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Category: Advice

The Life Hack Edition

The Life Hack Edition

According to Life Hacks, most of the problems in your life are due to two things: you either act without thinking, or you think without acting.

Sometimes the best thing is to walk away and come back to the problem later, once you’ve had a chance to clear your head.

The solar eclipse was last week – the first one in that stretched across the continental US in nearly four decades – and quite a few Americans stopped to watch. The Solar Eclipse Cost the U.S. Economy a Huge Amount of Money, said Vanity Fair. Some nearly $700 million, in fact, and never mind the Atlantic Monthly nonsense. Read More...

How to Kill Competition: The Tech Uberlord Handbook

How to Kill Competition: The Tech Uberlord Handbook

Considering James Damore’s memo and the information that has come out since then (Women say they quit Google because of racial discrimination: ‘I was invisible’), last week was not a good one for the tech uberlords.

We won’t get into the politics, but several of the big tech players, including Cloudflare, GoDaddy Inc., Google, Facebook, Twitter, GoFundMe, Spotify and Airbnb decided to threaten freedom of expression online by blocking and/or otherwise not doing business with so-called white supremacists. Not all so-called hate groups, mind you, or groups that might otherwise be a danger to, say, children et al (Facebook Refuses to Remove Flagged Child Pornography, ISIS Videos).

Says the Wall Street Journal (Tech Censorship of White Supremacists Draws Criticism From Within Industry: The moves by tech companies like Cloudflare have been chided for threatening freedom of expression online), “The debate intensified over whether the growing number of tech companies that blocked white supremacists and a neo-Nazi website on the internet have gone too far, as a prominent privacy group questioned the power a few corporations have to censor.” Read More...

Think Bigger

Think Bigger

We hear startup proposals from entrepreneurs – many of whom are Millenials and this is not a swipe at Millenials at all, not to worry – and oftimes their ideas include a social good component. We have nothing against social good – au contraire – and often, no matter what the full platform/pain-point solution, the entrepreneur tends to focus on the social good component. Often to the exclusion of all else, or they may bring it up five to ten minutes into the investor pitch.

Things To Remember:

  1. You’re there at the pitch to get money/funding from the investors
  2. The investors are about money, too – they have LPs to answer to
  3. No matter how worthy your social good angle, bottom line: consumers are selfish – what’s the value add to them, besides the fact that, say, you want to educate every single person in the world? Nice – how does your laundry detergent help me (and we mean the royal/inclusive ‘me’ here) to completely remove all stains (if that’s what you’re offering) at a price point that’s going to inspire me to give up my current laundry detergent. Nice that it’s also going to completely reverse the effects of water pollution and you also have a social good angle – you want to contribute 50% of the profits to help educate the world, but at, say, $200 for a box of detergent, no matter how good your overall intentions, that’s a non starter.
  4. Investors have the attention span of a gnat, with all due respect to our investor friends out there. It’s not that they’re necessarily ADHD: they’ve been there/done that/heard it all before/burned the tee shirt: they want to know about your product, not your conscience. Being able to pay back their LPs – with nice returns – that’s what helps them sleep at night. Too.

Get to the point, throw in the social good angle later, if you need to, or to roughly cite Jerry Maguire, it’s you lost me at ‘hello.’

Same with your customers. Read More...

The Arianna Effect

The Arianna Effect

We all know the Three Big Lies, although the third is changeable, depending on the audience/circumstances:

  1. The check is in the mail
  2. Of course I’ll still respect you in the morning
  3. I’ll make it up to you in the IPO

Of course, not many companies are going public these days, and tech founders have pivoted on the third point. What company doesn’t do a pivot or two after all, and the new talking point is a bit fluid, as always: We’ll make it up to you on the backend, or We can’t commit right now, but of course we’ll make it up to you.

In case you missed it, New York City enacted a new freelancer law -the “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” (FIFA) – that is now in effect, and it applies to businesses outside of New York that hire New York workers, too. According to Entrepreneur, “If a business hires a freelancer for $800 or more worth of work over six months (for either one project or a cumulative series of projects), a written agreement must be put in place. The term “freelancer” covers an independent contractor or any other worker not in a traditional employee-employer relationship” – which we assume applies to consultants as well. You can find more information here. Read More...

How to Defy the Laws of Time and Physics – And (Sometimes) Common Sense

How to Defy the Laws of Time and Physics – And (Sometimes) Common Sense

We were recently asked to give a brief history of the early days of tech in New York. Given the speed of tech, it’s not all that easy to condense even a relatively short cycle into a brief presentation, especially considering internet time: a lot happened quickly, and all at once.

It did, however, strike us that many of the ideas that have made for successful – and not so successful – Silicon Valley companies today were first developed in New York in those early days. We had social networks – Six Degrees, theglobe.com, iVillage – two of which were acquired, while the third (theglobe.com) not only went public, but posted the largest first day gain of any IPO in history up to that date – then crashed spectacularly when the dot com bubble burst.  What also struck us was the on-demand economy. We did have that back then, too, so nothing new and again, what man cannot remember he is doomed to repeat.

In the days of Web 1.0, there was a company called kozmo.com, an on-demand delivery service that promised free one-hour delivery of “videos, games, dvds, music, magazines, books, food, et al, and they would even deliver a pack of chewing gum at 2 am, if there was a call for it – literally. They raised money and lots of it: $250 million, according to Wikipedia, and they burned through lots of it as well: According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 1999 the company had revenue of $3.5 million, with a resulting net loss of $26.3 million. They, too, spectacularly dot bombed. Read More...

