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Michael - I think you're right that Uber's valuation isn't nuts. But you haven't really been kind to the finance professor you've slammed. Sure, Damordaran is looking at business fundamentals and arguing that on that basis it can't reach a 17B. But you haven't shed any light on why firms like KPCB are acting in the best interests of the founders and themselves when they issue huge valuations. There are answers to that question, and good ones. But those answers aren't in your article. Given how hard you slam the NYU guy, they should be.
4 months, 1 week ago on This NYU finance professor thinks Uber’s valuation is nuts. But this isn’t Wall St.
Excellent article. Question about SaaS companies. If you talk to investors, many will say that the category isn't very viral and therefore significant marketing spend is necessary to acquire customers (especially in the early days of a SaaS company). Anything innovative being done by gems in the SaaS space to reduce CPA?
7 months ago on That’s a nice little $40M ecommerce company you have there. Call me when it scales
@FrankThagard @KenG Agreed.Pando, please listen: The piece you've just published has an argument that cannot be proven with prose alone. The numbers must be crunched and presented in a way that supports the author's (controversial) thesis. Also, FrankThagard makes a great point above. Alcohol and obesity don't cost health care systems money? Again a thesis provable only by crunching numbers but delivered DOA by this fine author. The Brits have a word for this kind of fairy tale, isn't it called poppycock?
7 months, 1 week ago on No, there isn’t a “great decoupling” between pay and production
Yim is sharp, and vets startups thoroughly before writing checks. My guess is that these guys have a great roadmap.
10 months ago on HouseCall, the Uber for all your home services, raises $1.5M from e.ventures
Sarah, you make a fair point - Twitter is certainly not a bad company BECAUSE there are no female board members. There are a lot of good reasons why the board has the specific individuals that it does, after all.
Having said all that, may I make an observation? Vivek is a friend of mine, and I tend to appreciate his point of view and always look under the surface because his opinions (like all smart, experienced people) have more than one layer. When I did that during this debate, I found myself asking a question that took me back to my own mother's experience in the workforce: Is the modern workforce a genuine meritocracy? I've always felt that the answer was no, based on gut and lived experience (data). It's hard to prove though. And so even if I (like you) don't accept Vivek's logic (= the dearth of female board members means gender-based exclusion is practiced deliberately at Twitter), I do think some very talented - perhaps more talented - human beings, male/female, Asian/black/white/etc., probably got excluded from the board and from other high-level roles at the company. (I love Twitter, but is it a beautiful, dynamic product? Given that its MAUs aren't growing, is it really optimized to serve the slick, mature media companies that it surely wants to onboard as clients?) At any rate, LA_Banker (see comments) has probably the best practical observation I've seen about the board member funnel - without enough female VCs, how are tech companies supposed to have a large enough pool of female board members to pick from?
1 year ago on Twitter’s female “problem” — This is why mobs don’t appoint public company boards
Nice piece Shahram. One thought: I agree that Facebook is becoming part of the social infrastructure in a way even the founders couldn't have imagined. However, to leverage the power of this platform - for economic, social, or political ends - you must have people committed to specific ends in the first place.
Whether it's Wall Street reform, the need to jump start infrastructure development projects within the US, or helping dissidents organize against oppressive political leaders, the courage to stay the course is a necessary condition to lasting change. Facebook can't provide that essential ingredient.John
1 year ago on Zuck, the Great and Powerful: Why the future of Facebook matters
Can you more clearly define the kind of hooking up you find so noxious? I think that's the key to moving this debate forward, a better definition of "bad hooking up". After all, a casual approach to dating and sex has been us since humanity emerged from the primordial goo. Perhaps the scale on which it is happening now is what worries you, or maybe you think that the stakes are higher now because well-educated folks are taking a casual approach to sex with them into their late 20s and 30s. One thing that might make this article better is some vignettes from the SF dating scene.
1 year, 2 months ago on Sex, love, and the hook-up generation
@Nick Bennett @MikeKazanjy Saying that Musk's execution "sucks" is childish and untrue. Tesla cars have received great reviews, they run well (I've driven them), and the company - unlike giants like Ford and BMW - hasn't been around that long. Elon's execution is just fine.
1 year, 2 months ago on Now it’s not even close – Elon Musk is more important to society than Steve Jobs ever was
@ajarchibald Musk is different than Jobs in a number of ways. 1) His entrepreneurial range is wider. Electric vehicles, space exploration, and high-end land based transport all provide very different benefits to humanity than instruments of communication and entertainment delivery.2) Musk's ability to raise capital and keep very difficult projects moving - I believe - sets him apart. (Then again, perhaps Jobs would have also been able to convince the US Gov to loan him $500mm had he been in Elon's position earlier in Tesla's lifecycle.)3) Having come from the mobile world, where repeat behavior determines who wins and who loses, I'm less impressed with iPhone sales (which game the human addiction to bright shiny objects) and much more impressed with order-of-magnitude level improvements in various areas of human life (transportation, space exploration, materials science, etc.). Nutshell is this: Jobs created multiple product lines that delight the deepest, oldest human psychological drives - the need for connection, the desire for novelty, and the hunger for fantasy. Musk is trying to make products that touch some of those same psychological drives while simultaneously serving humanity's long-term interests in a cleaner, safer environment on earth and a more robust space program.
