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Prioritizing Personal Projects (Notes from December 23 – 29, 2019) June 1, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Digital, experience, finance, Founders, Gaming, global, Leadership, marketing, social, sports, storytelling, Strategy, Time, TV, Uncategorized.
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We overestimate what we can do in a short time but underestimate what we can do in a longer period. This has been reiterated by Jamie Siminoff, Bill Gates, many others. It’s telling but a great mantra if you can zoom out and high level back off. Scheduling makes this so much better.

I have wanted for the longest time to get Spotify or another podcast to listen to me in the car and allow me to say something basic like “Make a note 30 seconds ago” and let me review the notes later. This could work for audiobooks or podcasts. Even allowing ebooks and articles to bookmark this type of stuff for where the page is would be useful. But maybe that’s through an API in the podcast or Kindle? I’ll have to see and report back.

In light of planning further career-wise, I have taken it upon myself to take on projects that I plan on making public for analysis sake. As an external consultant, much of my work has been NDA / kept private in general for good reasons (VC firms and start-ups are likely some of the more controlled privacy-wise). Some aren’t, and those are typically the ones that I’ve noticed have a much better, transparent brand or have less questions around their business models. A few things have stood out to me about predictions/forecasting, especially in annual or quarterly time frames that publications will release. I have focused on ML/Fintech/Edtech/Data companies over the last 5 years more heavily, so looking through the Fintech 50, Next Billion Dollar (Unicorn) Startups and Hottest 50 LA Startups. Outside the bay area / silicon valley, scanning through the different ecosystems can be an interesting landscape for focused, scaling and growing startups. LA because it’s still in California, somewhat close proximity but ultimately an alternative driving force than typical elsewhere (namely the bay).

So, I’ll have a chance to update my preliminary thoughts on the year-to-year changes – how many startups dropped off, which proceeded to move up the list, any funding raises, product progress or expansion. Hope you enjoy the notes!

  • Decade in Tech (Wharton XM)
    • 4G entering 2011 compared to 5G now
    • iPad introduction – better than netbook
      • Tablet rampup – Microsoft following with the Slate
    • Social media launching
      • Instagram launch in September 2010 – 2 guys at Stanford
      • Taking photo class from a plastic camera that a professor had given him – best, soft focus and filtered photography
      • Offering to buy Instagram in April 2012 for $1bn
    • Tesla as “gift of light” Model S – first time supercharging across the country
      • Musk took CEO role in 2008 (Model S 2012)
    • WeWork – likeminded individuals wanting to work with others outside of making money
      • Sharing space to be something bigger
      • $16bn in 2016 to pulling IPO in 2019
      • Strength as marketing capability, not necessarily management
    • Controversial events
      • Kendall Jenner at BLM Pepsi commercial
      • United – offering money for ‘volunteers’ until 4 people get off flight
        • $400 voucher and up to $800 – escalation, dragging the Chicago doctor kicking and screaming
        • Many other airlines improving overbookings
    • Ice bucket challenge for ALS – 70k tweets per day at peak
    • A/R rise as it started with Pokemon Go
    • Cutting the chord – rise of unbundling
  • Brant Pinvidic, author of 3-Minute Rule: Say Less to Get More (Wharton XM, Career Talk)
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    • Mostly reminding people of what they’re doing badly / guilty – awareness but wanted to change it to make it productive
    • Help you get as much info in 3 minutes as possible since “elevator pitch” doesn’t really work anymore
      • Meaningful engagement or not now
    • Small ideas not actually small ideas – respect the knowledge of your audience
      • Your excitement is a long history of building information – feed them piece by piece
        • Ex – AirBnb for horses: people that travel with horses need to stick them where they’re going
      • Clarity as super compelling – complications are messed up
    • Don’t open with the hook – audience needs to build into the potential
      • Katy Perry example: more Guinness book of World Record accomplishments, for instance
    • Selling a show in 12 minutes in Hollywood as junior producer between Simon Cowell and Mark Burnett – had gotten down on himself
    • People looking for hook – less dynamic personalities (biotech, oil & gas) that pulls the nervous energy out for why it will be great
    • Bringing an idea to life on post-it with just a few words – see the value come together
      • 25 bullet points to pitch his show as well as he did (core piece of information)
    • Halfway to understanding what the hook is when you can place the hook
  • Jonathan Lai (@tocelot), cnsmr team; Joel De La Garza, CIO at Box (16min on  News #17, 12/20/19)
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    • Star Wars trailer premier in Fortnite – JJ Abrams coming out of Millennium Falcon and asked to choose which trailer
      • Interactive and persistent collaboration with Avengers and now Star Wars (lightsaber)
      • 12 million people showed up for Marshmello’s in-game concert (of 250 million users)
    • Scarcity in a world of abundance – getting people there
    • Brand advertisers have a limited set of options to reach Gen Z – no display ads, billboards, maybe Snapchat or TikTok
      • Hundred hours of watching YouTube or Twitch or in-game events that eventually go out after to share
    • Fortnite’s Chapter 2 server downtime of 3 days as “Black Hole” that went viral and video
    • Security and backdoor encryption – creating escrow keys to get backdoors
      • Can’t create backdoors undermines the trust in general, even if good guys
    • Any discussion around weakening crypto doesn’t make sense
      • Conflation between a few things: we have systems that are built and they should provide backdoors/access to law enforcement
        • Backdoor to phones, for instance
      • Phone uses strong cryptography and backdoor there – focus on cryptography
      • Phone and put in safe – nobody talks about the steel of the safe – access
    • End-to-end encryption vs getting phone stolen, for instance
      • Roger Stone investigation: WhatsApp and Signal to communicate but iCloud turned on which saved all messages anyhow unencrypted
      • Metadata and other encryption can tell you far more than even the messages themselves
    • If you build devices, how much gov access do you want to provide?
      • Joel (grad student, involved in CDN – bad actors, like pedos, would use and work with Interpol to find them)
  • What to Know about CFIUS (a16z 12/23/19)
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    • Committee on Foreign Investment in US on Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018, updated in September ’19
    • Katie Haun interviewing Michael Leiter (law firm Skadden Arps) about function to review any foreign investment in US business with natsec concerns
      • 13 agencies ran by Dept of Treasury split between 2 camps: want foreign investment and concerned about security (intelligence, NSA, FBI)
      • Semiconductor moving from US to Japan, for instance, that would limit Japanese investments
    • CFIUS limiting in 2006 for Saudi Arabia and Emirates and now is Chinese investment in the US
      • Changes in technology, expansion of data and things that weren’t present even 10 years ago
      • Tech, data touch, real estate, work with US gov or anything else (dog food sold to SEALs)
    • Everyone working in fintech, credit reports, broad financial data will have more than a 16-digit credit card number and will be subject
      • 1 million people for arbitrary amount of data
    • Prior to CFIUS reform, if Alibaba acquired someone, it was up to both parties to submit to CFIUS – vast txns were never seen, no req
      • Both parties come together, transaction description, foreign acquirer, motivation, business reason
        • Good, very bad (president can veto using Article 2), can impose mitigation for sec risk (board of US citizens, data controls, etc)
      • Pieces of reform that are not voluntary – fines and compliance possible
      • Mandatory if company operates in sensitive sector listed, or produce/design export control tech
        • Includes encryption, investment over some size – mandatory filing
        • High-end types of LIDAR – controlled vs standard for automobile, not controlled
      • Could range from (ER99 not, or export-controlled) – computing power, battery storage, sensors
      • Software tends not to fall under CFIUS unless encryption
    • WSJ civil military cooperation – some stuff is mandatory and more stuff will be
    • US business – interstate commerce, could be French office with US office in US – CFIUS gets to look at US element of transaction if French company is picked
      • Green-field investments – foreign investments can be made and won’t be looked at, really
      • Ultimate parent and ultimate ownership of acquirer or investment (private equity, capital)
    • More than 9.9% equity or some other controlling interest – board seat, for instance
  • Josh Sapan, CEO AMC Network (Wharton XM)
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    • Challenging to get through people’s gateways to get to audiences
    • Base incumbent business for United States – affiliates, selling ads and that represents their financial fundamental part of company
      • Video prices coming down in different options
      • Spending less money on AMC Networks in the skinny bundles
    • Toughest marketplace for Netflix to deal with – Indonesia, as CEO said
      • Vertical scaling vs horizontal
  • Adam D’Augelli (@adaugelli), Partner at True Ventures (20min VC 12/16/19)
    true-ventures-logo

