A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Why USV is Joining the Libra Association

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

A new blockchain & cryptocurrency project, Libra , was announced today. Libra has been incubated by Facebook. USV will be one of the founding members of the governing body, the Libra Association.

No Shenanigans

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I was talking to a friend today about company values and how important they are but also how lame so many of them are. I told him that some of my favorite company values come from our former portfolio company Twilio (which in the spirit of full disclosure I am still a large shareholder of).

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Some Thoughts On Crypto

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

The crypto sector is in an interesting phase right now. The market has rallied from its lows this past winter and is up a lot in 2019: But Bitcoin now makes up almost 70% of that aggregate market cap. In some ways, Bitcoin is the one protocol that has found lasting product-market fit.

Video Of The Week: Duolingo On SNL

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Our portfolio company Duolingo was the subject of a funny skit on SNL a few weeks ago. hacking education

State of MENA Startups 2019, Report

MAGNiTT and 500 Startups jointly launch first 'State of MENA Startups 2019" report. Survey findings reveal insights on trends in fundraising exercise, exit opportunities, hiring, and growth optimization.

Open Finance First, Open Data Second

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

My partner Nick put together a deck outlining USV’s approach to crypto investing earlier this year and we have been using it with founders and investors since then. One slide I particularly like from that deck is this one which describes how we think the crypto market will develop over time.

Our Helium Hotspot

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Back in June I wrote about a company we recently invested in called Helium. Helium is creating a decentralized low power and low bandwidth wireless network for the exploding number of smart devices out in the world.

Helium

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

One of the areas of blockchain innovation I am most excited about is building open, permissionless, and decentralized technology infrastructure.

The Hit Rate

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

This simple and short blog post by the folks at Correlation Ventures contains the key to venture capital returns – the hit rate. In the Correlation post, they define “hit rate” as: the percent of invested dollars generating a 10X or greater return.

Whales Not Unicorns

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I have been vocal here that I do not like the term Unicorn to describe highly valued venture-backed startups. Unicorns are mythical creatures that don’t really exist and highly valued venture-backed startups do exist. They might be rare, but they are not fictional.

CS Education Week

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

This week is CS Education Week. There are CS Education week events all around the world, mostly in schools where students will do an hour of coding. In NYC, where I do most of my CS Education work, there are CS Education week events in many/most of the public school buildings this week.

Why Positive Cashflow Matters

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Venture backed companies have a strange relationship to positive cashflow. Because they have financial backers who can and do finance losses, they tend to operate in the red for a long time. In the early days it makes sense to burn cash. If you do not have revenues, you can’t generate cash. And if you can’t grow your revenues without investing out ahead of income, then you also need to be able to operate in the red.

Grinding

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

It is tempting to search for the one magic move that will make everything better. A new VP of Sales. A new database layer in your tech stack. A new brand for your company. Moving everything to the cloud. More capital in the business. But it is rarely one thing that a business needs to succeed. It is often a little bit of everything. Back in the early days of Twitter, we could not keep the website and API up.

Business Model Innovation

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I’ve shared my views on this before here at AVC. I believe business model innovation is more disruptive than technical innovation. A good example of this was moving from web apps to mobile apps, which was largely a technical innovation. While the move to mobile certainly created some new companies, it largely strengthened the market position of the big Internet companies because there was little to no business model innovation. Compare that to the move from desktop computing to the web.

Video Of The Week: Angela Duckworth – Grit

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

A few years ago, we invited Angela Duckworth to speak to our portfolio company CEOs at our annual get together. It was a terrific talk that absolutely impacted the way these CEOs thought about hiring and managing their teams.

Video Of The Week: The Recount Recap

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I wrote a bit about our investment in Recount Media last month. I have found their daily videos that give me what I need to know in five minutes or less a godsend. This past week was a blur for me as I was on the go all week and could not catch up on anything.

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Cash Management In Startups

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

When I was in my mid-20s and had just gotten a job in venture capital, I read a piece on Alan Shugart , the larger than life founder of Seagate, one of the most successful disk drive companies. Alan was quoted as saying that “cash is more important than your mother.” ” That got my attention because mothers are really important. Over the years, I have learned what Alan meant. Cash is everything in a startup. It is the fuel that keeps the car running.

