The Gotham Gal and I just watched this TED talk. It's very thought provoking.
The Gotham Gal and I just watched this TED talk. It's very thought provoking.
Dedicating a song is my favorite feature on Piki. It is generous, fun, and viral.
I did it this morning with my daughter Jessica.
I picked a song
And then at the bottom of the dialog box, I typed in her name
That's all there is to it. She gets notified and ideally comes back to Piki and listens and/or picks some more music for everyone else to hear.
Virality is critical to make a social app spread. But the viral features must also be fun and meaningful. Dedicating a song is both and that's why I do it so much.
Patent trolls are one of the biggest scourges on the startup ecosystem in the US. The ideal solution, which was recently taken by the country of New Zealand, would be to ban software patents outright. But try as we might, it seems unlikely to happen in the US in the near term.
But that doesn't mean we aren't making headway against the trolls. A couple years ago, we got the America Invents Act which made some substantial changes to the way patents are reviewed and litigated. That bill had a provision (section 18) that allows financial services firms to take litigation over "covered business method patents" out of court and put them through a fast track USPTO process.
Last week Senator Chuck Schumer proposed to amend that bill with a one line amendment that extends the fast track USPTO review process for "covered business method patents" to everyone, not just financial service firms.
That seems like good policy for many reasons and I hope Senator Schumer's colleagues in the Senate and House jump onto this idea and help it become law.
The almost two year long slump is over. I've led a new venture investment for USV, which closed a few weeks ago and was announced last night. The company is Coinbase and my blog post announcing the investment is on the USV blog. The WSJ also wrote about it here.
This hiatus, which I've blogged about a bit on and off, was mostly a result of being very full up with responsibilities for existing investments. I have made twenty investments since the founding of USV in the fall of 2004 (now 21) and have only exited six, so I have had fourteen investments that I am responsible for at USV. I take our responsibility to our portfolio companies higher than any other work related responsbility and these fourteen companies have required a lot of time and attention over the past two years.
Two things have happened to get me off the schneid (a hitless streak if you aren't familiar with that term). First, the fourteeen companies have all matured a lot in the past two years and the demands of that group of companies has waned a bit. And second, I have come to believe that a number of new fundamental technologies have hit the Internet and it is time to get busy putting out money.
One of these is Bitcoin. Here is a snippet of what I wrote today on the USV blog:
We believe that Bitcoin represents something fundamental and powerful, an open and distributed Internet peer to peer protocol for transferring purchasing power. It reminds us of SMTP, HTTP, RSS, and BitTorrent in its architecture and openness. Like what happened with those other low level protocols, entrepreneurs and developers are now building technology on top of Bitcoin to make it more useful, more accessible, and more secure.
It is possible that we may make more Bitcoin/digital currency investments but we will try to make sure they are not competitive with Coinbase. And there are other sectors out there that are emerging now that I am keeping my eye on as well. I hope to be more active in making new investments in the coming months. It's good to be back at it.
Disqus quietly pushed this out in the past few weeks.
The cool thing is this is interactive, meaning you can click on any of those bubbles and get to the blog post and discussion. I've been doing that every morning in addition to my regular collection of discovery tools.
I think it does a great job of showcasing the diversity and energy of the Disqus community. Well done Disqus team.
I told this story in the comments to saturday's video post, but since not everyone reads the comments and I want this to make it into MBA Mondays, I figured I would turn it into a case study.
In the early days of Tumblr, I used to bug David Karp, the founder and CEO of the Company, about comments. Though I had hacked my tumblog with Disqus, I wanted to be able to comment on other tumblogs and the vast majority of them had no comments because Tumblr did not support them natively. I was fairly persistent in my argument.
But David held firm. He wanted Tumblr to be a positive place on the Internet. The entire design of the service was with that in mind. There were loves (upvotes) but no downvotes. If you wanted to talk about someone's post, you had to reblog it to your tumblog and then add whatever you wanted to say. David thought that would eliminate trolling.
Eventually, I gave up and moved on to pestering some other entrepreneur about something I thought they should do with their product. David kept building positivity into his product and today there are 106 million blogs with 50 billion posts on them collectively.
In hindsight, I think David was right and I was wrong. I wanted him to build something that felt more like Wordpress or Typepad (where I blog). He had something different in mind. And to David's credit, he had the courage of his convictions to follow his own instincts.
This is tricky territory for VCs and entrepreneurs. Because most of the time the entrepreneur will have a better feel for their product vision than the VC will. But there are times when what the entrepreneur is doing is not working and the VC will have to figure out how to get the entrepreneur to see that. I have learned to trust the entrepreneurs instincts until it is very clear I should not. Finding that line is art and not science and takes a lot of experience. And I still get it wrong from time to time.
The Gotham Gal and I just watched Dick Costolo's commencement speech which he gave yesterday at the University Of Michigan. He went back to his time doing improv in Chicago and cited two big lessions he got from that experience; take big chances and be in the moment.
It's a good talk, brief as these things go, and relevant to everyone working in the startup world. It's about 17 minutes long.
I was hanging with Gabriel Weinberg, founder and CEO of our portfolio company DuckDuckGo yesterday. I was lamenting that I could not replace the Google search widget at the top of my android home screen with the DuckDuckGo search widget. Gabe said "you can use Nova Launcher to do that."
I had not heard of Nova Launcher but immediately downloaded it (and the premium upgrade too). Gabe showed me how to replace the standard google launcher with Nova Launcher. He started to show me all kinds of cool things you can do with Nova (like create new gestures) but I waved him off because my head was already spinning with all the cool stuff that Nova lets you do.
For now, I have just used it to hack my home screen. I have changed the grid so I get one more column and one more row. And I have replaced Google at the top with DuckDuckGo:
If you want to customize your android experience a bit more than Google allows, get Nova Launcher. I am going to learn to do all the stuff Gabe does with it and may report back again. I might even turn my phone into a drone :)
The widget came down on Tuesday night at midnight. The DonorsChoose campaign I called Good Things Come To Those Who Code is over. Here are some stats:
Total Raised: $25,172
Students Helped: 8,551
I really appreciate the generosity of everyone who participated. The number to focus on is 8,551 students who will have their classroom experience improved in some way because of you.
Here's a list of all the DonorsChoose campaigns I have done on this blog over the years. There have been seven in total since 2007. In total we have raised almost $190,000 in this community for teachers and their classrooms via DonorsChoose. That is fantastic.