    • Investments in Fitbit, Peloton, Hashicorp, Splice, Ring, Automattic, Tray.io
    • Instructor at Uflorida in Business Finance, founder of Perfect Wave Records (donations)
    • Full-time in June 2010, 10 people total about to invest in second fund
      • Met them through vstocksolutions portfolio company (had worked there internship)
      • Reached out potentially – didn’t know where to start at intersection business/finance/tech – UF not as well-known
      • Phil had offered a role – we like you but haven’t hired someone as junior so come and we’ll see
    • Joining as a young one – new firm where you have a ton to do and roles not really defined, structured
    • Thinking about portfolio construction and business models (under-represented in vc discussions)
      • Fund-level returns for partners – funds at True are around $300mln with specific institutional capital at pre-seed, seed
      • Investments $500k-$3.5mln targeting 20-25% ownership, $2mln for 22.5%
      • Self-selection bias for why they have a better way for them
    • They back founders early, invest $1-3mln and try to own 20-25% where the downside is 1% and it will be a maximize risk for timing
    • 28 people twice, 8 people three times for the founders they’re backing now
    • Amy Errett – starting Madison Reed, wanted $2mln to get off ground for equity
    • In ’06, convincing founders to try not to raise as much
    • Lead investment amount – meaningful bias for single lead with deep pockets
      • New group of firms that will work with emerging founders where they can bring others in, potentially
    • Ring or Splice are interesting businesses now, but in earliest stages, True able to support them through risks at start
    • In each fund, make 45-50 initial investments and reserve heavily
      • 1 or 2 founders, investment in company, will generate the whole fund and 6-8 will be fund-level return (25%+)
      • Inputs to each investment: founder taking tons of product, market size market-risk at their price and raising their type of money
    • Culture at True: decisions done by protagonist with support of 1 or 2 others in nonconsensus way
      • Support for whole team and company – investment loss as part of process for repeatable out-performance
      • 1 of 10 says the company fits the model, bring on team and then get excited
    • Investing at seed stage – 65% near or at company inception, 1 to 3 founders super early
      • Board is access to True, investment team and founder network – monthly call for an hour or so, call me when you learn
      • Board coffees – 15min conversations on this – enable for speed
      • Take board seat at series A – 90 minutes every 8 weeks, roughly, when they have multiple investors, etc…
    • Select funds – pitch to founders: be here day 1, continue to invest as you go further, what’s best for company
      • He was on board at Ring during acquisition – partner John still on at Peloton
    • Learned a ton from Jamie Siminoff – how fast you can grow is much faster than you think
      • Taking asymmetric risk early on within business is valuable – ex. DoorBot – Jamie rebranded
        • Ring.com domain found, was going to raise $3.5 mln – ultimate cost was $1mln ($200k on that day)
    • Favorite book: Doing Capitalism in Innovation Economy by Bill Janeway and Carlota Perez Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital
    • Biggest challenge in role: Doing more doesn’t correlate with improved performance – Mitchell and Hashicorp had left a portco and later invested in him
      • Steve and Splice – met in Bogota at a conference and happened to meet him in NYC for breakfast after
      • Don’t know which activities are the right ones
    • Knowing more about a market – false sense of security to catch up with knowledge
      • Investing in the Unknown and Unknowable – academic paper – markets in many unknowns where knowing more leads to worse decisions
    • David Scott at Matrix – software metrics and repeatable business growth
    • Randy Glide at DFJ Growth – embraces risk and has a human approach
    • Andy Wiseman at USV – small significant syndicate being a great co-investor
    • Pat at Sequoia – depth of knowledge on being a great board member and partner to CEOs
    • Recent investment: MemBio – mission-driven bio and positive impact creating red blood cells outside the body

When Innovating Away Staleness (Notes from Nov 18 – Nov 24, 2019) February 25, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, finance, Founders, global, medicine, Politics, Strategy, training, Uncategorized.
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Entrenched. The longtime incumbents. When industry becomes too single-minded, others may start to notice. Each of these individuals from the podcast episodes are in very different industries – media/news, investing/venture, monetary policy system, and regulatory updating of provider-side healthcare. All very large, important systems that beget those that have lived the longest.

Each of the guests, however, saw opportunities in how stale an industry had/has become and attempted to take advantage. Whether that’s building something on their own directly (Jon Steinberg with Cheddar News Network) or indirectly (Gil Penchina with Flights.vc), they have a penchant for seeing innovation through. I loved hearing a few of them mention that it’s nuts to have the incumbents stagnate over some of the most advanced couple of decades we’ve ever seen.

I hope you enjoy the notes for how they structured the framework for the innovation, what opportunities they tried or came to realize, and which crazy people do you back.

  • Jon Steinberg (@jonsteinberg), COO of Cheddar News Network (Launch Pad, Wharton XM)
    cheddar-logo-16x9-1

    • Large appetite for live news and sports, very few people had done any in 20-30 years
    • Younger, faster, better as a business network
      • Younger, diverse anchors & audience in their 20s, 30s, 40s vs 60s and older
    • First round raised was $3mln, no big iron of typical broadcaster – different look and feel, same structural format for guest formats
    • Former president of Buzzfeed (2010-2014), DailyMail after – CNBC and live production as the best production
    • Lightspeed Capital friend who wanted to give him a first check – being part of a startup management team that’s successful to go from there
      • His first success was with Buzzfeed – played a role with many others, but combined his luck and effort to get the check
      • Gave up 20% for the $3mil
    • Showed up at the WeWork with Peter Gornstein, first partner and Chief Content Officer – looked at each other and “What now?”
      • Bought computers, then what now? Looked for vendors for equipment and build set.
      • Shot a 3min sizzle reel – shot sample video packages.
      • Next, go live from 9-10am one hour a day, basically – then how to ramp it up to 3 hours and more
    • Facebook Live launched, then they enabled the API so they could connect professional network equipment to it
    • Carriage fees – ESPN gets several dollars for every cable subscriber
      • Cheddar does advertisers and partnerships for their money and business
    • Purchasing Ratemyprofessor, MTVU – college market and network
    • Competitors are part of the network and counterparties still
    • Runs all news and advertising for Altice (after being bought by Viacom)
  • Gil Penchina (@gilpenchina), Founder at Flight.vc (20min VC 2/7/16)
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    • Note that this was the first day Harry had been to SF (meeting Jason Lemkin)
    • Network of AngelList syndicates that covers a wide range of sectors, SaaS, security, geographies
      • Biggest raise for syndicates to date – PayPal, LinkedIn, AngelList, Indiegogo – nominated for Angel of Year at Crunchys
    • One of early engineers at eBay (100 employees to 15000, 8 years)
      • Ran a spin-off of Wikipedia called Wikia – consumer content site, went to Fastly and angel investing
      • Wanted to work with entrepreneurs to fund small checks to other entrepreneurs as a community of helping
        • Didn’t want to do the full-time thing and thought he didn’t want to focus on terms all the time
    • At Flight, at time, they have 25 syndicate managers, 100+ volunteers to join the list – 2 groups – 1 analysis/learning companies, other sales/scouts
      • 3000 backers and they ask them to help their companies, small tasks (AngelMob) to improve or give introductions and recruiting
    • 5 years time – become a place for consumers to invest and save
      • Expansion fund and new projects – Eric working on traditional venture fund for follow-on in angel investments
    • 15 years ago, cost $10-15mln to get a website now and now it’s $10 or free for URLs (Reed’s blitz-scaling)
    • Next sector to be disrupted – education (investment seed and B into Allschool)
    • Start a syndicate – come up with thesis, going out and finding the deals (1 click to start), getting traction is hard
    • Investment ethos – people that are actually crazy
    • User of Nuzzel – best content for all of his friends
    • Similarity of Happn to “Chance Encounters” from newspaper – hoping someone sees it and reacts
  • Patrick Harker, President of Philadelphia Fed (Behind the Markets, Wharton XM)
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    • About 1/5 of jobs are at risk of being automated out – minorities and women in his district
      • Creating and destroying jobs with automation – not necessarily ridding them, but training will be important
      • Philadelphia Works – job training model for America, partnering with Comcast
        • Typically, it’s been “train and pray” – training and upskill, Comcast will reimburse out of the HR budget if successful
    • Biggest surprise – outside the lens of monetary policy – breadth of what they do is stunning
      • Largest collection of economic talent for all sorts of issues that aren’t celebrated
  • Pharma Drones, Veteran Health (16min on the News #14, 11/15/19)
    • Venkat Mocherla – market dev on bio team, GP Julie Yoo, Joel de la Garza security operating partner a16z
    • Pharmacy-patient relationship is highest volume/frequency interactions with healthcare system, owning node is good
      • Lots of startups on logistics on pharm, last mile and full-stack delivery/pharm, nontraditional care centers
      • Medicines/therapeutics work for patients, compliance is one of the biggest pains
    • MediPlus, Whatsapp your prescription and you can get delivery within 24 hours
      • Fastest regulatory arbitrage – where are opportunities – Zipline in Rwanda, for instance
      • Antiquated for brick-and-mortar to innovate, but instead mobile-first and digital distribution
      • Pills, small molecule drugs that are cheaper, chronic that can be easier
    • Last mile delivery solution is cost – one-off deliveries to patients to homes has cost issues – more expensive
      • All come to hub because of delivery efficiency
    • Apple opened up health records service to vets with iPhones – give them access to their medical information regardless of provider
      • VA is mired in healthcare challenges (came up with EHR)
      • Knock on digital health industry – great for pilots but unable to scale so far, VA and NHS populations are one-go scale
        • Not bastions of innovation but more captive population (1mil to 10-20mil)
      • Last decade, provider-side heads down for data that’s digitized but not interoperability
        • Get at the data is not a given, Apple unleashing data to consumers is great but is there utility in it? (no imaging data, limited)
      • Match data to patient, or doctors, scheduling appointments – technology for technology’s sake isn’t usually great
    • Voice commands as being sent by light – specific microphone design that’s vulnerable to the attack
      • Area of research to use frequencies of energy to affect systems – light to mimic sound, for instance
      • Advent of radio has been different research – cathode ray tubes, radio surveillance
    • Enabling hardware manufacturers to guard against this – microfilms or filtering fraud and security

