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

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

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

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

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

  • Neuralink & Brain Interface (a16z 7/21/19, 16min on the News)
    1200px-neuralink_logo.svg_

    • With Vijay, Connie Chan, JPM
    • Announcement of neural lace – culture sci-fi by Ian Banks – processor & sewing machine
    • Non-invasive vs invasive (femoral artery all the way up to the brain)
      • LASIK as invasive / dangerous (still even, but now much better, accepted)
    • Announcing in rats and in monkeys now (surprising his president)
    • TikTok as 3rd most dl app behind WhatsApp and FB Messenger, 1.2bln MAUs – having huge influence at VidCon
      • Sponsored by YouTube but TikTok had a large presence, the ban in India
      • Short, 15sec videos – 1 hit piece can trigger enough people
    • How would they make money? – ecommerce, restaurants, retail – short videos for ads/commercials
    • FaceApp – probably nothing to worry about – unless high profiled public official, NatSec Space, leverage
      • Someone getting negative information or leakage – accusations of the country in general is silly
      • Countries consider privacy differently – in the US, convenience / UX will trump privacy for 15min of joy
        • Europeans, Germans, Italians for instance are more private
    • iHeartRadio announcing direct listing – before, emerging from bankruptcy or spinning off
      • Repurposed after Spotify / Pandora
  • Mobile malware and Bipartisan drug pricing (a16z 7/28/19, 16min on the News)
    • With Martin Casado, Jorge Conde, Jay Rughani
    • Monacle as mobile malware – March 2016 Android-based application
      • In security, netsec and endpoints – protecting desktops, for instance
      • Attacks phone with 2FA, even, and less secure
      • Can take calendar event, account info and app messages, reset PINs
    • Drug pricing – Medicare Modernization Act – why can’t Medicare use its purchasing power to negotiate medicine prices?
      • Part D – Medicare covering prescription prices, prevents HFS from negotiating any part of the value chain
      • Price of insulin where they get price hikes – new therapy gets $2mln for cures (R&D) differences, conflation
      • Price of successful drugs have to make money for drug and all of the failures
        • Counterargument – US subsidizes R&D for the world
        • Complex industry structure: manufacturers, distributors paid to move drugs through channel
          • Pharmacy benefit manager – who is eligible, who’s not – what are drugs for conditions and prescriptions
            • Helps insurers who gets the drugs – takes an economics layer
          • Insurers reduction drug spends, for $1 spent, manufacturer gets a small %
      • Dropping from $8k to $3100 out of pocket
        • Cap by tying to inflation (for growth) or annual price increases
        • May start higher prices because you can’t increase it much
    • Chain is not transparent, but also complex – tech can have an impact but needs help from policy to drive out some inefficiencies
      • Free market works if there’s transparency – what is a medicine and can you make it fair enough for everyone
      • Current system is not set up for the new medicines (extending life from 10 years to a cure)
  • Richard Hanson, CEO & cofounder of HiringScreen (20min VC FF028)
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    • Founded in Hong Kong in 2015
    • Studied law in Cambridge, did 11 years recruitment consultancy in London before moving to Hong Kong
      • Then created his own recruitment firm – had his own looking at 196 cv’s for an EA for someone
      • Score, sort and select candidates
    • Tech advances in recruiting industry – job boards and sourcing is at all-time highs
      • Barrier to application is all-time low but have too many to look for (especially manually)
      • Psychometric and phone facility stuff to find relevant candidates – get on with themselves
        • Go through rest of funnel to invest in the process in more efficient manner
    • Had always wanted to live in Asia – pretty exciting, bullish for Asia in general
      • Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan as hubs
    • If you have an idea, try to find someone or go ahead and do a view of what it may be executed on
      • He had the idea, went to his cofounder Luke (better at project management side)
      • Prototyping mockups and getting through the first steps efficiently – may hit a dead-end a few weeks in
        • Validating idea as soon as possible – customer or problems for people (heads of recruitment firms for his problem)
    • Making an effort to code or understand a bit of the UX (in his case, CSS and HTML to understand a bit)
      • Compared to languages in a foreign country
      • When his CTO introduces people, he wants to be confident about what the developer has been doing and understanding their past
      • His responsibility to show an effort/commitment in the job role
    • Looking to raise a round – HiringScreen did it in 8 weeks
      • Competitive slides, why you want to raise, how to convey mission statement, skill and productivity gaps
      • Understanding his potential investors, as well
    • Accelerators – choosing the right ones? He’s with the Blueprint Accelerator by Swire properties
      • B2B focus, no equity in startups – working space and Swire network of companies (conglomerate of different co’s in verticals)
      • Sponsored him and tried to help advance the company by talking to other HR talks
      • Mentions Brinc as hardware accelerator near the top
    • Idea of equity early on would depend on your assessment of what the startup needs?
      • Super low cost – accelerator with working space?
      • Product but proven use case – Blueprint to trial product and test it
      • Balance the need with the equity they’re taking
    • The Alliance book by Reid Hoffman for looking at employee and employer workplace, tour of duty principle
    • Brad Feld and Jason Calacanis’s blogs, Reid Hoffman as the most admirable founder – better people to take LinkedIn on
  • Jennifer Golbeck, College of Information Studies and Affiliate Professor at UMD
    • Talking about social media research, truth and justice
  • Carl Ericson, CEO & cofounder of Atomic Object (Wharton XM, Mind Your Business)
    atomic-object-wordmark-500x265

    • Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor software product development company and why he chose there
    • Sails at Grand Rapids Yacht Club
  • Bianca Gates, Marisa Sharkey, Birdies co-founders (Wharton XM)
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    • Discussing how they started them and Feb 14 – when she landed an article with a SF Chronicle fashion correspondent at a dinner party
    • Driving up to the other in order to get all 2000 orders packaged and sent out

 

 

 

  • Mickey Ashmore, founder of Sabah Shoes (Wharton XM)
    sabahtwotone

    • Doing a 6 month project after Seattle in Turkey – turned into 2 years as the only non-Turk
      • Grew an affinity for the people, culture, food and trends – girlfriend’s grandma at the time gifted him a pair of handmade shoes
    • Returned to NY and beat the crap out of the shoes – wanted another
      • Reached out to the maker (current partner) and bought another pair
      • Ended up getting 5-6 in different colors, customized without the flip – people said they were awesome
      • Ordered 300 – could get 150+ and did a party to showcase them with cocktails, enjoyed hosting
        • Got 30-40 orders on the first night, decided to do it for the rest of the summer “Sabah Saturday/Sundays”
    • Realized it could be a business after in the summer he was making more from shoe sales than his NY P/E job
    • Expanding from 3-4 employees to 40 and expanding from a home to a warehouse – border of Syria/Turkey
      • Has a few key employees that are Syrian refugees – part of the brand and they showcase it on the site
        • Not branding directly, but definitely part of the story
  • Goldie Chan (@goldiechan), digital marketing expert of LinkedIn and actor (Wharton XM)
    • Discussing quitting her job and making a fake company while unemployed
      • Turned into a marketing consulting gig – had a few clients, had to create a company
    • Now doing talks and discussions
  • Kurt Seidensticker, CEO of Vital Protein (Wharton XM)
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    • Collagen and explaining to people how it was – getting some in to Whole Foods through them asking
    • Didn’t hit him until he was in Italy and 2 random women at a café pulled their Vital out
    • Did about 10 companies, 2 succeeded enough to pay for kids college and allow him the freedom
      • Was doing Vital during another company until it surpassed the other
  • Fortnite, esports, Gaming (a16z, 16min on the News)
    • 2 million concurrent livestreaming – not as big as GoT, for instance
    • With Andrew Chen, Darcy Cooligan (investing team on consumer)
    • Bigger prize pool for Dota 2, $3mil for Bugha’s win was larger than Tiger’s Masters victory
    • 10 years for Riot and League – still grossing billion, WoW / Runescape
    • Billions of video consumption between Twitch, YT (and now Microsoft Mixer)
    • iPad can play Fortnite pretty well, for instance – massive multiplayer opportunities
      • Instagram and this generation for coming together as people – Minecraft/Fortnite
      • Gaming and cultural zeitgeist to hang out with friends
    • Sonal did a fight with editorial desk and had seen it for a profiling in 2013 – argued it was similar to sports
      • Big business and much of the same thing – management company, played 2+ years for 6-8 hours, sponsors, fans
      • Performance entertainment and personality-based
        • Comparative for game shows – other people answering trivia, reality tv
    • Strong incentives to keep games going – user-generated content
      • Established player leading way to user-generated thereafter
      • For Fortnite, building levels (similar to mods and mod community in Minecraft and Roblox)
    • Games stadia for esports and digital dualism (in real life compared to virtual – game is the bridge)
      • Malls building areas for this part
  • Chris Tsakalakis, CEO of Vivino (Bay Area Ventures, Wharton XM)
    aws_vivino_logo_600x400.cb594b3d79815eece9e8c685a7b8d043b7910b95

