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I find it hard to believe that it never came up. There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn't want to get rid of Karp, but only a fool wouldn't have evaluated the possibility. If there was that big a need for a COO, clearly there were issues that needed to be addressed and CEO replacement should have been part of the conversation. But, you know, nobody likes to talk about this stuff in public nor feels the need to once there has been a big exit.
1 year, 6 months ago on Bijan Sabet: David Karp’s job was never in danger
Sounds like a twist on Ning, frankly. That didn't go so well for Bianchini.
1 year, 8 months ago on Mightybell: A social platform banking on the web’s lack of community
This is a great, great idea, Erin.
1 year, 8 months ago on Let’s kill the demo day and replace it with a one-year reunion
And most startups fail, period. In fact, most small businesses fail too. Thems the brakes, as they say. Sure, there are certainly some fatal mistakes made that might have turned potential successes into eventual failures, but the larger truth is that most aren't ever going to make it at all. That is the nature of this game.
1 year, 9 months ago on What do failed startups have in common?
He may be smart, he may be a good entrepreneur, he may be a jerk too. What seems pretty clear is that taking $300-600M off the table as part of an enterprise that is failing in an enormous fashion is morally repugnant.
1 year, 10 months ago on Fred Wilson still has confidence in Mark Pincus
Here's the thing...to each their own. You, @Francisco Dao, don't like this kind of behavior and neither do I. But others are fine with dismissing it and making excuses, which is their choice. In the end, what matters is that you surround yourself with the kind of people you appreciate and that's that, regardless of what other people might tolerate or think. Life is too short to be around assholes, however you might define them.
1 year, 11 months ago on Stop making excuses for people
@ForrestHiggs I agree 100%. It is a problem and it isn't easy, but that's no excuse to pass the core issues by simply to shove technology down people's throats.
2 years ago on Why online education is mostly a fantasy
@elicolner Which is part of the reason the dropoff rates for MOOC courses are so enormous. You'll hear the folks at Coursera or EdX talk about the enormous number of signups...they rarely, if ever, talk about the small percentage of students that finish the exercises, view all the videos, or show any mastery of the topic.
@Crystal808 I agree with you on the library analogy. Even with fairly open and easy access, there are still issues with libraries, particularly in communities that suffer from underperforming school systems. That being said, online learning is far from some magical silver bullet.
There was an insipid discussion of MOOCs last night on Charlie Rose. More blithering nonsense from the folks behind EdX and Amplify (some classroom bullcrap from FOX) as well as the harbinger of BS - Thomas Friedman. Seriously, any time Friedman is on board, any critical thinking goes straight out the goddamn window.All these clowns could do - clowns with some of the best educations and access around - was to cite the vanity metrics of signups as a sign of success so far. They could barely admit that there is no clear evidence that any of this is making a difference, although they did touch on the fact that the business model is non-existant at this point. I loved the garbage around never having had any data on how kids learn - because, you know, teachers never give homework, quizzes, or tests. Ridiculous.While the zeitgeist seems to be about blaming our education system for all sorts of failures and to automatically prescribing technology as a solution, we are failing to look closely at what is really wrong with education in this country. There is plenty of data out there to show that the issues are far more about socioeconomics and that the "issues" clearly show up when you segment out the minority of underperforming schools/student bodies. The solution isn't tablets in every child's hands, but dealing with the instability and risk factors in children's lives. Less broken homes, more employment, less starvation and poverty, more community support...handle the public policy stuff and you can bet schools will be more productive places where kids will learn a great deal more.
So you thought you needed money and you pitched VCs. Then you didn't decide to accept any offers, although it is unclear whether that means you received legit terms sheets or just had some interesting overtures made to you. What really changed your mind? Was it a decision that bootstrapping and retaining ownership was best or did you simply not get any offers that were attractive? It certainly seems like you worked to get the attention of guys like Fred Wilson...yet you raised no money? To put in that effort and decide to change course...there has to be more interesting things to say about that then what you wrote above, no?
2 years ago on Why I turned down investor money for my startup
Anyone who thinks there hasn't been any innovation in education since the printing press is a fool. Not all that long ago, most children received little to no schooling whatsoever. One of America's great contributions to humanity was the creation of public schools, education available to all and funded by the government so cost would never be an issue. You could add to that the creation of state colleges, land grant institutions, etc. as well, all of which has happened in less than 200 hundred years. It is not a coincidence that our nation has risen meteorically during this time. So, sure, education can use some shaking up, but it isn't exactly the stodgy institution some make it out to be. It is part of our very core as a citizenry and any innovation we take on should be considered in historical context.
