Earlier this week, my partner Nabeel and I recorded our first podcast. We talked a bit about crowd funding and the Job Act. You can listen to it here.
In a nutshell, I’m excited about the possibilities of crowd funding. There are too many examples of great indicators such as Angelist and Kickstarter. I also agree with my friend Albert who wrote this great post a few years back, "No Such Thing As Too Much Seed Capital.
What will be interesting to see, and what no one yet knows, is whether crowdfunding will be effectively ‘ghettoized’ to the low end of the market. For many different reasons, most securities lawyers I’ve spoken with feel that once a company goes down the crowdfunding path, they will effectively be cutting themselves off from any future funding by deeper-pocketed Accredited Investors, or institutional funders such as venture capital funds. So there seems to be a very good chance that this will end up in an either/or situation: take a one-time shot at raising up to $500,000 or so from the crowd, and then be prepared to live or die with only that cash, or else limit yourself to ‘traditional’ equity fundraising from Accredited investors, with all the flexibility for growth that currently provides.
I could not disagree more wtih this sentiment.
I don’t care who backs a company during the seed stage. I will use the same criteria I always use. Do I find the founders compelling? Do I love the idea? Is the product something I currently or will use? Do I want to see this thing in the world?
It wasn’t long ago when some folks wondered if YC companies were a negative indicator. The logic was why would a founder give up so much equity for so little cash? Clearly those critics have been silenced by the pure success of YC.
To me, asking (and caring) about who backed your startup during the seed stage is a bit like asking which college did you graduate from or what was your GPA in undergrad.
Most web services or applications comes along with a terms of service. The terms of service is basically the rules of the road and what users agree to when using the service.
When startups are just being born, they often can’t hire lawyers to do a proper terms of service, nor can they imagine every possible scenario.
So as a startup grows and the product evolves, it’s natural that the terms of service evolves along.
But recently Tumblr made news with their latest update to their terms of service. The reason? Because they made it easy to understand.
One of my favorite lines is about the age requirement to use Tumblr
You have to be at least 13 years old to use Tumblr. We’re serious: it’s a hard rule, based on U.S. federal and state legislation, even if you’re 12.9 years old. If you’re younger than 13, don’t use Tumblr. Ask your parents for an Xbox or try books.
I love that the company cares for everything they touch including something that is typically as dry as a standard terms of service. Caring matters and one of the many reasons why i love this company.
Nabeel and I have been kicking around the idea of doing a podcast. Basically the idea is to record the stuff we talk about over lunch on any given day.
So earlier today we fired up Soundcloud on the iPad and hit record with zero editing. It’s about 12 minutes long and we talk about things like the Job Act, YCombinator’s “No Idea required”, a to do list app that we’ve been playing around with called Wunderlist, and what’s next after Flickr.
I’ve been using the new iPad since it arrived last Friday.
I have the Verizon LTE version.
I freaking love this thing. It’s become my favorite computer. The screen is so beautiful that it’s hard looking at my MacBook air screen. It’s amazing how many logos on the web are going to need to be refreshed to deal with retina displays going forward.
Battery life is great and built in LTE is a joy.
Im currently flying back from a three day trip to San Francisco. I brought my MacBook just in case but i never turned it on once during this trip.
I’ve gotten used to typing on the iPad. It reminds me of the days when i switched from a blackberry to an iPhone. Strange and hard at first but once you get it, you get it.
The other thing about the iPad that can’t be overstated is that it keeps you focused. You work or engage with one thing at a time. There are no overlapping windows to mess with your mind. Distractions are reduced to a minimum and you can just do what you need to do.
There are lots of folks that don’t think the iPad 3 is a big improvement. I guess I just gotta disagree.
One of the coolest things about Disqus, which powers the comments on
my tumblr, is that I can publish comments via email.
It’s quick and efficient. If I lose connectivity the mail client is
smart enough to try again later on its own.
Several other apps provide a way to email content to their app. During
board meetings I often take notes with the iPads built in Notes app.
After the mtg I email that note to Evernote.
