Archive for May, 2011

Keith Rabois says “great entrepreneurs don’t blog”

Posted on May 25, 2011. Filed under: Hyperpublic, startups, venture capital |

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting Keith Rabois for the first time.  By his definition, at this very moment, I am wasting my time.  It’s 6:35PM on a Wednesday afternoon, I have the Techcrunch Disrupt Demo’s ustreaming in the background (my roomate from college is in the finals), flipping back and forth between email and this blog post, and in Keith’s eyes, the yield on this time I am spending writing this post is so low, that he has taken the position that “entrepreneurs and VC’s should not blog.”

I talked about the blog as an enterprise tool.  A way to amplify your voice if you have smart or unique thinking, and an effective distribution channel to reach the people that matter to you or your business.  We discussed the “rise of Chris Dixon,” his emulation of Fred Wilson, the early writing of Paul Graham, Marc Andreesen, and so on, and as we went through the list of people who have effectively used the blog to enhance their market position, we realized that it is not that blogging is a waste of time, but rather that the majority of those who blog simply suck.  And if you are great or different or continually creative enough to write fresh content effortlessly, then at worst (and in Keith’s opinion) it’s “no harm no foul” and at best (and in my opinion) it is hugely valuable.

As I left that conversation and continued to think about his distaste for this medium, I could not understand how someone so talented and accomplished in our space could be missing the boat on what seems to be such an obvious and valuable tool for young entrepreneurs, and then it hit me.  “Keith Rabois doesn’t see the value of the blog as a platform because Keith Rabois is Ketih Rabois.”  I played back the conversation and listened to him rattle off the top 10 entrepreneurs in the valley, none of whom blog, and it occurred to me that the blog is not a tool for the Keith Rabois’ or Steve Jobs’ of the world, who have decades of history to stand on.  It is a tool for those who are making their mark in the present (I would put the Fred’s and Dixon’s of the world into that category). I now see why Keith pointed out the lack of blogging by market leaders on the West Coast…it is because on the West Coast, the market leaders are leaders who have earned that title for work they have done over the past 25 years.  They are entrenched, their personal platforms built before blogging existed, and now they rest on those platforms, not needing to amplify their voice of prove that they are equal to or better than those that call themselves leaders.  On the east coast, however, I look around at who is leading our market (many of whom blog), who is top of the pack, and they are all entrepreneurs and investors who are “famous” or respected for what they are doing RIGHT NOW. In New York we don’t have a 30 year startup history that defines who is who and who is best.  It’s much more of a wild wild west.  If you are making moves, changing markets, and better than the noise, the blog is an essential outlet for you to compensate where 30 years of word of mouth don’t proceed your every sneeze.

We had a new intern at Hyperpublic who started last week.  I made a list of goals for him this summer, and one of my unconscious instincts was to have him “start a blog.”  A blog is a way for small but smart voices to rise and be heard by loud and large incumbents.  It is a way to communicate to the market that “I met Keith Rabois, he didn’t think I was dumb, and felt it worth his time to talk to me for 20 minutes.”  Oh and look, I mentioned my startup in a post that got syndicated 10,000 times, 300 people clicked through to my site, 30 converted into users, 2 sent me emails and asked for meetings, one is a talented database engineer, and the other was some random kid in Nairobi.  All that for 30 minutes of time, 30 minutes I didn’t spend emailing, or calling, or meeting, or whatever, but 30 minutes I did spend reflecting on a conversation that I enjoyed.  Internalizing what I learned.  Cementing my ideas as I movie forward.   “And look Keith…I’m talking to you right now…you’re reading this.  You will now remember me, vs. every other hand you shook at Conway’s party.  In the next five years we will have an opportunity to create value together.  When that day comes (and it may be soon because I’m fascinated by the intersection of transaction and geodata), if we aren’t already better friends, I will send you an email, with a link to this post, and you will take my call, because I think different, and I got creative, and this is how blogs work.  Are you sure you don’t want one?”