Back from Vacation (Notes from Nov 11 to 17, 2019) February 11, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, cannabis, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, gym, Leadership, marketing, NFL, NLP, questions, social, Strategy, training, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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It had been a long while – 9? months since taking more than 1 day off extra and closer to 20 months since I’d had a week off in a row. I visited the Big Island in Hawaii and stayed primarily on the west side of the island. Gorgeous weather and awesome beaches will bring me back, hopefully shortly.

I want to write a bit further about the escape, but I also want to get these notes out, so I’ll write further in later this week – Thursday.

Enjoy these notes on some of the fascinating people of Eniac Ventures, other investors, founder of EasyPoint, ReSolve quant, research professors, former professional football player and a Nascar driver.

  • Hadley Harris (@Hadley), Founding GP at Eniac Ventures (20min VC 2/3/16)
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    • First mobile venture, Soundcloud, Airbnb, Vungel
    • 2x entrepreneur in mobile – Vlingo (acq by Nuance for $225mln) and Thumb (acq by Wipulse)
      • Was one of first employees and execs running marketing and bd while working with product
    • Worked at Samsung and Charles Rivers Ventures
    • Studied engi & math as undergrad @ Penn, joined MSFT & Samsung
      • His 2 really good friends at Penn and him came together for Eniac in 2009
      • Mobile – next place for computing – cleantech was hot at that time, as well
    • SF was 50%, NY as 25% and the rest was elsewhere – won’t lead but will do a pro rata and be key in fundraising for next
    • Living & breathing the co – coming to right valuation, inevitable for down or flat rounds
    • 18-24 months from seed to series A or pre-seed to seed – funds becoming more institutionalized
      • Leading rounds for Eniac at $1.2 – $2mln
    • Favorite book: Freakanomics, read it in one sitting
    • Tools: gmail, relayedIQ for deal tracking, as todo list, also
    • Don Valentine – godfather of VC, great investors but great entrepreneurs and fund raisers
    • Favorite blog: Nuzzel – curation of reposts
    • Underhyped: mobile enterprise; Overhyped industry: big fan and he does work in social, but lot to weed through
    • Most recent investment: Phhhoto – knew the founders, they’d known each other for a while, great design and numbers – self-funded
  • Zach Resnick (@trumpetisawesom), founding EasyPoint (IndieHackers #130, 10/28/19)
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    • Iterating your way to founder-product fit, currently at 10 people, 5 full-time, $600k ytd with 15% yoy organic growth
    • Traveled, worked and lived abroad in Jerusalem before school, infected with wanderlust
      • CC churning and manufactured spending while he was learning at school in Ohio – VISA gift cards to $1k
    • Banking often makes more money on the chance that you’ll become a customer for other areas of business (mortgage, checking account, brokerage, etc)
    • Started when he was 19 – would give advice to parents/family/friends on the year before getting an hourly rate for paying customer as consultant
      • Enjoyed his help, he liked helping others – he was getting $1k/mo from hourly before going up
      • Consulting clients – he was helping optimize for business or vacation trip for the points
    • Started Land Happier to solve a problem of having everything in one place
      • Cultural norms, transportation, 6 other things for information in a fun and compelling app product (MVP on app store)
      • Wasn’t solving a problem that nobody has, but nobody would pay for – product/founder fit wasn’t there, either
    • What he wants – enjoys negotiating, strategic thinking, interesting conversations and sales moreso than product focused than customer focused
    • While working on Land, he productized his consulting – generally was helping family friends that were parents’ age
      • Amount of effort he was putting in compared to the value wasn’t the same – not high enough
      • Started to focus on small business or medium enterprise owners to put spending on the right cards and get 6 figures on spend return
      • Focused on people he knew through referrals, points optimization plans for small owners – acquisition and spending for more value
    • Early stage owners – hey, this isn’t free
    • Playing poker for relatively high stakes – teaching important principles, statistics, risk management and psychology
    • Consulting to productized consulting service – had a family friend with small business who would see a $50k in increased return on spend
      • He could do a quick analysis and understand business more, try to get a customized points optimization plan for points
      • Small business owners are leaving 1.5%, maybe 2.5% on the table – using points better for things you already want to do
    • Providing value but people didn’t know what it is or weren’t hurting – show them math for 5 figures within a year saving
      • Guarantee: if you sign up points optimization plan, if he doesn’t get you double what his fee is within first year, he gives money back and $10k
      • Making people aware of the problem was going to be a lot of work – never really got off the ground for outbound
        • Was just a way to make money, not necessarily grow it really fast – customers’ needs
    • Concierge service now (v3 EasyPoint) focusing on business and first-class international long-haul service
      • Over whatsapp and telegram groups – makes a flight request and they get back to them 24/7
      • They use miles and points that they buy from clients and then use those to book for others
      • Brokers buying all kinds of points and miles – so the arbitrage there contained issues with ToS and such
        • They’re buying transferable points like Chase / AMEX directly to frequent flier accounts
    • Working for someone else – interned with The Points Guy and when he was looking at doing it, he posted on the Facebook group
      • Cameron, now their COO, was very good – would he want to have his hires over for dinner?
      • Team of 10 now: Cameron manages concierge, growth marketing (5 on team, looking for Asia now)
        • Part-time business development consultants, full-time that have been searching
      • Revenues and loans for growth/cash flow, venture debt and possibly equity raise
    • Concierge service with product-market fit and being focused – enterprise value of $100mln probably but not billions
      • Not much needs to be tweaked for core product – fund raise would be for a different product
        • Help consumers decide on if they want to use their points or cash when booking – trying to automate this for concierge/back-end
        • Chrome extension and booking engine to use or not – this may be billion dollar opportunity
  • Andrew Butler, ReSolve’s Head of Quant Research (Gestalt University, 10/2/19)
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    • Machine learning in markets: Silver bullet or Pandora’s box
      • Unsupervised, supervised and reinforcement learning differences in application or finance
    • Student of mathematics, physics in undergrad, keen on not memorizing a lot of stuff – enjoyed the applied side
      • Oil reservoir simulators that modeled tidal flow in Bay of Fundy, wind turbines in giant field for optimization
      • Next step was working on a sub problem of simulators – complex, computationally expensive and trying to optimize NPV in 60d oil field
        • Navigating the nonlinear, nonconvex solutions – how to make a reasonable model approximation by sampling sparse reps of simulator
    • How would simulator/emulator apply to financial world in momentum and moving averages
      • Sample distribution would fit well to out-of-sample distributions in physical world but finance wouldn’t – nonstationary
      • Caused him to use simpler models, momentum models (and transformations) and ensembles of simple factor models
        • Mean-variance optimization, error maximizing, in-sample won’t perform well out of sample
    • Wanted formal training in financial engineering, so went and got a MFE
    • Practitioner compared to theorist – after a conference talk, his construct was mean-variance was same as regression
      • Subspace reduction and regularization as identical terms for mean-variance
    • Machine Learning as 3 subspaces
      • Unsupervised learning -> clustering and dimensionality reduction
        • Targeted marketing, customer segmentation and in finance: signal processing, optimization or portfolio construction
        • Trying to uncover relationships/groupings/clusters contained within a dataset
      • If total error is dominated by bias, it’s likely overly simplistic – X as model complexity and Y as Total Error (Bias / Variance)
        • Increase complexity, bias term can decrease, increasing the variance (instability/overfitting)
  • Kelly Peeler (@kellypeeler), founder / CEO NextGenVest (20min VC FF#034, 2/5/16)
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    • College Money mentor, empowering students to live full lives, history of financial crisis for motivation to start
      • Went over to Iraq, started and enabled some companies to build there in 2012
    • Went to JPMC after graduating to make some money before starting NGV for students
    • Financial organization to financial efficiency – going from Mint (organizing money for a user’s financial lives)
      • Now people need efficiency – time priority, optimizing time through automation and personalization
        • Leverage trust to improve time in the background (automation and not wanting to have to look)
    • High school trust and students have nobody they can trust for guidance – 8% trust banks and financial institutions
      • If you can build a product/service, on your way to building trust
        • Save users time, money, customized experience
    • Serving their customers with SMS and Snapchat – smarter push notifications for the right service in the right way
      • Couldn’t customize communication inside an app, so they did channels that they chose
    • NGV clubs at high schools across country – new high schools brought in, engagement and grassroots
    • First product that they brought on was for the financial literacy test that 17 states need
    • Favorite book: The Thank You Economy – best people outhustle to get more customers
    • As visual person, can focus on 1-3 things at a time – preps in the evening, large index cards
    • Adam Nash at Wealthfront – build trust with dynamics of product and the culture of company
    • Spent too much time at focusing her weaknesses but has tried to get better on that side
  • Sam Yagan (@samyagan), Starting OkCupid, Sparknotes (Wharton XM, Marketing Matters)
    • Turning down consulting job for OkCupid start – told he was crazy but wanted to take the chance
      • Free model and how do you value customers but competitors were Match and eHarmony
      • Had to get enough people on all sides of the market and then could use the data to help
    • Internet wasn’t designed to take an expert’s ideas and just use those – bigger than that
      • “You know what you want.” We’ll pull it out and figure it out.
      • Google comparison – index all the pages and figure those out to place on first page
      • Creating a platform to ask all the questions and focus on them
    • Sold Sparknotes in 11 months, took OKCupid 8 years (sold to Match, was there for a year)
      • Got the job running the company for another 3.5 years as Match CEO and created Tinder
  • Rob Gronkowski (@robgronkowski), All-Pro tight end (The Corp, 10/1/19)
    • A-Rod investing into Rob’s brother’s, Chris, company Ice Shaker
      • Were able to put money in, along with Mark Cuban, when they were on Shark Tank (all brothers)
      • Rob, upon retiring, bought Arod out of his shares in the business with Chris
    • Fitplan – Arod gave Rob a discount on the shares in Ice Shaker and he just wanted Rob to look through his company
      • Rob invested with Arod – parents were in business (gym equipment for retail/commercial for 28+ years)
    • Kraft being an owner for the team and being around the game – interested in everything
      • Rare to see owners in the locker room and talking with players – many players say they’ve never seen others
      • Brady, Kraft and Belichick as being the greatest people and diagnosing problems/plays and adjusting
    • Rob wants to travel – done a lot in the US
      • Traveling a week from that day to Israel with CEO Barry of CBDMedic there
    • Being reckless as single Gronk in the NFL (loves Camille now, though)
  • Horst Simon (@hdsimon), Chief Research Officer at LBNL (Curious Investor 9/3/19)
    4vfj55gu

