Funding Friday: Half-Light

Earlier this week, I backed this project from an artist in Iran. The project is now over. It was funded with almost $10,000. So her photography book will be made and shared with the world. It is too bad that I didn’t share this with all of you while the project was live so you could back it as I did. But this project exhibits all of the things that makes Kickstarter so important to me. It is from the heart, it is art, it is full of meaning, it is from a person halfway around the world that I don’t know and probably will never know. And it moved me.


Albert Wenger — September 20, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Fear and Acceptance

Pixelbook Reactions

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I was getting more interested in a Chromebook. And I got a ton of great feedback from all of you. Thank you for that. I purchased a Pixelbook and have been using it at the USV office for the last few weeks. Here are my initial thoughts on it: 1/ I quite like the lack of a desktop OS in the computer. The Pixelbook boots right into the browser and you do everything there. That is great for me and the way I work. 2/ The keyboard took me a bit of getting used to. I am used to the keyboard shortcuts on the Mac and it’s hard to switch away from them. 3/ I still use a Mac at home so it is a bit strange going from one computer to another and back during the day. But it is not terrible.
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How Diversity Happens

Henry Ward, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Carta, wrote a post yesterday outlining the gender inequity on cap tables throughout the startup landscape. It is a good post and I would recommend you click through and read it. In it, Henry writes:

When I started Carta I didn’t focus on diversity because I was worrying about staying alive. Then we hit our growth phase and went from 20 employees to 400 in 48 months. I assumed diversity would happen on its own. Of course it didn’t. I didn’t realize how much deliberate focus it takes. I do now.

That is a pretty typical story. A few years at our annual CEO summit, Scott Heiferman, founder and CEO of Meetup, told a room full of startup CEOs that you have to build diversity into your company from day one because if you don’t, it becomes
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Cloudflare’s IPFS Gateway

This post is jam-packed with conflicts. It is about not one, but two, of USV’s portfolio companies. The more the better in my view. Our portfolio company Cloudflare announced yesterday that they have launched an IPFS Gateway. IPFS is an open protocol built and supported by our portfolio company Protocol Labs that facilitates a peer-to-peer file system composed of thousands of computers around the world, each of which stores files on behalf of the network. So why is this a big deal? Well, here are a few reasons. You can all add more in the comments. 1/ Cloudflare is a massively scaled infrastructure company. By offering a hosted IPFS gateway, none of us need to download and run IPFS software on our computers anymore. Cloudflare will do it for us. 2/ IPFS is awesome. It decentralizes file hosting, which has historically been a centralized affair on the internet. The Cloudflare
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Creative Prompts

The Gotham Gal and I listened to the recent Howard Stern interview of Paul McCartney yesterday on a drive from long island to NYC. It’s a great interview, about 1 1/2 hours long, with incredible stories and lots of music. Howard picks out songs, plays them, and Paul talks about how each one came about. If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, you can listen on the web or SiriusXM mobile app. I highly recommend it. Near the end (1 hour 17 mins into the interview), Paul tells a story about being challenged by Dustin Hoffman at a dinner party to write a song “about anything.” Paul accepts the challenge and so Dustin and the other guests decide Pablo Picasso’s last words should be the thing to write a song about. Those words, as Picasso was heading to bed, were “drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t
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Marathon Man

The New York Times has a piece up on Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s best marathon runner. I read it with interest yesterday as I like to think of startups as marathons and I am always on the lookout for ideas and insights that can help entrepreneurs and investors. Eliud is an impressive person and, as you might expect, he is extremely disciplined. He says in the piece:
Only the disciplined ones in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.
That rings so true to me. It is true in investing, where I like to have a framework and stick to it and not let my emotions get in the way. But it is also true in building companies. Being focused on the long game and what you want to achieve is the best way to get there. I see
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Video Of The Week: Brian Armstrong at Disrupt

There is a narrative in crypto land that you are either in the “crypto is money” camp or the “crypto is tech” camp. This blog post from Erik Torenberg sums that up pretty nicely. The interview below is from TechCrunch Disrupt a week or so ago. Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, was interviewed by Fitz Tepper. There are a couple points in this interview where Brian is presented with a version of that narrative. For example Fitz asked Brian “are you a tech company or a finance company.” I like how Brian acknowledges that framework but ultimately concludes that the answer is neither, that Coinbase is a crypto company and that crypto is both tech and money. I am of that view as well and I am glad to see leaders in the crypto sector articulating it.


Today is primary day in New York State. The polls open at 6am and stay open until 9pm. There are primary races for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General as well as a bunch of statewide races for State Senate and State Assembly. In NYC, and to a lesser extent in New York State, the primary can be the election as the city and state lean left. So I encourage everyone in New York State to go out to the polls and vote today. It all comes down to voting in a democracy. Marching feels great. Tweeting feels great. Polls make the news. But voting is the political action that really counts unless you can give gobs of money to candidates which most voters cannot and don’t do. I plan to get to my polling place early on the way to an early start to the workday. I always feel great
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The Unbundling Of Health Care

Naomi Shah, one of our analysts at USV, has been doing a deep dive on health care since she joined us this past spring. She has started to publish a series of blog posts on what she has learned and what she thinks is investable at the intersection of healthcare and consumer tech. Kind of like putting our playbook on display before we have even implemented it. But that is how we roll at USV. At least this way, we get feedback and input on these sector theses which ultimately make them even better. And we get a lot of incoming pitches from entrepreneurs working in our target areas as a result of making our playbooks public. She starts off her series with a post on the unbundling of health care and compares it to what has happened in financial services. Naomi ends this post with this observation:
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Remembering 9/11

On Sunday morning, I rode my bike by the memorial in lower Manhattan where the twin towers used to stand. They have done a wonderful job rebuilding that area and the memorial itself is inspiring in just the right way, somber and reflective and serious. Seventeen years is a long time. Children, like ours, who were just old enough to know what happened and why, are now adults, living their own lives, going to work every morning. Life moves on, the wounds heal. But the scars are still there, in our hearts, our minds, and on the ground where it happened. I am taking some time today to remember that day and the people we lost. This post is part of that.


