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Paul Sherman, the editor of Pototmac Tech Wire, puts on an awesome Mobile Outlook panel every year. I participated in 2010 and 2011 and again this year at USA Today's Gannett HQ in McLean, VA. It's funny to go back and watch the older panels when we asked for a show of hands -- back then, everyone was using Blackberry phones and only a few early adopters had Android phones. Oh, how quickly things change -- at this year's panel the ratio was reversed. And interestingly, nobody was using a WindowsPhone device.
As I get into angel investing, I'm creating a framework with which to evaluate potential opportunities, which I presented as a keynote at the event. My main message: Find the good ideas that are masquerading as bad ideas -- therein lie the billion dollar exits. This is a tip I picked up from Paul Graham's excellent Black Swan Farming essay. Here's a Venn diagram of what these "good ideas in hiding" look like:
This is super counter-intuitive, because we all tend to look for the good ideas, both as entrepreneurs and as investors. In the slides below, you'll see that the framework I'm developing focuses on teams that can prototype & iterate quickly, are doing something in a meaningfully large market, and can "dump the poop," or pivot quickly when it turns out that a bad idea is actually just that: A bad idea, and not a good idea in hiding.
Priceonomics just posted a fascinating story mulling over the future of journalism. Here's one eye opening stat from the story:
Wow -- that's shrinkage of over 30% in less than a decade.
But the most interesting part of the post was a thought experiment that Rohin Dhar did -- an interesting twist on the business models for journalism, which was this: Instead of paying for what's already been written, what if we paid to influence what's written next?
Jazz Tigan, the creator of Hugalopes (a "fuzzy Mr. Potato Head" plush toy) and I sat down to discuss entrepreneurism, knowledge sharing, hyper efficiency on a computer, the Socialize acquisition and many other topics in this wide ranging chat.
But the most incredible moment of our talk happened in the last 10 minutes.
In fact, it's so significant that I created a separate sub-video below to capture this moment.
Here's the back-story:
I just got off a Skype video chat with Eric Wilker, who is an Executive MBA student at USC in addition to being SVP of Business Planning & Operations at Warner Bros. He had to interview an entrepreneur as a part of his class and asked me if I'd be game. I said sure, so long as I could capture the session on video and share it with you. We discussed a wide range of topics, including:
Here's the video of our chat about being an entrepreneur:
This week, Facebook Home, an Android app that will change a user’s phone home screen and core features, will make its consumer debut.
Facebook's Home initiative is the latest salvo in the mobile engagement battle, which has been looming since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, although most are just becoming aware of it now. In fact, the 'engagement crush' is just beginning and will get much worse in the next few years.
This issue is so significant that CEOs and CMOs of Fortune 500 companies are going to find their jobs in jeopardy if they don't take immediate and decisive action to launch a meaningful mobile strategy for their companies. Many companies mistakenly think their businesses do not have anything to do with mobile, but that's incorrect: Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are the way consumers and businesses will interact with brands and each other. This means that every business needs to have a coherent mobile strategy that at its core considers how its customer base will want to interact with it using mobile devices.
I'm traveling in Barcelona, Spain this week, and Hertz gave me the best upsell ever: A 4G MiFi for 8 euros per day.
The last time I traveled internationally just three years ago, these didn't exist. Now, this little device, which I rely on at home, has made all the difference traveling internationally.
This wonder combo has allowed me:
I just read this post about how the startup Level Up has raised $41MM but may now be running out of cash, and according to the article is down to half its previous employee count. It got me thinking about a big mistake I see startups make, which is over-extending before finding true product/market fit.
I was well aware of this danger at Socialize, and we still made that mistake. At one point in early 2012, we were up to 16 employees. When we sold to ShareThis, we were down to six. It's not that six employees was too few -- it was exactly the right number and type of employees for the stage of our company -- it's that sixteen was way too many. We didn't absolutely need that many people to build and sell our product, even though we felt at the time that we did. The six employees that ended up forming the core of our company in the year before we sold it were all very key employees and are incredibly productive, and that's what we needed to find product/market fit.
So if a CEO is acutely aware of the issue and still falls into the trap, I can't imagine what the siren call of rapid expansion does to CEOs who aren't watching out for it. But it is possible to get around it: On the opposite side of the spectrum you see companies like instagram that sold for $1 billion with just a dozen employees.
So I've come up with a mental framework to optimize the outcome of a new startup dealing with this issue.
Daniel's Framework For Optimizing Product/Market Fit:
A few weeks ago, Heidi Roizen, a well known venture capitalist with DFJ and longtime entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, called me a cockroach.
Usually, it would be offensive to be branded as a cockroach. But in this case, it was awesome. Heidi's exact quote was this:
So there you have it. Great entrepreneurs are like cockroaches, doing whatever they have to do to survive.
Vinod Khosla is a legend in Silicon Valley. He's the powerhouse behind Khosla Ventures. Way before that, he was one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and then became a general partner at Kleiner Perkins. He's also done many other amazing things. Vinod gave the keynote at Stanford's recent Graduate Business School event. Afterwards, I gave a breakout session talk with Heidi Roizen, where she called me a cockroach.
Vinod's keynote contained all the stuff you'd expect to hear from a super successful entrepreneur and VC. For most people, I'd imagine it was underwhelming in its obviousness, but only because hearing someone talk about what it takes to be successful is so different from actually doing it. Vinod offered no magic bullets. Just a solid list of advice that any current or want-to-be entrepreneur has heard and internalized. Things like, "Be a risk taker." "Be a good listener."
That's the entire point of why I'm writing a blog about his talk. There are no silver bullets. The key is to execute flawlessly on the basics. And that's so incredibly hard that most people don't do it.
Vinod highlighted the importance of perseverance in his talk. But the actual example of how he got into Stanford business school is what makes it shine, and what separates him from so many others.
I had to get back to our new SF office after a meeting, and instead of taking a cab, I decided to try Lyft. One the way over to the meeting, I had taken an Uber car that my colleague Adam ordered from his phone, making it a "taxi-free" day.
This was my first time trying Lyft. I submitted a request for a pickup using the iPhone app and was told "Romeo will arrive in 9 minutes." Funny enough, this was also Romeo's first day as a Lyft driver. So we had a great convo about what the experience was like for both me, and him, as first timers. Lyft drivers are the ones with pink moustaches on their cars. Here's what Romeo's car looks like:
I took a video as I used Lyft for the first time. Here's what my experience was like: