An investor i know well sent me this presentation from Marc Suster with a note that said “Marc is certain that we’re in a bubble”…i opened it, inclined to be persuaded, as i’m a cautious and anxious soul…but when i really processed it, this bizarre rant came out in response. No idea if it’s right or if there are major fallacies in this logic, but figure better shared than buried:
Response (you really do have to flip through that Suster deck for 2 mins for this to make sense):
i guess a key question to ask is whether this will end poorly for companies or traditional vcs, or both?
the argument that $ coming from “non-traditional vcs” is the cause of private valuations exploding could mean A) they are going to leave and when they do market will contract) or B) although these capital sources were indicative of a coming crash first time around, their presence today might represent the exact opposite…that is that our industry has matured to the point where it is attractive and normal course of business for more risk averse capital sources because our industry is not as risky as it was back then. In that case, there is an argument for sustained growth and further influx of capital into our ecosystem from these sources which would make “being a traditional vc who demands lower prices” a difficult spot to be in: the “ends poorly for traditional vcs but not companies.” case.
The thing that exists independent of whether these capital sources are here to stay or fleeting is a coming reconciliation between public and late stage private multiples, but it is not a forgone conclusion that this ends with private multiples contracting…it could end with public multiples expanding…and this would be the “surprise case” driven by the world waking up a change in risk profile for technology companies, and a larger volume of public market dollars from not the initial chasers (T. Rowe, Fidelity), but the “meat of the institutional market” (mutual funds, index funds, conservative asset managers etc.) deciding that they need to rebalance their portfolios to view tech as more of a meat and potatoes allocation than they previously would have…this could drive public market multiples higher…further, i’d presume part of the decline in public market tech $ inflows (if that is a factor driving multiple compression) is resultant from allocations by more aggressive public market tech investors into private alternatives to what’s being traded publicly. I think surprise case in the public markets is the Andreessen opinion tied to actual market dynamics, and I think the private multiples contracting when reconciled with public market multiples is the Bill Gurley (and i guess marc suster) case…
I’m inclined to not care personally…as i think our world, like most markets, is most certainly cyclical…independent of any specific rationale for when and why corrections and periods of growth occur, and through cycles i see more growth than decline (which gives me confidence to participate on a long term and sustaining basis)…on a short term basis, i could see a stiff correction before the data truly comes in that the optimistic case was in fact correct…and i believe it’s uncertain but likely that it is…the end result of the optimistic case is that technology as a defined industry and asset allocation may contract, but startups and technology companies will be reclassified into market segments by the actual industry that they participate in as opposed to by the fact that they leverage software or sensors…and therefore the true aggregate market, addressable capital and multiples available to them in the public market will exceed the “tech dollars and tech multiples” constraint that we currently contemplate. It’s why looking at “SAAS multiple compression” is not a realist bellweather for the broader coming correction…the thin sliver of “selling software” is and should follow our traditional definition of our industry and market segment, but many of the 80 “billion dollar startups” referenced in this presentation can not and should not be classified as such and constrained to previously held market conceptions of their upper bounds from a public investor demand standpoint. I know someone will say “well if we reclassify tech companies by more traditional, less risky market segments, that should likely lead to multiple compression as tech companies command premium multiples from relative to more meat and potatoes segments…to which i would reply…i’m not a public market investor…i’m winging this, but something about access to different dollars, ability to reinvest capital from these pools into further innovation, etc., etc…i can think out that far, but our industry taking market share in the capital markets, independent of short term multiple fluctuation should end well”
whew…having spit that out, i’m going to say it’s probably 10% wrong…little bit of a rant, but maybe right…gonna publish this thought and see what others think🙂Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A few years ago a friend of mine invited me to a “closed door” after hours meeting at his house. It was a small gathering of 10 or 15 founders where folks could speak openly and candidly on any subject. I don’t think I’ll be violating that pact by saying that I briefly met Anthony Casalena who started Squarespace. I don’t remember much of this interaction except that I remember him talking about the Squarespace superbowl ad and how they had tried every possible marketing channel under the sun at Squarespace. He spoke of marketing as a core competency at the company, and I sort of flashed to various billboards and subway ads, and facebook ads, and whatever else and made a mental note in my head “Squarespace is good at marketing.” At the time I didn’t care much…I was a product-centric founder, i cared about engineering and design, and marketing was far from a craft I was a) familiar with and b) cared to be. Fast forward a few years, and I have become quite tuned to marketing as a discipline. I’m at a company that is circling around the cup on “product/market fit” and bringing great Marketing DNA into Wildcard has been a top priority of mine for the past few months. Even before we launched Wildcard 2.0, I kind of new that engagement was going to be solid from our beta, and I began to get serious about understanding what the right Head of Marketing fit was for us. As with any new discipline not represented within the team of a startup, it’s usually the founder’s job to go learn it when nobody at the company knows it. So I geared up to learn Marketing 101. I remember when we were an engineering culture in the earliest days, and I had to go “learn design” at least well enough to understand the craft and identify our leader in the field. Today design is a point of strength in our company, but it started as a weakness with me doing a bunch of research, buying a bunch of coffees, taking online HCI classes at Stanford, and getting the basics down before we could develop it into a strength under Khoi and Steve. With marketing, this learning process was actually much harder to pickup than design. I found our network didn’t reach as far into the marketing community as it did into design. I guess most of the engineers and founders we know have worked with great designers over the years, but the numbers got smaller when we’d ask our friends “do you know any great marketing leaders or teachers?” We got routed to plenty of agencies, and point solutions, and ex-agency folks, or young up and comers, but it took a while to really develop an understanding of the full marketing stack from performance to brand, and to really understand what we needed at this stage in Wildcard.
