wildcard

Wildcard Update: New Card Types, New Search, 3rd Party Apps

Posted on February 9, 2015. Filed under: startups, wildcard |

We’ve got a new Wildcard update out today. A few things to look out for:

Three new card types in Wildcard

1) Stock Cards: You can now search any ticker in Wildcard and get back a beautiful stock card. Try searching YHOO, FB, GOOG, etc. for the latest pricing and market information for stocks you care about.

2) Weather Cards: You can now search for the weather and get back beautiful weather cards for any zip code. Try searching Weather 10014, etc to see the new Weather Card in Wildcard.

3) Image Cards: This is my favorite new card type in Wildcard. Although elusive at the moment, you are going to start to see image cards returned in search results quite frequently in the next few weeks. Wildcard’s image cards are a beautiful way to discover and view images form the web at native speed. For a glimpse of the Image Card navigate to Flickr via the Search bar.

We care about adding new card types to Wildcard because we want you to be able to access all the information of the web at native speed in Wildcard. Hope you enjoy them…more to come in next update.

Vertical Search

In this update, we’ve enabled you to filter down search results into the vertical or type of results you’d like. So if you search for the Grammy’s, these clever filters at the top of your results enable you to drill down into Videos, Shopping, News, etc…so that you are only interacting with results that are relevant to what you are trying to do in Wildcard. We have a HUGE update coming on search which will address relevancy of results, volume of results, and allow you to type ANYTHING into the Wildcard search bar and get back near perfect results…but this design improvement toward vertical specific search is a good first step, and when combined with the bigger search update, I think we’ll be a dangerous and true alternative to google/chrome on your phone… to test vertical specific search, run a couple different searches in the Wildcard search bar.

3rd party applications in the Wildcard Browser

We’ve been exploring the notion of not only cards and content in Wildcard, but actual applications that run inside our browser. The application layer in the Wildcard browser was previously restricted to Wildcard’s Homescreen application, our search application, and publishers/brands homescreen applications. We’ve started to branch out and enable other types of applications to run in the browser. For examples of third party applications running in the Wildcard browser, check out

1) Hacker News: Wildcard is an engineering driven culture and most people here read Hackernews…now you can too without clicking back and forth between annoying blue web links. To try out the Hacker News application in Wildcard, navigate to Hacker News via the Wildcard search bar.

2) Designer News: Wildcard is also a design driven culture and many people here read Designer News…now you can too without clicking back and forth between annoying weblinks…To try out the Designer News application in Wildcard, navigate to Designer News via the Wildcard Search Bar

P.S. We are running a little beta of our IOS App SDK. If you have an IOS app and you’d like to replace links to webpages with native cards in your app let me know and I’ll send you docs. It’s basically blue link in, native card out with a few display options (modal, in line, etc…)…It’s very fucking cool. Jordan.cooper@gmail.com.

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New School Thinkers, Where Are you at?

Posted on January 7, 2015. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

Getting old is an interesting thing in startup land. I realized this a few days ago when Forbes 30 under 30 came out and I could finally tweet my hatred of lists like this without any suggestion of my exclusion as the source…because…well…I am not even eligible anymore. In fact, I haven’t been eligible for 2 years at this point. 32 years old is not grey beard territory, but there is now a very defined generation of founders and thinkers in our community that is after mine…that think and behave differently…that make some of my context and assumptions about the world antiquated and non-contemporary. I am certainly a student of technology and social behavior, and I invest quite a bit in staying up on how things are changing, but it doesn’t change the fact, that I now fall more into the category of experienced and biased, than youthful and “temporally native”…if that phrase makes sense.

Anyway, this post is not really about me getting older…it’s actually about my network (that word sort of makes me puke…especially as a verb) getting older. Networks age…and there are some amazing things about this reality, and some shitty things about this reality. The amazing thing about my now-aging network, is that the “kids” i grew up with in startupland, continue to accrue more and more responsibility, more and more influence, and it’s good to be friends and close with people who are leading meaningful companies or initiatives within those companies…my network has many more “decision makers” at increasingly important places than it did when I was 24 and just beginning in this world. The down side of my aging network is that it is harder to find quality thought coming from a super contemporary place…originating in fresh data that is not biased by historical events or previous knowledge. Said another way…most of my “go to” people that I’ll grab a coffee with just to talk about the world and what’s interesting don’t reside within the 22-26 year old, “temporally native” crowd. We have a great little pocket of folks like this here at WildcardMax, and Ryan, and Connor (the Wild Kids if you will) remind me a lot of myself when I started out in startupland…and their thinking inspires and influences me daily…but lately I’ve been feeling like I’d like to invest more heavily in extending my network into this age group…

In my old age, i’ve become very protective of my time…I won’t take or request a meeting with someone new…ever…if there isn’t an explicit purpose for doing so. When I was 24 and someone interesting on twitter says “hey, want to grab a coffee” I think more often then not the answer was yes…and I’d similarly claw to get as many coffees with people who I thought were impressive…with no specific agenda other than “i want to know this person.”

I mentioned previously that my mantra for 2015 is “Effort,” and that mantra I think applies to many different realms…one of which I’ve decided is “building closer relationships with the new kids on the block.” I’m going to try to hang with a few folks from the 22-26 year old crowd every week…no agenda…just talk about the world and what’s happening…and develop some new thought partners to round out my “go to” group. I don’t know that I have a ton to offer…I don’t really want this to be “career advice” or “business pitch” or “job interview” type stuff…I guess I just offer my genuine interest and ideas and willingness to learn and explore any area that matters with anyone smart who wants to spend an hour doing so.