2 years ago on Should you pay $250K to go to college?
Most people doing the sharing don't give a crap what the people they are sharing with might think outside of what those people will think about the sharer. Really, all this bullcrap of peddling advice - advice which is almost always someone else's - is just a sad attempt by many to drape themselves in a false cloak of wisdom and experience. You know, if I tweet shit out all the time that sounds smart, it must mean that I'm smart. I am amazed at how many folks just go post Paul Graham or Fred Wilson or Steve Blank's stuff, over and over again. Not a knock on those guys, but tweeting that stuff just shows that you know how to use your browser to find their old blog posts. Good for you! Hell, it doesn't even mean you read the stuff, let alone understand it and have applied it to anything you actually do.Me? I tweet stuff sometimes. But I have three rules when it comes to sharing content. First, I better have read it and have something to say about it. Second, it better not be the same old crap that everybody else is sharing (meaning I only share stuff that I haven't seen elsewhere). And, third, if I don't agree with it or do it myself, I better be sharing it to start a conversation or an argument about something because I think its important. Sharing isn't about shining up my own reputation or persona - my actions are. So, any content I share had better come from a place of engagement and provocation than shining up my stupid online image.
2 years ago on Please stop with the recycled hypocritical advice
So, wait...you busted your ass for two years to build the company and then relaxed, right? I agree with your core point, but don't gloss over what you had to put into MetaLab to get to the point where you could delegate more, relax a bit, and get some breathing room. If most businesses don't start out with a hair-on-fire attitude, they will never get to the point where they can benefit from your advice at all.
2 years ago on You don’t have to make yourself miserable to build a great company
@Thedisco Whoops. A great place to LIVE!
2 years, 1 month ago on Because of asset seizures, I am starting my new company outside California
Come to Virginia, brother. Much better tax structure, far friendlier to business, and just a great place to leave. And, lest you think it can't compare to NYC...there is an absolute mountain of tech and media talent in the DC metro region, the living is a bit more affordable (just a bit), and we can hold our own when it comes to things like culture, food, music, etc.C'mon, man. You will love it.
@cjcornell Good additions. I've lost count of all the semi-retired CFOs with corporate backgrounds who think every startup should be running to pay them as consultants.
2 years, 1 month ago on How to scare off bad actors in the startup ecosystem
Wait! You mean all that talk of "Moneyball" investing might just be BS?
2 years, 1 month ago on Terabytes of deafening noise
@Francisco Dao And now my "learn something everyday" checkbox can be marked. Ringelmann effect...good stuff.
2 years, 1 month ago on When does something become too big?
I think those calling themselves junkies aren't really addicted to anything other than having a phrase to describe a fleeting, albeit passionate, obsession with a segment of the economy that is currently enjoying the limelight. They spin their work or educational history, along with any number of other ancillary experiences, as having been part of or related to startups, no matter how tangential or remote. This is why you hear crap about lemonade stands or building stuff with Legos, why launch party attendees usually outnumber users after 30 days, and why there was even a shot at getting Randi's horrible mess of reality programming on Bravo for a season.
2 years, 2 months ago on Startup junkies: What are they really addicted to?
This is the moment when you throw the mike down and walk off stage, @Francisco Dao. So spot on.
@Francisco Dao @benkepes Oh, the delicious irony of liking a comment about the dismay of getting likes.
2 years, 2 months ago on The cult of ideas
@tianjerry Well, those companies all started before YC, so none of them even had a chance to be in a top tier accelerator. But, more importantly, the truth is that the "best" startups in any region rarely need the kind of support that accelerators provide.
2 years, 2 months ago on Dear awesome startups, don’t join an accelerator, unless…
The general tactic at play here, one of using investor dollars to buy revenue and stack up the traction and growth to help propel the company to further investment or an exit of somer sort, is not just an issue with ecommerce companies. Look back at the numbers around BranchOut in the run up to their round last April, for example. The real questions are not just about why Jody did what he did or how did Ecomom end up in this situation, but what is wrong with the whole damn system?