    • Difference between ML and programming – validity of an email, for instance
      • Computer looks for “@” and domain name, iterative of if-then’s, marking valid or invalid
      • ML – give details of valid and invalid email addresses and have the computer figure it out with a statistical model for rules
        • Relationship between information
      • ML more as being able to see if something is a cat in a picture – hard to program that
    • Helped establish the Berkeley supercomputing center – big role all across the world now to complement theory by simulations
    • More data than ever before, 90% of digital data created in last 2 years – more in 2018 than all of human history
      • Finance can’t generate more data like autonomous cars, for instance (100 cars means 100 more data points)
      • Markets/economics are dynamic – return predictions of signal:noise approaches zero
        • Driven by economic features of markets – competitive, profit-seeking traders that act on it
      • HFT as real barriers to entry so they’re less efficient and more predictable, potentially
      • Quantitative traders don’t use raw data – they use transformations such as log of equity, cross-sectional rank of book to market ratio
        • Neural network tries to find what the best transformations are (X -> Y and explore all the connections)
    • Bonds example: predict if issuer will default or not with firm information using random forest
  • Rajiv Shah (@rajcs4), Data Scientist @ Data Robot, Adjunct Prof UChicago (DataSkeptic, 10/22/19)
    1024x528

    • Started engineering, studied philosophy and law, PhD in Comms before doing research as academic
      • Worked at State Farm and Caterpillar before going to Data Robot
    • Deep learning applications in motion data like NBA player data, motion tracking arms and legs (PoseNET, for instance)
      • Nature paper published that used deep learning to study after-shock patterns for earthquakes
    • Going through paper – simple starting point or baseline model was skipped – how much value is really added, then?
      • Looking at the 6-layer problem – approach wasn’t unexpected when using keras to add layers
      • Results generated: AUC of 0.85 compared to naïve benchmark of simple, physical model – AUC of 0.58
      • When he reproduced it, test set results were higher than training set – yellow or red flag for model
    • Group partitioning – 130 earthquakes happening right after each other, near each other and related
      • Make sure the information for an earthquake/customer doesn’t get split between training / test sites to avoid leakage
      • Basic grounding of fundamentals for setting up initial training data, partition based on time to avoid that, as well
    • As community, ensure that there are best practices and guidelines – reproducibility as a large problem lately
      • How to police boundaries for the general field – influence of institutions in publishing (for this, Harvard/Google/Nature mag researchers)
      • Good from them: the data and model for the code was freely available and he could do it on his laptop / notebooks
      • Academics from the earthquake field reached out to him with some qualms and he’s partnered with them for a blog on efforts
    • Interpretability focus trade-off with accuracy – that he’ll speak on at Open DS Conf
      • Lots of tools for explaining models with transparency now, though
  • Julia Landauer (@julialandauer), NASCAR driver (Stanford Pathfinders, Wharton XM)
    • Being on Survivor (suggested by a friend while Soph in college), racecar driver
      • Picking Stanford because of so many people that were awesome / ambitious
      • Mentioning Andrew Luck saying that this was why he chose it – people wouldn’t particularly care
    • Driving at such a young age and in Manhattan – not getting a license there until 18 on campus
    • Having to pitch and learn how to pitch at a young age for sponsorships, running a team and the cost, even at minors – $500k+
    • Some 12 female drivers and being competitive

Find Your Own Value (Notes from Nov 4 to Nov 10, 2019) January 21, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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One of my favorite pieces and follows on Twitter of the last 3 months has been Tyler Tringas, founder of Earnest Capital. He came to realize that there existed a massive opportunity to fund companies that may not require or need the VC model of capital infusion – just a starter amount to do testing, easiest when people look to make sales and revenues early (maybe not the model for certain industries – marketplaces/user-dependent network effects not-withstanding).