So if you’re part of this “temporally native” crowd and would like to waste an hour with me, I’ve carved out time and would love to do it. Just send me an email to jordan.cooper@gmail.com with a link to your online presence so I can do a little research and figure out if we are going to think about interesting things together…

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This isn’t the death of the web, it’s the birth of the native web

Posted on November 25, 2014. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

Something interesting happened a few days after we launched Wildcard last week. We released the first ever “native card browser” on November 13th, a serious departure from traditional HTML based web browsers, and 4 days later the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “The Web is Dying; Apps are Killing it.” This is by no means the first time this concept has been suggested, but the debate flared up in the wake of our launch, with a wave of follow on posts discussing the future of the web and its health as it relates to a mobile first world. I can’t say that Wildcard is responsible for provoking this instantiation of the debate, but I do think our product and message reached the community of folks who are thinking about the future of the web, and the timing/language that flowed through the posts I read suggests to me that Wildcard was present in people’s minds during the conversation.

Two years ago when we started building Wildcard, the debate of native vs web was in a very different place. It was not a forgone conclusion that almost 90% of our internet consumption in 2014 would occur within apps, and a large contingent of “web purists” still held hope that HTML5 would win out over native. At the time we bet on the native ecosystem, but aspired to bring some of the most important properties from the web (like discoverability and sharing/linking) into this new reality. We thought of cards as the native analog to webpages, and didn’t aspire to kill the web, but rather to modernize it into what was clearly a superior user experience on mobile (app/native technology).

I was pleased to see in the most recent wave of this discussion, a general acceptance or recognition that in today’s mobile era, the web as we know it, is pushing down stack to a more infrastructural position that is powering new, native interfaces that are easier to interact with on mobile. I liked the supposition that just because users are interacting with the information from the web in a different interface or format, that does not mean that the web is dead or dying…to me this arc read more like an evolution than than an extinction.

I have largely tried to stay out of this debate, mostly because I am sensitive to my lack of historical context associated with the development and emergence of the desktop web. There are so many smart people who lived through it, who are intimately familiar with it’s definition, properties, and ideals…and my study of the internet really only began in 2005…I feel really confident building what I hope the native web or native internet becomes…but less comfortable pontificating on how that future does or does not jive with the past.

So this is all to say, I was pleased to see thoughtful posts like this and this pushing forward a more flexible and updated definition of “the web” and I hope that Wildcard can play a small part in defining an interaction paradigm that recognizes today’s hardware and context while delivering on some of the things we lost in the migration from the web as we knew it to this more modern, native consumptive pattern.

For ease, i’ve pasted a bunch of the media from this latest conversation:

“The Web is Dying, Apps are Killing It” – WSJ, Chris Mims
http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-web-is-dying-apps-are-killing-it-1416169934

“Follow Up: The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations for the Web” – WSJ, Chris Mims
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2014/11/18/the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations-for-the-web/

“The web is alive and well” — Quartz, Zach Seward
http://qz.com/297418/the-web-is-alive-and-well/

“Native Apps Are Part of the Web” — Daring Fireball, John Gruber
http://daringfireball.net/2014/11/native_apps_are_part_of_the_web

“The Web, Still Dying After All These Years” — MG Siegler
https://medium.com/five-hundred-words/the-web-still-dying-after-all-these-years-66cc2c9db8c9

“Is the Web Dying, Killed Off by Mobile Apps? It’s Complicated” – GigaOm, Matt Ingram
https://gigaom.com/2014/11/17/is-the-web-dying-killed-off-by-mobile-apps-its-complicated/

“The Web is Dying! Wait, How Are You Reading This?” – Slate, Will Oremus
http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/11/17/sorry_wsj_nyt_the_web_not_dying_apps_not_killing_it.html

“Rumors of the Internet’s death have been greatly exaggerated” – Daily Dot, Ben Branstetter
http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/web-dying-app-takeover/

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Creating Fast Moments

Posted on September 10, 2014. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

I live for fast moments. The sprint to recruit and close a superstar…that’s a fast moment. The intensity of raising capital…that’s a fast moment…the breakthrough product idea that changes everything…and the week long sprint to get it into production…those are fast moments in the life of a startup. These fast moments are the days and weeks when everyone in the office shares an elevated heartbeat…anticipation becomes palpable and you can begin to vaguely make out the place that was talked about but previously beyond the horizon…

If I go too many days in a row without a fast moment…I start to feel it. Before I think it…before I analyze it…I can literally feel the slowness in a period of time. I get grumpy without being able to articulate why…I get unproductive without being able to articulate why…I just feel the slowness and it literally interrupts whatever I am doing and says “hey…wake the fuck up…we’re not going fast anymore.” It usually takes me about two or three days of unpleasant feeling to realize what’s happening and then I sit down with a stack of white computer paper…i map out everything that is happening both internally at the company and externally in our market…I find the 3 or 4 fast moments that are waiting around the corner for us…and I steer directly into them.

When I was younger, running Hyperpublic…I would literally try to create these fast moments myself… “not moving fast enough? I’m going to go out there into the world…hunt a giant fucking animal…whatever that might mean…and I’m not coming back until I’ve got a carcass to drop in the middle of the office floor.” That kind of works…but there are many more fast moments than a CEO can create on his or her own. We have such a talented group of people building Wildcard…on any given day…any given person is capable of changing the game…now when I map on that stack of white paper…i’m just trying to figure out who is coming up to bat this inning and what type of pitch represents their next fast moment.

The reality is it’s a 9 inning game…in a 162 game season…and some innings are gonna be slow…sometimes we’re going to have to grind out a 0-0 game until the bottom of the 9th…and sometimes we’re going to score 8 runs in the very first inning…I guess I should be more accepting of the slow moments in the season…but I can’t help it…I just love fast moments…and I’m gonna chase them down until the day I stop playing this game.

