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

 

 

  • Kathryn Minshew (@kmin), CEO of The Muse (Wharton XM)
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    • 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
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Changing Tides – CPG, Fin Plan, VC (Notes from April 1 to April 7, 2019) April 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy the notes!

  • Hussein Kanji, founder Hoxton Ventures (20min VC 086)
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  • Started at Microsoft, went to Accel Partners as board observer (Playfish), acquired by EA
    • Seeds into Dapper, OpenGamma – yahoo acquisitions
    • Founded Hoxton and raised $40mn
    • Moved to London in 2005 for graduate school and had a colleague from Bay Area that made an intro for him at Accel to connect
    • Accel as $500 mln fund, to break-even on the fund, you need 40x’s on early stage, but bigger funds focus on late stage for big money and returns.
    • He became bullish on Europe in 2009, 2010 – shifting for platforms that were global.
      • Europe was historically underfunded, so focused on their domestic area (and would then run into US competitor that was bigger)
    • Raising the fund took about 3 years (‘normally’ 12-18 months)
      • They budgeted for 24 months and had aimed for $25mil
      • Americans said that venture investing wasn’t viable for Europe – “nothing on the ground floor”, can’t see, etc…
      • Europeans couldn’t see it after conservative – investing as gambling, etc
    • Once leaving Cali, “prove you’re smart” or “rolodex works” – network is just that you’re out means you’re disconnected
      • Some still have this sense, others don’t
    • At this time – US $ makes up about 2/3 of Series B or later funding
      • At the time, NY could do funding for 1Q that would be London for a year
    • Blog – Abnormal Returns – mentioned Flowers for Algernon (book take)
    • Follow up amounts – just backed a digital healthcare company
      • AI and live video with physicians – app for something wrong or not
  • Chris Maher, CEO OceanFirst Financial (Wharton XM)
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    • Talking about knowing someone when they’re nearly in default
    • Being prompt and succinct with bad news – doesn’t improve if you delay
  • Who’s Down with CPG, DTC? (a16z, 2/16/19)
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    • With Ryan Caldbeck (CircleUp, Jeff Jordan (GP a16z), Sonal
    • DTC movement with tech VC firms focused on selling prominently to consumers – not product innovation
      • Marketing companies vs innovating – can’t change distribution to compete with Amazon, so proprietary SKUs not on Amazon or retailers
      • Dozen brands have 10 companies trying to compete for you, as a startup – ecommerce can’t get big in US outside of big 5
        • $1bn profit and sales
      • CAC marketing dollars are too high now when they scale
    • Unilever (DSC) and other CPGs with biotech / big pharma buying innovation
      • Clorox and Colgate as breeding ground – “If you can sell sugar water” – Jobs / John Skully
      • Selling the same product for 30 years – wouldn’t happen in tech
        • Harvard dean book called “Different” – small improvements (mentions wider mouth on toothpaste)
          • 99% exactly the same vs 1% is different – Harley Davidson, Red Bull, etc…
    • Internet enables $5mln revenue line, not tv – long-tail discoverability – can make hits on this
      • Proliferation of cpg (Sonal questions why no DTC, though)
        • Harder to a/b test or change packaging with ‘atoms’ vs ‘bits’ – trying products, packaging
        • 2-4 sets of year with 5 stores for 6 months, then 50 for another 6 months, etc… while you’re growing (Disney example)
      • CPG companies can’t start in 5 Safeways, do it in 200 but if you miss – it could be over
    • Sonal at Xerox Park – had a big CPG client whose challenge was what happened after customer purchased product
      • Worse – knew what they sold to retailers but not what product was bought at the retailer – CC cos don’t sell that
      • Some retailers may have loyalty cards but not in way that aligns everything
      • InstaCart compelling because revenue from grocery, consumer, cpg companies interested in accessing consumer
        • First performance marketing – know everything consumer has bought
      • Used an example of Steak next to wood chips at a Safeway – different than buying an end cap which would’ve been 20+ ft away
    • Food is < 5% of online – food will be delivered locally – hard to strip out costs from 2-3% net margins
      • Tech needs to penetrate cost margins – China experimentation with restaurants inside grocery stores – Asia / India not necessarily core differentiator
      • Delivery will be a convenience over an experience (as it is now) – could be 50 year vision
        • Price, experience, convenience, assortment
    • Loyalty cards don’t actually give you much more – very self-selected but at least SOME data, though adverse selection
    • Large brands losing share to small brands – decline in distribution costs that are more shifting fixed costs to variable costs
      • Big ones are struggling to work with the smaller brands (new chocolate bar – $100k to get onto the shelf which has decreased vs internet $0.99)
      • When Jeff was managing ebay – tv would be $1mln to produce ad and $10mln to distribute for what may be efficient
        • Now, marketing is a $10k youtube or facebook ad and you can hit your target audience
      • Number of brands proliferating but grocery / CPG only growing 1-2% – $ per brand comes down (more choice vs less)
        • Sonal brings up the ‘right’ choice to the right people – not stripping the choices (say, Coke vs Pepsi)
    • Offline world has been impossible to get the data you want but it’s difficult to get what you want pulled together
      • Entity resolution – google results, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, sold on Whole Foods – different names and decide how a product is what it is
    • 3G Effect – large South American company delivering shareholder value, R&D is first – 2% of sales; tech is ~14%
      • Some private markets in CPG – quantitative funds with AI / data scientists – repeated in CPG with all the same business models
      • Private equity / training data would be really hard to match that
    • Quant funds as looking at tech – miss outliers, no pattern, apriori; CPG could be patterned since winners are similar
      • Brand intensity with consumers, Product must have uniqueness – Vitamin Water / Kind bars
        • Kind bar had insight that they show their food (packaging see-through) and you can see that it’s not processed
        • Must resonate still (could put fish in product but may not be good)
      • Distribution gains is how you win – big winners don’t only sell in stores
        • Breadth and quality – where product is being sold (Whole Foods / Costco / brands want you to know it)
  • Josh Brown, Ritholtz Wealth Management (Wharton XM, Behind the Markets)
    • Discussing how he thinks it should be required to have managers match the client offerings
    • Takes longer but they take risk of getting to know clients and plan ahead of putting into place
    • Going after the right CFPs for the overall view – location not necessarily important
  • John Odnik, Consulting for Wharton Small Biz Dev Center & Principal at The Ondik Group, (Wharton XM)
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    • Talked about operations and sales improvements, what he looks for

