At Spark, we typically make early stage investments. That means before the product has been built and/or pre-revenue. Most of the time we are the first VC investors in a company. And in these investments we will invest between seed investments of $250k up to $5M-ish. Initially.

But we also keep some dry powder in our funds for larger, later stage investments as well. In this area we like to see a company that is executing their plan and where we can help the company step on the gas and scale the growing business.

This latter scenario is behind our latest investment at Verified Identity Pass which operates Clear. My partner Dennis led our investment in the company.

Clear is targeted at business travelers or frequent flyers. As a Clear member you won’t have to wait in airport security lines. For those of us that travel a ton that is a huge deal. That’s because Clear has an agreement with 18 U.S. airports and with the TSA.

Here’s how it works:

There is a 2-step enrollment process. First step is online and the second step is at the airport. Applicants create an online account and fill in basic bio info. Then you goto a Clear enrollment center (typically an airport for now) and bring 2 forms of government issued ID (passport and drivers license). Give them your fingerprints and they will also take your iris image. The annual fee is $128.

Once you are a Clear member you can sail through the airport security line. In some airports, Clear has their own specific lanes and in other airports the Clear customer service agents will help you with the bins and help you get thru the checkpoint. And wait there is more :). They will also help you gather your things after the checkpoint.

It’s a beautiful thing.

Clear is also offering more features for their subscribers in new markets.

But for me it’s all about getting through the lines at the airport.

After Muxtape

I miss Muxtape. To tell you the truth, I didn’t get Muxtape at first. I thought the UI was fantastic but I didn’t get how to navigate or discover.

Charles Forman told me awhile back that he would just open up 4-5 random muxtapes in the morning and then play and FF until he found tunes that he liked.

But then two things happened:

1. Muxfind came out which provided a great search engine for Muxtape

2. Muxtape added scrobbing so all of the music playback history was recorded in

After those two things, I was hooked.

But now it’s gone for now. Fortunately I never stopped using Hype Machine which is also integrated with & twitter. And I listen to songs from the folks I follow on Tumblr thanks to Streampad. Streampad isn’t yet integrated with but hopefully Dan has that on his todo list.

In the meantime, 8tracks seems to be getting a lot of attention. Here’s my first 8tracks mix. I like it. The best part is that I didn’t have to upload mp3s to create this mix but I had the option if I wanted to.

I wonder if I could create an 8tracks list from the people I follow on Tumblr.

Or what about a way to create a mix from my Tumblr tunes that could export and share with non-tumblr users.

Things to think about.

Bubble Tea

There is place just a down the street from my office that sells bubble tea. I love it and there are days that I literally crave it. Especially in the summer.

This afternoon was no different. So I added this tweet at the time.

I got a few @replies with some loving them and others not familiar. Then an hour ago, I noticed Greg Pass from Twitter wanting one as well.

So I decided to check Twitter Search to see if others had tweets about Bubble Tea too.

Interesting results.

It’s easy to be negative

Its often the case that early adopters are blasted for being part of the echo chamber or that products that initially target early adopters won’t translate into a mainstream audience.

I like products that build around early adopters and engage with an active community of users. It’s a great way to start. And there are plenty of success stories that followed that path.

And while those of us that are early adopters run the risk of being too optimistic – I would much rather hang out with those folks than the pessimists.

Over the weekend Alex Beam at the Boston Globe wrote a tough piece about Twitter. He’s entitled to his opinion about Twitter. There are plenty who probably share that view I imagine.

But the zinger in the article is when Alex states:

I think Twitter belongs to the category of Paradigm-Changing Technologies That Can Safely Be Ignored, like MySpace. It’s so 2002, no one goes there.

Huh? MySpace is a big deal. Many folks go there and while it may not be the darling of the tech blogs it’s a huge. They have 73 million users in the United States alone and revenue is large by any standards.

So while its easy to say negative things about new products and services, I have a suggestion for those that look at the glass as half full. Dare to be an optimist. Think different.

It’s more fun at least :)