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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

If You’re Not Sure, Ask (Notes from Nov 25 – Dec 1, 2019) March 26, 2020

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, social, sports, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Hopefully everyone is staying safe in this current environment of CoVid19. A wild start to the year and March, especially. Seems prescient to identify those of this week of notes, especially with Domm at Fast trying to make things easier/painless in checkouts for ecommerce, Iman at Incredible Health trying to gain power for nurses and the healthcare workers on the front lines, as well as the investment questions we should be asking with Rob Carver and Meb Faber.

Before jumping in, though, I just wanted to reiterate something I’d heard in a few times across forums/channels and communities I participate in – just ask if you have a question or hesitating! It’ll be worth it – or you’ll be in the same position you’re in now. Social interaction and discussion will be key in how we come out better than where we started. I implore you – ASK. Anyone. Hope you enjoy!

  • Domm (@domm) Holland, founder and CEO of Fast (20min VC 11/15/19)
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    • Raised seed round from Jan Hammer at Index, Susa, Kleiner Perkins, Global Founders and angels (Inc Harry)
    • Director at Tap Tins and CEO/Founder at Tows
    • Introduced at 15, started programming and in Australia when it wasn’t cool, building was what he enjoyed
      • Had a large startup in Australia for a bit
      • Wife/him were in the hospital looking after son/daughter and he was home with the wife’s grandmother when she couldn’t order
        • Forgot her password and wouldn’t take credit card because of arbitrary string – pw-less solution, auth as simple solution
        • Put it on ProductHunt and it was #2 for the day
      • Doesn’t make sense that customers can’t move between businesses with their authentication
    • Ran out of money in a legal battle with Tows – $17mln that government decided to not pay
    • Many people don’t want to solve the problem – they do band-aid fixes, complex solutions
      • Build network of independent contractors of tow trucks
    • He just looks at what he’s doing as solving problems, solutions – Stripe gave businesses the infrastructure to process credit card payments
      • Built critical infrastructure that others didn’t have – similar to authentication, Shopify, etc
    • Everyone has been building payment, authentication, registration forms all first-party and customer tokens
      • Alternative business models and sharing data conflicts with their independence
    • Deciding to be SF-based – he only has certain hours in a day, but limited output and larger market and tech companies
      • People in SF value equity far more since Australia has issues with company stock and issuing options
      • 50, 100, 150 bp in SF to make it worthwhile
    • Had done an angel round of $600k Australian, ~$400k to continue product development and areas he didn’t have expertise in
      • Put out job ad for remote role thinking they’d get 1 or 2, had a fantastic applicant from Nigeria for talent
      • Money was so much less than what was budgeted – average earnings, paying 50% above market and fantastic employee
        • So much so, they have 10 employees there – Nigeria with 190 million people, remote and solid advocates
      • Managing engineers in person/remote are similar anyhow – adjusts his time zone to them, checks in to each daily
      • Structured time for functional areas and 15min calls to go over work regularly
    • His differentiator is speed, time – act promptly, efficiently and doing things early by operating in that manner
      • Walks 3-4 miles through Tenderloin in SF to make sure he sees inaction as a reminder
    • Thirst for knowledge – difficult to not come across new things (Twitter as a tool for exposure to people, tools)
  • Frank Fiume (@frankfiume), Founder and CEO of i9 Sports (Wharton XM)
    • Talking about burnout – body’s anticipation of requiring a form of change
      • Entrepreneur burnout – results not meeting expectations for an extended period of time
    • Using behavior tests to filter out the people who may be too similar once you’re looking to hire for expansion
      • He made mistake of hiring people he liked and matched with, as opposed to those that he needed
  • Meb Faber (@mebfaber), founder of Cambria Investments on The Road Less Traveled (Resolve’s Gestalt University, ep.05 6/27/19)
    image1

    • Discussing with Adam about his bs meter – how crazy it is to be overweight US equities
    • Canada is worse – 86% of advisors
    • Global allocation and strategy – always keeping files on board for ETF, not sure when they are needed or will be used
    • Launching 2006 with trend following paper and opening ETFs as broadly better managed strategy/fee structure
      • Agnostic – just wants to offer best client experience, strategy
      • Holding for long periods as how the strategy should be assessed, not weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly
        • Managers tough to judge on this long time frame
    • Being on call with asset managers where they ask what the best funds are – why? So to avoid them?
    • Currently, tax efficient in emerging small/medium cap for long-term 15+ years
    • Market cap as terrible way to weight portfolio – as you select highest cap-weighted company, they don’t often stay there
  • Jon & Justin, cofounders of Transistor.fm (Build Your SaaS – bootstrapping in 2019, 11/26/19)
    transistor_social

    • Building and looking at Transistor.fm and other podcasts
    • Dropping the revenue numbers on Baremetrics – not just competitors, but eventually there won’t be 50% mom growth
  • Mythology Manager (Marketing Matters)
    • Marvel and having a different marketing aspect for big films and otherwise
    • Different projects and input for actors/characters
  • Rob Carver (@investingidiocy), Systematic Money, author (ReSolve’s Gestalt U ep. 03, 5/9/19)
    • Discussing different risk metrics – hard to predict or calculate Sharpe ratios so he assumes they’re the same, often
      • Sharpe as primary vs secondary metric – meta-factor
    • Construction of portfolio as time frame and strategy – used to start with $100k (first book), most recent book with $500 capital
    • Performing out of sample vs in sample – binary strategy vs weighting
    • If you don’t select a strategy, you’re biased against it – “Three Judases”
      • Properly keeping strategies in the files/repo to backcheck (if you get rid of some that you’ve used and got out of, others can’t replicate)
      • Proper weighting would be signals that activate / de-activate strategies, maybe keeping the ones above a threshold
    • Private equity and private assets discussions – what’s optimum? 1, 2, 10, 50, 100? Take on risks for this, should be rewarded appropriately.
      • Is it 5, 10% of portfolio? Size matters and type of assets. Mentions GE as having a bunch of minor bets on the private side with more liquidity.’
  • Beth Hendler-Grunt, President and Founder at Next Great Step (Career Change, Wharton XM)
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    • College attendees going after internships early – not just through career fairs
      • Not everything career-wise is linear, can be creative
    • Portfolio & value add – “What happens if you didn’t return tomorrow, next week, etc…?”
  • Iman Abuzeid (@imanabuzeid), CEO and founder Incredible Health (a16z 11/28/19)
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    • Nursing Today, From the Bedside and Beyond
    • 2018 Biggest industry in terms of number of workers – clinical workers are 60% nurses – 3million of them
      • Regulated in California where the ratio is 5 patients to 1 nurse
      • Beyond 12 hour shift, 2.5x more likely to make medication errors – documentation as well
    • Shortage of faculty, nurses and all cities – also pays well, compensation-wise (California $100k, SF $140k, LA $120k)
      • Magnate certified is hospitals with majority of nurses bachelors recipients
      • When overstaffed, higher cost of overtime to contractors and less patients (in a thin margin business of hospitals, ~3%)
    • Talent / HR teams as inefficiency across the board – haven’t changed since ’90s
      • Tech tools don’t work for specialization/unique cases – job platforms are just ziprecruiter, indeed, LinkedIn but not matching certs/degrees
      • If you’re trying to fill oncology nurse, CEO and sales – one horizontal platform vs vertical platform
    • Most healthcare workers aren’t on LI, search and discovery is hard and fields aren’t specific enough, InMail response is < 10%
      • Narrow vertical, one job description and complexity is enormous – takes level of focus and optimization to add value to healthcare system/nurses
      • Incredible Health: Employers apply to talent, automated screening of certs/licenses/experience/skills with tech, custom matching
    • Hospital/health systems are able to fill positions in < 30 days when average is 90+ days – topline benefit
      • Churning nurses costs more on patients, complex environments for matching, high-stakes in retention (moreso than others)
      • 20% turnover with tight labor market – overworked, burnt out, better staffed, commute times, 90% women, higher pay
      • Hired in 11 days – have their act together and higher employee engagement
    • Hospital recruiters have a 7 day countdown for interview requests, scarcity for competitive nurses
      • Only platform that nurses get to make their profile and sit back after for interviews

