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Psychopaths in Startupland

Posted on October 24, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

He looked me dead in the eye and told me that his recently launched app with 1200 installs would have millions of users and be raising $30M on $125M pre within the year, and that he expected to exit in 18 months for hundreds of millions of dollars. He was raising $2M on $32 pre, after having drip raised $12M at successively higher valuations from “high net worth” individuals, and every piece of “value” that he could articulate was “happening next month” or “in late stage discussions with senior executives representing a potential xx.”

I have never understood the person who can look you dead in the eye and lie in a business setting. I know they exist. There are cons and frauds everywhere who maybe tell the same lie so often they begin to believe it, or I don’t know what, but for every overt con or fraud, there are 10 founders out there overrepresenting themselves or their opportunity, intentionally, albeit in less extreme form. On some level the market rewards misrepresentation and deception…which is a total bummer.

I read this tweet recently referencing Chamath from Social Capital…which read “Before @chamath invests in a co., he asks himself, “Is the CEO a psychopath?” If so it’s a buy.” I was so taken back by it, because 1) I think Social Capital is a very interesting fund and have enjoyed reading and listening to their thinking over the past few years (especially because so much of what they preach is about leveling the world’s playing field for the underrepresented and disadvantaged), and 2) because only a psychopath could make a statement like this…and I didn’t think Chamath was psychopath (i hope he’s not, and that this quote was taken our of context, or perhaps just not fully thought through or articulated). But how many psychopath’s walk amongst us? I believe it’s the same impaired empathy and remorse characteristic of a pyschopath that enables a founder to look another human in the eye and defraud or intentionally mislead them for gain. What Chamath identifies, I fear correctly, is that this is a behavior and characteristic that can lead to tremendous success and gain. Just as my friend in the first paragraph had amassed $10M doing this, many have gone on to amass hundreds of millions, if not billions the same way. Some of these psychopaths eventually are exposed…and they end up going to jail or paying steep fines (Madoff, tons of hedge fund magnates, Worldcom, etc. etc.), but many are not, and eventually become legitimized in their success…and their lack of empathy and remorse may not manifest in the form of deception or even breaking the law…but their ability to make decisions for their own and their shareholders gain, without consideration for their customers, employees, partners, or anyone else who is in the way of success is a trait that I fear the ruthless in startupland have come to revere and select for.

I have zero interest in working with the guy in the first paragraph (even if by some grace of god they do go on to make tremendous amounts of money) and I have zero interest in funding any other psychopath for that matter. We have a responsibility as investors to return capital to our LPs, but we have a greater responsibility to our species not to enable those who lack empathy and who will win at ANY cost. This is a moral case for demanding character and ethics in the founders that you back. But as data becomes more abundant, and as it becomes harder for pyschopaths to hide behind shiny magazine cover veneers, there is increasingly a business case as well. I doubt the board members who invested in Theranos and RadiumOne are very happy with their outcomes…and more and more I see public figures and leaders having to reckon with the immoral decisions they make along the way. Going forward, investing in psychopaths will be an expensive strategy (note: i am aware that VC is hits driven business, power law, blah blah blah…but i’ve seen billionaires live like they’ve won for seven or eight decades only to end their life in disgrace with nothing…funding psychopath’s is shortsighted).

I cannot be anything but genuine and honest…it makes me a shitty salesmen…and it always has…but i’d rather be a shitty salesmen than a fraud or a psychopath…and I will only ever back those who I believe have the capacity for empathy and remorse…no matter how much of a “killer” they might be.

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A Break from the Dividing Noise

Posted on October 20, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today i spent the morning volunteering in a low income neighborhood in the Bronx. I have some time on my hands these days, and I figured there is absolutely no excuse not to use some of it for good. I wouldn’t call the place where we volunteered a shelter because nobody sleeps there, I don’t think, but it was a facility that offered meals and haircuts and showers and clothes to folks who obviously appreciated all those services. I went with my friend Pierre and we were both assigned to unpack and fold donated clothing alongside two regulars at the facility, Norma and Anne. They were both in their 50s or 60s, lived close by and were members of the community we were serving.

I felt a sense of connection with both Norma and Anne, and a number of the guests who stopped into our room to “shop” for new outfits. I have donated clothes many many times, but never really seen what happens to them on the other end. Our process for distribution was too rip open dozens of giant garbage bags that crowded the floor space in the room, discard any and all clothing that wasn’t in good enough shape for you or I to wear. “If it’s not good enough for us, it’s not good enough for them” Norma proclaimed. Once QA’d, wed fold and sort by size, and do our best to separate things out onto the gender appropriate shelving within categories like “long sleeve womens” and “girls jackets.” The system thinker in me initially agonized over the inefficiencies in our process…but this was Norma’s process…she ran the show…and not only was there not really room for suggestions…it wasn’t really about maxing out on efficiency.

Yes, we wanted to do our best to find the right clothes for the right people, but the conversation, and the connection, and the expression of both support, gratitude, and community were as, if not more, central to the guest experience. There was something about the relationship between this facility and it’s guests that felt very grounding and consistent and regular…in people’s lives who i’m sure face many destabalizing forces. Even though technically we were volunteering or giving, it was without a doubt a privilege to be invited and welcomed into this community…and for that I am grateful.