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Wildcard Recruiting Secrets

Posted on July 10, 2014. Filed under: startups, wildcard |

Wildcard is 16 full time people right now and 4 or 5 part time…any given day we have about 20 people in the office…and we’ll double in the next year. To do that effectively while keeping our bar for talent as high as we have managed to date…it requires the effort of our entire team…not just founders…not just engineering leaders…everyone needs to become an effective recruiter for our company. To teach folks who haven’t built teams before, we talk a lot about tactical process and taking a methodical approach to pulling the people we want into our company. I just sent a note to our team in this vein that I thought might be helpful to other founders…it also touches on some interesting conversations we’ve been having about the importance of diversity at our company…so I thought I’d open source it:

Subject: Recruiting Samples and a note on diversity at Wildcard

Guys, as promised in yesterday’s gathering, here are a few real emails i’ve sent in the past that you can work off of for your recruiting outreach. Let me know if you have any q’s. I find the most effective stuff is straightforward and genuine with some supporting info about the company…

Also, we didn’t touch on this yesterday, but I’ve been talking with Doug and Khoi a bit about diversity at Wildcard. We know there’s a lack of women and minorities at Wildcard. Today’s makeup doesn’t fully reflect the way we want the company to look as we grow. Recruiting is very hard; recruiting for diversity is even harder, but we’re going to work very hard on this and try to get to a place that is more representative of what we want to become. I can’t say I have a wonderful playbook on how to bring more diverse candidates from all walks of life in the door, but as you begin your outreach, please take whatever creative steps you can to help us improve here. If there are things we can be doing internally as a culture and company to differentiate us and attract the most talented people from underrepresented backgrounds, please let us know or take the initiative to get them going yourself. We’ve got to do better here. We are missing out on game changers from communities we aren’t reaching or speaking to.

SAMPLE EMAILS BELOW Take whatever bits and pieces you like, or roll your own:

this was a real email i sent yesterday to a potential office manager +

Hey [redacted], I heard some things are changing at [redacted] right now and that you are awesome and potentially a free agent? I run a company called Wildcard here in New York that is going through a growth period and I think you have a really interesting background to help us upgrade on the operational side of things. Hope you don’t mind my reaching out, but I’d love to meet if you are interested in learning more.

A bit of background on our company. Wildcard is building a replacement to the mobile web on your phone. You could think of as a new type of browser that delivers native app experiences in response to your searches instead of slow, clunky web pages…It’s pretty cool stuff. We have 3 founders who all built a company called Hyperpublic together before this which was successfully acquired by Groupon about 2 years ago, and now we have a wonderful team of about 16 awesome people…mostly engineers and designers…working out of a great space on Grand St. Our main investor is General Catalyst Partners, where our board member is the founder of the firm and is responsible for their investments in Kayak, Airbnb, Warby Parker, etc.

Would you like to hang sometime next week?

And this is just a generic paragraph i guess you could attach to any email with a sentence at the end of a personalized paragraph that says “I’ve included a little background on Wildcard below”

Wildcard is building a replacement to the web on your phone. We’re focussed on a new technology called “cards,” and we are building a browser that displays native cards instead of webpages on mobile. The founding team (Jordan Cooper, Doug Petkanics, and Eric Tang) built and successfully sold their previous company, Hyperpublic, to Groupon, and our Design leader is Khoi Vinh who ran design at the New York times for a number of years and then founded Mixel, which was acquired by Etsy. Our core engineering team hails from Penn, Stanford, Carnegie Melon, MIT, Columbia, U Chicago, etc…and everyone here is incredibly ambitious and kind. We’re backed by a great group of investors led by General Catalyst Partners, where our board member runs the fund and is responsible for their investments in Airbnb, Kayak, Groupme, Venmo and Warby Parker. And most importantly…our product and technology are awesome 🙂

This was a mail i sent to a good full stack front end guy who i played on a soccer team with and know a bit (so had a little context going in):

could i persuade you to come see a demo of what we’re building at wildcard? I’d value your feedback and maybe it will wow you to the point where you’d leave the mothership of ebay and come build it with us…

This was the first email I ever sent the illustrious Max Bulger 🙂

any chance i could persuade you to come interview for a PM gig with me? I caught your background via twitter…i like what you’re putting out into the world

Typical/effective subject lines include “Hey” or “Yo” or “reaching out” 🙂

 

(p.s. in case you can’t tell, we’re hiring the best and brightest: jordan.cooper@gmail.com)

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Give it a minute

Posted on July 3, 2014. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

On Tuesday night I went for a bike ride with my friend Pierre. He runs a company called Sunrise which I very much admire. We were talking about getting featured by Apple and he had a very astute comment. He said “of course, it’s wonderful, when Apple features you, but no matter how well you do with features in the App store, that is not going to make you successful…building a great product that people value is.” As we drilled down on the “that people value” half of that sentence, he mentioned Evernote as having created and effectively communicated 3 clear pieces of value that it reminds users of every session. I can’t remember them exactly, but it was something like 1) your information everywhere, 2) instant search, 3) easy capture. I may have gotten that a little wrong…i’m not actually an evernote user…but the gist was that Evernote has 3 concrete pieces of value that it’s users know and can clearly articulate as “what Evernote gives them,” and Pierre said every company should be able to articulate those 3 pieces of value. He said, “when you know those 3 things…the product roadmap writes itself.” The more interesting part is that Pierre felt he had only identified 2 at Sunrise, and that the 3rd had not yet been built. I commented that having the patience for the 3rd to present itself in the future is a leap of faith that is required to get to the promised land. I suggested that he had already made the decisions that would determine if Sunrise finds it’s three and becomes the megasuccess he hopes it will…and now all he needs is time for those decisions to play out.