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)
    nextgenvest_ai_serieslogo_blue

    • 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

Love Hearing Some Aspirations (Notes from Oct 14 – Oct 20, 2019) December 19, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Automation, Blockchain, Digital, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, medicine, NLP, questions, social, Strategy, Uncategorized, WomenInWork.
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Happy holidays, everyone! Hopefully you’re staying warm/dry – whether that’s inside or just generally in a better location. I’ll say I already wish that I purchased into that ski cabin for the holiday since we’ve had a bunch of rain over the last few weeks in the bay area and now fresh powder in the Sierras. But alas, I did not. Next time, next time.

I’m going to keep this brief, but primarily because I have fallen behind in writing and it pains me weekly. Habits break and that may need to be bumped up in the new year – try out substack or something similar. But, I think I’m finally going to launch something that I’ve been meaning to build. CV / Image recognition sourcing into a database to keep track of something that plays a prominent role for many. We’ll see if I can get the prototype usable and I’ll update here.

Aspirations – I love talking and listening to people who have big dreams. I think there are many who hold themselves back for all kinds of reasons. If I catch wind or hear it, I will push you to start – something, anything – for your sake. It’s rewarding to have to dive in and try it out. Maybe it falls off after 6 months. Maybe you run out of money that you allotted to the side. Maybe, you succeed. Or learn  enough to accidentally fail upwards into a better / concrete idea. I hope for it all when people have these ideas. It’s inspiring – helps me go through my own models for how I interpret my world if I have to wrap my head around how friends/colleagues/Tweeps view their own. And how things can become better. Ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do with many ideas. Is it a cool new thing? Is it something you wish you had? Is it an observation that you want to test? Build. You won’t regret it if you don’t in the grand scheme, but if it’s a big enough itch, it’s worth the learning experience in a world where not enough of us do (but it’s not for a lack of time).

Hope you enjoy the notes.

  • Patrick / Raamayan, Cofounder of Unify (Wharton XM)
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    • Global meditation, achieving state of flow
      • Could be gym, yoga, prayer, running
    • If you have an hour, you have 15 minutes
  • Brianne Kimmel (@briannekimmel), Worklife Ventures (20min VC 10/14/19)
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    • Backed by Andreesen, Chris Dixon, Zoom’s Eric Yuan, and friends Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Matt Mazzeo
    • Teaching General Assembly while operating in performance/growth marketing role at Expedia before Head of Social Media
      • Go-to marketing bootcamp (SaaS school now)
      • SaaS school taught my brand name heads at SaaS top places
    • Started with $25-50k angel checks in Webflow, Voiceflow, Airgarage and built a track record
      • Wanted to build a SaaS-fund to focus on go-to-market from bottoms-up
      • Enjoys building and structuring companies to get into the Venture-sized outcomes
      • Having a fund that’s open enough to maybe do private equity after stuck between $3-5mn ARR
    • Optionality for early stage, inflection points, maybe getting growth PM to scale into CEO
      • $150k checks incrementally grown from $25k
    • Proliferation of funds and capital – investing from own, micro-VC and angels platforms
      • Scouting for VC fund – operators at hot tech company
      • AngelList and Carta as platforms for own angel funds or boutique arrangements (flexibility with checks, numbers, still operate)
    • Celebrities/athletes using investments in startups to match their brand or expand it
      • Intersection of work and life – seeing Faire and Shopify give access to a huge new audience
    • Angels with leverage in cap table – “perfect one” and she grooms founders for this
    • Worklife – services and programs to unlock human potential at scale
      • Hypevsaas – traditional language for b2b is dead, according to her
      • Great saas being built by operators spinning out of consumer tech (Airbnb, Coinbase, Uber)
        • Scaling too quickly where they end up building their own tools before open sourcing or monetizing
      • With self-serve SaaS companies, many APIs and workflow tools, are easy to build – what’s the competitive advantage
        • Your access to tech, building closed products (specific users in line with product vision)
      • Opposite of Hypevsaas as “Scrappy SaaS” – going away slowly, race similar to consumer product for paid marketing
        • Freemium to quickly launch/build but products too easy – race for free users and attempt to monetize later
        • Mirrors side hustle or application as experiment with a possible traction
    • Consumer-grade experiments where users pay from day one – mentioned Superhuman and Rahul’s talk
      • SaaS school discussion about video game design and hook
    • Pace as most recent investment – accessing software with lower monthly rate because they access the contracts
  • Justin Kan (@justinkan), Founder / CEO of Atrium (20min VC 6/21/19)
    atriumlts