I know I just dropped in for a day, and it’s difficult not to sound cliche’d when you are a privileged white male reflecting on your morning of travel uptown to volunteer, but I am consistently amazed and inspired by all which is consistent across seemingly very different slices of humanity. All I hear all day long is politicians slicing us into separate groups and demographics and buckets…and i’m tired of it…we are so much more the same than we are different…today was a welcome reminder of that for me.

 

this is where we went if you are interested in learning more: http://www.potsbronx.org/

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On Angst and Intention

Posted on October 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I have often feared that I am only capable of creating great work in periods of deep angst. I do not want to believe this…in fact I refuse to believe it…but the empirical evidence is hard to ignore…and I know that I am not alone in using angst as an accelerant to achievement.

Angst is an unwillingness to accept where you are in the present. It doesn’t have to be perfectly specific or defined. you can experience angst around your finances, your romantic situation, your geography, your social status, or anything else that is core to your experience but not acceptable to you.

Angst can be an incredibly potent accelerant to work…i think this happens when you are able to sell yourself the promise that a specific effort or body of work, if done well, will change that which you are unwilling to accept in the present. For example, if I had deep angst around my finances, and believed that building a valuable startup could alleviate my lack of money, I could use that angst to find a level of motivation and even superhuman effort and thought that otherwise might not be available to me in building my startup.

Starting out in startupland I think I carried the angst that many young founders do, which was a built up unwillingness to accept the reality of people discounting me and my thinking. I had so many “crazy ideas” that were uninteresting to the Goldman Sachs crowd coming out of college…and I was so tired of not being seen for my creativity…that I simply refused to let those people less creative than me discount my thinking and contribution any longer. That…along with i’m sure plenty of other insecurities and dissatisfactions…created this pure unwillingness to accept the present in my life and propelled me into a period of what I view to be some of my best work and thought. Failing in my first startup…only fueled me deeper…and going into Hyperpublic and the beginning of Lerer Ventures…i was anything but stable…i was an angst filled…fuck you world…hungry mother fucker that simply would not take no for an answer…and not allow anyone or anything to get in my way of changing the present.

That worked…in the sense that I created a great body of work in that period of my life…and it didn’t work in the sense that I was living like a psychopath, completely imbalanced and in a state that was totally unsustainable on any long term horizion…

When I sold Hyperpublic and when Lerer Ventures became successful…I think I lost most of that youthful angst…For the first time I had money of my own, some level of success and respect even amongst the goldman sachs crowd that had previously discounted me…and for the first time in my professional career I didn’t completely reject where I was in life. Of course I maintained goals, and set new ones, and wanted to move forward…as I still do…but there wasn’t thas same rage-filled rocketfuel attached to my work that angst had once provided.

In it’s place, intuitively, I slotted in intention. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll say that intention is an unwillingness to accept the present state of the world (as opposed to your world). Intention is more purposeful…deeper…and considered than angst. One can still be willing to accept their own present while holding intention for what they want of the future…After Hyperpublic, I knew that I should be looking for more considered purpose than just the frenetic struggle to break free from the present.

What I learned, however, is that intention…at least in the form that I developed it…is a very different and for me less potent accelerant than angst…it’s a slower drip…not quite the headspinning, blinders on, kill a baby chic if you have to drug…and that has both it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks when compared with angst. Intention applied to work allows space for relationships, family, and the many facets of life that an angst filled psycho (i.e. me in my early-mid 20s) might backburner in the heat of the fight…it allows for measured progress in a direction of purpose…while maintaining some level of humanity…and that IS sustainable over long periods of time (i.e. life)…

what intention does not do…at least not yet for me…is consume to the point of a neverending dialogue with one’s work. Intention is not an “every waking moment” motivant…or at least it hasn’t been for me. You can turn it off when you need to…and the upside is that that’s healthy…and the downside is that some of the waking moments that get cut out are the deepest and and most brilliant ones…the game changers…the “no normal person would have taken this idea this far down the rabbit hole…and therein lies the opportunity…type moments.”

I very much miss the angst driven rabbit holes of my early professoinal life…BUT…BUT…I refuse to give into my fear that angst is required to create a great body of work…I believe that intention CAN be as powerful…i just don’t believe I’ve found the right way to harness it…my first startup where i tried to combine angst and business sucked (untitled partners)…then I learned how they worked together and things got pretty good (hyperpublic and lerer ventures)…my first startup where I gave up angst and tried to combine intention and business (wildcard) didn’t suck…but it was not my greatest work either. I think I’ll be able to take what I learned and I think things will get pretty good in this new intention based setup…it’s just gonna take more than one try to nail it…but I believe that when I do, another great body of work will follow.

I’ll invest in an angst driven founder all day long…I’ve been one…and I know what can come from that recipe…AND i’ll invest in an intention driven founder all day long…angst or intention…they are both forms of unwillingness…one an unwillingness to accept where you are…the other an unwillingness to accept where the world is…it’s whatever is inbetween…a lack of unwillingness…that I think spells disaster…one form is selfish…the other selfless…i think the first is easier to see…easier to harness…and easier to burn out…while the second requires a level of empathy and internalization of the external that takes time to develop and master. I will pursue it.

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Balance and Kindness

Posted on October 10, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Sometimes at the beginning of a yoga class, the teacher will ask you to set an intention for the class. An intention is a word or goal or reason why you showed up today…and it’s usually something that you want to connect more deeply to. It could be a person who needs some good vibes, or an element you need to be more present in your own life…really anything you want to put energy toward.