My belief is that the team you assemble in the early days of a company either is or is not capable of building the product that reaches the promised land…and then as a CEO your job is just to create enough time and space for them to realize their potential. People often think that when you make an incredible new hire or bring on someone very special…that the company realizes her gain or value overnight…in reality, I believe that you invest in exceptional people and you don’t yield the results or “the return” on that investment for years. Brilliance takes time to express itself…that 3rd feature or piece of value…that product tweak or insight…that growth feature…or performance shattering technical breakthrough has a gestation period…and it requires an incredible leap of faith on behalf of a CEO or founder to simply be comfortable that the people he or she has assembled are the right people…and that if given enough time and space to express themselves deeply, they will find the promised land for you. There is this fable or false archetype in startupland that the CEO is out in front…leading a team of people in a direction that he or she sees…and that if they find the promised land it is because he navigated them to it…As I mature as a CEO myself, I am increasingly aware that it is actually the team that is out in front…collectively leading smaller interlocking efforts, that in aggregate set the path toward the promised land…and it is the CEO…pulling up the rear…making sure there are no sprained ankles, everyone is properly hydrated, and that with so many people confidently expressing themselves…nobody is breaking from the pack and going in a direction that is at conflict with the whole and the Company’s vision. Maybe this is not everyone’s approach, but at Wildcard I am certain that if we are to achieve our ambitious goals, it will be because we were able to stick around long enough for the people already sitting in this room to fully express their potential.

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Women at Wildcard

Posted on January 8, 2014. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time…and every time i sat down to do it…it just didn’t come out right. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I care about the people on our team more than just about any other dimension of Wildcard…more than I care about product…more than I care about fundraising…team is everything. It was true it Hyperpublic and it’s true now. When Hyperpublic was acquired by GRPN, we were 10 people…9 engineers and me…1 first generation immigrant and 9 born Americans…8 caucasions, 1 Asian, 1 African American…1 profesional musician, 1 chef, 1 billiards master, 1 former professor, 1 outdoors enthusiast, 1 fashion efficianado, 1 college drop out, 1 improv master, 1 son of a preacher man, 1 semi-manic tech blogger…and 10 MEN…we had such an amazing and diverse group along so many different axis…except gender…where we were shockingly homogenous.

At Wildcard we are now 10 people as well…6 engineers, 2 designers, 1 ops, and me…guess how many women? Not for a lack of interest and not for a lack of effort…but still the facts are the facts. I have a handful of close female friends in the tech community, and a smaller handful of close female friends in the engineering community in NYC…and over the past few years I have listened carefully as they’ve shared their views on building a multi-gender culture into your startup. Here are a few “near quotes” that I’ve heard that have stuck with me and inform the way we make decisions at Wildcard.

1) “if you get to be too big without bringing on a female employee, it get’s much harder to do so down the road.” The spirit behind this observation is that it can be intimidating for a potential recruit to be “the only woman” on a team of 15 males…obviously that intimidation factor grows when you replace the number 15 with 20, 30, and so on.

2) “It isn’t enough simply to have female employees at your company. You need to have female employees in leadership roles at the company.” The spirit behind this thought is that young ambitious women want to see that your organization is a place where they have the ability to grow and advance into influential roles within the company. If the leadership in the company is uniformally male, that does not set a tone of opportunity within the company.

3) “you’re brand of being badass engineers is too unwelcoming and does not appeal to the female psyche in the same way that it does the male psyche. Consider modifying your tone from working amongst the most badass engineers to working amongst the most intelligent people in NYC. There is nothing wrong with communicating the pedigree and ability of your team, but do it in a more gender neutral way.” I didn’t realize that “badass” was a more male value…but I can see how that is sort of lazy language to articulate how special the human beings at our company are.

4) “Women don’t want to be hired simply because they are women. Nobody wants to feel like the token girl that got the job because your startup needed a woman.” This one is so important because I think I and many startups have fallen victim to the reality that it is difficult to source female candidates for open positions…but when you advertise that you are looking to or excited about bringing that diversity into your culture you set a tone that can unintentionally trigger the above sensitivity. In fact, one of the very reasons for writing this long, verbose post is to say “I’m listening…i’ve been paying attention…i understand many of the gender dynamics that are at play in the startup ecosystem. I don’t have all the answers, but I care…and maybe this post will lead to a change in the complexion of our team and maybe it won’t…but I’ve BEEN listening and I don’t know what else to do to address it other than write out where I am in the process of figuring out how to build the best team of men and women and New York City.

So yea, I know there are more dynamics at play than the ones I’ve articulated, and in some sense I’ve condensed hours of conversation down into a few bullet points, but at least this on paper…this is how I’m thinking about gender at Wildcard…and my and our actions will be in response to these shared observations and any more that people would be willing to share in the comments of this post. Been too frustrated with this challenge for too long not to work through it head on.

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The Day is Upon Us

Posted on January 4, 2014. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

As a founder, I am not big on company wide communications. At Wildcard we have a company-wide mailing list called “Family,” but I use it sparingly. If there’s an article that’s interesting or a new person starting soon I’ll fire off a quick note, but beyond that I prefer more personal communications with our crew. This past week, however, I did have an instinct to send a note to our group…New Year’s Eve has a funny way of commanding communication between family members, independent of where on the globe they happen to be.

As I opened my email to send a New Year’s message to our small but growing family, the most surface template that came to mind was something to the effect of “Love you all, 2014 is going to be a big year” or “Love you all…rest up…we are going to crush 2014.” I sat with the draft email open for a few minutes…but with slightly more depth behind my thought, I realized that these messages were empty…and further, not how I really feel about what 2014 holds. The truth is, I have this strong instinct that 2014 is going to be an incredible challenge. The email I would have written if I had more than a sentence or two to explain it, would have began with something like “Love you all, 2014 is going to be fucking hard.”

