blog as high leverage marketing for himself, writing is how he clarifies his ideas to himself and the public
    • Limits and is very prescriptive for the networking aspect of VC, conferences – wife in medical school so when she’s free, he makes himself free
    • Accelerator / demo days as good for investing – he likes being first institutional round, but thinks demo day to discover is not their best way
      • Sometimes the due diligence for demo days of seeing what’s out there
      • He uses them to talk to other VCs, see source and deal flow – coopetition – high leverage, high marketing channel
      • His best way in is likely the portfolio companies under them – he looks for connections for new places and vouch for them
    • Naming Fidelity markdown of a bunch of companies – saying that private companies are being treated like they’re public companies
      • Realtime prospects that are valued – can go up or down, financing or not
      • Private crowdfunding to create liquidity, getting to cash flows and thinking about dividends, debt, crowdfunding – IPO bar is so painful
    • Fav book: Brothers Karamazov – Dostoevsky as “fiction bible”
    • Union Square Ventures as the one he looks up to – Benchmark, also (Read ebooks)
    • Concept of Founder-friendly – agency from founders holding them responsible, but becomes messy / complicated
    • Most recent investment at that time: CircleUp was series C, crowdfunding platform for CPG – other forms of financing for orgs will be transformed

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

Posted by Anthony in Automation, cannabis, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Leadership, medicine, NFL, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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The primary theme of the week seemed to be how data can get pooled together to determine a signal and how to learn to seek the best way we, as individuals or teams, can discern valuable content to motivate actions on that information. Data is plenty – it’s a matter of gathering, curation, analysis and testing before putting it into action. This is done by any number and types of companies nowadays – this is a source of advantage seeking that forward-thinking ones make, in my opinion.

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

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

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

    • Leading private bank and wealth management, before at SVB
    • 1999 – “anyone with a pulse could get a job” but he was working selling vacuum cleaners at dept store
      • Was told by family to get a real job – applied to first business SVB, got resume in and interview immediately before starting
      • First couple years were tough – learned a lot, but was 2004 until companies had scaled and were getting bigger
    • First 10 years were tech companies, series A and B and venture debt – post 2009 Lehman / Bear, went to venture group at SVB for 4 years
      • Made the move with a few others from SVB to First Republic, now leading team in micro-VC and early-stage tech co’s
    • Says the micro-VC is more entrepreneurial & collegial compared to extended stage VC’s
      • First fund is that you can get traction for a second or third one, fees as pressure – most likely why many people come from some wealth
        • Writing large checks as GP, as well
      • 2-2.5% management fees initially vs 1 / 25 or 1/30 model
      • 1999 – 2002 distribution was 0.9x and you’d get 10x return (whoops) – very difficult for funds to get 2-3x for LPs
    • Barriers to entry much smaller for $20-25million as compared to $500mln – institutional, etc — he can go to family friends and high net worth
    • Seed over next 5 years: contraction in space (wrong), but said there isn’t enough returns for funds to max it
      • 1100 in the 2000 year and burst
      • Continued prominence of Angelist platforms, maybe an integral part of the ecosystem
      • Starting to see use of data (Mattermark, CBInsights, SignalFire) to more efficiently identify and action at this level
    • Favorite book is Phil Jackson’s – behavioral psychology, Give and Take is another one
    • Really respects the pioneers of the industry and first-time fund-raisers
      • Mike Maples, Michael Deering, Steve Anderson, Jeff Clavier when it wasn’t a thought
    • Habit – reading book or blog post for 20min in the morning before email
      • Disconnect from audio / video devices and reflect for an hour
      • 2 hours a day for family/friends and disconnecting, as well
    • Thomas Redpoint, Mark Suster, Brad Feld, Strictly VC, Ezra at Chicago Ventures
    • Knows awesome fundraisers but terrible at returning capital – didn’t mention any
  • Collectively Driving Change, Laurene Powell Jobs and Ben Horowitz (a16z 5/27/2019)
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    • LPJ – founder, president of Emerson Collective
    • Grew up in NJ – father passed away in a plane accident when she was 3 – 3 children.
      • Mom remarried so there were 6 of them. Wooded area of NJ.
      • Core values and dedication to education to get out of the area.
      • She went to Upenn – first student from her high school that went to Ivy League – ~20% went on to more schools
    • Addressing East Palo Alto school as a volunteer to help – 1st talk, 0 had taken SATs
      • What happens when you’re first to graduate high school? What’s it mean to the information from family?
      • What happens to be first to want to go to college, thrive&complete it?
        • To have the aspiration, can be a leader in the family – translator, get sucked into all problems
      • Started with 25 freshmen – would have to come with friends for responsibility mechanisms – for College Track
        • 3000 high school students, 1000 college, 550 grads
    • Collective of leaders, innovators – education inequities, access and need for enhanced/robust curriculum
    • 10 year time horizons – getting them together is scheduled with Monday all-staff meetings (3×3 matrix of videos)
      • 5 cities, sometimes philanthropic speakers or reports
      • Discussion of reading as you fall behind through third grade before switching to reading to learn – already behind
    • XQ as SuperSchool dream – 17 of 19 will open in August
    • Caring about impact and solving problems, not wealth increasing – wants access to policy or money and not taxes
      • Judged Giving Pledge for not wanting to be more philanthropic
      • Environmental, edtech portfolio, cancer / oncology investments, immigration incubator, new thinking to old problems
    • How do you know when you’re succeeding? Collecting data on everything they do.
      • Example: XQ – schools and districts, state of RI as switching to statewide competition
      • Chicago has good data for fatal/nonfatal deaths (I disagree)
    • Imperiled or important institutions like journalism and media need to be sustained, how many join?
      • Concentrating and following where IQ is migrating (hahaha – what a joke)
  • Data Infrastructure in the Cloud, Rohan Kumar at BUILD conference (Data Skeptic, 5/18/19)
    microsoft-azure-new-logo-2017

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

    • Discussion of getting data from Netflix / Amazon / Hulu / tv to better match brands and advertising
      • Dirty data via a wharton grad who set up a survey style
      • Cohorts and demographics, along with psychographics
    • After getting data, attempting to approach Youtubers / social media influencers, tv spots and channels or shows to get their brands in front of the right people
      • More pointed, depending on what interests are for their cohorts
      • Creative storytelling as the change of cultural mind shift has increased
  • Understanding the Space Economy, Sinead O’Sullivan (@sineados1), entrepreneur fellow at HBS (HBR IdeaCast #684, 5/28/19)
    • Facebook, Amazon (3000), SpaceX (12,000) and other funding like Blue Origin / SpaceX / asteroid mining or travel
    • Global space economy as $1tn by 20 years – currently $325bn so it would need to 3x
      • Breaking apart space resources and otherwise – earth-focused (delivering or existing in space that helps earth)
        • Exploration or creating interplanetary existence
    • Running out of space in space for satellites – comparing to airplane docking / loading
      • $2500 per kg now to launch, used to be $50k / kg
    • Reliance had been on unilateral agreement for space policy – one tech startup launched a satellite that didn’t have permission (but no fall-out)
      • Food / grocery stores, wifi, phone, insurance pricing due to satellite data – reliance on services are increasing as the market increases
      • Thinks that we’re close to seeing the cheapest cost of launching – cites SpaceX, but won’t allow everyone to participate
    • Ultrahigh accuracy will require higher powered satellites – GPS, nonmilitary grade is ~0.5 m – thinks it will prevent autonomous vehicles solution
    • Ton of money going into asteroid mining but thinks it’s better for testing missions to Mars and figuring out the problems for future
      • Looking at Uber at start and say “people won’t get into a stranger’s car” or other cases as how we see the future – going to Mars, etc
    • Earth-focused space technology – 100+ launched satellite start-ups, micronano satellites, relay companies, downstream analytics
      • More touchpoints for everything in this manner
      • SpaceX will increase public and government intervention and within 50 years, maybe see a human launched there
  • Investing w Twitter Sentiment, Andy Swan (@andyswan), LikeFolio (Standard Deviations, 4/25/19)
    logo402x