2 years, 2 months ago on Ecomom’s aggressive discounting culture should be a cautionary tale for all of ecommerce
@Pv Yes, nothing like coding Basic onto a tape drive, is there?I get you and I mostly don't disagree. But do you believe that all accelerators provide that education? If the choice is between Harvard and YC, okay. If the choice is between Middle No Name State and TechStars, okay. But what if it is okay school vs. second or third tier accelerator? If the program isn't well constructed and established enough to attract talented people (meaning product, design, etc. types and not just investors) and to provide a reasonable, albeit aggressive, curriculum...what is the point? How many of these 20 year olds are saving some money and wasting away in small markets...or worse, getting a head full of legitimately bad advice from people who have little idea what they are doing themselves.
@Pv I think you are either considering only to top tier programs when you say that or you assume a great deal when it comes to accelerators' ability to provide that education. Some can, but most cannot and will be incapable of providing a legitimate alternative to business school. I can't defend b-schools, but I also don't think that the vast majority of accelerators are providing the value that is reasonable for the equity they expect from the startups they accept.
This thing is tragic from beginning to end and the end has not yet arrived.
2 years, 2 months ago on Ecomom is liquidating and shutting down; investors are stunned
@Francisco Dao @MikeTannenbaum Which is also what the nonsense about a Series A crunch is all about. It isn't that there isn't enough Series A money, but that there is a tidal wave of garbage looking for more funding. I guess I can see how having an increase in entrepreneurs might lead to some positive benefits as far as overall experience and skills, but the expansion of the entrepreneurial set still seems far more about title and cool factor than it does about building businesses or following dreams.
2 years, 2 months ago on The case for fewer entrepreneurs
Its not very innovative because it is not the industry where innovators go. Untile recently, it has largely been the domain of bankers/financiers and of people with money to play with (via inheritance, exit, etc.). These are not folks looking to change an industry, but to make some money and to sometimes simply be "in the game". The reason to innovate in VC is to get an edge, to build out one's deal flow, and to find a path to better returns than the average. There is always some value in simply doing things differently and entering VC when it was overcrowded, like First Round did, means that the only decent shot at success from a returns standpoint was to rethink the approach. I'm glad First Round did it, think they've got the right model for our time, but wish to hell that they'd stop making those corny videos. They are just wretched, in my opinion, and feel weirdly paternalistic in how they treat the entrepreneurs.
2 years, 2 months ago on Why is venture capital, the industry that funds innovation, so very un-innovative?
It's about time someone writes about this side of the startup experience. I've seen too many friends lose jobs, relationships, savings, respect, happiness, and credibility and too few ever reap the benefits of the effort. A lot of hearts and egos are going to get crushed and we won't have this entrepreneurial explosion or Startup Nation that so many second-hand artists espouse...we'll have a ton of people who feel like failures, who don't know how to get past the defeat and guilt, and they'll retreat to safety and stability except in the few, rare ecosystems where the local/regional culture is supportive and dynamic.
Great stuff as always, Francisco.
2 years, 2 months ago on Living with doubt
By the way, I believe Keith is already a bit of a VC through Youniversity Ventures. Not sure how much funding YV provides, but he is involved to some degree.
2 years, 2 months ago on Is Keith Rabois sick of being Silicon Valley’s consummate No. 2?
Seems like a better option that standard check cashing and payday lending outfits. The fees around those services are often absurd and only compound people's financial issues. If Billfloat can provide similar flexibility at a lower cost to the borrower, it will be a great help to these folks. I would be concerned about Billfloat's costs when handling higher default rates and all, but it is certainly worth trying to make this work better.
2 years, 3 months ago on BillFloat nabs $21M to give customers more time to pay bills
Its a two-way street, man. You want loyalty, but you had better be ready to earn and maintain it. Too many employers don't seem to get that.
2 years, 3 months ago on Loyalty cannot be faked
Dunning-Kruger effect, man. It's a bitch.
2 years, 3 months ago on How charlatans and pseudo-science make us stupid
@bgoldberg Okay, that's fair. And, I'm not going to argue that banking and consulting are exactly the same. But, I think that the majority of consulting as well as associate slots at law firms as well as bland-ass management tracks at giant tech companies all reek of a "stay in line and wait your turn" kind of attitude that is anathema to those oriented towards startups. So, if there is a real cultural shift in your generation, don't you think it would be showing up with all of these paths?
On the aura of cool...I recently heard an interview, I believe it was on NPR, in which there was an interesting point made about how "Wall Street" made Finance an enormously attractive career path and that "The Social Network" seems to have done the same for tech and startups. The timing of that movie coincides very nicely with the disaffection and decreased allure of Finance, no?