Wild for micro and seed funding, when companies have yet to establish a true product-market fit or business model each time, typically stick with one financing style. I wonder how much innovation has been restricted by the funding style. There are advantages and disadvantages for each of those. But I’ve yet to come across more than 2-3 VC’s (out of 1000s) that do multiple and have a separation / adjustment. Makes sense from the LPs sense, but not necessarily if you want the companies to be SOMEHOW getting to a growth/scale that fits.

Less Annoying CRM Tyler King was cognizant about the capital and efficiency standpoint in business – everyone that doesn’t create value seemed expendable. Those that did will make it. I find that an important takeaway and general attitude toward either doing your own thing or being a part of a bigger company.

Hopefully each of these excite everyone enough to check the fantastic people/content out further!

  • Tyler Tringas (@tylertringas), founder of Earnest Capital (Indiehackers #131, 11/1/19)image02

    • Funding for entrepreneurs, founders, outside of the ecosystem – profitable and sustainable
      • Not competing with other options – just found a large group of bootstrappers that aligns with the goals
      • RBF doesn’t work for some
    • Green field space in the past – no competitors and could gobble the market – big risk early but if it’s worked, it can be massive
      • Launching and building became cheaper and more niche for diversifying the opportunities – limiting VC scale
      • When he sold his first business, he handed over his Stripe account, Github and Roku
    • Software companies – no retail shop meant your option was “raise money” = “raise venture capital”
      • If you were doing a bakery or something, you had a plethora of options
    • 5 years ago, he was one of the loudest critics and blogger
      • If he was bootstrapping, can you work backwards and what would you have wanted to work with
        • Is it actually a fit for you
      • No board seat, mentors for long-term
    • Raise money when you believe the money will unlock value in the business
    • Had Storemapper – where he figured out what he wanted to do next
      • Derek Sivers – Tarzan move – need the second vine before letting go of the first vine
      • Pivoted to finance to do finance models behind wind/solar farms
      • Then to micro SaaS Indiehacker before noticing people struggled to get businesses off the ground early (his $50k cc debt)
    • His basic bet is that it’s not an iron law of physics that 90% will fail
      • His fund will fail if it is an iron law – and his investors are aware of this
      • He believes the VC model is circular in that if you require growth is 11% a month for 12+ months, more likely to become unicorn
        • But if they don’t hit that, then they’re failing
    • Really interested in niche markets for a piece of software that serves a market – eg Hostify, Endcrawl post-production credits, etc
  • Tyler King (@lessannoyingcrm), cofounder of Less Annoying CRM (Indie Hackers #128, 10/21/19)
    5bac7c2c446aa-resize-710x380-1

    • Bouncing between companies after college, had joined a startup that grew after Series A, only to be acquired
      • Everyone was fired except for 5 cheapest employees (including him)
    • Marketing channels not working – word of mouth, sometimes paid ads, Google AdWords or Facebook
    • Customer support – competitive advantage as going slow, not being held to revenue standards
      • Can focus on customer service and product features
  • Maren Bannon (@maren_bannon), cofounder & Partner at Jane VC (50inTech Podcast #11)
    https3a2f2fblogs-images.forbes.com2fcarisommer2ffiles2f20182f102fjane-vc-logo-text

    • Cold-pitching VC – for cold emails, take time to research the investor and explain why they’d be interested
      • Adjacent industries, past role in competitive area, resonating project
    • Nailing the one-liner / 10 second offering in a sentence
    • Bullet points, succinct including certain things
      • Traction for user/revenue/notable customers
      • Advocates, angels with industry expertise
    • Why you? Brief description for the ideal team.
    • Include an ask – why are you contacting? Advice, seed round, etc…
    • Include right materials (letter can be brief, but more info attached or deck or 1-pager)
  • Ok Boomer, Microtransactions (16min on the News by a16z #13, 11/3/19)
    • NYT Taylor Lorenz – (perennially behind others but gets credit for the writing of it)
    • Taking on a meme, protest for what’s rigged – Gen Z affected by Boomers “hurting us”
      • How memes can turn into clothing, sales for songs, be further monetized
      • Social media generating social phenomenon and transactions and merchandise
        • V1 was ad-based, then quasi-based for sponsored ads (protein powers and such), direct transactions for monetizations
        • Can get demand and feedback for multiple types of merchandise before launching and sending out efficiently
    • In China, commerce is already in the app – button after 2nd loop you can complete purchase inside the app
      • Close the loop on-platform in China
    • Marketplace on games for platform – supporting size/scales that fraudsters can open up accounts and quickly find monetization structure
      • Build false economy and cash out quickly – advanced fraudsters for automation, maybe with virtual trades and purchases
      • If it’s $10k, they’re wrong – probably multiple millions, if not more
  • AI in B2B (a16z 10/23/19)
    189-1892846_people-ai-logo-png

    • Oleg Rogynskyy from People.AI, for sales and marketing
    • Very few users that give you private, anonymized data is much harder to make them comfortable with this data
      • How valuable is the promise you’re making to customers vs the cost to achieve it
    • For entrepreneurs: if there is human activity that generates data for how they do it that isn’t being captured, there’s a ripe opportunity
      • Shipping containers, wind farm, location of Uber driver – reliable data, aggregate and figure out what may be the next best action would be
        • Significant growth and acceleration for these actions once network effects apply
      • More sensors, edge computing, salespeople, drivers in network – more data collected and more patterns you can see
        • Smarter the graph becomes, better the predictions may be allowed to become – then, more money and lures in other network participants
      • Wind farm operators: know it will break after it breaks but someone in comes in that was there collecting data ahead of you, they are up still
        • Competitor automates process, you can go to same vendor and catch up but if you miss AI, you can’t catch up
      • Oleg mentions that he thinks AI is zero-sum and that the Fortune 500 will look very different in 10 years
    • All customers benefit from generalized data – first customers have to do a lot more than others
      • People writing contracts: only sell to me, but customers would be relics
    • When the data model changes, systems of records die – Andreesen
      • Hierarchical first, then on SQL, then cloud SQL and Salesforce
        • Next gen data model should be graph – federated shared graph model – instead of you pulling data and searching, it will push to you
        • Personalized actionable insights – pushed through the channel you’re most likely to engage with – maximum focus
      • Level of intent for the user should be known – don’t have to expose the complexity but you can be shown and execute that
    • Difference between autopilot and co-pilot
      • As human, something mundane or repetitive – automating the functions to make it more efficient use of your neurons
      • Augmenting ability to make decisions – racecar that may know what’s around the curve, making us super-productive – more human
    • Needs to be 10x on the platform vs off the platform if you’re afraid of the set-up
    • Sales & Marketers specifically
      • Shifting how they work – day-to-day: 1/3 of time on manual data entry, 1/3 on prospecting (classic problem), 1/3 on face-to-face doing selling
        • First should be gone, 2nd should be done with help on ML and AI for value-add prospecting and automate outreach
        • Face-to-face: Machines can’t replace this but may be able to help out
      • Training on the end point – best way to sell, unbundling learning management system
    • Wants to do bottoms-up but currently top-down – through standard procurement channels
      • Users will demand data-hungry approaches and solutions – apps that built AI on user data but not merging with enterprise data
        • Have easier time for value adding in these cases because you just want data to increase (single player can do single player)
    • Biggest surprises: inside sales for Oleg starting in 2006 pounding phones, went out and did a software change before downturn
      • Learned timing matters at that time.
      • Then started Symantria – sentiment analysis API in 2011, size of market matters – 20-30 companies needed it (80% of market)
      • Remembered that he was put into a conference room with COO (head of sales), cleaned Salesforce and within a month it was in ruin again
      • Couldn’t understand sales team when he took over, why it wasn’t ramping up quickly, losing deals, hiring more people but productivity was fine
        • Supposed to have data in CRM but never had it
  • Martin Mignot, Investor at Index Ventures (20min VC 2/1/16)index-ventures-768x469-1