    • 1700+ tweets examined per minute in LikeFolio – discovering consumer behavior shifts before news
      • Direct partnership with Twitter to create massive database and how they’re talked about to look for mentions
      • Purchase intent, sentiment mentions – trends across product categories or brands
    • Example – Delta (as host is a loyalist) – making adjustments
      • Expectations are the relative part – comparison to the baselines (metrics compared to itself as baseline)
    • Put out a comprehensive report on Apple day after keynote event – September 14, 2018
      • Consumers were unimpressed with iPhone lineup – more price sensitive than maybe they’d considered
      • Apple Watch was the silver lining – stock / sales may struggle over 3-9 months (upgrade cycles)
    • WTW version of keynotes – NYE resolutions – subscribing early to drive revenues the rest of the way
      • Purchasing mentions were only up 30-40% compared to 5 or 7x weekly mentions (big difference)
    • Shelf-life and how to consider the sentiment data – lead time may be binary corp event (same store sales or year)
      • Couple months with Apple, for instance, but with Crocs – resurgence that persisted to current time
    • Set up keyword structure and brand database – “I’m eating an apple” as opposed to an Apple mention – human eyes to ‘label’
      • “Closed my 3 rings” – apple watch but sarcasm / spam that wasn’t caught (estimates at 2-3% of data)
      • If spam / sarcasm are consistent portions of the data, doesn’t really have an effect
    • Twitter Mood Predicts Stock Market – Bollen, Mao, Zeng (88% and 5-6% predictions) – fund closed up shortly
    • Advantage being better than analysts or pricing and codifying sentiment behavior compared to past quarters, data
      • Some consumer trends analyzed as true tipping point or actual movements
      • Public prediction before productizing their modeling – made 40 and were 38-2 (confidence as highest)
      • Investing as very specific, concentrated and holding ammo compared to trading with option spreads and has risk profile built
    • https://arxiv.org/pdf/1010.3003.pdf
    • Diversification as 20-25 stocks, doing it over time and with conviction can be done
    • Starting in Louisville for his fintech company, host in Alabama, for instance
      • Talent can be more difficult to seek out but the world is globally flattening via the internet
      • 70% lower overhead cost than being in SF, for instance – developers would anyhow be in Slack channels / not a big deal
      • Reduction in cost maintains greater control of company since they don’t have to take reduction of equity to gather more
    • Network effects don’t matter if you don’t have a great product or product-market-fit
    • Free association game
      • grapenuts: best cereal (Co’s been around for 100+ years, branding and $ spent and they can’t figure it out)
      • Fintech Future: individualization and customization
      • Victory: most important thing in life, achieved what you set out to do – setting goals and achieving these
      • Bourbon: pappie von winkle – collecting for dust on shelf 10 years ago and now going for $3000
  • Jonathan Abrams, co-founder Nuzzel news (Launch Pad)
    nuzzel

    • Landing hedgehog as the mascot – animal as cute, 99designs and surveying 50 friends – 25 men/women
    • Discussing how VC’s don’t have great advice, especially when general – too hard to be an expert in such a wide range
      • Finds it easier to be very context-driven and providing solutions or action-oriented questions to founders
      • Investing now easier with YC and Angelist, etc…
    • Timing and other mistakes he made – out of control, losing equity part early (but depends on where you are / what you need)
  • Etan Green, professor at Wharton (Wharton Moneyball)
    • Discussion on paper of how sharp money comes in at horse racing tracks
      • Difference between sites – fairground action compared to tracks, and specific to region (New Orleans, Minnesota, for instance)
      • Big sharp money comes in very late, pushing the underdog prices to higher values
        • More expensive to bet while at the track than the APIs enabling higher volume bets
        • Books at the track are incentivized to bring in as much $ as possible, so $0.20 on $1 vs $0.15 rebate on $0.20 for volume
    • Value and differences in how people will bet
  • Edith Dorsen, Women’s VCFund founder, MD (Wharton XM)
    wvcfii_logo

    • Talking about their focus on first fund, approach
    • Opportunity for finding diverse founders, 25% of their fund had a woman founder
    • Starting a second fund
    • Had consumer tech, enterprise and not so much b2b, but trying to increase
      • Hard to say or give advice if one of their partners don’t have expertise in the domain
  • Sophie Lanfear, Silverback Films producer on Netflix “Our Planet” (Wharton XM)
    • Species that are dying, going extinct
    • What we can do about it
  • Aliza Sherman, Ellementa co-founder, CEO (Wharton XM)
    logo

    • Discussion of client talks when she made them aware of her cannabis endeavors
    • How friendly the community is
      • Then knocked the idea that ~30% was female to start before diving off a cliff
    • CBD to mask opioids – does it really do anything from a pain/treatment perspective, though?
      • Anti-chemo because of CBD – really?
    • Sounded too rehearsed – made it sound fake, not genuine
      • Passion/motivation/mission and kept repeating as the best advice she could give – painful

Matching Environment to People (Notes from May 27 – June 2, 2019) June 20, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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In this particularly busy week, I found the theme of the week to be particularly amusing, but coincidentally or not, the dominoes fell that way. Normally, a theme arises like that because everyone is in finance or the same segment or conference is aligning. I just happened to catch a week where the insight that I drew from each person reflected similarly.

Meredith Golden, a dating consultant of sorts, discussed how she assesses all levels of dating profiles for her clients. She goes through a process that she’s dialed in to obtain her optimum level of clients as well as the right approaches to proceed. Asking herself what she wanted was key in determining how she’s grown her business, especially as an entrepreneur and CEO.

Chief Instigator Matt Charney. Now that’s a fun title. And I won’t ruin it. He goes through his past with Disney and Warner Bros and why/how he moved into the HR tech doing marketing – what he saw and how it’s different now. Fascinating and fun segment.

Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is deciding who you want to do business with. But when it’s difficult, especially at the start, you’re most excited to get ANYONE to work with (unless you luck into that massive customer to start – rare rare rare). This is Kyle Jones of iCRYO found out. Then he gained traction, quickly, and realized he needed to be a bit more diligent in who he wanted to work with – what was ideal for the business, as well as the brand moving forward.

David Epstein likes throwing wrenches, I imagine. He authored the book Range, testing the generalist vs specialist question. As a generalist masquerading currently as a specialist, I appreciated what he was talking about the strength of generalists. But I do understand the place that specialists have in our society, especially deep tech, research and other exceptional areas.