Often times when I go to yoga, it’s because I feel out of whack. It’s not necessarily about stress, but when life spins me up, i’ve found yoga a way to hit reset. I first discovered it when I was an Analyst in investment banking right out of college. My days and nights were blurring together, I was dreaming in excel spreadsheets, and I found this studio on my walk from the subway to the office that I decided to stop into one day. While my job owned me 23 hours a day, yoga became an hour that was free of any context other than my mind and my body working together, with complete inward focus.

These days I go to yoga about once a week…sometimes less, but always when I am feeling like I need to reconnect. Last night, I set two intentions for my class: Balance and Kindness.

Balance is something I am always seeking. After an 8 hour hike up the Algonquin and Iriqous high peaks of the Adirondacks, my body was hurting and in need of adjustment and rebalancing…but also during this period of professional evolution…I sought to level my head and find mental balance as well.

Kindness, on the other hand, is not something I think about on a daily basis. It’s a value that I admire, and one that I aspire to…but one that…for me…can sometimes fall by the wayside in the name of efficiency, shrewd decision making, and rational execution. Of course, I’m rarely mean…but true kindness is something that I’d like to be higher up in my emotional stack.

I’ve reflected quite a bit on the last year and half of Wildcard…it was a period with some ups, but a lot of downs…it was highly stressful and as I look back on some of my conversations with friends, teammates, and others…i find myself wishing that I had better maintained my kindness through it all. It’s easier to see it when you step away, and easy to lose it when your thrown back into the next melee…but nonetheless, it’s a value I thought worthy of my intention last night.

P.S. I’ve been infrequent in my blogposts lately…but i’ve recommitted to writing regularly…so even though I feel that in today’s low attention world, people don’t really take the time to read long form blogposts…it’s how I like to organize my thinking…so I’m gonna keep doing it.

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Free $1B (or maybe $50M) idea: Pryntcoin

Posted on September 12, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The problem: Printing tickets, articles, documents that require a signature, and whatever else you find on your phone is hard to do. Increasingly we are a mobile first or mobile only society…1099 workers, digital nomads, consultants…tons of people aren’t going to an office everyday that has a printer set up…and nobody outside of maybe AOL’s remaining dial up customers is going to Staples and buying a desktop printer for the home these days…

BUT…sometimes, despite how digital our consumption has become…we need to print shit…and if you’re like me (and i’m a bit ashamed of this)…sometimes we would just prefer to read something when it’s printed…

SO…we still need to print…increasingly we don’t have access to a printer in those times of need…

Solution: Queue…Queue is a printer that follows you wherever you go. Easily print any document or article you find the web directly from your phone, wherever you are. No more going to staples or kinkos…signing in to those shady ass computers…emailing yourself docs and paying $.50 a page plus the half hour it takes dealing with all that crap while trying to shield your eyes from fluorescent overhead lighting.

Product: Queue is actually technically an application that sits on top of Pryntcoin. Pryntcoin is a blockchain enabled protocol for sharing excess printing resource with mobile users wishing to print in their local geography. It is governed by a cryptocurrency who’s protocol defines the economic incentives and rules of engagement for anyone with a printer to earn coin in exchange for printing documents of passers by. It is also the currency by which, you, as a user, can print anything from your phone, to nearby printer without the hassle of kinkos or fedex.

How it works in practice:

Users of Queue (everyday consumers) can add documents or URLs to the print queue via a dedicate Queue mobile app, or via their share sheet in IOS and Android. Much like you can see your printing queue on your desktop machine, the app let’s you visualize your upcoming print jobs and importantly let’s you determine when you want to print them. You can print at any time, regardless of where you are relative to an active Prynter on the network, but the Queue app will also push notify you when you are in the vicinity of a Pryntcoin printer, at which point for a small fee paid in Pryntcoin, you can send your job to a nearby computer and pick it up on the go. You can specify how far you are willing to walk to get your printouts, or…if you are rich…you can specify an incentive, also paid in Pryntcoin, for the printer or a 3rd party person/service to bring that printout to you wherever you are. You can keep sitting on the steps of Union Sq, watching all the skateboarders and thinking of your next great idea, and someone will come and drop said printouts in your lap. Importantly, every Queue printout will have a cover page with Queue branding and a unique QR code which can be scanned at the time of dropoff/pickup as a form of signature written to the blockchain to govern the release of Pryntcoin associated with this printout.

Prynters in the Pryntcoin network:

Anyone with a printer…be it a bodega on the corner, an accountant working out of her home on the second floor of a brownstone in the east village, or a checked out employee working at a law office with tons of printers…can join the Pryntcoin print network in order to earn Pryntcoin in exchange for printing documents. Much like miners dedicate computing resource to earn Bitcoin, printers in the network dedicate excess printing resource in order to earn Pryntcoin. The protocol that governs the Pryntcoin network handles geofencing and indicates to the network who is within the proximity of a Queue user in need, that is eligible for the Pryntjob, and the first printer in the network who claims the job, prints said users documents.