I am so proud of what we accomplished this past year. We have built incredible technology, assembled one of the most talented teams in New York City, and took what began as an incredibly abstract vision of what the mobile internet could become, and turned it into something real that you can touch and feel that hints at the probability and promise of this future. On one hand, I love where we are sitting…and I know that our investment over the last 12 months will continue to yield into the next 12…but I am acutely aware that what we have done is not enough…that for us to pull off what we aspire to…it will require near flawless execution…continued discipline and vigor…tremendous fortitude and flexibility…and increased emotional composure. In 2014 we will deal with an incredibly dynamic ecosystem of giants, bobbing and weaving through their legs and perhaps securing seats on their shoulders…We will get our first taste of the challenges in mobile distribution…We will most certainly say hello to a few competitors who we don’t yet know about…and we will learn what it’s like to design and develop within an organization that is twice our current size and larger than we ever built at Hyperpublic. We’ll move from developing product beneath the understanding lens of our own team and investors, to building under the judgmental and non-empathetic gaze of the masses…we will receive negative feedback…something we have had very little of to date…some people will hate us…or tell us we are wrong…our small knit community of believers will be drown out by the skeptics…and like every good startup to put product into the world…we will painfully learn how to communicate our message and convert the non-believers…pats on the back will turn to punches in the stomach…intermittantly eased by the deep tissue massages of our small and large victories.

There is a battle upon us…it is one I know how to win…but there is no shortcut…no secret weapon…that allows us or anyone else in our position to escape the hand to hand…in the trenches…ugliness of taking a spot in the world that many don’t know they want you to hold and that some actively know they don’t want you to hold. You might think from my words that I am not looking forward to 2014, but it is just the opposite. This is what we do. It’s why we kept the bar so high on recruiting. It’s why we don’t simply hire talent to fill roles, but rather dynamic athletes…with the mental and emotional strength to walk into this fight every morning…and not let the stomach shots or duress dilute our craft. This is the year I get to see why every hire we made over the past 12 months was so so right and I can’t fucking wait. So yea…you can see why “Love you all, we are going to crush 2014” doesn’t exactly say what I needed to say. Upon reflection, perhaps this message would have been more appropriate:

“Family, I don’t need to tell you how much I love this group of people. You can see my affection and pride every day I walk in the door. I feel deeply privileged to walk into the coming battle with such a fine and honest group of human beings. We are a small but formidable cadre with the skills and shared ambition to win any fight we choose to enter…and believe me, the fight was have chosen will not be without blood and grueling conditions. It is in our composure, sustained confidence and cohesion that we will endure and ultimately persevere against any that are not with us. Stick to our plan, but watch and communicate as the battlefield changes…Fight with humility and integrity and those that sit on the sidelines will eventually join our ranks…we are small but will not be small forever…whether back against the wall or advancing through enemy lines, remember that those that are not with us today, may well be allies tomorrow. It is January 1st, 2014. The day is upon us…”

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Going Uncomfortably Fast

Posted on December 5, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

I didn’t learn a lot of things in my time at GRPN…I was only there 4 months after all…but there are a few tidbits that I picked up that have stuck with me as we forge forward at Wildcard. I remember Andrew Mason visiting the Palo Alto office on more than one occasion…he’d come and address the engineering team, talk about what’s going on in the company…and frankly run damage control as the stock continued to get abused in the public markets. He was actually a wonderful orator and his cadence with the team I found inspiring and emotionally intelligent. Now some of his words may have been lip service, and some may have been genuine, but I remember this one phrase which I may slightly butcher…but it will be with me forever. In describing why things were “breaking” at GRPN he would repeat over and over “We intentionally made the decision in the early days of building that we wanted to go uncomfortably fast…that we liked the feeling of the wheels shaking on their axels as we grow…and it is this commitment to going uncomfortably fast that allowed us to defeat an entire market of ‘me toos’ and get to where we are now.” Now his words were through a lens of the costs and required repairs that come with going uncomfortably fast…but the idea that they deliberately sought to exist in this forward moving state of instability I found fascinating…at my first two startups I had always tried to preserve stability…

As I reflect on his words, they echo a hand that Kenny has always put gently and sometimes more forceabley on my back…pushing me forward…faster than my stomach would intuitively dictate…A common phrase that I hear from Kenny when we talk about Wildcard is “You need to go faster…step on it…now.” I think to myself…we are going fast…faster than I have ever gone before…and yet still…it is not fast enough…we need to be going “uncomfortably fast…” I’ve said before that I think the optimal burn for a startup is the amount that causes a CEO to feel slightly uncomfortable with what he or she is spending…and I think this sentiment applies not only to what you spend, but across all operational metrics and decision making…there is a very fine line between irresponsibility and the optimal angle at which you lean forward in your decisions…and I am forcing myself to live on it…every single day…the crazy part is, even though I feel like I am approaching that line…in reality, I am probably still not even close to it…there is something to pointing your skis straight down the mountain that is actually safer and more optimal than sliding down the double black sideways…but it requires this leap and confidence that you can only gain through a combination of experience and gentle pushes from those that have more than you.

I am grateful to Andrew and Kenny and a few other close friends who gently and not so gently continue to nudge our skis into that optimally uncomfortable position…it’s getting us to places that I’ve never been before 🙂

p.s. if you want to come skiing with us…this is where the lift tickets are sold: http://www.trywildcard.com/#jobs

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A PM opportunity worth leaving Google for

Posted on November 4, 2013. Filed under: startups, wildcard |

At Wildcard we have the mission of replacing every “webview” on your phone with a native card…or a “wildcard.” We believe that webpages are not the way that people will consume and interact with the information of the internet on mobile…and that this new unit, of the card, will eradicate mobile Safari and Chome as you know them. This is a big mission…and our product is a system with multiple parts. We are building product that touches consumers. We are building product that touches developers in the native ecosystem. And we are building product that touches brands/merchants/publishers (or really anyone that has a presence on the “legacy web”). We have made great progress in defining what a card is and how it behaves. We have made awesome progress in building technology that enables scalable card creation and delivery. And we’ve made tremendous progress in defining user experience and performance innovation such that we can say with deep confidence that interacting with cards is better than interacting with webpages on your phone. With that reality in mind, and with the help of our friends at Twitter, Google, Facebook, etc…brands/merchants/publishers are increasingly aware that investing in a “card strategy” is necessary and important.

