“No good venture investors invest in companies with the primary strategy being to flip them. This isn’t because they are altruistic – it is because it is a bad strategy. You are much better off investing in companies that have a good chance to build a big business. This creates many more options including the option to sell the company. Acquisitions depend heavily on the whims of acquirers and no good venture investors bet on that.”—Is it a tech bubble? - Chris Dixon
The best part of this job without a doubt is the opportunity to work with extraordinary people.
One of those people is John Maloney.
I met John more than four years ago shortly after our first round in Tumblr. David (then 20 years old) was thinking about hiring a business partner and John was a natural fit. Besides his experience and entrepreneurial chops, John had hired David years prior at his startup Urban Baby. Their trusted relationship gave us all the confidence this was the right move.
John decided to climb aboard and I’m glad he did.
After four years, last week John decided to step down from day to day operations at Tumblr. I am proud of all of John’s accomplishments and grateful for all of his many contributions and leadership. And I appreciate our friendship.
You’ll notice that the site revolves around photos — personal photos that capture a sense of our team, the entrepreneurs we partner with and the lives we live both personally and professionally. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. We couldn’t think of a better way to represent Spark Capital. Hopefully this approach has the desired effect of demystifying and humanizing our firm, so you can get a true sense of who we are and what we do.
Like all web products, this site is also a living, breathing thing. Most importantly, these photos — like our firm — are not static. We will consistently be adding new photos we take and replacing older ones over time, always presenting a current view into the Spark family. We will also continue to evolve the site and improve it in the coming weeks and months. In fact, we are already working on version 1.1!
I’m really happy with it. I’m sure this will evolve quite a bit - first thing is we are going to add more founder photos and remove some of the shots from around our office. And we are going to keep the personal ones (my old yellow lab made the rotation).
Let us know what you think and welcome any and all feedback. Thanks!
My freshman college English teacher taught me that in writing it’s better to remove words if you can. I don’t remember her name, but I remember arguing with her. I thought flowery English was good. Now I know she was right. And guess what, the same principle applies to programming. How about that.
One of the hardest things every founder must deal with is finding and hiring the best people.
And it only gets more challenging over time.
In the early days the founder typically hires folks he/she knows. the early team can often be an opportunity to get the old band back together again
But as the company grows and staffing beyond the early team means going outside of your immediate network
It’s painfully time consuming, it’s risky and significantly more difficult — and yet critical.
The one thing I encourage all founder/ceo’s to do is to make sure they meet or at the very least review every single candidate. Do not let your management team hire folks without your knowledge and specific approval about the position, candidate and economic package.
I’ve heard from many people that Larry Page reviewed every single position and candidate at google well into the time when they had thousands of employees back in the day. I’m not sure if this still happens at Google today.
This isn’t always easy especially if your company is growing quickly and there is often a desire to empower the management team.
But not paying attention or shying away from this responsibility can create huge problems with culture, quality, expenses, and overall effectiveness of the company.
Hiring the best people and creating a positive culture takes constant work and attention. And it’s worth every minute you put into it.
There are people you meet in business or online (or both) over the years that go into a relationship.
And that relationship builds over shared experiences in both tough times and in good times.
You may follow them on Twitter and Tumblr, see pictures of their friends and loved ones, read their posts and you get a bit closer and closer. I know I feel closer to some people this way.
But there is nothing like breaking bread & opening up to really get to know someone.
The other day I had a meal with someone i’ve done business with for years. He’s someone that has created a bunch of great things and should be very proud of his work.
And just when I thought i knew him after all these years, i got his life story. Not the one on Linkedin or on some professional bio. I got the real deal.
Absolutely inspiring and I was extremely moved. That he was able to overcome so many challenges in his life to get to this place. In a way I admired him more for keeping those adversities close and not wearing them on his sleeve. I was also touched that he shared those stories with me too.
The thing I’ve been thinking about since that meal is how much we take for granted about people all around us. We assume we know them. We can’t imagine or aren’t mindful of the struggles they have had to face in their life. We dont’ take into consideration the personal demons they are dealing with every day. We don’t think about them fully as people.
I suspect if we did we would be more considerate to each other and have a more impactful and healthy relationship.
At the very least we would take an extra moment, take a breath and listen more to each other.
And then we would really get to know that friend or coworker that we’ve “known” all those years.
Patents were designed to protect the innovator. The idea was if you built something special that you would have the ability to protect that right.
And in many ways the essence of the patent system was originally intended to help the little company vs the big company.
But those days are long gone. The current patent system, (when it comes to software patents in particular) doesn’t work for startups. And that is bad for this planet — as most innovation comes from startup companies.
Today we have two problems with software patents.
First, we have non-operating entities suing companies for patent infringement. Their business model is a settlement to fund the next wave of litigation attacks. The cost of settlement is more attractive to many than fighting out a lengthy court battle.
The bigger threat is from large companies that literally file thousands of patent or PCT applications per year. That is a game that is not workable for startups. They simply cannot afford to build such a legal warchest.