Deb DeHaas grew up under the tutelage of her mother who fought the idea of being an accountant growing up to learn and adapt to the idea of being told what she could/couldn’t do wasn’t ACTUALLY an assessment of her ability to do those things. Such a simple, fascinating concept. She could totally be an accountant, engineer, as she pleased. Took a lot of perseverance but she had a manager at Andersen (before folding) who was a woman and told her to always chase what she wanted – now she’s leading the Inclusion and Diversity team with Deloitte’s Corp Governance Arm. Quite the story of growing up and what she learned.

Not to be outdone, Kim Wilford, who acted as General Counsel for GoFundMe, discussed how she came into her role in charge of the nonprofit arm, and what they’ve done in growing the company and its donations. How to connect marketing, wearing multiple hats and helping people help others. Inspirational while metric-driven, not just dream-built.

I hope you enjoy the notes – a few I didn’t write extra here but had fascinating insights into Happiness Hacking, investing in founders and how they grew companies such as Vroom and GoodEggs. Let me know what you think!

  • Meredith Golden (@mergoldenSMS), CEO of Spoon Meets Spoon (Wharton XM)
    logo-4-300x187

    • Talking about having 6-7 clients
    • Ghostwriting messages
    • Client work depends – assessing / diagnosing the problem
      • Not matching (pictures), profile, messaging, getting them to meet, etc…
    • Metrics based on what the initial diagnosis was
  • Matt Charney, Executive Editor – Chief instigator at RecruitingDaily (Wharton XM)
    screen-shot-2014-06-22-at-2.46.49-pm

    • Talking about workplace and conspiracies

 

 

  • Kyle Jones, iCRYO Franchises (Wharton XM)
    icryo-cryotherapy-logo-uai-720x433-5-3-300x181

    • Franchising initially – would’ve been a bit pickier when starting but too excited to land first deals
    • Out of 100 franchises, they’ll go with ~5 or so
    • 10 franchises, working on doing a big deal to launch 100+

 

  • David Epstein (@davidepstein), author of Range (Wharton XM)
    43260847

    • Discussed how Nobel laureates and creative types are often generalists that spend a lot of time learning / making
      • Stumble on new ideas or concepts in their work
    • Generalists aren’t bad – allow to see a different perspective and combine ideas
      • Think “The Quants” – relationship between corn prices compared to research on _

 

 

 

  • Deb DeHaas (@deborahdehaas), Chief Inclusion Officer, C4Corp Gov Deloitte (Women at Work)
    gx-global-center-for-corporate-governance-new-promo

    • Discussed her mother, who had passed away at the age of 90 recently, who was told she couldn’t be an accountant
      • Wasn’t her role – she pursued it anyhow and ended up being an engineer before quitting and being a community leader
    • Worked in Gulf Oil’s accounting dept and helped her husband through med school
      • First councilwoman in her town, elder at the church
    • Deb started at Andersen until it folded, worked for only one woman but she was taught there were no barriers
  • Bentley Hall (@bhallca), CEO of Good Eggs (Wharton xm)
  • Mitch Berg, CTO of Vroom (Wharton XM)
    mb_vroom_id_1
  • Alex Salkever (@alexsalkever), Vivek Wadhwa, authors “Your Happiness… Hacked” (Wharton XM)
    • With Stew Friedman, finding the middle ground of tech with children / teenagers and the happy medium
    • How is it that we find some things appealing but others are a burden
    • Facebook being a publishing agency – aren’t they responsible for what the product? “Newsfeed” example.
    • Google Maps or Waze as a hindrance at the local level – dangerous, maybe?
      • Extremely valuable, still, in new places / out of the country, especially
        • Different, maybe, for walking if alternative is talking and communicating with others
    • Problem with Facebook / Whatsapp – Whatsapp unmoderated group chats and only requiring a phone number
      • Encrypted, but what cost? Facebook – for Vivek, just limits to 1-way action
    • Social media as killing people – think India’s problems
  • Ed Sim (@edsim), FP @ Boldstart Ventures (20min VC 092)
    page_55dc6912ed2231e37c556b6d_bsv_logo_v15.3

    • LivePerson, GoToMeeting are 2 of his biggest investments as lead, exited / public
    • Started a fund in 1998, DonTreader Ventures – left in 2010
      • Idea was to bring SV style to NY – VCs would look at financials / models, but they looked at people and product – focus on markets
      • Most investors were corporate but cratered after 2008
    • Started a new seed fund for sticking with what he knew as well as recognizing a shift in 2007 for open source and cloud – consumer-based
    • SaaSify vertical markets with GoToMeeting founders who wanted to do new things – $1mln, $1.5mln
      • Enterprise people were looking to get a market for small ~$1mln investments
    • Hated starting a fund – “Fundraising sucks.” – Could find a great enterprise and tech entrepreneurs at seed stage – got $1mln and made 10 inv
      • First 5-6 investments were less than $5million pre-$, sold 4 by 2012 – had option values for series A or being sold to strategic companies
        • Entrepreneurs wanted to sell in those cases, but with cloud, definitely found that it was reasonable and cheaper to do SaaS
    • First / second generation founders or single vs others – “No single founders”
      • As the first institutional round, they’re first big money in. Last few investments were second or more founders – little bigger rounds
      • If first-gen founders, funding rounds are smaller – deep expertise in their field (and have to be engineers building product)
    • “Enterprise can be fucking hard” – have to know the industry – he has 20 years, partner has 10 and new partner as building 5 companies
      • Why he went this route? Started at JP Morgan as building quant trading models as liaison Business QA between engineers and portfolio managers
        • Derivatives models to real-time pricing models – feeds from Reuters or others, risk metrics and crank out the other side
      • Enterprise was exciting to him
    • Could take enterprise founders and redo or build a new company by changing the pain point – customers can be repeat because new pain point
      • Harder to do that in consumer
    • Leads come from founders – roughly 75% as recommendations from portfolio companies (wants to be first thought or call)
      • Helps founders get their pick and decide where to go – if you have an analyst report, may not be a great market opportunity initially
    • Environment of seed funding: Jeff Clovier of SoftTech as one of few microVC’s and now it’s 400+
      • Just want to be hyper-focused and being nimble – main value add as understanding the cadence (2 founders coding together to selling)
      • Stratification of VC – best ones have gotten so large that they can’t write small checks efficiently
        • Entrepreneurs don’t want $5-10mil immediately out of the gate – mismatch, looking for less for less dilution
      • Deal flow of crowdfunding: says sometimes they will leave $250k after leading for AngelList or building new relationships
    • Jason Calcanis blog Launch Ticker, trend as rise of the developer (multiple people in company using same thing – buying licensing)
      • Messaging as another interesting trend in the enterprise space – his most used app – Slack (SlackLine – private, external channels)
    • Most recent investment – stealth investment in a repeat founder (founded and sold before) – security focused on developer
  • Kim Wilford, General Counsel at GoFundMe (Wharton XM)
    go_fund_me_logo_courtesy_web_t670

    • Talking about joining, hadn’t considered nonprofit space
      • For profit arm and the nonprofit
    • Mentioning pushing marketing and following metrics for raising vs donations
    • Can influence news stations and push for higher engagement
    • Done almost $5bn in funding across 50 million donations

How to Humanize Data for Enhancement (Notes from May 20 – 26, 2019) June 12, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, NFL, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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I’m going to keep this brief this week, as I’m trying out an added format of posting. I believe I’m going to test Nuzzel news to connect and share the links of articles I’ve read through the week (maybe once or twice – weekend one out on Monday, and another for the week through Thursday?). This post, concentrating on my week’s podcast or segment listens, will still go out. That’s my goal, though.

