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The Trust Equation

This week was the annual USV CEO Summit, one of my favorite moments of every year (remarkably, this was my 8th summit, and they seem to get better and better).  The theme of this year’s summit was “Trust”, which, for those paying close attention, is the anchor of USV’s investment thesis 3.0. We have been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of trust, what we mean by it, and how we think it can become an actionable part of a startup strategy.  More on that to...

Setting up a system

Like most people, I have struggled over the years to comes up with a organizational/productivity system that works for me.  Disclaimer: I do not yet have it down perfectly, and am not claiming guru status.  But I do have a few things that have worked pretty well, and I have noticed some things that others do that seem to work, so I will share those here. I have a somewhat elaborate system which I will explain below, but at the end of the day it all boils down to a single strategy: getting...

The power of community

Community is a funny thing. It can sound like a fluffy word or concept, but it’s actually really powerful.  Maybe more powerful than many things. Community is about helping people feel connected and aligned.  When people are connected, they feel warm and good, and part of something bigger than themselves.  When people are aligned, each of their individual efforts adds to the whole overall effort, so you have a lot of leverage. There are so many examples of this.  Here’s one: today...

What decentralization is good for (part 3): growth

Picking back up the series on what decentralization is good for (part 1, part 2), today I want to focus on one of the most exciting aspects of decentralization: growth.   In this case, when I say “decentralized”, what I really mean is “open and non-proprietary”.  The two often go hand-in-hand. Ok, so why are open, decentralized systems especially good for growth?  When a technology is open (anyone can use, extend, modify, build on) and decentralized (no one party or...

Changing your life

Just about 10 years ago, I had a migraine that lasted two weeks.  I have never been in such pain; even an ER visit and a morphine drip didn’t touch it.  Then, 6 months later, I had a stomach pain that just wouldn’t go away.  Finally I went to the hospital, and it turned out that the stomach pain wasn’t indigestion, and the migraine wasn’t a migraine; both were actually blood clots.   And so I embarked on a multi-year journey to try and figure out why the clots were...

Leading vs. following

Last night I went to see RAIN, a Beatles tribute band, with my friend and neighbor Jeff.  If you haven’t been to one, tribute bands/shows are kind of odd: on the one hand, typically technically/musically perfect (the tribute band can play the entire catalog of the original band flawlessly); and on the other hand, the vibe is strange: it’s a band pretending to be a band, so it doesn’t have any original energy or punch. As I was watching the show I kept thinking about this. ...

What decentralization is good for (part 2): Platform Risk

Continuing on the theme of what decentralization is good for, this week I would like to focus on one of the most powerful drivers in the near-term: Platform Risk. Platform Risk is is the risk that the tech platform that you build your product/app/business/life on will become a critical dependency, will become unreliable, and/or worse, will screw you in the end.  Here is a post from a few years back that details many different flavors of platform risk, many of which are benign, and some of which...

Unlocking a new skill

Over the long weekend, I spent a bunch of time with my kids doing outdoor cold weather activities. I love the winter, and I love winter sports — there is something about being outside on a cold, sunny day that gets my blood moving and makes me feel great. Those who have read this blog for a while may know that a few years ago I got the ice skating bug and have been working on my skating and learning to play ice hockey. This past weekend, while skating with my kids, I had a breakthrough...

What decentralization is good for (part 1): Resilience

Recently, Simon Morris, a long-time BitTorrent exec, wrote a provocative series of posts on the nature of decentralization, in the wake of BitTorrent Inc’s acquisition by TRON.  They are relatively short and a good read: Why BitTorrent Mattered — Bittorrent Lessons for CryptoIf you’re not Breaking Rules you’re Doing it WrongIntent, Complexity and the Governance Paradox Decentralized Disruption — Who Dares Wins? There are decades’ worth of experience here, which are absolutely...

The Octopus Card

I am in Hong Kong this week for Blockstack‘s Decentralizing the World Tour (more on that in a forthcoming post).   I arrived yesterday and have been exploring the city a bit. The first observation is how awful the air quality is.  Holy cow.  This report from Plume Labs (snapshot from the time when I took this above photo of the skyline) tells the story: While the air quality has made it a bit difficult to get around (no views, but more importantly, you just start to feel sick after a...

