Stuff That Caught My Attention This Morning

After all these years, I’m still a heavy RSS user. Every morning I click on my Daily folder in Chrome, open it up, and spend whatever time I feel like on it. The vast majority of what I read is in Feedly and includes my VC Collection as well as a bunch of other stuff. It’s almost entirely tech related, as I stay away from mainstream media during the week (e.g. no CNN, no CNBC, no NYT, no WSJ, no USA Today, no … well – you get the idea) since I view all this stuff as an intellectual distraction (and much of it is just entertainment anyway, and I’d rather read a book.)

This morning I came across a number of interesting things that created some intellectual dissonance in my brain since they came from different perspectives. I’d categorize it as the collision between optimist and pessimist, startup and already started up, and offense vs. defense. However, they all shared one thing in common – the message and thoughts were clear.

Let’s start with Tim Cook’s remarkable Message to Our Customers around the San Bernardino case and the need for encryption. My first reaction was wow, my second reaction was to read it again slowly, and my third reaction was to clap quietly in the darkness of my office. I then went on an exploration of the web to understand the All Writs Act of 1789 which is what the FBI is using to justify an expansion of its authority. I love the last two paragraphs as they reflect how I feel.

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

Thank you Tim Cook and Apple for starting my day out with something deeply relevant to our near term, and long term, future in a digital age.

Shortly after I came across Danielle Morrill’s post Surviving Whatever Comes Next and Heidi Roizen’s post Dear Startups: Here’s How to Stay AliveI’m an investor in Danielle’s company Mattermark and was partners with Heidi at Mobius Venture Capital. I have deep respect for each of them, think they are excellent writers, and thought there were plenty of actionable items in each of their posts, unlike many of the things people I’ve seen in the last few weeks about how the technology / startup world is ending.

Unlike the sentiment I’ve been hearing in the background about deal pace slowing down (not directly – no one is saying it – but lots of folks are signaling it through body language and clearly hedging about what they are actually thinking because they aren’t sure yet), our deal pace at Foundry Group is unchanged. Since we started in 2007, we’ve done around ten new investments per year. I expect in 2016 we’ll do about ten new investments, in 2017 we’ll do about ten new investments, in 2018 we’ll do about ten new investments – you get the picture. We have a deeply held belief that to maximize the value and opportunity in a VC fund, investment pace should be consistent over a very long period of time. We did about ten investments in 2007, 2008, and 2009 – which, if I remember correctly, is a period of time referred to as the Global Financial Crisis. Hmmm …

So it was fun to see my partner Seth’s post titled Welcome to Foundry on the same morning as Danielle and Heidi’s posts. That started the intellectual dissonance in my brain. If you want to see what Seth sends every company he joins the board of after we make an investment in, it’s a good read. It also clearly expresses how we approach working with companies the day after we become an investor.

I then read Ian Hathaway‘s great article for the Brookings Institute titled Accelerating growth: Startup accelerator programs in the United StatesThere are a few people doing real research of the impact of Accelerators and Ian’s work is outstanding. If you are interested in accelerators, how they work, how they impact company creation, and what trajectory they are on, read this article slowly. It’s got a bonus video interview with me embedded in it.

I’ll end with Joanne Wilson’s post #DianeProject. Joanne shared a bunch of info about the #DianeProject with me when we were together in LA two weeks ago. While I don’t know Kathyrn Finney, I now know of her and her platform Digital Undivided. I strongly recommend that you pay $0.99 (like I just did) to get a copy of the report The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Women Founders, #ProjectDianeThe data is shocking, and there is an incredible paragraph buried deep within it.

“A small pool of angel and venture investors fund a majority of Black women Founders. For those in the $100,000-$1 million funding range, a majority of their funders were local accelerator programs and small venture firms (under $10 million in management). One angel investor, Joanne Wilson and Gotham Gal Ventures, has invested in three of the 11 companies that raised over $1 million. On the traditional venture rm side, Kapor Capital and Comcast’s Catalyst Fund have invested in at least two of the Black woman-led startups in the $1 million club. Wilson, Kapor, and Comcast often invest together, aka “co-invest”, in companies, thus increasing the amount of funding a company receives.”

So – was that more interesting than CNN or CNBC?

  • and much of it is just entertainment anyway, and I’d rather read a book

    Truth!

  • mark gelband

    Had the wonderful opportunity to go with my daughter last night to Macky Auditorium to see Edward Snowden via Google Hangout be interviewed by Ron Suskind. Suskind was a bit pompous, self-aggrandizing and talked too much. At one point someone from the audience shouted: “Let him talk. Let him finish,” saying what I believe many in the audience felt based on the applause.

    Snowden echoed the gist of what is written in Cook’s last two paragraphs. He had a nuanced, historical and well-researched presentation of the use of “national security” as a phrase to move way beyond “terrorism” and “military defense,” into targeting individuals with whom we disagree: Martin Luther King labeled as the #1 national security threat two days after “I have a dream” speech; use of “General Warrants” during the revolutionary war and how the framers came to the 4th amendment.

    I left more convinced than I have been that Snowden is a national hero, and civil liberties as related to data privacy, government overreach and secrecy, and data colonialism/imperialism (Internet.org, Facebook, cellular and cable companies, etc.) are the most important conversation for the ongoing protection of our “freedom.”

    But did you see what Taylor Swift was wearing at the Grammys?

    • I wish I had seen the Snowden thing. It sounded awesome.

      What a Grammy?

      • mark gelband

        Fascinating conversation about historical abuse of data, general warrants, militarization of domestic law enforcement, 4th amendment intention, etc. Hope you’re well. Kindness & smiles.

      • Mad props for What’s a Grammy. I enjoy finding humor in the strangest places.

  • Great food for the soul and brain this morning, Brad. Thank you.