I hate the idea of paying recruiters 30% of a years salary to fill a key role. I know it’s a no-brainer sometimes, but building a team is a core strength of ours, and something about retaining recruiters just has always been hard for me to digest. We kept working to better understand the craft, and even built up competency on the “growth hacking” side of the marketing spectrum (not surprising that we got good-ish at the more technical part of the stack first given our dna), and over a few month period we got to a point where we could identify really what we were looking for in a Head of Marketing. With that clarity now under our belt, one of our board members strongly urged me to take meetings with recruiters. I did, and I wasn’t shy about my ask. I wanted someone who had seen the whole thing, from first marketer in, to iconic consumer brand known and loved by millions. I wanted them to have built a team, gained familiarity with the entire stack, and to be of the “startup cloth.” It could be the #2 at Kayak or Venmo or something on that scale, or the #1, but if I was going to pay that kind of money to make this hire, I wanted best in class, humble, roll up their sleeves ready and on the same level in their field as our other leaders are in Engineering, Design, Data Science, etc…To put it in the words of one of the recruiters, “there are like 5 of those people in New York City…you basically want a unicorn.”
As it turned out, we never ended up hiring a recruiter. Through a mutual friend, we started spending time with a super thoughtful, humble, and experienced person who happened to be a user and lover of Wildcard already. He was the first marketing hire and Head of Marketing at Squarespace from when they were Wildcard’s size and no marketing budget to hundreds of people, a super bowl ad and $45M in annual spend. People he worked with through more than four years at Squarespace spoke to his appreciation for product, his desire and ability to live at the intersection of product and marketing, and his overall wonderful contribution to their team and culture…especially in the early days of the company. I was a bit worried that coming from a now huge company like Squarespace, with a 15 person marketing team and running that kind of scaled effort that Wildcard might be too early for him, but as it turns out this is exactly the stage and moment in a company’s life that he had been looking for in his next chapter.
I’m so excited to have Matt Haggerty joining Wildcard as our first Head of Marketing. Design and Engineering have been our strengths for the past 2.5 years, and I can’t wait to turn marketing into Wildcard’s third super power with Matt’s help🙂Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
After 7 months of incredibly hard work, we launched a brand new app today. My blood, sweat, and near-tears are baked into this product…and I think that’s exactly what it takes to create a best in class experience on the iPhone. Wildcard 2.0 is not a proof of concept. It’s not a technology demonstration. It’s not a new design language. As of 7AM this morning, it’s the best news and entertainment app in the Appstore. It’s complete, it’s premium, it will keep you up to date throughout your day, similar to a Twitter or Facebook, but it’s beautifully designed and editorially curated to surface the highest quality content from the web, without the noise and junk. It’s on my home screen, and it would be there even if I didn’t help to build it…and it’s on a lot of other home screens…thanks to an incredible group of beta testers who helped us refine and perfect it over the past 2 months…people use it everyday…it’s become a part of my life, a part of an extraordinarily high percentage of our beta users’ lives, and today I hope it becomes a part of your life too. It’s absolutely beautiful, absolutely smart, so easy to use, and you can count on it to keep you informed and entertained weather you have 2 minutes waiting in line for lunch, or 2 hours stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
I know you probably have some other way that you are used to getting your news and entertainment every day…but Wildcard 2.0 is next level. When we started Wildcard, we set out to redefine how you access and consume the web’s content from your phone, and today I think we’ve answered the news and entertainment portion of that question. We are going to work our asses off, day and night, to ensure that you know what’s happening in the world, and in your world, everyday. You’ll know the 10 major things that everyone at work is talking about, and the next 20 things that are super interesting but didn’t make it into your Facebook newsfeed, and finally the 20 things that are important news to you, but not necessarily to the rest of the world…in short…with Wildcard 2.0…you will Know the Day.
Here’s the link: http://wcd.io/wildcardios
Here’s our new website (which i love): http://www.trywildcard.com/
Enjoy, and please let us know what you think. We’re @wildcard on Twitter.
Lastly, so many people here worked tirelessly to bring 2.0 to life. I’m so proud and appreciative of our team here at Wildcard…it’s a really wonderful group.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
6 months of hard work, and I think we’ve built an app that you will use everyday. Wildcard 2.0 is laser focussed on helping you to know what’s going on in the world and online everyday. We’re opening up 1000 invites today before it’s officially in the app store.
Here’s a bit about the new app
Wildcard is a news experience like no other. It’s everything that’s happening in the world that’s interesting and entertaining, broken down into easy, understandable experiences perfect for you phone. Whether you have a spare minute or a long commute, there’s always something fresh and interesting waiting for you in Wildcard.
Wildcard is visual. We don’t always have time to read entire articles or blog posts. Wildcard is a visually stunning, easy to use news experience on the iPhone. We designed Wildcard specifically for your phone, to make skimming, browsing, viewing, reading, and sharing as easy as humanly possible.
Wildcard is effortless. We make it easy to scan and find what interests you. It’s designed to get you right to the articles, videos, photos, and stories that you care about, from across the internet and all of your favorite sites and publications. Wildcard stays on top of the day for you, and YOU choose when and where to dive in.
Wildcard is fast. We use streamlined card technology to deliver the internet’s content to your phone in high fidelity without the wait. See more, wait less. Simple.
