Early next year I will be giving a talk on the challenges and opportunities arising from the current transformation of economy and society by technology and technology enabled globalization. I am rapidly realizing though that I don’t have nearly enough time to chase down all the primary research to validate (or invalidate) some of my thinking. Here are some of the questions I am most interested in:
1. What is the foundational math of a Basic Income Guarantee? That is comparing some of the current government revenue base to expenditures to the total cost of a potential Basic Income Guarantee.
2. What can be learned from experiments with programs similar to Basic Income Guarantees that have taken place elsewhere?
3. What do we know about human behavior from tribes living in abundant areas? Including historic accounts, such as the first voyage of the Endeavour.
4. What behaviors are we observing in online systems that are marked by abundance?
5. What is the latest evidence on key macro trends, including population growth, levels of employment, under-employment and unemployment in economies around the world?
I am currently thinking that a graduate student in economics, politics or history here in the city (NYU, Columbia, Cuny, New School) would be ideal, but am entirely open to other backgrounds. This will be a paid position and I expect it to be on the order of 10 hours per week for at least a couple of months but could go on longer. Any and all suggestions on how to best find the right person are welcome!
At Lerer Ventures I created the first version of The Guide to NYC Tech after dozens of people asked me the same dozen questions, over and over. What are the best co-working spaces? Which lawyer should I hire? Where are good places to take a meeting? Who are the key investors to know? How do I…
I’ll also share some stories and lessons from the past few years, so if you or someone you love is interested in startups + VC, the design of social systems, design education, or independent film/music, etc., I hope you’ll drop by and join us. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
We’re almost half full already, and from the RSVPs it looks like there will be a lot of great people in the room.
I love love the new design - but at it’s core, the value proposition not set.
Disclosure: My wife used to work for Foursquare, but we rarely discuss our product management work in detail. I’m writing as a fan of the service and as a fascinated observer of the current state of press reporting on tech product development. I love the idea of location-ness in our lives.
I’m very excited to announce that as of today I have joined the team at Sherpaa as their new Vice President of Sales and Corporate Development. I’ve known Jay Parkinson for a few years (we met on tumblr!) and he and his co-founder, Cheryl Swirnow, asked me to be a Sherpaa advisor last year. I immediately fell in love with Sherpaa and their mission. In October I started to do some hands-on consulting for them; one thing led to another and here we are.
When Jay and Cheryl first described the company to me many months ago I knew Sherpaa was going to be an important and massive business. Given what they and their team have achieved over the past year they are well on their way. I could not be more excited and honored to be joining this team.
I’ve worked in advertising sales for 16 years - my entire career up until now. My first job was as a sales assistant at Details magazine in 1997. The advertising industry has been good to me and I’ve enjoyed being part of it. I’ve worked for some great companies (Conde Nast, Disney, Time Warner) and running sales at Blip for four years was an amazing experience. But I’ve also watched as the ad business has changed. And not always in positive ways. It’s not so much the change from when I started to today but recent change over the past couple of years. That’s fodder for a different post.
Today begins a new adventure. Health care is broken. Sherpaa has figured out how to make health care work again, for both you and your company.
You can read more about Sherpaa here, here and here. And if you’re interested in seeing how Sherpaa can work for you drop me a note on tumblr or at email@example.com.
I couldn’t be more excited to have Evan on board at Sherpaa. My job as CEO is to hire the most talented team imaginable. Evan completes the picture. You can’t get any more talented than Cheryl, my co-founder and COO. And now Evan, with 17 years of experience building and leading enterprise sales teams. Sherpaa now has the trifecta— health insurance, doctors, and sales. So damn exciting. Welcome, Evan.
Sherpaa didn’t need another reason to be one of the most exciting startups in NYC, yet here it is. Evan will be tremendous in his new role and I’m proud of him for leaving his comfort zone.
I’ve spent the past 6ish months building an Android app with Matt. The first version’s out in the wild, and it seemed about time to write up a few things we’ve learned … and, of course, weigh in on the never-ending Android-versus-iPhone debate.
Uncoverage.com, a website that will be announced on Monday, will allow journalists and nonprofits to seek crowdsourced funding for articles and topics like the Syrian war.
The NEW YORK TIMES wrote a piece on our investigative journalism platform, Uncoverage! (and check out the photo cred wink wink)
Interesting idea - Kickstarter for journalists who want to do investigative pieces but don’t have a sponsor. Worth keeping an eye on. I know I’d love to see some pieces on entrepreneurs in developing countries and some on how non-profits actually spend their fundraised money.
Chaim, it turned out, was Chaim Pikarski, an Orthodox Jewish man with a wispy red beard who seemed amused at my attempt to understand his business. He also knew his Hipe speaker would appeal to me, because that insight—knowing what people are searching for on Amazon—is at the core of what he does. He has an entire team of people who read reviews on Amazon, looking for moments when people say, “I wish this speaker were rechargeable.” Pikarski then makes a rechargeable version. Hipe exists, in essence, because enough people think like me. It’s a profitable trick: C&A Marketing does “in the nine figures” in sales every year, Pikarski says, and grows at about 30% annually.