In fact, the Brand/Merchant/Publisher side of our business is accelerating to a point that it warrants it’s own leader. This leader is a Product Manager who will own the tools that brands/merchants publishers use to effect their card strategy through Wildcard…as well as the relationships that Wildcard maintains with small and large platforms that host card inventory. This Product Manager almost definitely has a background in Computer Science, but gravitates more toward technical product design and product strategy than programming. S/he is the kind of person that is excited about spending time with established internet companies, listening to their feature needs/requirements. S/he understands how product gets built at companies small and large, and wants to create the most frictionless implementation possible for our brand/merchant/publishers user…Thinking in terms of markup, SDKs, APIs is second nature to this person. Experience in the APM or PM programs at Google or the like is relevant…but on the ground hustle at a company like Stripe, Braintree, or Facebook Platform is equally interesting…This is a more senior role, for someone who is confident in their product ability, confident in their outward facing ability, and experienced enough to build and lead a small team of engineers and/or evangelists as we scale our 3rd party facing products to many corners of the internet.

While this effort is discrete and focussed, the PM of our 3rd party tools will be intimately involved in our consumer facing operations. Wildcard is a system that unites around the core unit of “card.” Decisions around this fundamental unit have implications for 1) our users, 2) our developers, and 3) our brands/merchants/publishers. As such, a key responsibility of the PM is to communicate thinking and learning to team members working on all areas of the system.

If you have the experience and product management training from a top tier program, but are ready to make your mark at a young, well funded, and extremely ambitions New York City startup, this is a unique opportunity to become a leader at Wildcard. You will work with best in class engineers and designers to blow out our 3rd party network and product, and you will come to work every day with wonderful people who care about each other and what we’re attempting to contribute to the world.

Here are a few links on who we are and what we do if this is the first time you’re hearing about Wildcard. I would love to tell you more in person:

What Is Wildcard?

10x Improvement

Team Snapshot (a little out of date, we’ve grown…)

P.S. If you would like to come play with some wildcards…email me and we’ll set up a time for you to visit and demo some cool stuff: jordan.cooper@gmail.com

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10x improvement

Posted on October 10, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

I spent time this morning with Brian Pokorny.  I always like coming out to the west coast because people here have different language, different frameworks, and different models for how they think about problems and opportunities.  It’s not surprising…while the internet is a global phenomenon, there is a local bias in the data we consume, simply as a function of who we talk to everyday and what they are building and thinking about.  I am intimately familiar with the lessons of the last 500 companies to succeed and fail in New York City, and familiar, but less so, with the stories behind their west coast counterparts.  Today Brian planted a thought in my head, that has stuck.  In discussing our plans for Wildcard, and what an experience might look like that achieved broad adoption, the notion of a “10x improvement” was surfaced.  Brian’s suggestion, which I think I agree with, is that in order for a non-social application (or a “utility”) to penetrate a large amount of consumers, it needs to represent a 10x improvement over existing and entrenched alternatives.  Now I don’t know if it’s 10x, or 9x, or 5x, but the spirit behind it is right.  For people to recognize Wildcards as a better alternative to mobile web pages, the experience needs to be a slap you in the face improvement over similar solutions found in Safari, Chrome, and the distributed forms of those experiences.  That’s a high fucking bar…but I think it’s the right one to try to clear…so what does a 10x improvement mean in the context of Wildcard…I thought about this for a while, and I came to the conclusion that speed is everything.  For Wildcard to win, we need to be able to take actions that require 60 seconds of a user’s time in Safari, and achieve them in 6 through Wildcard.  As crazy as that sounds…I think that is the opportunity we’re chasing…and while a big swing for sure…I think it’s one we can achieve.  There are a lot of different ways to shave 54 seconds off a minute, and we are pushing on all of them…In the course of the conversation, we shared examples of others who pushed on utility innovation, and no doubt the road is littered with $20-70M outcomes that had to fall into a larger distribution platform in order for their innovation to reach many…we referenced those outcomes as “misses,” and thought of ways to avoid such an outcome…there were distribution hacks, indirect product designs that were A to B to C type strategies…but at the end of the day, after thinking through all, I actually believed our best chance at breaking into the Evernote/Dropbox/Google sphere, was to continue to pursue the 10x form of our product…It’s not a new concept that I didn’t understand before…obviously our experience has to crush the shitty mobile web experience currently enjoyed by hundreds of millions today, but thinking through a lens of 10x improvement really isolates the one key thing that will warrant a population’s change in daily behavior…in the case of Wildcard, in a world with load times, and errant clicks, and inefficient attempts at known desktop behaviors…we will strive to make your interaction with the information and actions of the internet 10x faster than this clumsy bullshit you are using today.

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Running Wild

Posted on September 24, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

We’re growing at Wildcard. Semil wrote a nice Techcrunch post on mobile cards over the weekend that kindly mentioned Wildcard as a thought leader in this realm. The article mentioned my name specifically, which was cool, but my knee jerk was that there are names at this Company that don’t get mentioned nearly enough. I thought I’d take a minute to introduce you to the special group of people that have come together around our mission of replacing the internet in your phone.