I also email stuff to Simple Note. And I’m writing this very post in
my mail client which I will email to Tumblr shortly. Once upon a time
i used to email photos to flickr which automatically shared it to
twitter. But yahoo has been letting me down and twitters own photo
sharing is fast and simple.
I’m not sure in a world of apps how much people will use email as a
publishing method. But I really enjoy it and hope developers continue
to make it an option.
Many startups in our portfolio hire their early team by focusing their recruiting efforts exclusively on their community.
In the early days, Twitter and Tumblr heavily favored hiring folks that were active and engaged users of their respective products.
It’s one of the best filters around as far as I’m concerned.
Today I had yet another example of the opposite scenario.
A startup came into our office today and one of the members of the team was a former Microsoft guy. He gave his presentation on a MacBook. In fact, pretty much every former MSFT person that comes to present at Spark uses a MacBook.
I realize that many/most entrepreneurs use a MacBook these days — but in this case I think it’s important to point out an important difference.
These are folks that worked at Microsoft and built competing products, and upon leaving they switched. That tells me they didn’t love the products they were building.
And in my mind that’s a big reason why MSFT hasn’t been able to keep up with new insanely great products. Their own people don’t love their own products.
I’m clearly overstating the point but hopefully you can see where I’m going.
I think it’s a good reminder to hire people that love your vision and product.
Hopefully you can keep hiring from your community as they company grows and grows.
(oh, and one more thing. the same logic holds true for your investors. I’d encourage you to bring on investors and board members that truly understand, value and love your product. it will make a difference in good times and in tough times.)
I’m voting for President Obama because he, unlike you, does not manage to alienate me even more every time he opens his mouth. He also understands that the government can not get rid of private businesses (le gasp) like Planned Parenthood.
In short, I’m voting for President Obama because he knows that the world is changing, and would rather be known as the man who helped start the change, not as the man who tried to hold it back.
And I wasn’t alone. Many folks were upset and angry. My friend Fred wrote this blistering post and ended with this quote of all quotes.
I am not writing this in defense of Facebook. They can and will defend themselves. I am wrting this in outrage at Yahoo! I used to care about that company for some reason. No more. They are dead to me. Dead and gone. I hate them now.
Yesterday Om wrote an interesting take on the Yahoo vs Facebook battle. It was after a healthy debate we had on Twitter DM. In his post and in our DM, Om brought up a number of reasons why Yahoo had to do this. Some of his key arguments are:
1. Yahoo isn’t Apple. They can’t turn around.
2. Yahoo is doing right by it’s shareholders by going with this legal action against fb.
3. If they really are bullshit patents then the courts will throw them out
I just don’t agree with any of these points. I’ll briefly touch on each.
1. Every company isn’t like Apple but they should learn from Apple and some do very well. Apple was near death as a company. Their financial situation was awful and that was because their products were sucking. And they had sucky leadership. But they turned it around and built insanely great products.
We see other companies turning around with great products and execution. Big companies like Cisco as well as startups like Path turned around because they innovated not because they turned into a troll. AOL is free falling but they haven’t converted to troll behavior.
Yahoo still has/had great people and very useful and important products (flickr, mail, IM, sports, news etc). They need to focus on making those great and finding their next ones through internal creativity or acquisitions. But acquisitions will be harder than ever for them (now).
2. Yahoo isn’t doing right by it’s shareholders with this lawsuit. This attack hasn’t moved their stock price so public investor aren’t enthused. And shareholders will get hurt as yahoo’s employees leave because they aren’t proud of their company anymore. And getting good replacements used to be hard and now will be darn near impossible. If you can’t get good people, then you might as well sell everything off now. It’s over.
3. I don’t like this argument at all. It’s the reason why i hate our patent system. if you rely on the courts for everything you are just rewarding the trolls and big companies. startups wont have a chance in this game.
4. I don’t buy it. If that was the case, there would be no reason to publicly file a lawsuit in such fashion.
I’m really shocked that under new leadershp at Yahoo, the first move was this public lawsuit. Our portfolio is often under attack by trolls and some of these portfolio conpanies are quite high profile. But none of these attacks come with a legal complaint in the mail with a simulatanous release to the NYT.