Collateral: importantly…the network must ensure that Queue users and prynters are able to conduct this exchange of value even when they don’t know or trust each other. It is easy to protect a Queue user, simply by saying “funds in a smart contract on the blockchain are not released until the Queue user sends a signature to the chain that they have received the printout. But how do we protect the Prynter from wasting their time and ink and paper if a Queue user requests a job and then flakes before picking it up? Simple…all Queue users must hold and post a small amount of Pryntcoin to the blockchain when requesting jobs…This way, if they send a job that is accepted, but not picked up…the Prynter has the ability to collect collateral held in a contract on the chain. I think dispute resolution would be baked into the protocol such that users of the Queue app agree to use one of the emergent decentralized dispute resolution services to determine dispute outcomes. Regardless, collateral is not released without resolution…and that illiquidity is in and of itself enough friction to prevent frivolous flaky behavior.

In Summary: the Queue app and service becomes more valuable as more Prynters (printing nodes) join the network. Geographic density truly creates the user experience of a mobile user never beeing more than a few blocks from an available low cost printer. Between collateral that incentives users to hold pryntcoin, an economic incentive for idle printers to contribute work to the system, and an underlying coin that can be earned and spent within the context of a real world application…while importantly enabling the transfer of value of a fungable and underutilized asset (printing resource)…Pryntcoin and it’s killer application, Queue, represent a viable crytpocurrency that can cross the chasm from theortically intriguing to actually useful…Should the Prynycoin blockchain successfully bootstrap and achieve reasonable liquidity…the coin could come to be exchanged for many types of real world work beyond printing…most immediately available would be another semi-fungable unit of value in the form of “courier work”…nodes in the system operating to earn pryntcoin in the form of document delivery associated with the Queue application, could soon come to operate as crypto-incented couriers for a variety of last mile physical delivery jobs…the protocol for ensuring document handoff via QR code, baked into the blockchain governance can transcend the print use case…and with printing and delivery under it’s belt as the first to real world use cases for the exchange of value governed by Pryntcoin, pryntcoin will join the ranks of Bitcoin and Etherium as an enduring and long lasting cryptocurrency that enables decentralized applications that seek to enable the masses to exchange assets and labor freely without a central authority taking a cut or determining who can and can’t participate.

Note: if you are cryptographically inclined, and a little bit crazy, and choose to build Pryntcoin and hopefully also the Queue application, please write into the protocol that 10% of all issued Pryntcoins will be allocated to Pryntcoin’s creater: jordan cooper.

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Dummies guide to abstract crytpothinking

Posted on September 9, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

For the past 3-4 months I’ve spent a substantial amount of effort trying to understand the world of cryptocurrency. The most well known cryptocurrency is, of course, Bitcoin, and the underlying technology that powers Bitcoin is known as blockchain. I’m sure for 90% of readers, this is not new information…nor is it probably news that there are newer cryptocurrencies that are being built that leverage blockchain technology, but that have different properties than Bitcoin. You’ve probably even heard of Etherium, and maybe you know that Etherium has acheived a $1B market cap on the promise of making the Blockchain accessable to programmers who wish to build decentralized applications on top of the blockchain without the hassle of bootsrapping a secure blockchain from the ground up. You might know that Bitcoin can be mined in an exchange of computing power for currency…and maybe not know that all cryptocurrencies are not mined, and that mining is just one form of distribution when a new coin or currency is birthed into the world. Mining is a job that creates value for the network, and coin is the reward for those willing to do it. that work let’s those not wishing to work, enjoy the value of the network (in Bitcoin’s case, money transfer), and holder’s of Bitcoin pay for that work, effectively through the acceptance of inflation on their holdings as new coin is issued to miners as they work. Maybe, you have heard of Steem, which created it’s own blockchain and crptocurency that rewards behavior and participation within a Reddit like media application (which is sometimes refferred to as a protocol vs application, although it feels more like an application than a protocol to me). You probably have not heard of Monero, Dash, Maidsafecoin, Lisk, NEM, Emercoin…or any of the other 20 coins that have a marketcaps north of $20M. And you definitely haven’t heard of the next 20 coins that are currently being designed, white papered, tested, and that will ostensibly be issued over the next 12-18 months. I use the terms “coin” and “cryptocurrency” interchangably here…coin is just shorter and simpler to write. There is something happening in this world…and through fits and starts…and mistakes…and hundreds of millions lost and hundreds of millions gained…I do believe we are getting closer to the potential of cryptocurrencies…and i use the plural because it’s not gonna be one to rule them all…i don’t think…but rather many with distinct uses and applications that will likely be transferrable with each other and traditional FIAT currencies to varying degrees of liquidity determined by the protocols that govern them. The state of this ecosystem is still such that white papers and complex, overengineered economic and technical systems must be digested in order to desire participation, but that complexity is slowly being abstracted away into more approachable and visible real world value…and it will continue to do so until coins begin to sneak into mainstream life and the systems that both govern and enable it.