Wildcard gets smarter the more you use it. Not only will it show you what’s happening in the world every day, it can start to show you what’s happening in YOUR world, that you care about, based on what you read and share. The more you use use Wildcard, the better your feed gets. Think of Wildcard like a personal news concierge, that goes out and searches the internet for you every day. Oh, and you can connect your Twitter if you want a custom experience from day 1.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last night I went for a long run along the west side highway. The first few miles of my runs tend to be a mediation of sorts. The ideas and pressures and things that are unresolved tend to percolate to the surface of my consciousness…and when I realize they are there…I let them go and the mind moves on. Depending on my stress level, this usually leaves miles 3-6 as pretty creative space. Everything afflictive has been recognized and released…and I start to think about possibilities…I love possibility…it’s in the suspension of disbelief that I have my most exciting thoughts. Last nights run led me to thinking about accreditation in the startup world. With more and more companies being started every day, and more and more noise (but also hidden signal), I thought about how independent accreditation or ratings could be a valuable and necessary layer in the venture and startup ecosystem. Today, that role is largely played by angel investors and incubators. For 7% of your company, Y-Combinator will put a badge on your startup that says “these folks are legit.” Techstars, Dreamit, Angelpad, whatever…all serve as light accreditation layers signaling to the market that you are worth investors’ attention. The capital and even operational/strategic value that they deliver varies from incubator to incubator, but I’d argue that the YC badge, and a known quality level for those who attain it, ends up playing a pretty critical role not just in a startup’s trajectory, but also in investors’ modus operandi. Angel investors used to perform a similar function. If you got Chris Dixon’s money, or Michael Dearing’s money 5 years ago, that meant something…a big vc fund would look at any deal that had that badge…today, with so many deals, so much spray and pray, so much leverage (via angelist, seed funds, whatever) behind angels’ brands, that accreditation might not mean as much as it used to. So the dynamics are changing a bit on how startups become recognized as legit, and as incubators try to scale, angels lever, and there are WAY more of both at this layer in the stack…I was wondering if a new sliver of acrediditation might be possible and even valuable. What if there were a brand analgous to Moody’s or S&P that was objective and able to rate or rank early stage companies as being legit or not legit…this layer would not be an investor…it would not be a “help you build your thing provider” or a “i’ll introduce you to Series A funds provider”…it would decouple the value add from the accreditation, and simply say “this co is a 7, and that co is a 4” perfectly objective, without further incentive, and it would publish this data to the market as a whole. It would use filters akin to the most sophisticated incubator or angel investors, but build a brand in objective rating. Startups that believed they were more legit than the attention they were garnering could go get rated (just like a company goes to Moody’s to get their bonds rated to attract more capital)…and investors who built trust in the service could use the data to focus on legit opportunities and filter out the noisy stuff. How this service would make money I didn’t quite hash out. I hate businesses that charge startups for help raising capital…so even though moody’s gets paid to rate bonds, I’d prefer it if this rating service wasn’t “pay to get ranked.” I don’t think charing investors for access to the published ratings would be a good model, or a service to the companies that went through the rating process. It’d be nice if the service could take 1% instead of 7% for the service of accreditation, but that sort of fucks up the incentive structure and objectivity…unless of course it was more of a “seal of approval” than a rating, where the mark of legitimacy was doled out sparingly…but i really liked the idea that every co that wanted a rating would get one…and that dynamic would prevent shitty startups from seeking ratings…so there’s more work to do on the business model side, but I think it would be fun to explore this accreditation layer in the stack, in a non-schlocky, non-bank your startup and get you in front of investors kind of way.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
All good things must come to an end some time…today we told the team that this current fund is the last one I’ll be investing with Lerer Ventures. After 6 truly extraordinary years, it’s time…I’m so grateful to have had this experience and the opportunity to create LV. More than half of my professional life has been spent working with Kenny and Ben, and more recently Eric and the rest of the LHV team, and it has been a true honor and pleasure. I can’t adequately express my gratitude to the fam…i’ve become the person and professional that I am today through your mentorship, friendship and love. Thank you.
Being an investor is obviously a big piece of where and how I feel creative. I don’t think I’ll ever stop exercising that creativity. I don’t know exactly what shape it will take next, but I find myself looking forward at a blank canvas…and I really like that feeling. I think I’ll live in it for a while and see what kind of trouble I can’t stir up. Oh, and for founders in the portfolio, don’t worry, i’m here to support you same as always.
man…you think through this stuff on paper…and know it’s right…but boy does it feel intense when plans become realityRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Today Facebook launched a test with Publishers which I’ve been following for quite some time given it’s proximity to our work here at Wildcard. The program enables Facebook to render 3rd party content from publishers like the New York Times, BBC, and Buzzfeed natively within Facebook. So when your friends share a link to the NYT in Facebook, instead of having to click it and get sent out of Facebook to the NYT website, the articles content is displayed in the Facebook app…it feels like it’s part of the app…and you don’t have to wait to load a webpage…does that sound familiar? The New York times says “the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site.”
I’m really excited to see FB take such a strong position that links to webpages is an unacceptable user experience on mobile. For us at Wildcard, we have built the technology to enable any app, including our own, to display 3rd party content natively in the same way that this Facebook trial does. We built the tools for publishers to push their content in in this format, we built the tools for an app to display it alongside the content from their own API seamlessly, and we built our vision of what this native web consumption experience can feel like to consumers in our IOS app. The thing that we have not done yet, which Facebook obviously put a ton of time and energy into, is figure out how the money flows to publishers in a way that aligns the users’ experience in a discovery channel like FB or Google Now and the publishers top line. The NYT makes money off of display ads on webpages…and those ads don’t follow their content into environments that render it natively…and while the publishing world is aware that they need to think beyond this form of monetization…giving up this revenue this quarter or next in exchange for other value like native app installs, subscription, etc…is a tall order for most top line focussed businesses. It’s a pretty thorny problem…where Snapchat discover (which also hosts publisher content natively), and Facebook have the scale to monetize on behalf of CNN or the NYT and then provide a rev share to ease the pain into what is obviously an inevitable future, Groupme or Foursquare might not. But Groupme users should be able to read the NYT 10x faster like they do in FB now…and Foursquare users should be able to read the Eater review 10x faster like they do in Facebook…even “native” monetization solutions like outbrain and taboola that could follow publishers’ content around to these new discovery environments rely on real estate that surrounds an article…which is not available when content is rendered in a 3rd party app.
We’ve been thinking a lot about what native monetization looks like for CNN or NYT beyond the FB specific program or the Snapchat specific program, under the assumption that all apps will be able to display their content 10x faster in a native app based internet…but frankly we aren’t big enough to be the defining force that answers this question over the next 24 months. I think the question will get answered in this time frame…we can and have built the infrastructure to enable such a reality…and I’m hopeful and excited to see giants like FB hacking away at the business model for publishers to win while graduating from a mobile webpage based mindset….because loading webpages on phones is simply unacceptable.