The week I listened to these, I was actually on my way to Monterrey with my family, though, so I had a solid 90 minutes each way to go through some longer episodes – thankfully, I found Doug’s take on culture and leading a community with Eat Club very insightful, as well as a blockchain discussion by the a16z squad particularly fun.

With the news and media focused on AI, Bias, Diversity and Ethics of ML and scariness of algorithms, it’s good to hear opinions that are focused, but thoughtful on the premise of what is being proposed. In a vacuum, yes, these can be dangerous. However, that’s not often the case when models are being deployed into production. Some are unintentional or started with a simple question of relationships (think Cambridge Analytica and how it started via Likes research on music at Facebook). That’s not necessarily justification for something that clearly had a large impact, but we’d like to know that teams are improving and have that awareness now more than ever before. That’s a positive.

I believe that these episodes, though, take a bit more of a nuanced approach of mathematics and numbers and attributes a human eye that has acquired the necessary expertise to design better models or come up with a better framework for action. We hear that with Dan Waterhouse of Balderton Capital (of a delightful Applied Math degree), who had to learn to apply more of an operational and human/market behavior investor since he had the metrics focus while learning. Then, a fascinating segment with Laura Edell, a sports fan, who struggled to believe that the metrics that were widely accepted as ‘most accurate’ (re: not necessarily max accuracy) included all components of what could be measurable – made some assumptions to test based on twitter/media analysis and coupled it with the data that was widely acceptable to come up with an excellent Final 4 Model.

To continue the theme, not to be outdone, Geoffrey Batt and Nikos Moraitakis each spoke of differing aspects of metrics that they honed in on and ignored the common threads of why those weren’t valid, despite what they saw as opportunities. Geoffrey as it pertained to Iraq investing and Nikos in the form of starting and building a company in Greece, not exactly the traditional hotbed. However, each persisted and are successful today – so there’s a lesson in doing the things that we want to do.

Remember, ultimately, numbers and averages usually take the aggregate, collection of those that may not have had the timing, willingness or ability to push but with enough persistence and support, some will certainly persevere.

Hope you enjoy!

  • Doug Leeds (@leedsdoug), CEO at Eat Club (Dot Complicated, Wharton XM)
    cropped-logo-highres1

    • Talking about going from Ask.com to Eat Club – other companies, as well
    • Quiz leading in was on different likes/dislikes
      • Harry Potter-themed eating pop-ups
      • Anti-spoiler pin (digital, season and episode to avoid conflict)
        • Anything was good that brings community together
        • Said that there were employees at work that took off Monday after GoT finale since they hadn’t watched
    • Delivery people are employees, not contractors – become regulars at corporate events and a part of the culture
      • Help build the culture of the locations – food and how they match
      • Building culture of Eat Club with improv – ability to improve skills there, as well
    • Eat Club numbers – 1000+ companies served, about 25k lunches provided
      • Regional difference of Indian focus in NorCal, Mexican focus in SoCal
        • Acquired an Indian food provider for new techniques – Intero?
        • Acquired another, as well
  • Five Open Problems Toward Building Blockchain Computer (a16z 5/16/19)
    ah-logo-sm

    • Ali Yahya (@ali01), Frank Chen and looking at crypto
    • New paradigm has to improve upon one or two particular ways for new applications, but likely sucks in most others
      • Mobile phone as enabling behaviors for instagram/uber and such with camera and gps in the phones
      • Have to trust the company currently to do what they claim to be doing – trust Google with so much to have the interactions
      • Now, have a computational fabric that separates the control of human power, self-policing and security bottom-up
    • Difference in communication cost – bounded on the end by speed of light
    • Trying to make networking efficient – miners propogating to other miners – blockchain distribution network
      • 1 MB vs 2 MB blocks but can kill some small miners
      • Agreeing on blocks or updates are final
    • Non-probabilistic vs fast – need to be faster than 60 minutes, for instance
      • Improvements on networking layer with Ethereum 2.0, Cosmo and cost or Proof of Stake (vs Of Work)
        • Who gets to participate? PoW requires everyone to compute an expensive proof of work.
        • PoS – intrinsic token that you have to own in order to buy participation, 2% ownership says 2% of the say to say yay or nay
        • Cost of participating is less expensive because it’s intrinsic
      • Practical for everyday use, small interactions between people and machines or people
      • Trust as the bottleneck to scale
    • 3 Pillars of Computation/Scalability: Throughput, latency, cost per instruction
  • Daniel Waterhouse (@wanderingvc), GP at Balderton Capital (20min VC 091)
    cqis46nlxvy5bkvj15kh

