It feels like its been a while since we did a fun friday around here. So here goes.
How do you like your morning cup of coffee?
I go with the Cortado, ideally in a shot glass. Here's one from Kava, the coffee shop near my home in the far west village.
So how do you take your morning cup? Photos please.
Google announced so many things yesterday that it makes my head spin. Goodness all around in Google land.
But there is one thing that really caught my eye. Google will start selling a Galaxy S4 running "stock android" in the Play store on June 26th.
When folks ask me what Android phone to buy, I am always torn between the S4 which I believe to be the best Android handset in the market right now and the Nexus 4 which runs stock android but has no LTE support (the phone I currently use).
Now, or at least in a month or so, I will have a good answer. Get the S4 running stock android. If you can afford it. It's $650 unlocked.
So RIM has decided that it is time to make Blackberry Messenger (BBM) cross platform. They announced yesterday that by this summer BBM will be available on iOS and Android.
The time to do this was in 2008/2009 when BBM was huge and everyone was on it. The core users were beginning to leave for iOS and eventually Android and if RIM would have let them take BBM with them, they would now own the biggest cross platform messenger out there. BBM is great and everyone knew how to use it and was comfortable with it.
But RIM execs waited four years to make this move. When BBM hits iOS and Android this summer, they will face dozens of cross platform apps that people use to message each other, one of which is in the USV portfolio. My bet is this won't help RIM or BBM much at this point.
This is a classic case of the innovator's dillemma. RIM felt that letting BBM out in the open would make it easier for Blackberry users to leave. So they kept it proprietary. For way too long. Now they no longer have a dominant smartphone franchise or a dominant mobile messenger franchise.
You cannot fight innovation and opening markets. You have to go with the flow and adapt to the new reality.
Boards can be pretty patient. They can put up with a lot of failings, particularly in the early days of a startup when the product isn't where it needs to be. But one thing a Board cannot tolerate is when a CEO loses the confidence of the team.
I feel that I must say this because I know that many folks in our portfolio read AVC. This is not a post about any specific company or any CEO or any team. This is just a statement of fact that I wanted to put out there because I was thinking about it.
If I think about the times I have had to remove a CEO, by far the most common reason was the loss of confidence of the team in the CEO. You get the call from one of the senior team members. They tell you that they are going to leave and so is everyone else on the senior team unless you do something about the leader. It is a palace coup. No guns are fired. But the boss has to go. And so he or she does. No Board can ignore that call.
So if you think the Board is the most important group you need to manage, you are dead wrong. The most important group you need to manage is your team. If you lose them, you lose your job.
It's Monday, time for another lesson I've learned in the venture capital business. Today I will tell a story that I love telling. It has some of my favorite people in it.
Back in 2004, early in my blogging career, I heard about a service that had just launched called Feedburner. It provided a number of useful services for a blog's RSS feed. So I went and signed up and AVC became one of the first users of the service. I immediately liked the service and the idea. So I contacted the founder/CEO Dick Costolo, who has gone onto bigger and better things. I told Dick that I was interested in making an investment in Feedburner. My friend Brad Feld was also talking to Dick about the same thing so we decided to do the investment together.
As part of our investment process, we do a bunch of fact gathering/checking work that is called Due Diligence in the vernacular of the VC business. So my partner Brad Burnham and I put together a list of leading blogs and online publishers who had popular RSS feeds at the time. I think there were a dozen or so publications on that list. It included Weblogs (Engadget), Gawker (Gawker), NY Times, and a bunch more. We know most everyone who ran those operations so we called them.
What we heard was surprising. Not one of them was willing to hand over their RSS feed to a third party for analytics and monetization. We were very surprised to hear that and thought a bit about it. But, we decided, we could not invest in something that the big publishers would not support. So regrettably, I called Dick and told him we had to pass and why. Brad Feld went ahead with the investment and Feedburner closed their round without USV.
About six months later I ran into Dick at an industry conference. We decided to grab lunch together and during lunch he said to me "you know those dozen publishers you called?" I said "yes, what about them?" He said "every single one of them is on Feedburner now."
I was pissed. How could that be? So I said to Dick, "Would you consider letting us into that last round we walked away from." He said "No, but I will let you invest at a 50% increase in price". We did that and became an investor in Feedburner. And that worked out well when Feedburner was sold to Google a few years later.
So what did I learn from this lesson? First, trust your gut. I was using Feedburner and knew it was a very useful service. I felt that others would see that too. They did, but it took some time. Second, I learned that a service can get traction with the little guys and in time, the big guys will come along. I have seen that happen quite a bit since then. And finally, I learned that you can do too much due diligence. It's important to talk to the market and hear what it is saying. But you have to balance that with other things; the quality of the team, the product, the user experience, etc. You cannot rely alone on due diligence, particularly early on in the development of a company and a market.
Happy Mothers Day to all mothers out there. I am particularly grateful to the two mothers in my life, my mom and the Gotham Gal.
I looked at the mirror the other day and saw my mom in my face. I like that. She is a beatiful woman and if I age as well as she has, then I will be a lucky man. I am looking forward to calling her today and catching up on things as we do most every sunday.
We were at dinner last night with a young couple. The young man asked me when we started having children. I told him that the Gotham Gal insisted we have kids before we turned thirty. And so we did.
Jessica was born when we were 29. I am not sure that I was ready to be a father but Joanne was ready to be a mother and so we went for it. She has been an incredible mother to our kids and in many ways to me too.
Mothering is something we all need and thank god for all the mothers out there who provide it to us day in and day out. Today is your day. I hope it is a great one.