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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Notes from Hirschhorn & Cuban March 27, 2017

Posted by Anthony in experience, finance, Politics, questions, social.
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Listening to the Jason Hirschhorn interview with Mark Cuban  from the end of February (just pre-$SNAP IPO) —

Many great resources in all the current tech-hubs: SF & Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Austin, and expanding those. Cuban makes a good point that people and ideas are easily created now in almost every area. There are places in the country that have MORE resources — events, companies, VC’s, funds, but building can be done everywhere (Cuban mentioned when he visits IU, he can stay in contact with them).

With less and less companies going public (mentioned ~9000 publicly listed in 2008, but < 4000 now), people are either scared of going public, or are getting their payouts directly from bigger companies (Cisco, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, etc…).

Digital ad revenue for FB and Google – 85%+ market share. NFLX and AMZN are 2 biggest shares – hasn’t sold yet. Content providers – Disney, Netflix, and Amazon…. not many others. CONTENT is very difficult (Cuban mentioned Enron doc and winning awards, along with Good Night and Good Luck — hasn’t done any successful since). Content is the most difficult to maintain – very difficult to get past that giant hurdle, and these companies have the money to get above it.

Eventually got into a political discussion – using news / reactions / tweets to respond. HOW do we respond? Communicate and be patient – tough to change minds or reason – noted 52% of eligible voters didn’t vote. Trolls and dealing with internet comments – control public/private responses on twitter? Twitter must be hard-coded otherwise. Cuban mentioned an app that he’s going with – soon, machine-learning or machines will deal with the curation of information and conversation in digital platforms.

Talking about video – 7 year old son wanting to play flag football / baseball and how different it is now. Esports / watching vs watching tv (sports). His son didn’t want to watch sports / baseball / football, but wanted to play. There’s no indoctrination or religion for it anymore as we grew up on (and Cuban’s era earlier). Gaming as a big advantage in expanding NBA reach – NBA 2k and professional aspect of them since players have a deeper involvement / knowledge of the league with gaming.

The overall theme for today (not just this interview) – how can we get more young people interested in building out great ideas? The future of technology is rapidly accelerating but ideas will still be needed from the smartest people. Education seems to nerf expansive ideas – boxes people in that may be more capable, restricting opportunities. In my opinion, this is a huge flaw in the system overall.

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