Founder Control

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I have not written a lot about this issue. As I said in this post , I am generally a “one share one vote proponent”, but I have supported founder control provisions in a few companies where I was or am on the board. These provisions make me uncomfortable but there are solid arguments for them, particularly when you are taking a company public and want to be able to keep it independent.

Audio Of The Week: Nick Grossman on Venture Unplugged

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

My partner Nick did this podcast recently. In it he talks about how we think about and make investments at USV, our thesis on crypto, and a number of our crypto investments. If you want to bypass all of the intros and sponsor messages, fast forward to 3mins. blockchain crypto VC & Technology

Scaling In Lower Cost Locations

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

This is a topic I’ve written about a bunch over the years. I feel like it is becoming more urgent every day. Last week I heard some shocking numbers about salary levels for certain kinds of engineers in the bay area. I checked them out with a few of our bay area portfolio companies and they were more or less corroborated.

Video Of The Week: A Reminder

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

As the US government thinks about regulating big tech and constraining crypto-currencies, I think a reminder about the value of open markets and freedom to innovate is important. policy

Hair On A Deal

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

In a perfect world, everything about a potential investment will be confidence inducing. The team will be great and reference well. The market will be huge. The technology will be well developed. The price and terms will be attractive. But the world is not perfect. There will always be things about a potential investment that create heartburn.

Hard Decisions

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Every startup journey involves making some really hard decisions. Yesterday our portfolio company Kik announced they are shutting down the Kik messenger and parting ways with all but nineteen of their team. The Kik team has spent almost a decade working on the Kik messenger. Although Kik’s popularity has waned in the face of iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc, etc, it still has 10mm monthly users and almost 5mm daily users.

Butter

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I once asked a famous celebrity chef how he made his pasta taste so good. He answered “Butter. Lots of it.” ” When we land in Paris, jet lagged and cranky, we head right to our favorite street cafe and order strong coffee, baguettes and butter. And our systems are restored. Butter is one of my life’s treasures. I love it. Butter is also something we look for in the products and services we invest in at USV.

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Hypothetical Value To Real Value

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I remember when my son came home one day in high school and told me he wanted to “day trade” along with some friends who were doing it. We opened a TD Ameritrade account and staked him with a small amount of money, enough to trade but not enough that if he lost it all it would be an issue. And off he went. A few weeks later he asked me “Dad, what is a PE ratio?”

Breaking Up Big Tech

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

With the news that two-thirds of Americans favor breaking up big tech combined with the news that Liz Warren (the biggest advocate of idea) has broken out of the pack in Iowa , I thought I would return to this topic. I wrote about this back when Liz first put the idea forward. I am in favor of reigning in the monopoly/duopoly/oligopoly power of the large American tech companies. I am also in favor of reigning in the power of large tech companies that are not resident in the US.

Fractionalizing Home Equity

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

USV recently invested in a company called Patch Homes and they are announcing that financing today along with some other important information on their business. You can read about the financing here and USV’s investment blog post here (we do one of these for every new investment).

Self Confidence

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

A friend of mine told me a story this morning about a time that he said he had the money when he did not and then he went out and found it. It reminds me of Mark McCormack’s What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School where he tells story after story of signing big deals that he had no ability to pay for and then going out and funding them. Mark and my friend both knew they could get the money even though they did not actually have it.

Unsafe Notes

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I was reminded yesterday how much of a s**t show raising seed capital via SAFE notes is. I can’t and won’t get into why I was reminded of that, but let’s just say nobody wants to go there. So I thought I’d repost the important parts of a post I wrote on this topic a couple years ago. I have never been a fan of convertible notes. USV has done quite a few convertible and SAFE notes.

Abridge

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

We seed funded a company late last year called Abridge and the company went public yesterday with their iOS and Android apps. Naomi wrote about the investment on the USV blog.

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Tumblr

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

The news hit yesterday that WordPress has purchased Tumblr from Verizon (which owns it by virtue of its acquisition of Yahoo! and AOL). USV seeded Tumblr along with our friends at Spark in the summer of 2007 and were actively involved in the development of the company until its sale to Yahoo! in 2013. I maintained an active Tumblog from before we invested in 2007 until October 2016, when I stopped posting there. There was no moment when I decided to stop posting there. I just did.