I am really enjoying the “the everything store”, a book about Jeff Bezos and Amazon by Brad Stone.
(I’m reading it on my new iPad mini retina which is an amazing tablet btw)
Anyway back to the book.
I am about halfway through it. It’s quite interesting to sneak behind the curtain and learn about how the company was started and their culture.
One thing that was foreign to me before reading the book is how amazon employees conduct meetings. Basically there are no PowerPoint or keynote presentation. Everything is written out in a 6 page memo often with an appendix with supporting data. The memo doesn’t have charts or pictures. It has text.
The memo is presented at the beginning of the meeting (not in advance) and the meeting starts with everyone silently reading the memo for 15-20minutes. Then everyone has the same information and the meeting begins.
It’s an interesting model and approach to say the least. It forces the “presenter” to do the work in advance instead of winging it in the mtg. It forces the meeting participants to pay attention to the material.
I have seen modified versions of this at work. Our portfolio company Stack Exchange has board meetings without any slides. A multi page report is distributed to the board in advance covering all the key parts of the business. We all read it and then the board starts at “2nd base” if you will. It’s an opportunity to get to the heart of the matter much more efficiently during the actual meeting.
I don’t believe the amazon model is for everyone. I think it would have been a disaster during my time serving on tumblr board as well as other portfolio companies.
But there is something important worth considering for all of us that spend time sitting or standing in meetings everywhere.
Listen and learn before hijacking the meeting or jumping to conclusions. It’s a good reminder for us all.
Loving this book right now as well. It’s crazy to see names of people you’ve met being quoted in print. My mentor / former VP / investor in my last startup Kim Rachmeler is quoted several times.
Just one quick comment about Bijan’s note. The point of reading solves for a few things. First of all, it forces the author to condense and distill their argument, eliminating any hand waving that can happen in powerpoint presentations. Second, it literally puts everyone on the same page - no preconceived notions brought in before the meeting, no multiple interpretations of a slide, or misheard phrases.
When Dalzell came up with 2 pizza teams, 2PTLs (2 pizza team leads) were allowed one graph, which was their fitness function. Every important metric for the team was squeezed into that formula, and Jeff had personally approved the formula upon granting the team official 2PT status, so it’d had better be going up and to the right :)
I was told Ruby would change my life. Little did I know at the time how right that statement would be. I became fully invested in the culture and the rhythmic cadence of figuring problems out. I started attending numerous tech events and meeting a tremendous amount of new people.
In February 2013, I got my first job as a developer and was once again reminded that being a developer wasn’t much different from what had made me fall in love with architecture when I was a kid, both just being a useful byproduct of figuring things out.
There’s something profoundly humbling about taking a different route and ultimately wanting to be happy, even when I was continuously told to stop “experimenting and learning new skills” and just work at what I got my degree in. I was constantly staring before a vast expanse of self-doubt, and not so methodically came out the other end, successful but also happy.
I find it odd that Zahra fails to mention that she learned Ruby from us at General Assembly by taking our 12 week full-time Immersive course. Does it have anything to do with the fact that her boyfriend dropped out of a teaching contract with us to start a competitor? I wonder.
Update: I just found out she’s not with him any more. Retracted.
For a few hours yesterday my Twitter timeline was composed of people marvelling at Snapchat’s decision not to accept 3 billion dollars in a takeover offer from Facebook. To many, the decision is inconceivable: why would not having 3 billion dollars ever be better than having 3 billion dollars? What else could you possibly want?
Some speculated that what Snapchat is after is more money; that they rejected the offer because they imagine that one day they could make more. Perhaps that is the case, but one of the things that people overlook when these kinds of decisions are made is that they often aren’t about money at all.
When I found out that Mark Zuckerberg decided to turn down a 1 billion offer from Yahoo in 2006 it didn’t surprise me. I was sitting in the pool at a house that the as-yet-unprofitable Facebook had rented for employees, but I had negative money in the bank (student loans and an hourly wage job). If Mark had accepted the offer I suppose I would have gotten some money, maybe enough to pay my debt and chill for a while. But it was so inconceivable at the time that he would sell, that I didn’t even think about it. I knew it would never happen. Why? Two things: power and culture. These are the things people don’t factor in when they wonder why people don’t sell their companies at the first or even the second major offer. Because a billion dollars can buy a lot of things— it can even buy power, certainly, because rich people by definition have power— but one thing it can’t buy is the power to change the entire culture. That can be priceless.
When Mark Zuckerberg turned down the Yahoo offer, Facebook was just getting started, and seven years later Facebook has incontrovertibly changed the culture, embedding itself in every aspect of nearly everyone’s lives. Even now that I don’t work there, even now when I travel across the world, Facebook is around me, on people’s laptops and phones and the subject of their conversations. Regardless of place, people are stopping to upload photos and often, lament their attachment to a virtual world they feel they can now, never leave.
