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Updated: 2018-04-19T13:48:46+00:00

 



These are the biggest online shopping destinations in America (AMZN, WMT) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:48:46-07:00

Similar Web recently released a study revealing the top online shopping sites in 2018 so far. Amazon, eBay, and Walmart took the top three spots for online retailers for general merchandise.  Walmart.com and Wish.com saw the most mobile traffic out of the top online shopping sites.  In the beginning of 2018, Amazon continues to lead the way in online shopping — with nearly twice as much traffic as the runner-up, eBay.  A recent study by the digital market intelligence company Similar Web looked at incoming traffic from US shoppers to general merchandise e-commerce sites from both desktop and mobile. The top site for general merchandise, they found, was Amazon, followed by Ebay and Walmart. Of all the incoming traffic combined, 58% came from mobile. Walmart.com and Wish.com in particular saw the most mobile traffic — 64% and 81% respectively.  These are the top 10 online retailers, according to Similar Web:SEE ALSO: Bed Bath & Beyond's stores have been slammed as 'devoid of inspiration' and 'a mess' — here's what it's like to shop there 10. Sears.com Average monthly traffic: 26.1 million Traffic share: 0.8% 9. Wish.com Average monthly traffic: 38.7 million Traffic share: 1.1% 8. Kohls.com Average monthly traffic: 40.4 million Traffic share: 1.2% See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]



Amazon is gaining ground after Jeff Bezos reveals how many people pay for Prime (AMZN) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:46:00-07:00

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' annual letter to shareholders indicates that 100 million people pay for Prime globally. It's the first time the company has revealed the number of Prime subscribers. Shares of Amazon were up 1.53% early Thursday. Watch Amazon in real time here. Amazon was gaining ground Thursday morning, up 1.53%, after CEO Jeff Bezos released a letter to shareholders saying 100 million people paid for Prime globally. This is the first time Amazon has revealed the number of paid Prime subscribers. The big reveal from Bezos comes as Amazon finds itself in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly railed against the company. "Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon," Trump tweeted earlier in April. "THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed. Also, our fully tax paying retailers are closing stores all over the country...not a level playing field!" Last week, by executive order, Trump ordered the creation of a task force to look into the US Postal Service's struggles. And while the order didn't name Amazon, it asked the task force to look into "the expansion and pricing of the package delivery market and the USPS's role in competitive markets," among other things. Details of how much Amazon pays to the postal service are not publicly known. Bezos' letter to shareholders comes ahead of the company's first-quarter results, which are scheduled to be released next Thursday. Wall Street analysts are looking for the e-commerce giant to earn an adjusted $3.10 a share on revenue of $49.94 billion. Amazon shares were up 30.64% this year through Wednesday. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Wall Street's biggest bull explains why trade war fears are way overblown [...]



Don’t expect the next PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo console any time soon [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:36:06-07:00

The PlayStation 4 came out nearly five years ago. The same can be said of the Xbox One — both consoles were announced and launched in 2013 with very similar specs and target audiences. Five years is a long time in video game console lifespans. Normally, both consoles would be looking at their golden years right around now — finally low enough in price for anyone to buy, large libraries of great games from years of availability, and even better stuff coming in the near future. At five years in to the PlayStation 2's existence, it had three great "Grand Theft Auto" games and "God of War 2" still on the horizon. At five years in to the Xbox 360's existence, it had two great "Halo" games and a new "Grand Theft Auto" on the horizon. In both cases, we were already hearing about — officially or unofficially — the consoles that were going to replace them. But that isn't the case just yet for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, to say nothing of Nintendo's still-brand-new Switch console. In all cases, it looks like we'll be living with the current crop of home game consoles for the foreseeable future — and there are several good reasons why.SEE ALSO: Microsoft has a problem with Xbox that it can't buy its way out of What we "know" about the next PlayStation based on the scant reports thus far: Does a theoretical "PlayStation 5" exist? Probably yes! It takes years of research and development, planning, discussion, design, and much more to shepherd a new game console into existence. It's entirely likely there were talks of the PlayStation 4's successor during the development of the PlayStation 4 itself. Is the PlayStation 5 coming out any time soon? Probably not! That's the long and short of the latest scuttlebutt, reported by Kotaku's Jason Schreier earlier this month. According to his piece, there is work underway on a new console in Sony's PlayStation line — a full-on successor to the PlayStation 4, not a half-step like the PlayStation 4 Pro. But it's still early days, and most game developers he spoke with had heard nothing.  That's reflected in a recent interview at the annual GamesBeat conference with former Sony Interactive Entertainment president Andrew House — his first interview since leaving Sony at the end of 2017. "I’m very bullish on longer life cycles for consoles," House said. He wouldn't give up any details on a potential PlayStation 5 console: "I am no longer in a position to comment on those matters." He did say that he expects future game consoles to continue using discs of some form, though he specifically pointed out that his statement is not based on knowledge of Sony's plans for a new PlayStation console. Why it's unlikely that a PlayStation 5 is coming out anytime soon: Less than two years ago, Sony launched a major update to the PlayStation 4: It's called the PlayStation 4 Pro, and it's a more powerful version of the existing console. It plays the same games, but makes them look prettier and load more quickly. It's a kind of half-step up, in terms of horsepower, from the PlayStation 4. If you're buying a new PlayStation 4 at this point, and you have a 4K/HDR-capable television, you should buy a PlayStation 4 Pro.  Sony's PlayStation 4 is in a unique position: Over 70 million PS4s have been sold, putting Sony in first place by a longshot, and there's a relatively new PS4 console on sale for the other 6.93 billion people who don't own one yet. The company already has a large base of players to sell games to, and it has a hardware lineup that's relatively fresh. That means Sony can enjoy the higher profits that come with game and accessory sales while continuing to sell new consoles, thus increasing the overall userbase (which increases the number of potential game buyers, etc.).  In so many words: Why would Sony introduce an entirely new console — even discuss one — at this point? It doesn't make a lot of sense. It would risk burning a huge audience in the proce[...]



The rise of the Russo brothers — from going into credit card debt for their first movie to directing 'Avengers: Infinity War' [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:32:35-07:00

Years ago, Joe and Anthony Russo (known as the Russo brothers), would have seemed like an unlikely duo to direct a "Captain America" movie, let alone the biggest superhero movie in history: "Avengers: Infinity War." But the duo did just that, and the crown jewel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to theaters on April 27. The pair started their career on the film festival circuit, and struggled to finance their first independent, low-budget film, called "Pieces." Swimming in debt, they were eventually called by filmmaker and producer Steven Soderbergh, who had seen "Pieces" at the Slamdance Film Festival and wanted to produce their next film. From there, the brothers would mostly take on TV projects, primarily sitcoms such as "Arrested Development," "Happy Endings," and "Community." Now, the Russos are ready to deliver the most anticipated superhero film of all time — and certainly one of the most ambitious crossover events ever — which could very well smash box office records. Needless to say, it's an unusual career. Here's a closer look at the career of the Russo Brothers:SEE ALSO: The 25 worst superhero movies of all time, ranked from bad to unwatchable Joe (left) and Anthony (right) Russo grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Anthony was born in 1970 and Joe in 1971. Joe (in front) has collected comic books since he was 10 years old. His favorite character was Spider-Man. They were graduate students at Case Western Reserve University, a private university in Cleveland, when they started making their first film. Joe was a theatre student while Anthony was in the School of Law — their father was an attorney. See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]



'That complexity has a tendency to eat you alive': Technology companies face a massive challenge as they move into healthcare [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:20:48-07:00

The lines around healthcare are being redrawn, with mergers that combine pharmacies with insurers and doctors with health plans. At the same time, big technology companies have started taking a greater interest in healthcare. Cerner's confronting those changes by finding technology partners, which Cerner President Zane Burke believes is a better strategy than technology companies trying to go it alone.  "That complexity has a tendency to eat you alive," Burke said, referring to tech companies that don't truly undestand healthcare data.  The lines around what defines a healthcare company are getting blurred. For one, companies are merging like crazy: Pharmacies are acquiring insurers. Hospitals are getting into the drug business. Insurers are starting to own doctors' offices. Insurers are buying one of the largest standalone pharma middlemen. And retail giant Walmart's reportedly been in talks to buy Humana.  For another, tech giants are getting more and more interested in healthcare. For example, Apple's going to start putting medical records onto iPhones, and there has been speculation about how Amazon could get into the pharmacy business. Already, Amazon's teaming up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathway to form a new independent nonprofit venture aimed at lowering healthcare costs for their employees.  It's putting companies that make the software that connects all the different aspects of the healthcare system through electronic health records in an interesting position.  "We're increasingly looking for partners along the way," Zane Burke, the president of health information technology giant Cerner.  For example, Cerner's working with Salesforce on customer relationship management automation. Cerner's also working with Apple on its personal health records. Should patients want to see their information on their phones, Apple can work with Cerner's electronic medical records to pull that in. Burke's less convinced that big tech companies can go it alone in health IT, based on how things have gone in the past.  "Big caps have gotten into this business before, multiple times, and have gotten killed every time," Burke said. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and IBM have tried to get into the health IT space over the past few decades, but ultimately haven't stuck around. Google Health, for example, had built a personal health information service, but the project was shut down in 2011. Microsoft recently decided to abandon its HealthVault Insights program, which was meant to give patients a better picture of their medical records and health.  "And I'm not saying the next big cap that gets in is going to get killed, I'm just saying there's a reason why people have not succeeded in the past. And it's because of the complexity, and understanding the depth of healthcare," he said. The stumbling block as Burke sees it: how complex healthcare data can be, especially when it comes to privacy issues, and interoperability challenges that make it difficult to get data from one hospital to another.  "That complexity has a tendency to eat you alive," Burke said, referring to technology companies which may not truly understand healthcare data.   But it puts companies like Cerner in a good spot, Burke said. "We have a number of folks that want to work with us, and we just want to be very careful about picking the right partners that help us advance the ball the fastest, and deliver the most value for our clients, and that'll take care of our shareholders," he said. SEE ALSO: Walmart's talks with an insurance giant could be part of an assault on Amazon Prime Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A $163 billion chief economist outlines his biggest market fear [...]



Netflix's 'Amateur' director had to navigate real-life NCAA regulations in casting a 15 year old as a basketball star [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:06:50-07:00

Director Ryan Koo got himself the golden ticket when his directorial debut “Amateur” was bought by Netflix in the script stage to be one of its original movies. But the journey the movie took to get to the streaming giant’s millions of viewers was a challenging one. It’s a struggle to make every movie, but Koo can make the argument that he took on obstacles that most first-time filmmakers don’t. In “Amateur” (currently available on Netflix) we get a look inside what young basketball phenoms go through to get the attention of a big-time Division I NCAA school. Main character 14-year-old Terron Forte is a star on his school basketball team, but to get to the next level his family enrolls him in a shady prep-school. In doing so, we see firsthand the corruption behind youth athletics where the kids no longer play for the coach, or to get into college, or even the NBA — they play for the brands. To capture that authentic feel, Koo cast 15-year-old actor Michael Rainey Jr. in the role of Terron. And as he explained to Business Insider, what came with that decision were a lot of restrictions that, if navigated incorrectly, could have crippled the entire movie.SEE ALSO: The director of HBO's Andre the Giant documentary explains how he debunked some major myths and got Vince McMahon to cry The frustrations behind finding a lead actor Koo said a big reason why it took years for “Amateur” to get made was because of his insistence on having a real teen for the lead role. Not only would that mean that there would be production restrictions laid on him because he was working with a minor (more on that below), but he would have to find a kid who wasn’t just skilled at basketball, but had top acting skills to carry a feature film. “In basketball films you are working with an actor who probably had to learn how to play the sport for the role rather than come from a starting point of being a great basketball player themselves,” Koo said. “So I always assumed I was going to need to cast a basketball player who had never acted before.” The problem Koo found in his research is a skilled high school basketball player could potentially play in college. If he were to pay that person for being in the movie that person would lose his eligibility to play basketball in college, according to the rules by the NCAA which does not allow its student athletes to be paid. “You're talking about a weeks-long movie shoot as a full time job, which you can't pay your lead actor,” Koo said. “So we were on the phone with the NCAA a few times about this to try to figure out what we could and couldn't do and who we could cast.” Eventually Koo got extremely lucky and found an actor who had been a talented basketball player for years. Michael Rainey Jr. had been a working actor since 8 years old, starring along side Common in the 2012 movie “Luv” and the son of Sophia Burset in “Orange is the New Black.” But Koo learned that he had also played basketball as well, even running point on an AAU team. Rainey got the part and Koo teamed him with a basketball trainer to hone the moves he would show off in the movie. But things didn’t get easier for Koo going into production. The crew’s worst nightmare: Shooting a movie in “splits” It’s a term that gives movie crews the chills — splits. That’s when a production’s shooting day is split up between a daytime block and a night block. The “Amateur” production had to do this because it was shooting a movie with a minor, so he could only work 8-and-a-half hours per day with production required to stop at 12:30 am. And because high-school basketball games are played in the evening, there would be a lot of evening scenes. “That gives you very little flexibility to swap things,” Koo said. “Y[...]



San Francisco's homelessness crisis is so dire, there's now a 911 alternative to get people on the street instant help — here's how it works [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T06:04:00-07:00

San Francisco is dealing with the harsh reality of a homelessness crisis that's gone from bad to worse. In 2017, more than one in 100 homeless Americans lived on the city's streets. Tired of feeling helpless, Jacob Savage and Neil Shah created an app called Concrn that lets people send an alert whenever they see a person experiencing a mental health crisis, homelessness, or an issue with substance abuse. The app's dispatcher sends a civilian response team trained in empathy to help get that person back on their feet and connect them with relevant support services. We recently shadowed a Concrn responder on their shift. Here's what it was like.SEE ALSO: San Francisco's homeless are getting six-figure jobs in a gritty neighborhood that's been overrun by tech companies On any day in San Francisco, you may see a person raving incoherently, shooting up drugs, or tumbling into the streets. You might inch past to avoid them or offer your pocket change. If a bystander takes action, they might call the police, assuming these trained keepers of the law know how to best handle trauma in the streets. But that's not always the case. Over a recent nine-year period, 58% of the city's police shootings involved mentally ill people. Created in 2014, Concrn is a "mobile alternative to 911," according to the app's founders. See the rest of the story at Business Insider [...]



Shapeways Adds $30M to Push “Mass Personalization” Via 3D Printing [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-19T06:00:13-07:00

Shapeways, a New York-based 3D printing company, has raised $30 million in new funding to help expand its services for product designers aspiring to build successful small businesses. Shapeways, which has raised more than $100 million to date, operates an online marketplace where designers and others with product ideas can sell their 3D-printed wares, such […] Shapeways, a New York-based 3D printing company, has raised $30 million in new funding to help expand its services for product designers aspiring to build successful small businesses. Shapeways, which has raised more than $100 million to date, operates an online marketplace where designers and others with product ideas can sell their 3D-printed wares, such as jewelry, board game pieces, toys, and camera accessories. The company handles the 3D printing and shipping. It also offers product development and design services. But the 11-year-old company is moving into new territory, as it attempts to become a one-stop shop for product creators.... Read more » Reprints | Share:           UNDERWRITERS AND PARTNERS                                  [...]