“I am not writing this in defense of Facebook. They can and will defend themselves. I am wrting this in outrage at Yahoo! I used to care about that company for some reason. No more. They are dead to me. Dead and gone. I hate them now.”—
Am I the only one who doesn’t want to sign up for Facebook in order to use Spotify, Vevo and god knows what’s next?
I’m not on Facebook. Oh, I’ve got a fake account so I can be up to speed, but I’ve got no desire to hook up with every girl I ever dated and be back in contact with every person I went to high school with, that’s why I moved to California!
It can be quite seductive to try and stuff your entire website into
your mobile app.
And many companies do exactly that. Their mobile app is a functional
equivalent of the website.
And in some cases it works well. For example I can do everything with
Twitter’s iPhone app that I can do on twitter.com
But for many other apps, over time, the app feels crowded, confusing
That’s how I feel about Facebook’s iPhone app.
But Facebook did something extremely smart. They broke apart their app
and released Messenger. It’s an app that offers one slice of Facebook.
I’ve been talking to a number of founders who are in the midst of a
major overhaul to their iPhone/Android app. After years of adding
features they want a better experience for their users
In some cases they are starting over with a clean piece of paper with
a brand new way of thinking about how the pieces go together. And
others are breaking apart their app and will release multiple apps.
In many ways it’s fairly obvious why some startups can innovate & execute faster and better than a big company.
The startup is focused and has one mission. There are no warlords, mixed interests, VPs battling for control, massive performance reviews to plough through, strategy meetings followed by more strategy meetings, “move the needle” conversations, etc.
As a startup goes from purely product focused to scaling the organization I’ve seen a potential trap that is awful to watch.
The trap is acting like a huge company when you are still a small company (ie less than 250 people).
The challenge is staffing up accordingly with management and building out a team of specialists — but still maintain all of the qualities of a founder driven startup that is kicking ass, taking risk and making it happen.
When I see a small company acting like a massive company with 360 performance reviews, or VPs reporting to other VPs, or a massive board deck, or a huge board or a roadmap from hell, or nasty politics, then something tragic happened. And it’s a moral killer.
The good news is the startup can still fix itself - it’s painful but it’s possible. It’s not nearly as easy for the large company to correct itself.
Everyday I goto exfm and listen to music. It’s a free web service where I can listen to what my friends are curating, listen to trending songs and search for music.
This is my profile on the service. The songs in my profile come from songs I’ve loved on exfm or songs that I’ve discovered on a wide range of 3rd party sites and blogs.
To date the mobile version of exfm has really been about listening to songs from your profile.
Last night the exfm team pushed a brand new version to the app store. It’s a massive improvement. Everything feels faster and better. And this new mobile version has many new features, including:
-ability to check out your friends favorite songs
-follow new people
-a new explore area that includes search, featured albums, filtering songs by genre and more
-you can now with a single tap listen to songs that are trending on exfm. there are also a few different ways to filter trending songs. my favorite is the “play all in your network” where you can play songs that are trending amongst the people you follow.
Kickstarter has made an enormous impact and is growing substantially in use and in the range of funded projects. And today, to give on Kickstarter is truly about just that - giving. It’s about helping support someone or something that you believe in. The projects happening as a result of Kickstarter and people’s will to make it happen are wonderful.
In many ways, I see Skillshare as Kickstarter’s cousin. It’s not only because the founders are friends but they have a similar ethos. I remember having goosebumps when I heard Mike told us he wanted to turn every city into a campus. We made an offer to invest in the company the same day. The magic on skillshare is when students also become teachers and teachers become students. We are teaching each other new things and that is amazing.
Jack was the one who first told me about charity:water. it’s an important cause that once you learn about it, you just want to spread the word. And 100% of the money raised goes directly to building water projects. And they built an excellent social website where people are raising money from their old friends and new friends. Here’s my profile.
Everyday people turn to the web with questions and a thirst for an answer. Not necessarily an opinion but the factual answer. Joel and Jeff built something that does just that. It started out as a site for programmers and has quickly become a network of sites across a wide range of topics.
I am intentionally leaving out a ton of other startups because I can’t cover them all. But these services help each other out are an inspiration.