After Twitter and Instagram in 2009 and 2011 respectively (the first Facebook tried to buy, the second it succeeded in buying), Snapchat posed the latest, real threat to Facebook’s omnipresence. To Mark and Facebook, seeing people stop to post a photo to Snapchat instead of Facebook must have been disturbing, and therefore Snapchat needed to be bought. But the very fact that Facebook needed to buy Snapchat is perhaps why Snapchat needed to say no. In posing a real threat to Facebook, Snapchat proved that it may have that one elusive thing that no money can buy: the ability to change how people behave, to become central to their relationships with one another, to re-architect human contact, to be masters of the human domain.
The ability to shape the world’s culture is something that Facebook has and doesn’t want to lose, and as evidenced by the buyout offer and rejection, is an ability that Snapchat has and doesn’t want to lose either. And this, to a founder of a hot startup, is how 3 billion dollars becomes meaningless.
I live in a world where engineering and technical talent is valued above all others, where the Holy Grail is a “coding ninja” who can crank out oodles of elegant code at a breakneck pace. These people speak a language that is distinct and only understood by those who also speak the language; to…
This gap is one of the reasons product managers exist.
One of the more formative things I did in high school was join the school play. I did a few of them, but one in particular hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the Fire Chief in Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, a one-act absurdist play.
The Fire Chief has a nonsensical monologue called “The Headcold” (P. 32) that runs on for a couple minutes solo. There are a few cues for interruption along the way, so flubbing lines can create big gaps in the script. It’s a real challenge to nail correctly, especially with an absurdist plot with no logical progression and a British accent, and I have never had a particularly good memory.
In every rehearsal I blew the monologue every time. My co-actors and director were disappointed but understanding. I grinded on this monologue like crazy to drive it into my head, but a fear of screwing up made my nerves jump forward in my mind, and then I’d botch the monologue each successive night. Rehearsal was a safe place to fail because there was no audience, but nonetheless, it lead to my own internal mounting disappointment and increasing fear of failure in front of a live audience.
The day before opening night, we did an “advertisement” for the play by performing in front of the entire school at assembly in the morning. I’m sure the director deliberately picked the scene containing my monologue, so it was my first live run.
I failed. I got about half way through the monologue, forgot the next memory block, paused for 5+ seconds of awkward silence frozen on stage, and then inserted a line that I knew was towards the end of my monologue that would cue the next interjections from my co-actors and keep the play moving forward.
While I was a little embarrassed in talking to my friends after the assembly, failing publicly was freeing. Most students didn’t notice the failure (because they didn’t know the script, and its an absurdist plot anyway), and those that did suspect anything was wrong were more impressed by what worked right than what went wrong.
I had built up public failure in my mind into such a big deal, that once I actually failed in public, I was liberated by the experience. I realized it was bearable… not good, but also not the monster I thought it would be.
I think you can predict the end of this story. On all 4 nights the play ran, I nailed the monologue perfectly, now freed from the distraction of failure’s specter.
It was a formative event because the experience is transferable to all angles of my life. It helps me take risks I would never otherwise take. I’ve never used this story with any of the companies I work with (it’s too personal and random for a board mtg or business conversation), but I am often reminded of it when I see Founders learn similar lessons from small failures, and how they later shape larger successes with the experience of failure.
This is exactly true for me as well, except my public failures came from jazz improvisation.
How does a company get great at hiring? What are best practices? We're hiring so many so quickly (175 going on 300) and I don't want us to look back with any regrets.
-pay close attention to culture
-make sure management is capable and/or trained
-founder/ceo should meet all new hires (preferably before the hire is made)
-respect your candidates. pay attention to follow up process.
-invest in the post hire process (onboarding, reviews etc)
Very few companies get to do this. So enjoy the ride!
“Among other immediate changes, Mr. Zients recommended that the agency hire a general contractor to coordinate repairs, started daily telephone news briefings and instituted at the command center morning and evening “stand up meetings,” so named because each tech team member, in a military-style exercise in accountability, must stand while delivering a progress report.”—
Ok, I’ve seen this quote 4 times now so I have to comment. I totally agree with the emotion behind this, but are we really deluding ourselves into thinking liberal arts degrees ever lined up with a job? The liberal arts degree was created hundreds of years ago for rich aristocrats to feel like they accomplished something, which somehow in the last 75 years got turned into “college teaches you how to think”. As if people were unable to have original thought until a college diploma showed up.
I think liberal arts programs are wonderful treasures. And if you are a rich aristocrat, dive right in. But no one who chooses to get a degree in philosophy or classics or history has a right to feel entitled to a job. You made that choice. Own up to it.
“Mr. Harris recently led the purchase of two professional sports teams: the Philadelphia 76ers of the N.B.A. and the New Jersey Devils of the N.H.L. Last spring, Mr. Marks and his wife paid $52.5 million for a 30-room apartment at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan.”—
I’ve always been very skeptical of bitcoin, considering it a theorist’s wet dream that will never see widespread adoption.
But - Naval is way smarter than me, and his argument that Bitcoin as a financial services protocol is the real future to be excited about has me nodding my head. I definitely can see Bitcoin being adopted at the B2B / machine-to-machine level.