    (Parenthetical thought: It’s funny how I’m actually working on a startup but I keep having thoughts of why “startup world” stuff doesn’t apply to us, e.g. we’re not in tech, I don’t envision being a serial entrepreneur, the financial mechanics of cap tables etc. just seem baffling and tertiary to getting customers and building our team… Still love reading you and Mark Suster but tend to think of it as a separate world from what I’m doing. Not sure if that’s wise or not 🙂

    • Sounds wise to me. There are lots of parallel universes everywhere.

  • Lynn

    Very cool Brad! I was a tech/business journalist in China, now I live in Silicon Valley and do the U.S. investment/technology insights/trends Introduction to China Entrepreneurs and investors, I totally agree your option!

  • Great post. I stay away from mainstream media as well. There aren’t enough hours in the day to read the bulk of the tech news as it is on top of everything else. And yeah it’s much more interesting.

  • I am not sure I am clapping for Apple. I am moving my hands together and then rubbing them thinking about it…..good debate on Fred’s blog about it. I don’t want the govt to be able to snoop, but if I commit a crime, there should be a way to get in to all my electronic stuff. I would like to see our Presidential candidates talk about it-but feel I can’t trust any of them to actually put into action what they believe. Govt bureaucracy is just too big. I like Rand Paul’s solution of a warrant. Seems to stay with the spirit of the Constitution, and Apple’s CEO sentiments.

    • From what I understand about what the govt asked Apple to do, it’s a very very bad technological move, especially if you are concerned long term about AI.

      • Yes, learning more about it. Is it possible to get a warrant, and do it this one time? Or, do they have to develop code to do it and then it’s game over?

        • My understanding is they have to develop code to do it. The risk of course is that the code will get reused, or out into the wild. Or even elements of the code will find its way out into the world.

          Better not to have the code in any form anywhere.

          The warrant dynamic is certainly a better layer, but it’s a dangerous one also based on the way warrants are justified and issued.

          • If they have to develop code, well then I am clapping right along with you.

    • Kelli Cook

      I think I will move back. I am in ND and so many things point to going back to Chicago for my business.

  • James Mitchell

    “So – was that more interesting than CNN or CNBC?”

    If you’ve been avoiding the news, let me fill you in:

    1. Justice Scalia died

    2. Many Republican senators are stating that they will not consider any nominee by Obama to replace Scalia

    3. Obama says he will nonetheless nominate a replacement

    4. Many current cases, and cases to be heard by the Supreme Court, could be affected by Scalia not being part of the vote

    I would say this is a bit more interesting than the blog posts you mentioned.

    • The current oil market Saudis, Russians, Iraqis and the $ they are spending on wars ain’t back of the cereal box stuff either, as is homeunion home buying platform

      • Let’s see – what did I know without watching CNN or CNBC (as a metaphor for ignoring mainstream media on a daily basis.)

        1. Oil market: Yup – I know about that.
        2. $/Wars – Yup – I know about that.
        3. HomeUnion – no idea what that is.
        4. Cuba – Yup…
        5. Viastat – Yup.
        6. Health data brokers – which ones are you referring to?
        7. Kashkari – yup – and him calling for braking banks into smaller pieces is irrelevant daily noise.

        • I agree with your premise. Maybe it’s because I been without a TV for 10 years that 15 minutes / day with the financial times (paper version) stIll has some value to me.

          • Reading and understanding is nearly always better than having a talking head explain something from their cognitive biases. Besides that, even though they’re owned by Pearson, the FT (Financial Times of London) is a fabulous information outlet.

    • To each their own dude. Personally I couldn’t care less. That stuff always trickles down and we’ll hear about it anyway.

    • So – I knew all of that, without having to turn on CNN or CNBC.

  • Damn right it was more interesting than the daily clown show that embarrasses the nation.

  • For those interested in sci and tech, this is essential daily perusal:
    http://phys.org/

  • marksmith1981

    It was Brad, as it always is. Best wishes from across the pond

  • Tim Ahmann

    Great read. I assume you review the regular news of the week at some point. How? I’ve been looking for a simple way to do that. I think the NYT only offers a daily news briefing (via newsletter).

    • I get it from (a) reading the NYT on Sunday and (b) talking to Amy.

  • JulieFredrickson

    I’m delighted to see that Project Diane made it onto your radar. Kathryn’s work and the data the study revealed should be a source of concern and shame for the entire industry.

    • Joanne Wilson turned me on to Project Diane, which I think is amazing.

  • John Fein

    Lots of good stuff in this post. I love how Foundry’s consistent fund sizes and deal pace essentially applies dollar cost averaging to startup investing. You guys may not have been thinking in those terms when you formed your strategy but it makes perfect sense.

    • Dollar cost averaging AND time diversity …

  • Ajay Pal Singh

    I get all my news from facebook and twitter and avoid watching/reading any news channels.
    you said it right its more entertainment than real news or anything intellectual.
    Besides I avoid reading news about market slow down and just focus on building/doing what I can.
    I have read these so many times over last 4 years and before thats I have kinda learnt the world is just set of cycles.

  • Steve Lincoln

    Thanks for the links, Brad.

    I had read the material on black women founders a couple of weeks ago and, as a white guy (biotech attorney) married to a smart and highly successful black woman, I was saddened that the funding opportunities for black women entrepreneurs are still so meager. What do you think will change the landscape?

    My own personal effort has been to encourage and support my bi-racial daughter (a budding entrepreneur) who is about to embark on an economics/business-focused education at Williams College in the fall.

  • Late to this party — appreciate this post — a lot — thanks. Some of the referenced posts are those I’ve read and they were my favorites of the week — which leads me to believe I will enjoy the others you referenced. A bit of meaningful curation is always welcomed to help sort through so many options!