Albert Wenger — September 10, 2018
World After Capital: The Promise and Peril of the Digital Knowledge Loop


My friend Steven Johnson has a new book out called Farsighted. After attending a book talk he did on Thursday night, I put it on my Kindle and started reading it last night. The book is about decision making, specifically “life-altering decisions” with long-term consequences. In classic Steven fashion, he combines a detailed look at academic research and science on the topic with stories and real-world examples. For example, he kicks off the book with the decision NYC made to fill the Collect Pond in 1811, which ultimately led to the creation of one of the most famous ghettos, the Five Points neighborhood. We all make big and important decisions in our lives and in our business. So this is a topic that should be relevant to everyone. I am already enjoying reading it and I suspect you all will too.

Reinventing Education

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has announced that he plans to retire at age 54 and turn his attention back to education. He started his career as an English teacher. It seems, from reading the piece I linked to and a few other news reports, that Jack Ma is inspired by what Bill and Melinda Gates have done. So am I. Bill Gates attended AFSE, a school that the Gotham Gal and I helped to start something like seven years ago, this spring and he wrote this recently about that experience. Many have criticized the work that the Gates Foundation has done in education over the years. But my view is different. Bill and Melinda are investing, learning, evolving, and adapting their efforts. Just like we all do in life. Bill’s visit to AFSE showed him something he liked. He was inspired by it, wrote about it, and I suspect it
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Video Of The Week: Elon Musk on Joe Rogan Experience

I have never been as obsessed with Elon Musk as many are in the tech sector. We own two Tesla cars. We pre-ordered Tesla’s solar roof tiles several years ago but have not yet received delivery of them. I appreciate his ingenuity and creativity and we like the Tesla products we own. We are not and have never been shareholders of Tesla or SpaceX. With all of that disclosure, I want to share the video of Elon’s appearance on Joe Rogan Experience as the video of this week. Much has been made of Elon’s decision to take a puff on a tobacco/weed joint on the show. I don’t make too much of that. I’ve been around people smoking pot since I was a teenager and I think it is a lot like alcohol. I believe it is fine if it is done responsibly and appropriately and I am pleased that
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Feature Friday: Android Smart Notifications

With the new version of Android comes intelligence around mobile notifications. If you tend to swipe away notifications from a particular app, Android eventually asks you this: I told Android to keep showing these project updates to me even though I tend to swipe them. I like to see these but don’t often click on them. I would say that most of the time, I select “Keep Showing” but some of the time I do choose “Stop Notifications.” I love the idea of a smart operating system that learns how you want to use it and adapts to that versus forcing you to do the configuration manually and that is where Google is clearly going with Android. You can really see it in the latest version of the OS.


Albert Wenger — September 5, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: A New Tack

Investment Risk Tolerance By Gender

Our portfolio company Stash, which offers a super simple mobile investing app and has roughly 2.5mm users, did some analysis on male and female users to see if there was a material difference in risk tolerance between men and women on their service. The conventional wisdom is that men are risk takers and women are more conservative. Stash found that there really isn’t much difference between male and female users of their service when it comes to risk tolerance. And they found that women are more tolerant of the highs and lows that come with being an investor. Check out the data here.


Albert Wenger — September 5, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: A New Tack

Retaining vs Deleting Emails

Conventional wisdom is that deleting old emails regularly is the best way to avoid issues down the road. My experience has been different. I’ve been involved in a few legal matters over the years where email discovery has been done. Going back and re-reading emails you sent years ago is a pretty enlightening experience. What I have found is if you have the right intentions and act reasonably and responsibly, old emails often show that to everyone and can be valuable. Being able to go back over old emails is also a great way to jog a foggy memory. So while I understand the challenges with having a lot of written and discoverable emails “on file”, I would argue they they often can be quite valuable.


Nick Grossman — September 4, 2018
Form factor Albert Wenger — September 3, 2018
Labor Day: AI & Labor

Back To School

Growing up, I always enjoyed the up and down patterns of work and play. Back to school in the fall, a solid winter break, back to school for winter and spring, and then a long summer break. Just as you were getting burnt out on school, a break would come along. By the end of the summer, you were ready to go back to school and there was an excitement about it. That doesn’t exist so much in the adult work environment unless you live in parts of the world where a long summer break is part of the picture. As The Gotham Gal and I have moved beyond our child-rearing years, and found a way to work from wherever we are, we are recreating that childhood rhythm for ourselves. We are wrapping up our summer today and heading back to the fall season in NYC. It’s a bit like that
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Human Capital

Today is Labor Day in the US. It is a day to celebrate labor, the union movement, and the role of the worker in our economy and our society. I have always struggled with the idea that labor and capital are intrinsically opposed to each other. It is obvious that workers have been taken advantage of by employers since the dawn of an industrialized society and possibly/probably for much longer than that. But does it have to be that way? In the tech sector, we typically issue between 15% and 25% of the company’s stock to the employees and we keep granting this equity as the company grows and expands. And it is also the case that the tech sector is largely a non-unionized industry. There are large portions of a tech company’s workforce that are in short supply, most notably software engineers and other technical positions where demand outstrips
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