5 Takeaways From Robo Madness 2018 at iRobot [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-19T05:57:41-07:00

A who’s who of robotics and artificial intelligence experts gathered at iRobot’s headquarters in Bedford, MA, last week. The occasion was Xconomy’s fourth annual Robo Madness conference, and you can check out photos from the event here. Here are five things we learned from the discussions: 1. Watch your interns and office cleaners—they’ll go on […] A who’s who of robotics and artificial intelligence experts gathered at iRobot’s headquarters in Bedford, MA, last week. The occasion was Xconomy’s fourth annual Robo Madness conference, and you can check out photos from the event here. Here are five things we learned from the discussions: 1. Watch your interns and office cleaners—they’ll go on to great things. Joe Jones, co-inventor of the Roomba (now CTO of Franklin Robotics), used to be in charge of vacuuming the iRobot office, circa 1994. Clara Vu and Max Makeev, former iRobot interns and employees, now help lead the startups Veo Robotics and... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



12-year-old Jeff Bezos designed a survey to rate his middle-school teachers (AMZN) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T05:52:00-07:00

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was a smart and enterprising kid, as Brad Stone writes in his 2013 book "The Everything Store." In sixth grade, he practiced statistical analysis by designing a survey so students could rate the teachers. Smart kids are more likely to hold leadership positions as adults, according to research. But it's still possible for kids who struggle academically to become successful. Before Jeff Bezos was Jeff Bezos, he was "Tim." As Brad Stone wrote in his 2013 bestseller, "The Everything Store," that was Bezos' pseudonym in the book "Turning on Bright Minds," which explored a gifted-education program in Texas where Bezos was a student. Bezos' teachers told the book's author, Julie Ray, that he was "not particularly gifted in leadership." Yet Bezos demonstrated his precociousness in other ways, like when he designed a survey to rate the sixth-grade teachers at his school, in order to practice statistical analysis for math class. Ray wrote that the survey was, according to Bezos, designed to evaluate instructors on "how they teach, not as a popularity contest." When Ray visited the school, Bezos had distributed the survey to classmates and was now graphing the teachers' relative performance. Stone pulls out other telling tidbits from Ray's book. Bezos was competitive — he was trying to keep up with a classmate who claimed she read 12 books a week — and enterprising — he was creating a more affordable version of a contraption he'd seen in a store that created an illusion of an endless tunnel. Yep. Sounds like the Bezos we know. Smart kids are more likely to become leaders as adults The fact that Bezos was such a remarkable kid also fits with current research on the predictors of success in adulthood. One small study, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, found that 320 students who had scored above the 1-in-10,000 level on the SAT before age 13 held more prestigious jobs at more prestigious companies by age 38 than the rest of the population on average. Another study, from researchers at Stirling University in the UK and University College Dublin, looked at a sample of 17,000 people and found that 10- and 11-year-old kids who demonstrated high cognitive ability were more likely to hold leadership positions as adults. (So much for Bezos' teachers' insistence that he didn't have leadership potential.) Bill Gates, the former CEO of Microsoft, was similarly talented as a pre-teen. The Wall Street Journal reported that he read the entire World Book Encyclopedia series at a young age. By age 11, Gates' father told The Journal, Gates began asking his parents about topics like international affairs and business. The moral of the story isn't that if you weren't such an impressive kid, you'll never achieve Bezos- or Gates-style success. You might! There are plenty of successful people who struggled academically or otherwise as children. Likewise, just because you're a smart kid or teenager doesn't necessarily mean you'll go onto become a CEO. Still, it's worth noting this pattern. It's also important to remember that Bezos was enrolled in a gifted and talented program when Ray met him. If teachers hadn't recognized his potential and he'd stayed with his "average" peers, he might never have blossomed into one of the most powerful people in the world.SEE ALSO: Early Amazon interviews were so tough, one comment could disqualify a job candidate immediately Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Leslie Odom, Jr.'s $500,000 gamble that led to 'Hamilton' [...]



The Southwest plane window blew out after engine explosion, but airplane windows are stronger than you think [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T05:38:27-07:00

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after suffering an engine failure and cabin depressurization. One of the Boeing 737's windows blew out, nearly sucking a passenger out of the cabin. Airplane windows are rather durable and are made up of multiple layers. On Tuesday, Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after an uncontained engine failure damaged the plane's fuselage and one of the Boeing 737's windows blew out. The resulting decompression managed to nearly suck Jennifer Riordan out of the window before being pulled back in by her fellow passengers. Unfortunately, Riordan, 43, died from her injuries. This leads us to ask the question: What is an airplane window made of and what kind of forces can it take? Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board believe the failure occurred when a titanium alloy fan blade snapped mid-flight. The damage to the window and fuselage may have been the result of shrapnel caused by the disintegrating engine cowling forced out by a rogue fan blade spinning near the speed of sound.  The NTSB does not yet know what exactly blew out the window, but whatever debris that managed to puncture the window did so with incredible force.  The window on modern airliners is actually made up of multiple layers, usually three, of acrylic with a plastic inner cover. The three layers are gapped and vented. This is to allow for pressure equalization and to prevent the windows from fogging. The material used to make the windows is rather durable and, following federal regulations, won't splinter when damaged.  Since the windows are essentially made from plexiglass, they aren't bulletproof. However, they rarely fail. And even if they do, modern airliners such as the Boeing 737 used to operate Flight 1380 can survive and land after most depressurization events.  Read More about the Southwest Incident: Southwest passenger's death was the first in a US passenger airline accident in more than 9 years Southwest pilot to air traffic control before emergency landing: 'There's a hole and someone went out' Southwest passenger says there was 'blood everywhere' after 'terrifying' emergency landing Southwest passenger who died after major engine failure has been identified as a Wells Fargo VP and mother of two Investigators found a major clue to what may have caused Southwest jet's engine failure The type of engine that blew apart on Southwest plane was a growing concern for regulators The pilot who made the Southwest flight emergency landing is a former fighter pilot and one of the first women to fly an F-18 Southwest passenger's torso was sucked out of plane after engine explosion busted open aircraft window SEE ALSO: One person is dead after a major engine failure led a Southwest plane to make a terrifying emergency landing in Philadelphia Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A $163 billion chief economist outlines his biggest market fear [...]



Experts are calling out a vape pen with 'scary' nicotine levels that teens love — here's how it affects the brain [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T04:46:00-07:00

Vaping, which involves inhaling heated vapor via a small portable device, is trending among teens. One device in particular, the Juul, is catching the attention of high school staff and public health experts who call its high nicotine content "scary." Nicotine is highly addictive and has a host of negative impacts on the developing brain — particularly in an area that's linked with decision making, emotions, and impulse control. Among teens, a vape pen with twice the nicotine content of comparable devices has been surging in popularity. Called the Juul, the device even has its own verb: Juuling. Instagram and YouTube are full of videos of adolescents "Juuling," in class and in front of teachers. A string of high schools along the East Coast has acknowledged "Juuling" in bathroom stalls as a widespread problem, and dozens of teachers report confiscating Juul devices disguised as Sharpies and other classroom items. The recent vaping mania has sparked concern among medical professionals and public health advocates, who say it reminds them of the heyday of cigarettes, when smoking behind classrooms and in parking lots was in vogue. But the risks here are magnified, they say, because e-cigs can be used indoors without someone noticing. The devices also pack a more powerful nicotine punch than traditional cigarettes: the Juul contains roughly twice the concentration as cigarettes and other vape pens. "The Juul is a new trend I’m afraid," Nicholas Chadi, a clinical pediatrics fellow at Boston Children's Hospital, said at the American Society of Addiction Medicine's annual conference last week. "We get calls from parents across Boston wondering what to do about this." On Wednesday, Senate democratic whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 10 other Senators sent two letters to Juul Labs, Inc., the makers of the device, saying that their products “are undermining our nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use among youth." The devices put "an entire new generation of children at risk of nicotine addiction," one of the letters says. The developing teen brain is highly sensitive to substances The crux of the problem centers on what nicotine does to the teen brain — especially in an area called the prefrontal cortex, which plays a key role in emotional control, decision making, and impulse regulation. Like other drugs such as marijuana or alcohol, nicotine has a different impact on a developing brain than on the brain of an adult. The prefrontal cortex is often at increased risk in teens who use substances because it doesn't finish developing until around age 25. Brain imaging studies of adolescents suggest that those who begin smoking regularly at a young age have markedly reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex and perform less well on tasks related to memory and attention compared to people who don't smoke. Chadi said these brain changes are also linked with increased sensitivity to other drugs as well as greater impulsivity. He described some of the anecdotal effects of nicotine vaping that he's seen among teens in and around his hospital. "After only a few months of using nicotine [these teens] describe cravings, sometimes intense ones. Sometimes they also lose their hopes of being able to quit. And interestingly they show less severe symptoms of withdrawal than adults, but they start to show them earlier on. After only a few hundred cigarettes — or whatever the equivalent amount of vaping pods — some start showing irritability or shakiness when they stop." Nicotine is more addictive than alcohol Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet ranked nicotine as more addictive than alcohol and barbiturates; Chadi said he believed it to be more addictive than[...]



10 things in tech you need to know today (FB, AMZN, INTC) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T03:49:07-07:00

Good morning! These are the 10 things in tech you need to know this Thursday. 1. More than 100 million people pay for Amazon Prime, Amazon's fast shipping service that includes perks like movie, TV, and music streaming. CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the numbers in his annual shareholder letter. 2. An author who went undercover at an Amazon warehouse and discovered workers peeing in bottles told Business Insider the atmosphere was like "prison." James Bloodworth said workers were penalised for taking sick days. 3. Third-party trackers on websites can abuse the "Login with Facebook" tool to harvest user data, researchers have found. They can harvest data like user ID, email, name, and even gender. 4. Facebook is working on its own chips, according to Bloomberg. The move would reduce its reliance on companies like Intel, and the company could use chips for hardware devices, AI, or the servers in its data centres.  5. Intel is ditching its smart glasses division. The New Devices Group only showed off its Vaunt smartglasses earlier this year, but Intel has now ceased development and will lay off around 200 people. 6. Marissa Mayer is working on a new tech venture, and is currently working out of Google's old offices. She hasn't specified what she is up to, but said she has "some ideas in the consumer space." 7. Facebook will change its terms of service in May and will start asking users if they want to continue sharing sensitive data like sexual orientation. That's thanks to a strict new European privacy regulation coming into force next month. 8. Russia is threatening to ban Facebook if the company doesn't shift its Russian user database into the country. Russia's media regulator also wants the firm to explain why it has deleted Russian accounts, presumably referencing the deletion of troll accounts with ties to the Kremlin. 9. BenevolentAI, a British startup that uses artificial intelligence to aid drug discovery, has raised $115 million at a $2 billion valuation. The funding comes from existing investors, including Neil Woodford's fund. 10. An Iceland man arrested for carrying out a $2 million bitcoin heist has escaped from prison and possibly fled to Sweden on the same plane as the Icelandic prime minister. An international arrest warrant has been issued for Sindri Thor Stefansson.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Facebook can still track you even if you delete your account — here's how to stop it [...]



Business Insider is hiring a tech editor in London [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T03:28:00-07:00

Business Insider is looking for a talented tech editor to work out of its London office. We are looking for a driven storyteller who can spot scoops and is able to write quickly and independently. This person should be obsessed with covering the world's biggest tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Uber, and Amazon. He or she should be excited about chasing down news and delivering original, reported features. As a tech editor you will: Report and write in-depth feature stories about the world’s top tech businesses and the personalities behind the companies. Work closely with reporters, coaching them on strategies and techniques for building sources, breaking news, finding news in public documents, etc. Assign and edit a wide range of short news pieces, longer features, and other types of stories. We will consider candidates at various experience levels. The best candidates have: Strong business news editing skills — everything from spot news and in-depth features to earnings reports. An appetite for news, and great judgment. A passion and familiarity with the tech industry, and a network of industry sources. A proven talent for framing headlines. This person has excellent communication skills and is genuinely excited about building Business Insider's tech readership. A solid grasp on SEO is a plus. Apply here with a CV, cover letter, and links to several writing samples, if this sounds like your dream job. This full-time position is immediate and is based out of our London office. Business Insider offers competitive compensation packages complete with benefits. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Google, Apple, and Amazon are in a war that no one will win [...]



How hidden trackers on websites use 'login with Facebook' to harvest your data (FB) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T03:25:43-07:00

Security researchers found a way for hidden trackers to abuse the "login with Facebook" feature that many websites use. The trackers can harvest user data like profile picture, name, email address, age, and gender — probably much more than people intend to give away when they log in to sites using Facebook. Facebook says it is investigating the issue. It's yet another example of how hard it is for users to keep tabs on who has their Facebook data. Here's another example of companies hijacking Facebook to harvest your data. Many people use the "login with Facebook" feature to sign in to some websites. It simplifies logging in and means you don't have to remember a whole bunch of new usernames and passwords. But according to security researchers at Freedom to Tinker, the shortcut may mean users are handing over considerably more information than intended. We first saw the news via TechCrunch. Trackers embedded on a site's pages can hijack the "login with Facebook" feature to harvest data you probably didn't intend to give away, including your email address and public profile details such as name, age range, gender, location, and profile photo. It isn't clear what these trackers do with the information, but the researchers noted that the firms behind the trackers — OnAudience, Tealium, Lytics, and ProPS — all provide audience-monetization services to publishers. In other words, sites are able to charge advertisers more money because they know more about you. The researchers found the trackers embedded in 454 of the top 1 million sites, sorted by their Alexa traffic rank, including MongoDB. MongoDB told TechCrunch on Wednesday: "We were unaware that a third-party technology was using a tracking script that collects parts of Facebook user data. We have identified the source of the script and shut it down." Facebook told TechCrunch it was investigating the issue, and it didn't immediately respond to a request for further clarification from Business Insider. The numbers suggest the data syphoning isn't particularly widespread, but it's yet another example of how difficult it is for users to understand where their Facebook information could be going. Steven Engelhardt, a privacy engineer at Mozilla who was among the researchers behind the findings, wrote: "This unintended exposure of Facebook data to third parties is not due to a bug in Facebook's Login feature. Rather, it is due to the lack of security boundaries between the first-party and third-party scripts in today's web." But, Engelhardt added, Facebook could do a better job of auditing how third parties use tools like the log-in service and stop trackers from scraping more information than necessary.SEE ALSO: Facebook will soon ask if you really want to share whether you're gay or straight online Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Facebook can still track you even if you delete your account — here's how to stop it [...]



The biggest companies in the TV industry are banding together to arm themselves against Google and Facebook [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T03:00:00-07:00

NBCUniversal is joining rivals Turner, Fox and Viacom to help advertisers better use data to target people with TV ads. The consortium, dubbed OpenAP, promises to eliminate much of the manual labor and friction inherent in data-driven TV advertising, which is nascent compared to the web. NBCU is not only participating, but licensing some of its own proprietary data and tools to bolster the effort. Ultimately, the TV ad industry needs to up its data and tech chops as it battles giants like Facebook and Google for ad budgets. NBCUniversal is signing on to help TV advertising transform itself into a digital, data-driven business – one that's ideally better armed to battle Facebook and Google. So it's partnering with three of its blood rivals: Fox, Turner and Viacom. About a year ago, those three media titans joined forces to announce OpenAP, a consortium aimed at making it easier for advertisers to target people with specific ads, much like they've become accustomed to doing in digital media. But a few big companies were glaringly absent, including NBCUniversal and Disney. Now, NBCU is not only joining OpenAP, but it plans to license some of its premium data and ad products to potentially make the consortium more potent. Disney remains on the sidelines as of now. The digital advertising industry has exploded over the past decade largely through its use of sophisticated software, data and automated platforms designed to deliver more targeted advertising. The most powerful and successful examples of this of course are Facebook and Google, which boast of unparalleled reams of consumer data. TV, while still a $70 billion-plus ad market in the US, is still stubbornly analogue in terms of execution, in contrast. NBCU's sales chief Linda Yaccarino has been vocal about TV's need to disrupt itself before its too late. Most major TV players are trying to get more digital. Yet even as individual TV companies are embracing the use of data to improve their targeting capabilities, ad buyers complain that such precision advertising is tough to execute at scale. And the more that giant marketers get accustomed to buying ads using digital tools and processes, and the more money that keeps getting funneled to the duopoly, the more pressure there is on the TV business to adapt. Thus, the idea behind OpenAP was to streamline data-driven TV ad operations, to a degree. Specifically ,Viacom, Fox and Turned built a web-based product designed to help advertisers mix and match data to create segments of consumers they want to reach (like say new parents) with ads. Theoretically they can use those data segments from TV network to TV network. When OpenAP debuted, it pulled in data from companies like Nielsen and ComScore. Now, with NBCU's arrival, advertisers will also be able to access additional cable set top data from NBCU-parent company Comcast, as well as several custom NBCU data products. So the data segments available should be that much more robust. To be sure, OpenAP is primarily about allowing advertisers to create consumer segments for ad targeting purposes. It's not a digital ad exchange where buyers and sellers can trade on TV ad industry. The TV advertising business is not quite there. But the more big TV names that join OpenAP, the more momentum this form of ad buying gains.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What living on Earth would be like without the moon [...]



I Can’t Do Math In Prose [A VC]

2018-04-19T02:38:25-07:00

I wrote those words to a friend of mine yesterday. We are working on a project together. He wrote me an email listing a whole bunch of investments to be made and where we are on them. I read it and understood it, but it didn’t really register with me. So we are going to […]

I wrote those words to a friend of mine yesterday. We are working on a project together.

He wrote me an email listing a whole bunch of investments to be made and where we are on them.

I read it and understood it, but it didn’t really register with me.

So we are going to make a spreadsheet with a few columns, total some stuff up, and look at it together.

The Gotham Gal calls that a “fredsheet” because I do better with numbers in a spreadsheet.

This is an example of presenting information in context.

I feel that how information is presented is often more powerful than the underlying data.

And when you want someone to understand what you are saying, it is best to put that information in the format that person is most comfortable in.

For me, that is often a sheet.



USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning)

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Apple might have a new iPhone SE in the works (AAPL) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-19T01:45:12-07:00

Apple raises hopes of next-generation iPhone SE with regulatory filing in Russia. The filing lists 11 new iPhone models, and tech bloggers think there's pretty good chance the iPhone SE will be relaunched as a cheaper alternative to the iPhone X. The iPhone SE is a popular model and is selling well in emerging markets like India. Apple has raised hopes that it might be preparing a new iPhone SE after tech bloggers seized on a filing by the company on Wednesday. In a Russian-language regulatory filing with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), first spotted by French website Consomac, Apple lists 11 new iPhones that will run iOS 11. There's no suggestion that the unseen model numbers correspond with unique new phones, they could simply delineate factors such as carrier and country of sale. But the filing has increased speculation that Apple is plotting something new. And, according to several specialist Apple websites, including MacRumours and Apple Insider, the smart money is on a cheaper alternative to the iPhone X. All eyes are on the iPhone SE, which is overdue a refresh after it first launched in March 2016. It is a popular model, topping customer satisfaction surveys, becoming the top-selling smartphone in the UK in the year it launched, and Apple revealed last year that it is a strong performer in emerging markets like India. A next-generation iPhone SE also seems to fit with rumours that Apple is planning to launch an entry-level handset this summer.  New launches have previously followed Apple's filings with the EEC, which satisfy Russia's requirement for companies to register all products containing encryption and/or cryptographic tools, according to MacRumours. EEC filings relating to the iPad in February trailed the Wi-Fi and cellular versions of Apple's 9.7-inch iPad, which launched last month.SEE ALSO: 6 reasons you should buy an iPhone SE instead of the iPhone X Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Face-swapping videos could lead to more 'fake news' [...]



Snapchat is doubling down on its biggest advantage by allowing users to jump from AR lenses to shopping in one click (SNAP) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-18T22:37:00-07:00

Snapchat is adding a new "Shop Now" button that users can tap to install an app, watch a video or even shop for products — all within the app. The button is available on an enhanced version of its lens product that Snapchat is calling the "Shoppable AR" lens. It is a way to fully close the sales loop for marketers looking to drive actual returns on their investment. Marketers including beauty Coty, Adidas, game-maker King and film studio STX Entertainment are running shoppable AR lenses at launch. Snapchat is trying to cement its position as the leading platform in augmented reality marketing. The company is adding a new "Shop Now" button that users can tap to install an app, watch a video or shop for products, all within the Snapchat app. The button is meant to close the sales loop for marketers looking to drive returns on their investment (ROI), and is available on an enhanced version of its lens product that Snapchat is calling the "Shoppable AR" lens. "Shoppable AR Lenses give brands a new way to leverage our unique scale to drive real and measurable ROI, whether that’s through sales, downloads, lead gen, or video views," said Peter Sellis, Snap's director of revenue product. Shoppable AR enables augmented reality at scale Marketers consider Snapchat to be ahead of the curve in terms of AR marketing, but have long lamented not being able to drive measurable returns such as actual purchases by using the platform's various AR-powered lenses, like barfing rainbows and dancing hotdogs. Snapchat has been trying to change that perception over the past few months. Last November, for instance, it rolled out "Context Cards," a tool to provide users more information about the lenses and filters they play with. Shoppable AR lenses build on Context Cards further, making the button prominent on the Snapchat camera instead of making users seek more information by swiping up on a friend's snap. Shoppable AR lenses let brands extend an engaging interaction beyond the camera — where it can be hard to fit in detailed product or brand info — letting users take action directly within the app. And Snapchat believes it has an edge over others as far as scale goes, as the app opens directly to an AR-enabled camera rather than a content feed. Shoppable AR lenses are an important step for AR as a direct-response marketing vehicle as they prompt customers to take an action, said Jeremy Sigel, global SVP of content and innovation at Essence.  "To date, the measurement around AR has been almost exclusively focused on brand-oriented metrics" he said. "By providing a host of new direct-response options, Snap is appealing to a more diverse set of marketers, who will now be able to make more apple-to-apple media comparisons." Advertisers can typically buy lenses in three ways. They can use Snap's self-serve tools to bid on Snap ads where users can "Swipe Up to Try" AR lenses for $100 per day. They can also pay for an audience-targeted lens for upwards of $40,000 with an agreed upon CPM. Or they can buy lenses nationally, across the US, which run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the anticipated impressions that day. Shoppable AR lenses are not more expensive, according to Snapchat, as all advertisers are doing is adding the button on top. To be sure, Snapchat faces increasing competition in the space from deeper-pocketed rivals. Facebook recently opened up its AR platform to developers, and Google and Apple have introduced AR platforms as well. But still, AR seems to be a bright s[...]



BenevolentAI Raises $115M For Drug Discovery, Pegs Valuation at $2.1 Billion [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-18T21:58:22-07:00

BenevolentAI, one of the companies vying to improve healthcare through artificial intelligence analysis, says it has raised $115 million to accelerate its drive to discover new drugs by studying disease processes at the molecular level. The London-based company, which has offices in New York and Belgium, says the new capital brings its current valuation to […] BenevolentAI, one of the companies vying to improve healthcare through artificial intelligence analysis, says it has raised $115 million to accelerate its drive to discover new drugs by studying disease processes at the molecular level. The London-based company, which has offices in New York and Belgium, says the new capital brings its current valuation to $2.1 billion. The money was raised from new and earlier investors—most from the United States. But BenevolentAI named only one—previous investor Woodford Investment Management—in its announcement Wednesday. According to a spokeswoman, the backers include family offices and some strategic investors. Counting the new... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



10xBio Raises $2.7M to Test Body Sculpting Drug in Clinical Trial [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-18T21:01:31-07:00

John Dobak, a life sciences serial entrepreneur in San Diego, said a new startup he’s leading has raised $2.66 million to advance a drug that is already approved to shrink varicose veins through early-stage clinical trials testing it in a new use —fat reduction body sculpting. The biotech, 10xBio, announced earlier this month that the […] John Dobak, a life sciences serial entrepreneur in San Diego, said a new startup he’s leading has raised $2.66 million to advance a drug that is already approved to shrink varicose veins through early-stage clinical trials testing it in a new use —fat reduction body sculpting. The biotech, 10xBio, announced earlier this month that the FDA had approved its application to begin clinical trials in Phase 1b/2a studies testing the unnamed injectable drug. “We’ve already dosed patients,” Dobak said Tuesday. The studies are intended to establish the safety and tissue responses of the injectable drug, said Dobak, who is the chairman... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Tesla's Model 3 struggles have traders paying record prices to protect against a stock drop (TSLA) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-18T18:46:00-07:00

Tesla's stock has been remarkably resilient in recent days even as negative headwinds continue to pile up. Still, traders are paying close to the highest premium on record to protect against a big drop in the company's stock, indicating that worries linger under the surface. Follow Tesla's stock price here. Based on how Tesla's stock has reacted to the past week's events, one might think it's downright invincible at this point. Take Tuesday's price action for instance. Following an announcement that the company would temporarily suspend its Model 3 assembly line, Tesla's stock actually rose as much as 0.3% intraday before finishing the day 1.2% lower. Then, on Wednesday, following reports that CEO Elon Musk wrote a letter to employees raising the company's Model 3 production target, the stock climbed more than 4% at one point. Considering Tesla has drawn the ire of investors by repeatedly moving the goalposts for production estimates — which they've also missed on multiple occasions — the gain shows traders are still more than willing to take Musk's word for it, further reinforcing the company's air of invincibility. But one statistic suggests Tesla investors are actually bracing for the worst. In fact, they're more worried than they've ever been. As this chart shows, traders are paying close to the highest premium on record to protect against a 10% decline in Tesla's stock over the next month, relative to wagers on a 10% gain. The measure — known as skew — hit a peak in early April and has stayed elevated ever since. Despite the resilience of Tesla's stock in recent days, it's not altogether surprising that traders are paying up for downside protection when you consider the many headwinds that have rocked the company in recent months. Those hurdles include an an ongoing government investigation into a fatal Model X crash in California and a downgrade from Moody's. More recently, a report from the Center for Investigative Reporting out Monday said Tesla deliberately concealed serious injuries from public reports to boost its safety statistics. And while those issues combined to drag Tesla shares down 16% over a series of weeks, 71% of Wall Street analysts covering the company still have either a "buy" or "neutral" rating on the stock. This once again reaffirms the idea that despite its myriad woes, Tesla can do no wrong in the eyes of many. One last caveat that must be mentioned is the propensity for investors to short large technology companies as a proxy for a broader market hedge. Tesla in particular is a lightning rod for this strategy, due to the outsized returns generated by shorting it, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners. In fact, from March 19 through March 31, shorting Tesla yielded a whopping 16.7%, almost four times more than a strategy that involves shorting exchange-traded funds tracking the benchmark S&P 500. At this point, it's anyone's guess what the next month will hold for Tesla. But regardless of what happens, if things end up going awry for the heavily scrutinized company, traders seem ready for it.  SEE ALSO: An unconventional hedge has been creating 'turbo-charged' returns for worried stock traders Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Wall Street's biggest bull explains why trade war fears are way overblown [...]



NASA's newest space telescope 'will discover thousands of planets' — including a handful of worlds that may be habitable to aliens [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-18T17:02:00-07:00

Elon Musk's rocket company, SpaceX, launched a new NASA space telescope on April 18. Called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS will stare down 200,000 nearby stars to search for rocky, Earth-size planets. TESS is expected to find thousands of new worlds, including 50 that may be small, rocky, and potentially habitable to aliens. A catalog of worlds discovered by TESS could be a boon in the search for extraterrestrial life beyond the solar system. SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, has launched NASA's most powerful telescope yet to hunt for nearby alien worlds. The telescope in question is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short. A 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket propelled the car-size spacecraft into orbit at 6:51 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 18. It will take about 68 days' worth of maneuvers, including a flyby of the moon, for TESS to slip into an unprecedented orbit and begin its 24-month search for thousands of new worlds. NASA previously detected thousands of exoplanets with the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. Extrapolating the results to the rest of the Milky Way, researchers believe there could be about 10 planets in our galaxy for each one of the galaxy's roughly 200 billion stars. But Kepler only surveyed a small and deep region of the night sky. TESS will scan a space hundreds of times larger — and much closer to Earth — to hunt for nearby and potentially habitable alien worlds. "We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars," Paul Hertz, the director of NASA's astrophysics division, said in a press release. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds." What's more, Hertz said, NASA's next "great observatory," the $8.8-billion James Webb Space Telescope, will use TESS's data to zero in on and study the most exciting nearby rocky planets (as will future ground-based telescopes). Why TESS is such an important planet-hunting mission The Kepler spacecraft stared down stars to detect dips in brightness caused by planets passing in front of their home stars. It did this for 150,000 stars in a part of the night sky that's just 0.25% of the total area, yet 3,000 light-years deep. Kepler has found about 50 rocky and Earth-size worlds, 10 of which may be habitable, plus more than 4,000 total planet candidates since its launch in 2009. A Google artificial intelligence algorithm has since sifted through the data and possibly detected even more. Meanwhile, TESS will gaze at 200,000 stars over most of the sky within a relatively cozy 200-light-year range of Earth. If Kepler was a long-range sniper rifle that found thousands of planets in a narrow section, that makes TESS a grenade that will find thousands more nearby. "TESS will discover thousands of planets and is further specially designed to find a pool of small planets transiting small stars," a website for the project explains. Specifically, researchers promise — based on Kepler's census — to serve up 50 rocky, Earth-size worlds for scientists to scrutinize. The telescope will do this by taking photos with four cameras that were custom-built to detect minor changes in a star's brightness. Over two years, TESS will photograph a different sector of the sky every 27 days. In two patches of space, all of the sectors overlap — providing about a year's worth of transit obse[...]



SpaceX just launched a planet-hunting NASA space telescope — but its hunt for alien planets won't start for 2 months [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-18T16:20:00-07:00

NASA launched a new planet-hunting telescope on Wednesday aboard a SpaceX rocket. The telescope, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), may find thousands of worlds relatively close to Earth. Scientists hope to discover about 50 small, rocky planets that may be habitable to alien life. Now that TESS is in space, it will take more than 2 months to pull off a series of maneuvers that will slip it into an unprecedented orbit. SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, just successfully launched NASA's newest planet-hunting telescope into space. The new spacecraft is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. Scientists at MIT who planned the mission say they could discover thousands of new worlds within the first 24 months of its mission — including 50 Earth-size planets that might be habitable to aliens. "TESS will discover new potential planets orbiting bright host stars relatively close to Earth," SpaceX said in a press release. "In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will search for tell-tale dips in the brightness of stars that indicate an orbiting planet regularly transiting across the face of its star." A 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket heaved the telescope toward space at 6:51 p.m. EDT. SpaceX also recovered the rocket's 16-story booster in a bid to save millions of dollars, landing it on a robotic barge named "Of Course I Stil Love You." "This marks the 24th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage," Lauren Lyons, a SpaceX engineer and host of the company's live video feed of the launch, said during the webcast on YouTube. The telescope's journey is far from over, however. The spacecraft must pull off a complex ballet of maneuvers in space — including a flyby of the moon — to put it into an unprecedented orbit around Earth. TESS will take 68 days to get onto the path it needs: an orbit designed to help the telescope scan 85% of the night sky over 2 years, reeling in thousands of never-before-discovered worlds. For more detailed information about how the telescope works, what it may discover, and why the mission could lead to a revolution in the search for habitable planets, check out Business Insider's in-depth story about the TESS mission. This story was updated with new information. It was originally published at 11:45 p.m. EDT on April 15, 2018.SEE ALSO: The likeliest reasons why we haven’t contacted aliens are deeply unsettling DON'T MISS: Elon Musk: 'We want a new space race — space races are exciting' Join the conversation about this story » [...]



Qualcomm is reportedly laying off as many as 1,000 employees as part of a $1 billion cost savings plan (QCOM) [Silicon Alley Insider]

2018-04-18T16:16:33-07:00

Qualcomm began laying off employees on Wednesday, the company confirmed.  The layoffs could ultimately affect as many as 1,000 jobs according to one report, though Qualcomm has not confirmed a total.  The layoffs are part of the company's efforts to reduce its spending by $1 billion, fulfilling a promise made to shareholders by management. They come just weeks after President Trump issued an executive order preventing Broadcom, a Singapore-based competitor, from acquiring Qualcomm. $80 billion chipmaker Qualcomm began layoffs on Wednesday as part of an effort to reduce its spending by $1 billion, the company confirmed. "As part of the cost reduction plan announced in January, Qualcomm is conducting a reduction of our full-time and temporary workforce," Qualcomm said in a statement. "We first evaluated non-headcount expense reductions, but we concluded that a workforce reduction is needed to support long-term growth and success, which will ultimately benefit all our stakeholders," the company said.  News of the layoffs was first reported by Bloomberg. ABC 10 News, based in Qualcomm's hometown of San Diego, reports that the layoffs could affect as many as 1,000 jobs in the city.  In California, a layoff of more than 50 workers would require Qualcomm to file a WARN notice with the state, letting workers know that cuts are coming well ahead of taking any action. California state officials confirmed to Business Insider that no such WARN notice has been filed as of the time of publication. As of September 2017, Qualcomm employs 33,800 people in both full and part time positions, according to company filings. Around 3,300 of those roles were added during the company's 2017 fiscal year. A layoff of 1,000 people would affect around 3% of the company's global workforce.  The layoffs come just weeks after an agressive acquisition offer put Qualcomm's business on the international stage. As part of its effort to rebuff a $117 billion hostile takeover by Broadcom, its Singapore-based comptitor, Qualcomm promised shareholders that it would cut its spending by $1 billion to make up for declining sales.   Though it looked like the acquisition might go through, the entire deal was called off after President Trump issued an executive order preventing Broadcom from buying Qualcomm on the grounds of national security. Still, while the deal failed, it appears that Qualcomm is following through on its commitment to shareholders to cut costs. Following Trump's order, former CEO and chairman Paul Jacobs announced his interest in buying out the publicly-traded company on his own. Jacobs was subsequently removed from the board. It is unclear where his offer stands, or if it will move forward.SEE ALSO: Qualcomm kicked its former CEO off the board after he said he might try to buy the $89.7 billion company Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A new discovery with gravitational waves has helped scientists fill in a gaping hole in the periodic table [...]