Excellent piece. Just a few reactions. First, Elon is leading by example. He's a conscientious fellow, and his products speak for themselves. Second, by putting together a general blueprint for this new transportation technology, he's further shown that true progress - technological, social, economic - cannot occur through the actions of one lone rockstar, one lone savior. Everyone who can contribute needs to do so. Third and finally, SpaceX may be the kernel that leads us to plan for the time when this planet is no longer habitable for our species. If that comes to pass, Elon Musk will be a world-historical figure, a human being far more important than any of the executives people would identify as his "peers" today. Best,John
Musk is inspiring
1 year, 2 months ago on Elon Musk says Hyperloop won’t run in a vacuum, hints at what’s next
How will this platform disrupt healthcare as such?JME
1 year, 2 months ago on With another $6M, Glow is Max Levchin’s Trojan Horse to remake American healthcare
Sarah,This is an important piece you've written, and I wholeheartedly agree with your main observations. I would only add that Barbara Morgan seems like the kind of person I never, ever want to be around. Mean-spirited, vindictive, and just rotten. (The fact that Ms. Nuzzi accepted Morgan's "apology" shows the kind of grace she's capable of.)John
1 year, 2 months ago on Olivia Nuzzi won’t defend herself against the latest lies, so allow me
@cliveboulton Is this true?
1 year, 3 months ago on Move fast, break things: The sad story of Platform, Facebook’s gigantic missed opportunity
I understand where you're coming from, and definitely agree that too many people will absorb time opportunistically without giving back much in return. But if a random catch up over coffee or beers or whatever is mutually beneficial, why the hell not? Meet with a stranger, if that stranger is high quality and can kick back some good ideas your way.
1 year, 6 months ago on Do you really want coffee or is this some kind of trap?
The link provided above is not correct. This is the correct link: http://blackbird.vc/
1 year, 6 months ago on In cash-strapped Aussie venture market, a bird flies into a vacuum
This is a very poignant piece given what's happening in SV. I think the only unanswered question is whether the engineering talent that you get from an a-hire on average exceeds that you can get on the open market. Don't misread me - I'm not saying this is the case. But some of the price points for startups that haven't been super successful would look more justifiable if this were true.
1 year, 6 months ago on The Acqui-hire Scourge: Whatever Happened to Failure in Silicon Valley?
@HealyHoops @DougLudlow How does something this silly get published? Is there an editor at Pando?
2 years, 3 months ago on What Does This Korean Messaging App Think It’s Doing With More US Users Than Path?
I swear, every time I read something on Pando there's some comment moored in ignorance, racism, or idiocy: fomented cabbage? Really? Do you know anything about the history of Korea at all? Some of the best scientists and engineers in the world.
@paulcarr @Nathan_Pensky @mchasewalker Yes Paul, it's called the movie ticket. That's where a human being, gifted with ordinary intelligence and common sense, is placed on notice that the entertainment product about to be delivered is to some degree a work of fiction.
2 years, 4 months ago on Can You Handle the Truth? Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs Movie is Going to be a Disaster
@sarahlacy Sarah - Can you, in one crisp sentence, please explain what normative principle Sorkin (or anyone else in Hollywood) is breaking when a fictional interpretation of a historical personage or events is released as a big budget flick? Seriously, so we're all on the same page about what the alleged sin is here. (And incidentally, I think the fictional Zuckerberg character in The Social Network struck me as not an unrepentant jack^%$, but rather as someone with vision who was green in a number of ways. I'm sure the real Zuck is in many ways different than the fictional one. But I'm not sure the world walked away thinking that Zuck isn't a human being worth getting to know. In fact, I bet the converse is true - Sorkin humanized him for a large group of Americans in a way no amount of quick news reading on the net ever could.)
@JeffAtlee Excellent observation. It's funny that no one here would spill any ink arguing that Charlie Wilson's War isn't a fully accurate depiction of historical events. Yet the minute a Silicon Valley celebrity's life becomes the inspiration for a movie, all of the gadflies come out of the woodwork to play.
Let me play devil's advocate: Why SHOULD a biopic about Jobs necessarily tell us all we need to know about what made him successful at Apple? I'm asking because you assume this premise on without defending it, and I'm not sure that any film maker - Sorkin included - is going to be able to tell such a subtle story in a big-budget commercial film.
Farhad,How exactly will this suppress the overall market for acquisitions? Even if promising targets are more skeptical of Facebook's potential to grow, that doesn't mean anything for the appetite of other large companies looking for top tech talent via acquisitions. John
2 years, 5 months ago on The Best Thing About Facebook’s IPO: The Tech “Bubble” is Over
I'm torn when it comes to Thiel's theory of our education regime. On the one hand, I think he's absolutely correct that there is a large delta between (1) expected returns (even from places like Princeton, Yale, Stanford) and (2) the actual average lifetime returns. Further, I agree with him that universities - the elites, publics and expensive non-elite privates - go to great lengths to divert attention from these facts by pretending that a college education is a guarantee of middle or upper-middle class success.On the other hand, there are a raft of skills that are hard to impart to large groups of people without some type of structured learning environment. It might be possible to envision new ways to train engineers, scientists, artists, designers, and everyone else that makes the modern economy function. But once you step outside Silicon Valley, I think you'll find that the signaling function played by the bachelors, masters and professional degree system is pretty much still dominant. It might be extremely valuable to blow that regime to bits, but if that's what Thiel is advocating, it would be awesome to hear some detailed arguments about how to accomplish that lofty objective.
2 years, 6 months ago on Peter Thiel: The Education System as An Excuse
I do not understand the underlying logic here: Is taking a low salary assumed to be a signal of, or proxy for, all the characteristics that make a good start up CEO? If that's the assumption, I am not convinced. Of course, I wasn't there and therefore did not hear Thiel unpack his theory for the audience. But in my experience (3 start ups), taking a low salary wouldn't be the first proxy I'd think of for the web of moral and professional characteristics a great start up leader should have.
2 years, 6 months ago on Peter Thiel: Startup CEO Salaries Shouldn’t Be Above $150,000