A startup uses capital for innovation — not litigation. What’s even worse is that engineers at those large companies have no idea or say about what their employer might do with these patents.
Today, Twitter announced an important effort to reform the tech industry’s practice of patents. They created the first draft of the Innovator’s Patent Agreement (IPA).
The IPA is a new way to do patent assignment that keeps control in the hands of engineers and designers. It is a commitment from Twitter to our employees that patents can only be used for defensive purposes. We will not use the patents from employees’ inventions in offensive litigation without their permission. What’s more, this control flows with the patents, so if we sold them to others, they could only use them as the inventor intended.
This is a significant departure from the current state of affairs in the industry. Typically, engineers and designers sign an agreement with their company that irrevocably gives that company any patents filed related to the employee’s work. The company then has control over the patents and can use them however they want, which may include selling them to others who can also use them however they want. With the IPA, employees can be assured that their patents will be used only as a shield rather than as a weapon.
I encourage you to read the entire post and the draft on Github.
I am pleased to announce that my partners and I at Spark Capital are very supportive of the IPA principles.
Starting today, we will recommend to our portfolio companies that they collaborate in the discussion Twitter has started & support the basic principles of the IPA at their own company.
To be clear, we can only recommend this to entrepreneurs. Just like our position on getting rid of employee non-compete agreements, we cannot force this position on anyone. But we sincerely hope that this effort gains additional supporters and positively reforms our industry in a meaningful way.
Well done Twitter.
(disclosure: Spark Capital is an investor in Twitter)
“When I watch video on my Xbox from three of these four apps, it counts against my Comcast internet cap. When I watch through Comcast’s Xfinity app, however, it does not count against my Comcast internet cap”—
I never had the opportunity to use Kozmo since they didn’t exist in places that I lived. But it feels like their customers were big big fans of the service.
For the most part, I miss mostly things that grow stale and stop innovating (e.g. Tivo, Flickr, etc) instead of failing altogether.
There are a number of startups that were killed off by their owners that I do miss (like ffflick and Danger). And Napster brings back a lot of memories. We were loyal Webvan users when our daughter was first born. That was a big help in those days.
Considering how many startups fail, it’s interesting to think about the ones that you miss….or don’t.
If you have checked out any of the three episodes of “Hallway Chat” (our podcast) you will know that @nabeel and I are on the hunt for a Flickr replacement.
A Flickr replacement isn’t Instagram or Facebook. Those aren’t places where i want to upload hundreds of family vacation photos or dozens of photos from my kids birthday party etc.
Nabeel has been using picturelife for a few weeks but I just started using it this week.
A few things I love about picturelife
-founders. Nate and Charles (founder of omgpop) are great people. I like using software built by people I like.
-Flickr import tool. when you sign up for picturelife, you can import all your photos from Flickr. I have thousands of Flickr photos and I’m relieved to have a copy of them somewhere else.
-seamless sync. basically picturelife is what iCloud should have been. I install their app on my iPad , iPhone and Mac and it anytime I’m near wifi all my photos are uploaded to picturelife automatically. its very smooth and fast. my iPhone camera roll used to feel like a prison. now my photos are free. It’s so great to have everything in one place.
-iPad app. the current version of the iPad app is really nice. it’s fast and simple. There are a few things I’d like to see added to the iPad app like share to tumblr or twitter. Or let me change the order of pics in my albums. but overall I’m quite pleased (note: Flickr still doesn’t have an iPad app).
There are two additional things I would love to see in future versions of Picturelife:
-bring over my tags and geolocation data from Flickr.
-Lightroom integration (ie easy uploading from Lightroom to picturelife
If you are dissatisfied with Flickr, I would recommend giving Picturelife a spin.
Update : a few folks asked me screen shots or examples of the interface. I cant do it easily from my mobile at the moment but you can see screen shots if you check out the iPad app in the app store.
“But Zynga and Facebook? They seem more able to be toppled. It seems possible to knock them off of their throne. Two companies, OMGPOP and Instagram, came out of nowhere and became viable competitors. That’s kind of amazing. It’s amazing to me that Instagram got 30 million users in no time at all. It’s crazy that Draw Something can get 50 million downloads in 50 days. It’s mind blowing that Pinterest went from nothing to 10 million users in the blink of an eye. It’s amazing how fragile it all is. Facebook may be the first viable threat to Google, but its own market dominance is by no means assured.”—
“I feel guilty when my son says, ‘Mommy, put down the BlackBerry, talk to me’ and that happens far too much. I think all women feel guilty. I think what’s interesting is I don’t know many men who feel guilty,”—
“Did my position on this issue evolve over the last 12 months? I am not ashamed to admit that it certainly did. The more I became educated on the realities of these issues, the more I came to the realization that a mandated technical solution just isn’t mutually compatible with the health of the Internet.”—Former MPAA tech policy chief Paul Brigner speaking to CNET about SOPA.