Managing digital addiction

USV’s book club book for this month is Drug Dealer, MD, by Dr. Anna Lembke, Director of Addiction Medicine at Stanford Hospital – so we have spent a bunch of time recently talking about addiction. It is not a stretch to hypothesize that we, as a society, are at a moment of heightened addiction, generally speaking. Binging on Netflix, checking phones constantly for emails and “likes”, playing Fortnite, vaping, pills, etc. There are a lot of forces pulling us towards a...

Paying down debt (financial, technical, and otherwise)

Debt is a complicated subject.  On the one hand, it is empowering — it lets you get a quick start on something, and lets you do things that would not be possible otherwise.  There are times when it is useful, necessary, and unavoidable. I think about “debt” in the broadest possible terms: times when you are left “owing somebody” (including yourself) for something.  My inbox is in a state of debt right now.  The pile of unsubmitted medical bills on my desk is debt. ...

Google Pixel Slate: first impressions

For the past week or so, I have been experimenting with the Pixel Slate, Google’s new hybrid tablet/laptop. Here is me typing this blog post right now, on the train to NYC.  For a longer,  more technical analysis, this review from The Verge is good. The Pixel Slate is an odd machine, and I am still trying to figure out how to use it, and then, whether I like it or not.  The heart of the oddness is that it is really equal parts laptop and tablet — when the keyboard is attached it...

A Visual Guide to the Howey Test

Disclaimer: I am  not a lawyer, and I am not your lawyer.  I have been in an uncountable number of conversations over the past few years discussing the question of what defines a “security” in the context of cryptocurrencies, cryptonetworks, and token offerings.  Here is my current understanding, including a number of key questions I am still working on.  I invite any and all corrections to this visual framework.  And I should note that this is a high-level...

Crypto fundamentals

Our good friend Chris Burniske was on Squawk Box this morning. I got up and watched it.  You can see the video here. Of course there is interest in the crypto market right now, as it is falling hard. I suspect there are many out there who are enjoying the drop, waiting for the bubble to finish popping and for this whole idea to go away. One takeaway from watching the segment is how much of a learning curve there still is around this whole space.  If you look at the questions Chris fielded this...

Getting hands-on

One of my favorite things to do is get my hands into something and figure out how it works, whether that’s an app, or a gadget, or a house. For example, over the past few months I have been renovating our basement, turning an unfinished, dank storage area into a playroom for the kids.  Here is my friend Ned, and my son, as we were pouring the new concrete floor over the summer: I get completely enraptured by a project when my hands are into it.  There are so many details to figure out...

The dangers of unstoppable code

With real-time, interconnected, self-executing systems, sometimes when things wrong, they go really wrong.  I wrote about this general idea previously here. Yesterday, while I was writing my post on Trusted Brands, I was doing a little searching through my blog archives, so as to link back to all the posts categorized under “Trust”.  In the process of doing that, I went back and actually re-categorized some older posts that fell under that category, but weren’t appropriately...

Trusted Brands

Today is election day.  I’m on a plane today, so I voted early, a few days ago.  I cast my vote and it felt good. I marked my paper ballot with a marker (for optical scanning) glued it shut into a sealed envelope, and handed it to a volunteer who placed it in a secure case.  I left with a sense of confidence that my vote had been placed, and would be counted fairly. Unfortunately, many Americans do not have the same confidence, often for good reason.  As Zeynep Tufecki wrote in the NYT...

Suffering, self, and service

The massacre in Pittsburgh is heartbreaking and awful, and another example of the extent to which society seems to be fraying. The Pittsburgh attacker spent a lot of time on social media sites that stoked his fear, isolation and anger.  I think about the internet a lot, and while the internet has the ability to help us form a better understanding of “we” (global humanity), it can also cultivate a strong sense of “them” (the dangerous other), as this case demonstrates. In...

Nick Grossman

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