I worked at a number of startups and big companies before becoming a venture capitalist.
I’ve brought with me a number of lessons I try to keep in my brian so I remember what it was all about. But often I learn the best things from our portfolio companies.
An example of something I’ve learned from our portfolio companies is the weekly all hands meeting. I wish we did this at my previous startups. Like it sounds, the meeting is where you bring the entire company together every single week. For the most part, the all hands meeting is a place to discuss a number of things:
update everyone on company goals and progress
update each other on what everyone is working on
opportunity for employees to ask the ceo/founders questions or concerns
demonstrate new things
Some of our portfolio companies invite their investors to attend or talk at these weekly meetings about various topics or just q&a. I always enjoy those sessions.
The weekly all hands meeting makes a huge difference with culture, moral and communication. The key of good weekly meetings vs not good are transparency and consistency. Those are the essential ingredients.
These meetings are important even in the earliest days. I asked David Karp (Tumblr founder and ceo) about this topic last night and he told me:
One of my biggest regrets is waiting until we were about 20 people to start holding regular weekly All Teams. Getting up there in front of so many people I adored was overwhelming, and my first attempt was hardly inspiring. I realized I could have had three years of practice, and a chance to work my way up to the big team, if I’d started earlier.
And as you grow you should keep them going. I’m told Google still has the weekly all hands meeting. Twitter has about 900 employees and they have “Tea Time” every single week.
I’d love to hear from other folks things that make a great weekly all hands meeting. Such an important thing to do.
Update: I asked Dennis Crowley (cofounder and ceo at foursquare) about his all hands meeting. Here’s what dennis told me:
i try to walk people thru: new hire intros (everyone says 3 sentences about themselves), team updates (product, eng, community, talent, etc), then usually there’s one 5-8 min presentation from someone on the team (“noah is going to walk us thru monetization roadmap”) and then end on Q&A.
Dennis also emphasized the importance of using the time wisely especially as the company grows larger. Great point.
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(disclosure: our firm is an investor in Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare.)
“Twitter has changed the whole way that politics works,” said Teddy Goff, the digital director of President Obama’s re-election campaign. “Not just the press element, but the organizing element and the fund-raising element and the relationship building that all campaigns try to do.”
I first met Mo about 5 years ago. I’m pretty sure it was Santo that made the initial intro. He was working at IAC at the time, and I really enjoyed meeting him. His energy, passion and opinions about the world of media and technology left a mark with me.
We stayed in touch and a few years later we all agreed that he would be a great addition to the Spark team.
It’s been three years since Mo joined our firm as a principal. In addition to leading investments on our behalf in some amazing companies, Mo has made our team and portfolio better in many ways. We like his approach to the business, his relationship with entrepreneurs, his intelligence and his instincts.
And on top of all this great stuff, he’s also become a dear friend. It’s wonderful to work every day with people you respect and enjoy.
So, today, I am thrilled to announce that Mo is now a General Partner at Spark Capital. We are grateful for the past and excited about the future.
Much has been written about apple’s proprietary approach to the textbook business.
I think the critics have a point.
But there are three important things that apple is worth talking about and applauding
1. They have created the most useful and most successful tablet ever. Microsoft has been working on for years. Android tablets are still a mess. Yesterday @parislemon wrote that apple sold 3x as many iPads as Kindle Fire. Considering the relative price point this supports my claim that apple has the best tablet. Period.
2. Schools. Apples original market success was in education. That where I got my first Mac. My friend danl lewin pioneered this business for apple back in the day and as a result it’s in their DNA. Middle and high schools all over the country are rolling out iPad trials. My daughters is in 7th grade. Their entire grade got iPads this year. It’s a smashing success as far as I can tell and the apps are fairly limited. They use it for google docs, various creative apps and of course Wikipedia.
3. Digital Textbooks. I’ve seen a lot of digital textbook efforts over the years. They fall into largely three camps.
-analog business model and price point with little/no ux breakthroughs to take advantage of the platform
-disruptive price point but hit or miss content and poor ux
-analog business model and price point and crappy ux
Apple is promising to change the price point *and* deliver a beautiful breakthrough in user experience.
“I think their decision to artificially promote Google Plus pages above more relevant pages on competing social networks is the modern-day equivalent of the ’90s era search engines turning their homepages into “portals”. A search engine should be designed to send users quickly and accurately away to whatever sites on the Internet they’re looking for. The ’90s-era search engine portals blew this, because the whole portal idea was to keep users on their sites rather than send them away. This Google Plus integration is the same thing — an attempt to keep users on Google.com for another page view or two.”—
“The bottom line is Boxee Live TV works. Plug in the dongle to bring live, somewhat traditional content to the Boxee Box. It’s that simple. Sure, most HDTVs already have a ATSC tuner built-in but using it is often a hassle. Boxee Live TV is as easy as the rest of the media stream. The Boxee Box was already the best device to rid oneself from the chains of subscription TV. Now it’s just that much better.”—
Wanted: an app that tells me if this food is good for me
For the last few years I’ve tried to eat better.
We buy things locally grown and organic whenever possible.
