The term “fiscal conservatives” is back with a vengeance.
The phrase is often delivered by the Republican party although many “centrist” Democrats sing the song as well and know the lyrics by heart.
Here’s Mayor Bloomberg’s definition of the label (via wikipedia):
To me, fiscal conservatism means balancing budgets - not running deficits that the next generation can’t afford. It means improving the efficiency of delivering services by finding innovative ways to do more with less. It means cutting taxes when possible and prudent to do so, raising them overall only when necessary to balance the budget, and only in combination with spending cuts. It means when you run a surplus, you save it; you don’t squander it
The idea is noble - don’t spend more than we make and save any surplus for a rainy day.
That’s how I was taught to deal with my personal finances. The government should do the same, right?
But I’ve got a big beef with the term “fiscal conservatives”.
It’s ambiguous at best and misleading at worst. It sounds objective but its not.
What conservatives will tell you is that we have to cut government programs, reduce benefits (for those in our society that need it the most) and reduce the deficit.
At the same time they want to cut taxes and cut capital gains (keep in mind the poorest in our country don’t pay any capital gains tax). In essence we should spend less and decrease revenue at the same time. That’s pretty hard when you are in debt. That’s like a person with huge credit card bills and then gets their salary cut or a company with debt and then makes less revenue. Just spending less is better, we dont’ have to cut taxes as well. (i’m okay cutting taxes when we have a big honking surplus).
Anyway, the noble point is not the bad part. There is a ton of waste in this country and we need to fix that.
The bad part is when each “special interest” decides what is mandatory and what isn’t mandatory. When they try to define what we need.
There are many ways to balance the budget. I may choose to emphasize education, domestic infrastructure and healthcare. Others may emphasize military spending.
So, we hear things like “we can’t pay support healthcare for our poor because we don’t have the money”
But where is the money going? It’s going to a lot of places that are open for debate. Like wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When you do your personal budget you consider all of your annual expenses at once. You decide what is mandatory and what is optional and then you prioritize. The same is true for a startup or any company really.
But that’s not how our choices are presented. Washington DC decides what is mandatory and then they tell us they can’t afford things that most of us want.
This is backwards.
I don’t believe the label “fiscal conservatives” is objective.
It’s subjective because there are many ways to balance the budget. It all comes down to a philosophical difference of opinion about what’s most important for our country and our people.
And that’s my beef.
(thanks to my friends nabeel, dave and mo for reading this in advance.)
So, I made plans to go to lunch with Fred. And then the day before, the morning of, Fred cancelled on me. And it was the reason that he cancelled that made me realize that he was the partner for me.
He cancelled because he had forgotten it was his daughter’s graduation from kindergarten. His daughter, by the way, is now at Wesleyan. And what moved me was, this is a guy whose values are in the same place as me. He was going to cancel a business lunch with a potential partner so that he could go to his daughter’s kindergarten graduation, and that’s the moment when I knew he was my partner.
“Then the iPad announcement confirmed what has already been obvious since the Kindle and iPhone. Our consumption of content is changing dramatically as the medium through which we consume it changes. It doesn’t actually matter if the iPad wins, or the Nook wins, or something from a startup wins. Something different from a laptop will be in the backpacks of millions of kids soon that will be infinitely better suited for delivering an educational experience to students. And that experience will be incredibly deep and broad, social, interactive, and dynamic.”—An Industry Reborn - robgo.org
Earlier this month, I posted my wish list for this device. I got a few things but we didn’t get wireless sync or hdmi output. And it doesn’t have a built in camera. I guess that will come in v2.
But I’m getting one.
The user interface is a huge step up from the iPhone and looks amazing on the 10” screen. I’m guessing much of that touch UI will come to future macbooks and that will be huge.
I can type pretty fast on my iPhone so it’s a safe bet that I’ll be able to type faster on the iPad.
The device looks stunning. Apple claims a 10hr battery life. And it’s unlocked, no carrier contract or subsidy. Yes!
I can’t wait to use it with Twitter, Tumblr and Google Voice.
I’m always showing off pictures and videos of my kids on my iPhone. Now my friends will really have to suffer with even better slideshows :)
I don’t think the iPad can sync with the iPhone? These things need to sync with the cloud and not with each other.
It’s very cool that iPhone apps will work on the iPad. Brilliant actually. But the browser is going to ultimately win out (thx to multitouch, HTML5 and AppCache) and Safari on the iPad/iPhone/iTouch is the best mobile browser on the planet right now. That is the killer app.
Instead of the slogan “there’s an app for that”, I hope we get back to “there’s a URL for that”.