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

  • Antoine Nussenbaum (@Nussenbaum), Principal and cofounder of Felix Capital (20min VC 084)
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    • Partner at Atlas Global prior, p/e fund that was part of GLG Partners
      • Working on digital early-stage, venture fund and helped startups bootstrap after missing the tech side
      • Miraki, Jellynote, Pave, Reedsy, and 31Dover as some of his best investments
      • Helped start Huckletree with his wife
        • Looked for investment of $80mln but got $120mln
    • Backing someone vs backing the company initially in early stage funds
    • Raised in Paris in international environment, lived in UK as well
    • Launched 2004 software-on-demand business with 2 friends “that was not scalable at all”
    • Did M&A in the UK after leaving software
    • Felix Capital at intersection of creativity + technology, lifestyle brands: ecommerce and media, enabling tech
      • Stages – flexible capital, but have made investments from $200k – $6mln, focus on Series A + B
      • Geographic – agnostic, as long as backing entrepreneurs
      • Advisory services and focused on helping their investment companies
    • More entrepreneurs that know the playbook and how they can build, grow and scale
      • Looking for more companies that can scale globally or expanding outside with proper funding
    • Using Triangle as an example – bathing suits on Instagram strategy and launching millions of product via digital
    • ProductHunt as a blog he gets lost in – 15 min of destruction
    • Lifestyle-related excitement: food side, better life, marketplaces
    • Hard Thing about Hard Things and Capital in the 21st Century – relationship of wealth and economic wealth
  • Mark Suster (@msuster), MP @ Upfront Ventures (20min VC 085)
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    • Was VP of PM at Salesforce.com before Upfront
    • Late 80s – had an interest in development as a student in college in the UK
      • Worked initially as a programmer at Anderson (Accenture) for 8 years
      • Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – better to start earlier, need to have a fundamental understanding of systems (coding)
        • Python, PHP, Ruby, JavaScript – not trying to become best developer – just knowing the systems
        • Sales experience would be second – telesales or customer support – ask CEO to do an hour a week of calls
    • Started 2 software companies – one in England and then Silicon Valley, selling both – backer brought him in to VC
      • Fred Wilson wasn’t an entrepreneur, but does give you the insight
    • Don’t get the sense of urgency with too long a time – 3 months vs 12 months
      • Too much capital creates laziness and shortcuts that lead to mistakes
      • 18 month run rate for capital – takes 3-4 months to raise (start with 6 months plus)
    • Wants to see early stage companies once a month, roughly.
    • $240mln fund – invest half into companies and reserve the other half for follow-ons
      • 3 year timeframe, $40mln with 5 partners – $8mln per partner
        • Series A, B rounds where each partner is doing 2-3 deals per year when avg is $3-5mln investment
    • On his blog, has the “11 Attributes of Entrepreneurs”
      • Best known post would be “Invest in Lines, not Dots” – x-axis as time, y-axis is performance (any given day, your dot)
        • Interactions create a line that matches a pattern and he can decide if he wants to do business
      • Not a big fan of deal days or investor days where you hype up a company because of this
    • 50 coffee meetings a year – once a week, if you meet 50 entrepreneurs a year, maybe you’ll become close with 5-10 of them
      • Single best introduction is from a portfolio company CEO for an investor
    • He knows and built software company – SaaS-space since he knows how to be helpful
      • Data and video tech industry (has 11 personal investments and 5 are video)
      • AgTech as an underappreciated industry so far – stays quiet until a few investments before hyping
    • Too much company, too much money and entrepreneurs clouding the market for everyone else
    • Book “Accidental Superpower”, how demographics and topology will drive the future and how areas grow
  • Marco Blume, Trading Director at Pinnacle Sports (DataFramed #54 2/18/19)
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    • Got into data science by “sheer force”, building quant team out from Excel going to R
      • Efficiency was by orders of magnitude since R was better than Excel
