Notes from the weekend

We went on a hike this weekend with some friends in New Hampshire. Laughter filled the trails as we caught up on old and new stories. The sky was blue and while plenty of snow and ice swept the landscape, the weather even at 38 degrees felt mild as compared to previous days. One couldn’t help but take in season’s change and appreciate that Spring is around the corner. A season for optimism.

Speaking of optamism. There has been much written about the problems with vaccine distribution in the United States and all the flaws at the state level. And it’s true there have been so many issues ranging from equity to education to tech infrastructure. But things are getting better, much better in fact. Over 70% of our oldest population are now vaccinated. And on Friday alone, just about 3M adults were vaccinated in the United States. Clearly a long way to go but that is remarkable.

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I’ve started writing in my personal paper journal again. I had stopped for two reasons. 1/ I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of others reading it when I leave this world and 2/ I didn’t want to be so attached to certain memories or moments that I’m struggling with.

So I’m keeping my new journal entries much more succinct and honestly, positive in nature. Each day I write down three things I’m grateful for and three things that surprised me. Some of those journal entries sometimes lead to blog posts as it turns out :)

Lately

Hi. This morning I felt the desire to start typing again into my little blog.

Been thinking about some things to write down "publicly" lately. So this post is just going to be a random collection of a few things I’ve been reflecting on in no particular order.

1/ Leaving Tumblr for WordPress.

WordPress has been way more stable for me, and I love all the flexibility I have with WordPress. But the editor is so heavy and clunky to use. I really hope that WordPress delivers on a modern, lightweight editor. And I dearly miss being part of the Tumblr community.

2/ Echo chamber vs the mute button.

There is well understood move within our collective social media experience that many follow. We connect and follow folks that we instinctively agree with. As a result, we put ourselves into an echo chamber, and little diversity of thought pierce through. Well, last year, I started following many folks that represent the other end of the political spectrum in an attempt to leave my little echo chamber. I did it for a year. And last week, I either unfollowed or hit the mute button on nearly all of them. I just couldn’t take the "pandemic will be over in 90 days" predictions every month, or an obsession about crime in their city without dealing with the underlying causes, or a lack of outrage about the poor vs bad faith arguments about "socialism." I find Twitter much better following people I genuinely like.

3/ Life changes during a pandemic.

One thing I’ve noticed with my friends, family, and professional colleagues is how many folks are taking a deep look into their lives and making a change. My friend Jerry calls this radical self-inquiry which I’ll leave for a future post. I’ve seen folks leave their marriage. Others have left their firms — including ones they started. Others, taking a break. Others getting taking care of their bodies. Others signing up and committing to therapy. Founders steeping down from the CEO role. This pandemic has created space to deeply reflect on how we want to spend our time on this planet. I have also made some big decisions about how I want to work going forward, which will be very different than I anticipated just a year ago.

Ok, that’s all for now. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.

Hallway Chat, Season 8

Nabeel and I recorded our first podcast of 2021 this week. And this time we were joined by our new Spark colleague, Brian Watson.

In todays show we discuss Apple and service-based software releasing, the PS5 and why we play games, creating a middle class Creator Economy, blogging in 2021 and finding your voice on the internet, being a VC only in up times.

As always, thanks for listening and send us feedback on Twitter (@nabeel, @bijan, @bwats)

Some thoughts on employee stock options in startup land

The vast majority of tech startups grant employees with stock options. The hard truth these stock options are worthless if the company fails. But in many cases they are valuable and in some cases they are life changing. That is how it goes in startup land. Founders and employees are all taking a signficant risk to build or make something that may not work — but providing equity to all employees provides alignment in focus, goals and reward.

I’m now in my 16th year as a venture capitalist and before that I spent about 10 years working inside startups. One of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed is the amount of equity rank and file employees receive in these startups. As the market has become more competitive, executive stock options grants have held relatively steady but founder grants have only gone in one direction — up.

The end result: the individual contributor is receiving less and less equity.

Now, I don’t want to paint with a broad brush. There are great examples of a fair employee option pool. But I’m seeing too many venture backed companies where the employees hold less than 5% of the company. In some cases a lot less. And the VCs don’t own a lot.

I am glad this market has become more competitive and founders have an increased number of sources when it comes to capital. But I encourage us all to think carefully about the employee option pool. Consider where it has been, where things stand now and what sort of impact this all makes on the culture of our industry and the world.

A new day for our country

In a few hours the United States of America will have a new President.

Trump leaves office disgraced with the lowest approval rating in history — the majority of this country understands who serves as President matters. Record turnout, record voters, and our democracy endures.

There are serious, daunting challenges ahead for this country to be sure. But on day 1, we have the most talented, & diverse cabinet to serve and Biden will issue seventeen executive orders to get us on the right path.

I am optimistic, I am hopeful and I am inspired.