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That’s Not Fair

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I saw some news this morning and immediately thought “that is not fair.” ” And then I reminded myself that life is not fair. Of course we all wish that life would be fair. It should be fair. But it just isn’t and if you go through life wanting it to be fair, you are just setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment. All of that said, I have found life to be more fair over the long run. Things tend to even out over longer time frames.

The Heretic

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I am reading a friend’s book which is still in proofs and so I’m not going to talk about it yet. But there is one part of the book that really rang true for me and that is when he talks about certain kinds of problematic employees, particularly one he calls The Heretic. This kind of employee, and we have all seen this up close, is negative about the Company and disses the management, coworkers, the board, the strategy, the workplace, and everything else under the sun.

Preventative Medicine

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

When I was a young associate in a VC firm in my mid 20s, one of the partners told me I should get an annual physical every year and if I did it in the fall, I should get a flu shot while I was having my physical. I have done that every year since and this afternoon I will spend an hour with my doctor getting poked and prodded and a needle in my upper arm with whatever mixture of flu vaccine they are giving out this year.

Certainty Of Close

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

On Friday, I had two separate conversations with founders about fundraising strategies. Both had an easier path that would likely get them to a closing quickly but might cost them some economics and a harder/longer path that would allow them to maximize economics. I gave them both the same advice which is that certainty of close is super important, particularly early on in a venture when you see an opportunity and want to capture it before someone else does.

Seven to Ten Years

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

I have worked in three venture capital firms over the last thirty-three years and am intimately familiar with the performance of the fifteen (ish) venture funds raised and invested by these three firms. Much of what I have written about fund management and investment performance here at AVC over the last sixteen years comes from my observations of these funds and firms.

Risk Tolerance

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Startup companies go through a number of phases as they mature from an idea, to a small team, to a growing team, to a small company, to a big company. And along this journey, the leadership team you need changes.

Turning A Loss Into A Win

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

One of the traits of successful founders is their ability to turn a loss into a win. You take a lot of losses as a founder, particularly in the early days. Investors pass on your funding pitches, people pass on your job offers, customers pass on your sales efforts, competitors take your customers and your employees, you get sued, you miss critical ship dates, morale tanks, and on and on and on. But inside of each of those losing moments is the opportunity to turn it into a win.

The American Dream

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

It has been 243 years since our founding fathers signed the Declaration Of Independence and the great American experiment began. These words form the moral backbone of our country and represent our core values: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We have not always lived up to these values.

Secrets Of Sand Hill Road

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

One of the many great things about vacations is reading books. Vacation is the one time that I can really prioritize reading books (as opposed to everything else I read). I just finished Scott Kupor ‘s Secrets Of Sand Hill Road , a book for entrepreneurs about rasing capital from venture firms. Scott makes the point numerous times in the book that the capital raising process is asymmetric for entrepreneurs in that they do it a few times in their career and VCs do it every day.

DefendCrypto.org

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

Over the last year, the SEC has been investigating a significant number of token offerings that took place in 2017. While some of those offerings were scams or worse , many of the ones that are being investigated by the SEC are serious projects, started by some of the top cryptographers and computer scientists in the world, and backed by the leading token funds and venture capital firms in the US and around the world.

Oculus Quest

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

If there is a technology that has overpromised and underdelivered more than AR/VR over the last five years, I am not sure what it is. Facebook paid $2bn (or possibly more) for Oculus in the spring of 2014 and maybe a couple million Oculus headsets have been sold since then. And Facebook is reportedly continuing to spend billions more on Oculus. So when is all of this investment going to pay off? Maybe sooner than people think.

Open Up Vs Break Up

A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC

There have been many calls to break up the large Internet monopolies; Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. Breaking up a large monopoly feels like a very 19th/20th century move to me. I would prefer that politicians and policy makers think about opening up as the better intervention. A good way to explain this is to go back to the architecture that Twitter used in its early days when there were many third-party Twitter clients.