    • Sits on boards of Top10, ROLI, Lovecrafts, TrademarkNow etc
    • Was 5 year partner at Wellington Partners and invested in EyeEm, Hailo, Yplan, Bookatable, SumAll, Readmill (sold to DropBox), Qype (sold to Yelp)
    • Break in 1999 by getting to work at Yahoo for about 10 years before getting to venture in 2009
    • Applied Math background, tend to understand complexity and appreciate solutions in technology – different experience for entrepreneurs
      • Learned to be less metric-driven – less obsessed on numbers and data, more human and market dynamics
    • Operators vs career VCs – successful firms take different skills at different times
      • Exit, raising money, portfolio management, scaling, growing
      • Important to watch how a business is grown, whether it’s yourself or by being a long-term investor or close in other ways
    • Entrepreneurship as a career path and as a global one, investors in similar mindset and ambition – can take it anywhere
    • More seed capital and smaller checks than later in Europe at this time – maybe more competition higher stages
    • Thinks that consumerizing SMB software has a lot of room to grow, as well as enterprise software – easier UI-driven tools
      • Developments in AI – mentioned real-time trademark analysis (TradeMarkNow, for instance)
      • How to give great recommendations after gathering consumer tastes and insights
    • Book: The Brain That Teaches Itself – neuroplasticity of the brain
    • The first $10mln you invest, you’ll lose – advice
    • Overhyped sector: food delivery; Neglected: apply behavioral science to tech problems
    • Favorite blog/sector: longs for better content – thought TC was great when it was started, but now it’s Medium individual articles
    • Most recent investment Curious.ai – made it in 40 minutes & ambition was compelling
  • Geoffrey Batt (@geoffreysbatt), Nature of Transformational Returns (Invest Like the Best, 4/9/19)
    • Iraqi equities – history of asset classes
      • Time and patience is a big factor for how you look for results
      • Japan, for instance, 1950 – 1989 100,000% return but now is still below the peak from 1980
    • May have a decade of not working out return-wise
      • Nothing to show for investments, incredibly challenging, especially now – hedge funds or LPs
        • Reporting weekly or daily basis, long-term investment could be 6 months or 1 year – pulling money after first issue
      • Hard to ride out periods of long-term returns (think: re-rating countries)
    • LPs as agreeing to the time horizon – maybe investment committees that are making decisions on career-risk for institutions
      • Iraq to one of those – not likely to get paid off if it works, but if it doesn’t, get demoted or fired
      • Had to approach HNW and family funds – adjacency risk for people next to seed investors (if one is weighted on fund)
    • As student, he majored in psychology – said there was a guy in the seminar class that was a unique thinker
      • Daniel Cloud had co-founded a fund that invested in post-Soviet Russia before doing his PhD
      • Asked Geoffrey to come work for him and learn investment markets
    • Wanted to find next big thing – first, find a place that everyone thinks is awful (in 2007, this was Iraq)
      • Does perception meet reality? How many people dying in the war every month?
      • Country portrayed as “failed state” but oil production was increasing, CPI was 75% yoy but now 5-10%
        • Currency appreciating against the dollar, now civilian casualties in a month were down to 200 from thousands
      • Normal visit to Baghdad – mundane here, out-of-place was that 2 guys in middle of afternoon were playing tennis, kicking soccer
        • Visit companies, stock exchange, meet executives, go to a restaurant, how easy is it to hail a cab, get around
        • Critical process of infrastructure – are people paying in dollars (bad sign), local currency?
    • News media is just not set up to convey complexity to the audience – alienate, progressivism as a service, readers change
      • Experts don’t have skin in the game so they don’t face career risk – betrayal if you suggest otherwise, likely (even if true)
    • On his first trip, mentions Berkshire – early 1990s where they first invest in Wells Fargo
      • Managerial skill in banking is paramount if levered 20:1 (make 5% mistake and you’re done)
        • Don’t want average banks at great prices – want great banks at slightly unreasonable prices (thought about this in Iraq)
      • CEO of first Iraqi bank – unsecured loans to taxi drivers – less likely to take out the loan “between you and I, I’m a cowboy”
      • Entrepreneurs in these areas have to be better than others because of the instability vs the stable environments
    • Stock and capital guys – stock may trade at 3x earnings or 4-5x FCF, top and bottom lines growing at 20% per year
      • Usually just put there as knowing someone powerful but they can be bigger as allocators
      • 2008-09: Size at the time of the stock market – traded 3 days a week, 10am – 12pm on a white board
        • 60-70 companies, maybe 20 suspended from trading because 0 annual report – $1.8bn, smaller than Palestinian market
      • High growth company that is super opaque – can’t meet or won’t meet with CEO, maybe some others that state-owned enterprises that just want to keep paying salaries; maybe 5-10 companies that are investable
        • Equally weighted these companies initially and was still learning – now, he developed relationships and is on the board for companies
      • Does he want to put more $ and concentrate on the companies that he trusts and follows the guide
    • Largest holding for them – Baghdad Soft Drinks (Pepsi bottling and distribution for Iraq) – mixed-owned enterprise in the 90s
      • Local businessman (Pepsi is the dominating market share – ~70-80% vs elsewhere where it’s split) saw it was mismanaged
      • By 2008-09, were going to default on the loan they were floated – businessman bought the loan, fired management & 2000 ee’s, switched equity
        • Within a year, it was fully certified, tripled production, profitable business
    • Now, 5 days a week but still 2 days a week – had foreign investor interest, $5-6bn, couple IPOs successful
      • One telecom has about $1bn market cap, 14.5% dividend yield, 33%+ FCF yield
      • Foreign money came in 2013 but ISIS scared them off – coming back and interest from banks – arranging trips and momentum
      • Key problem – no 3rd party custodians (compared to Jamaica or even in Africa, HSBC or anything) – working on getting one
        • Makes it difficult to bring in foreign money – exchange is the custodian (which is actually safe)
        • No margins, cash-based market and settlements of t+0, no short selling (can’t sell unless have stock)
      • Oil collapse depressed prices and ISIS issue but has been up over last 2-3+ years, cheaper today than when he invested 11 years ago
    • Multiple expansion is the question for returns – 1x to 25x or 4x to 15x – depends on what they are as compounding
    • Kobe Bryant complimented him after a junior year game in high school – already looked at as a superstar – saw Geoffrey was dejected
  • Nikos Moraitakis (@moraitakis), Founder, CEO Workable (20min VC FF024)
    yawnofc__400x400

    • VP of BD at Upstream, enterprise sales in 40 countries in 4 continents
    • Wanted to start a company with type of what they wanted – centered around product, engineering company, starting in Greece
    • SMB over Fortune 500 because of product-focused and not corporation or enterprise-based
    • Applicant-tracking systems (ATS) – keep track of arcane process, don’t want to touch things – collaborative processes
      • Simple interface to solve problem of recruiting model (which is still 50+ years old)
    • Problems aren’t location-based – they’re conceptual – designing product, PMF
      • Opening with $500k or 50-200k if needing to get started, not necessarily $5-10mln like other markets or tech hubs, industry
      • Hiring engineers that are good in Greece isn’t so much a problem if you have a good company and network to attract talent
      • Moved to US not for VCs (doing good business, VCs pay attention) but they had 50% of customers without having anyone in US
        • Wanted to start customer support infrastructure, services and otherwise
        • Talked about marketing or accounting businesses on tech that taught companies that it may be worth it to update
    • Metrics that he pays attention to: month-to-month above $2mln annual revenue, ratio of new biz and lost biz
      • Not celebrating fundraising – few drinks but says it’s like having new shoes at the start of a marathon
      • Talking about investors and the relationships built to work together
  • Jaz Banga (@jsbanga), cofounder, CEO of Airspace Systems (Wharton XM)
    airspace-metal-crest2x

    • Meeting Earl, cofounder and maker, at Burning Man – drone being annoying above him while he did tai-chi
    • Prototyping the interceptor drones after seeing military request proposals – had an issue with drone over nuclear subs
    • Can place thermal scans and other security or rescue methods
  • The Transformer (Data Skeptic 5/3/19)
    • Encoder/decoder architecture of vector embeddings word2vec into a more contextual use case
    • Keyword lookup may not work (using ex of bank – river bank vs financial)
      • Humans at 95%+ accuracy, computer maybe around 50%
      • Encoding as correct interpretations and weights for context – emulating process
  • Laura Edell (@laura_e_edell) from MS Build 2019, NCAA predictions on Spark (Data Skeptic 5/9/19)
    build-2019-intro

    • Been at Microsoft for 3 years, supporting Azure for all their customers – quantum physics and statistics background from school
    • ML in cloud for customers – don’t know why they want it, just think it will be useful
      • Ex: image recognition (on techs with bodycams), HVAC documentation and augmentation or signal processing in anomalies of wave patterns
        • holoLENS use case
      • Played 2 sounds for Build presentation – her son blowing on her arm vs HVAC system custom sound – training sets and transfer learning
    • Can take a few real image and do a bunch for training: rotating, zoom, Gaussian blur, cut out background
      • Sound – same: take out environment, pauses and silence
      • Can turn 10 images / sounds into 30-50 per class
    • Active learning: model over time that can train itself and then retrain itself
    • Business domain expertise – her Final 4 model
      • #1 feature was wins, 2nd SoS, 3rd home court advantage / location – let machine validate the expertise
      • Validation of revenue drivers from machine – more importantly, if the opposite occurs – revenue doesn’t agree with data features
        • Used statistics to train data from the start in football, sports data – ncaa – teams, tourneys, prior history
          • Brought in her assumption of player-social index where they scraped sentiment and video analysis for team effects
        • Chose to use Azure Databricks (Spark background), store it in Blob and only retraining on Just-in-time in a Docker image
      • ML Flow, set of score for model – training set and .py and score.py or source data gets grouped together in Azure
        • Docker pulls them together easily and image is built, Azure DevOps can do VC