Today is just another step in the direction of replacing links to webpages with native renderings of content and experience. Call it a card…call it an instant article…call it a rich pin…I don’t care…it’s a win for users and a deep confirmation of the future I’ve been obsessed with for the last 2 years.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
My entire life I have always felt a little bit different…not necessarily an outcast…but certainly not normal. This was an idea that was reinforced by my family, and friends, early professional relationships, etc…words like weird or crazy were commonplace earlier in life, and I embraced them as welcome pieces of my identity…conformity was disgusting…uniqueness was important…and I got pretty good at being a weird or different person in environments made up of “non-weirds.” I remember when I started my first company 7 or 8 years ago…entrepreneurship felt like a path that was for the weird, or non-traditional…here was a vocation that was designed for people like me…where I wouldn’t have to fit into someone else’s culture or norms…where my path was anti-path but there was a word for it called startup, that loosely collected the other people to whom “the normal path” didn’t make sense. Admittedly, there may have been some naivitee in this feeling, but at the time entrepreneurship was place where the different could thrive, and I liked that…
Lately I’ve been noticing that entrepreneurship isn’t so different anymore. What was once the anti-path is now kind of becoming the path…for high potential college grads, people leaving wall st, etc…the types of people who were calling me weird are now regular participants in startupland…these days for every Charles Forman there’s a bain consultant or two and I’m wondering if startupland is going to feel less like home to the next set of not-normals who are looking for where they belong in the professional world. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, or that the bain consultants don’t belong here…a lot of those folks are crushing it, building successful businesses, etc…I’m just interested in where the “crazies” might go next, if startupland becomes the new normal path.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
I read this piece by Oliver Sacks in the times last week, and have reread it 5 or 6 times since. It’s a reflection upon learning that he has terminal cancer. Read it before continuing, it’s beautiful.
I couldn’t figure out exactly why it spoke to me so deeply, but now I know. Sack’s sets up a framework between living in “matters of the present” vs. “matters of the future” which rings very true to me. Friends, travel, enjoying each day…these are matters of the present that anyone alive can choose to prioritize. There is common wisdom that guides us to “live in the present,” and workaholics are always warned of the hospice nurse who reminds us that “the dying never say ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.’” Peace in the middle east, global warming…these are matters that belong to the future. Unresolved…but hairy problems that are only of concern to someone who will be here tomorrow, or next year when solutions are more in reach.
I found it fascinating that Sacks has chosen to live in the present in his last months, not because he wishes he had done it differently before, but rather because he can no longer have a role in matters of the future. I love the notion that matters of the future, when put against the present, represent struggle and effort…that matters of the future are work…and focussing on them is…by definition…not living in the present…yet Sacks obviously valued his participation in these matters as, if not more deeply, than those of the present. I loved the gratitude he expresses around having had “an intercourse with the world. The special intercourse a writers and readers.” I take away form these words that work and struggle, and toiling with the future is a great privilege…and that “living in the moment” while such a privilege is available to us is to forgo a right granted to all with a tomorrow.
I live this privilege to toil with future…everyday…as I go to work…and struggle…to answer questions unanswered…
Not everyday does it feel like a privilege…when your run down, and tired, and the answers aren’t coming fast enough…when the next meeting on you calendar looks like a brick fucking wall…remember what a deep privilege it is not to be traveling…not to be living to enjoy each day…you are exercising your right to deeply participate in matters of our future. Sacks had the intercourse of writers and readers, and we have the intercourse of startups and users…and when we reach the moment where necessity commands we give up this right…when we have to travel, and enjoy each day…we will look at this intercourse with the deepest gratitude, and not wish we had done more yoga and bike rides…There is an army of youth who surrender to matters of the present before required…they are surfing and meditating and seeing the world…and when they face the moment that they can no longer concern themselves with matters of the future, they won’t even realize the privilege they lose…
Some days…when living in matters of the future is particularly hard…when the struggle has been the struggle for too many days…I long to surrender my privilege…to move to the mountains and live moment to moment…how much easier life would be without the toil of tomorrow…but I will not…until i see my end as clearly as I see what could be.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
We’ve got this new product coming out at Wildcard. It’s for IOS developers and I’m really excited about it. You know that feeling when your in a nice, fast app…and then you click a link and it kicks you out to a slow, weird, frustrating webpage…yea that sucks…and it’s really the only choice IOS developers have if they want to show you content from other places in their apps…Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Google Now all recognized how bad this sucks, and invested a lot of time and money building a way to show 3rd party content (or links) natively in their apps. Each built a proprietary card platform to handle links and transform them into native cards to save you that frustrating click out. Well…for every other IOS developer, who doesn’t have tons of money to invest in that infrastructure, Wildcard has developed a free IOS SDK that gives you that functionality for free in a few lines of code. Watch the video below and holler if you’d like to test it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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At Wildcard we build product very fast, and we release new stuff almost every week. The good part about that, is that if you dream it and if our users want it, we can build it…in fact, there isn’t a single thing you can contemplate that we can’t design and build…the bad part of that is that with so much product, keeping a unified message across our products and audiences, and getting the correct message to the correct audience, can be a little exhausting. We have product for consumers, and product for publishers, and soon product for app developers…all oriented around the same fundamental pain point…which is that webpages suck on your phone. We have a belief that webpages will not be how you interact with the internet on your phone 5 years from now, and that a technology and design movement known as “cards” or “native cards” is replacing the legacy web. We are a design and engineering driven group of 23 people who are ready to become a “design and engineering and marketing driven group of 24 people.” This is not your typical startup marketing opportunity, where an app wants distribution, so they hire someone to go get them installs, and that’s the gig. This is a leadership opportunity where your first and most important goal is to infuse marketing DNA and thinking into our entire team. We believe that chemistry between disciplines is essential to success. If you come here you will be expected to learn and appreciate everyone’s individual crafts, whether those be data science or mobile design, and in turn, find a way to communicate your craft to all of us.