    • Full-service corporate law firm for startups
    • Started in 2004 with online calendar a la Gcalendar called Keeko, got into YC
      • Failed and sold it on ebay eventually
    • Then started Justin.tv – terrible idea that mostly failed and eventually made it into a streaming site to do Twitch
      • Sold in 2014 to Amazon, started another company called Exec in 2015 – errand service
      • Became a partner at YC but realized after a few years that an investor full-time wasn’t for him
      • Forced, as a startup founder, to learn things (hadn’t been learning as an investor)
    • 2017 – remembered how painful it was learning things – thinking of ideas
      • Conversation with a partner at a law firm in the city – asked her why they didn’t use any tech themselves
      • Full-stack corporate law firm in US – high growth companies that they’re building for last 2 years
    • Had used legal services no matter what they had – big transactions pay attorneys regardless, stable market
      • Will exist in a downturn because things don’t just stop
    • Remembered that every summer at the start of his startups, he would want to quit – think of new ideas or new things
      • Once out, he’d think he didn’t want to do it again, until it brought him back
      • First 3 months – thought he was great, figured it out due to 10 years’ experience, until stress came back
        • 6 months of stressful period – figured it out that he was still fine, reputation/old job
        • Self-improvement and growth had to come from culture
    • Hard to detach yourself from company as entrepreneur
      • Has attachments and notifications to make sure that he’s being present
      • Having goals in life, company, entrepreneur – board game metaphor – friends play and being engaged
      • Put away a game – do you remember or care what happened?
    • Started seeing a therapist 7 years prior – coach for dealing and discovering about what you’re going through
      • Cathartic, in his opinion – not alone and can talk to people
      • 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, Steve from Reddit
        • Radical responsibility – nobody else will come to save you, nobody to blame
        • Radical curiosity – whenever a new situation comes up, you approach it with what you’re supposed to learn
    • Don’t have to suffer for doing a start-up – not saying “Don’t work hard”
      • Building up skills, expectation for suffering isn’t the case
      • Atomic Habits by James Clear for him following working out each day
    • Zone of Genius – cares and loves to focus on, delegate rest
      • At Atrium, focus on business strategy, selling, culture
      • Build the team for the rest of it
    • Much better at recognizing patterns after investing 100 companies
      • Implementing in company, business models and market dynamics
      • Bad – investor attitude (approached Atrium like this)
    • Atrium – up to 150 employees in SF now – happy and proud for the culture and growth
  • Eric Kinariwala (@ekinariwala), founder / CEO at Capsule (DealMakers 10/15/19)
    referral_image

    • Rebuilding pharmacy from inside out – raised $270mn from TCV, Thrive Capital, Sound Ventures, Virgin Group, M13
    • Wharton undergrad, network from there as financial services, banking and decided to go to west coast – Stanford
      • Started at Bain Capital in Boston after graduating – worked in a hedge fund group investing
        • Retail, healthcare, tech – blending framework around business strategy, what makes it a good business
        • Judging management and the synergies – learning how to invest, as well
      • Making right judgment calls – tight feedback loops
    • For Capsule, had moved back to NY, got a headache – called doctor and had a prescription ordered
      • Pharmacy is $350bn – most frequent interaction in healthcare
      • 2nd largest category of retail – 70k stores
      • Got headache and went to go pick up his meds but couldn’t find it, then they were out of stock and it was awful
    • Hard to get advice from the pharmacy, don’t know the price until they go to pay
    • Everybody touching the pharmacy has a headache, typically
    • 3 pillars of Capsule: modern technology platform, emotionally resonant brand, pharmacy how your mom would treat you
      • Prototypical pharmacist as founder, 2nd was highly experienced technologist, 3rd woman that spent building consumer brands
    • Business model – “10x better” than current existing – technologically enabled pharmacy – app with 5 pieces of information
      • 2 hour delivery windows, know price of medication, doctors know what you’re doing
      • Why are there so many pharmacies? Put money spent on rent back into beautiful design and technology to be seamless
    • Launched in 2016, first customer in May – first challenges in early days
      • Strong word-of-mouth from friends, doctors who had learned about Capsule – telling patients and vice versa
      • Early pharmacist was well-versed in regulatory environment for anything that could’ve been broken
    • He had raised in May ’15 to get started – raised $70 million to start
      • Ideal profile / entire business model needs to be aligned with values: objectives, values, strategy and metric
      • Asking to join and leaders need to have alignment in the same way – even the board – share vision and how / why you operate
    • Team is bigger than 250 full-time, all in NYC now – encouraging people to read ahead of joining, also
      • Checklist Manifesto, On Wings of Eagles, Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table, and Who by Dan [Geoff?] Smartt
    • For the future of Capsule – most important thing in your family’s life as healthcare (although I’d argue bank or something)
      • 5x more pharmacy visits than doctor (sheesh) – wants to make it mobile-first and on the home page of phone
    • Piece of advice for his first day: be more confident earlier
  • Gimlet 1: How to Not Pitch a Billionaire (Startup Podcast 4/5/14)
    gimlet-and-spotify

    • Pitching Chris Sacca – meeting at a hole-in-the-wall sushi place for lunch in LA
      • Deck as a crutch and did it outside the lunch – no slides
      • Most people consume audio in radio and are leaving to digital – audio dashboard, podcasts music all there
      • Wants to start company for the content for moving into the digital future
      • One question he asked: what’s the unfair advantage? Explained how to make money (ads, listeners)
        • Freemium – offer an extra for the listeners who want to pay.
        • He answered: making freemium model work – had to tighten it up
      • Chris Sacca – took 2 minutes and did the pitch
        • People willing to pay for this stuff – Planet Money where they gave $600k to buy tshirt with our logo
          • Integrated directly that we can replicate
        • $1.5mn to buy 3-4 guys for podcasts in next 12 months, can get to 300-400k net subscribers
          • Can get to breakeven on ads alone, CPMs where they are – more integration and episodes will be ultimately scale
          • 12-15 podcasts and we can do it
      • Then countered with the audio is a niche market – nonprofit and audio moving toward shorter content
    • Met him on a Planet Money story when he was going over patent system and how it was slowing innovation
    • Strategy/ideas at Google, writing seed investment check in PhotoBucket – didn’t have it, though
      • Just $50k and wrote 2 credit card checks – enjoyed the feeling so much he left Google
      • First investment was in a colleague, Evan Williams, for Twitter as a full-time angel
        • Wrote the check for $25k – was a lot of cash to him, needed it to work – wanted to help out, evangelist
        • Started buying more shares and doubling – believed in the company
    • Kickstarter, Uber, Instagram, etc… looks hard at the conviction of the success
      • Missed on DropBox (Gdrive was going to crush them), Airbnb (someone will get raped or murdered, can’t work)
    • Told him to come back, tighten the pitch and then do it for Chris’ partner Matt who was from the media world
  • Pankaj Risbood (@risbood), founder at Zendrive
    logo_vertical-drkgry2x

    • Discussing leveraging data and making it a platform instead of an app
      • Dealing with partners to ensure they can improve value
    • Mission Street project – 6 months driver flow before and then after shutting down
      • Reducing poor driving / improve driver safety and it was fairly obvious
    • Can deploy this in the form for insurances, as well
  • Jacqueline Courtney (@jac_courtney), Founder of Nearly Newlywed (Wharton XM)
    47315_0

    • Pitching on Shark Tank to grab attention
    • Starting as seeing option in fashion tech for underserved market
    • Tough for Amazon to compete because of the marketplace factor and users are only in for 1 sale, 1 wedding
      • Taking 40% of the sale but trying to maximize the amount of cost for many
      • Realized photos that were posed / models with dresses didn’t sell as well as real wedding photos
        • Started asking customers for them this way
  • Noah Auerbahn (@noahauerbahn), co-founder and CEO of Robin Healthcare (Lindzanity 10/2/19)
    5d00b6c5f8049e595a67e73d_logo-robin