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Twas the night before Disrupt

Posted on May 20, 2011. Filed under: Hyperpublic, startups, venture capital |

Twas the night before Disrupt and all through New York

Hackers were getting pumped to meet the mythed startup stork

Who would swoop down from the heavens swaddling cloth in his beak

On a mission to deliver the next Groupme so to speak


Hotels are all booked, Kayak can’t save you now

But thanks to AirB&B, you can unfurrow your brow

Yes, we are living in the future, hotels headed way of the finch

And Uber’s gonna make your transportation a cinch


So what’s going on here, we hear New York is on fire?

Is this boom for real, or simply a figmant of desire?

What I can say for sure is we’re crawling with VC

Fresh off the Acela from a tech hub that used to be…


Yes it seems things have shifted, Boston is shrinking

And West Coast dudes are clearly now into group thinking

That “maybe we need a presence” in the big apple

But khaki’s don’t fly hear, and with skinny jeans they can’t grapple


You see, startup world, who’s watching all this from far

This isn’t the valley and we don’t give a shit about your car

We are the creative class that’s been here for years

And now that applications are cheap and easy, we’re gonna leave you in tears


We may not have search engineers nor are we downstack

But web development is prevalent, and UX is the new black

So when you get off the plane and utter “Palantir”

We’ll smile kindly and reply, “can @Dens buy you a beer?”


But back to Disrupt, it’s a veritable who’s who

With Conway, and Fred, Moot, and maybe even you?

Yes you, Techcrunch reader, coming up through the ranks

With an app only on Testflight and no $ in the bank


You too, can rub elbows with the great Christopher “moot”

If you hack for 24 hours, and present to the suits

And if you are brave enough to use the new Hyperpublic API

Who has two thumbs and a Lerer checkbook? Yep… this guy


All joking aside, we welcome you all to NYC

Land of the Mets, MongoDB and Jay Z

Where “dreams are made” and dumb angel money lost

Strap into your seat and rise above the froth


Who will become this year’s bell of the ball?

Get Roelof on his knees reduced to a crawl

Who has a vision that will change life as we know it

The stage is set, Disrupt is where you can show it

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Sit down, pour yourself a drink, what dimension are you in?

Posted on May 14, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

PREFACE: This is a little heady, and i definitely missed in places, but i think there are a few nuggets if you persist through the post. Sorry, wrote it on the back of an envelope on the street…

So much of the data we consume that informs  our decisions and our being is “pushed” at us, we do not “pull” or ask for it.  We place ourselves in contexts where we are likely to consume certain patterns of data, but it is the decisions and will of other individuals that move through the context in which we exist at any given moment that determine what we do and who we become.  A man walks by me in a purple shirt and a yellow hat and I am literally changed forever.  There is not a single moment of my life that will not be influenced by this occurrence.  My local decisions (where to live, where to eat, etc.) are simply attempts at placing myself into contexts in which those that move into them and therefore shape/define me will be of a type and quality that furthers me in a direction consistent with my concept of my future self/life.

In an analog life, people fearlessly move into a physical environment where others see and observe them.  They are conscious of the context which they have entered and there is a predictability around the result of their presence in it.  As we shift into a digital age, there are increasing numbers of those who view the digital realm as an extension of the context they enter (“physical/digital thinkers”).  They are aware that their position in space is not the only dimension they enter and act accordingly.  They have no fear of their visibility and presence in the non-physical dimension.  Those that grew up in a world where this dimension was not a part of day to day context (“physical world thinkers”), cannot process or understand their presence within it and therefor fear being “consumed” by others within it, despite the fact that they lack fear of similar self-exposure and consumption within the physical context.

One potential mitagant to this type of fear is a stronger feedback loop from the digital realm.  When a “physical world thinker” is observed in the physical world, his image, movement, words, and even affinities are observed by those within eyesight.  The observed can not only gauge reaction from thsoe consuming his image, but he can also make some assessment and observe “who” is consuming his image.  Although he cannot attach an identity to or attain certainty around the qualities of those within his physical context, he takes comfort in the consumption of even light  and insignificant data about those consuming him.