Impact and Data to Growth (Notes from April 8 – 14, 2019) May 1, 2019

Posted by Anthony in cannabis, Digital, experience, finance, global, NLP, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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I started watching Street Food on Netflix and in the Osaka episode, the chef makes a great claim that can work for today’s notes: “If you want to create your own current, you cannot live your life by going with the flow.” Granted, you can use the current as a guide, but to truly create something unique, you have to hop out of the path and try your own luck. Today, I was listening to an episode even with Keith Rabois on Invest Like the Best, and he’s a proponent of not making 10% decisions, but rather investing into 10x ones – the riskiest that can pay off are the ones that will be truly incremental. The 10% experiments may improve a bit, but won’t exponentially get you scaling.

I had a great mix of NLP / Machine Learning podcasts, social/responsible corporations like United by Blue and Everytable, to go with sales thought processes, data ethics, and finance starts on a global scale. Each person / founder / company tackling unique challenges based on their individual experience that got them to that point. How can you approach the problem? And more importantly, what’s the right way that your expertise leads you to a solution for this problem?

For some, it was how to release the stigma in the cannabis industry to expose people to the health benefits as we’re legalizing in more states? United by Blue’s founder wanted a truly sustainable business model that supported his beliefs in giving back. An expert data scientist by the name of Debbie continues to improve women relations in tech and data-related fields by 1) supporting others graciously and 2) providing, particularly Latin American women, the opportunity to see how her passion for learning sparked her adventurous career.

Hope you enjoy! Leave a comment or follow along!

  • Su Wang, Elisa Ferracane in Authorship Attribution, UT (Data Skeptic, 1/25/19)
    Link to ACLWeb for paper

    • Discourse units in addition to others
      • Rhetoric structure theory (RST) – 2 elementary clauses (as Elementary Discourse Units – EDU)
      • Relation is related by an ‘elaboration’ where the 2nd sentence elaborates on the previous sentence
      • Rows are sentence pairs and the cells show the relations between the 2 (1st, 2nd; 2nd, 3rd, etc…)
    • Plagiarism detection, authorship attribution as semantic inference (both authors as computational linguistic PhD)
    • Can be unsupervised (classification of text to an author style) or supervised (accuracy or how closely it matches an author – assign key)
    • For the paper, they looked at 9 texts via Project Gutenberg and did a CNN – high-level baseline
      • Had 2 months to get it to the next level, optimization – said that LSTM performed the best but too slow for translations or 1000s of words
      • CNN can be as good as LSTM or better depending on architecture
      • Tried grammatical matrix, columns are entity, rows as sentences – subject, object, other
    • Used dataset of 19 books and 9 authors as extension of prior state-of-the-art paper
      • IMDB as another dataset – short texts with many authors (tried to do with Twitter but can’t get structure/sentence)
      • Initial data set was ~15% more accurate (99.8%)
      • 98.5% accurate for extended novel classification ~50 texts – SVM did well also of about 84-85% (more data may allow them to be more acc)
    • Looking at the different types of features – RST was more sophisticated in that the models did better in all experiments
      • Could embed or use the one factor as a distribution over other set of features
    • For IMDB dataset, discourse features nearly didn’t help – too short to establish structure
    • Human as the ‘gold standard’ but certainly not perfect. Authorship probably different task, though.
      • Would require expertise on the authors’ part. Machine can pick up on far more patterns.
    • Next for him – semantic narratives and story salads (grant via DARPA?)
      • Coherent narratives, shuffle the sentences and reconstruct the story.
  • Sylvia Wehrle, founder CEO of June CBD Apothecary (Wharton XM)
    uuonxuko

    • Talking about the difference between CBD, THC and other strands
    • Humans as growing up with various forms of hemp oil – additive and purposeful for our evolution
    • Using the appropriate properties to go through benefits – getting the common questions out of the way
  • Donald Robertson (@donjrobertson), author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (Wharton XM)
    • Book discussing difference between stoic and Stoic, cynic and Cynic, etc…
    • Calm and indifference is different than how it may have been perceived
  • Sam Polk (@sampolk), author and CEO of EveryTable (Wharton XM)
    allen_181217_everytable-14

    • Sustainability at Feast (prior company)
    • Using Feast as test-tasters for EveryTable menu / offerings
    • EveryTable as sustainable, healthy food for people in an affordable way
      • Restaurants with partnerships of cities/areas that match the pricing (Santa Monica different than Watt or Compton)
      • Can order on app and go pick up meal for < $8 – able to do this with scale – try to ensure this early
    • Rolling out BlueApron-style weekly meals at the same price as in store
    • Corporate offerings where they have EveryTable coolers / fridges that take a credit card / payment and can pull out your order
  • Brian Linton, United by Blue founder CEO (Wharton XM)
    962afe495a8ae8ea0aaabcf099e9c715.w1583.h658

    • Originally moved from Singapore / Asia, went to college in Michigan – boredom satisfaction with sales
      • Started with ‘guady’ jewelry that was travel-related (tourist-style jades, emeralds, etc…) that he would source from home
      • Travel down to Florida / other areas and sell to region
    • Believed in doing good, so he would donate ~5% of all proceeds to ocean conservation – realized this wasn’t sustainable
      • Random donations of $1000s or %’s
    • Finally started United by Blue to develop the sustainable business model and what he believed in
  • Right Way to Get Your First 1000 Customers with Thales Teixeira (@thalesHBS), associate professor at HBS (HBR IdeaCast #676, 4/2/2019)
    • Startups failing because they try to emulate successful disruptive biz and scale instead of learning about initial customers
    • First customers are more than the money, word-of-mouth, R&D and free feedback
    • Etsy, Amazon, Netflix, Uber had no new technology (just finally had the map to see if there were cars coming)
      • Etsy went to craft fairs to recruit sellers, who then attracted more buyers
      • Pinterest tried to create a culture initially to set the tone for quality
      • AirBnb was awful initially in NY, so the founders wanted to find out – places were great but pictures were awful
        • Rented a nice camera and offered to take the pictures to improve the ones on the listings
    • What is the primary driver of value to the customers to deliver? How does technology play a role in this?
      • AirBnb had 1 engineer (founder) for a long time – increase the utilization of an expensive asset
        • Hid the options initially – didn’t have much inventory so they would email / find out and then get back to customers
        • Show availability – needed to stay in a house in the places
    • Technology is the enzyme / enabler of the start-up or experience and acquire the customers to purchase the product
      • People that like smaller companies, try new things, explore products and tell them
    • Unlocking the Customer Value Chain (Thales’ book)
  • Critical Thinking in D/S – Debbie Berebichez (@debbieberebichez) (DataFramed #58, 3/25/19)
    • Debbie is a physicist, TB host and CDS at Metis in NY (first Mexican woman to get a PhD in Physics from Stanford)
      • Promoting women in STEM, especially hispanic women
    • Metis is a data science teaching company as an arm of Kaplan in NY, San Francisco, Seattle
    • Did 2 postdocs around Columbia before going to Wall Street to work as a quant – but money wasn’t the only motivator, so she left
    • At Cambridge, she remembered speaking about Astronomy 101 as her first intro to physics class – was on 2 years of scholarship
      • She took a walk with her friend Rupesh and said that she was crying – “I just don’t want to die without trying physics.”
      • Passion drew attention and professors – offered her for a 2 year physics degree (skip first 2 if she could pass a test with complicated derivatives)
        • Had 2+ months to learn calculus, basics to mechanics and more – passed her test (9am to 9pm)
    • Mentioned going into high school to discuss data science – class was doing coding/SQL/data look on animals
      • Had 1 group that was looking over turtles – couldn’t answer the units for weight (triple digits) – not lbs, but grams
      • How this made sense – how to piece together reasoning / bias – how needed this skill was
      • Not bothering to check outliers or some data was exhibiting – why do we do it all?
      • Danish astronomer built and designed 1000 stars, which wasn’t much, but Newton and Kepler, Copernicus all derived theories from
    • Large datasets vs small datasets – insight more important vs size (big data as sometimes unnecessary)
    • Feynman quote about fooling ourselves – bias that we create.
    • History of Statistics – Stiegler, normal distribution and derivation of central limit theorem by Gauss and Laplace (1809 with Jupiter’s motion around sun)
    • With her bootcamp – she wants to attack the question of using the right algorithm and how to analyze the problems at hand
      • How to choose a data project in what you’re interested in – madewithmetis on Metis site
    •  Singular value decomposition (SVD) and reducing dimensionality, worked with Genentech founder – healthy DNA vs patient’s DNA and cancer
      • Reducing dimensions to the ones that were most relevant – NLP also
    • Think deeply, be bold, help others – Grace Hopper celebration talk
  • Dean Oliver (@deano_lytics), Data Analytics (Wharton Moneyball)
    video_default

