The Anchor Tenant

Malls need anchor tenants. These are the stores that bring the folks to the mall so that they can discover all of the other amazing places to shop that sit between the big tenants. Cities need the same. Particularly cities that are trying to develop new industries. NYC’s tech sector has had an anchor tenant since the early 2000s in Google. I wrote a bit about this a few years ago and cited my partner Albert’s line that 111 8th Avenue (Google’s NYC HQ) is the “gift that Google gave NYC.” Big anchor tenants to a tech ecosystem provide all sorts of benefits but the biggest impacts are that they are both talent magnets (they attract people to relocate to the region) and talent sources (you can recruit from them). Rumor has it that NYC is going to get a second anchor tenant as Long Island City is apparently
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TYWLS Digital Dance

I blogged about this in the spring of 2017 but I am back with more. TYWLS stands for The Young Women’s Leadership School, which is located in Astoria Queens in NYC. A few years ago the students decided to show off their computer science coding skills by making a “digital dance.” I posted the first one they did at the link above. I just saw a video about their most recent digital dance and I just had to post it here. I love this digital dance thing so much. It shows that coding skills can be used creatively. It shows that young women, particularly young women of color, can be coders and be proud of it. And it shows that technology is everywhere. I have met some of these young women and they are impressive and I can’t wait to see what they are going to do when they
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If You Do Just One Thing Today, Vote

Today is Election Day. Polls are open in every state in the US. It is time to stop the incessant back and forth, and do the one thing that counts – voting. There is very little on my ballot here in NYC that matters much to me. The races are not close. The ballot referendums are not on issues that matter a ton to me.  It would be easy for me to blow off voting today. But I am not going to do that. I plan to go to my polling place, stand in line for however long it takes, and fill out the ballot and submit my choices and be counted. I hope everyone who reads this blog that lives in the US and is a citizen will do that today unless they have already done it via early voting. I feel that voting is not only our
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Pixel 3 XL

I spent a fair bit of time this weekend moving phones from the Pixel 2, which I have loved using, to the Pixel 3 XL. It is drop dead simple to port over all of my accounts, data, and apps from one Pixel to another. Google has made that as easy as moving from one iPhone to another. You just connect both phones with the cable that comes in the Pixel 3 box and in about ten minutes the new phone has everything that was on the old phone. But getting all of my security set up on a new phone (2FA, passwords, etc) and then logging into all of my apps (because I don’t like to log in with Google or Facebook or anyone else) is a massive pain.  But at least I feel more secure. After using the Pixel 3 XL for the last couple days, I
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Funding Friday: Misen Non Stick Pan

Earlier this week, I talked about the D2C consumer products sector and how it has exploded over the last decade. Another contributor to that explosion are crowdfunding services like our portfolio company Kickstarter that allow entrepreneurs to launch their products and quickly get feedback and funding for them. The Gotham Gal has made a number of these D2C investments and one of my favorite of hers is Misen, a D2C manufacturer of cooking products. They launch their products on Kickstarter and then take them to market direct to consumer over the Internet, thereby taking out the cost of the retail channel which allows them to sell high end products at mid-level prices. They have a product launch on Kickstarter right now called the Misen Non-Stick Pan. I backed it earlier this week and the project funding ends this weekend.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — November 1, 2018
Uncertainty
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Dapper

Back in March of this year, I wrote a post on the USV blog announcing our investment in Cryptokitties.  A lot has happened since then. The company that made Cryptokitties is now called Dapper and it has raised a couple rounds of financing which will allow it to do a number of things:
  • Continue to invest in Cryptokitties, which remains a vibrant game experience and is the world’s most used consumer blockchain application outside of exchanges, with 3.2-million transactions and tens of millions of dollars transacted on the platform
  • Work with the world’s top entertainment brands to bring compelling brands, communities, and intellectual property to the blockchain. This means more game experiences, often in partnership with existing brands and game developers.
  • Build out the infrastructure to make blockchain games, including cryptogoods (ie NFTs), accessible to a mainstream audience.
It has been exciting to watch a small team that built Cryptokitties at
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D2CX