    • Investments including Deliveroo, Blablahcar, Algolia, SwiftKey, others
    • Worked on 50 transactions like CodeAcademy, FlipBoard, Soundcloud
    • UBS Investment Bank on TMT team and co-founded beauty subscription company called Boudoir Prive (acquired by BirchBox)
      • Comes from entrepreneur family and action/doer and the creative
      • VC seemed to be between acting and thinking part of the job as he’s followed it for 10-12 years
    • Split on idea of career VC without operating experience
    • 3 ways to look and slice companies: at Index, they have thematic and geographical approach since they need to have ppl on ground in Europe
      • Stage-focused: seed / growth
      • Thematic: fintech, adtech
      • Geographical: Germany, France, London, Amsterdam and building the network there with angels, seed funds
    • 6 hour drive test or drunk test with founders – no formal founder test to determine invest-ability
      • Are they able to attract and hire the people they need
      • Trying to decide if the risk is worth reward – not beholding themselves to a valuation cap if they believe
    • Favorite book: I have America Surrounded by Tim Leary
    • Investor who has shaped his theses is Fred Wilson – being right, companies and sharing insight, communicating as USV and himself
  • Elaine Beak, consulting and HBS (Career Talk, Wharton XM)

    • She wasn’t too scared but whenever she had problems, the solutions would arise
      • For others, the security blanket is the scariest for most people when she tries to help them on decisions or convincing them
    • Writes her books in 2 weeks each – written and published 80+
    • Word of mouth, should have 6 months saved up, and have 50 people that you can contact for saying you’re going out on your own
    • Following own rules:
      • Billing clients the same day that you finish a project.
      • Clients may have 30 day billing window, so if you waited 2 weeks, they’ll forget or not be as appreciative.
    • Don’t discount, add to the service instead – charge more
      • Bad reputation for discounting.
    • Go for the big fish – large companies but the time to get smaller companies is the same for larger. Repeat business is there
      • Repeat business and more of a budget to continue work.
    • Learn to say no. Non-paid speaking engagements should be limited.
    • Manage your time well – make sure it pays off.
      • Find ways to automate things – invoices, payroll, accounting, responses to common questions
        • Make a standard paragraph or find an app/template once you have these
    • Project will end but not relationship – stay until the end and do a good job for the client.
    • Incorporating, LLC for sure

Paralysis of Planning (Notes from Oct 7 – Oct 13, 2019) December 12, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Leadership, marketing, medicine, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Hello everyone! It’s been forever – a few weeks. That wasn’t my intention and my head’s been spinning around topics. However, nothing was clearing up idea-wise, at least enough to fit something in. As writing is an intentional habit of mine to try to memory-dump and stay organized, the slowdown has been a poor fall off from my routine. We’ll get it back.

I forget where I’d read it first, but there are some long-form bloggers who said just writing to write daily has helped them get to coherent, well-written posts about once a week. I may try a medium there and plan to write 3-4 days, even if it’s brief. Let’s see what comes of that (on initial thinking, I’d like to get 1 or 2 of those data-focused).

Last week, I attended #HustleCon in Oakland, which is focused on entrepreneurs (mostly non-technical) and the strength of pattern recognition and actions on ideas. A few of my prior posts have mentioned the flood of information available, so long as you have a plan to go through it. It’s likely why I found it funny to hear various founders with their “definitive” takes on fundraising, hiring and culture building processes. It’s possible the thing they all agreed on was just to focus on the product/customer feedback. The rest was completely in the air – some swore on fundraising and it was easy, others thought it was only necessary to scale to size they wanted later, some wanted to just get large customer traction, etc…. There’s no single track except your own past experiences. That’s the one track for ‘worked’ vs ‘doesn’t work’. Everything else has examples on both sides.

The commonality aside from product/customer-focus was in reflecting on actions – can you test an idea? Can it sell? Will there be a proper response? Is the response as you expected? Iterate from the basic idea that you had to begin with and see if you can’t improve it further. I am starting to agree that there are many ideas that fix many things we each interact with – our experience (usually bad) influence our ideas to improve them once you have that “I wonder why it can’t be easier – or why can’t it be done like X”. Acting on that idea to see if you can fix it is at least better for you and a handful of likeminded people – “2x improvements”. The iteration to move from that to providing an easier/painless/smooth/updated experience is the rest. And that determines success/fail of the business (if there was one). That’s a large jump but one that I may unpack in the future.

I think the notes below contain a solid mixture of hope for the future, business building, medicine and exploration.

  • Trae Vassallo (@trae), founder at Defy.vc (Wharton XM)
    favicon_200px

    • Looking at focusing in early-stage connected software companies
    • Avoiding stigma of young and white and male – although that’s lore/myth, despite what we see in SF
      • Founders as average age of 40
      • Very diverse, including in their portfolio co’s
    • They lean on founders who they may have backed before
    • Attending Stanford for Bach, Masters and MBA
      • After undergrad, interned at Boeing for summer before realizing corporate wasn’t really for her, true engineering
      • Had more of a design mind – Ideo (design firm) kept intriguing her in SF
    • Niche for funding between big moves and some that don’t want massive venture deals – thought it was common enough to fit
  • Seyward Darby (@seywarddarby), Editor-in-Chief at The Atavist (Wharton XM)
    atavist_logo_2015

    • Discussing paper
  • Amazon to Deliver Healthcare, Google Quantum & VR/AR (16 Minutes on the News #10: 9/29/19)
    • Cost of employer-based healthcare just passed $20k annually for the first time
    • Often hear about “At least Amazon doesn’t deliver healthcare” – their position in the market is the source of fear
      • Haven’t hired nurses or physicians, partnered with Oasis
    • What would counterpart for realities of healthcare working
      • How do you integrate into supply chain of broader healthcare landscape (Amazon as just inserting into primary care, not others)
        • Primary care is a minor part of total spend
      • Game for startups is to get distribution before incumbent gets innovation
    • Oculus – advancing AR/VR very quickly – selling as fast as they can make them with Quest
      • Hand-tracking is working much better, technological advances
      • Verifocal lenses – different ways for seeing 3D
        • Big Screen as watching 3D films – true eye separation, although in VR, you don’t see great depth
    • Eyes trade off high resolution (central) compared to the outside which would be low res
      • Mobile GPU for glasses as less powerful but improving compared to ones that are plugged into the pc
      • Enough users where developers can be incentivized
    • Quantum computing as here – yes, but not broken for cryptography
      • You can run a computation / calculation on quantum computer
  • James Beshara (@jamesbeshara), cofounder at Tilt (20min VC FF#031, 1/22/16)
    crowdtilt-to-tilt-image_28305

    • Micro-crowdfunding platform, founded dvelo.org for crowdfunding loans and donations to poverty-alleviation
      • Then moved to friends funding
    • Khaled as co-founder – said “he’s the luckiest thing that happened to company”, introduced by a friend
      • 26 yr old running strategy at Rackspace – needed someone to develop because he didn’t have the development skills
    • College kids as the largest demographic here – wanted to make crowdfunding very easy
    • Fundraising process for the two of them, trying to get investments from real estate, oil & gas, hardware – didn’t understand
      • Were in ATX and had to do value prop for 90 seconds – duh?
      • Got into YC and grinded until that point, even for raising $500k
      • Helpful for Series A – growth graph that they didn’t have for seed
    • Destination in mind for investors – standalone, durable company (likely public)
    • 5 years away – building crowdfunding platform and taking it mainstream
      • Update: Didn’t make it.
  • Bryan Johnson (@bryan_johnson), founder of OS Fund and Braintree (20min VC 1/25/16)
    braintree_logo

    • Bought by ebay in 2013 for $800mil, and launched OS Fund with $100mil in personal capital to benefit humanity
    • Extend human life, replicate visual cortex, reinvent transportation and food
    • Key question of building technology and the world we want – governmental systems improvement
      • Balancing returns – money is a tool of power and influence
      • Can be decades and he’d be fine with it
    • Interested in materials science and rearrangement of atoms – raw source inputs, business services and how to consume them
      • His portfolio is mostly genomics and synthetic biology
      • Has a sizable chunk of experts that they get advised by on specialties
    • Blockchain technology – thinks of the start to the printing press
      • Tools of creation and platforms of creation are hard to predict what would be next
    • Fav book: Shackleton’s Endurance Voyage, favorite person: Craig Ventur
    • Most exciting recent investment: Ginkgo Bioworks
  • Kamran Fallahpour (Director at Brain Resource Center in NYC) and Geoffrey Woo (CEO, Founder at HVMN) Brain Hacking (Wharton XM, Dot Complicated)b593e157-b9cc-4762-b437-ff43ca3f731e-1498462151992

