I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.

John Burroughs

The emergence of “platform first”

When it comes to platforms, it has been well understood – the best platforms start out as applications.

A platform without a “killer” app, is like a tree falling in the forrest. No one knows and no one cares.

As a result platforms are born with “app first" 

Facebook’s platform, F8, was born after it had millions of engaged users. 

Apple’s iOS platform came after the iPhone success.

Developers built on top of Twitter after Twitter had traction as an application

So a fairly typical reaction when startups pitch a platform idea to prospective employees and investors is: "what’s the killer app to get this thing going?”

Yet we are also seeing valuable platforms emerge without the platform creator developing the very first killer app. 

Few examples:

Yodlee for banking apps

Twilio for voice and sms apps

Cardspring for payment card apps

Clever for education apps

Onswipe for touch web apps

These “platform first” companies are getting traction because

a) they are solving an extremely messy (understatement) problem behind the scenes

b) their APIs are simple & clean. the ease of developing apps on these platforms are capital efficient (e.g. compare this with the old days of mobile app development pre iOS)

c) they are supporting and creating an ecosystem to flourish where the previous ecosystem was broken. The apps want the platform to succeed because the pain and mess previously felt was unbearable. 

d) roles are fairly well understood between platform and developer. everyone leaves a little money on the table on both sides to get to a happy place. 

I still like the idea of app first, platform second. In the best case, the app provider that has platform ambitions can dogfood the same API that they give developers.

But it’s no longer the only way to get a platform started.

It’s interesting to think about other markets where a “platform first” company could emerge

Some thoughts about re-entry (continued)

A few years ago, I took my first vacation without checking my inbox and wrote about it here. That post was about taking a one week vacation and staying off email.

But this August, I did something I haven’t done in 10 years. I took two consecutive weeks off.

And tomorrow we are heading home.

Some additional thoughts on re-entry and this vacation

1. i changed my out of office automated message so it now says i’ll be off email for the most part, but Kik or text me if it’s extremely urgent. Over the past two weeks, I had three people reach out due to urgent issues. Victory.

2. I couldn’t stay completely out of my work inbox for two weeks. But I didn’t check it every day. And when I did check it, it was during certain bounded times of the day and no more.

3. Sanebox is a game changer. It’s reducing my inbox re-entry stress big time. 

4. We havent watched TV in two weeks. When I’m home I don’t watch a ton of TV but we do watch baseball and have a few HBO favs at the moment. And we overdosed on the Olympics before we left.

The only reason I know about Jeter’s many homers and the Yankees is because of Twitter, Kik and the MLB app on my phone. Otherwise, nada. And it felt pretty damn good.

5. Exercise. Working out on vacation is pure joy. No rush before getting the kids ready to school or an early office meeting. Made being a beach bum the rest of the day feel justified :)

6. The only time i used my mac on this trip was to process photos in Lightroom each night from the pics I took during the day and an occasional blog post.

7. The Mophie juicepack was a godsend. I’m happy to be a backer of POP and looking forward to bringing that along on my next trip. 

8. Apps I used during the trip each day: Foursquare, Maps, Twitter, Tumblr, Lift, MLB, VSCO Cam, exfm and Runkeeper (on work out days). Twitter gave me all of my news. Tumblr gave me my media (music, entertainment, fun). 

9. i read two books. That’s a first for me believe it or not. Usually i’m too buys with the kids to read a lot. But now the kids are reading a lot. I ended up reading the first two books of the Hunger Games. Yeah, I know I’m pretty late and I haven’t seen the movie. Book 1 is great but I loved Book 2. 

10. The amount of electronics this family brings on vacation is getting a bit nuts. On this trip, for a family of 5, we brought:

-one macbook air 11"

-two ipads (so kids could watch movies on the 12 hour flight from boston to hawaii)

-4 kindles

-3 iphones and 1 ipod touch

-two cameras + 4 lenses

The sheer amount of devices and associated chargers feels a bit odd to own and carry around. And it feels like it’s only increasing especially with my continued photography addiction. But at the same time it feels like way too many digital toys for a family vacation. Maybe next time, I’ll leave a few things behind. 

Time for me to end this post. We have one last day left and I’m gona make the most of it. I’ll leave you with this pic. It’s one of my favorite from the trip taken during our stay in Kauai. 

Grinding it out and building lifelong relationships

We have invested in nearly 70 companies since the day we opened our doors just seven years ago at Spark Capital.

Each founding team has a different story. A different reason why they are doing what are doing what they are doing. 

Each team has their own set of challenges and demons. 

Aaron Levie’s tweet this morning serves as a good reminder.

All of our portfolio companies struggle through tough times.

Its never easy. It always looks easier from the outside which is why it can be frustrating to folks on the outside. Why can’t they move faster? Why can’t they ship sooner? What’s going on with morale right now? Why are these big companies trying to kill our small portfolio company?

Many founders have a tough time dealing with this. And it’s hard to blame them. It’s beyond difficult.

To the ones that grind it out, day after day, well…I frankly couldn’t be more proud to be associated with. It’s an honor. 

One person in particular struck me this week. Out of respect, I won’t mention his name but this guy has been through the works. He lost his mom recently to a terrible illness. His cofounder left the company. Big companies are routinely doing their best to destroy him using the most ugly techniques I’ve seen in a long time.

But he’s grinding it out and making it happen the best way he can. He treats his employees and investors with respect and honesty. Some days are tough but this week he’s having a good week and I couldn’t be happier for him.

This hasn’t been an easy experience for any one in the company. Especially the founder/ceo. But everyone is rooting for him and this team. And I will go to the mat to try and support him the best I can. 

Whether this company works out or not – he’s my hero for life.