    • Having users and getting customers – at least 1 employee in each region where they sell
    • Mostly in US, Europe – hq in Dublin
    • Bunch of users in Asia / South America (Brazil, specifically), but don’t sell there yet
    • Not taking VC until more recently
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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)
    tpg-primarylogo-color-28129

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

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

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

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)
    ravlfjtl_400x400
  • 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)
    logo-text

    • 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)
    logo-062fd8699c93a47b2e8278975e71b84870194fd30c288607f1e06c92a4e831a0

    • 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)
    deepmind-1

    • 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

Marketing and Investing Large (Notes from April 22 – 28, 2019) May 14, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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As a fintech-focused external analyst on pre-seed startups, I see and track as many as I can in the space. It’s allowed me to follow along, at a distance, some of the very interesting companies that are growing in finance and financial services industries. The glut of capital available has produced some successes and many failures for those looking to disrupt the industry – especially one that’s so large. And many are finding out that there are plenty of reasons why it tends to move particularly slowly and, at times, frustratingly inefficiently. You need a ton of users / customers (and the right ones) to make sure the business is sustainable at the level of efficiency you’re requiring to offer up a ‘better’ (re: cheaper) product. But then you must still maintain those levels at a much larger scale. And that’s where companies see you have to pay extra to acquire customers by marketing or offering other avenues in, thus decreasing that margin that was supposed to streamline the business and disrupt that portion of the industry. Cat-and-mouse or dog chasing its tail, often.

What tacks on to that difficulty? Well, the big fish in the pond aren’t just wallowing in comfort, waiting for disruption. Nope. Quite the opposite now. They’re flush with cash or the economics to develop solutions in-house. Or, when they see they’re scheduled to be beat, they come knocking on the door of the ones interested in an exit – purchase, M&A. Banks and the big institutions acquire the necessary innovation to diversify and improve their product offerings. Disruption – not so fast.

Ultimately, I’m not asking for these innovative start-ups to stop. Quite certainly the opposite. Their improvements and new ideas catch the attention and hasten the pace at which the incumbents must move. And it all makes for an exciting follow!

For my notes, I listened to an Ally Invest CFO discuss why he sees getting into mortgages is good for a rising banking company (one of our fintech follows). Then, a Senior VP of Marketing at Coca-Cola talked about how they align creative direction with their brand, despite not pounding red or drinks all over advertisements or songs. What have they learned to be so successful (for SO long)?