Since Bitcoin captured the attention of the world a few years ago, with skyrocketing appreciation…most folks have scratched there head to bridge the gap from the theoretical promise of the coin, to the actual real world applications it might achieve. With Bitcoin, like most coins on this list, you kind of have trouble answering basic questions like “why is this better than US $?” “Why should I hold it?” “Why should I accept it?”, etc…for a while, when you really boiled it down…you got to ideological arguments around decentralization (which simply means a redistribution of power and control away from centralized intermediaries and incumbents, to “the people” effectively…or the users of a given service or currency). There’s this notion of trust…and the most paranoid of us, who champion decentralization…are circumspect of authorities whom the vast majority of mainstream population choose to trust in exchange for ease of experience. Banking with Bank of America is easy…but ya gotta trust bank of america…paying with US $ is easy, but ya gotta trust the US Government…paying with Bitcoin is a pain in the fucking ass…but you don’t have to trust anyone…and that feels good for a small minority of decentrally minded folks…

I believe that for a coin, or protocol or decentralized application to succeed against it’s centralized and well established counterpart, the mere ideology of decentralization is not enough to overcome the incumbent. Recently, however, I believe we are starting to see glimpses of coins and contemplated applications atop those coins, that don’t simply replace a centralized system with a decentralized alternative, but rather that contemplate a new societal or consumer oriented system that has no centralized counterpart, because it is something that could only exist from the bottom up, but that has not yet materialized, because there was no good way to transfer value between bottom up nodes around a public or shared service until a blockchain based coin enabled that transfer in the absence of trust, but reflective of the incentive structure necessary to harness bottom up work or value contribution around a mainstream life need.

I realize this is quite abstract, but the marriage of value transfer and distributed but well coordinated work or asset contribution by human beings, or in many instances machines owned and paid for by human beings, represents an efficiency in system design on par with the emergence, say, of parallel computing. We will simply be able to do and sustain systems and services via cryptocurrencies that were not possible on existing financial and societal rails.

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Is abundant data redefining morality?

Posted on July 25, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I am not a political animal, never have been…but this weekend I had a brief chat with a friend who is voting for Hillary Clinton. He said, “I’m doing it, but if you read the report on her private server, it’s really bad…” My response was that I have become a bit jaded i guess, and at this point it is clear to me that 95% of people who reach Hillary’s level of influence, or even a few rungs down on the ladder, have bent the rules one or many times along their path to the top. It’s a bummer to say…but this is not just a political phenomenon. In business as well…most of the billionaires you know or have heard of…at some point along the way…they broke a law, made a questionable call, stabbed someone in the back, or worse…For better or for worse a very reasonable path to amass influence and wealth in modern society is to break the rules…Many of your entrepreneurial heroes, many of your VC crushes…way more people in our own ecosystem than you might at first consider, have done wrong on their path to the top.

Historically, I have reveled in the fall of unethical titans. Maybe it’s a chip on my shoulder…I don’t know…but as the world is filled with more and more information…and as it becomes easier to see a person’s every move, I have come to accept that almost everyone…even “good” people…do “bad” sometimes. We are in this moment of unprecedented visibility into the lives and actions of any individual…be it a police officer, civilian, public official, or CEO…and I think it’s becoming clear that there is a lot more bad behavior in ANY individual’s life, than we were previously willing to admit or wanted to acknowledge.
In a world of top down media and information, it used to be easier to dilute ourselves into believing that the objects of our public affection were ethically perfect and behaviorally consistent…but in today’s world where everything is recorded and everything is findable, it has become very clear that most are not…

Now we could be depressed that our society seemingly rewards questionable ethics and behavioral compromise with power and influence..or…we could redefine our expectations and accept that ethical compromise is the norm amongst those at the top as well as the bottom, and therefore judge it less harshly. I’d like to think that increased transparency in today’s information age will lead to cleaner behavior amongst our leaders, but I fear we are, albeit understandably, moving more in the direction of lowering the bar…

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Redeye

Posted on July 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve been an American Express card member for over 10 years…over that time I’ve accumulated quite a few rewards points…and this past weekend I decided to spend some for the first time that I can recall. Jetblue has this new Mint service which is their business class seat where you can lie down flat and fully recline. I “bought” two seats with my squirreled away rewards points for Liv and I to take the redeye home from SF last night. I figured we’d save on an extra night in a hotel and still get some sleep if we sprung for the seats that would let us lay down.

As the plane boarded, a guy in his fifties who was probably 6′ 5”, 250 pounds started to antagonize us as we sat in those fancy seats. He said we were too young to sit there, and that we were ugly people…and disgusting people for paying for these seats. I tried to explain that we used miles (not that it was any of his business), but he was visibly angry…and somewhat threatening.

I had the choice to stand up to him and start a fight on an airplane (which was the last thing I wanted to do), or to just quietly ignore him as he continued to be abusive toward us…and I chose the latter. At first i thought he’s probably just drunk, or crazy…but then I realized we were flyinh from SF…where young rich people are obviously taking their tole on the rest of the city and it’s culture, and maybe he really was just fed up with that dynamic.

This guy was upset. He is not alone these days. He was totally wrong…but i couldn’t help but wonder if he was also a little right.

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Exploring the increasingly porous “membrane” btwn Information Technology and Biology

Posted on May 11, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Becoming technical in a new field requires work. To cross a threshold from “visitor” to “valued contributor” when learning a new discipline like software engineering you have to commit and you have to really want it. When I started working in venture capital 10 years ago, I stuck to consumer facing businesses and business model innovations, because frankly I didn’t have the background to understand technical innovation. At first I was totally cool with that, and I did really well approaching the markets I could immediately understand…you sort of didn’t need to know what was going on underneath the hood in order to evaluate consumer applications, media, marketplaces, etc… at some point if a deal got interesting enough, you’d call a CTO in the portfolio to check the “technical diligence box,” and then keep rolling on a thesis that really had nothing to do with technology itself.