    • Robin as virtual scribe that sits on doctors desks and records video/audio from room – sits in exam room
      • Started with orthopedic physicians – 6 sub-specialties and they cover all of them so far
    • Met Gary, Howard’s partner, when Noah was 21 and starting first company – ExtraBucks (cash back coupons)
      • Came up with at dorms in USC, raised enough money to move to SD with his cofounders
      • Were cash flow positive and had Gary and Alex as advisors – realized he didn’t want to be in ecommerce forever
        • Decided to sell and exit once they questioned it – had raised around $1million, no venture
    • Believed college as what you make of it – did entrepreneurship / business in undergrad but taking it and questioning how to apply it
    • Education, energy, and health were the lists of what he thought may have the most impact – health was the biggest for him
      • He would hire MIT PhD and UCLA MD to come to his office and tutor him – “pretty affordable, like $70/hr” to teach at pace you want
      • He wanted massive optionality within healthcare – not just ecommerce, if he wanted to do pharma, biotech, find the right entry point
      • 100s of research posts, 100s of conversations, started going to conferences (where he met his cofounder)
    • Entire system – center of the system is the exam room – decisions get made there, so he wanted to build something interesting inside of that room
      • Patient, doctor, and EMR (not interested in sharing data)
        • Found out that there was a scribe in 5% of rooms and he asked why they aren’t remote or something
        • Lower burnout rates, better throughput and service, notes/quality control could have issues
        • Decided to tool in a good UX, ML additionally
    • Wanted to do something big, had to raise money eventually but “How many assumptions could he kill or the idea before saving time?”
      • First paying customer, had $40k, webcams, notes (his cofounder doing them), device streaming and did it at his mom’s vet clinic (non-HIPAA)
        • Built own tech, had some handful of paying customers – had taken some friends/family $ that missed on his first company and then real
      • Didn’t anticipate hardware but couldn’t find something that could be used for solving this
        • Security cams aren’t great because of acoustic but could stream all the time
        • Conference ones which aren’t designed to run all the time – ran own software on it, but lot of work to keep it working all the time
        • Sonos speaker guys were helpful in producing what they ended up building (optional video)
    • Device has about 2% of people where they don’t consent – video/audio and can be more in tune with the patient
    • Having offices in SD, Berkeley (his reverse commute from SF) and Austin – where most pre-med scribes are for them
      • Mentioned 30% Stanford Med graduates don’t end up as doctors – go into tech
  • Morgan Housel, co-founder of Collaborative Fund (Lindzanity, 10/9/19)
    deuobz-u8aarwgs

    • Howard’s favorite thinker/writer/storyteller and his interesting career arch – key to writing is writing
    • Effective long-form is rough but when it’s good, it’s bar-belled (10 seconds is better than longer reading)
      • Only books he got through were Shoe Dogs and Agassi’s book – Munger’s “Don’t be burdened by bad books”
    • Cramer’s “Confessions of a Street Addict” as good, as well
      • Coming from nowhere, knew how to write briefly, Howard as superfan – first modern financial professional that had personality
      • Howard feels like it’s an underachievement – Morgan said he’s not a great investor – so much trust built up that he should be running a massive firm
      • Access to people, financial celebrity
    • Fascinated by Motley Fool – when Morgan had hedge fund, had CNBC but Dave and Tom Gardner – hats on, promotional and StockTwit before
      • Went for mom and pops – tremendous marketers, but made mistakes
    • 2007 – dawn of financial disaster, studying econ at USC (his plan was p/e and ib) but finance was terrible
      • Didn’t think highly of Motley Fool – had gone through Yahoo finance boards and saw his friend, Sham Gad, at USC was writing for them
      • Thought he’d do Motley Fool shortly as contract, couple months, and was writing an article a day – (plan was initially p/e but they couldn’t bring him on)
      • For him, he was supposed to be banking industry, and writing other stuff as well – economy and macro issues (unemployment, fed reserve, budgets)
      • No explanation for decisions being rational – before, during, after no good explanations – psychology of investing
    • Psychology of investing will always be there – different layers of edge and vs technical side – can be base of pyramid
      • Smartest analyst or data miner but without greed/fear, nothing would matter (Howard moving to angel – forced to go with it, prices were his weakness)
    • Time split for Howard – 50/50 between public/priv (prices keep him up to date on news)
      • Selling at Uber at $10bn because he wasn’t allowed to sell at $1bn – he was in with David Cohen’s $4mn fund, $50k at $4mn valuation, so he had $2k
      • Sold a lot early and then sold at $40bn and that’s where it is now – public would’ve been very different
    • New banks may be what Andreesen is doing – start as VC & get larger, for next 20 years
      • Citadel starting as hedge fund from dorm and now top-tier investment bank, doing everything – exchange, conglomerate
      • Partnership that can have trading stocks, wealth management, lean beast with trust/access – 2.5% fund without GS
      • Private becoming so large because of the liquidity area there
    • Josh as being equally funny and smart, not caring about markets – gave a sponsor to Morgan and Jesse Livermore (pseudo) and Twitter explodes
      • Motley Fool for 10 years, contractor for 7 years – LA first and then Seattle, then Alexandria for 3 years – only time he’s had a desk and office
      • Wife went to grad school in Baltimore to move them out that way
      • Motley Fool as bigger than you think – P/E mistake, big tool and screwups to learn a lot about mistakes
        • Joining Collaborative Funds (Craig Shapiro splitting time between NYC and SF) was easiest decision, but leaving MF was hardest of his life
    • What really can set you apart is not writing a check anymore – everyone has a checkbook
      • What do people know about you? What do you stand for? What is your vision?
      • If he could write what they wanted to read, it would draw back some attention to what they’re doing and standing behind.
    • Went to plenty of conferences, 4-5 a year and learned to speak – had a CFA Institute where he was the interviewer
      • Did keynotes for Motley Fool, video made it to Washington Speakers Bureau and started to do that
      • Several dozen talks a year now – wasn’t the plan original (2016 as first year)
        • Doesn’t sketch out an idea, write out an outline – just knows that he enjoys some part and how to contextualize it
    • Spends majority of his time going on walks to “write” – tough for him to grind the gears
      • 95% of his investing is house, checking acct and 3 Vanguards funds – saving dollar-cost-averaging there, since he isn’t really writing checks
      • Thinking about “enough” – 8% is fine, 10% would be nice but not worth stressing (says opposite of type A)
        • Odds are low to beat market, same with running – 3 miles is enough for him, doesn’t need to do half marathon
        • Biking for 1 – 2 hours, knows the burn, won’t need to do more
      • Why Howard says Andreesen’s model likely to make a difference
        • For Howard – indexing, 90% there and 10% to try to beat
      • If it bothers you, why are you torturing yourself? If you need to scratch the itch, take a small enough.
      • Hates idea that Vanguard gets to pick the 500 companies for him, not a fan of $5mln raise if you can do on $1mln
        • Similar to Risk gm – don’t start Europe, east Aus is better
    • Indexing as Robinhood vs Vanguard – somewhere in between (not robo), but just de-selecting the companies you may not want to invest in
      • Feel better, maybe hold on more during drawdowns – incentivize riding the wave
      • Example from Morgan about mom hating Monsanto (then he pointed out she owned some – she wanted to sell)

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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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)
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    • 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

Transformation of Innovation (Notes from Aug 12 to Aug 18, 2019) September 4, 2019

Posted by Anthony in Blockchain, Digital, education, experience, finance, Founders, global, Hiring, Leadership, marketing, NLP, Politics, questions, Real estate, social, Uncategorized.
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Hello! Hope Labor Day treated everyone properly, whether you snuck in some time-and-a-half pay for work, avoided it altogether or vacationed. I am going to keep the brief at the start short today because there’s a common theme. And I have been considering longer form writing without the notes on other topics maybe once or twice a week.