NorthStar, Fiserv, CUNA & More: This Week’s Wisconsin Watchlist [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-18T16:00:14-07:00

Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines: —NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, which is seeking to become the first U.S. company in decades to domestically produce a widely used medical radioisotope, broke ground on a new 20,000-square-foot production facility at its Beloit headquarters, the Janesville Gazette reported. NorthStar plans to produce and […] Stay current on news from Wisconsin’s innovation community with these recent headlines: —NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, which is seeking to become the first U.S. company in decades to domestically produce a widely used medical radioisotope, broke ground on a new 20,000-square-foot production facility at its Beloit headquarters, the Janesville Gazette reported. NorthStar plans to produce and sell an isotope (molybdenum-99), which a device developed by the company decays into technetium-99m, the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. The FDA approved NorthStar’s decaying device earlier this year. Industry observers are paying close attention to NorthStar and its competitors’ progress,... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Earn.com [A VC]

2018-04-18T02:51:27-07:00

The news broke earlier this week that our portfolio company Coinbase has acquired Earn.com. A lot of the press attention was centered around the fact that Earn’s CEO Balaji Srinivasan is becoming Coinbase’s CTO and the backstory about how Earn came out of a pivot from a failed Bitcoin mining company called 21. But an overlooked aspect […]The news broke earlier this week that our portfolio company Coinbase has acquired Earn.com. A lot of the press attention was centered around the fact that Earn’s CEO Balaji Srinivasan is becoming Coinbase’s CTO and the backstory about how Earn came out of a pivot from a failed Bitcoin mining company called 21. But an overlooked aspect of this transaction is that Coinbase has acquired a business that is the crypto version of Mechanical Turk or, perhaps, Task Rabbit. Earn.com allows a user to create a profile and earn Bitcoin by doing tasks. The tasks right now are centered around the crypto sector (analyze a white paper, accept an incoming email from a recruiter, etc). But if you squint, you can imagine how this mechanic could be extended to all sorts of other tasks. Brian Armstrong, Coinbase’s founder and CEO, tweeted about this yesterday: It is not enough for all of us to be buying, selling, and holding crypto assets. Earning them is a very important function in the development of an ecosystem. So I am excited to see Coinbase supporting and investing in a business where users can earn crypto assets and my hope is that this becomes something as meaningful as what Amazon has done with Mechanical Turk over the years. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



Robo Madness 2018: Homecoming—The Photos [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T21:01:59-07:00

We had a blast at our fourth annual Robo Madness conference in the Boston area, and we hope you did, too. The theme this year was homecoming—the idea that robotics and artificial intelligence have started to seep into our lives and homes, and are poised to have big, transformative effects on business and society wherever […] View the Slideshow We had a blast at our fourth annual Robo Madness conference in the Boston area, and we hope you did, too. The theme this year was homecoming—the idea that robotics and artificial intelligence have started to seep into our lives and homes, and are poised to have big, transformative effects on business and society wherever you look. The theme had a double meaning: this year’s event took place at the headquarters of iRobot, the venerable company that has pioneered robotic systems for the home and military, and whose alumni have gone on to start many other companies in the Boston area... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



After FDA Approves Bone Disease Drug, Ultragenyx Sets $200K Price [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T18:24:40-07:00

Patients who have rickets experience a softening and weakening of their bones traced to a vitamin deficiency. In a rare, inherited form of the disease, vitamin D supplements don’t work. Ultragenyx (NASDAQ: RARE) has received FDA approval for a drug to treat patients who have this form of the disease, called X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH). The […] Patients who have rickets experience a softening and weakening of their bones traced to a vitamin deficiency. In a rare, inherited form of the disease, vitamin D supplements don’t work. Ultragenyx (NASDAQ: RARE) has received FDA approval for a drug to treat patients who have this form of the disease, called X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH). The Novato, CA-based company said Tuesday that the regulatory approval for its drug, burosumab (Crysvita), covers adults as well as children over the age of 1. The FDA’s nod, which came following a priority review given to drugs developed to offer significant improvement in the treatment... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Cyberwar Theme Resounds At RSA; Tech Giants Unveil Joint Strategy [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T17:37:16-07:00

The RSA Conference, one of the cybersecurity industry’s largest annual events, opened in San Francisco this week amid a barrage of unsettling news, as both nations and companies drew boundary lines and formed alliances in a cyber universe that seems increasingly combative. In the United States, a growing awareness of the weaponization of cyber skills, […] The RSA Conference, one of the cybersecurity industry’s largest annual events, opened in San Francisco this week amid a barrage of unsettling news, as both nations and companies drew boundary lines and formed alliances in a cyber universe that seems increasingly combative. In the United States, a growing awareness of the weaponization of cyber skills, from sophisticated hacking to the mere posting of social media messages, has required strategic thinking not only from national defense agencies, but also from civilian government offices responsible for such ordinary projects as county elections and trade regulations. Meanwhile, global tech companies are trying to decide... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Agtech Startup Inocucor Enters Plant Nutrition with ATP Acquisition [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T09:52:14-07:00

Inocucor, an agtech startup that develops and sells microbial products intended to improve plant and soil health, is now expanding its reach with a deal that gives it a market position in plant nutrition. Denver-based Inocucor announced Tuesday that it has acquired plant nutrition company ATP Nutrition. No financial details of the deal were disclosed. […] Inocucor, an agtech startup that develops and sells microbial products intended to improve plant and soil health, is now expanding its reach with a deal that gives it a market position in plant nutrition. Denver-based Inocucor announced Tuesday that it has acquired plant nutrition company ATP Nutrition. No financial details of the deal were disclosed. But Inocuor says that the deal will allow the companies to merge their respective research and development efforts with the goal of developing products that offer both biological and nutritional benefits. Inocucor currently markets two products, Synergro, a formulation of microbes that supports plant roots, and... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Hanging Out In Pioneer Square [Feld Thoughts]

2018-04-17T09:37:10-07:00

I’m in Seattle for the next few days. I’ve built this trip around Techstars Seattle Demo, a bunch of time at PSL, and a Moz board meeting. Oh – and time with several of our portfolio companies as well as some nice social stuff with long time friends. Today, PSL announced their new $80 million... Read more The post Hanging Out In Pioneer Square appeared first on Feld Thoughts.I’m in Seattle for the next few days. I’ve built this trip around Techstars Seattle Demo, a bunch of time at PSL, and a Moz board meeting. Oh – and time with several of our portfolio companies as well as some nice social stuff with long time friends. Today, PSL announced their new $80 million venture fund. We are significant LPs in the fund and my partner Lindel is joining the PSL advisory board. In addition to being LPs in PSL Ventures, we are major investors in PSL Studio and I’m on the board. While we don’t have an office in Seattle, I’m confident we have a comfortable place to hang out when we are in town. Amy and I have a periodic conversation around what happens if one of us died unexpectedly. We each know that it would be impossible to keep living alone in Boulder given our deep connections to many things as a couple. So, we each have our “other place” we’d live if it wasn’t Boulder. Amy’s is Paris; mine is Seattle. I’ve been going to Seattle regularly for business since 1990. Feld Technologies was in the inaugural Microsoft Solution Provider program that Dwayne Walker created around 1991. I fondly remember a box of happiness from Microsoft showing up at my office in Boston every month, usually full of software, books, an occasional t-shirt, or plaque. At the time, we did almost all of our Windows development using Microsoft Access, which was a remarkably effective pre-client/server app development environment. In the mid-1990s, I made a handful of angel investments in Seattle and spent more time at Microsoft for AmeriData, which had acquired Feld Technologies. Windows NT was beginning its conquest of Novell Netware, and AmeriData was a huge Novell reseller. I was part of the championing of Windows NT, regularly suggesting to the leadership at AmeriData that we needed to get on the NT train. I wasn’t as effusive as Steve Ballmer was, but close. By the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, I was still going to Seattle regularly for a variety of reasons, including several investments that Mobius made. At some point Dan’l Lewin invited me to join the Microsoft VC Advisory Board where I had even more reasons to hang out in Seattle. I had become comfortable with Seattle the city, Amy and I were spending more time at our house in Alaska (so Seattle was occasionally a stop on the way to Alaska), and I’d started to enjoy the rain. When we started Foundry Group in 2007, we knew that Seattle would be a key geography for us. It’s been really fun to be involved, through many different organizations, and with many people, in the massive growth of the Seattle startup community. We expect our various investments in PSL will provide a key focal point for the next decade of our Seattle experience. I’m really looking forward to the next three days in Seattle. Even though they are ve[...]



Nike Buys Invertex, Mark Cuban Backs Billshark, & More TX Tech News [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T08:43:45-07:00

I was out last week, exploring the rocky terrain of Big Bend National Park out in West Texas. Let’s catch up on the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas, part 1. (Part 2, chock full of startup funding news, is next.) —The first-ever Austin Cannabis Entrepreneur (or, ACE) conference is being held this Thursday and […] I was out last week, exploring the rocky terrain of Big Bend National Park out in West Texas. Let’s catch up on the latest innovation news from Xconomy Texas, part 1. (Part 2, chock full of startup funding news, is next.) —The first-ever Austin Cannabis Entrepreneur (or, ACE) conference is being held this Thursday and Friday, including a keynote by Troy Dayton, CEO and co-founder of Arcview, a cannabis market research firm. Hugh Forrest, one of the event organizers, says he has seen an increasing interest in discussion about the growing cannabis industry. (Forrest is also chief programming officer of Austin’s... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Grab the Early Bird Rate for What’s Hot in Seattle Biotech on June 12 [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T08:00:58-07:00

Leaders from the life sciences industry are coming together for Xconomy’s special event on Seattle biotech on June 12 at Cambia Grove. Act now to get the best price on tickets for what we expect will be a sold-out event! Join us to hear from the Emerald City’s top life science entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, and […] Leaders from the life sciences industry are coming together for Xconomy’s special event on Seattle biotech on June 12 at Cambia Grove. Act now to get the best price on tickets for what we expect will be a sold-out event! Join us to hear from the Emerald City’s top life science entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, and public health officials on the latest in Seattle biotech. Our lineup of confirmed speakers is growing by the day and includes: Eric Dobmeier, CEO, Silverback Therapeutics Leen Kawas, CEO, M3 Biotechnology Harlan Robins, Co-founder & Head of Innovation, Adaptive Biotechnologies Desney Tan, ... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Xconomy Forum Rides Wave of Big Data/Big Bio Startups in San Diego [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T07:19:38-07:00

As the Xconomy Forum on Big Data Meets Big Biology draws near, one of the best arguments for understanding the significance of the convergence of data science and the life sciences may lie in what came out of the 2013 sale of San Diego’s EcoATM. Founded by several veterans of the wireless semiconductor industry, EcoATM […] As the Xconomy Forum on Big Data Meets Big Biology draws near, one of the best arguments for understanding the significance of the convergence of data science and the life sciences may lie in what came out of the 2013 sale of San Diego’s EcoATM. Founded by several veterans of the wireless semiconductor industry, EcoATM created a business where there wasn’t one for recycling smartphones and other electronic devices. The company developed automated kiosks that would scan a device and use analytic software to calculate what it was worth and how much of a rebate to offer for it. When... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Marketing Chatbot Firm Drift Grabs $60M Led By Sequoia, Sans HubSpot [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T06:00:35-07:00

David Cancel and Elias Torres built their last startup, a marketing automation company called Performable, with just $3 million from venture capitalists. They raised that funding round in late 2009, and about 18 months later they sold the company to HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS)—a larger sales and marketing tech firm based in Cambridge, MA—for a reported […] David Cancel and Elias Torres built their last startup, a marketing automation company called Performable, with just $3 million from venture capitalists. They raised that funding round in late 2009, and about 18 months later they sold the company to HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS)—a larger sales and marketing tech firm based in Cambridge, MA—for a reported $20 million. This time around, Cancel (pictured above, right) and Torres (above, left) opted to raise a lot more capital to try and build a big, standalone company. Today, their latest venture, a “conversational” marketing and sales software startup called Drift, announced a $60... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Livongo Health Grows with Purchase of Weight Loss Startup Retrofit [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T05:05:58-07:00

Livongo Health, a Bay Area-based developer of devices and software for managing chronic health conditions, has acquired Retrofit, a Chicago startup that develops programs designed to help people lose weight and prevent disease. Mountain View, CA-based Livongo, which last week raised a $105 million round of outside investment, says that its purchase of Retrofit will […] Livongo Health, a Bay Area-based developer of devices and software for managing chronic health conditions, has acquired Retrofit, a Chicago startup that develops programs designed to help people lose weight and prevent disease. Mountain View, CA-based Livongo, which last week raised a $105 million round of outside investment, says that its purchase of Retrofit will allow Livongo to more fully address the needs of people who live with diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions—and those at risk of developing one. Livongo, which also has a Chicago office, did not disclose any financial terms in a news release announcing the deal.... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



The Employee Equity Project [A VC]

2018-04-17T04:19:24-07:00

In the fall of 2010, I wrote a series of nine blog posts about Employee Equity as part of MBA Mondays. You can read all of them at the links below: Employee Equity: How Much? November 22, 2010 Employee Equity: Vesting November 15, 2010 Employee Equity: Restricted Stock and RSUs November 8, 2010 Employee Equity: The […]In the fall of 2010, I wrote a series of nine blog posts about Employee Equity as part of MBA Mondays. You can read all of them at the links below: Employee Equity: How Much? November 22, 2010 Employee Equity: Vesting November 15, 2010 Employee Equity: Restricted Stock and RSUs November 8, 2010 Employee Equity: The Option Strike Price November 1, 2010 Employee Equity: The Liquidation Overhang October 25, 2010 Employee Equity: Options October 18, 2010 Employee Equity: Appreciation October 11, 2010 Employee Equity: Dilution October 4, 2010 Employee Equity September 27, 2010 Most of what is in those posts remains valid today. But the final post, How Much, is very much out of date as the talent market has moved in favor of employees a lot in the past eight years. That has been particularly true of the top executives and some key talent categories. Most of the movement has been on the equity side of the comp package. The How Much post is one of the top posts on AVC. Though I wrote it 7 1/2 years ago, it was the seventh most popular post on AVC (sixth if you don’t count the home page) in the last year with almost 10k page views. So I have been concerned that this blog (aka me) is spewing out of date information to a lot of people every day. And so we are on a mission to fix that. I have enlisted my colleagues Bethany and Zach on this project and this is what we in the process of doing: We have collected data on employee equity grants from USV portfolio companies. Many of our portfolio companies use a reporting tool called Advanced HR and through it, we have been able to access anonymized data on every grant that these participating companies have made. Since these are our portfolio companies, we know what their equity is valued at and what it has been valued at over the years. We also understand the context behind many of the outlier grants. So we have been normalizing the data and bucketing it and looking at distribution curves and understanding it. We are mostly through all of this work and it is my hope we can publish the data before the middle of May. As part of that, I will rewrite the How Much post and I will go back and edit the original post with an update section at the end clarifying that the data has changed (a lot). We also plan to publish a calculator that will help a founder/CEO/HR team understand how to use the numbers we are going to publish. So stay tuned for this update. It has been a fair bit of work to do this update right and we are excited to get the data out there so all of you can use it. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



DemandJump Raises $6M for Marketing Tech Focused on Where, Not Who [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-17T01:39:58-07:00

DemandJump, the Indianapolis-based marketing software startup, has raised a $6 million Series A round of financing. Investing in the round were Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Fund, Flyover Capital, Cultivation Capital, 4G Ventures, Sigma Prime Ventures’ managing director Bob Davoli, and Hyde Park Venture Partners. Since the company was founded in 2015, it has […] DemandJump, the Indianapolis-based marketing software startup, has raised a $6 million Series A round of financing. Investing in the round were Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Fund, Flyover Capital, Cultivation Capital, 4G Ventures, Sigma Prime Ventures’ managing director Bob Davoli, and Hyde Park Venture Partners. Since the company was founded in 2015, it has raised $8.6 million in total. In a press release, J.D. Vance, author and managing partner of the Rise of the Rest Fund, said, “We were impressed with DemandJump’s ability to transform marketing into a revenue center for... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



U.S. Funding for Biomedical Research Takes an Encouraging Upturn [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-16T21:40:37-07:00

At the end of March, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year and avert another government shutdown. The 2,232-page legislation included a $3 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the second largest in the health agency’s history. Other research and […] At the end of March, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill to fund federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year and avert another government shutdown. The 2,232-page legislation included a $3 billion funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the second largest in the health agency’s history. Other research and science agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Science Foundation, received funding boosts as well. The move surprised many in the biomedical community. It went against previous calls by President Trump to reduce funding... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Adecco to Buy General Assembly for $412.5M to Grow Tech Workforce [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-16T10:04:45-07:00

The Adecco Group, the global staffing and worker training giant, has inked a $412.5 million agreement to acquire General Assembly, a tech training and career development company that offers courses online and at 20 campuses worldwide. The deal underscores the growing demand for software coding and other digital skills—and employers’ increased willingness to turn to […] The Adecco Group, the global staffing and worker training giant, has inked a $412.5 million agreement to acquire General Assembly, a tech training and career development company that offers courses online and at 20 campuses worldwide. The deal underscores the growing demand for software coding and other digital skills—and employers’ increased willingness to turn to non-traditional sources to find talent. General Assembly (GA) launched in early 2011 with an incubator in New York City that was a cross between a co-working space and a startup university. As Xconomy reported at the time, entrepreneurs and young ventures that set up shop in... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Seeking to Join Top Tech Hubs, Houston Plans an Innovation District [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-16T08:57:24-07:00

