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The Friendly Wake-up Call

Last year around this time, I had a major medical scare which shook me pretty hard. The details don’t matter, but the takeaway was that afterwards I felt lucky to have not had a more serious problem, despite a bad situation that was totally avoidable. I dodged a bullet. It was a wake-up call. Last week, I was in the Netherlands, and as always, was enraptured by the water. The water is, of course, a major threat to the Netherlands and has been for centuries, so as a result the Dutch have...

Getting Alignment

I am flying home from Europe today (by way of Reykjavik) and as a result, have a lot of time to catch up on things. I have spent the bulk of the day writing up a handful of strategy docs relating to some of our portfolio companies and subsequently chatting about them. In every endeavor, whether it’s a startup, a family, a venture firm, or whatever, perspectives drift over time. Things get busy, and we all get focused on executing. And things can get a little out of alignment. A little out...

Water

I am in the Netherlands this week, catching up the Leap engineering team which is based here in Utrecht, and attending an IoT conference that Helium will be at in Amsterdam. I have always loved it here, primarily because of the close relationship to the water. The Dutch have for centuries harnessed the water, both for commercial purposes (extensive canal network for shipping) and for defensive purposes (flooding out the attacking Romans). At present, more than 15% of the country is below sea...

Regulation and the Tech Industry

Azeem Azhar has a great post up about the brewing conversation about regulation and the tech industry. There are two main points that stand out to me: 1) In digital systems, ML/AI and data network effects create feedback loops that enable the biggest companies to keep getting better, faster: and, 2) Regulation favors large incumbents over smaller challengers: “Regulation is complicated. Dealing with it means dealing with lawyers, hiring compliance people, changing your product roadmap...

Mutuality

7 years ago on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, I wrote this post about the ideas in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Today I went back to the letter and re-read it, and a different section stood out at me, one that is really profound well beyond the context of civil rights: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”...

Digital Bearer Assets

I spent time over the past few days with several entrepreneurs who are building crypto or “web 3” applications well outside of the financial space. One of the takeaways for me was of the important role that digital “bearer” assets will play in creating new experiences in web 3. By bearer assets, I mean that you just show up with them, and they are respected sight unseen by whatever applications are expecting them. Every time I start thinking about this concept, I am...

Broadening Access

I spent the morning today at MTA headquarters, judging the “Accessibility” category of the NYC Transit Tech Lab competition, organized by the Partnership for NYC. Here is the view from the 20th floor of MTA HQ at Bowling Green: Ostensibly, the theme of the day was accessibility in the sense of things that could improve the transit experience for people with disabilities and impairments of various kinds. This is, of course, a critical goal for every piece of public infrastructure...

Form, Storm, Norm, Perform

I was out with some friends over the summer, one of whom is a college soccer coach, and we were talking about what it is that makes great teams great. I love talking to to coaches and people who have played for great coaches (just ask Ryan about how I always bug him for Coach K stories) — they always seem to have the best social hacks to get people to work well together. College teams can be particularly difficult to manage because the tenure is short and there’s a lot of player...

The Discuss on Twitter WordPress Plugin

Discuss on Twitter is a WordPress plugin that uses Twitter as the commenting system for your blog. I’ve been developing it over the past few weeks along with Fred Wilson and Kirk Love as part of the launch of AVC 3.0 which went up yesterday. It’s currently live on this blog, as well as AVC and also USV.com. The idea is pretty simple: whenever you publish a new post, the post is auto-tweeted to your account. Then, you get a “Discuss on Twitter” button on your post, which...

Iterating from Scratch

A few years ago I wrote about one of my favorite product sayings: “Half, Not Half-Assed“, which comes from my favorite book on product development & teamwork, Getting Real (from the team behind Basecamp). I actually first got hooked into this thinking when I saw one of the Basecamp founders, Jason Fried, talk at a web design conference back in 2004 and it was a pivotal moment in my career (thanks Jason!). I was reminded of that idea today, as I was working on a side project (an...