    • Bryan Johnson on Brain Hacking and founder/CEO of Kernel, not a matter of if / when
    • Coming to Brain Resource Center: both children and adults, ADD, ADHD, brain injury, migraines, anxiety
      • Families with kids with attention issues or doing fine but want an advantage
    • First do a brain mapping using EEG – over- or underactivation
    • For Geoffrey, he had friends after Stanford trying to make machines or robots smarter, better and more efficient
      • He wanted to wonder how he could get humans to perform better – tinker with the body
      • Cognitive functions as being why we’re above the animals – n=1 experimental starts
    • Pubmed research articles on nootropics, reports on Reddit for chemical stacks, substances that were supplements or foods
      • Prescription or off-label, scheduled drugs legal or illegal
    • Improved sleep as best biohack, exercise for cardiac health and now regular exercise/weightlifting as brain cognition
      • Neuroplasticity growth and improving brain functions – any way to stimulate the brain, puzzles/language/out of comfort zone
      • Plateaus when looking at neural feedback
  • Andres Barriga (@andresbarriga), cofounder of Portola Growth Partners (Wharton XM)
    • Chilean venture capital after business school in the states
    • Growth in LATAM – primarily western countries and then up to Mexico for growth
    • Talent is starting to be attracted to possibilities
    • They got 3 US funds to invest
  • CRISPR! Policy, Platform, Trials (16 Minutes News by a16z #11)
    • CCR5 gene as preventing HIV
    • Alliance of 13 companies in the space to not do germline editing, but would still do therapeutic somatic cell genetics
      • Genome that runs the body and the one you pass on to generations – germline
      • Somatic cells will not be passed down to future generations (eyes, liver, etc…) and germline would
    • 1970s had discovery of recombinant DNA – tech to cut/paste genes
      • 1980s had genetic applications outside of the body – initial cut healthy copy of gene and put into virus and stick into humans
      • Late 90s – patient Jessica Zellwinger – can’t randomly do gene splicing
      • Talons – gobbler proteins – zinc fingers took forever to remove mutated genes but would take PhD students months and $10ks
    • Emergence of CRISPR as way to treat disease, in short order
      • Gene therapy, CRISPR, engineered cells to treat cancer, for instance
    • Legislation in California – preemptive for what could go wrong and how to be productive
      • What if the kit is used improperly
    • Applications – ex-vivo vs in-vivo (outside of bodies compared to in)
      • Vehicle/delivery compared to the load – which is ex-vivo and can be Quality Controlled
      • Eye as initial in-vivo CRISPR use since eye is immune-privileged (bacterial components of delivery)
      • CAR-T therapy for cancer patients – usually send cells to get edited and then put back in
  • Sarah Hum (@sarahhum), founder of Canny (Indiehackers #124 10/7/19)
    logo

    • User feedback tool, feeling the pain of the data and trying to combine customer data
    • Just crosses $50k MRR – team of 5, transparent and paying team with money they make
    • Digital nomad – she was in the same place in SF with her cofounder – quit her full-time job but wasn’t making much
      • Team of 2 was easy as she traveled initially, couple

      • Indiehackers Courtland with his brother – know how to argue and disagree
    • Had done quite a bit of hackathons – worked at Facebook for 1.5 yrs before starting
      • Worked on Messenger as product designer – felt limited by what she wanted to do
      • PD is ~20%, she’s learned about marketing and pricing and sales otherwise
    • Started Product Pains as a community for people giving feedback over things – didn’t monetize initially
      • Had a community of 5000 people that primarily did consumer products
      • Rebranded to turn it into b2b and monetize – could change products with Product Pains (give them feedback, for instance)
      • Andrew had worked on team working with React – teammate had asked him after he left about what he was doing
        • Started using Product Pains to get information about developer pains – still a big mechanic
    • Eventually they had companies join Product Pains who asked if they had a widget
      • Didn’t have widget initially, but they asked if they built it, would they pay for it? Basically said yes – $19/mo
      • Had been 3 months after she quit to rebrand and launch as Canny
        • Had to get a pricing page going for payments
    • Get Satisfaction around 2008-2009 as Yelp for customer service / user feedback that got a ton of investor money
      • Raised $10-20mln and cratered in a short amount of time
    • Launched Canny on Product Hunt as a good initial feedback and went to Oct ’17 for profitability (hit Hacker News)
      • May / June talked about digital nomads – week or so before leaving and took off – first little tour of US and then went to London
      • 26 cities in 2 years, Seoul as reliable cafés and wi-fi – Nomadlist and about a month in each place
    • Writing 200 words a day – blogs every week then are almost 1400 words
      • Levers to grow a business (via Patrick Cambell, CEO of ProfitWell)
        • User acquisition – blogging, product via word of month
        • Monetization – pricing, how often to charge, how to upgrade, paid plan, etc
        • Retention – how long do people stick around
    • Pricing strategies: haven’t tried freemium
      • SaaS, thought about – started initially at $2/mo (cheapium)
        • They’d have to chase people for this
      • May be a good time to try again – never set it and forget it – should be able to charge more for it
      • Tried to charge based on people as what they thought it was the business / how much willing to pay / user base
        • As they figured out the market niche, they landed on the best to target
    • Having monthly goals and try to develop features or business things to help achieve those
    • Hiring – her never being a manager
      • Helping people do what they’re supposed to be doing and supporting their jobs
      • Openness as key – working together much of the day and being on the same page, feeling good
      • They do 3-4 meetings a year
    • For 1-2 years, they have quite a bit they want to build, features to grow bigger
      • Can see Canny working for larger businesses that have reached out – catered to small/medium-sized so far
      • Giant impact with very small teams
  • Amir Haleem (@amirhaleem), founder / CEO of Helium (talk on AVC / USV port co)
    5xvzlvyv_400x400

    • Former esports champ in 90s, during dial-up days
    • Dial-up days – most competitive time for internet access, separation of those that provided services
      • US Robotics for modems, ISP like Speakeasy, telephone co like Verizon
      • Once internet got adopted and page loads enlarged, they merged
    • No option to use dial-up, cable appeared – “Internet got terrible”
      • Cable provider merged with ISP – physical lines vs provider
      • Comcast in SF as his example – local loop – LLUs – similar to telephone providers originally
    • Google Fiber – became extremely challenging for them to dig – cities wouldn’t let them dig, so they converted to wireless
      • 75-85% of customers use whatever the cable company gives them
      • Hardware in home – LoRa network or “sharing” hotspots to clog networks
    • Cellular market as too expensive soon, maybe contraction
    • Net neutrality – internet access as common carriers (2015)
      • FTC won’t mandate to cover common carriers
      • Net neutrality was only rules that were in place to rule against – until it died and how we govern ISPs
    • Cool companies in the decentralization of the internet
      • Orchid: tor-like system and rewarding nodes
      • FileCoin: store files anonymously, encrypted and hashed out
      • Brave: forced https and ads blocked, Tor as tab version
      • Helium: how to decentralize wireless links to base, especially with 5G and unlicensed spectrum
        • Blueprint of mesh of open technologies owned and operated by those that own and use the internet
    • Helium: IoT of low power sensors, tracking devices, network devices for access by others
      • Fundamentally do it and reward people with coins for holding it and for others to use it
      • Talking about using applications for the IoT world
        • mentioned the fires in NorCal in ’18 and not being able to tell the air quality within 20 mi radius
        • IoT seems to be ripe for improvement but hasn’t seen the network yet
  • Dennis McNannay, CEO & founder for Curadite, Inc (Wharton XM)736x196xcuradite-logo_long_gry.png.pagespeed.ic_.gqdo0yxdcw