“Back to the nuts and bolts of the new Google Voice web app though — it shows the coming promise of HTML5 I’ve been waiting for. Using the AppCache feature means that users can still interact with the app, even without a web connection. Local database storage for web apps is going to play a big part in HTML5 apps — it has the potential to negate the “but you need a connection” argument that has plagued web-based apps for years. With that limitation all but gone, one has to wonder if anyone can block Google Voice from millions of iPhones now? I doubt it. And more importantly, will developers embrace HTML5 as an alternative to application stores that take a cut of their efforts? Looks like phase two of the app wars is just getting started.”—
I get asked all the time, how can i find a great advisor/mentor/angel for my startup? My friend Fred Wilson wrote a great post the other day about role models. I encourage you all to read it.
I’m a big believer in mentorship driven programs and have put my money where my mouth is as an investor in Techstars and YC companies.
It was nice to see so many local mentors come out and support a new-ish program like TechStars Cambridge. By last count, I think we have over 60 great mentors willing to lend a helping hand, share experiences, make connections, provide candid feedback and if nothing else become a friend to the founder.
We had a number of other folks that wanted to become mentors but at some point the team running the program at techstars had to stop taking mentors on because each year, Techstars only backs about 10 startups per year per city (boulder, seattle, cambridge).
But the fact that many others would like to mentor young startups shouldn’t go unnoticed. Plus Techstar [+ City] only lasts a few months each year. And not every startup gets accepted into these programs (less than 10% of the applicants).
How do we bottle up those mentors (as well the others) that want to mentor and match them with young founders on an ongoing basis?
Running ongoing events is one way to do this. But events (to date) haven’t been nearly as effective as mentorship programs like techstars, YC or seedcamp. Maybe a service like Kickstarter could add a way for mentors to donate “time” as well as money (both are extremely valuable).
Or maybe a new non-profit web site could emerge to match mentors with founders in a given city.
If you are interested in this topic then please let me know. Let’s make it happen.
I’ve been playing around with Google Voice for some time now.
It’s not perfect by any means and it certainly isn’t perfect on my iPhone (which I had to jailbreak to support GV Mobile)
But it’s good enough for my needs and as a result I changed my number yesterday.
The next step was to communicate my new number to my family, friends and business associates. So, I went through my entire address book, selected each person that should have my new number and added them to the bcc line. Then, I sent out an email with my new number. This was painful on my end. Even worse, i’m sure it wasn’t a great experience for the folks on the receiving end of that email broadcast.
First, there is a reasonable chance that my email ended up in their junk folder because they are on the bcc line in a mass mailing. And if it shows up in their inbox it’s just yet another email in that sea of noise. Finally, it then requires the recipient to copy that number into their address book manually.
(I did make the change to my facebook profile but I keep my friend list quite small on that service).
There has to be a better way.
I vented my frustration yesterday and my friend Rich Miner (cofounder of Wildfire & Android) replied:
@bijan phone numbers should be as necessary for day2day comms as IP addresses. lets work on that.
Rich is so right. I like thinking about phone numbers as IP addresses which are in the background. Others can reach me on my computer in various ways without knowing my IP address. My Mac can communicate on any network and gets a new IP address to do that. My Mac doesn’t care, apps don’t care and neither do I.
Phone numbers don’t work like that. They are limited to one device and one network and just two apps (voice & txt). And apps have to explicitly know the phone number or they don’t work.
Getting rid of phone numbers means that we can just connect with someone by a unique ID. And that ID should be able to float on top of various networks, applications & services and protocols.
Google Voice is clearly working on this and they are off to an interesting start. But it’s still tied to a phone number at the end of the day. It will be fun to watch what comes next.
It’s always fun watching startups taking on big companies. It’s particularly true in the music industry.
The labels have banded together with YouTube and created Vevo. In a short period of time, Vevo has attracted a huge US audience (thanks to YouTube) but I don’t sense any community powering the service. Since their launch I haven’t found myself clicking over. Same thing with other music services powered by large companies. I just don’t use them.
Instead I use music services built by startups.
-We Are Hunted is a wonderful service. They tune into blogs, twitter, message boards, p2p networks and facebook and pick 99 top emerging songs. The user interface is a delight. There is also a Boxee app as well which I love.
-TheSixtyOne is stunning. You have to try it to believe how good it is. They changed their user interface and dropped a few things that I hope they add back (e.g. embeds). But overall i love the new UI and this service.