Automated Personal Finance

Today I’m finally switching off of Capital One because of their broken integration with Plaid. For those who don’t know, Plaid is a service that makes it easy for apps to connect to your bank account. So, if you want to do anything interesting that your bank doesn’t offer (spending analytics, smart transfers, etc) and you want to use a cool app to help you with that, you need Plaid to do it. Capital One has been notoriously bad with its Plaid integration, and people (including...

Write, and Go Outside

I am feeling reflective at the beginning of this new year, as often happens to me. Today and yesterday especially so, as the kids are back to school but USV is still on break, so I have a few really free days to catch up, reflect and think. I’m about to go out on a walk with Frannie, as we did yesterday. There is something so simple and helpful about just getting outside, getting some fresh air (especially in New England in the winter, but it really works anywhere), and moving the body a...

Getting Right for What’s to Come

Fred and Albert just posted their annual posts on predictions and issues to tackle for the coming decade. Both are great, and thinking about all that we will need to do to in the coming decade is both inspiring and intimidating. Before I can even think about those kinds of things and how to approach them, I need to look on the personal side and check in to make sure that I have as strong a foundation as possible, like putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others: Everyone has their own...

Adversarial Interoperability

As I make my way through the various predictions & reflections that accompany the new year, one stands out: the EFF’s 2019 Year In Review, entitled “Dodging Bullets on the Path to a Decentralized Future“. I have long been disappointed that there have seemed to be two separate and parallel conversations going on: the “traditional” digital rights / internet freedom community talking about “re-decentralizing the web” and the blockchain/crypto community...

Slides: Crypto @ Harvard Kennedy School

Last week, as I have done for the last several years, I gave a guest lecture at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  The class is DPI-662: Digital Government: Technology, Policy, and Public Service Innovation taught by my old friend David Eaves and the topic in recent years has been on Cryptonetworks and Blockchains. I am always amazed at the people in the class — incredible diversity of backgrounds from around the world. And as we have discussed crypto over the past few years...

The Butter Thesis

At USV, we talk a lot about our investment thesis.  The USV thesis is a set of ideas that has guided our investing over the years.  It is a tool we use to help ourselves know what to look for, and to help companies who fit into it to find us. Despite all of the writing we have done on the thesis over the years, some parts of the it remain understood, but unwritten.  One of those is what I like to call “The Butter Thesis”. “Butter” is the term we use to...

CoinAlts Chicago: Fireside Chat w Sam McIngvale of Coinbase Custody

A few weeks ago at the CoinAlts conference in Chicago, I did a fireside chat with Sam McIngvale, CEO of Coinbase Custody.  CoinAlts is a conference focused mostly on the institutional infrastructure around crypto assets — legal, accounting, custody, etc.  So we started out talking about the evolving role of custody in the crypto markets, and also talked generally about what we’re excited about in the next few years.  It was a lot of fun.  Here it is:

Saying Sorry

As I turned to write this, I was in the middle of reviewing a document a friend had asked me to look at a little while ago. In somewhat typical fashion, I had not done it right away, and had basically forgotten about it until he pinged me again, and even then I didn’t get to it right away.   I feel terrible about that, and as I reflect on things as part of Yom Kippur today, I realize that one of the things I feel the worst about over the past year is being a bad communicator. I have let...

How to Read a Pitch

Yesterday, we had a team offsite at USV, which included a “presentation party” where a bunch of us gave 3-minute presentations on a variety of topics. It was actually a perfect window into everyone’s personality — Andy gleaned lessons about venture capital from music lyrics (of course), Albert talked about beauty in math focusing on the Fibonacci sequence, Bethany talked about her early entrepreneurial adventures with Beanie Babies, Gillian walked us through the fun...

Building a culture of success

My son played in a baseball tournament this weekend. His team did well, and finished as the runner-up.  The team that beat them in the finals played really well, but more importantly, it was obvious that they had a strong culture of success. From the moment they walked on the field, they had a noticeable “bounce”. – they were literally bouncing around with energy and excitement. When they started warming up, it wasn’t haphazard and sloppy, but rather organized...

Nick Grossman

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