      • Could do anything with risk management, trading, sports
    • Pricing GoT, hot dog eating contest, pope election and making the lines
      • Use pricing and market analytics to let the people set prices
    • Risk management in general – maximize probability and hedging risk
      • Does the bottom line change? Does it affect anything? Regulations.
    • NBA where all teams have played each other – have a good idea of strength of teams
      • Soccer or world cup – not as much certainty with teams not always playing each other
      • Start of season has a lot more volatility and responsiveness to bets because of uncertainty
        • By end of season, bookmarkers have the price and knowledge, so they’re likely to increase risk
      • Bayesian updating
    • Goals to improve models, open new betting options to clients
      • Low margin, high volume bookmaker – little bit with a lot of options
      • Book of Superforecasting – group of people who are better at forecasting
        • Pays them already at Pinnacle – consultants, betting and paying the price
    • Much bigger R shop than Python at Pinnacle, active in the R community
      • R becoming more of an interfacing language and production language (vs C# or other), can use R-keras or plumbr
      • Teaching dplyr, rmarkdown and ggplot cover 95% of their work outside of specialists
    • GoT as one of his favorite bets
  • Matthew Peters (@mattthemathman), Research Scientist at AI2 – ElMo (Data Skeptic 3/29/2019)
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    • Research for the common good, Seattle, WA research
    • Language understanding tasks – ELMo (embeddings from Language Models)
    • PhD in Applied Math at UW, climate modeling and large scale data analysis
      • Went to mortgage modeling, tech industry with ML and Prod dev in Seattle
    • Trying to solve with very little human-annotated data, technical articles or peer-reviewed
      • Very difficult, very expensive to annotate – can you do NLP to help?
    • Word2vec as method for text to run ML on text, context meanings of say, bank
    • ELMo as training on lots of unlabeled data
      • Given a partial language fragment, language modeling predicts what can come next
      • Forward direction or backward direction (end of context), neural network architecture
    • Research community may want to use ELMo, commercial use to improve models already in prod
      • Pre-trained models available and open source
    • In the paper, evaluated NLP models on 6 tasks – sentiment, Q&A, info extraction, co-reference resolution, NL inference
      • Got significant improvements on results from the prior state-of-the-art models
      • Character-based vs word approach
        • Single system should process as much text as possible (morphology of the word, for instance)
    • Paper over a year old now but Bert was put up on ArXiv to improve upon ELMo (transformer architecture for efficiency)
      • Scaled the model that could be trained by many X’s, quality is tied to the size / capacity
      • Language modeling loss changed, as well (word removed from middle of sentence and predict before/after)
      • Large Bert models have computational restrictions – how far can you get by scaling the model
  • Kyle and early Data Science Hiring Processes (Data Skeptic 12/28/18)
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    • Success isn’t correlated with ability to give good advice
    • Conversion funnel for businesses: website that sells t-shirts, for instance
      • Tons of ways to bring people into the door / website (ads, social media campaign, ad clicks)
      • Register an account or put into cart (what %, track it, a/b test and improve)
      • Cart to checkout process (how many ppl? Credit card entered, goes through, etc…)
    • Do any sites convert faster than others? Keep track, find out why / focus on continuing it
    • Steps for job hire: video chat / task / phone screens / on-site next / offer
    • Resume should be pdf (doc may not open nicely on Mac or otherwise) – include GitHub
    • SVM – should have margins or kernel trick on resume (otherwise, don’t include it)
      •  Ex: ARIMA (auto-regressive integrated moving average) – time series data

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

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

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

 

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

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

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