2 years, 3 months ago on Finance lost. Tech won. Here’s why…
I think you are right in a general sense, but let's be honest here...this is less about people feeling like banking is not a good career fit and more about the fact that at the same time banking is getting bashed in the press, startups have become the cool new thing to do. I don't think that is a news story following careerstrends of college grads, but college grads following the hype inherent in a bubble.
Finance is due for a correction, one that will likely result in less job opportunities with less lucrative paths. But, I don't think you can say that there is any real sign of a generational shift in career choices until you see a decline in the # of grads from top 25 schools going to white shoe consulting and corporate law firms as well.
First, I have a hard time accepting an argument when it is made by VCs or tech journalists. Neither group is particularly innovative or in position to see long term trends - only the outliers in both industries have any success at predicting the future in an appreciable way, which they do by taking on a larger amount of risk that the rest of their peers. And those that are not outliers have every incentive in the world to focus on the here and now, which is not likely to reward anything remotely innovative at all. You want traffic and/or subscriptions to your media product...focus on what's hot, what attracts attention, what people are talking about. You want to raise a new fund, make your LPs happy, look like a star with the right names in your portfolio...invest in the companies and markets that have already been identified as opportunities, otherwise known as following the herd. Pot calling the kettle black, I say.
Second, half the problem is the overuse of terms. When everybody is busy slapping innovation and disruption on their ideas, products, and companies...those words become meaningless. In part, it feels like there is little innovation because it is impossible to finds signals in all the damn noise.
And, third, how can anyone assess innovation in the short term anyway? I don't think truly innovative ideas are obvious at first glance, which might frustrate the hell out of a VC or a talking head looking to keep his/her edge in being "in the know". So, maybe some patience and broadening of perspective is in order here.
2 years, 3 months ago on Why Silicon Valley innovation has stalled
@mcarney Hey, thanks for doing the work. Like you point out, the shame is how many stories there are that just don't (or almost don't) get told.
2 years, 5 months ago on How Chris Sacca turned his student loans into $12 million… and then lost it all
@mcarney I like your writing well enough, but that is such a bullshit cop-opt. No, you didn't say "so should you", but you sure wrap it up with a nice little bow, don't you? You don't have to tell people to do it, dude. The regular parade of articles about guys like Sacca is journalistic selection bias and has a very real cultural effect. Lots of people read this stuff and will fail to recognize how rare Chris's success is. I get it, of course. This stuff is more fun and interesting and, frankly, easier to write than having to dive into a critical analysis of why something did or did not work. Probably gets more views to simply write interesting stuff that concludes with a happy ending. And I'm not saying you have some special responsibility here...but don't act like this stuff is all in balance. Slightly less than puffy puff pieces still outweigh the gritty and real stories of how people really screw up, despite the fact that the latter is far more common and instructive.I've got no axe to grind with you or Sacca, dude. My real criticism is the larger narrative being pushed by all sorts of media outlets as they pump out glowing profiles and hype-laden tidbits. But don't act like this isn't genuflective in some way. Extrapolation...yeah, isn't that what you are doing when you talk about all that stuff and end with a "paved his road to becoming one of the most respected and successful angels" bit? All the "tenacity and refusal to quit" pablum that is easily offered by survivors, making those that truly fail feel falsely inadequate?
VCs have brought PR in house as a service to the startups in their portfolio. I don't think it is a sign that those VCs are just promoting their own brands, although I'm sure that some of that goes on. Frankly, the people that are overexposed right now probably don't need much outside PR help given their penchant for showing up everywhere and talking all the time.
2 years, 5 months ago on Sacca: VC self-promotion has reached intolerable levels
I have no idea if the dude is lying or not. What I do know is that taking these cases of one and trying to extrapolate them as proof that taking absurd risk is the right choice is frankly ridiculous. It seems to have worked for Sacca, but it will destroy the majority who follow the same path. Good for Chris, but what good does the perpetuation of these failure myths do?
@Francisco Dao @david_waxman I think there is also a lot of nonsensical "failure" draping going on as well. Lots of smankers barely trying things, calling their weak ass efforts a failure, and then using that cheesy story to try and burnish their cred. The whole ecosystem seems overloaded with this kind of stuff right now.