With that as a baseline, step two is to be the smartest marketing mind in New York City, independent of what medium and channels are available to us today, tomorrow, or 12 months from now. You might have apprenticed under a master at Kayak, or Venmo, or Squarespace and this is your chance to run the show…or you might have been the master and this is your chance to change the internet. Either way, you are literally coming into a company with zero marketing/growth infrastructure in place. So there is an element of roll up your sleeves, figure this shit out with us, teach us what best in class means in your discipline, and then layer in the right people on your team to execute well. We’re an incredibly curious and fast learning group, and we’re ready to develop as marketing and growth thinkers. We have world class leadership in every discipline we practice…our leadership and team have all successfully started and sold companies in the past, and we’ve chosen to come together to tackle a very ambitious, very amazing problem. I don’t think we have an “easy” or “clear cut” marketing challenge with many analogs and known solutions…I think this is a gig that will require extreme creativity, self-confidence, and persistence…but for the right person, I can assure you it will be fascinating, and you will get to join a wonderful ride, build a brand, and grow a company with a very special group of people.
What does success look like? If you crush it, Wildcard will be a household name. 8 out of 10 people you meet will know that it’s the best way to access the web on your phone. 8 out of 10 Apps will know it’s an obvious replacement to the Safari webview, and 8 out of 10 web publishers will know cards are the best way to natively reach users who haven’t yet installed their apps.
1) You built and grew a brand that we know…we know it because of your effort.
2) You are a good person
3) You want to replace Safari and Chrome with the world’s first “native browser” and you’re not afraid to try to message that to people who don’t know what “native” is or even what a “browser” is
Comp: Extremely competitive comp, meaningful equity, great benefits
Start: whenever you’re ready
A bit of launch Press:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
What does a CEO do in the two weeks leading up to his startup’s launch day? 99 out of a 100 times the answer is “hustle his ass off, line up press, deeply scrutinize product, figure out distribution playbook, create email lists, coordinate the blast, develop playbook for how to work social channels, target influencers, help the team sane while they are sprinting to the finish line, put out fires, etc. etc. etc.”
What did I do in the two weeks leading up to Wildcard’s launch? Lay in bed, sweating out a super intense fever, shiver, sleep, alternate between advil and tylenol every 4 hours for 13 days straight, and stress about how I couldn’t do almost any of the things I should have been doing because I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life.
The first day I was in the office was the day before launch, when I squeezed out about 3 hours of work before dropping like a brick. I remember scheduling a Techcrunch conversation with Sarah Perez and telling her 11AM is better than noon because my fever usually spikes around noon each day…”hopefully that’s ok?”
Overall I think our launch went pretty well. No major fires, a bunch of thoughtful press. Some fair criticism and a lot of generous support and excitement…when people ask me how it was I generally say 8.75 out of 10…and that is almost entirely thanks to a handful of amazing people here stepping up and picking up my slack to make everything happen. While I was pretty depressed that I couldn’t do my job in a critical time after a year and half of build up, I was pretty inspired that we had built a team that could do my job for me…about as well as I could have done it myself.
So that was the two weeks leading up to launch…but this story doesn’t end there…after another two weeks of remaining ill (albeit slightly less ill)…i started spending a lot of time at doctor’s offices, trying to figure out what the hell was going on…blood test after blood test, results were not regular…white blood cell counts were high even when my fever went away, and then my doctors notices something in my blood called myelocytes. Myelocytes are immature cells that get spit out from your bone marrow before fully differentiating…a quick search on google will confirm that they are often an indication of mallignancy and this news sort of brought me out of the sphere of “fuck this is a bad virus” into the sphere of “fuck is this lymphoma or leukemia?” After a horrendous experience interacting with a sea of physicians assistants and doctors that were not MY doctor, I finally got 30 seconds with the dude who has been giving me physicals for the last 15 years and he sent me to a hematologist/oncologist. Occasionally myelocytes can be present in your blood when you are just really sick…and a bad infections or viruses throw your body, including your bone marrow so out of whack that they spit those puppies out before they are ready…but I’d have to go see a specialists to figure out what was going on.
Yesterday, I finally got the last test result back and I am home free…in the clear…no more myelocytes, normal white blood cells, no more follow up appointments…back to business as usual…but the last 5 weeks or so in total have been pretty fucking rough. I’m not sure exactly why i’m writing this all out, but this is a space where I usually reflect on things that are on my mind…and for the last month when normally Wildcard would have been my entire life…in reality…it was pretty hard to focus on Wildcard…and I guess writing this out just provides some kind of closure to an experience I’ve never really had before, but that I suppose bcomes a part of life as you get beyond your invincible 20’s…
As I really settle back into a more normal mindspace…as I really check in with where we are as a company…and dedicate the mindshare that I am used to allocating to it…I am struck by the contrast between today and yesterday before I got those results. I can’t help but observe that import is relative, not absolute. Day to day it definitely feels absolute. Work can be so intense. Get a hire, lose a hire, win a deal, lose a deal, succeed or fail…these things FEEL so heavy…so important…when their is nothing heavier in your immediate vicinity…and even when something heavier emerges…health…9/11…ebola…etc… how fleeting that moment when the heavy becomes light in the face of something greater…our memories are so short…less than 24 hours before Wildcard’s homescreen is as consuming as “does my blood have cancer in it.” I know that is a bit extreme to say…but it is incredibly difficult to consistently maintain the notion that import is relative…or even to hold the contextual and the universal or truth side by side…to see import on a spectrum as opposed to a point.
I’m not sure there is anything to do with this reflection, except to remember that even the heaviest points, the ones that make the everyday feel unimportant…they are just points as well…and there are things out there of an even greater weight…that we are I suppose fortunate not to hold in our minds…for fear that everything would be reduced to nothingRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
I read this morning that Fab was selling for $15M, half cash half stock, 18 months after raising $150M at a $1.5B valuation…As I clicked through to the article, I felt the same disgusting feeling you feel when driving by a car accident and trying to catch a glimpse of the blood and gore. It’s an ugly behavior…a guilty, sensational, non-empathetic lust to watch the wreck in all it’s gruesome detail…and for some reason we, here in startupland, can’t get enough of the high profile gore. We say that failure is acceptable in this world, and when a seed funded company doesn’t make it to the A round, we generally embrace that human and try to lift them up as opposed to scrutinizing his fall, but when fancy people fail, when a high profile person’s new product flops, or a company once on a tear, hit’s a bump in the road, it’s such an easy story, or off color comment, or joke to crack…that we actually bond over watching the car crash together…it’s just a sick behavior.