“It is app store mania continuing its mad rush, and I for one don’t get why we are so ready to jump back into the days of developing with different libraries, toolkits, and operating systems like we did in the pre-web days.”— Why I don’t want apps on my Kindle (or toilet) - Antonio Rodriguez
Next week Peter Gabriel is releasing an album called “Scratch My Back”. This song (original by Arcade Fire) and the entire record are covers of his favorite songs. The bands he covers will also record their favorite Peter Gabriel tunes too. How cool is that.
Yesterday, Amazon made two announcements with regards to the Kindle.
First, they are going to open up the Kindle to 3rd party developers and a SDK is now available. It will be interesting to what apps come from this effort. My guess is that it wont be a meaningful number but it will make the Kindle a two way device at least.
The second thing is a new revenue share with authors. I like Albert’s post about the lack of creativity when it comes to their pricing model for books & content.
On the other hand, Amazon was incredibly innovative with the pricing of cellular bandwidth to the Kindle. Every device I own that has a 3g network attached (blackberry, iphone, MiFi) comes along with a unique monthly subscription service & contract. So for these three devices, I pay >$100/month just for data. That doesn’t scale because i want dozens of my devices to have a connection to the 3g network.
The Kindle on the other hand doesn’t have a monthly bandwidth service fee or contract. In fact, the user don’t even think about how content shows up on the device. It just works.
It’s pretty clear that Amazon was able to get this type of arrangement from Sprint & ATT because they are wholesaling data minutes and making some minimum guarantees themsleves to the carriers. And I bet that deal didn’t happen overnight. But they made it happen and I’d like to see that model work at scale vs just a one-off.
It should work for the smallest startups to the largest of companies.
As adults we are connected to the network. It’s always with us and that clearly has enormous benefits.
So it’s not really a surprise that our kids are connected as well.
I know my three kids prefer YouTube to POTV (plain old tv). My 10 year old blogs now. She would rather email than talk on the phone. All three know how to use my blackberry and iphone with ease - they can find the games they like, take photos, txt etc.
Today the New York Times has a story saying this trend is only increasing. No surprise there. And I’m fine that our kids are connected, creating content, sharing links with their friends, learning about things on wikipedia and having fun. All good in my mind.
I’m no preacher and I’m not going to win any awards for best parent of the month and even though I see all the upside in being connected - there are times when you gotta disconnect as well. As adults and our kids. So in our house we just have limits to all of this. The kids only connect to the network on the weekends or for school stuff. Right now that feels good for me & lauren and the kids put up with this (at least for now). Plus they are crazy busy during the week with school, homework and numerous after school activities.
(I think the one stat that threw me for a loop in that NYT article was this stat: 70% of kids have a tv in their room. Oy.)
There a number of things in the NYT piece that attempted to link ‘always-on’ kids and school problems and health issues. But I think that is a head fake. The web isn’t the enemy and it’s not going to ruin our kids. It’s just like anything else with kids. A few simple guidelines and some help goes a long way.
“Voter anxiety and resentment, building for months in a troubled economy, exploded like a match on dry kindling in the final days of the special election for US Senate. In arguably the most liberal state in the nation, a Republican - and a conservative one at that - won and will crash the Bay State’s all-Democratic delegation with a mandate to kill the health care overhaul pending in Congress.”—
I was at an event last night in nyc. lauren sent me a txt that said two words: “brown won”. It was crushing. Some of us are going to shine a light on the problems with our democratic party while others are going to step it up and help. I’m going to do both.
There are a number of reasons why email is hard to manage. The default setting doesn’t make sense - the most recent stuff bubbles to the top, not the most important or even relevant. And unlike a network like Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr, you can’t curate the people you “follow”. The inbox is just a box that gets filled up by whoever wants to leave you a little something.
So until some kick ass startup makes our inbox more manageable, here’s a few things I’m focused on:
1 - I’m paying close attention to the number of emails I send out. I had lunch with Caterina Fake and Chris Dixon last week. Caterina reminded me of this important fact. The more emails you send, the more you get back.
2 - I’m deleting emails I never want to see again rather then leave them in my inbox. I’ve started this already and it’s paying off big time.
3 - I tweet and blog when I’m on vacation. It’s much better than a standard “Out Of Office” auto response. When people see your tweets on vacation they are mindful of the emails they send you and they hold off. With “out of office”, others don’t know you are out until after they fire of the email. Big difference.
4. Never get into a serious debate or argument over email. It’s just not efficient and it can backfire. The other side sees a short/terse email response with a different point of view and it comes of nasty or disrespectful. Then it snowballs from there. When I see an email thread going sideways, I just pick up the phone or suggest a time to talk.
Love to hear how others make email better. I’m all ears.