Conversely, when an image of that same person is captured within the physical world, but then housed in the digital dimension of the same “context” (i.e. a photo stored online), the consumed is no longer capable of seeing “who” is consuming him.  In neither dimension does the consumed actually know those consuming him, but without a visible and physical representation of those consuming, the “physical world thinker” perceives instability and lack of safety.  The “physical/digital thinker,” who recognizes this newly emerged dimension to context does not fear her presence within the digital dimension, as she can “see” it despite it’s lack of physical visibility in the moment.  She carries around a device in her back pocket (smartphone) which is a window into that dimension of her present context, accessible only seconds from the point in which she demands entrance.  We increasingly move between the physical and digital dimensions of our context, to the point where the “self” exists no more in one dimension than the other.  I believe fear of the self being visible in the digital dimension will one day be perceived in a similar vein to our present day concept of agoraphobia.

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Whitespace for the taking

Posted on May 10, 2011. Filed under: startups, venture capital |

I want to build an app that let’s you share your dating life with your friends.  I would estimate that conversation about dating and pursuits of the opposite (or same) sex represent a higher volume of conversation than just about any other topic.  When you catch up with anyone you haven’t seen in a while, the order of questions is basically: 1) how are you (served by Facebook, Twitter, Blogs), 2) how’s work? 3) how’s your love life / are you dating anyone / are you getting laid.? Beyond that, maybe we touch “how’s your family” “what did you do today/last night/this week and a few others, but especially in small groups of friends ranging from 13-35 years old, the details of our romantic pursuits occupy a huge portion of our overall interaction.  Typically, web products come along that tend to productize the most frequent of our offline interactions, but there seems to be something of a “whitespace” around this type of sharing/conversation.

The app that I envision is a forum for you to share and discuss your love life with your friends.  I want to be able to send a photo of a girl that I really like or one that I just went out with for the first time.  I want to tell a story beneath the photo, or just a short note that says “so pretty, but soooo boring” or whatever captures my impressions of this temporal but potentially permanent new entrant into my life.  I want to make it easier to communicate my experience to my friends when I am not sitting in the same room as them and therefore capable of answering the all to frequent request “show me this new girl on Facebook.”  I want to tell a story, get advice, brag, laugh, and maybe even lament with the people who I share these conversations with everyday, weather they live down the block from me, or across the country.

I want to leverage the best of the web, and API’s and pull in photos from facebook, the native app on my smartphone, or any other environment where content or representations of the characters in my dating life exist.  If I’m explaining to my friends from college why this girl is so interesting and deeply thoughtful I want to send a link to her blog, and write a note on top of it, and include a photo, and see their responses and I don’t want to do it in a mass email.  Similarly, I want to follow my friends as they go through the most fundamentally human pursuit on earth.  I want push notifications that say “your friend Tim just went on a date with this cartoonist” or “your friend Brett just fell in love with this girl from the subway.”  I want to auth with every major dating site and enable people who are dedicated to dating to share that strange and exciting odyssey with people.  “Look at this kindergarten teacher I’m about to meet” and the follow up with “He was really sensitive, but his breath was fucking terrible.  No go.”  These are the conversations that we have every day, I want to enhance them with richer forms of media and concepts of following/updates/and mobility that the web and mobile web can deliver.

I want these conversations to be strictly private and I want them to expire within 24 hours.  Shared only with the people who I share with in the real world.  I want to grant access only to a small group, and request access from those who I care about.  I want to let my friends who are now married live single life vicariously through me, and at the same time, perhaps provide a forum for them to share matters of the married heart.  I want to build this app, but I don’t have time to build it.  If you are a builder or designer and want to build this app with me, I might be able to give you some desks and some money .  Holler.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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