From last week – I still am working on the 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast – excellent. And it’s engaging as they went through the building and prep work that went in to getting there before decade-end.

The new segment that a16z has produced with the 16 minutes on the news has been fun, especially if you like an audio version of what’s been popular in tech/news. Sonal has done a great job leading most of them. I found the two that I listened it related to the title – transforming innovation. Software as eating the world (any company/product/service that can be digital will force the company to become software company), along with digitizing many of the slowest movers because the pressure has become high enough (re: Fed with ACH Now). At some point, in order to command more control or to make sure you aren’t disrupted out of the market, companies have to compete and give the customers or users what they want – faster, easier transactions in Fed Now’s initiative.

There were also some fantastic investors / founders that are included. How they developed and framed their careers to step from one thing to the next. If you noticed, many of the 20min VC episodes I listen to are in order from 2015 to now 2016. Fascinating to hear the comments made at that time to update to 2019 (as many of the same bullish comments are made with caveats that have yet to come to fruition – and valuations increased accordingly).

Hope you enjoy the listens!

  • 13 Minutes to the Moon
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    • Ep 05 – “The fourth astronaut”
      • Intertial navigation – if you have your speed and know where you are, can control where you’re going
      • Self-guiding ballistic missiles that couldn’t get thrown off course via radio or otherwise – knew where it was
        • GPS, primitive computer received navigations and could adjust course if necessary
        • Charles Stark Draper who founded MIT’s guidance instrumentation lab
      • Had been a grad of Stanford and went to MIT and became leading expert in aircraft instrumentation / guidance
        • Dedicated to the astronaut program, so much so that he applied – was turned down
          • Practical application with such sensors to be useful was his expertise – size / practicality in flight control systems
      • Had to convince everyone that the computers would work and be trusted
      • Apollo bought 60% of the chips that were out and being manufactured – huge boost for computer industry
        • Good hardware required good software (an afterthought)
      • Called on programmers for building the software Margaret Ate Hamilton (started as programmer, then was in charge as program manager)
        • Developed a system to write software so that it would be reliable and she sought out the bugs/errors – no way to do it otherwise
          • Right times vs wrong time, wrong data, wrong priorities (interface errors) – we take for granted everything we have now
        • No rules or field at the time (akin to “Do you know these English words?” – yes, you’re qualified)
        • Don Isles – math graduate looking for something to do next who joined in 1966, software had been written initially – app code to fly was starting
          • Lunar landing phase commanding – in retrospect, huge – but it was a job at the time
      • Apollo Guidance Computer – 70 lbs in 1 cu ft, 55 W with 76kb, 16-bit words, 4 kb were RAM R/W memory, rest was hardwired
        • Got to the moon on punch cards – 100 people working on it at the end – submit in one run overnight and run simulations
        • 2 women that worked to keypunch before working as full-time – printed lines of code to turn into punch codes
      • Noun-verb inputs for flying – lunar landing, for instance
        • Built the computer interface with idea of “Go to moon” and “Take me home” but it instead had 500 buttons and was much more interactive
          • First system where people’s lives were at stake with it – fly by wire system. Astronauts didn’t control it, they controlled the joystick, etc…
    • Ep 06 – “Saving 1968”
      • Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin
  • Fed reaction (a16z, 16min on the News, 8/12/19)
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    • FedNow – 24/7 open service for access to checks faster to launch in a few years
      • Half the population lives paycheck to paycheck and should care for the $30 overdraft fees that a ton of people do
      • Massive amount of losses to banks here in the US
    • ACH batches all payments in a day or maybe twice vs instant
      • Realtime payment network – 26 banks but need all banks to be a part of this network
    • Against Fed would say to just run the regulatory part vs the operational side
      • Obligate banks to join ACH, etc…
      • Infrastructure for checks has not updated to the tech advantages that we’ve gotten to now
      • Catching up to rest of world, which is 10 years ahead
    • Death of retail – Barney’s filing for bankruptcy, closing 15 of 22 stores
      • Been around since Great Depression
      • Ecommerce coming and direct to consumer is going toward market share
      • Highly leveraged fixed costs, inventory but can go sales to hemorrhaging money and become unviable
    • Grocery is largest single category of US retail, more than apparel and personal – completely immune to digitization historically
      • Inventory is better served close to consumer, physical grocery as distributed warehouse
  • Philipp Moehring, Head of Angelist EU (20min VC 1/6/16)
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    • First European hire for Angelist since Jan 14, venture partner at 500 Partners and Principal at SeedCamp
    • Angelist Syndicate for his
    • Worked for a bunch of startups during his studies, but realized he didn’t want to work for a large company or consultancy like when he started
      • Worked for a professor that was doing research on VC – did his thesis on same topic, asked for data
      • Fulltime job came from a guy who went off on his own to start firm and he was asked to join
    • MBA in Tech Management and Tech Entrepreneurship, where management is very different there
      • Analyst and associate work can be a great job but it’s not a quick way to partner or anything
      • Seeing founders doing a second business after 7-8 years, even after do great and get raises
        • People don’t usually stay at their first job for 8 years but starting at VC, people will jump to a startup second
    • EU vs US scene – SV where VC started and is much more advanced, simply due to a lack of epicenter
      • Angelist looking to get into Series A (not necessarily leading, though) – movement
    • Certainly London for VC – number one ecosystem in Europe, as the largest metro area, tech and VC and money
      • Hard to copy for other places – culture, politics and what makes the city to be interesting
      • Berlin has the momentum as the number two, as well as Stockholm or in Finland, maybe Paris (inward), Lisbon and distribution of eastern Europe
    • $400mln funding for Angelist from CSC Upshot into syndicates – GPs investing directly
      • Does his 500 Partners role on the side – usually someone with investing on the side and has more firepower
      • Wants the deal flow or coverage in the areas they won’t have
      • Knows an entrepreneur and can get in the chance on seed or small amounts to invest in
    • Known the partners at 500 Startups for a bunch of years and could invest similarly to his Angelist style
      • Could be flexible and born out of the way the fund is positioned and investing
    • Most exciting for him is having people that he’s invested in hitting their stride and succeeding
    • William Gibson as a writer who influences his thinking, Snowcrash as a book that depicts the future
      • Looks more at science fiction for tech advances now
    • Most read blog – too many to count, Brad Feld – has a tool called SelfControl against social media
  • Phil Libin (@plibin), co-founder and CEO All-Turtles (Mastering Innovation, 8/8/19)
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    • Discussing real problems with AI

 

 

 

  • Andrew Chung, Founder and CEO Innovo Property Group (Marketing Matters, 8/7/19)
    • Partner at The Carlyle Group, US real estate
    • Started IPG in 2015
  • Stefan Thomke, professor at HBS (Wharton Knows, 8/13/19)
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    • Discussing his paper on magic stick of customers
    • Online experiments – running them quickly and decisively

 

 

 

 

 

  • Ivan Mazour, (@ivanmazour) founder and CEO of Ometria (20min VC FF 029)
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    • Serial entrepreneur, author, investor – Ometria: predictive/marketing analytics platform
    • Born in Moscow, parents PhDs – mom brought him to UK to study math @ Cambridge
    • Started his first thing in property since that was biggest, public industry to get involved
      • Around 26, didn’t utilize any of his studies and data-focused nature, so he leveraged proceeds with his cofounder to make angel investments
    • Wanted to become relevant and learn about tech industry – made 30 investments in 4 years, stopped prop dev, did a Masters in App Prob
      • Refreshed knowledge to build a data company
      • Founding after investing – wrote a blog post as his approach to investment and his dream
        • Build a truly world-leading tech company but accepts lack of experience
    • Thought about how much capital to allocate to invest and how much to invest to be taken seriously – needs to be able to learn from it
      • Angel investor as $20-30k pounds
      • Received a second seed or extension round with Ometria – significantly bigger than seed, but reality is not enough for Series A
        • Hire more engineers, increase team from 20-30. But Series A would be to set up internationally and expand S&M
    • One-sided barbell – huge amount of funding on early, early stage investing
      • Anyone can work to get funding at early, small stage – lots of companies are vying for more eyeballs from bigger ones they need
      • At late stage, if you have the metrics, you’ll have the funding – growing 300%, hit $1m ARR and no question you’d get round, SaaS-wise
    • Launched as an ecommerce analytics company, wanted massive market for data – $3tn ecommerce and retail
      • Launching 2013, analytics was hottest thing (KPMG raised $100mln fund for this only) – by 2015 for big round Ometria, analytics wasn’t relevant/interesting
      • Fascinating to experience – marketing was far more important – actions engaging revenue and data, leveraged
    • First ones to come in were validating – people who he worked/invested with previously
      • Angels that were amazing, AngelLab’s Rachel that was meeting best founders and seeing best companies
      • Had tried to sell Phil as a customer on Ometria and he ended up investing – Alex is on board as 2nd largest institutional investor
    • Pitching angels vs other investors
      • With angels, he had engagement metrics, not revenues – introduced team and had beta user metrics (logging in 7x a day and loving it)
      • Four founders and engagement of platform that allowed closing of round
      • For VCs, chart of MRR that was up and right – increasing growth
    • Several funds liked the company and wanted to consider investing – said he should’ve held off, probably – got excited and continued conversation
      • Waste of time for both sides – hadn’t moved far enough on VC metrics to get a big enough investing for what you’re raising
    • Offline retail – stores won’t go away – thinks there will be an entire platform that will be an ecommerce platform that is based on personalization
      • Product recs, change website and order them – complicated and difficult – best platforms aren’t designed to do that – $1bn company
    • His highlight: sitting in his boardroom after increasing it, Elizabeth Ying (PayPal, head of D/S), Mike Baxter, Allie Mitchel (Huddle founder)
      Looking around that they were talking about his company and making a few investments that he was CEO of and they had 10-20 years experience
    • Favorite productivity tools: ToDoIst, Google Keep for managing main reports, HangOuts
    • Favorite books: Rich Dad, Poor Dad as formulating a way of thinking, and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • David Tisch (@davetisch), MP at BoxGroup, Inc (20min VC 1/11/16)
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    • Also, cofounded Spring – brands to consumers via mobile with his brother, Allen
    • Coded as a kid, kept using the internet, entryway into internet and software – didn’t think of it as investor
      • Went to college and law school, became a lawyer and joined real estate finance in m&a but he did that for a year and wasn’t into it
      • Started a company, experimented and sucked – sold to a larger company and was there for 2 years at KGB
      • Went to TechStars – launched and run the NY program after he had made 3-4 investments
    • Cementing of the NY scene would be a magnet company like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Google – huge magnet for talent
    • The Box in NY as a cool club that he hadn’t been to and his first investment was in a company called Boxy
    • A 20th employee is exponentially more valuable than a seed stage investor – tries to be an valuable investor, though
    • Magical utility or happiness for user or incredibly polished path to where you’re going – different from early days of mobile
      • Should happen soon – hasn’t happened since Snapchat/Tinder as consumer
    • Spring for him – exact opposite of sitting above the clouds as VC and strategy – incredible other side with his brother
      • Mall on your phone – 1200 brands directly (Etsy as maker’s story) – single mobile experience to make it better
      • Free shipping and free returns in 2015 for marketplace and working with their partners
      • VIP, customer service, making a single experience
      • Apparent that the opportunity was sitting there – he had told his brother “Don’t start a company”
    • Doesn’t read much – watches a lot of tv and consumes that as a way to learn
    • Finding his partner Adam at Techstars is probably the highlight
    • Reads online a lot – design blogs/architecture/city – Fred Wilson as successful VC in NY
    • Invested in SmartThings – sold to Samsung a couple years prior and built into products
      • Deep affinity for space, so he invested into Nucleus – video intercom in houses but it allows outbound, also
      • Uncomplicates the phone – primary thing on cell (voice, messenger and text bringing into house)
  • John Wirtz, CPO at Hudl (Wharton XM)
    hudl-logo.1de182540fb461fded02ad2cb75963d4945c560d

