Good morning, All,
Our next Breakfast with an Investor will be on November 20th (that’s next week) and our guest investor will be Pedro Torres Picon, founder of Quotidian Ventures.
Pedro Torres Picón came to the US from Venezuela and founded Quotidian Ventures, a seed stage fund. His passion lies in “helping founders create technology products that modernize large industries in which they have deep domain expertise.”
The fund tends to focus on the earliest stages of a product’s development, when it’s often pre-product and pre-VC, and on products that represent a radical efficiency leap when compared to existing alternatives, and they prefer New York City-based companies. More about him on the eventbrite page, and he is a very active early stage investor – and always has a great story to tell. Register here.
22,000 people descended on Dublin last week for the Web Summit, including 2000+ exhibiting startup from around the globe, 700+ investors and 60 hours worth of speakers – and your truly. Technology development is alive and well around the world, even if the wifi was mostly non-existent, and therein lies the rub. Summit founder Paddy Cosgrove was articulately apoplectic, and the management behind the RDS (Royal Dublin Society, the venue where the event was held) didn’t like the fact that he called them out, after he’d spent 400,000 EUR on wifi alone. Bottom line: they didn’t understand why having wifi everywhere at all times for three days was such a necessity. Did we mention that it was a tech conference, with thousands of startup hopefuls attempting to display their latest and greatest? Cosgrove ended the conference with a less than veiled threat that if the issue reared its head again next year, Web Summit would leave.
Which to us was the perfect metaphor for how much people will take, in terms of their privacy and security being compromised. There is a line in the sand – we may not know exactly where it yet – but it’s there, and despite the overarching perception that Silicon Valley is the Promised Land of Tech, we heard many an off line discussion from non US based companies that they had no intention of moving to the US, as they found the US government directive that they’d need to leave a back door to listen in, and since players like FB, Goog, Yahoo, Apple wouldn’t or couldn’t fight it, well, best not to even go there – literally. This was not a general rule, but when they mentioned going to the US, it’s to meet with investors, not to relocate their companies, potentially or otherwise.
Interestingly, the late afternoon of the last day was stacked with Major Draws on the main stage. Peter Thiel, followed by Bono, who was on the very last panel and who called tech entrepreneurs latter day rock stars. Earlier, Thiel had referred to them as the new counter-culture, and actually they’re both right, depending on whether you prefer to read the press or read the tealeaves. Thiel was born in Germany (his parents moved to the US when he was a year old) and he reflected on how different his life might have been had he been raised in Germany. He referred to the general pessimistic outlook of the future that dominates in Europe (the startup audience being the exception): “Europe is a slacker with low expectations, a poor work ethic and politicians who strangle innovation.” Not that he gave the US government a pass, referring to the post-Snowden NSA and CIA as ‘Keystone Cops.’
“There are 535 members of Congress,” he said, “Maybe 35 have a background in tech. The rest are still living in the Middle Ages.”
And legislating technology and which is why wifi matters, when you’re hosting a tech conference, RDS et al.
U2 recently released their latest album for free on the iPhone, to a hue and cry. “We got a lot of people uninterested in U2 to be mad at U2 and I think that’s an improvement in the relationship,” said Bono from the stage.
Referring to PayPal, Thiel noted that there were no financial rules at the time for him and his cofounders (which included Elon Musk and Max Levchin) to follow: “Did we have to get it into regulatory framework? We figured it out later.”
His suggestion to the audience: “Don’t ask permission first. Ask for forgiveness later.”
But PayPal didn’t just show up on one’s computer one day (it predated the iPhone and apps), like U2’s latest album did on the iPhone. Considering the number of sites that told one how to get rid of the tracks, well, do the math. Bono: your tracks consumed memory and while the music was free, memory is a precious commodity. Know your audience and learn a little something about the platform before you try to muscle your way to a new audience.
Did we see anything new or breakthrough? It was difficult for anything to stand out above the din and there was certainly not enough time to take in the many different summits: Machine, Marketing, Builders, Enterprise, et al. Plus the speakers, all of which happened concurrently. As for the startups themselves, it seemed to us more a sort of primordial soup of tech: many cells dividing and subdividing. Some will disappear and some will suddenly show up elsewhere, as something else: they’ll pivot. But that’s tech, which moves in fits and starts and seeming chaos, until we take a step back and realize that that chaos was a necessary step to the next leap forward. And while we’re witnessing this Great Flood of tech, we can only hope that government regulation won’t inadvertently wipe out the next unicorn. Or that that unicorn will not devolve into the ethical torpor we seem to be witnessing of late. and will use its powers for good instead of evil. Onward and forward.