    • Talking about how far behind NFL is behind NBA in tracking
    • There are people doing video for football, but not much – not widespread
      • Position groups will gain entirely different/new insights into how they’re playing
  • Cordasco Financial Network Planning + Sri Thiruvadanthal (Behind the Markets, Jeremy Schwarz)
    • Discussion of hedging dollar vs not – if hedging, probably wise to diversify with global
      • If not hedging, then europe may not be as great
    • Current markets say that liquidity isn’t as high with central banks, stocks start to couple and lose diversification / value
      • Decoupling early on in cycles
    • Relative value may be fine but not absolute for the dollar compared to other currencies
  • Jeppe Zink, GP at Northzone (20min VC 087)
    pbnaanhuf2i5ymkfo4qn

    • Invested in Spotify, Bloglovin, TrustPilot with focus on SaaS, fintech, mobile
    • Worked at Deutsche Bank as analyst in corporate finance, tech banker – left with 90% of team
      • Convince bank by buying principal investments before IPO in late 1990s – worked out
    • European cycles of tech – 100mln to 3bn people online, digital increase and telecom infrastructure
      • First VC firms in existence were doing integrated buyout model, which failed initially – too transaction focus
      • VCs have the talent that’s aligned with the founders now – 90% of VC firms that existed in 2000 had died in 2002
    • 10 year cycles where the great companies withstand, others don’t
    • Stage agnostic for them, series A to D rounds
      • Nordic companies of unicorns for what he has had success with
      • Europe as dropping trade barriers initially and in the 90s, broadband and smart phone starts (Nokia, Ericsson)
    • Has offices in the north for Northzone but he makes it up every other week or so
    • Try to emulate the start-up and have hunger/ambition always
      • Not trying to stagnate – venture capital vs patient (he thinks impatient is better – learn through failure and testing)
      • How fast can you learn to level up and deliver the best product? Continuous measurements, KPIs.
      • For Jeppe – momentum in product development
    • Most intrigued by fintech investing – Peter Thiel as one of his favorites
      • Most recent company was CrossLend – consumer lending with European bank lending
      • Book: Startup Growth Engines as collection of random founders and interviews

Changing Tides – CPG, Fin Plan, VC (Notes from April 1 to April 7, 2019) April 24, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, social, Strategy, Uncategorized.
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Spring is in full bloom! The California weather vortex mixture of April showers bringing May flowers. Only, we skipped flowers part and went straight to 70, 80 and now nearly 90 degree weather. Dry land. If that doesn’t work for some outdoor BBQ, wine tasting and good friends, I don’t know what would.

That didn’t stop the a16z podcast from having a collection of people on that focus primarily on CPG. What is changing in the industry – if anything – as it’s notorious for being slow moving? We see attempts at the various points in the distribution side but it becomes about scalability. Amazon/Whole Foods combo? Or will it be primarily food delivery? Seems similar to the car/taxi/autonomous question of ‘last 2-3miles’.

Then we have a similarly plodding industry, which was the last 10 years of growth seen in startup financing for Europe and London. How did the dynamic change for the founder of Hoxton Ventures once he left Silicon Valley for green pastures of London? Why is it that he maintains a global view while in Europe but keeping tabs on the US market?

Lastly, I wanted to reiterate a theme I’ve focused on previously, which is asking the right question and how that determines the plan for action going forward. A discussion I listened to with an NLP expert at AT&T Labs as well as in asset management and personal finance where people need to find better ways to match expectation with reality – whether it’s in data of tv usage patterns, network effect results from cell data, or agents looking to align incentives for a customer portfolio and their book.

Hope you enjoy the notes!

  • Hussein Kanji, founder Hoxton Ventures (20min VC 086)
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  • Started at Microsoft, went to Accel Partners as board observer (Playfish), acquired by EA
    • Seeds into Dapper, OpenGamma – yahoo acquisitions
    • Founded Hoxton and raised $40mn
    • Moved to London in 2005 for graduate school and had a colleague from Bay Area that made an intro for him at Accel to connect
    • Accel as $500 mln fund, to break-even on the fund, you need 40x’s on early stage, but bigger funds focus on late stage for big money and returns.
    • He became bullish on Europe in 2009, 2010 – shifting for platforms that were global.
      • Europe was historically underfunded, so focused on their domestic area (and would then run into US competitor that was bigger)
    • Raising the fund took about 3 years (‘normally’ 12-18 months)
      • They budgeted for 24 months and had aimed for $25mil
      • Americans said that venture investing wasn’t viable for Europe – “nothing on the ground floor”, can’t see, etc…
      • Europeans couldn’t see it after conservative – investing as gambling, etc
    • Once leaving Cali, “prove you’re smart” or “rolodex works” – network is just that you’re out means you’re disconnected
      • Some still have this sense, others don’t
    • At this time – US $ makes up about 2/3 of Series B or later funding
      • At the time, NY could do funding for 1Q that would be London for a year
    • Blog – Abnormal Returns – mentioned Flowers for Algernon (book take)
    • Follow up amounts – just backed a digital healthcare company
      • AI and live video with physicians – app for something wrong or not
  • Chris Maher, CEO OceanFirst Financial (Wharton XM)
    oceanfirstpressreleasimage1a