    • Coaching and products innovation – getting cameras at 50 yd line or in arenas
      • Not so much looking at point-to-point tracking or high speed for baseball, softball
    • More on tracking all high school players and colleges – uploading of highlights and working with coaches
    • 95% coverage now
  • Software has eaten the world (a16z 8/18/19)
    • Marc and Jorge Condo discussing computer science and its eating healthcare
    • Term from his essay in 2011 after starting firm, tech industry is 70+ years old after WWII, packing $500 that used to be $10-15mln
      • Pessimism after recession – Marc held opposite opinion as just starting (platform built)
      • 3 claims: any product/service that can be software product will be software (boomboxes, cameras, newspapers, etc…)
        every company in the world in those products will become a software co
        as a consequence of 1 and 2, long run the best software company will win
    • Incumbents in auto industry – cars are very dangerous, very hard and software companies think otherwise – value of car is in software (500 in 50 mi radius)
      • Surprising innovation fields: legal, insurance, real estate, education, health care
    • Never imagined investing in new car companies – new industry in 1890, 1920s Henry Ford
      • One new major car company attempt by Preston Tucker (Automotive – Tucker movie, catastrophe)
      • Went from hundreds in 1910s to 3 in 1920s and after
    • Profound technological revolutions as ML/DL/AI as incredibly innovative and cryptocurrency
      • Software founders for how to use and those that haven’t – can be quite transformative
    • Fundamental transformation with internet was music industry – triple whammy – people loved music (? Often dogs eat dog food? – not case in music)
      • Isn’t it great customers love music so much? They want the thing – showing consumption. Music executives said no. Suppliers refusing the demand increase.
      • Pricing issue – want 1 song vs 12 songs on label. Price-fixing collusion by the 4-5 labels. Could overcharge by factor of 10.
      • Consumers were breaking law but the correct reasons. Was immoral, illegal by price collusion.
      • Went from Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, Frostwire, BitTorrent (all investor catastrophes as too early since they couldn’t get pricing from labels)
        • Spotify as 15 years later where investors were scarred but time had come
    • When layer commoditizes, the next layer can become massively valuable – focus is on commoditized layer (contraction for recorded music purchases)
      • US market for live concerts grew 4x in aggregate demand – unlimited access to music, so fun is concert and experiences
    • Marc as serving on board of hospital – mission in terms of health care and medical research and school – nonprofit with highly motivated people
      • Design and build a new hospital – finally opening in 2019 (2005 green light)
      • Well-functioning boards that he sees as 7 people vs 25 or so in hospital
      • Quality problems in auto industry in 1950s / 1960s initially, unsafe at any speed – 70s/80s/90s was TQM – debug quality manufacturing
      • Medical compliance issues – 1/3 not filling prescriptions, 1/3 just take cocktails of them
        • Organ transplants are only 60% compliance
        • Assembly line requirements to motion – decode for running properly, maybe do that for hospitals and doctors – Purell, even
      • EMR at Stanford – $400mil one bid, $100mil to Epic and $300mil for implementation system Perot Systems
        • Interoperability and open source, building on everyone’s creativity (except Epic) and APIs
    • Eroom’s Law – price of bringing new device or drug to market doubles every 10 years – VCs in both decided the economic cycles were too different
      • Names now for VC are ones that aren’t the same big firms
      • Founders are different, as well – PhD in bio but programming since 10 or hybrid tech to pitch
      • Missing middle as converging of scientific domains and getting a16z’s new partner, former Stanford professor in the middle who helped spin it up
    • Digital therapeutics, cloud biology, IT applied to Healthcare
    • Defend market or advance innovate market but SV is starting from scratch – experiments in tech, or business (famous train wrecks)
      • Portfolio approach to experiments – 10 experiments in 10 different parts of biotech / industry – look at successes and asymmetric returns
      • If there are big companies that can do obvious things, they’ll be good at increment – industry does different ones
    • Need evangelical marketer or sales – Jobs’ saying how to envision the picture because consumers have no ability to project this
      • Elon’s Model S – no superchargers or charging at home – had to paint a picture to demonstrate it, get enough sales to build the chargers
  • Dan Granger, CEO founder of Oxford Road (Wharton XM)
    oxford-road-agents-of-influence-logo

    • Advertising in LA helping acquire new customers and branding

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

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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

Idea Conversion to Algorithms (Notes from July 22 – 28, 2019) August 14, 2019

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There is quite a bit in this week’s notes to unpack. Most of the stories and experiences provided by the guests, though, premised around testing a hypothesis or quickly trying to solve a problem in a manner that, once validated, could become much more efficient. When trying to make the solution more efficient, whether data or AI-driven, then further questions have to be asked to ensure a proper, scaleable and ethical solution. Lauren deLisaColeman discussed the ML application ethics and what guides them. Karim Galil observed that patient history was stodgy and doctors weren’t in to new things that could save them time because of the catchup time. So he had to produce a solution that could be effective immediately and worth giving back doctors time – he chose oncology to do it in.

Alyssa Dineen discussed profiles as well, but of the dating variety. There were more ways to screw up than attracting attention. At first, she could do it manually before realizing she could improve the work she did and make it better for both business and clients. Khartoon at Spotify talked about how they started at Spotify with freemium model and the streaming aspect before connecting that with all of the data to their corporate and enterprise partners. In turn, the two-way data sharing enabled them to pivot nicely to provide more value and eventually into a paid model that helped the business. Lastly, Max Bruner talked about his hell of a journey where he eventually landed at Metromile, but not before building Mavrx in the best form of dirty solutions – cameras from planes. Then realizing what could be attached and automated to be a full provider to farmers in much of farmland US and improving it. Quite the product path.

Curious about this concept for much of college / graduates.
Idea possibly worth pursuing – saw post on similar idea. Fake VC – take seed or series A opportunities, combine with data plan (via other post). Have various students make their opinions on what to seek, whether funding was good. How to think of next steps? Make action plan, but templated and maybe try to get an argument. Podcast/videos presenting either side. Try to talk to startup that received. Good sourcing examples, data (limited) problems, industry seeking.

Hope you enjoy the week’s notes and check everyone out!

  • Lauren deLisa Coleman (@ultra_Lauren), Digi-cultural Trend Analyst (Wharton XM)
    • Forbes contributor, discussing AI and ethics of ML applications
    • Who makes the rules – is the data guided?
  • Karim Galil, Founder of Mendel.ai (Wharton XM)
    mendel-logo

    • Working in Egypt initially, wasn’t in Cairo but started in Sinai – beach and did surf/kitesurfing lessons deal
      • Talent was not as abundant, but did a project with Pfizer, Dubai government and others
      • Egypt had free healthcare but hospitals couldn’t pay for procedures that may have been experimental – trials would allow it
        • Wouldn’t hear about trials until it was too late in his oncology rotation
    • Observed that you could have a dating record online and perfect match, but not catch up on papers in context in industry
      • Had to start somewhere – landed on oncology – wasn’t a junior vs senior thing – few doctors had the time
    • Losing patients to cancer and messy medical records – trying to improve the healthcare industry
    • Can get a bunch of oncologists to drop everything and work as data scientists
      • Cheaper in Egypt and feasible – fair salaries to do this
      • In the US, very unlikely to happen as oncologists are far above data scientist salary
    • Medical matching service – AI-powered to do trials for language content
    • Paying ~30 employees, where 15 of them are oncologists
  • Alyssa Dineen, Style my Profile founder (Wharton XM)
    style-my-profile

    • Personal stylists online and in NYC
    • Wanting to expand – mentioned Forbes article and expanded 3x
      • Mostly from out of the NYC area
      • Would love to open LA, SF, Chicago, most urban areas
  • Daniel Korschun, assoc prof of Marketing at LeBow Drexel (Wharton XM)
    • Marketing and branding for Kaepernick’s Betsy Ross argument
      • Nike blew opportunity to turn the flag into a very big positive – “Unity” or 13 civil rights activists
    • Owning the branding, making sure to keep it different
    • Making statements or seeing both sides can attribute your opinion without actually doing so
      • Being “informed” by museum after making case for both sides
  • Chandra Devam, CEO of Aris MD (Wharton XM)
    arismdlogo-tealrevised