Houston—Houston’s tech renaissance could spring from the former location of one of the country’s top business innovators. A shuttered Sears store, located in the city’s Midtown area, has been designated as ground zero of a new tech-focused innovation district, a project that officials hope will help place Houston among the nation’s top tech hubs. “We […] Houston—Houston’s tech renaissance could spring from the former location of one of the country’s top business innovators. A shuttered Sears store, located in the city’s Midtown area, has been designated as ground zero of a new tech-focused innovation district, a project that officials hope will help place Houston among the nation’s top tech hubs. “We want to create a dynamic destination, where startups want to be and where people come to Houston and say, ‘That’s our first stop to find out what’s happening in innovation,’” Rice University president David Leebron told me in an interview. The repurposing of the Sears... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Shire is Selling Cancer Business for $2.4B to Focus on Rare Disease [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-16T08:45:13-07:00

Shire plans to exit cancer drug development through a deal to sell its oncology unit to a French company, Servier, for $2.4 billion cash. Dublin, Ireland-based Shire (NASDAQ: SHPG), which operates a U.S. headquarters in Lexington, MA, says the deal helps it tighten its rare disease drug focus. Meanwhile, privately held Servier says adding Shire’s […] Shire plans to exit cancer drug development through a deal to sell its oncology unit to a French company, Servier, for $2.4 billion cash. Dublin, Ireland-based Shire (NASDAQ: SHPG), which operates a U.S. headquarters in Lexington, MA, says the deal helps it tighten its rare disease drug focus. Meanwhile, privately held Servier says adding Shire’s cancer drugs will give it a commercial presence in the U.S. while also strengthening its portfolio in the parts of the world where the France-based company is already established. Shire says its board of directors first broached the possibility of selling the oncology business in... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Evolving My Writing [Feld Thoughts]

2018-04-16T06:15:30-07:00

While I’ve been writing my entire adult life, I started writing consistently on May 4, 2004, when I began this blog with my first post To Blog or Not to Blog. I ended that first post with the sentence: “I’m still not sure if the world needs my musings, but because you have complete control over... Read more The post Evolving My Writing appeared first on Feld Thoughts.While I’ve been writing my entire adult life, I started writing consistently on May 4, 2004, when I began this blog with my first post To Blog or Not to Blog. I ended that first post with the sentence: “I’m still not sure if the world needs my musings, but because you have complete control over whether or not you decide to read this, here goes.” WordPress tells me that since then I’ve written 4,890 posts. There are 5,095 days since May 4, 2004, so I write approximately a post a day (sometimes two, sometimes none). I’ve written hundreds of articles over the years for other publications, done countless online and live interviews, and written six books. While that’s a lot of writing, I’ve had extended periods of being stymied. During the writing of several of my books, I had long spells of boredom, which some call writer’s block, but when I reflect on how I felt, I was bored of either the process or the content of the book. I never liked the feeling of writing as “work” and there were many periods where that’s what it has been for me. I’ve always written to think and to learn, so I know that intellectually it is work. However, I get an enormous amount of joy out of thinking and learning, so that when I’m in a mode where one of these is happening, it doesn’t feel like work. In 2016, Foundry Group became a registered investment advisor because of our Foundry Group Next fund (and our investments in other VC funds) which created another layer of work for me. Up to that point, my partners were fine with me posting whatever I wanted on this blog. Once we became an RIA, things changed, which I described in that post from 2016. “… Because it will affect what we can say on the Foundry Group blog and personal blogs that we write. We’ll have to be careful with statements that we make about companies we invest in. We’ll also be cautious in what we write about our funds or the industry in general. According to the SEC rules, we can no longer write anything that “promotes” our funds. While we’d argue that we never try to promote our firm, but just write anything that comes to mind and try to have fun doing it, with our new registration status comes new responsibilities.” This compliance process slowed me down and, for some of my writing, requires me to get approval from our compliance team to publish. This changed my rhythm a lot since I could no longer just write what was in my head about a[...]



Are We Decentralized Yet? [A VC]

2018-04-16T03:17:31-07:00

My friend Chris Burniske told me about this site last week and then tweeted about it last night: So the answer to the question posed by the name of the website is “not really.” But that doesn’t mean we won’t be someday. This chart also shows the issues with highly valued chains like Ripple, Stellar, […]My friend Chris Burniske told me about this site last week and then tweeted about it last night: So the answer to the question posed by the name of the website is “not really.” But that doesn’t mean we won’t be someday. This chart also shows the issues with highly valued chains like Ripple, Stellar, and NEO. These chains offer some things, but certainly not decentralized consensus. It is still very early days in the development of decentralized consensus systems and there is a lot more work to do. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



The Price of Free is Actually Too High [Feld Thoughts]

2018-04-15T09:40:17-07:00

I loved this quote by Tristan Harris in the New York Magazine article The Internet Apologizes … “We cannot afford the advertising business model. The price of free is actually too high. It is literally destroying our society, because it incentivizes automated systems that have these inherent flaws. Cambridge Analytica is the easiest way of explaining... Read more The post The Price of Free is Actually Too High appeared first on Feld Thoughts.I loved this quote by Tristan Harris in the New York Magazine article The Internet Apologizes … “We cannot afford the advertising business model. The price of free is actually too high. It is literally destroying our society, because it incentivizes automated systems that have these inherent flaws. Cambridge Analytica is the easiest way of explaining why that’s true. Because that wasn’t an abuse by a bad actor — that was the inherent platform. The problem with Facebook is Facebook.” The article ends with a parallel quote from Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web “The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today. The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponize the web at scale.” I just read the article and all of the attached long-form interviews. I think my favorite, only because it’s so provocative, is the one with Roger McNamee titled ‘You Have a Persuasion Engine Unlike Any Created in History’ There are a few mentions of Zynga (which we were investors in) in the various article chain which caused me to reflect even more on the 2007 – 2010 time period when free-to-consumer (supported by advertising) was suddenly conflated with freemium (or free trials for enterprise software). The later (freemium) became a foundational part of the B2B SaaS business model, while the former became an extremely complex dance between digital advertising and user data. Tristan’s quote “the price of free is actually too high” is important to consider. What is going on here (“free services”) is nothing new. The entire television industry was created on it (broadcast TV was free, supported by advertising, dating back well before I was born.) Nielsen ratings started for radio in the 1940s and TV in the 1950s. The idea of advertisers targeting users of free services based on data is, well, not new. Propaganda is not new either. The etymology of the word from Wikipedia is entertaining in its own right. “Propaganda is a modern Latin word, the gerundive form of propagare, meaning to spread or to propagate, thus propaganda means that which is to be propagated.Originally this word derived from a new administrative body of the Catholic church (congregation) created in 1622, called the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for[...]



Time And Money [A VC]

2018-04-15T05:00:05-07:00

One of the least discussed aspects of investing in startups is the value of the time commitment one makes to a company they invest in. The money part is pretty simple; you invest capital into a business and get an equity participation in the upside. Both sides of that deal can analyze that transaction and […]One of the least discussed aspects of investing in startups is the value of the time commitment one makes to a company they invest in. The money part is pretty simple; you invest capital into a business and get an equity participation in the upside. Both sides of that deal can analyze that transaction and understand it fairly well. Of course neither side knows what the ultimate payoff will be, but one can handicap it. The time piece of the transaction is way more complicated. Consider: 1/ The founder doesn’t know if they will actually get the investor to deliver on the promises made to add value and spend a lot of time on the investment. A founder can reference an investor and get a better sense of this but there is nothing written into an investment agreement that binds either party to make a specific time commitment to an investment. 2/ An investor doesn’t know for how long they may need to contribute to an investment. Will it be three years, five years or fifteen years? 3/ A founder doesn’t know how much of their time they will have to spend managing their investor group. Will the group be invasive and annoying or will it be value adding and helpful, or both? 4/ An investor doesn’t know if they will have to shore up a weak team with a ton of day to day support or if the team will be largely self sufficient and only need occasional advice and counsel. I could continue with these examples but I think you get the idea. Time is a valuable resource for all parties and it should be a factor that both sides include in the deal making analysis. But it often is not. A good example of where it is explicitly considered is a late stage financing where a company specifically seeks out “passive capital.” In that scenario, both sides are choosing to largely remove the time equation from the investment analysis and simply treat the deal as an exchange of capital for equity. That is clean and simple and well understood. Contrast that with a hotly contested seed transaction where a founder has demand for 5x what they want to raise. Every investor is promising to add value to get into the deal. The founder has to assign some value to the time each investor will contribute along with capital but has very little information to do so. The truth about these situations is a few seed investors will massively over deliver and the rest will massively dissapoint. As an early stage VC who typically invests at the seed and Series A stage, I feel that the time piece of t[...]



Video Of The Week: Filecoin [A VC]

2018-04-14T05:11:39-07:00

One of the crypto projects I am most excited about is Filecoin, which comes from USV portfolio company Protocol Labs, which also produced the popular hypermedia protocol IPFS. In this talk, from the Blockstack Berlin conference last month, Protocol Labs founder/CEO Juan Benet talks about Filecoin, why they are building it, and how it will […]One of the crypto projects I am most excited about is Filecoin, which comes from USV portfolio company Protocol Labs, which also produced the popular hypermedia protocol IPFS. In this talk, from the Blockstack Berlin conference last month, Protocol Labs founder/CEO Juan Benet talks about Filecoin, why they are building it, and how it will work. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6h2WNxEV8q4" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"> USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



Sonodontics, Locker Lifestyle Win Big at GreenLight Competition [Xconomy VC/Deals]

2018-04-13T12:02:34-07:00

We have a smaller startup ecosystem in Michigan, and that sometimes makes it seem like the same companies are always pitching at startup competitions. That was not the case with this year’s installment of the GreenLight Business Competition, which featured 20 startups from around the state presenting their business plans to a panel of expert […] We have a smaller startup ecosystem in Michigan, and that sometimes makes it seem like the same companies are always pitching at startup competitions. That was not the case with this year’s installment of the GreenLight Business Competition, which featured 20 startups from around the state presenting their business plans to a panel of expert judges drawn from small-business and venture capital communities. Co-created in 2013 by Spartan Innovations and the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, GreenLight is the second-largest annual startup competition in Michigan. Nine winners were selected from the 20 finalists—two companies, Locker Lifestyle and Smart... Read more » Reprints | Share:           [...]



Funding Friday: Adorned By Chi [A VC]

2018-04-13T06:40:35-07:00

Jacqueline got me about five seconds into the video with this line “a lifestyle brand for nerds that is dipped in super girly magical girl aesthetics.” Anything that breaks down the societal norms that girls can’t be nerds is right in my wheelhouse and I backed this project with excitement.Jacqueline got me about five seconds into the video with this line “a lifestyle brand for nerds that is dipped in super girly magical girl aesthetics.” Anything that breaks down the societal norms that girls can’t be nerds is right in my wheelhouse and I backed this project with excitement. src="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1314985923/adorned-by-chi-the-graphic-novel/widget/video.html" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"> USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



AVC Downtime [A VC]

2018-04-12T04:05:02-07:00

For much of yesterday if you came to AVC, you were greeted with this message: Long time AVC readers have seen this before and it is a sign that something is awry on the shared server that I run WordPress on at Bluehost. A number of regular readers reached out offering to help me move […]For much of yesterday if you came to AVC, you were greeted with this message: Long time AVC readers have seen this before and it is a sign that something is awry on the shared server that I run WordPress on at Bluehost. A number of regular readers reached out offering to help me move to a static platform and I will likely take them up on that. Until then I can only apologize for the availability issues yesterday. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



Dapps [A VC]

2018-04-11T04:29:31-07:00

A friend asked me at breakfast this week “what gets you excited in crypto these days?” I answered “Dapps.” If the second half of 2016 and all of 2017 was about raising capital to fund development efforts (and speculating on all of that), then it sure feels like 2018 is the year we start getting […]A friend asked me at breakfast this week “what gets you excited in crypto these days?” I answered “Dapps.” If the second half of 2016 and all of 2017 was about raising capital to fund development efforts (and speculating on all of that), then it sure feels like 2018 is the year we start getting decentralized applications (Dapps) we can use. Our portfolio company Blockstack offers a decentralized platform that developers can build Dapps on. I have Blockstack’s web client running in Safari on my home desktop and here is a screenshot of some of the Dapps I can run in that environment: A cool thing about Blockstack is that identity is built into the platform so I am already a user and have a profile in every one of these Dapps because I have a Blockstack identity/profile. Another ecosystem that is really taking off right now are Ethereum based Dapps. I use our portfolio company Coinbase‘s Toshi Dapp Browser to access them. Toshi is available on both iOS and Android. When you launch Toshi, you can put some ETH into it. Toshi has a user-controlled ETH wallet inside of the browser. When I open the Toshi browser on my phone, I see a bunch of Dapps I can use: I like the Twitter-like app called Peepeth, which looks like this inside of Toshi: But there are hundreds of Ethereum Dapps you can discover and use inside of Toshi. You do need some ETH to power these apps so if you want to play around with Ethereum Dapps, load up your Dapp browser with ETH before you go. The bottom line for me is that we are finally seeing some useful decentralized applications being built for consumers on these blockchains. Right as the market for capital raising and speculating on crypto cools off. As it always is. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



Expectation and Disappointment [A VC]

2018-04-10T03:59:49-07:00

I woke up this morning thinking about disappointment. My daughter and I went to the final Knicks home game of the season last night, a loss to the Cavs. One of 53 we have endured this season. The season had started off with expectations of better times. Melo was gone. KP was emerging as one […]I woke up this morning thinking about disappointment. My daughter and I went to the final Knicks home game of the season last night, a loss to the Cavs. One of 53 we have endured this season. The season had started off with expectations of better times. Melo was gone. KP was emerging as one of the best young players in the NBA. And yet we end the season with less wins and more losses than last year. And it wasn’t because of letting Melo go. But this post is not about the Knicks. It is about disappointment. Life is full of disappointment. Many things don’t work out the way we hope or plan. Investments don’t pan out. People we are excited about don’t live up to our expectations. A film we are excited to see turns out to be awful. There are big and material disappointments that can set us back for years or longer. And there are little ones, like the terrible Knicks, that we should be able to shake off in a good night of sleep. I think this Knicks thing will take me a few nights to be honest. It is often tempting to become cynical and lower our expectations to protect us from the pain of disappointment. But I don’t think we should do that. I think it is human to hope and expect. And it is human to feel the pains of disappointment. We just need to shake them off, get out of bed with a jump in our step, and move forward. And find something new to get excited about. And start the cycle all over again. USV TEAM POSTS:Albert Wenger — April 18, 2018Uncertainty Wednesday: The Problem with P-Values (Learning) [...]



My Search for a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2 [Feld Thoughts]

2018-04-05T09:55:17-07:00

I have a Cray-2 showing up at our Carriage House in the next few weeks. It’ll be a permanent fixture there and, while it’s not functional, it’ll be fun to have around. I’m now on a quest to find a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2. Every supercomputer needs a friend after all. If you know... Read more The post My Search for a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2 appeared first on Feld Thoughts. I have a Cray-2 showing up at our Carriage House in the next few weeks. It’ll be a permanent fixture there and, while it’s not functional, it’ll be fun to have around. I’m now on a quest to find a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2. Every supercomputer needs a friend after all. If you know where I can get one (I’m happy to buy it), or display something publicly that is hidden away in storage somewhere, drop me a line. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the CM-1 or CM-2, the following promotional video is a nifty walk through memory (see what I did there?) lane. Yup – enjoy the parallel universe (sorry – I couldn’t help myself.) class='youtube-player' type='text/html' width='640' height='390' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/BVtHh9JoS3s?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent' allowfullscreen='true' style='border:0;'> The post My Search for a Thinking Machines CM-1 or CM-2 appeared first on Feld Thoughts. [...]