Doug Petkanics: Cofounder and VP Engineering. Previous: UPenn Engineering, Y-Combinator, Frogmetrics, Hyperpublic, Groupon

Eric Tang: Cofounder and CTO. Previous: Carnegie Mellon Engineering, NextJump, Clickable, Hyperpublic, Groupon

Erik Nygren: Senior Engineer. Previous: Stanford Engineering, cofounder/CTO Atma Tech (Acq by Skimlinks ), Skimlinks

Chris Muir: Ops. Previous: Williams College, Goldman Sachs, Hyperpublic, Groupon

Khoi Vinh: Interim Design Lead and Advisor. Previous: Design Director New York Times, Cofounder Mixel (acq Etsy), Etsy

Tom Pinckney: Advisor. Previous: MIT Engineering, Site Advisor, mcafee, Hunch, Ebay

Abhishek Gupta: Advisor. Previous: Georgia Tech, Lead Designer at Lumosity

Joel Cutler: Board Member. General Catalyst: Investor in AirBnB, Kayak (cofounder), Warby Parker, Groupme

Ken Lerer: Godfather. Lerer Ventures, Huffington Post, Betaworks, Hyperpublic board member

Dean Cooney: Product Intern. Previous: U Chicago Engineering, KitchenSurfing, General Assembly

Jared Hecht: Investor. Previous: Tumblr, Founder of Groupme (acq: Skype), Skype

Steve Martocci: Investor. Previous: Gilt, Founder of Groupme (acq: Skype), Skype

SV Angel: Investor in Twitter, Pinterest, Google. Previous backer of Hyperpublic

Jordy Levy: Softbank. Investor in OMGPOP, Buddy Media, Hyperpublic board member

David Tisch: Investor in Vine, Fab, Groupme

You???: email jordan.cooper@gmail.com when you are ready to sit side by side with these people. It’s a pretty special group.

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Cards, Cards, Cards…

Posted on September 12, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

About 2 months ago, I sat down to breakfast with Joel Cutler to discuss our vision for a card based mobile internet. Joel sits on our board. I wouldn’t call him a design thinker and I wouldn’t call him a technical thinker, but I would call him a consumer thinker. He’s invested in Kayak, AirBnb, Warby Parker, Groupme, and a handful of other products that consumers love. The breakfast was sort of a brain dump…and in the late innings of our conversation, he said “who else is thinking this way?…I don’t hear a lot of people talking about cards…are you sure you want to push your stack behind this trend?” I thought for a moment, and admitted that not a lot of people were thinking and talking in our direction. I answered his question: “Google, Twitter, Yandex, John Lilly…that’s kind of it.” Fast forward two months and cards have become a very contemporary topic. The market is wizening up to SOME of the thinking that went into the Wildcard thesis…I’ve started to get emails to the tune of “what should we be doing with cards?” or linking to some article that someone wrote about cards as a trend. Chris Dixon tweets about the potential of cards as a fundamental shift in mobile and it gets retweeted a hundred times with super active conversation and response…buzz builds…I walk into the office at Lerer Ventures and Max Stoller tells me I am “so lucky that the card trend is picking up steam,” as though it was some kind of coincidence that we were building Wildcard 6 months before it entered the spotlight…I smiled at Max and said…yea “super lucky.”

I sent a note to our team late last week, that I fully believe, which is that “this is ours…it’s here for the taking…we have a head start, and it’s ours to lose. We are 10% away from owning this fundamental shift…and our job is to evolve into the dead center of this emergent movement.” Sometimes people ask what I do everyday as CEO of our company…I try to explain what “positioning a company” means and it’s a very hard thing to describe…it’s not vision…that is something separate…it’s more of a fine tuning effort…if you’ve ever tried to put an umbrella through the center of an outdoor table….and aimed it at the female piece in the center of the base…that’s what I’m doing here at Wildcard right now…I’ve got the piece, i know it fits…and i’m just gently hovering it over the target, making sure it’s aligned before I drop the full weight and release my tight grip…It’s not always like this…more often than not, as a CEO you are doing all the other shit…picking the umbrella, deciding if you even want a table on the deck, selecting a color, anticipating the weather, fixing the broken spoke, etc, etc, etc…but we have a real chance of dining in perfect shade right now…and I am so pumped about that. Now of course…the wind is gonna blow, and the seasons are gonna change, and we’ll have to evolve our strategy to maintain a pleasant dining experience, but at current course this is one of the most interesting places you could possibly be working right now…if you want to learn more about cards, come visit our new offices at 197 Grand St. We’re growing…

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Everybody Close Your Eyes

Posted on August 22, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

Yesterday I had breakfast with one of our investors who I’ve known for a long time.  He had read my blog recently and was really excited about the future we are crafting at Wildcard.  I thanked him for his supportive words, but pushed him for harsher criticism.  I said “what are we doing wrong?  What would you be doing differently based on what you know?”  His answer was something I had not considered and it was deeply insightful.  He said “I really like the early voice you’ve established to communicate your view of the future…but don’t tell people what the future is going to be…rather invite them to help you define it together.”

This advice touches on a very subtle nuance around balancing vision and cooperation.  When I close my eyes, I see a future on mobile that is better than what we’ve got today…and everyday I come into work and try to find better language to describe it, and refine it, and bring it into reality…sometimes, when you spend all day willing something into existence, it becomes easy to become attached to the thing you see when you close your eyes…in reality, I think the process of getting to an optimal future is about making a contribution…sharing your version of the way it could be, and then listening to what others who long for an optimal future see when they close their eyes.  It’s in this dialog, that we can collectively shape something meaningful.  There is something to be said for conviction and resolve…and I do not suffer from a lack of that for sure…but Joel reminded me that if we are going to get to a mobile internet experience that is not just on par, but better than that of the desktop web…it’s going to be through a conversation with everyone who cares…

I’ll keep beating the drum for a web of cards, and the convergence of native and web on mobile…for a hybrid future, where selfishly and benevolently Wildcard will play a pioneering role, but I can’t wait to listen to the beats of thousands of other drums…may we find a rhythm together that is sweet to 14 Billion ears…

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Visualizing the seat you want