A Handy Guide to the Language of Tech

A Handy Guide to the Language of Tech

Like countries, industries have their own languages/patois, and tech is no exception. According to  Brian Collins, “Time for an update on painful business clichés. I’ve done my best to burn these expressions – some that I’ve used shamelessly – out of my lexicon. I have not always succeeded.”

He did compile a great list, and despite the fact that Collins comes from advertising, many of the expressions are used/overused in tech, at meetings, in decks/executive summaries, on Demo Days, and in pitches to investors. Those of us who tend to be on the other side of the table can probably repeat the list, chapter and verse, without even reading on.

FYI. Read More...

The Rise and Demise of the On Demand Economy

The Rise and Demise of the On Demand Economy

Call it the Sharing Economy, the On Demand Economy, the 1099 Economy, the Gig Economy, or maybe most accurately, the Piecemeal Economy (since the work isn’t necessarily always there) or the Participation Economy (since it seems that anyone can share almost anything these days, including your home, your car, your time, even your Significant Other). But take note: according to Fast Company, The Gig Economy Won’t Last Because It’s Being Sued To Death. Worse, where’s the sharing when The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself to Death.

There was a time – and we’re sure that it’s still going on – when startups would present themselves to investors as being the Uber of Whatever, since Uber, an early entrant into this vertical, has long been perceived and touted in the press as the jewel in the crown of the Sharing/On Demand economy. In fact, Handy has been referred to, ad nauseam, as the Uber for Home Cleaning, although, workers pay a price, as the Washington Post reports, since they receive no“workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, time off or retirement benefits — all the perks and protections of working for a traditional business.” Customer who utilize the service also seem to be paying a price, considering the (latest) lawsuit that the service is facing for not having properly vetted its workers. And theft of property is only one of the issues in the complaint. Alison Griswold of Slate nailed it when she wrote that Almost everything that startups get right—and horribly wrong—happened at home-cleaning service Handy.

The same could be said of Uber, although it’s interesting to note that Uber so successfully initially marketed themselves as Us v the Taxi Cartel/David v Goliath, that they managed to capture mindshare and continue to grab investor dollars (over $5B last year alone) despite the fact that they’re hemorrhaging money; are facing fines for their failure to pay taxes; there are the sexual harassment and sex discrimination issues; founder Travis Kalanick’s unmitigated arrogance; and the company’s covert use of law enforcement-evading software, what to speak of “the continuous onslaught of litigation in the US for stiffing drivers, swindling taxi companies, eschewing traditional insurance obligations, and skirting regulations—or so the drivers, companies, and state or district attorneys say,” according to Wired. More lately, relatively newly appointed president, Jeff Jones, resigned after just six months (all of those scandals do take their toll), and just last week Uber announced that they’re going to Suspend Autonomous Tests After Arizona Accident. Not surprising: Uber’s autonomous cars drove 20,354 miles and had to be taken over at every mile (by a human driver), according to documents, Recode reported. Read More...

The New Normal

The New Normal

The big news last week was the Snap IPO – the biggest since Alibaba – which raised $3.4 billion for Snap, a company which managed to lose $514.6M last year and has lost money every year since it began commercial operations in 2011,” according to CNBC and, forest through the trees, “has warned that it will never make a profit.”

Facebook tried to buy Snap nee, Snapchat, a few years back for some $3B – pass – so they bought Instagram instead, for the now seemingly bargain price of $1B. Of course, Instagram didn’t have the number of eyeballs that Snapchat did at the time, but since Facebook, um, appropriated features that Snap had innovated – Stories comes to mind – Instagram’s popularity and growth has far outdistanced Snap’s. And remember: eyeballs/exponential growth are the holy grail of Silicon Valley investors and the market. We do know that Twitter has come up more than once in articles covering the Snap IPO, as how long did Twitter skate after the IPO, promising continued user growth, which never materialized. Au contraire, but they did go a good long time with nary a sustainable revenue model in sight, and a falling user base, which does go far in explaining the lack of a buyer for the company.

For the record, ‘growth potential,’ ‘eyeballs,’ – this is the language of Web 1.0, when it was all potential, all the time. The potential was there; the timing was off: the bubble burst. That was then and this is now, and we’re at the Too Big to Fail Stage in the history of tech. Read More...

Crimes, Misdemeanors – and Business As Usual

Crimes, Misdemeanors – and Business As Usual

Move fast and break things. Do more faster. These are the mantras that the tech industry, particular those in Silicon Valley, cut their teeth on. Competition is fierce and timing (first to market) – and perception (category killer: think Google and Facebook) – is everything. So is it a wonder that Uber has drawn so much scrutiny and criticism for its practices lately? On all fronts, it seems.

Has Uber Gone Too Far this Time? Is Uber involved in a Smear Campaign,?” asks Michael Spencer on LinkedIn, referring not only to former Uber employee Susan Fowler’s blog on the sexual harassment she encountered at the company, which was not unique to her but instead, fairly widespread in Uber’s frat boy culture, according to Caroline Fairchild on LinkedIn.

Then there’s the Google patent infringement lawsuit, which is alleging that Uber is using stolen technology which it acquired through its purchase of Otto, to advance its own autonomous-car development (A Stray Email Caused Google’s Waymo to Sue Uber and Otto Over Stolen Tech). Read More...

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