This year has been intense to say the least.

Work has been on full speed since january – many new investments, several follow on rounds, seeing some of our portfolio companies come into their own, helping others get thru adolescence, a record breaking amount of traveling, learning from the pain of losing a few deals and raising our new third fund.

On the personal side it has been intense as well. Our kids are doing great but each day is a new set of learning for the kids and for me as a parent. We’ve had a very close friend learn and help their 8yr old fight cancer. We will never forget 2010.

And this thanksgiving we find ourselves far from home visiting close friends that we havent seen in years.

Today I’m going to spend just thinking and appreciating my family and dear friends. It easy to take them all for granted in a busy year like this one. But there are always going to be busy years so it’s days like this that I love and appreciate. A good reminder about whats really important.

So call your mom. Call your friends. Give out plenty of hugs as you stuff your face with great food. That’s what I’m gonna do.

Our wired kids

I read with great interest the lead story in NYT today – Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.

The title of the article is pure link bait and doesn’t tell the entire story.

The article itself is a actually reasonably balanced and well written piece on our kids growing up in a world of always on connections, to each other and the web. It describes kids that send thousands of txt messages a month, stay up very late because they are online, avoid their homework and yet others who find their true passion because of technology. 

There is no question that all of this can be a challenge even for us adults. I’ve come up with my own set of rules to avoid emails during certain times of the day/night so I can do other tasks at work or spend precious time with my family. 

And it’s a struggle. This week I was sleep deprived and hit my limit. 4 hours of sleep per night and a red eye at weeks end and I was useless yesterday.

Now imagine these sort of things and tensions with a kids life. It’s a challenge for sure.

But the crtiical thing I took from the article isn’t how bad or dangerous technology is to our kids. In fact, technology is a gift. There is a child named Vishal profiled in the NYT article. He is obviously talented and bright but he is clearly much more passionate about filmaking than school. Thankfully he found his love for tech and film making vs just being bored at school. How to embrace and support that is the opportunity and challenge for Vishal and his parents. 

I liked this part of the article that sums up the tension and challenge:

Mr. Diesel [school principle], by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. “It’s in their DNA to look at screens,” he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: “Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.”

Mr. Diesel had Vishal as a student in cinema class and describes him as a “breath of fresh air” with a gift for filmmaking. Mr. Diesel says he wonders if Vishal is a bit like Woody Allen, talented but not interested in being part of the system.

But Mr. Diesel adds: “If Vishal’s going to be an independent filmmaker, he’s got to read Vonnegut. If you’re going to write scripts, you’ve got to read.”

Struggling with this sort of thing is happening in our household these days as well. Less about technology but the balancing act between our daughter’s passion and excellence with her ballet and the 2-3 hours of daily homework. It’s hard. 

I don’t have any silver bullets here and I still have plenty of things to improve as a parent. But there are a few things we stick to. First, we don’t allow the kids to have their mobile devices or computers in their room. Same with TV’s. We don’t have it as adults so the kids don’t either.

The other thing, is that above all else, we value sleep for our kids (yeah, I know I’m a hypocrite here. it is what it is). Our kids get plenty of sleep and they are still exhausted by the end of a very full day. For our kids, their lives (and ours) would a disaster if we cut back on sleep. 

My basic take away from the article was that technology can help our kids reach their potential and passion. But it’s not a substitute for teaching or parenting. We still have our roles to and responsibilities to meet.

Mates Of State – California

“We’ve been on the run
Driving in the sun
Looking out for number 1
California here we come
Right back where we started from”

I’m in SF today. I think of this song every time I get back to my city by the bay. 

A look back at the early days of Tumblr

Tumblr is getting a fair amount of attention these days.

During the past year, the growth has been quite significant. Last week Erick over at TechCrunch wrote about the growth and posted this graph. 

It’s amazing and a pleasure having a front row seat to watch this team in action. 

Fred wrote a post about this years Tumblr growth and as usual its a great one. Go read it if you haven’t already.  

I think it’s also important to take a look at the early days of Tumblr when the service was growing but not a crazy non-linear way at all. 

I’m on a plane right now so I don’t have a chart of those early days with me but just take a look at the above chart from Oct 2009 to March 2010. It’s will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. 

Together with USV, we co-led the first seed investment in the company in the fall of 2007. Here’s David’s post at the time announcing the initial investment along with some product improvements. (I love reading early startup posts about new features at the time. It’s such a thrill).

During the first 12-15 months following the investment we saw user growth for sure. But it wasn’t a significant steep curve by any measure. I believe we had something like 450k registered users by the end of 2008. That’s impressive considering it was just David and Marco but it wasn’t earth shattering.

I think there are a number of lessons worth sharing when I look back on those days.

-Burn rate. David raised $750k initially and it lasted about 18months.

-Iterate. David and Marco did everything during that first year. They fixed bugs, experimented, added new things and kept true to their principles of simplicity, design and ease of use.

-Patience. Patience by the team and the investors. Not every company has the YouTube hockey stick. In fact most don’t as things are rarely up and to right. It’s important to look at the metrics, pay attention to the early users/community, look at the engagement and combine all that with your gut and confidence in the team.

-Mobile. Tumblr didn’t have a great mobile experience in the early days. It really wasn’t a mobile product. They didn’t have their own iphone app and the iPhone itself was EDGE only back then. How different things are today!

-Believe. David always had the belief that he could build Tumblr the company and the product into something special. And so did we.

Some thoughts on the Beatles and iTunes

Today Apple announced that the Beatles was coming to iTunes.

Apple made a huge event of out it and Steve Jobs gushed:

We love the Beatles and are honored and thrilled to welcome them to iTunes,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It has been a long and winding road to get here. Thanks to the Beatles and EMI, we are now realizing a dream we’ve had since we launched iTunes ten years ago.”

I’m sure there are plenty of folks that only have a few Beatles records that are happy they can now buy a dozen singles of their choosing across many records. It’s also great if this brings the Beatles music to new younger fans.

However, there are Beatles fans that didn’t care about this announcement. We ripped all of our Beatles CDs years ago.

I follow yvynyl on Tumblr and this was his reaction:

Listen to me carefully, and listen good.  Go to your local record shop. Buy a copy of the White Album, gently used on FUCKING VINYL for $10. I don’t give a shit that it’s the reissued version.  Just buy that. Or go to the dying CD stores if you can still find one and pick it up on double CD in HIGH FIDELITY non-compressed digitally remastered glory.  Without DRM.  Without the risk of your hard drive crashing and losing it all. Without the risk of having your iPod stolen.  

I get it and I feel it too. I love listening to the Beatles on my turntable. It’s an absolute joy.

And it’s amazing/outrageous that it took until (the end) of 2010 to be able to purchase the Beatles music online

In many ways, the Beatles holdout for me has always been a representation of big media and content owners that fight the web and fight against technology. They want it like it used to be. They don’t want change. They don’t want you to buy single tracks. They want you to buy the entire album whether you want all of the songs or not. They want limited supply and constrained distribution. They want to keep their analog dollars even if users have a different point of view. They like being in charge. 

But even the Beatles couldn’t stop the train. The past is the past.