Happy Friday (and welcome to 2016).
I’m writing today’s newsletter from my Airstream somewhere just south of Petersburg, VA. I’m on my way to Durham, NC later this morning and spending the day with Chris Heivly (co-founder of MapQuest) and his team. If you’re in Durham this afternoon,please join me and Chris at happy hour.
About that Airstream, my 2016 tech tour is coming together nicely. (And yes, that is a picture of my truck and trailer.) It’s a work in progress and I’ll be adding even more stops over the next few days. If you’re in any of these cities (or know someone that is), I hope you’ll keep an eye on that page — I’ll add signup links for all of the events I’ll be attending, hosting or speaking at in each location shortly.
I’m looking forward to meeting even more of you through 2016. You’re doing important work and I want to help in any way I can. Maybe I’ll invest, maybe I’ll help make some noise for you, maybe I can inspire your community to swing a little harder or maybe we’ll just share a beer.
1. “Your job as an executive is to edit, not write.” [Link] [Tweet]
The classic founder narrative goes a little something like this: grind, grind, grind, grind, grind and grind. A lot of hard work.
That’s not sustainable and, perhaps more importantly, it’s not good for your business. There is a difference between working “in” the business and “on” the business.
In order to make that transition, you’ve got to learn how to communicate and inspire others to follow your mission. (I created a free email course about public speaking — it’s got tips you can use on stage and in 1:1 conversations.)
2. “We fucked ourselves as an industry.” [Link] [Tweet]
This is one of the best written pieces I’ve ever read about making the transition awayfrom a dependence on venture capital. It’s about focusing on sales and profits.
As we head into 2016, founders should be thinking more about how to ramp sales rather than listening to the raging debate about when the bubble’s going to pop.
As they say, revenue solves a lot of problems. Funny how that works.
3. “If you dictate what the poor should get, you take away their rights to choose what they think is best for them.” [Link] [Tweet]
If you live inside the US, you probably haven’t noticed that India is throwing a wrench into Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org — his initiative to provide free but limited internet to the developing world.
The gist: Facebook / Internet.org wants to build Free Basics. It’s a way to bring a lot of information to people that may not have access (or the ability) to the internet. In developing countries, you’d have access to the internet as long as you’re using Facebook — it’s a bit of a walled garden — and that’s what everyone’s concerned about.
My view: Facebook is a private company that wants to invest a ton of their own money into the developing world. Why not let them do it and then determine how the local laws might need to be modified to protect the people?
I’m not suggesting that we put people in harm’s way or ignore them until Facebook treats them poorly but, just as VC’s haven’t historically been great at predicting unicorns, the government (especially the Indian government) hasn’t historically been great at understanding the pros / cons of technology.
Everyone agrees that getting more people online is a good thing. If a private company wants to put their money on the line to do it, let them do it and keep a watchful eye on them. Otherwise, build it yourself.
4. “The hardest part of changing your life is getting started.” [Link] [Tweet]
Yep. Just yep.
5. “it has never been easier to start a company and never been harder to scale one.” [Link] [Tweet]
This article, like most, tries to explain the Power Law and how it relates to the business of venture capital. The problem is that it doesn’t take fund size into account.
“Lower risk investments with higher probability for success, but where success isn’t massive, don’t typically make good venture investments because the time horizon to reach liquidity for investors in early stage companies is lengthy (except for the rare large early exit which is difficult to plan for) and therefore the asset class is only worthwhile for LPs if they can earn significant multiples on their capital.”
If you’ve got a big-ass fund (let’s say >$100M), then the above statement is absolutely true. For smaller funds, things start to get a little more interesting — and tricky.
With a small fund, you still hope that you’ve invested in a something that will get huge but you’re able to generate a great return for your LPs when portfolio companies sell for “just” $20M-$100M. Assuming you have access to the founders that can build those companies.
6. “Employees will realize their options are underwater and will start leaving tech startups in droves.” [Link] [Tweet]
I don’t know man. If my stock options are dropping in value, where do I go? An early stage company? A big corporation? Start my own thing?
7. “I will fail if I worry about the things that really, really don’t matter.” [Link] [Tweet]
The end of every year brings a bunch of reflective posts on life and this one’s no different. However, I’ve met Kalsoom a few times now and her ability to really open up is great. I hope she writes more (and that you do too).
8. “The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans.” [Link] [Tweet]
Oh hey, that Trump guy is raising a ruckus in the Republican party. Grab some popcorn, y’all.
9. “If you do must do something, do something you will enjoy, not force yourself to enjoy—or endure.” [Link] [Tweet]
My favorite line: “Just as we learn as we get older that we don’t change on the days of and after our birthdays, we learn that the slates aren’t magically rubbed clean on Jan. 1.”
10. “It took a few months to realize that I was making the same mistake I have accused others.” [Link] [Tweet]
Yep. Maybe I’ll write a post like this at the end of 2016.
You can get the full stream of the things I read, it’s all on Twitter — follow me: @paulsingh. Sometimes I write stuff too. You can always find me on Slack, apply to join.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. If you loved this newsletter, share it with a friend. If you hated this newsletter, share it with an enemy.