What does this say about our tolerance for exploration? How can we encourage risk taking, and pushing the envelope when we behave like this? Why does past success or praise somehow strip a founder or company of their right to be imperfect? This world loves to jump on the bandwagon when something is hot, and loves to jump off and judge when the same thing cools off…and there’s this implicit “i was right about this” or “i saw this coming” or everyone else who was bragging about “being right” on the way up was actually wrong and somehow their loss levels things out and becomes my gain…it’s just such an ugly, detached relationship to the creative process…and it only really exists in people who are just far enough a way to look at the thing that’s being judged, as opposed to the process of creation, the risk taking, the attempt…which comes in many flavors, and in my opinion is beautiful even when it ends in defeat.
I know absolutely nothing about Fab…i’m not an investor, have never met them, didn’t bother to read what went right and what went wrong…but if it’s not Fab this week, it’s something else last week or next week…and I’m a little tired of the sensationalism and expose (ex-pose-ay…i don’t know how to make that e character w the thing over it), camera rolling in your face, snickering that comes with a visible defeat. Next time you find yourself judging someone else’s attempt at creation from your arm chair, rather than lust in the savory details, get off your fucking ass and create something instead.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
After a year and a half of incredibly hard work, recognizing that we have MANY years of work ahead, today we are releasing the first version of the Wildcard card browser. If you have an iPhone, you can download it here, and if you’re reading this on a desktop you can click this link and scroll down to receive a text with the appstore link.
I believe that one day Wildcard will replace whatever legacy browser you are using on your phone. It’s clear to me that the browser is the worst user experience on every iPhone owner’s homescreen, and the rise of card technology and card design I believe represents an answer to this reality. While 1.5 years of work may seem like a long time, it is still early days for cards and the native internet…every major platform (Twitter Cards, Facebook OpenGraph, Pinterest Rich Pins, Google Cards, Facebook Applinks, etc.) is working on their version of solutions, and every publisher and developer is being asked to rethink their dependance on legacy webviews in a mobile world. For publishers, cards represent a native interaction with a user that hasn’t installed their app yet, deeplinks represent a native interaction with a user that has, and mobile webviews represent the worst first/last impression you will ever make on a new user.
For consumers, native (app technology) has clearly won, but we’ve lost discovery, and browsing, and easy movement between experiences…the most fundamental thing about my desktop web experience was and still is that I can open a browser, type anything into that box, and get back relevant results that are actionable and usable without installing new software…that is a super power…and it’s what Wildcard hopes to return to you in this mobile first life we are all living. Why should you have to wade through a sea of blue links to broken pages and inconsistent experience when every other app on your phone is beautiful, clean, fast and easy to use. Your web experience should be like that too, and Wildcard is a better way to get what you need from the web.
Like any new technology, this is a Version 1. A beginning of a better mobile web experience, but not without plenty of room for improvement. I sent a note to our team earlier this week, after reflecting about what today’s launch represents, and I wrote that this release is about putting out the first chapter of product that we are deeply proud of, standing behind it, and writing the rest of the book in the open, with participation and feedback from users, developers, publishers, and the market as a whole.
I stand by that thought. Most specifically, Wildcard represents direct access to and discovery of a burgeoning native web. The access part—the browser—we’ve got down pretty well. The discovery part—card search—we’ve done a ton of work to bootstrap in the absence of being live, but it needs users and your help to take it to the next level. Card search feels kind of similar to when Apple launched Siri. Awesome new technology, didn’t nail it 100% of the time, but when she did it was great and she improved every day. That’s what Card search is gonna feel like for a while too. You’ll also start to notice that new cards will be popping up in Wildcard…soon you might be able to find a ticket, check a yoga schedule, etc. etc…so keep searching and watch as things unfold.
Last thought, if you are a publisher or developer or anyone with an online presence who wants to create, manage, or control your cards in Wildcard, or in general…we’ve got great tools for you to do that and we hope you’ll take advantage of them. And if you’re an app that is chomping at the bit to display cards instead of mobile webviews inside your experience, hang tight…we’ve got something coming for you…
Thanks so much for giving Wildcard a try. The more you use it, the faster it will become what you want it to be.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This week I had a chance to skype video with a young woman from Dartmouth who reached out to me via the Dartmouth career network. She had created her own major in school at the intersection of media and technology and was beginning the Computer Science portion of her curriculum in her Senior year. We talked about careers in technology, the path to becoming a founder, things she could be doing now to position her well for a job in this world, and general tips and tricks like “startups won’t know their hiring needs until a few months before you graduate, Fall is the wrong time to apply.” I didn’t share anything ground breaking, but I found the experience of even slightly helping her as she considers this path a pretty rewarding one.
At Wildcard we have thought a lot about how to improve our gender diversity as a company. We’ve come a long way from where we started at “we need to get more women in here.” What I am starting to realize now is that our commitment to furthering a gender aware and forward thinking culture is not best solved by simply hiring more women. Checking the “female hiring” box is not quite like saying “some of my best friends are [insert minority here],” but it’s also not THAT far off. Our responsibility as a company is not to check boxes, it’s to invest in improving gender diversity in our field as a whole, regardless of the direct benefit to our company. There’s obviously a societal/cultural problem somewhere in the chain and I’m interested in attacking that problem at its roots if possible. Is bringing great women on board at Wildcard a positive step to take? Of course. But what I’m starting to believe is that our most impactful investment in this initiative may be long term in nature, as opposed to short term transactional steps that “yield immediate female hires to our team.” For example, I am really proud that we are hosting a group of 10th grade women for a day of mentorship around technical career planning in a few weeks. I’m really proud and happy to stretch my calendar to always fit in the type of skype call i referenced above. I’m really proud that the things Wildcard is doing to step up our approach are bubbling up from the entire team, as opposed to being mandated or encouraged from the top down. And I’m really proud that the conversation in our office is getting more connected to the intention of gender diversity, and less applied in the form of “hiring a great engineer is a win and hiring a great female engineer is a win +1.”