Over time, however, something unexpected happened…I started to fall in love with the systems and principles that underlaid many of the businesses I was thinking about. I sort of fell ass-backwards into what has become a deep passion of mine, and I started to spend time with a different type of thinker than I did at the start…I started asking the “how” questions more and more, and so began my post-graduate education in software engineering, technical thinking, and system design. I was fortunate to have very patient teachers…Doug and Eric especially, but also hundreds of technical founders along the way, who helped to evolve my mindset into what I guess I’d call “full stack thinking,”…where the viability and merit of a decision is influenced by everything from the infrastructural dynamics and technical approach at hand, up through the consumer behavior and ecosystem dynamics in given market. There is a conversation and dialogue between the technical and non-technical dimensions of any opportunity that informs a much more nuanced perspective than is available when looking at a market opportunity through either of these mindsets independently.

As I begin to evaluate new directions to build in with Doug, Eric, some of the areas in which I am most interested, I find myself bumping up against a lack of technical proficiency. It’s not a feeling I’ve had in a while, but frankly a lot of the work being done in IT specifically (the domain we know well) hasn’t really inspired me…it may just be where i’ve looked so far, but the broader market feels super saturated right now, with tons of companies chasing very similar…often, but not always…incremental opportunities. Granted, we did not achieve our goal of building a native internet at Wildcard, and even further granted, we did end up pivoting into a clearly incremental application of our early work (aka from the Native Browser to the Wildcard News app), but nobody will accuse our initial ambition and mission of being incremental or uninspired. We bit of something big and unknown, and came up short, but at least it felt meaningful at the time.

As I look for similarly or more inspiring frontiers to tackle now, I have become somewhat enamored by the increasing permeability of the “membrane” that has long separated information systems from biological systems. More and more our physiological system is being represented and understood digitally, and similarly the principles behind our manipulation and design of digital systems are being applied within the medium of organic matter and specifically DNA. In this arena I don’t yet have an adequate understanding on the bio side to think in the way I have grown to think about opportunity. I crushed AP Bio in high school, and occasionally attended my introductory bio classes in college, but it’s been a while, and there is another layer of understanding that I need to achieve to get further into the world of genetics, bioengineering, etc…Neither Doug nor Eric has any background here, but our deep data engineering DNA (no pun intended) is obviously applicable to this problem space. I think for a while I forgot how serious a commitment it is to become technical in a new field, but I remember all the work it takes, and I’m kind of interested to committing again here. I can’t say that my learning will inform this next business opportunity, or if it will be a much longer road applied at a later date, but I am ready to be a student at the edge of biology and information technology regardless, so I figure worth hanging a shingle…To that end, if you come from a bio background (or even an IT background i guess) and are interested in collaborating at this intersection, come hang with us at our office in soho…we’re excited to learn what you’ve been thinking about and happy to participate and contribute toward flushing out this landscape together. I’m jordan.cooper@gmail.com.

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experiencing loss by not really experiencing it

Posted on April 18, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

When I was freshman in college my Grandma Norni died. I was extremely close to her. I remember hearing the news, I remember attending her funeral…and most of all I remember the feeling of wanting to cry, but for some reason not being able to. It was a very unsatisfying feeling to know that type of pain, while lacking the ability to access the release of crying…

Fast forward 3 years…normal day at college…I return home to my apartment to find my roommate Tim watching a film with his girlfriend in the living room. I wasn’t gonna tune in in the middle of it, so I just grabbed some food, opened my computer, and started to do my own thing. At some point, I glanced up at the screen, and happened to catch a 60 second scene of a woman in a hospital, deciding whether to take her husband off life support, and something insane happened…i felt this deep sensation come over me and I cried harder than I have ever cried in my life…heaving…couldn’t catch my breath for like 5 minutes….and the whole time Tim and his girlfriend just stared at me like “what the fuck is going on with this dude?”…inbetween gasps i’d belt out “i’m fine, i’m fine”…but it was very bizarre. I wasn’t sad at all…it was totally physical…and I was almost watching myself have this insane reaction to a film and characters that I had no invesment or context around…Something about that scene had tapped or unlocked this very deep pain I had buried somewhere in my brain when my grandma died. It was total catharsis…it stopped…and I just looked at them and was like “sorry…i know that must have been weird…i’m totally fine.” I tried to explain it to them that that release was from her death 3 years ago, but i couldn’t really explain.

Last week I sat down for coffee with one of my board members who has known me for 10 years…he told me he was sorry I had to go through the experience of killing the Wildcard app and letting most of our team go. He’s not the only one…a number of other folks who care about me, have also asked “how are you, how are you doing?” and my honest answer is “i’m really fine.” There’s something not totally right about putting 2.5 years of energy into a product and vision and team, wiping it clean, and then waking up the next day ready to roll…but in some sense that is very much where I am…it’s only when I really think about it, do I realize that I have this weird capacity to stuff painful moments deep down into places that won’t be discovered until 3 years from now when I stumble across some film or song that unlocks them. I feel like I haven’t really gotten to say goodbye to Wildcard, and that I probably won’t get to before diving into the next direction…

Fast forward to today. We have $3M in the bank, our burn is now less than $50K a month, and my mind has already moved on to self-driving cars, and healthcare, neural networks, diagnostics, climate change…and a bunch of new areas that really excite me…i’m reading ferociously, which is how i learn best…i’m starting to feel very creative again…i feel unconstrained…and open…and my mind just doesn’t seem interested in examining the loss…i wish i could tap into my heart and really say goodbye to the Wildcard chapter before letting my brain take me forward so quickly…but I guess I have this tendency, which i’m guessing many founders have, to move through pain quickly…and whether I like it or not, the pain of Wildcard’s end seems to be in the rear view mirror for now.