Audio [BijanBlog]

2018-04-05T04:02:16-07:00

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CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge 10th Anniversary [Feld Thoughts]

2018-04-04T06:31:33-07:00

Tonight, the New Venture Challenge at CU Boulder is having its 10th anniversary. It’s happening at the Boulder Theater from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm and is open to the public. Register here to attend if you are interested. My partner Jason is leading the judging panel, which includes: Abby Barlow, partner and director of... Read more The post CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge 10th Anniversary appeared first on Feld Thoughts.Tonight, the New Venture Challenge at CU Boulder is having its 10th anniversary. It’s happening at the Boulder Theater from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm and is open to the public. Register here to attend if you are interested. My partner Jason is leading the judging panel, which includes: Abby Barlow, partner and director of Investment Research at Crestone Capital Stephanie Copeland, former president of Zayo Group and current executive director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade Anthony Shontz, managing director of Private Equity at Partners Group Dan and Cindy Caruso and Amy and I contributed the prizes, which total $100,000. A decade ago the creation of the NVC was inspired by the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. I was involved in the early years (1992 – 1996) as a judge and funded a number of companies that went through the MIT $100K (which was called the MIT $10K at the time.) The entire experience was foundational for me, both as an entrepreneur and an early angel investor (I started investing in 1994 after I sold my first company at the end of 1993.) Over a decade ago, Brad Bernthal and Phil Weiser were putting real energy into Boulder Startup Community. I discuss their efforts, and impact, in my book Startup Communities (which was published in 2012). One of the things I suggested was doing something like the MIT $100K. I remember a longish discussion with Brad Bernthal and my partner Jason about the history of it and how it unfolded over the first decade. Bernthal and Jason grabbed this and ran with it. A decade later, that discussion now seems like ancient history. But, for anyone who knows my rant about having a long-term view around startup communities (at least 20 years), we are now 10 years into the NVC journey. And, it has really hit its stride. I’m excited about tonight’s event and am really looking forward to seeing the companies compete! I hope to see you there if you are in Boulder. The post CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge 10th Anniversary appeared first on Feld Thoughts. [...]



Peru, Part III (part i and part ii) [BijanBlog]

2018-04-03T11:54:54-07:00

Peru, Part III (part i and part ii) [...]



Peru, Part II (part i and part iii)  [BijanBlog]

2018-04-03T11:24:38-07:00

Peru, Part II (part i and part iii)  [...]



Peru, Part I (part ii and part iii)We made our second trip to... [BijanBlog]

2018-04-03T11:21:36-07:00

Peru, Part I (part ii and part iii)We made our second trip to South America last month with a visit to Peru. We began with a visit to Lima which is a the capital of the country. Lima is a big city, with a population of 10 million people. It is a beautiful old city and sits on the Pacific ocean. We spent a few days checking out the historic sites, exploring the Magdalena Market, and wandering the streets. We had an amazing lunch at Malabar. If you go to Lima, you must eat at this place and if possible meet Chef Pedro Miguel who is an inspiring chef and a lover of food and Peru. I also recommend exploring the art museums in the Barranco district. The MAC museum is quite small but very interesting with thought provoking work. Unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t make it to the MATE. We left Lima (sea level) and flew to Cusco which is about 11k feet above sea level. We could feel the heightened altitude immediately after stepping off the plane. We all had altitude medication, and our fair share of coca tea which helped. We spent the rest of the trip in the Sacred Valley, the city of Cusco and exploring Machu Picchu. Some of my favorite memories: visiting the students at the Sol & Luna school, mountain biking through the little villages outside of Cusco, hiking to the top of Machu Picchu Mountain (2 hours up and 1 hour down), & wandering the San Blas streets in Cusco.  We were very fortunate that the weather was so kind. Our trip took place during the rainy season but we only an half of day of rain. Peru is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The culture, landscape and people are beyond incredible. I hope we can make another trip to Peru in the future. Additional photographs here. (all of the photographs were shot on 35mm and medium format Kodak Portra 400 film, developed and scanned at Indie Film Lab). [...]



Ready Player One Review [The Gong Show]

2018-03-30T10:52:11-07:00

Spark Capital hosted a Ready Player One viewing party last night in SF. It was a really fun event. I caught up with friends and meet a few new faces. A big thanks to Rachael and Dominique at Spark for organizing.I am a huge fan of Ernest Cline’s book, so when I heard a movie was being made I was excited. That said, when I saw the first trailer or two, I was concerned it wasn’t going to be good. So my expectations going in to the film were mixed.Is it a good movie? Not really.Is it a good popcorn movie? If you like video games, movies, pop culture references, grandiose CGI, and rollercoaster-esque camera tracking: then yes, go see it in theaters for the full effect.Some good popcorn movies are also good movies. Mad Max: Fury Road is the iconic example of a movie that excels on both fronts. Why does Ready Player One miss on the good movie front? Book-to-movie adaptations are hard.Some adaptations fail because they follow too closely to the original text. The Watchmen is a perfect example of this failure. Zack Snyder’s adaptation of this beloved comics series captured all the brutality and cynicism of the comics in a way that made its 163 minute runtime feel painfully loyal to the original series and sacrificed entertainment value in the process. Movies from fun books need room to be fun movies, and that requires some space for creative license in adaptation. I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not Ready Player One’s problem. The movie deviates from the book significantly in plot events, and the changes (to plot only) are 90% for the better.For example, in the book, there is a plot device called FlickSync, where characters have to play a game of “movie-karaoke” (players quote Matthew Broderick’s lines in WarGames) in order to win a mini-game and progress in the plot. Spielberg’s Ready Player One never uses the phrase FlickSync, ditches WarGames, and totally changes the plot device for the better. The movie equivalent adaptation of this concept makes for, by far, the best 15 minutes of the movie, as the central characters play with the sets, themes, and events of The Shining. Spielberg simultaneously messes with and pays homage to The Shining in a way that only an authentic connoisseur of movies could do. It feels like a more approachable version of Tarantino’s same mash-up-like love of film.If that’s the movie’s peak, the nadir is the beginning. There is no investment in Wade’s plight in the Stacks, no earn[...]



Book: Waking Up White [Feld Thoughts]

2018-03-30T08:43:34-07:00

My dad, brother, and I are now doing a monthly book club together. One of us chooses a book, we all read it, and then we do an hour-long video conference and talk about it. We’ve done this for about six months now and it’s wonderful. A few months ago Daniel chose Waking Up White,... Read more The post Book: Waking Up White appeared first on Feld Thoughts.My dad, brother, and I are now doing a monthly book club together. One of us chooses a book, we all read it, and then we do an hour-long video conference and talk about it. We’ve done this for about six months now and it’s wonderful. A few months ago Daniel chose Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. It was a powerful book that started off strong. “I can think of no bigger misstep in American history than the invention and perpetuation of the idea of white superiority. It allows white children to believe they are exceptional and entitled while allowing children of color to believe they are inferior and less deserving. Neither is true; both distort and stunt development. Racism crushes spirits, incites divisiveness, and justifies the estrangement of entire groups of individuals who, like all humans, come into the world full of goodness, with a desire to connect, and with boundless capacity to learn and grow. Unless adults understand racism, they will, as I did, unknowingly teach it to their children. No one alive today created this mess, but everyone alive today has the power to work on undoing it. Four hundred years since its inception, American racism is all twisted up in our cultural fabric. But there’s a loophole: people are not born racist. Racism is taught, and racism is learned. Understanding how and why our beliefs developed along racial lines holds the promise of healing, liberation, and the unleashing of America’s vast human potential.” I found myself nodding many times as I read this book. When I finished, I wandered around the web and found this TEDx Fenway talk by the author which does a great job of a high-level summary of the book. class='youtube-player' type='text/html' width='640' height='390' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/c5nqN8tmfok?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent' allowfullscreen='true' style='border:0;'> I particularly liked this framing:   “What I’ve le[...]



Meat alternatives show real progress toward market viability [Jeff Nolan]

2018-03-28T09:15:24-07:00

Plant-based and lab-grown meat startups are delivering on a promise of a safe and sustainable food supply that is located closer to consumers. The post Meat alternatives show real progress toward market viability appeared first on Venture Chronicles.There are some interesting things happening in the world of food science. This is good for humankind, offering the promise of expanding the food supply while also having a positive, admittedly it is a promise at this point, impact on the environment. Meat alternatives are not GMO and seek to avoid the same fate This brings to mind the long and painful journey of GMO crops, but it is that experience that the majority of these companies appear to be side-stepping at this point in their development. For GMO the science is conclusive, it is safe, but it is often the practices of the companies that own the intellectual property behind these crops that gets activists agitated. For meat alternatives, it is not Cargill or Tyson Foods that is taking the lead on development, but rather a bunch of startups that are, ironically, funded by the likes of Cargill and Tyson Foods. For now, that appears to be giving them some breathing space to develop product. Plant-based vs. lab-grown Plant-based meat products are hitting the market and gaining acceptance. The Impossible Burger comes to mind immediately. I tried it and declared it “okay but not great, certainly not a value,” however that judgement may reflect an unrealistic bar for “good to great” status. The fact that the company created a plant-based burger that looks, tastes, cooks, and acts like meat is pretty extraordinary. I wouldn’t rule out having another, but I would like to work with this in my kitchen to learn more about how it cooks. Clean meat is a second front in the meat alternatives market, also known as lab-grown meat. The science is complex but surprisingly straightforward. You take an animal cell, feed it in a controlled environment, differentiate it, and put it in a bioreactor. Voila, meat. Pretty cool. I find this sector of the alternative meat market to be the most promising. Meat labs can be set up anywhere in the world, maybe even made portable to a household appliance size. Moving food production closer to markets is always a good thing, and it is already happening in agriculture. Plenty is a well-financed company devoted to urban located vertical farms[...]



Spring Break Should Be A National Holiday In The US [Feld Thoughts]

2018-03-28T08:30:31-07:00

  I’m a fan of spring break. I’m a believer in regular vacations. I love it when people I work with get away and disconnect. And, I do it at least four times a year. Spring break feels like it has gotten out of control. Rethinking it could be interesting. This year, at least 50% of... Read more The post Spring Break Should Be A National Holiday In The US appeared first on Feld Thoughts.  I’m a fan of spring break. I’m a believer in regular vacations. I love it when people I work with get away and disconnect. And, I do it at least four times a year. Spring break feels like it has gotten out of control. Rethinking it could be interesting. This year, at least 50% of the people I work with regularly are on spring break this week. I think the other 50% go on spring break next week. Easter seems to be the pivot point for this. Unlike the week before Christmas, which moves around every year, if Easter is the pivot point for spring break, life would be better if everyone in the US decided the week before (or after – I don’t care) Easter was spring break. Then, the rhythm of work in the US would slow (or at least change) for that week, just like it does for the week between Christmas and New Years. And, everyone who goes on spring break with their family and kids could actually disconnect, rather than what I’m observing, where some people disengage, but others keep one foot in, probably ruining the real value of a week-long disconnect from work for them I’m not at all cranky about this. I’m at work this week – and next week. Amy, on the other hand, is on spring break with a girlfriend who is five years recovered from a serious illness. While I miss her, I’m using the time as an excuse to stay up late watching silly television shows. While I know a blog post from me isn’t going to affect anything, imagine a world where we had a real, synchronized, completely off spring break in the US. It would be a better world for everyone. The post Spring Break Should Be A National Holiday In The US appeared first on Feld Thoughts. [...]



What makes  a great venture capitalist (continued). [BijanBlog]

2018-03-27T11:01:16-07:00

Every few weeks, I meet someone that very much wants to either get into the venture capital business or wants to do better work in the VC business. I’ve written a little bit about this topic in prior years including what I’ve observed in great venture capitalists. When I ask someone why they want to be a VC, I often hear the obvious. Things like a passion for technology, a love of startups, a confidence that he/she can spot the next big thing. In my mind there are three critical parts to this gig.Thing 1: Finding investment opportunities. There are different strategies and different styles, but ultimately, it’s often investing in things early and before everyone else shares the same insight. This is my investment philosophy. Anyway, this is critically important but it’s not sufficient. That leads me to the second thing. Thing 2:  Be a great partner to the startupIn the early stage investing business, most startups don’t work out. So most VCs are dealing with a portfolio that has many investments that are struggling or worse. VCs that serve on boards have a duty to do their best to help the company though these tough times. It’s very stressful and intense. It requires some combination of being proactive, being engaged and being patient. It requires dealing with a problematic co-investor(s). It can be about founders that don’t get along. Or a cash crunch. Or a lawsuit. Or cultural issues. And it happens a lot. It’s likely the least understood and appreciated part of this work. And when I meet someone who wants to be a VC, I spend a fair amount of time talking about this part. If this sort of thing feels allergic to you, then this business isn’t for you. Thing 3: Be a great partner inside the firm This one is rather self explanatory but vital. A good partner inside the firm is someone who helps their fellow partners, provides honest & direct in all communication, is patient during tough times, open to new ideas and debate, is respectful. Amongst other things cares about the team more than anything else.I still have a great deal to learn about this topic but after 13 years of doing the work, I feel some comfort in writing down my experiences. But like most things, I am in a work in progress.   [...]



Academic Research on Accelerators [Feld Thoughts]

2018-03-27T08:17:33-07:00

The first accelerator, YC, was founded in 2005. The second, Techstars, was founded in 2006. Wikipedia has a good summary of the history of accelerators. Now that we are 13 years into the accelerator journey, an accelerator is a well-established construct that is part of the global startup ecosystem. They have evolved over the years,... Read more The post Academic Research on Accelerators appeared first on Feld Thoughts.The first accelerator, YC, was founded in 2005. The second, Techstars, was founded in 2006. Wikipedia has a good summary of the history of accelerators. Now that we are 13 years into the accelerator journey, an accelerator is a well-established construct that is part of the global startup ecosystem. They have evolved over the years, and many new approaches have been taken. The question of the efficacy of accelerators has regularly been asked over the past decade. A number of academic papers have appeared in the past few years exploring this. I was asked if any existed the other day by an LP, so following is a list of papers I am familiar with. If you know of any others, please put links in the comments or send me an email with the info. Accelerators and Crowd-Funding: Complementarity, Competition, or Convergence in the Earliest Stages of Financing New Ventures?, Smith, Hannigan, and Gasiorowski, 6/13 Accelerating Startups: The Seed Accelerator Phenomenon, Hochberg and Cohen, 3/14 Accelerators and the Regional Supply of Venture Capital Investment, Fehder and Hochberg, 9/14 Swinging for the fences: How do top accelerators impact the trajectories of new ventures?, Winston Smith and Hannigan, 6/15 Investment Accelerators, Bernthal, 8/15 Startup Accelerators and Ecosystems: Complements or Substitutes?, Fehder, 9/15 Do Accelerators Accelerate? If So, How? The Impact of Intensive Learning from Others on New Venture Development, Hallen, Bingham, and Cohen, 7/16 How Do Accelerators Impact the Performance of High-Technology Ventures?, Yu, 8/16 Who Needs Contracts? Generalized Exchange within Investment Accelerators, Bernthal, 11/16 Business Incubators and Accelerators: A Co-Citation Analysis-Based, Systematic Literature Review, Hausberg and Korreck, 3/17 How Do Accelerators Select Startups? Shifting Decision Criteria across Stages, Yin and Lau, 12/17 The post Academic Research on Accelerat[...]



Facebook As The Ultimate Surveillance Machine [Feld Thoughts]

2018-03-26T08:26:22-07:00

Whenever someone tells me about the progress humans have made, I remind them that since the beginning of humans, man has been trying to kill his neighbor to take over his backyard. And yes, as Amy likes to regularly remind me, it’s often men doing the killing. Simultaneously, governments around the world have spent zillions... Read more The post Facebook As The Ultimate Surveillance Machine appeared first on Feld Thoughts.Whenever someone tells me about the progress humans have made, I remind them that since the beginning of humans, man has been trying to kill his neighbor to take over his backyard. And yes, as Amy likes to regularly remind me, it’s often men doing the killing. Simultaneously, governments around the world have spent zillions of dollars building surveillance systems since the beginning of – well – humans. Or at least since the beginning of governments. In 14 years, Facebook has created the most incredible and effective surveillance machine in the history of humankind. And we, the humans, have given the machine much of the data. John Lanchester has the best article on this I’ve read to date titled You Are the Product in the London Review of Books. It’s long – 8674 words – but worth reading every one of them. The magical paragraph is in the middle of the article and follows. “What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so m[...]



Structured customer dev – not to be missed. [The Equity Kicker]

2018-03-26T04:48:45-07:00

In our experience, structured customer development work is right up there amongst the most valuable things a founder can do in the early days of their startup. Once you...In our experience, structured customer development work is right up there amongst the most valuable things a founder can do in the early days of their startup. Once you have an idea that feels strong, it’s imperative to speak with customers about it. But good customer development is tough to do. It takes a long time, think 10-20 hours of interviews plus preparation and digest time, and conducting structured interviews with strangers is outside the comfort zone of many founders. So lots of entrepreneurs skimp on this vital piece of work. That’s a bad decision. It leaves you flying blind when with a little hard work you can be seeing clearly. Let me use the Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) framework for product development to explain why. Reams have been written about the JTBD framework. I will give you a high-level summary here, but if you are building products then I recommend spending some time with Google to find out a bit more. The core idea of the JTBD framework is that customers use products or services to do a job for them (in the US many people say they “hire” the product or service to do the job, but that doesn’t translate too well into UK English so I prefer “use”). For example, I used my bike to do the job of getting from home to work this morning. I could have used a bus or a tube, but I used a bike. That job breaks down into component parts. I have to access the mode of transport, pay for it, travel, dispose of the mode of transport at the other end and maybe get from the disposal point to my final destination. With my bike that breaks down to getting it out of the bikeshed in my front garden, no payment, cycle for 15 mins, put it in the bike rack in our office garden, and then walk five metres to my desk. If I was getting the bus the breakdown would be walking to the bus stop, paying with my iPhone, sitting on the bus for 30 mins, getting off the bus, and walking 200 metres to my desk. Each of those component parts has associated outcomes that I’m looking for. Some of those are functional and others are emotional. Taking the trav[...]