One of the big trends in startup land over the last decade is consumer brands getting built direct to consumer (D2C) on highly efficient advertising channels like Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. In these online channels, brands can test, measure, test, measure, test, measure, and then figure out what works and scale. But these channels are getting more challenging as they have been optimized and scaled by thousands of brands over the last decade and the marketers in D2C land are increasingly looking around to see if there is anywhere else they can go. Enter our portfolio company Simulmedia, which we invested in almost ten years ago to bring the transparency and efficiency of online advertising to television. Simulmedia has launched an offering for these D2C companies to help them add television to their marketing mix. Television is hard for small companies. The initial buys are large and
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Vertical Accelerators In NYC

The Partnership For New York City operates some excellent “vertical” accelerators for companies that are getting started and are focused on serving industries with big footprints here in NYC. Financial Services – FinTech Innovation Lab Health Care – Digital Health Innovation Lab Fashion – Fashion Tech Lab Biotech – The BioAccelerate Prize Transit – Transit Tech Lab Both the Transit Tech Lab and the FinTech Innovation Lab are accepting applications right now for their next programs. You can apply here: Fintech Innovation Lab Transit Tech Lab


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 29, 2018
Thanks for sharing your story, too! Albert Wenger — October 29, 2018
Voting in the Midterms:  Rebuking Trump’s Tribalism and Hate Nick Grossman — October 29, 2018
Suffering, Self, and Service

Funding Friday: Cryptopia

Four years ago, filmmaker Torsten Hoffmann raised $AUS 17,000 on Kickstarter to make a documentary about Bitcoin called The End Of Money As We Know It. The film was released in July 2015 and I watched it and thought it was very good. Torsten is back with a follow-up film project called Cryptopia and I backed it today. 


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 25, 2018
Going off script andy@usv.com — October 25, 2018
Scroll Bethany Crystal — October 24, 2018
Introducing the USV Talent Network

Motion Photos

Motion Photos is a feature available on Google’s Pixel Phones. It captures a bit of video as you are taking a photo. I’ve always wondered how to share those photos with the motion in them, which you can’t do when you send them as jpeg files. It turns out you can export them from your phone as gif files. For some reason, the Google Photos app on the web, which does allow you to see the Motion Photos on the web, does not support the export to gif feature. So this is how you do it: To convert your motion photo into a video or GIF, follow these steps: Step 1: Open the Google Photos app on your device. Step 2: Open the motion photo that you want to share. Then tap the three-dot icon at the top-right corner. From the menu, select Export.
Google Photos Motion Pictures 4
Google Photos Motion Pictures 5
Step 3: You will get
Google Photos Motion Pictures 6
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When Software Just Gets Smarter

The last time we were in Japan, six years ago, using Google Maps was pretty frustrating. We didn’t understand the Japanese language and addresses made no sense to us. We got lost multiple times a day and often had to find a person on the street who spoke english to help us out. It is a pretty stark difference this trip. Google Maps seems to understand much of what it did not the last time around. The directions are great and we have yet to get lost. Last night, I directed a cab driver in Kyoto who did not speak english using Google Maps on my phone and pointing right or left or straight each time we got to an intersection. We got to dinner on time and everyone, including our cab driver, was relieved. I think this is a great example of the power of machine learning and other
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Bluetooth Everywhere

We checked into a hotel today and next to the desk in our room was a block of USB ports to charge our phones with and a Bluetooth button. I pushed the button and my phone paired with the room. Now I can play music on the sound system in the room with my phone.  There is nothing special about that really. We all do the same thing with our cars and headphones regularly now. But when it works as seamlessly as it did for me today, that is nice. The truth is that Bluetooth is everywhere these days. And the pairing thing, which used to be such a hassle, seems to get easier and easier every day. As I’ve written before, the power of non-proprietary protocols like Bluetooth is pretty impressive to see in action. The more they get adopted, the more they get used, and the
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Retail Space Available