    • Talking about knowing someone when they’re nearly in default
    • Being prompt and succinct with bad news – doesn’t improve if you delay
  • Who’s Down with CPG, DTC? (a16z, 2/16/19)
    2b3add47cee2f6ff06eb421d32f8e4bf

    • With Ryan Caldbeck (CircleUp, Jeff Jordan (GP a16z), Sonal
    • DTC movement with tech VC firms focused on selling prominently to consumers – not product innovation
      • Marketing companies vs innovating – can’t change distribution to compete with Amazon, so proprietary SKUs not on Amazon or retailers
      • Dozen brands have 10 companies trying to compete for you, as a startup – ecommerce can’t get big in US outside of big 5
        • $1bn profit and sales
      • CAC marketing dollars are too high now when they scale
    • Unilever (DSC) and other CPGs with biotech / big pharma buying innovation
      • Clorox and Colgate as breeding ground – “If you can sell sugar water” – Jobs / John Skully
      • Selling the same product for 30 years – wouldn’t happen in tech
        • Harvard dean book called “Different” – small improvements (mentions wider mouth on toothpaste)
          • 99% exactly the same vs 1% is different – Harley Davidson, Red Bull, etc…
    • Internet enables $5mln revenue line, not tv – long-tail discoverability – can make hits on this
      • Proliferation of cpg (Sonal questions why no DTC, though)
        • Harder to a/b test or change packaging with ‘atoms’ vs ‘bits’ – trying products, packaging
        • 2-4 sets of year with 5 stores for 6 months, then 50 for another 6 months, etc… while you’re growing (Disney example)
      • CPG companies can’t start in 5 Safeways, do it in 200 but if you miss – it could be over
    • Sonal at Xerox Park – had a big CPG client whose challenge was what happened after customer purchased product
      • Worse – knew what they sold to retailers but not what product was bought at the retailer – CC cos don’t sell that
      • Some retailers may have loyalty cards but not in way that aligns everything
      • InstaCart compelling because revenue from grocery, consumer, cpg companies interested in accessing consumer
        • First performance marketing – know everything consumer has bought
      • Used an example of Steak next to wood chips at a Safeway – different than buying an end cap which would’ve been 20+ ft away
    • Food is < 5% of online – food will be delivered locally – hard to strip out costs from 2-3% net margins
      • Tech needs to penetrate cost margins – China experimentation with restaurants inside grocery stores – Asia / India not necessarily core differentiator
      • Delivery will be a convenience over an experience (as it is now) – could be 50 year vision
        • Price, experience, convenience, assortment
    • Loyalty cards don’t actually give you much more – very self-selected but at least SOME data, though adverse selection
    • Large brands losing share to small brands – decline in distribution costs that are more shifting fixed costs to variable costs
      • Big ones are struggling to work with the smaller brands (new chocolate bar – $100k to get onto the shelf which has decreased vs internet $0.99)
      • When Jeff was managing ebay – tv would be $1mln to produce ad and $10mln to distribute for what may be efficient
        • Now, marketing is a $10k youtube or facebook ad and you can hit your target audience
      • Number of brands proliferating but grocery / CPG only growing 1-2% – $ per brand comes down (more choice vs less)
        • Sonal brings up the ‘right’ choice to the right people – not stripping the choices (say, Coke vs Pepsi)
    • Offline world has been impossible to get the data you want but it’s difficult to get what you want pulled together
      • Entity resolution – google results, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, sold on Whole Foods – different names and decide how a product is what it is
    • 3G Effect – large South American company delivering shareholder value, R&D is first – 2% of sales; tech is ~14%
      • Some private markets in CPG – quantitative funds with AI / data scientists – repeated in CPG with all the same business models
      • Private equity / training data would be really hard to match that
    • Quant funds as looking at tech – miss outliers, no pattern, apriori; CPG could be patterned since winners are similar
      • Brand intensity with consumers, Product must have uniqueness – Vitamin Water / Kind bars
        • Kind bar had insight that they show their food (packaging see-through) and you can see that it’s not processed
        • Must resonate still (could put fish in product but may not be good)
      • Distribution gains is how you win – big winners don’t only sell in stores
        • Breadth and quality – where product is being sold (Whole Foods / Costco / brands want you to know it)
  • Josh Brown, Ritholtz Wealth Management (Wharton XM, Behind the Markets)
    • Discussing how he thinks it should be required to have managers match the client offerings
    • Takes longer but they take risk of getting to know clients and plan ahead of putting into place
    • Going after the right CFPs for the overall view – location not necessarily important
  • John Odnik, Consulting for Wharton Small Biz Dev Center & Principal at The Ondik Group, (Wharton XM)
    sbdc_rgb_logo_colcmedits

    • Talked about operations and sales improvements, what he looks for

 

  • Noemi Derzsy, Senior Inventive Scientist at AT&T Labs, D/S and AI Research (DataFramed #56, 3/11/2019)
    acumos-small
  • Started in academia but didn’t have bandwidth for O/S projects until NASA “datanaut”
    • Provide a community for supporting women in the open source, women in ML and D/S
    • Government forced NASA to opensource over 30k datasets
    • Chief Knowledge Architects, David, is very supportive of the community and open to question
      • Launch application opportunities to be selected yearly, typically, for datanauts (open.nasa.gov)
    • Teaching and pedagogy for her – network science focus on complex systems, done many workshops
    • 2006 as she finished her bachelor’s degree, she needed a thesis topic (Physics + CS)
      • Built a network (both directed and undirected) system between European universities and students who went between them
        • Small dataset snapshot from 2003, matrix form (value of university to another in a row/column)
          • Professors’ network influencing students’ movement among universities
          • Initial data was most interconnected by the level of partying done at university
    • Brief about business at AT&T Labs – solving hardest problems, and improvement should allow for efficiencies
      • AT&T owning Turner and how much tv data that allows them more recently – made a whole division
      • Advertising jump after AdNexus (now Xander) improving ads in the entertainment space with all of their data
        • She’s fascinated by bias and fairness in advertising marketing
      • Creating drones for sat tower analyzing – DL-base to create real-time footage for automating tower inspection and anomaly-detection
    • Her projects: human mobility characterization from cellular data networks – how to move through space and time and interactions
      • Large-scale anonymized data – mentions her frustration from interviewing the prior year where positions were in completely new fields
      • Nanocubes – AT&T creation that’s opensource and visualize realization
        • Large-scale, real-time data set availability with time and space
      • 2006-2010 paper about seeing the anonymized data where at a certain time in a certain city, there would be stopping of texts and move to calls
        • Turned out to be calling taxis at the end of night from bars / out
      • Networks as everywhere: protein interaction, brain neural, social, street/transportation, power, people
      • Topology can show basic features – degree of nodes/connections and their distribution, most nodes have very few but small hubs have very large connections // mentioned Twitter with few users at 100ks
        • Clustered node networks or are there homogenous subgroups – filter bubble / echo chambers
        • How to influence people – distribution understanding and seeing the dynamic processes dependent on the network structure
        • Cascading failure: info flow, nodes have assigned capacity – 1 failure reallocates the load to neighboring (power grids)
    • Product management fellowship related to data science and what vp of marketing, c-suite needs to learn or know as it pertains to data science
    • One of her favorite – unstructured data and text data in NLP as fascinating projects where you can pull features

 

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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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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