Sandpaper Only Works If It Is Rubbing Against Something [Feld Thoughts]

2018-03-25T06:44:44-07:00

I recently heard the line “sandpaper only works if it is rubbing against something” and loved it. From Wikipedia: “The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 1st-century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin (placoid scales) has also been used as an abrasive and the... Read more The post Sandpaper Only Works If It Is Rubbing Against Something appeared first on Feld Thoughts.I recently heard the line “sandpaper only works if it is rubbing against something” and loved it. From Wikipedia: “The first recorded instance of sandpaper was in 1st-century China when crushed shells, seeds, and sand were bonded to parchment using natural gum. Shark skin (placoid scales) has also been used as an abrasive and the rough scales of the living fossil, Coelacanth are used for the same purpose by the natives of Comoros. Boiled and dried, the rough horsetail plant is used in Japan as a traditional polishing material, finer than sandpaper. Glass paper was manufactured in London in 1833 by John Oakey, whose company had developed new adhesive techniques and processes, enabling mass production. Glass frit has sharp-edged particles and cuts well whereas sand grains are smoothed down and do not work well as an abrasive. Cheap sandpaper was often passed off as glass paper; Stalker and Parker cautioned against it in A Treatise of Japaning and Varnishing published in 1688. In 1921, 3M invented a sandpaper with silicon carbide grit and a waterproof adhesive and backing, known as Wet and dry. This allowed use with water, which would serve as a lubricant to carry away particles that would otherwise clog the grit. Its first application was in automotive paint refinishing.” Every company I’m involved in has issues. Some are minor. Some are major. Some are easy to fix. Some sneak up on you when everything feels like it’s going great. Some are existential crises. Some just feel like existential crises. Simply put, Something new is fucked up in my world every day. That’s just the way companies work. And, as long as the company is still around, no matter what size, or level of success, the dynamic is endless. When you think things are going[...]



Autonmous vehicles, accidents, liability and fault [Jeff Nolan]

2018-03-20T09:48:01-07:00

The recent tragedy of an Uber autonomous vehicle killing a woman in Tempe, AZ casts a light on how autonomous vehicles are quietly achieving legal status as an entity, exposing the driver and passengers to legal perils they may not realize. The post Autonmous vehicles, accidents, liability and fault appeared first on Venture Chronicles.This week opened with a tragic story of a woman in Arizona who was killed by an Uber autonomous vehicle. The Tempe police chief made comments that have grabbed the headlines, well half of the quote grabbed headlines… “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” Moir told the Chronicle, adding, the other part of the quote that is absolutely fascinating and more headline worthy than the first part is: “I won’t rule out the potential to file charges against the [backup driver] in the Uber vehicle.” Think about this for a second, the car is not at fault but the backup driver could still be charged. A third party in this scenario is Uber itself, who owns and operates the vehicle, while employing the backup driver. Here’s the thing about vehicle accidents, it not just a matter of who’s fault it is. The Uber autonomous vehicle may not be at fault, but it is not the determination of fault that strictly determines if and how damages are awarded. That is a matter for state vehicle statutes, which are different in every state of the union, the overwhelming majority of which have not been updated to account for fault and liability in an autonomous vehicle scenario. States are waiting for the Federal government to act precisely because the legal complexity of autonomous vehicles requires a common framework upon which the manufacturers and technology providers can built to. People are injured, maimed, and killed in vehicle accidents everyday. Autonomous vehicles will reduce that number but it would be supremely naive to believe that these same vehicles would eliminate harm completely. We have a system of common law that determines criminal negligence and penalty, for example you drive under the influence of alcohol and kill someone. In addition to criminal law there exists common law, which most peop[...]



European tech: Which way to the exits? [The Equity Kicker]

2018-03-19T04:53:04-07:00

Max Niederhofer recently published this chart showing European exits. As you can see there’s been impressive growth in sub $100m exits, but the story with larger M&A exits and IPOs... Max Niederhofer recently published this chart showing European exits. As you can see there’s been impressive growth in sub $100m exits, but the story with larger M&A exits and IPOs is less compelling. As I wrote last week our ecosystem is making great progress, but clearly, if we are to keep growing then at some point we need to see an increase in large exits. The good news is that we can reconcile the facts that we have an increasing number of great companies with the fact that the number of large exits isn’t going up: great companies are staying private for longer. Witness mega rounds by companies like Transferwise and Deliveroo that in years gone past would have had to IPO to raise that kind of cash or, as was more often the case, sell to a larger company that could finance their growth. This ‘staying private longer’ phenomenon isn’t just a European thing. In the US companies are raising amounts of capital previously only possible through IPO with much greater frequency than they are here. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is debatable (private companies have less scrutiny and therefore lower costs, but arguably the scrutiny makes them more disciplined) but the important point here is that it’s skewing the exit data. That said, if LPs are to keep making new commitments to fund, they need to get cash back soon, so this trend can’t continue forever. [...]



Why We Do What We Do [Babbling VC]

2018-03-18T12:30:28-07:00

A recent discussion with my wife triggered the idea to write this blog post. We were discussing careers and she was explaining to me how much she liked Simon Sinek's "Start with Why" and the concepts behind it. This led me to start thinking about so many questions we received regarding Liquid Labs, which Michael Backes and I founded back in early 2012. It dawned on my that we so often spoke of the "what" but hardly ever the "why". So why do we do it? Well, to put it briefly, because it allowed us to do what we wanted...A recent discussion with my wife triggered the idea to write this blog post. We were discussing careers and she was explaining to me how much she liked Simon Sinek's "Start with Why" and the concepts behind it. This led me to start thinking about so many questions we received regarding Liquid Labs, which Michael Backes and I founded back in early 2012. It dawned on my that we so often spoke of the "what" but hardly ever the "why".  So why do we do it? Well, to put it briefly, because it allowed us to do what we wanted to do without giving up so much of what we had done to date. Let me explain that a bit. Michael and I have fairly varied backgrounds but one way or another, they are a combination of entrepreneurship, corporate roles, venture capital and consulting. I also spent time at a law firm. We had initially been planning to launch our own startup but were pulled back over to the corporate side. We felt that by focusing on only one business we'd be leaving so much on the table. We had both built up so much experience and very extensive networks. We wanted to see how we could address many problems in the business segments we felt comfortable in verses focusing on just one problem.  First, I have to address the three problems Michael and I identified. After we decided to go for it and pitch Liquid Labs to the Otto Group, we sat together and looked at the market. From our mutual backgrounds, we were able to filter out and focus on the following three:  Entrepreneurs oftentimes can fairly easily raise money but find it far harder to find customers and scale . Corporates so often try to innovate yet fail and end up buying s[...]



Boston, 2018. [BijanBlog]

2018-03-15T04:15:21-07:00

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Boston, 2018.

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A new dawn for European VC [The Equity Kicker]

2018-03-05T07:23:59-08:00

This week I’ve been at the SuperReturn/SuperVenture conference in Berlin. It’s the biggest European gathering of venture capital fund managers, private equity fund managers and LPs, the institutions that...This week I’ve been at the SuperReturn/SuperVenture conference in Berlin. It’s the biggest European gathering of venture capital fund managers, private equity fund managers and LPs, the institutions that invest in both types of funds. I’ve been going off and on for the last ten years and the good news is that the tide is definitely turning in favour of European venture. That said, we’re coming from a place where there was very little interest amongst LPs in European funds. For many years our asset class, which is “European venture” was at the bottom of their priority lists. I remember vividly one year, I think it was 2012, when a placement agent (industry jargon for a broker that helps raise private equity and venture funds) had surveyed 83 LPs. He had given them each three votes to cast across about 15 different asset classes. Of the 249 available votes, only 5 were put against European venture. European VCs fundraising at that time were fishing in a very small pond… As I say though, things have been getting better for a while. The logic in favour of European venture was always strong. VC investment per capita is lower than the US (it’s now 33% lower) and enterprise spend on technology here is much higher as a ratio to VC investment than it is elsewhere in the world. Efficient market theory has it that money should flow into that void. The problem has been that many LPs lost money in European venture in the 1999-2000, were nervous about making the same mistake again, and wondered if there was a structural reason why venture capitalists seemed to be less successful here than in the US. Structural reasons mooted included an absence of serial entrepreneurs, insufficient venture capital to scale businesses properly, lack of ambition and the fear of failure. However, whilst money didn’t flood into the void, it did trickle. Govern[...]



Perfect.  [BijanBlog]

2018-02-28T08:13:25-08:00

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Perfect. 

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My favorite women photographers from this generation [BijanBlog]

2018-02-26T07:45:27-08:00

Last week I was listening to a podcast where the two hosts of the show were talking about women photographers. They mentioned a number of amazing women photographers from the last generation but didnt mention the any artists from the current generation. So I thought i would create this list of my favorite women photographers. Each has their own extraordinary style and unique way of seeing the world. Victoria WrightLeila PetersonRebecca LilyCindy LoughridgeWhitney Hayes Adrienne PittsPei KetronSonya Yu Lauren RandolphAlice GaoElize StrydomDeborah FarnaultMeredith FrostI realize this list is far from complete. So please tweet me more names @bijan. Thanks! [...]



Weekend in Chicago, February 2018. [BijanBlog]

2018-02-07T16:52:20-08:00

Weekend in Chicago, February 2018. [...]



Happy cover Friday!  [BijanBlog]

2018-02-02T07:12:49-08:00

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Happy cover Friday! 

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It’s about respectIt’s jarring to see so many online and mobile companies treat their users with... [BijanBlog]

2018-02-01T07:31:23-08:00

It’s about respectIt’s jarring to see so many online and mobile companies treat their users with such a lack of care. We see ecommerce sites from the moment you arrive take over the the screen with a request for your email so they can slam you with you unsubscribeable newsletters. Or publishers that break up an article into many pages to increase the page view count to generate more ad revenue. Or news sites that come up with click baity headlines to get readers to click. Facebook is carrying on this lack of respect to a whole new level. A Facebook newsfeed is filled with all sorts of things that the user didn’t ask for along with contstant push notifications that are focused on increasing retention metrics instead of user delight. I think one of the saddest tales in this all of this is Google. A company born on the web and caputured our imagination with a brilliant simple and elegant box that delivered the fastest search results has now turned into something else. When I see their search results page today with all the ads, with all the invasive data tracking, AMP, or all the clutter it bums me out. From the outside its hard to say if they lost their way or have lost respect for us. I am encouraged by new companies that have an authentic and sincere relationship with their customers. Slack charges only if you use their product. The Athletic delivers high quality content with a clean subscription model. Many new podcasts are thriving with fantastic content along with a few tasteful ads per episode (and an easy way to skip the ads if you don’t like them). No tracking, no retargeting. I believe the best companies will take this approach. It’s about respect. [...]



Venice, California. [BijanBlog]

2018-01-31T10:39:09-08:00

Venice, California. [...]



Software startups: Beware ‘magic’ bullets [The Equity Kicker]

2018-01-30T06:17:42-08:00

I just read ‘Need More Time’? Guideposts For Tech Founders Going To Market When No Market Exists which is full of great tips for what they call ‘pre-chasm’ enterprise startups. The...I just read ‘Need More Time’? Guideposts For Tech Founders Going To Market When No Market Exists which is full of great tips for what they call ‘pre-chasm’ enterprise startups. The term ‘pre-chasm’ is a nod to Geoffrey Moore’s 1998 classic Crossing the Chasm and refers to companies that may have sold to early adopters, but haven’t yet found a way to sell to the mainstream. Getting sales going in those early years is terrifically challenging and requires great product and great sales. There are lots of common pitfalls that founders fall into and the whole post is well worth a read, but I want to highlight two sections which cover mistakes that in my experience many founders are prone to making. Over-value conversations and even deals with large enterprise customers. Here’s how they put it:Surely people paying you money for expertise is a strong signal you’re heading towards product-market fit? The twist is: In much-hyped new technology areas, before there’s a big market, it’s not uncommon for startups to close high dollar PoCs and even some large contracts simply because companies are happy to be educated by startups.This practice is particularly common in fintech. Believe that channel partners will accelerate sales. Here’s how they put it:I see this play out in new markets again and again: Pre-chasm enterprise startups throw time and resources at indirect sales channels (including OEMs, etc.) in the hopes that someone else’s sales team can do a better job than your own. Or, assuming it will accelerate sales, they will spend a lot of time with technical or channel partners … [but] rarely will indirect channels for ente[...]



As easy as… AI [The Equity Kicker]

2018-01-26T04:13:25-08:00

Google is pushing hard to make artificial intelligence as easy to access as cloud computing, building services that reduce both costs and the technical skill required from users. To...Google is pushing hard to make artificial intelligence as easy to access as cloud computing, building services that reduce both costs and the technical skill required from users. To my mind, there is a strong parallel with how Amazon Web Services made it easier and cheaper for companies to build web apps. Throughout 2017 they made steady advances, releasing Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine and grew Kaggle, their community of data scientists and ML researchers, to more than one million members. They now have more than 10,000 businesses using Google Cloud AI services, including companies Box, Rolls Royce Marine, Kewpie and Ocado. And now they are introducing Cloud AutoML, which promises to: Help businesses with limited ML expertise start building their own high-quality custom models by using advanced techniques like learning2learn and transfer learning Google seems to be in the vanguard, but Amazon and Microsoft are pursuing similar agendas. For AI startups this means that machine learning expertise will become relatively less important whilst access to data and customer understanding will rise in significance. Given that ML expertise has been in short supply we can expect to see a sharp rise in the number of high-quality startups using machine learning to make better products (as distinct from low-quality startups that claim to use machine learning but don’t really). It also means that the opportunity space will tip towards applications and away from infrastructure. At Forward Partners we’ve had “Applied AI” as one of our two focus areas for investments for around six months now. We define Applied AI as anything that mimics human cognition (that’s the AI [...]



Finding your favorite coffee spot [BijanBlog]

2018-01-22T13:20:09-08:00

I love coffee. Like a lot. I basically have one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon. Occasionally I’ll add one more to this routine if I’m traveling. I rarely have less.And I like to enjoy my coffee at home or at a cafe. Near my office there are a few places that serve great coffee. But they are always so busy and it’s hard to get a table. And even if you get a table, it’s a popular spot and I often bump into people I know. But sometimes or I usually just want to be alone, to enjoy your coffee in a quiet setting. So I found a place. It’s about a 15 minute walk from my office. It’s not a complete secret but it’s off the beaten track. And they have the best pour over coffee in this city. And I’ve been there at least 20 times and have yet to bump into anyone I know — except the super kind baristas. I grab a seat by the window, I drink my coffee, check out some tweets, maybe scan my Instagram feed or Tumblr dashboard, then put the phone in my pocket and enjoy the rest of my coffee.  [...]



Some thoughts on the Amazon Echo SpotMy son needed an alarm clock and he was itching to get the... [BijanBlog]

2018-01-18T06:42:08-08:00

Some thoughts on the Amazon Echo SpotMy son needed an alarm clock and he was itching to get the Amazon Echo Spot. So Santa got him one for Xmas. He loves it. He already connected it to a Philips Hue Light for his bedside lamp and with a few vocal commands he plays tunes, turns on and off the lamp and sets his morning alarm. Pretty sweet. So based on his glowing recommendation I got one for the master bedroom. Lauren looked at the little round glowing device with some skepticism but said okay let’s give this a try. The Echo Spot works as advertised. Voice recognition is great. And it is a mighty fine alarm clock. But it’s not great for a shared bedroom or with multiple people in the household. For example the other night I got to bed super late and Lauren was already fast asleep. The only way to set the alarm is by voice. You can’t set the alarm with the Alexa iOS app which is surprising. So I ended up breaking my personal rule and brought my iPhone to the bedroom to set the alarm. I was also going to get a Philips Hue light for our bedside lamps. I would love to tell my lamp to turn and off by voice. But Lauren would rather use the switch on the wall. The only way this works is if everyone uses the light the same way. And I’m already hard enough to live with so I passed on the Hue lights. Our master bedroom is down the hall from James bedroom. But I’ve noticed that when I talk to our Echo, it will frequently wake his device as well. Other times I’ve inadvertently triggered our master bedroom Echo during a conversation with Lauren. It’s a little jarring to have the robot butt in. Another incident happened this morning. I walked James to the bus stop. Afterward I went back into the house and upstairs to grab a few things. His bedside lamp was still on (we are so the same). I tried issuing a bunch of verbal comman[...]