Then, one of my favorites in a while was a segment with the authors of Nine Lies About Work. I’ve followed Marcus Buckingham’s YouTube channel for a bit now where he spells out some misconceptions about the typical ‘culture’-speak of workplaces. One of my favorites: Culture is a myth. Simply, workplaces typically have an aura and vision around them, but once you’re there, this may dissipate or be something that depends on the person you’re speaking with (how do THEY view the workplace). In smaller, start-up teams, they’ll likely agree with each other – culture is the similarity of the workers. However, especially as the company grows – this will often change drastically, and by levels.

Last but not least, we had a few fantastic women on episodes exploring The Muse and Tough Mudder. The Muse co-founder, Kathryn, discussed wanting to be a very different company from what she’d experienced before. And how to give people insight into various places. Then Rabia talked about the trajectory for the Tough Mudder races and what may be on deck to bring in more of the family.

Hope you enjoy!

  • Tom Desmond, CFO Ally Invest (Wharton XM)
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    • Went to school at Kellogg, talked about how they were trying to make it easier for investing
    • Ally getting into mortgages and seeing why – thought market remains attractive
      • Mortgages as being on 10-yr timeline, quite different than other offerings
  • Geoff Cottrill, Senior VP Strategic Marketing at Coca-Cola (Marketing Matters)
    coca-cola-logo

    • Talking music and the tie-in between marketing and brands
    • Artists controlling a lot more of their own brand – becoming easier as agencies aren’t as prevalent as in the past
      • Can start and produce on their own, without agencies
    • Talked about a commercial with Pharell, who was incredulous at not having to mention the company – gave him creative freedom
      • Coca Cola ran a song and gave it away first (via their site)
      • Different types of connections, brands
    • Have to be authentic in brand, customers and consumers can sniff out if it’s not intentional, on-brand or paid without authenticity
  • Ashley Goodall and Marcus Buckingham, Nine Lies About Work authors (Wharton XM)
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    • Talked about how the company doesn’t particularly matter, it’s what you’re doing there – even though people say that
      • If culture is so monolithic for a company, why would your experience be different than another person? It doesn’t.
      • We care about the companies we join, not the companies once we stay.
    • Lie #2: best plan wins – more details and variables for the nitty gritty, but the plan becomes irrelevant as you spend time on it
      • Rendered moot because the real world doesn’t wait – plans scope the problem but not present the solution
      • Wanting to know what action to take – plans are rearview
    • Lie #4: Best people are well-rounded – theory of excellence is wrong (excellence can be defined in advance – which it can’t)
      • In order to grow, defined definition of excellence and we can tell you how to get to Warren Buffett success (we don’t say that)
      • Excellence isn’t homogenous
    • Lie #5: People need feedback – based on 3 false beliefs
      • 1: I am the source of truth about you – have to tell you that you lack empathy or charm, or otherwise.
        • Only thing a manager can do is be a reactor – “I am confused, bored, etc..” – a rater of myself.
      • 2: Learning is filling empty space. Insight and patterns recognized within – more revealing what is vs not there.
      • 3: Excellence can be defined in advance. Defined above. Used Rick Barry as example (granny-style vs ‘normal’)
      • Can be an audience to others, and help grow and excel, but in a different manner.
    • Lie #6: People can reliably rate other people. Mediated or seen through this lie through work.
      • Can see the ineffectiveness on rating systems (pattern / tool is an idiosyncratic rating – mirror, not window).
      • Not biased – it’s a natural pattern of ratings based on who you are, not who you’re rating (variation is ~60%+).
    • Lie #7: People have potential. (Performance and potential grid)
      • Person has substance – potential and we buy into the ‘bucket’ or exponential growth for people
        • There is no measurable data on these people. Can’t do it. Immoral.
    • Lie #8: Work/Life Balance Matters – who has ever found this?
      • Balance as a recipe for stagnation – how to replace this with an aspiration
    • Lie #9: Leadership is a Thing. (US has $15bn industry for this)
      • Defined in advance and in isolation from the person doing leading.
      • Only thing that is common amongst leaders is that they have followers – followers into the uncertainty of the future.
      • Create the sense of confidence that trumps the future – the way, though, is very different by leader.
  • Rabia Qari, Senior VP of Marketing & Sales Tough Mudder (Marketing Matters)
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    • Settling on Tough Mudder 5k and the full, instead of the half – had brand ambassadors that understood the growth opportunity
    • Now have Little Mudder and Rough Mudder (dogs), family affair
    • Had tried a half marathon before the 5k but community and team decided it wasn’t going to work – removed some of the spirit.