2 years, 6 months ago on Why failure matters
@dave What I find interesting is how so many of the kids that are highlighted for being heavily in debt did not pursue STEM degrees. I'm sure it is an issue for all college kids, but it so often seems like the kids studying subjects that are far less employable. I'm all for freedom of choice, but there does have to be some critical rational thinking involved here, not to mention responsibility. If a kid wants to study acting, totally cool. If the kid ends up with 100K in debt because of it, that kid better become a star or the weight of that choice will hang over their head for decades.I too am glad that I went to college and finished with a degree. It didn't cost a lot as I went to a state school and I've never been employed for a single hour in a job that seems directly related to it. But, I'll be damned if my undergraduate experience didn't teach me the kinds of thinking and problem solving skills that I needed to be successful. To be honest, if that degree would have left me with 50K in debt, though, I would not have done it.
2 years, 6 months ago on Entrepreneurs Should Stay in School
Yeah, at some point, you just get tired of hearing it. It is like the obese friend who is always dieting or on some exercise regimen, but never sticks with it or loses weight.I find that people are often only excited by the talking, by the way they look when wearing the cloak of "doing", and not the hard work. But, so much of the reality of this startup-y stuff is getting lost in all the romanticism and nonsense of our current time. It should be no surprise that people sign up for the first part, the all-hyped-and-ready-to-burst part, and fall down when it comes to all those moments when the only thing you are killing is your bank account and your health.
2 years, 7 months ago on Lost in a Haze of Distraction
@Jay Amato What of the CFO's responsibility and involvement? What of FB's Board and the rest of the execs? If this was just twentysomethings and vulture capitalists, the lack of experience would be a big deal. But it seems to me that so many were complicit in this mess that Zuck's experience is of little consequence. In hindsight, it is clearly misguided to think that a young CEO can address his/her shortcomings by bringing in experienced pros or that doing so avoids these kinds of situations.
Again, I agree with your assertion, but I think the evidence is in going to be clearer over the next few years and not by looking at current high flyers.
2 years, 7 months ago on Why More Experienced CEOs Will Stay At the Forefront of Tech Innovation
How many CEOs have ever faced what Zuckerberg is facing? Let's be fair here - he is young and inexperienced outside of Facebook, but almost nobody else has experience that would be relevant to having 900 million users or a massively bad IPO, do they? Maybe a more seasoned person would have managed the past 12-24 months "better", but Zuckerberg is not an island, which makes me think that those around him didn't see this reality any more than he did (or anyone else would have).In general, I think your points are spot on. But, I think that some situations are outliers that would challenge just about anyone, Harvard MBA with a strong track record, newly minted college dropout, and all points in between. As for the future, I believe we will see a washout of most of the new wave of entrepreneurs, as so many of them are young and working on ideas and startups that are destined to fail. When the angel bubble bursts and the consumer internet cools, I think your last paragraph is exactly right.
@Francisco Dao Just when I think I love you for all your snark and crass delivery, you hit me in the face with something calm and well reasoned. I am totally smitten. In all seriousness, you are making a point that I think we've all heard lately, but in a much clearer way. The link between the money and the almost collusive practices of hype peddling are at best a distraction and, at worst, a quickening of the next great tech bust. And, regardless of what happens in the short term, it minimizes us all to focus on this kind of nonsense instead of legitimate, sustainable value creation. People are quick to grasp the money, but have a much harder time figure out how to create any meaning in all of this, for themselves, investors, or customers.
2 years, 7 months ago on The Ecosystem Of Hype
I don't know the numbers on this business, but I'm surprised it is continuing to get venture backing. Low double digit revenues in 2013, but what is the margin? Ecomom doesn't make product, right, just sells it? And sells products that are probably at a premium price to begin with? Stable, but slow growth when comparing the metrics of other ecommerce companies, niche market, high price products. Is this a 10X return...a $100M+ company at acquisition or otherwise?I think Ecomom is probably a solid business moving forward in a reasonable way. I just find it surprising when venture money flows into ideas and/or businesses that seem more likely to be profit-generating business models than big venture wins.
2 years, 8 months ago on Eco-friendly Ecommerce Startup Gets $4.7M Injection
@Francisco Dao Why the fuck am I a huge fan of yours? Because you write rational, hilarious shit like this.
2 years, 8 months ago on The Ultimate Productivity Tool
@Francisco Dao Uh, the domain is still available...just sayin'.
2 years, 9 months ago on You Might Be A Smanker If…