I can’t say that I am not excited when I look at my calendar and see an interview scheduled with a female candidate, but that woman has already found her way to our field and our door and she is in the minority in that way. I’m even more excited about the idea of reaching a young woman before some cultural norm, direct, or inadvertent message sets her on a path where a career in technology seems in any way unusual. I think like any goal, things happen through a combination of brute force effort and and intelligent planning and investment. We’re going to continue to work on the intelligent investment and planning part at Wildcard, and I’m gonna keep brute forcing it with categorical yeses to young women reaching out for advice or mentorship…obviously not super scaleable, but if this post reaches you and you are a female student interested in technology, give a shout if you want to talk through it: email@example.com. I invite anyone reading to extend the same invitation by dropping your email (and maybe title/company) into the comments field here and for female students to feel free reaching out to anyone in the comments as well. I guess this is a little experiment…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )
Last week Wildcard raised a $7 Million Series A round. We had about half of the initial $3M we raised in the bank when we did this, but we’re confident we’re going in the right direction and this additional capital enables us to grow our incredible team and build the future we see without hesitation. I thought about calling Techcrunch with “the story” but the reality is raising money isn’t a story in and of itself. When you try our products, both consumer and business facing, if they change your life…which I believe they will…that will be a story worth writing about. I feel very fortunate to have investors who believe in us enough to more than double down on Wildcard, and I’m really proud of our incredible team that built the product and technology that emboldened them to push a fresh $7 Million into a prelaunch company building into in a market coveted and controlled by giants.
In summary…we haven’t accomplished what we’ve set out to accomplish…but we’re onto something…and now we’ve got ~$8.5M to continue working our asses off to chase it down…see you in September.
Oh…and if you’re a merchant or publisher…or really anyone with an online presence and want to see your brand in highly performant, native cards…check this out and send a note for the early hookup.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
For the first time in months I find myself on a quiet train ride, no work, no girlfriend, no family…just my headphones and a print edition of the New York Times…it’s a different experience reading a newspaper cover to cover. In an age of scanning headlines and tweets…subconsciously pulling out and engaging only with the content that somehow seems relevant to me…there is a joy and bliss in reading a completely unfiltered…seemingly irrelevant collection of articles word by word with no regard for time or efficiency or practical application.
As I reflect on what I have read today I am reminded of something that I already knew but easily forget in the day to day hustle…which is that there are 7 billion realities in this world…and each person’s has the same depth and volume as the one that feels so fucking important and significant to me. I don’t know why we weren’t given the ability to hold empathy for all 7 billion realities in our consciousness…simultaneously…but we weren’t. Perhaps it would be immobilizing…somehow we were designed to maintain self importance because without it purpose and forward movement would be challenging to muster? Is it possible to raise venture capital while considering the family in California who sells homemade ice pops on the side of the freeway in order to avoid homelessness? The two seem irreconcilable when held in conciousness at the same moment. The success of Wildcard doesn’t mean shit to that family. They have no room for empathy around my challenges…and vice versa the fate of that family…in the moment of day to day doesn’t mean anything to me. I will forget about them tomorrow as I have the countless other realities that I drop into for a moment and then can’t maintain space for over time. Of course I do care…now…when I sit on this train with this free space in my head and my heart to consider their realty…but I’ve chosen…as most have…to allow myself to remain self absorbed in the name of my own realty and own interests. Sure I will pop out…move between contexts…volunteer or donate…but at the end of the day it seems there is no place for Sudan in a day filled with scaleable card creation…reconciliation of disparate card schemas and the implications of deep linking on reengagement vs. discovery…there is something to be said for focus…it’s what gets us where we want to go…but I can’t help but think with all this focus that we are somehow loosing focus…I subscribe to an idea that we were all designed to do something here…that each individual has a role to realize in a pretty complex and loosely choreographed 7 billion person dance…and it feels like I am making decisions in line with what I was put here to do…but even in full resolve that I am doing the right thing with my life…I can’t help but feel as though I am living in a reality marred with blindness.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Liz Gannes wrote an article this morning entitled “For Mobile Apps Like Tinder, Cards and Swipes Rule the Day” that did a nice job articulating some of the design advantages to using cards as the atomic unit of interaction inside native apps…she interviewed folks from Tinder, Swell, etc…and talked about how the unit and native actions around it (like swiping) are ideal for mobile experience. Things get a little muddled in my mind when the folks interviewed suggest that cards are not meant to be consumed in a vertical or scroll feed…i think there are a lot of interaction models on top of the core unit that work…but she sums up the trend of cards as follows: “The gist of all these posts is that the metaphor of a card is great for delivering well-formatted information that’s readable at a glance.”