The Net as a medium is not for anything in particular — not for making calls, sending videos, etc. It also works at every scale, from one to one to many to many. This makes it highly unusual as a medium. In fact, we generally don’t treat it as a medium but as a world, rich with connections, persistent, and social. Because everything we encounter in this world is something that we as humans made (albeit sometimes indirectly), it feels like it’s ours. Obviously it’s not ours in the property sense. Rather, it’s ours in the way that our government is ours and our culture is ours. There aren’t too many other things that are ours in that way.
If we allow others to make decisions about what the Net is for — preferring some content and services to others — the Net won’t feel like it’s ours, and we’ll lose some of the enthusiasm (= love) that drives our participation, innovation, and collaborative efforts.
So, if we’re going to talk about the value of the open Internet, we have to ask what the opposite of “open” is. No one is proposing a closed Internet. When it comes to the Internet, the opposite of “open” is “theirs.”
An excellent way to appreciate the importance of net neutrality.
I often get emails from folks that have never done a startup asking me how they can “break into” the startup world and join a great young company.
The traditional way is to network into that company. Find someone you know that knows the people in the company or perhaps one of the investors or board members. This often can work out nicely (assuming of course that you are excellent and fit into the company culture). Those methods are tried and true.
But what if you don’t know anyone at the company?
One suggestion: become an activist of the products that you love. Use them. Blog about them. Write about stuff you want to see in the future and why you think it’s important or fun or whatever. Build stuff with those products. Give feedback to the company. Participate early and often. Get involved. Comment on other blogs with your insight. Maybe the company hires you or maybe you’ll be inspired to start your own company.
Many of our portfolio companies look to hire users of their products. Many if not all of the early employees hired at Twitter, Boxee, Tumblr and others came out of the community. These folks are not only talented and smart — but they are passionate about the product and it shows.
Last year one of our close friends told Lauren about this cleansing thing. The idea is to give your body a break for 21 days and avoid the bad things we eat. Our friend said she felt great afterwards so we decided to give it a try in the new year.
So Lauren and I officially kicked off our 21 day cleanse on Monday. Things we are giving up: alcohol, caffeine, eggs, meat/fish, enriched white flour foods, cheese, sugar, gluten.
Things we can eat: rice based foods, fruits, veggies, nuts, soy based foods, tofu. You get the idea.
I already gave up meat last summer so that hasn’t been an issue for me.
But the brutal thing has been going cold turkey on caffeine. I didn’t realize how much caffeine was part of my daily life. I literally felt sick and just awful on Monday. The headaches didn’t go away until late in the day on Tuesday.
The other thing I quickly realized is how little sleep I had been getting. I was going to bed very late and getting up early (along with a shot of espresso). Since I know I can’t get the espresso shot in the morning I’m going to be bed earlier and I already feel better.
Honestly, I have no idea if I’m going to make it the full 21 days. I know Lauren is going to make it so I’m going to try as well. But I can tell you that I’m done with caffeine. That addiction was ridiculous.
Taking care of your body is important for business and life. Obvious, for sure, but I clearly needed to make a change. Lesson learned.
“Look, it comes down to this,” says Stairs. “You’ve spent two hundred and fifty thousand of Bijan’s money so far, and you think your company is now worth thirty million dollars, right?”—
“Full, Upright and Locked Position” - Andrew Olson
Andrew was one of the cofounder’s of thePlatform which was the first company I invested in after joining Spark (acquired by Comcast). He’s now writing a fiction book and one of the characters is apparently loosely based on me.
If you’d like to also be an early reader, email andrew at email@example.com
There is a compelling argument for this push. The trolls are busier than ever and we are also seeing our portfolio companies spend precious capital defending themselves against these legal attacks without merit.
Trolls are just one end the spectrum. On the other end, patents also favor big companies. In 2007 IBM proudly announced they received 3000 patents for the year.
In my experience, filing a patent costs about $10k and that’s just for the US. In order to receive 3k patents a year, consider how much they spend since some percentage of their applications are either rejected or require modifications. Those 3k patents alone required well over $30M. How many do you think they file per year?
This isn’t a sport for startups or young companies.
The patent system seems to be geared towards trolls or mega corporations. Is that best for the innovation economy ?
We need a better system.
I’m still not convinced I have the answer and ideally the best answer doesn’t require the courts to decide each time. That only helps big companies who can litigate forever.
(btw, this is the same logic I have regarding employee non compete agreements. I just want to get rid of them wholesale so the courts don’t have to deal with them each time.)
This an important issue and I look forward to getting smarter about it.