Podcast Echo Chamber [Babbling VC]

2018-01-17T02:07:36-08:00

A couple years ago I bought a house outside of Hamburg. This led to one major change in my life which wasn't the case for the past twenty or so years.....a long commute in the car. I drive in and out of town when in the office in Hamburg and it takes about 45 minutes each way. To keep it at this length I leave the house usually at 6am or earlier and try to get out of town early too to avoid the major traffic. What this has led to is my making use of the time in the...A couple years ago I bought a house outside of Hamburg. This led to one major change in my life which wasn't the case for the past twenty or so years.....a long commute in the car. I drive in and out of town when in the office in Hamburg and it takes about 45 minutes each way. To keep it at this length I leave the house usually at 6am or earlier and try to get out of town early too to avoid the major traffic. What this has led to is my making use of the time in the car as best as possible. On the way to work, since it's usually so early, I can't get many calls done. Hence I listen to podcasts. On the way home I usually do calls almost the whole way but when I don't have calls, I'll have a podcast running.  So why the long lead-in you may ask? I am sick of podcasts (and commuting....but that's another blog post)! As you can imagine, I went through the whole gamut of podcasts out there before settling on maybe five or six I subscribe to. I've listened to them all if they are somewhat popular or discoverable. You know the names.....WTF, Art of Charm, James Altucher Show, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, Rework, Joe Rogan, The Daily, This American Life and so on. There are so many out there. Hence, after time you kind of whittle them down to a few you like and you subscribe to those. It becomes almost overwhelming otherwise as you never fi[...]



When I Goosestep, The Shins [BijanBlog]

2018-01-12T07:38:32-08:00

src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F4534148&visual=true&liking=false&sharing=false&auto_play=false&show_comments=false&continuous_play=false&origin=tumblr" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" class="soundcloud_audio_player" width="540" height="540">When I Goosestep, The Shins [...]



Sometimes best practice isn’t best [The Equity Kicker]

2018-01-10T09:03:36-08:00

The blogosphere has transformed entrepreneurship. Twenty years ago there were precious few resources available for founders and most either had to find an advisor who had done it before...The blogosphere has transformed entrepreneurship. Twenty years ago there were precious few resources available for founders and most either had to find an advisor who had done it before or rely on trial and error. That increased the power of the network effects at the heart of startup hubs where it was easier to find those conversations – especially Silicon Valley. These days it’s all different and a decent guide to doing just about anything is only a few clicks away. Here at Forward Partners we’ve contributed our fair share of such guides at The Path Forward. However, whilst all this great content is amazingly valuable for entrepreneurs it gives them a new problem. If they try to follow the best practice advised for fundraising, recruitment, brand, writing code, product management, and growth then they will quickly run out of hours in their day, at least in the early days when resources are scarce. Moreover, this advice isn’t only coming from the blogosphere, it is coming from investors, board members, mentors, accelerator programmes and friends at other startups, making it harder to deal with than it should be. I’m not criticising here. Much of the advice is highly-insightful and well-intentioned, and I’ve doled out my fair share (including on this blog). What I am saying is that founders need something more. They need to work out where in their companies they should apply best practice and where they should not. For most startups these days the first answer is product. If we look at the three biggest startup succes[...]



Uruguay, December 2017 / Part TwoPart One is here.(Cameras:... [BijanBlog]

2018-01-08T03:18:13-08:00

Uruguay, December 2017 / Part TwoPart One is here.(Cameras: Leica MP, Leica M3 // Film: Kodak Portra 400 & Tri-X 400 // Lab: Richard Photo Lab in California).  [...]



Uruguay, December 2017 / Part OneLast month we made our first... [BijanBlog]

2018-01-08T03:17:43-08:00

Uruguay, December 2017 / Part OneLast month we made our first family trip to South America. We spent most of our vacation in Uruguay. Getting to Uruguay from the United States requires a long flight but it’s only a two hour time difference which makes jet lag a non issue. After a 10 hour overnight flight from Miami, we arrived well rested. The drive from the airport to our hotel in Jose Ignacio was about a 2 hours. A rental car is a must. The Jose Ignacio region of Uruguay is along the east coast of the country. While nearby Punta del Este is bustling and tends to get more attention and fanfare, we personally were happy to stay in the Jose Ignacio region. It’s hardly a secret area but it is laid back with a chill vibe, and a place that offers beach, some shops, a gorgeous countryside and some wonderful restaurants. It is summertime and the weather was quite hot during our week. We spent a few hours each day at the beach. The Arctic currents make the ocean really quite cold but after a few moments we got used to it and it’s quite refreshing. Getting on bikes and exploring all the little streets of Jose Ignacio was a nice way to see more and escape the heat as well. My wife and daughters love horseback riding and its a gorgeous place to ride. Sunset in Uruguay is mighty fine. One week in a new place is not enough time to do it justice. But I can tell you that we want to make a return trip one day.  Part two with additional photographs here.(Camera: Leica MP // Film: Kodak Portra 400 // Lab: Richard Photo Lab in California).  [...]



A reminder to do your homework before backing a candidate [BijanBlog]

2018-01-07T13:43:08-08:00

There is a massive effort in the Democratic Party to get folks to run for public office, up and down the ballot. We are seeing candidates run that have never served public life before and they are bringing much energy and a sincere effort to make a change. And as such, especially as new candidates, they need funding and support to win their primary races and to beat a Republican incumbent. I have backed a number of first time politicians. For the most part I am happy with the candidates I have backed, win or lose. But occasionally I have made some mistakes. The mistakes are because they caught me in a moment where one particular issue was topic of mind (e.g. immigration or the environment). When the reality is I care about a wide range of progressive issues. For example I made a donation to a candidate who shared my concern about civil rights but after I made the donation I found out that we aren’t on the same page with regards to gun control. So lately I made a check list. And when a politician asks for a meeting, I send him or her a list of all the issues I care about and ask if we are on the same page, mostly on the same page or not on the same page. It’s a helpful reminder to do my homework and not let the emotion get in the way. [...]



Happy cover Friday.  [BijanBlog]

2018-01-05T05:57:05-08:00

class="tumblr_audio_player tumblr_audio_player_169345146233" src="http://bijansabet.com/post/169345146233/audio_player_iframe/bijan/tumblr_nvi8qdRK5Y1ra6lop?audio_file=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tumblr.com%2Faudio_file%2Fbijan%2F169345146233%2Ftumblr_nvi8qdRK5Y1ra6lop" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" scrolling="no" width="540" height="169">Happy cover Friday.  [...]



Just Start! [Babbling VC]

2017-12-27T01:09:33-08:00

It may seem like this is a typical year end post aiming to get people to set goals and resolutions for the New Year. It is not. It simply happens to be coming at a time when you will be seeing a ton of such posts. Yet, it may be just the right time for such a post since it addresses the exact same problem that most people making resolutions will face: not getting started. Procrastination and fear will keep you from doing that which you should be doing. You may end up finding other excuses but everything will eventually...It may seem like this is a typical year end post aiming to get people to set goals and resolutions for the New Year. It is not. It simply happens to be coming at a time when you will be seeing a ton of such posts. Yet, it may be just the right time for such a post since it addresses the exact same problem that most people making resolutions will face: not getting started.  Procrastination and fear will keep you from doing that which you should be doing. You may end up finding other excuses but everything will eventually boil down to fear. Fear of failure, fear of others' opinions, fear of the unknown and so forth....all of this will keep you where you are. There is on simple solution...just start! You've read this a million times and will probably read it a million times more. From where I sit though I keep seeing this around me and I'm going to rant about it a bit.  Be it in the corporate boardroom or the private bedroom, people just don't get started. They will spend weeks preparing Powerpoints or months telling themselves that they just don't know what they are doing. Or managers will co[...]



UK VCs growing faster than European counterparts [The Equity Kicker]

2017-12-22T08:12:41-08:00

One fear I heard expressed a lot post Brexit is that the London will lose it’s place as the dominant startup centre in Europe. These fears were compounded by... One fear I heard expressed a lot post Brexit is that the London will lose it’s place as the dominant startup centre in Europe. These fears were compounded by programmes from France, Germany and other governments to get UK companies to relocate. It appears these campaigns have had little impact. As you can see from the table above UK based funds had considerably more success fundraising this year than their European counterparts. It seems that despite Brexit London is growing stronger as a startup ecosystem. I would posit that’s because there are powerful network effects at play. More funds attract better and more ambitious entrepreneurs who generate bigger returns and whose employees found new companies, in turn attracting more funds. Nice to end the year on a happy note. Happy holidays! Data compiled by Yannick Roux [...]



Upper Haight, SF. December 2017. [BijanBlog]

2017-12-14T10:31:15-08:00

Upper Haight, SF. December 2017. [...]



3 tips to check that your salesforce is ready to scale [Cracking-the-code]

2017-12-12T11:03:00-08:00

Earlier this fall, we co-organised with Salesforce Ventures the first edition of Cloud Europe, a ½ day event preceding SaaStock 2017 and gathering the founders of the top 100 European SaaS companies. We were lucky to have as a keynote Chris Ciauri, EVP Salesforce EMEA, and he shared a few tips to check that your sales organisation is ready to scale. Here is a quick summary of the key insights with us, which hopefully will help you with your 2018 planning.1)     Balance your sales management ratiosAs software companies scale, the question of span of control in the organisation becomes critical. There is no right or wrong answer and it will depends on your business. But here is what has worked well for Salesforce and is a good starting point for a SaaS business:·       4-5 first line managers to 1 second line manager·       6-10 reps per first line manager. 6-10 reps is a wide range: the right ratio will depend on the segment. For small businesses, the number will be closer to 10 and for enterprise, closer to 62)     Figure the right formula for your sales support functionsFor most SaaS companies, sales reps will be supported typically by Solutions Engineers (SEs) and by Business Development Reps (BDRs) who are cold calling and taking appointments. To be able to scale quickly, each company should figure out the right ratios of these support functions vs. sales reps. The formula will be heavily dependent of the customer segment targ[...]



BREAK THE INTERNET TO SAVE NET NEUTRALITY [McInblog]

2017-12-11T22:43:54-08:00

We have just hours. The FCC is about to vote to end net neutrality—breaking the fundamental principle of the open Internet—and only an avalanche of calls to Congress can stop it. So we decided to help “Break the Internet” on our sites. You can also support on Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube or in whatever wild creative way you can to get your audience to contact... Read more The post BREAK THE INTERNET TO SAVE NET NEUTRALITY appeared first on McInBlog.We have just hours. The FCC is about to vote to end net neutrality—breaking the fundamental principle of the open Internet—and only an avalanche of calls to Congress can stop it. So we decided to help “Break the Internet” on our sites. You can also support on Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube or in whatever wild creative way you can to get your audience to contact Congress. That’s how we win. Are you in? More info here.   The post BREAK THE INTERNET TO SAVE NET NEUTRALITY appeared first on McInBlog. [...]



Decision Making [Babbling VC]

2017-12-07T02:39:53-08:00

There is a problem in most organisations that teams want to generally be in agreement when making decisions. I think this is a mistake. I was pleasantly surprised when recently reading a Jeff Bezos investor letter where he specifically alluded to this issue. He spoke of “disagree and commit” when it came to decision making at Amazon. This is a wonderful approach. (Please stop now and do go read Jeff's letter. It is that good!) Usually, what happens in companies is that folks get into a death match with one another knowing that they at the end of the day...There is a problem in most organisations that teams want to generally be in agreement when making decisions. I think this is a mistake. I was pleasantly surprised when recently reading a Jeff Bezos investor letter where he specifically alluded to this issue. He spoke of “disagree and commit” when it came to decision making at Amazon. This is a wonderful approach. (Please stop now and do go read Jeff's letter. It is that good!) Usually, what happens in companies is that folks get into a death match with one another knowing that they at the end of the day have to somehow come to a mutual decision. What this unfortunately leads to at best is a ton of time being wasted.  Further it often leads to a certain type of behaviour where the person who can argue the loudest or longest wins. This doesn’t necessarily mean that their decision is right but they simply waged warfare best. Thereafter decision making often turns in[...]



Hell Yeah! [Babbling VC]

2017-12-05T06:48:59-08:00

So I’ve had this conversation a couple times in the past two or three days and felt that it merited a blog post. There are two times which come to mind today where you should always decide on something by being completely digital about it. Either you want to do it (“hell yeah”) or you don’t (“fuck no”)! The general concept comes from Derek Sivers and it brilliantly works in many situations. In today’s case it is in regards to hiring and picking jobs. When hiring you should be picking candidates based on “hell yeah or fuck no” and nothing...So I’ve had this conversation a couple times in the past two or three days and felt that it merited a blog post. There are two times which come to mind today where you should always decide on something by being completely digital about it. Either you want to do it (“hell yeah”) or you don’t (“fuck no”)!  The general concept comes from Derek Sivers and it brilliantly works in many situations.  In today’s case it is in regards to hiring and picking jobs. When hiring you should be picking candidates based on “hell yeah or fuck no” and nothing in between. If you are shaky on whether to hire someone........pass. It’s common knowledge that it’s better to pass on someone than to hire the wrong person. Yet it happens over and over again. Hiring managers feel like they need to compromise to fill their positions yet you simply can’t fudge on this one.  Same goes for people takin[...]



VCs and our quest to invest in “home runs” [The Equity Kicker]

2017-12-04T07:49:27-08:00

This chart (taken from a recent post by First Republic’s Samir Kaji, data from leading venture investor Horseley Bridge) shows that to get the 3-5x return that most venture... This chart (taken from a recent post by First Republic’s Samir Kaji, data from leading venture investor Horseley Bridge) shows that to get the 3-5x return that most venture capitalists target 10% of their portfolio need to return 10x+. That explains why we are so focused on market size and other upside indicators when we invest. Getting a 10x result is hard and if 10% of our portfolio is to reach those dizzy heights then all of our investments must have that potential. Of course, a 10x return on an individual investment doesn’t necessarily return the whole fund and many venture funds go a step further and stipulate that every deal must be a potential fund returner. That’s the way that we work at Forward Partners, so for us every investment in our second fund must have the potential to return £60m back to our investor. That means if we have a 10% stake the exit value should be £600m or if we have a 25% stake it should be £240m. If we have invested £6m to get to that point the return will be 10x, and if we have invested less, the multiple will be higher. What doesn’t work for us is investing £2m and with the potential of getting £20m back – that’s a 10x return, but it’s not a fund re[...]



Enjoying the journey [The Equity Kicker]

2017-11-24T06:10:09-08:00

Two weeks ago I wrote about our Skill and Pace value. Another of our four values is Enjoy The Journey. This one is more axiomatic for me than the...Two weeks ago I wrote about our Skill and Pace value. Another of our four values is Enjoy The Journey. This one is more axiomatic for me than the others. Everyone at Forward Partners is devoting a significant part of their life to the cause and if it’s not enjoyable, what’s the point? The journey is the destination. But what does it mean to live the value “Enjoy The Journey”? First and foremost, it’s about finding meaning in our work. Straight up fun is also important of course and we go out regularly as a team and with our partner companies to do crazy things and have a few drinks together, but I liken that stuff to the role of an important supporting actor. You need it, and the film wouldn’t work without it, but it’s not enough on its own. The lead actor, the rest of the cast, the script, the set and everything else have to be right too. I think of table football, ping pong tables, Play Stations and beers in the office in the same way. They can help people enjoy their time at work but they are a sub-plot, not the main story. It’s been said many times recently, but perks are not culture. So how do we find meaning in our work? First, there’s a question of attitude. You have to want to find meaning in your work, and to be willing to w[...]



Why English Isn't Enough [Babbling VC]

2017-11-20T00:43:25-08:00

As I've had to answer this question so many times at this point, I thought I'd just save myself the time in the future and make a blogpost out of it. If you are going to apply to work for us at Liquid Labs, you have to speak German. No, it doesn't have to be perfect but it has to at least be conversational. No one expects you to sound local....I being the best example of sounding like Schwarzenegger, just in reverse. Yet you have to be able to sit in a meeting and speak with folks on the other...As I've had to answer this question so many times at this point, I thought I'd just save myself the time in the future and make a blogpost out of it. If you are going to apply to work for us at Liquid Labs, you have to speak German. No, it doesn't have to be perfect but it has to at least be conversational. No one expects you to sound local....I being the best example of sounding like Schwarzenegger, just in reverse. Yet you have to be able to sit in a meeting and speak with folks on the other side in the language they are comfortable in.  Don't get me wrong....I realise that globalisation is going on and English is commonplace. If you're purely in development, the point has been reached where doing everything in English is fine. If you do anything on our team above and beyond software development, English wont just won't cut it. This is not about you. It's about everyone whom[...]