But finding and eating things that are good for you isn’t easy.
I’m a vegetarian and I’m always looking for ways to get protein. I found this vegetarian hamburger mix the other day in Whole Foods. I was in a hurry with the kids but since it was Whole Foods, i threw it in my basket and brought it home.
Later in the week I decided to try it out. I peeked at the ingredients and saw this
I have no idea what Methylcellulose means. And I don’t know what “natural flavors” means. And that amount of Sodium doesn’t seem right to me either.
I’m gonna take the time to research this product later today. But I should be able to do this before I buy it. And like most people I don’t have time to do a lot of research everytime I want to buy food.
Instead, I’d love a crowd sourced mobile app to solve this for me. Or please let me know if one exists.
“Hollywood wants to take the law into their own hands — they had our representatives add a vigilante clause, for God’s sake, to protect overzealous censors from legal challenge by users — and like a Scooby Doo™ episode, they would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for us meddlesome kids.”—Pick up the pitchforks: David Pogue underestimates Hollywood « Clay Shirky
Several months ago, I joined a group of entrepreneurs and VCs and met with various members of the House that were supportive or undecided about the bill. I think we had 12 or 15 meetings.
It was a sobering experience. I learned a few things on that tiring day:
1. Many elected officials told us that this bill was going through. If you recall it was passed unanimously though the Judiciary Committee. They told us we have zero chance to stop the bill and the only thing we could do was to provide feedback on portions we didn’t like.
2. Several members of congress had never read the actual language of the bill. I questioned a number of them asking what was wrong with DMCA and will be addressed in SOPA. No concrete response.
3. Hollywood’s lobbyists are far more organized than the technology world’s lobbyists. Every member I met with said they hadn’t heard from our side and they have had several mtgs with Disney execs etc.
I sent Fred Wilson a Kik after my first mtg (we divided up that day) and said something like “that was an ugly mtg and this is gonna be a long day”.
It was a long day and i left Washington bummed out.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Yesterday was a historic day. So many people stepped up and provide amazing leadership. Brad Burnham has been tireless on this issue. Protests in NYC and SF brought communities together. Thousands of websites went dark in protest including Wikipedia. And Google did a fantastic job educating people about the problems with SOPA.
And our voices were heard. It’s clear that many supporters of SOPA are now changing their vote.
I had goosebumps all day.
But we can’t give up.
I read almost every major newspaper yesterday and today about the protests. As far as I can tell *none* of them got our side of the story right. I read horrible things like “the tech community doesn’t like paying for content” in the WSJ. The NYT not once spelled out why this bill is problematic. WTF.
And we know the other side will outspend our side with a torrent of lobbyists.
But the web is bigger than any lobbyists effort. So we need to keep it and keep going. We know the Senate is at work right now to try to jam something through without any meetings or feedback from the anti-PIPA movement.
Yesterday was not the end. It is just the beginning.
“SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows. What’s happened in the last 24 hours, though, is extraordinary. The Internet has enabled creativity, knowledge, and innovation to shine, and as Wikipedia went dark, you’ve directed your energy to protecting it.”—Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“We believe strongly that the company is going to be reflected in the product and vice-versa,” Mr. Dorsey said. “The internal matches the external and the external matches the internal, and if we can’t provide a clean, simple, well-designed experience in here, it’s not going to be reflected in our identity. It’s in our DNA”—Design Sets Tone at Square, a Mobile Payments Start-Up - NYTimes.com
Many people hated it but the content community (Hollywood) pushed very hard for it. They wanted to control what content could and couldn’t exist on the Internet.
I’m over simplifying things greatly but the basic DMCA deal was the following
1. Users take responsibility for content that upload
2. Content owners notify website owners of infringing material
3. Website owners receive the notice, review the notice and then take down any infringing content.
That is how the web operates.
That’s why eBay isn’t shut down if some rogue users sells infringing DVDs.
It’s the same principle as any network we have today. If some rogue user sells infringing DVDs over the phone , the police pursue the user. They dont shut down the phone company.
But Hollywood has decided to go nuclear instead of embracing the web and the law on the books.
And they don’t want to live with the DMCA compromise. In fact they have consistently tried to go around it.
-UMG sued News Corp’s MySpace
-Viacom sued Google’s YouTube
-UMG’s lawsuit again Veoh in which the courts defended Veoh
Do you see the pattern?
Now Hollywood wants the nuclear option. They want to turn off sites that they don’t like or because of a few rogue users. They don’t want to give a take down notice and live with the rules of the DMCA — they just want to erase the site from the web along with data from the vast majority of users that don’t infringe.
The interesting thing about the folks pushing SOPA is their effort comes from a small group. The only folks I hear taking a pro SOPA stance are CEO’s in Holllywood or spokespeople for special interest groups like the MPAA. Or lobbyists. On the other hand I know many folks that work for big media companies that haven’t publicly supported SOPA on twitter or blogs. My guess is they know SOPA isn’t right but they aren’t able or willing to speak up.
Fortunately the Stop SOPA movement is getting stronger and louder.
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”—