 

 

  • Kathryn Minshew (@kmin), CEO of The Muse (Wharton XM)
    small_logo

    • Talked about how the companies always looked the same
  • Steve O’Hear (@sohear), Techcrunch writer (20min VC FF021)
    tcJoined TC in Nov 2009, but had taken a break in June 2011 to found Beepl

    • Landed funding and in Nov ’12, was acquired by Brand Embassy
    • Enterprise over consumer from out of Europe – network effect is stronger in the US as English / general language
      • Spotify, gaming companies as the exceptions, possibly
    • Liked the fundraising meetings – thought it was fun but scary
      • Absolute conflict of interest where you want to tell the VC whatever to get the funding, but as soon as you’re signed, you’ll be partners
    • PR and coverage as a distraction – but he doesn’t think that TC makes / breaks a start-up
      • If you make a bad product, you’ll be found out by users/customers immediately
      • If you are making a good product, you’ll be found out still – didn’t matter for TC coverage or not (though probably brought in more eyes)
    • TC does more meet ups and conferences, less moderation of comments and conversation via Twitter or in community
    • As a writer/reporter, they don’t have to pay attention or worry about stuff
      • Editorial freedom but can write what they feel or passionate about – unique to TC / type of journalism
      • As publications grow, they usually lose the freedom, but in this case – they’re one of the best places to write
    • Best interview was Wozniak, as a fan of those that brought the pc to public
    • Inspiration from politics for journalism
    • Harry as saying that Eileen was the only one who had ever said “No!” and he was a bit annoyed, though enjoyed.
  • Josh Levin, CSO OpenInvest

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)
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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)
    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)
    pvcmh-1_

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

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

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

    • Research for the common good, Seattle, WA research
    • Language understanding tasks – ELMo (embeddings from Language Models)
    • PhD in Applied Math at UW, climate modeling and large scale data analysis
      • Went to mortgage modeling, tech industry with ML and Prod dev in Seattle
    • Trying to solve with very little human-annotated data, technical articles or peer-reviewed
      • Very difficult, very expensive to annotate – can you do NLP to help?
    • Word2vec as method for text to run ML on text, context meanings of say, bank
    • ELMo as training on lots of unlabeled data
      • Given a partial language fragment, language modeling predicts what can come next
      • Forward direction or backward direction (end of context), neural network architecture
    • Research community may want to use ELMo, commercial use to improve models already in prod
      • Pre-trained models available and open source
    • In the paper, evaluated NLP models on 6 tasks – sentiment, Q&A, info extraction, co-reference resolution, NL inference
      • Got significant improvements on results from the prior state-of-the-art models
      • Character-based vs word approach
        • Single system should process as much text as possible (morphology of the word, for instance)
    • Paper over a year old now but Bert was put up on ArXiv to improve upon ELMo (transformer architecture for efficiency)
      • Scaled the model that could be trained by many X’s, quality is tied to the size / capacity
      • Language modeling loss changed, as well (word removed from middle of sentence and predict before/after)
      • Large Bert models have computational restrictions – how far can you get by scaling the model
  • Kyle and early Data Science Hiring Processes (Data Skeptic 12/28/18)
    github-logo-und-marke-1024x768

    • 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

Striving to Learn Yourself (Notes from March 18 – 24, 2019) April 11, 2019

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

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

 

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

    • Focusing on neuro degenerative diseases, isolating proteins that cause damage
  • For the Billions of Creatives Out There (a16z, 3/16/19)
    SHOW_KO.eps

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

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