Posted on August 11, 2013. Filed under: startups, venture capital, wildcard |

Friday night I had dinner with close friends who were in town after a few months on the road. While we were waiting for dinner to be served, the subject of Wildcard came up. After explaining what we are working on (which is always fun and interesting, especially to a non-tech crowd), my friend Jess asked me what my goal for the company was. She said “Are you gonna try to sell it to Google or someone like you did last time?” She saw how cool that experience was for us…I guess it’s sort of natural to assume that we would want to do that again…

Instead, I explained that my goal was to become a Google, or Amazon, or something of that magnitude.  Like all good friends would, she accepted that goal as possible, without doubt or hesitation (thanks Jess). As we talked through what that might look like, I admitted that I was having a hard time visualizing a future where Wildcard was, in fact, a company with tens of thousands of employees and global impact/reach. I explained that it wasn’t hard for me to visualize our product on that scale of influence/import, but rather it was hard to visualize myself running a company like that.

For my entire career, I have always paid very close attention to the traits and characteristics of people in positions that I aspired to have. At General Catalyst Partners, I had 4 or 5 models of what General Partners at a top tier VC “looked like.” If I wanted to become one, I had some kind of picture in my head of what that was, and therefore I could see my path to attaining it, and also what I looked like in the seat. Sure enough, I became a General Partner at Lerer Ventures, and I think I behave sort of as I pictured I would even back then. When I was preparing to become an entrepreneur, I talked to thousands of early stage founders…again, built the model in my head of “what that looked like,” and then it became easier to see myself in the seat. Once you can see a picture of yourself in the seat…it’s not so hard to execute toward that reality. As Hyperpublic grew, I had models of my peers as well as CEO’s who were two, three, four years ahead of me…I saw our path to twenty people, and probably even 40 or 50, and I could visualize myself  in that reality.

With a goal like becoming the next Google or Amazon, I must admit I don’t have very many first hand accounts to look at…it’s hard to build the model of what “that seat” looks like. I spent a few months at GRPN post acquisition, and caught a couple glimpses of Andrew Mason in action…so I guess that’s a little input, but I’ve never really worked at a giant company, and have had very little interaction with those who run them. An email here and there, or time spent with former captains of these types of companies, for sure…but no real, first hand, “this is what the person looks like who started and is running this mega-company.” It’s a bit of a blind spot for me that I’m going to have to work on, as someone who gets places much faster when I can visualize them and then make them real.

I suppose there is something to growing into that seat organically…and I think all those who are in it, must have done so their own way…but organic matter grows faster when atop a scaffolding that provides structure. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to attain this scaffolding (good thing, we’ve got quite some time before it becomes necessary), but this is a bit of a strange feeling not having a visualization to run at of the seat I want. Maybe the first time in my life where I can’t clearly see exactly what I want to become. I guess that’s a sign that we’re shooting appropriately high.

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UX Design is on my Mind

Posted on August 7, 2013. Filed under: wildcard | Tags: , , |

We have a really special group of people working on Wildcard.  We all think in slightly different languages (engineering, strategy, etc), we all have different capabilities, everyone owns something here, but nobody yet owns UX Design.  Our engineering is exceptional, our vision grand, our execution tight, and our empathy…well, our empathy is “medium.”  It could definitely be better.  We are looking for the leader within our group to own our user’s voice and approach every conversation and decision through the eyes of our users.  We need to design product that achieves our world changing goals while remembering to make every user’s life at least a little easier every day.

I used to think that the person who would own UX design at wildcard would have designed a search experience at Google, or an Operating System at Apple, or some sort of complex system that touched both infrastructural technology on one side and users on the other…because those problems are analgous to the ones we’re solving…but that was before I really started talking to UX designers and understanding the fundamentals of design thinking and process.  What I realized is…that the system design side of things…we actually have down pretty well…the mechanics and complexities of how our technology interacts with itself and surrounding environments and layers in the stack is a strength of ours…. it’s actually the opposite voice that is the key to creating a product our users will love.  We need the simplicity of a human being, thinking in human emotions and thoughts, not machines and systems, to take what is an amazing feat of technology and help us think about how to help our users understand, interact with, and take advantage of it in a way that fits their mobile lives.

I really value the process of understanding our true goals and the best design to achieve them.  Formal training or background in Human Computer Interaction is obviously a compelling foundation for our UX Designer to rest on, but it’s not at all a requirement…Empathy, understanding, and super importantly a passion for UX Design and our users is a requirement for sure.  If you’ve led UX Design on a product that users love BECAUSE of the ease and simplicity of the application, that’s really interesting to us.  If you are super confident in your ability as a UX Designer, and would prefer to communicate directly with our founders and engineers instead of some PM or middleman, that is SUPER interesting to us.  It’s not always easy to speak all of the different languages that people here at Wildcard think in, but if you are great at asking questions, and can follow a lot of different styles of thought, and contribute your own style confidently and clearly, that is SUPER interesting to us.  If your goal is to be a “Product Lead” and assume some of the responsibilities you might find in a PM at a larger company, but first and foremost to own UX Design and make sure our users are happy everyday, that is SUPER INTERESTING to us.

I know this isn’t a conventional job listing for “UX Designer” with skills, experience requirements, etc…but this isn’t a conventional company and it isn’t a conventional role. This is really “UX Designer Plus” for an exceptional, experienced, humble, awesome person who wants to take a step into a leadership role and work amongst engineers and founders who are at the top of their respective fields.  If your intrigued, here are some background links:

1)   What is Wildcard? https://jordancooper.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/what-is-wildcard/

2)   There is some good language on what we do in the jobs section of our splash page: http://www.trywildcard.com/

Reach out and say hi, even if you have a job, even if you are happy there, I’d love to share our passion and vision for what the mobile internet needs to become.  All inquiries will be kepy STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. Jordan.cooper@gmail.com

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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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