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Month: December 2015

Happy Sweet ’16!

Happy Sweet ’16!

We are taking this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous New Year and a wonderful 2016. Since it is the end of the year, we would also like to take this time to look back and remember those we lost this past year. We know that it is by no means complete, but here is our list of 10 companies that are no longer with us:

Grooveshark, the free online music streaming service that allowed users to upload their own songs, $1.1M in funding lost

Zirtual, the virtual assistant service that raised $2M in funding, and suddenly vanished. Investors included Jason Calacanis, Tony Hsieh and Melo7 Tech Partners Read More...

We’re Making a List…

We’re Making a List…

The year is drawing to a close and while we’re not fond of doing Best Of lists, what better time to take an accounting of where we stand? So instead of focusing on one issue/person/company that we feel may deserve closer scrutiny, since this is our last newsletter of the year, we’ve decided to cut a broad swath. And have just a little fun…

Idiocracy in the age of social media. Smart phones, smart watches, smart homes – all well and good to be connected, but once you throw social media into the mix, giving us all a voice (some more dictatorial than others), is all of this connectedness leading to the homogeny, if not the dumbing down, of the population, or at least certain segments of it? It seems that Politically correct universities ‘are killing free speech’ and Students at Lena Dunham’s college offended by lack of fried chicken. That’s Oberlin, fyi, and “Students at (the) ultra-liberal Ohio college are in an uproar over the fried chicken, sushi and Vietnamese sandwiches served in the school cafeterias, complaining the dishes are “insensitive” and “culturally inappropriate” because they’re not authentic recreations of the original ethnic dishes.” Call us misinformed, but we didn’t realize that students are sent to colleges these days to study the meal plan. What we find interesting is that while this is a group that screams for diversity, this same group will not tolerate an opinion that differs from their own. The herd mentality is always dangerous, and there are people in this group who would happily give up their first amendment rights to keep everyone ‘safe’ and ‘happy.’  And these are Yale students in this case, mind you, who are probably blissfully unaware that it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “Any one who will trade freedom for security deserves neither.” The holiday season seems just such a perfect time to remember to be careful what you ask for.

There’s an apt for that. We live in NYC, where rents are out of proportion and apartments miniscule. Luckily, there’s a apt (‘apartment’ abbreviated, for those of us playing the home version) for that: Micro-apartments and according to this article, NY’s First Micro-Apartments Actually Look Kinda Comfortable. Note that it does say ‘kinda’ and it’s kinda like asking your back end coder to be your lead visual designer as well: you may get a design, but can’t guarantee the user experience. The apartments are 300 square feet. Then there’s Brad Hargreaves’s solution: co-living. Hargreaves is one of the founders of General Assembly, which started as a coworking space and pivoted to host classes in various subjects particular to tech startups. We personally knew that this was coming: the AlleyNYC founders had mentioned the idea of launching something similar en passant years ago. Of course, Startup Common, which offers co-living space, will soon be under the critical eye of the city’s Department of Buildings, and “with individual rooms running up to $1,900 at the Crown Heights building, that puts the monthly cost of a three-bedroom apartment between $5,400 and $5,850. Current listings on StreetEasy for three bedrooms in Crown Heights, on the other hand, averaged about half that price. (To put that into further context, StreetEasy rental listings tend to skew higher because it markets higher-end apartments.)” Still, interesting solution – and reaction from a city government that helped to contribute to the housing shortage – in a town rife with outrageously high rents. Equally of concern is what we’re willing to accept as the New Normal and our lowered expectations about what is acceptable. And if living in a space so small that you have to go out into the hallway just to change your mind is all right, happy hunting! Read More...

Startup Funding and the New Investment Landscape

Startup Funding and the New Investment Landscape

We have noticed in our travels that we encounter more and more strategic investors, aka corporate VCs (CVC), turning up at events – and even at our own Investor Breakfasts - as curious as anyone else about what’s being developed out there – and what they might find that’s under the radar.

Early stage and very early stage companies don’t seem to scare them off anymore.

Our friend and SOS reader Jessica Peltz-Zatulove– and CVC, who will be speaking at one of our breakfasts very soon, right, Jess? - co-authored an excellent piece that takes a look Inside the Minds of Corporate Venture Capitalists for CB Insights, and one thing is certain: CVCs are paying attention to the online world – and to startups in particular – as they never have before. “One-fifth of all venture deals in Q3’15 included CVC participation... Since 2014, over 127 new CVCs have been formed, further validating CVCs as viable and valuable sources of capital within the startup ecosystem,” the piece states. Read More...

May the Farce Be With You

May the Farce Be With You

It wasn’t a good week for women in technology. First, according to Sequoia’s Sir Michael Moritz, “for all the many smart, driven, capable young women interested in working in technology: apparently, you don’t exist.” Then, no sooner was she born that little Max Zuckerberg’s parents, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, announced that they were giving away 99% of their Facebook shares (about $45 billion) to help make the world a better place for her.

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