A friend of mine told me last weekend that he thinks the two biggest issues in NYC right now are the rise of homelessness and the proliferation of vacant retail spaces. One is about not having a space to live and the other is about a glut of vacant space. Interesting dichotomy. I was walking home from the gym this morning and passed this sign on a vibrant shopping street in our neighborhood. It got me thinking about what this glut of vacant real estate is all about. Is it the result of so much commerce moving online that retailers can’t make a profit selling out of a store anymore? Is it the result of rents being too high and when landlords bring them down, we will see the spaces fill up again? Is it a combination of both? And can technology help address this problem? We are seeing an
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Audio Of The Week: Rebecca Kaden on Twenty Minute VC

My partner Rebecca Kaden was on the Twenty Minute VC podcast last week. Once you get past the 3:20 mins of audio ad readouts (I advise to fast forward through them), she talks about areas in e-commerce that are possibly outside of the Amazon kill zone, the opportunities to build new trusted brands in healthcare, education, and financial services, and why small early-stage venture capital firms are the best firms to work at.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Bethany Crystal — October 5, 2018
What makes us similar Albert Wenger — October 5, 2018
Interoperability and Competition (for Scooters, Bikes, etc) Bethany Crystal — October 4, 2018
Religion and politics

Consumer Learning

I listened to this IBM podcast with Matt Glotzbach, CEO of our portfolio company Quizlet, this morning. Matt explains that edtech, a long-standing term for the market for software and technology sold to the education market, is fundamentally different from the newer and exciting market for consumer learning. We agree with Matt and our approach to investing in education, a core part of our thesis 3.0, is about delivering learning tools directly to the student and bypassing the traditional education system. That does not mean that consumer learning is in opposition to the traditional education system, though. We see students and teachers adopting tools like Quizlet, Duolingo, Codecademy and many others to improve learning outcomes in the classroom and at home. But consumer learning starts with the learner and is focused on serving them as the customer, not institutions, districts, schools or other “enterprises.” I think
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Selling

I like to think of the investing discipline as composed of three key modes of operation. Buying – Figuring out what you should buy and what you should not buy. There are many strategies that work here but my favorite is buying things that others are not buying. And my preferred reason for “others not buying” is that they don’t know about it yet. Managing – This is the work an investor does to manage the investment. It includes decisions around whether to buy more of an investment that is working, which is incredibly important and can massively impact returns. But I believe that the most powerful thing an investor can do to impact their investment is to work with the management of the investment to make sure that the team is making the right strategic and operational decisions. Selling – This is all about when to exit an investment
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Priorities and Triage

When my life gets crazy, which it is right now, it helps me to internalize what is most important and triage around that. And I’m not just talking about what tasks to do and what not to do. I’m also talking about prioritizing friends and family, exercise, eating right, communicating, and all the things that at one time or another in my life I have let slide in favor of work. The triage is visible to people, of course, and saying no can be challenging. I saw some friends last night and they invited me to a thing they are doing in a couple weeks. They said “would you like to come?” I said “No”. My friend said, “do you mean you can’t?” And I said “I just mean I won’t.” He got a chuckle out of it but when I’m in triage mode, I can be
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Writing On My Phone

We write on our phones all day long. Texts, emails, searches, etc. But long form writing is a different thing. I’m not sure how much long form writing happens on phones. I’ve been mostly writing my daily posts on my phone in the last month and I quite like it. I am writing this post on my phone on a train to NYC this morning. It has a more casual feel. The words flow naturally from my head to my thumbs to the screen. I feel connected to the writing in a way that doesn’t quite happen on a big screen. I like that I can write on my phone anywhere. On a park bench. On a train. Sitting on the beach. Being able to write anywhere makes it less of a chore and more of a treat. Like having a moleskin with you all the time. I don’t write
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