So yea…I guess this post was about trying to articulate how I’m experiencing loss…trying to find catharsis…trying to answer that question “how are you doing?”…even if the answer is “i’m experiencing loss, by not really experiencing it…”

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Tough but necessary change for Wildcard

Posted on March 16, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today is a rough day. After 8 months of building and living Wildcard 2.0 we’ve made the difficult decision to stop supporting the Wildcard 2.0 app. Wildcard has been through a lot of twists and turns over the past 3 years. We initially set out to replace the browser on your phone with a native card based browser. The first year of our company was about building out awesome technical infrastructure and answering questions around what a card was, both technically and from a design standpoint. When we released our first consumer facing product (Wildcard 1.0) it was really a proof of concept of what the web could look like in this new format where you didn’t have to wait for webpages to load. We were really excited about our future. People who cared about design and technology were really excited, and investors were really excited.

We raised our first $3 Million largely on the background of our founding team. We had successfully built and sold Hyperpublic to Groupon, and folks were more than happy to back our team to take on this wildly ambitious goal of replacing the browser on your phone. We raised our $7M Series A round 11 months later on the technical progress we had made toward this goal, and a pretty incredible early demo of the Wildcard 1.0 app. This all happened in year 1.

The second year of Wildcard was about taking this technology to market. Our 1.0 was a great proof of concept, but we had to focus the product on a use case more narrow than the “catch all” of the browser. We didn’t yet support everything a browser could do, so we needed to tighten our experience to something immediately usable to consumers. We zeroed in on news and media, put our heads down, and spent 7 months building Wildcard 2.0.

When we released it, it was the #1 New App of the week in the Appstore. That was helpful, and good for about 90K installs. 3-4 months later, it was named one of Apple’s Best Apps of 2015…good for another 40K-50K installs. With some press hits in between, and all the “influencer word of mouth” you could hope for, all in we’ve amassed a few hundred thousand installs…

Retention is a challenge…and the average app loses 90% of their users in the first 30 days..we did better than average with 2.0, but despite tons of tweaks and awesome product improvements…our growth and retention numbers are simply not good enough for a consumer facing app to be a viable business.

At current burn, Wildcard has a little more than a year of capital in the bank. You don’t have to be a genius to look at our growth curve, look at distribution dynamics in the appstore, and look at the climate that we are going into over the next 12 months to know that we need to make a change, and we need to do it now.

We could continue to improve the app over the next year of runway, but without a monumental home run iteration, my instinct is that there would be virtually no market for our next round of funding and no path to profitability with the numbers we are seeing. This moment requires a more fundamental change in trajectory…something that is going to be painful, but doable with our current capital reserves, and not doable if we delay or don’t act decisively now. We are going to shut down the app and take the company in a new direction. I can’t say much more about what we are going to build next, except that we will put everything we’ve got into it.

This is a really hard day. We are taking the team down in size. A lot of wonderful people who worked their asses off on the Wildcard app are going to need to find new jobs…

I feel terrible that we weren’t able to realize the Wildcard vision as we set it on day 1. We knew it was a homerun swing when we stepped up to the plate…and unfortunately we sort of hit a deep foul ball. Time to regroup, dig in, and get to something special together.

If you have any questions about this step in our company, or if you are curious about our next chapter, i’m jordan.cooper@gmail.com.

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Virtual Assistants as Parallel Human Processors

Posted on February 17, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about virtual assistants lately…and the other day i had a notion that the rise of virtual assistants feels in part a response to the growing demands on human beings around information processing. When you are always connected, and there is an ever growing amount of data to be processed, but a limited capacity to do so, physically, something has got to give. In computing, when a server can no longer efficiently process the requested volume of data, what do we do? we spin up another machine and split the work. Of course there are optimizations on that single server, to make it more efficient in handling increased loads, but at some point, it makes more sense to run processing in parallel. I think there is something similar happening in human information processing. The discovery tools have reached some limit of optimization (i.e. the feed, search, etc), and even the size of the informational units has reached a plaeau in processing optimzation (tweets vs blogposts, headlines vs articles, images vs text, things can’t get much smaller/denser, etc)…and there just really isn’t much more room along those axis to help us handle the ever growing body of information that needs to be processed…in the last 10 years we were able to lessen the load by spreading our processing over much more time than was previously available…mobile gave us much more connected time to distribute the information processing over, but now that we are on our phones all of our waking day, we’re running out of processing time to add…hence a general sentiment of “information overload” and “phone addiction” that is becoming mainstream affliction in today’s day and age…so what do we do, when we physically can’t process any more, and we don’t have more time to add, and we’ve done all the mechanical optimizations we can to make the time we’ve got more efficient? We start to think about parallel processing…about spinning up a second machine, or in this case, a second human, to split the load…granted many of these virtual assistants are focussed on task oriented information processing, but in general…we are adding parallel humans to interact with the same mechanical tools we ourselves have access to, in cases where we can no longer eek out gains in a “single server” architecture (i.e. doing it ourselves)…i think this is a trend that will continue, and i’m interested in seeing how higher order information processing, that’s focussed less on completing tasks, and more on augmenting your knowledge and informational awareness via a second human brain, will come into focus over the next 24 months…I think people will increasingly value being able to parallelize their processing….and it will become more common for people to offload even non-intuitive processing tasks if their interface and ux to do so becomes more frictionless. I can, for instance, see a world where people ask a 3rd party to read and monitor their facebook for them…as odd as that sounds…I use that just an example of the broader theme of parallel human processing as an architecture of living in a world of growing available information with limited physical and mechanical processing tools…