    • Discussion of iTech NASA competition with Star Trek-surgery
    • A/R and V/R applications – board with the tech
  • Rachel Glaser, CFO of Etsy (Mastering Innovation)
    sell-jewelry-on-etsy

    • Search algorithms to increase sales
    • Etsy as vintage space – defined as 20 years, or handmade materials or put together
    • Have to stay ahead of counterfeit and trends

 

 

  • Sitar Teli (@sitar), MP at Connect Ventures (20min VC 12/30/15)
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    • Doughty Hanson Tech Ventures, series A round in SoundCloud
    • Dual degree in MechE and Econ from Duke
    • Taught English in South Korea for a year, 3 years in IB in US – Broadview (M&A, tech focused)
      • Enjoyed working with the companies but not the banking side – best part was to hear how companies started and early days
      • Hadn’t considered London in 2005 when headhunter had reached out
    • Gaming, fintech, music & content, adtech where Europe is producing big, growing companies now (2015)
      • More cross-pollination of entrepreneurs going back and forth or partnering with others
      • IB moving into VC – different perspectives for her 2 other partners
    • Starting a new fund – “one of worst startups you can think of” – competitive against established funds
      • Build brand, reputation, product and designing it (not just money but experience) – how to work with the founders
      • First year – founders aren’t necessarily eager – want a seriousness that came with business cards
      • Allocating $100 – she’d do $90 to the portfolio and investments, $10 to rejections and focus
        • For No’s, make it quick and even in the meeting or cut short
    • Looking for companies
      • Founders that really understand the market they’re building for – how passionate, how much time to understand, experience
        • CityMapper founder – public transport and how they move through the city and how it can help
        • Stockholm-based Oxy – music creation app (prior at SoundCloud) – digital music tech, digital to greater number of people
      • Founders on a mission (other than $)
      • UX-focused and at the center of what they do
      • As an aside, whole lot of $ (maybe at seed) but it’s not the only bucket – ecommerce, adtech, depending on what founders are
        • Thesis: investors can dictate the entrepreneurs and align them
    • Crowdfunding alongside VC – many biz don’t need venture capital but do need capital
    • Amazing Adventures of Kavalier as book
  • Khartoon Weiss, Global Head of Verticals at Spotify (Wharton XM)
    open-graph-default

    • Starting with the streaming service as free and eventually getting into freemium / subscribers
      • Providing value to users and charging for it
    • Analyzing usage data from subscribers and free users to personalize the experience for listeners and serving brand partners
    • Core value of giving creative artists the opportunity to live off their art
    • Advertisers will see data in events that drive music playing
      • For example, an eclipse occurring will produce more song plays with eclipse themes – can drive user advertising for it, connect brands
  • Max Bruner (@maximusbruner), VP CorpDev at Metromile (Wharton XM)
    metromile

    • Talked about Mavrx, geospatial and agtech company
      • Flying drones and then planes over farmland to assess and improve efficiency
      • Didn’t have the initial equipment when they went to South Africa (needed data during US’s winter)
        • Had pilots take their cameras, IR and others
    • Most of clients were in the midwest – eventually sold to various parts of the vertical
    • Attended UW-Madison in econ and Arabic – did a year abroad between Egypt and Qatar (at the time, nice and hadn’t been through revolutions yet)
      • Felt like something was missing so returned to DC where he worked in the DoE under Reinvestment and Recovery Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

  • Jessica Bennett, gender editor at NYT, “In Her Words” (Wharton XM)
    • Sympathetic attitudes and gender
  • Boris Wertz (@bwertz), founding partner of Version One (20min VC 12/28/15)
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    • Top early-stage tech investor, board partner at Andreesen Horowitz, COO of Abebooks.com that sold to Amazon in ’08
    • 2005 named Pacific EY Entrepreneur of the Year
    • Internet 1.0 in 1999 – wanted to be apart of it – started JustBooks with some friends
      • Built it to Europe’s market leader and then sold to competitor AbeBooks before Amazon
    • Took proceeds and put into 35 internet and mobile companies – early wins, early exits and decided to do it professionally
      • First fund was $18mln
    • Power of bringing together customers across the world and finding the book – buyers/sellers in small marketplace with hard-to-find
      • Years and years of book fairs or local inventories that they were limited to
      • Passionate customer stories and being part of the company – personal way to see how marketplaces are important
    • Transportation vertical with Uber as unlocked in marketplaces
      • Mobile first, others – and their investments
      • “A Guide to Marketplaces” book by VersionOne
        • Precision for a thought that may have been in your head when you write – clarity
        • As supportive as possible to the startup ecosystem and how to impact entrepreneurs in portfolio or outside
        • What does VersionOne get excited about and how do they contribute or help?
        • 50 page guide put together for a framework and concise – depth but not overly so
    • Attractiveness of marketplaces
      • Fragmentation of supply/demand – more people on either side of marketplace, buyers/sellers
        • Buyers/suppliers sometimes want a monogamous relationship – doctors, cleaning personnel – don’t want to get someone new
        • Cab driver / uber – doesn’t matter who drives A to B as long as it’s safe
        • Transactional relationships vs monogamous
      • Size of underlying market, ebay grew from collectibles to all sort of products
      • Specific niche market – what is the kind of market you can address – specially-crafted goods
        • When he looks – lens of VC that needs a return, so needs to see a return on capital in 5-7 years
        • Operators can be great in this case because it can be very profitable, bootstrapped or friends/family money to get and grow
    • Demand or supply first? Any marketplace chicken and egg.
      • Depends on marketplace but once you have network effects, it takes off
      • Uber paying drivers to be idle just to have people in the area and have the supply
      • Addressing supply – how much to have? Hotspots.
        • Which transactions work really well?
        • Price point? Vertical? Certain buyer/supplier? AirBnb doubled down in NYC higher value rentals. Just needed that initially.
    • Trust and safety becomes more important after some attention – supply side with hobby sellers with a little bit of their inventory
      • Power starters are the ones that are stronger. Professional sellers.
    • Mobile first marketplaces and on-demand marketplaces excite VersionOne the most.
      • Services / products as on-demand (Fueling of cars, for instance)
      • Fascinated by decentralized marketplaces built by blockchain – will they ever make money but can’t generate money on own?
    • Measuring as VC: how happy are entrepreneurs, were ones that they met with taking away stuff, serving/help them and get feedback
    • Favorite book: Hard Things, Blog/newsletter – Fred Wilson’s
    • Overhyped: on-demand, Uber for X thing – underlying drivers for Uber’s success, for instance
    • Underhyped: quicker hype cycles – blockchain, VR/AR, drones and anything new is all over it in few months
    • Marketplace Key Metrics: gross merchandise sales and take rate (revenues compared to the gross sales)
    • Recent investment: HeadOut mobile first marketplace for travel experiences (NY, LA, Chi, SF, LA, Vegas)
      • Upcoming experiences in next 24 hours in that city

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

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

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

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

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

 

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