    • Bioscience focus on medicine adherance

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • With Vijay, Connie Chan, JPM
    • Announcement of neural lace – culture sci-fi by Ian Banks – processor & sewing machine
    • Non-invasive vs invasive (femoral artery all the way up to the brain)
      • LASIK as invasive / dangerous (still even, but now much better, accepted)
    • Announcing in rats and in monkeys now (surprising his president)
    • TikTok as 3rd most dl app behind WhatsApp and FB Messenger, 1.2bln MAUs – having huge influence at VidCon
      • Sponsored by YouTube but TikTok had a large presence, the ban in India
      • Short, 15sec videos – 1 hit piece can trigger enough people
    • How would they make money? – ecommerce, restaurants, retail – short videos for ads/commercials
    • FaceApp – probably nothing to worry about – unless high profiled public official, NatSec Space, leverage
      • Someone getting negative information or leakage – accusations of the country in general is silly
      • Countries consider privacy differently – in the US, convenience / UX will trump privacy for 15min of joy
        • Europeans, Germans, Italians for instance are more private
    • iHeartRadio announcing direct listing – before, emerging from bankruptcy or spinning off
      • Repurposed after Spotify / Pandora
  • Mobile malware and Bipartisan drug pricing (a16z 7/28/19, 16min on the News)
    • With Martin Casado, Jorge Conde, Jay Rughani
    • Monacle as mobile malware – March 2016 Android-based application
      • In security, netsec and endpoints – protecting desktops, for instance
      • Attacks phone with 2FA, even, and less secure
      • Can take calendar event, account info and app messages, reset PINs
    • Drug pricing – Medicare Modernization Act – why can’t Medicare use its purchasing power to negotiate medicine prices?
      • Part D – Medicare covering prescription prices, prevents HFS from negotiating any part of the value chain
      • Price of insulin where they get price hikes – new therapy gets $2mln for cures (R&D) differences, conflation
      • Price of successful drugs have to make money for drug and all of the failures
        • Counterargument – US subsidizes R&D for the world
        • Complex industry structure: manufacturers, distributors paid to move drugs through channel
          • Pharmacy benefit manager – who is eligible, who’s not – what are drugs for conditions and prescriptions
            • Helps insurers who gets the drugs – takes an economics layer
          • Insurers reduction drug spends, for $1 spent, manufacturer gets a small %
      • Dropping from $8k to $3100 out of pocket
        • Cap by tying to inflation (for growth) or annual price increases
        • May start higher prices because you can’t increase it much
    • Chain is not transparent, but also complex – tech can have an impact but needs help from policy to drive out some inefficiencies
      • Free market works if there’s transparency – what is a medicine and can you make it fair enough for everyone
      • Current system is not set up for the new medicines (extending life from 10 years to a cure)
  • Richard Hanson, CEO & cofounder of HiringScreen (20min VC FF028)
    psrzsqo86j9gj71wrqli

    • Founded in Hong Kong in 2015
    • Studied law in Cambridge, did 11 years recruitment consultancy in London before moving to Hong Kong
      • Then created his own recruitment firm – had his own looking at 196 cv’s for an EA for someone
      • Score, sort and select candidates
    • Tech advances in recruiting industry – job boards and sourcing is at all-time highs
      • Barrier to application is all-time low but have too many to look for (especially manually)
      • Psychometric and phone facility stuff to find relevant candidates – get on with themselves
        • Go through rest of funnel to invest in the process in more efficient manner
    • Had always wanted to live in Asia – pretty exciting, bullish for Asia in general
      • Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan as hubs
    • If you have an idea, try to find someone or go ahead and do a view of what it may be executed on
      • He had the idea, went to his cofounder Luke (better at project management side)
      • Prototyping mockups and getting through the first steps efficiently – may hit a dead-end a few weeks in
        • Validating idea as soon as possible – customer or problems for people (heads of recruitment firms for his problem)
    • Making an effort to code or understand a bit of the UX (in his case, CSS and HTML to understand a bit)
      • Compared to languages in a foreign country
      • When his CTO introduces people, he wants to be confident about what the developer has been doing and understanding their past
      • His responsibility to show an effort/commitment in the job role
    • Looking to raise a round – HiringScreen did it in 8 weeks
      • Competitive slides, why you want to raise, how to convey mission statement, skill and productivity gaps
      • Understanding his potential investors, as well
    • Accelerators – choosing the right ones? He’s with the Blueprint Accelerator by Swire properties
      • B2B focus, no equity in startups – working space and Swire network of companies (conglomerate of different co’s in verticals)
      • Sponsored him and tried to help advance the company by talking to other HR talks
      • Mentions Brinc as hardware accelerator near the top
    • Idea of equity early on would depend on your assessment of what the startup needs?
      • Super low cost – accelerator with working space?
      • Product but proven use case – Blueprint to trial product and test it
      • Balance the need with the equity they’re taking
    • The Alliance book by Reid Hoffman for looking at employee and employer workplace, tour of duty principle
    • Brad Feld and Jason Calacanis’s blogs, Reid Hoffman as the most admirable founder – better people to take LinkedIn on
  • Jennifer Golbeck, College of Information Studies and Affiliate Professor at UMD
    • Talking about social media research, truth and justice
  • Carl Ericson, CEO & cofounder of Atomic Object (Wharton XM, Mind Your Business)
    atomic-object-wordmark-500x265

    • Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor software product development company and why he chose there
    • Sails at Grand Rapids Yacht Club
  • Bianca Gates, Marisa Sharkey, Birdies co-founders (Wharton XM)
    m_5a61f34b331627f3f88fe26b

    • Discussing how they started them and Feb 14 – when she landed an article with a SF Chronicle fashion correspondent at a dinner party
    • Driving up to the other in order to get all 2000 orders packaged and sent out

 

 

 

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

    • Doing a 6 month project after Seattle in Turkey – turned into 2 years as the only non-Turk
      • Grew an affinity for the people, culture, food and trends – girlfriend’s grandma at the time gifted him a pair of handmade shoes
    • Returned to NY and beat the crap out of the shoes – wanted another
      • Reached out to the maker (current partner) and bought another pair
      • Ended up getting 5-6 in different colors, customized without the flip – people said they were awesome
      • Ordered 300 – could get 150+ and did a party to showcase them with cocktails, enjoyed hosting
        • Got 30-40 orders on the first night, decided to do it for the rest of the summer “Sabah Saturday/Sundays”
    • Realized it could be a business after in the summer he was making more from shoe sales than his NY P/E job
    • Expanding from 3-4 employees to 40 and expanding from a home to a warehouse – border of Syria/Turkey
      • Has a few key employees that are Syrian refugees – part of the brand and they showcase it on the site
        • Not branding directly, but definitely part of the story
  • Goldie Chan (@goldiechan), digital marketing expert of LinkedIn and actor (Wharton XM)
    • Discussing quitting her job and making a fake company while unemployed
      • Turned into a marketing consulting gig – had a few clients, had to create a company
    • Now doing talks and discussions
  • Kurt Seidensticker, CEO of Vital Protein (Wharton XM)
    ca400555-4bb7-4c66-a217-b5ac910cba73._cr5101107332_pt0_sx600__

    • Collagen and explaining to people how it was – getting some in to Whole Foods through them asking
    • Didn’t hit him until he was in Italy and 2 random women at a café pulled their Vital out
    • Did about 10 companies, 2 succeeded enough to pay for kids college and allow him the freedom
      • Was doing Vital during another company until it surpassed the other
  • Fortnite, esports, Gaming (a16z, 16min on the News)
    • 2 million concurrent livestreaming – not as big as GoT, for instance
    • With Andrew Chen, Darcy Cooligan (investing team on consumer)
    • Bigger prize pool for Dota 2, $3mil for Bugha’s win was larger than Tiger’s Masters victory
    • 10 years for Riot and League – still grossing billion, WoW / Runescape
    • Billions of video consumption between Twitch, YT (and now Microsoft Mixer)
    • iPad can play Fortnite pretty well, for instance – massive multiplayer opportunities
      • Instagram and this generation for coming together as people – Minecraft/Fortnite
      • Gaming and cultural zeitgeist to hang out with friends
    • Sonal did a fight with editorial desk and had seen it for a profiling in 2013 – argued it was similar to sports
      • Big business and much of the same thing – management company, played 2+ years for 6-8 hours, sponsors, fans
      • Performance entertainment and personality-based
        • Comparative for game shows – other people answering trivia, reality tv
    • Strong incentives to keep games going – user-generated content
      • Established player leading way to user-generated thereafter
      • For Fortnite, building levels (similar to mods and mod community in Minecraft and Roblox)
    • Games stadia for esports and digital dualism (in real life compared to virtual – game is the bridge)
      • Malls building areas for this part
  • Chris Tsakalakis, CEO of Vivino (Bay Area Ventures, Wharton XM)
    aws_vivino_logo_600x400.cb594b3d79815eece9e8c685a7b8d043b7910b95

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Carrie Sheffield (@carriesheffield), co-founder of Bold TV (Wharton XM)
    slack-for-ios-upload-1

    • 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)
    2a1e66b4770724e3b40d07888973e1b1

    • 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)
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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)
    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

 

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