Through this lens, cards appear to be the building blocks, or core atomic units, of well designed native apps…much in the same way that webpages are the core atomic unit of websites…ok, so cards are the native building block…cool, but I think it’s really important to distinguish between what I call “1st party card interfaces” and “3rd party card interfaces.” 1st party card interfaces in my mind are native applications like Swell and Tinder, that choose to display structured data from their own API or service in this contemporary design paradigm. The benefit or the leverage over more page based concepts lies in the brevity and conciseness of experience, in it’s physics and relation to native controls, and in the flexibility of interaction models you can build on top of many smaller pieces of data or experience, as opposed to fewer larger pieces…think of contextual surfacing of cards as an example of the last one…dropping a user into a finer pinpointed piece of data as opposed to the the same correct data surrounded by more irrelevent data (due to the larger “unit size” of a page for example)…the pinpoint makes for a better recommendation and discovery experience…
So yea, for “1st party card interfaces”, there are a lot of advantages to displaying your data and experience in this atomic unit…” but the impact of a card is not felt as deeply in 1st party as it is in 3rd party interfaces. A 3rd party card interface, to me, is a native application that displays data or experience in card format, but where the data is served not from an internal API, but rather from a 3rd parties API or markup. Examples of 3rd party card interfaces would be Twitter, Wildcard, Google Now (sometimes), Pinterest, and even Facebook although I don’t think they call them cards. In the “pre-card” era, when a native application wanted to display data or experience from a 3rd party, they would need to open a webpage or a webview to do so…in essence they would have to kick there user our of the native experience, and fall back on a legacy technology that, while effective in the desktop era…is quite inferior on mobile. In the desktop web, the cost to an application or website of linking out to a 3rd party was quite low…tabbed browsing, back button, consistent fast page loading, fluid movement and navigation between pages…or more generally…the interaction models on top of the core unit of webpage (or webpage represented as a link )…made webpage an acceptable atomic unit to move between 1st and 3rd party data and experience…
Today, as the era of card emerges, I think it’s important to recognize that there is a unique advantage to cards in 3rd party card interfaces not oft mentioned when discussing the trend through a 1st party lens…which is that they are able to deliver 3rd party information with the same performance and speed as they are information coming from their own API. So beyond the consistency of user experience….beyond the ease of fitting a 3rd party data and experience directly into the 1st party design paradigm…3rd party card interfaces are using a different data and rendering model that makes linking to or relying upon the information and experience of 3rd party publishers, merchants, or brands with an online experience, much less expensive. This is a massive evolution, and a piece of UX that was lost in the migration from web to native…
Summarized…cards are cool in 1st party card interfaces, but even cooler when thought of in the context of connective tissue at both the data and application layer between mobile experiences…much more powerful alternative to this deep linking bullshit that everyone is hocking…deep linking is cool for engagement and reengagement…but a whack solve for discovery.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
One of the first questions Kenny always asks a founder is “what are you? give it to me in one sentence.” Amazingly, that is a very difficult question for msot early stage founders to answer. I find that moment to moment that answer is living and evolving…and that it is rare (but extremely valuable” for someone to settle into a “one sentence” that is repeatable over and over again. Last night I went to a dinner hosted by one of our investors. It’s the second dinner of it’s kind that I’ve attended and they both followed the same format. There were about 10 attendees and the host asked each founder to introduce themselves and what his or her company did. Some people had very straightforward answers. One founder would say “we help small and medium size businesses advertise online…” another would say “we built a game called X” or “we help people find tickets for last minute events.” Perhaps my blessing and my curse at Wildcard is that we don’t fit so neatly into one simple line. I thought back to the first dinner about 5 months ago I think and I had to include an educational sentence or two on what a “card” was before being able to explain what Wildcard does. As I sat there last night, I had this nice feeling that the market and people at least in tech circles are up to speed on that. I was able to drop the educational context and arrive at a more concise introduction than previously possible. Last night I said “Hi my name is Jordan and our company is called Wildcard. We’re focussed on an emergent unit of interaction on mobile called “the card.” We see a future where cards replace webpages on mobile and we’re helping consumers and brands with an online presence to explore that future.” My introduction doesn’t get into the how…but I realized that none of the other simple intro’s explained the mechanics behind their value propositions either. It wasn’t “we help smbs market online but we are better because of x, and y and z, and these are the dashboards we give them and blah blah blah…” it was just “we help smb’s market online.” So I guess Wildcard “helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to webpages.” It’s still a work in progress…and of course I want to explain in that sentence our 3 products, how they fit together, the beauty of structuring data and delivering it to any channel capable of accepting it…the elegance of replacing webviews in native apps and large social channels and how that ties into replacing Safari in the consumer’s mind…but you don’t get to tell a 15 minute story when people are going around a dinner table…you get one concise shot for people to decide whether they care or not about what you do…and the language that evolves around your company, product, and mission is the difference between success and failure in that context.
So yea, I’m going to try to wear this “one sentence” for a bit and see how it feels: “Wildcard helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to mobile webpages.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Like most startups, Wildcard furnishes our team with the finest desks Ikea has to offer. It might seem stupid…but some of my favorite days I have ever had building companies have been assembling desks with my teammates. When you are building software, you tend to interact with your growth and progress in completely virtual mediums. Whether it be graphs and analytics, or simply visualization at the UI layer of your product, when things are going forward you feel them on a screen or in your head…but rarely does your progress exist in a way you can touch and feel…rarely does the interface to your growth carry matter…
Every time I have screwed a screw into a washer into a shitty metal leg with a 2 cent allen wrench things have been going well. And the process of assembling that piece of shit furniture takes just long enough…is just inefficient enough…that you have no choice but to slow down and reflect on the fact that you are entering a new phase…that things are changing…and that growth is in the air. A cold hard calculation…playing it just by the numbers…would tell you that it’s worth getting two dudes off craigslist to come assemble all the crap a startup buys at ikea instead of taking highly paid engineers, and designers, and founders away from what their work to sit and tinker with the heap of disconnected parts that will one day become office furniture…but that calculation misses… because it does not factor in the opportunity for a team to interact with their growth in a much more tangible…much more undeniable way than they are typically used to.
You can tell a lot about a new hire by his instinct on the day he walks into a room of pedigreed software engineers clumsily fumbling with “step 4: connecting the back of the chair to it’s stem”…either he sits at his desk and walks through the setup of his new machine as he’s been invited to do…or he pulls up next to you and grabs an allen wrench…understanding that the team is not building our product at that moment because we needed to make space for you who just arrived…because as you come in and we grow…our physical infrastructure needs to keep pace with our software development. Even on his first day, the new hire, at least our most recent hire, instinctually chooses to participate in our growth..because in the physical form it is truly undeniable. To me assembling crappy swedish furniture is a right of passage…some of my fondest memories of the last 6 or 7 years have been listening to tunes with my teammates…living in that very real physical metaphor of our progress toward a shared mission and vision.
Wildcard ran out of desks a few weeks ago…and for the first time as a company, we felt what it was like to blow past the infrastructure that at the time of it’s creation was enough “for the foreseeable future.” We moved beyond what was foreseeable, and are now settling into the new reality of today…Thanks Ikea…for giving us the opportunity to nick our hands and bleed on the unsmoothed edges of growth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
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