weird stuff 🙂

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Beyond Pixels

Posted on January 25, 2016. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Olivia had some work to do yesterday morning, so I decided to walk over to the new Whitney Museum to enjoy Frank Stella’s one man show without the crowds of a normal, non-Jonas impaired, Sunday. I love going to empty museums, especially with large format work like Frank Stella’s. It’s space to think, and be inspired, and yesterday certainly delivered. I lucked out and joined a small free tour, where I learned about Stella’s exploration from the strict constraints of 2 dimensions, to movement and perspective within those dimensions, and then almost an outburst into a 3rd dimension coming off the “canvas.” I could see the design thought behind his work, and it made me want to design something that wasn’t made of pixels. I don’t consider myself a designer, but my days are often intimately tied to design process and thinking. I work closely with our design team and together, alongside engineering, we create a visual, although not-physical, representation of a thought or feeling or intention. As I looked at these incredible works, playing with concepts of symetry and emotion, I thought to myself…I would love to make stuff like this…but I am not a painter, or a welder, or a craftsman…

Interestingly, for the first time in my 33 years going to museums and appreciating art, yesterday the fact that I am not a crafstman did not feel prohibitive to creating art like Stella’s. I’m not a designer or an engineer, but with a great team and a shared vision, we have been able to express a vision together through software at Wildcard. What if I could collaborate with a designer and a craftsman and a welder…could we together capture something unique and physical?…what would the communication be like? How could we develop a shared language to realize something that none of us as individuals could achieve. Without the promise of an enterprise, or a business behind this collaboration, who would want to come together to create a 10 foot physical object that costs thousands of dollars to produce? I don’t know…but it’s not impossible to see that happening …perhaps a pursuit for another day…it sure would be nice to be creative beyond the screen…and I believe the design thinking that we apply in technology could produce some interesting work in a more physical medium. This line between technology and physical art, is in fact blurring when you think about virtual reality and 3D printing…even Stella’s most recent work in the exhibit was designed on a computer and printed in 3D (as opposed to bent from a raw material like metal)…maybe a pipe dream…but maybe something i’ll try one day… Here are a few photos from the exhibit:
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New Release: Wildcard Communities

Posted on November 9, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today Wildcard released a new iPhone app called Wildcard Comedy. It’s the first step in an exploration we are calling Wildcard Communities. We’re taking the design, card technology, and curation that made Wildcard one of Apple’s best news apps, and focusing it on content that is meaningful to specific communities.

If you’re an aspiring comic, professional comedian, or pursuing a career in this corner of the arts, Wildcard Comedy will be your go to source for what’s happening in the world of working comedians each day. You’ll be continuously updated on industry-specific news, watch great expressions of the craft, and get the funniest videos, podcasts, and tweets created by your peers and stars, all in single curated news feed.

Wildcard Comedy Logo

The comic community, like many smaller communities, does not have a best in class mobile app for discovering, reading, and watching what’s happening in their world every day. At Wildcard, we believe that one size does not fit all when it comes to the News and Media that matters. Wildcard Communities is about zooming it in from “what’s happening in the world”, to “what’s happening in the Comedic world”…and if successful, potentially what’s happening in the worlds of hundreds of smaller, more focussed communities like Comedy.

Whether it’s through Wildcard Communities, or other initiatives we have in the works, we are committed to giving you perspective on the world at large, but also YOUR world, and we are well on the way to doing so. We have seen a number of companies that we admire take a winning user experience (Stack Overflow, Amino, Reddit, Twitter) and roll it out on a community by community basis, and we think Wildcard has the potential to do the same as the information source of choice for these smaller groups.

We’ll report back in 60 days and either replicate this model in more communities, modify it, roll the parts that work into the core Wildcard experience, or completely move on if we are way wrong…Should be a fun couple of months 🙂

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stream of consciousness on markets

Posted on October 20, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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 🙂

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A story about our new Head of Marketing at Wildcard

Posted on September 15, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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 🙂

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7 Months in the making…

Posted on August 11, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

2.0After 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.

P.S. Here’s a little coverage from Techcrunch, The Next Web, and some Q&A on Product Hunt that goes a little deeper on the new Wildcard app.

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Beta release of Wildcard 2.0: Know the day

Posted on July 13, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

IMG_50856 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.

Click here to try it. Hope you enjoy!

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.

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Wierd idea: The Moody’s or S&P of startupland

Posted on May 27, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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.

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Saying Goodbye to Lerer Ventures

Posted on May 19, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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 reality

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    About

    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com

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