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Kara Swisher is the new Lesley Stahl and the power of podcasts

If you haven't listened to Kara Swisher's Recode Decode interview of Mark Zuckerberg, I highly recommend you do so here.  It has been almost 10 years since Lesley Stahl first interviewed Mark Zuckerberg on 60 Minutes, when he was 23-years old, and wow has a lot happened since then, including this week's disappointing Earnings Report.  Facebook was worth $15 billion back then - today, $506 billion (and that is after this week's 20% haircut).

I won't repeat all of the news here, as I'm sure many of you have been reading along, but what really struck me after listening to Kara's interview of Zuckerberg is just how powerful podcasts have become.  This podcast goes into so much detail as compared to a TV show, including one as great as 60 Minutes.  If you are at all a fan of business and a leader yourself, I view this interview of Zuckerberg as a must-listen.  We are living through an amazing moment in history - with the modern world being socially-networked for the first time, with all of the implications of that (including the recent Russian tampering of our Presidential election).  Facebook was just recently one of the top five most valuable companies in the world by market cap and is certainly one of the most important companies throughout the world; their reach and impact cannot be overestimated.  In my opinion, they'll be back stronger than ever.  And, in my personal opinion as a leader, Mark Zuckerberg does a tremendously great job in this interview.  I don't agree with some of his positions but I can also empathize with how difficult it must be to manage a social network of Facebook's size - and determine who the real arbiter of truth is.  There is a lot to consider as a leader as you listen to this podcast - how would you handle a similar situation?  Or, as Tim Cook says, would you have avoided the situation altogether (also a podcast interview with Kara Swisher, coupled with a new live TV show)?  I think about that as I contemplate if Facebook was a B Corporation, would they have had this situation at all, but that is a topic for another day.  Zuckerberg fired back at Tim Cook on his point, as detailed in this The Ezra Klein Show interview ... also a podcast.  

The importance of an Always Be Learning life

Happy New Year's, everyone!  I wish you much prosperity and love in 2018.

As you may have seen me tweet earlier this week, my New Year's Resolution is to write more.  I truly love writing - to write is to serve, to write is to learn, to write is to meditate.  I'm going to take a different tact this year, though - I'm going to write more frequently and hopefully much shorter.  I like writing longer posts but I'm spending over 70 hours per week on data.world and then some time on our startup investments - and of course I very much care about spending time with my wife and children.  So, in short there just isn't much room for more.  As a matter of fact, in 2017 I resigned from two non-profit Boards (Conscious Capitalism and Entrepreneurs Foundation) that I really love just to create more time for data.world.  Both were painful decisions for me but a startup really needs that type of focus, and I'm truly having a blast working alongside an incredible team at data.world on a very important mission.

I've already got a running list of seven more topics (and growing quickly) that I plan to write about as soon as I can but for now - for my first post in a long time - I want to talk about the importance of having an Always Be Learning mindset and practice. 

Facebook made the most epic tech company pivot of this decade, and on pivots in general

Facebook made the most epic tech company pivot of this decade, and on pivots in general

Pivots are gut wrenching. The more eyes there are on the company, the tougher they are. Therefore, public-company pivots are usually the most gut wrenching. Many public companies of the past ceased to stay public because their leaders couldn't face the pivot (change is a bitch - who moved my cheese?!), their business radically declined, and they eventually got delisted from NASDAQ or the NYSE.

Investing in natural network effects in SaaS

Sometimes startups we meet with (I've personally seen over 1,000 pitches in the last two years) talk about their network effect in a hopeful way. But most of the time it is just that - hope, and hope is not a strategy. But Bazaarvoice actually has a working network effect that benefits all participants: retailers, brands that sell through those retailers, consumers that shop at those brands and retailers, and Bazaarvoice and some of its partners. In other words, the more participants that are on the Bazaarvoice network, the great the effect of that network for the benefit of all. I wrote about this in detail in my first annual shareholders letter after Bazaarvoice became a public company.

Why B2C is so hard to get funded in Austin

Why B2C is so hard to get funded in Austin

My good friend and the founder of Capital Factory, Josh Baer, wrote a post last year saying that he will invest in your B2C startup. Well, so will we. We wrote the first check for ROIKOI, which went on to raise well over $1 million, and also made investments in Bigwig GamesBlue AvocadoDeep Eddy VodkaDropoff, and Threadover the past two years. We were also one of the first checks for Wisecrack, but that is based in Los Angeles, and invested in the Series A for talklocal, based in DC. And we are investors in several venture capital funds, including Lead Edge Capital, which holds early positions in Alibaba Group, BlaBlaCar, and other large-outcome B2C companies but these are not in Austin so I guess I'm diverging from my point of this post. In any case, that is a total of eight B2C company investments (if you include Wisecrack and talklocal) out of a total of 33 startups we are involved with, representing 24% of our portfolio (and 18% if you exclude Wisecrack and talklocal).Real Massive also has a kind of B2C dynamic, even though it is B2B, so maybe I should count them too as they are Austin-based. But our primary focus is SaaS, for which we have holdings in 19 startups (57% of our portfolio). Both Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics were/are SaaS businesses and we have the most experience to bring to that category. SaaS is also far less risky than B2C, and that brings me to the real point of this post.

'Is it too late for me to start my own business?', and other sheepish questions (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three-part series on entrepreneurship. The parts:

  1. 'Is it too late for me to start my own business?', and other sheepish questions
  2. Who this new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs are and the new Golden Age of tech (Lucky7 post)
  3. How I define the soul of entrepreneurs: you change the world (Lucky7 post)

Part One

It's March of 2013 and I'm at Wharton serving as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence when I get a question that baffles me. I'm speaking at the Penn Founders' Club, where all University of Pennsylvania students are welcome as long as they are fervently working on a real business while they are in school. I've just wrapped up my opening comments and it is time for Q&A. The baffling question: "Have all of the really big ideas already been thought of?". I couldn't believe it when I could see the student was being serious and not just pulling my leg, and I was fired up. I passionately describe how the world always needs entrepreneurs to drive it forward, and there are always ideas - everywhere - if you just look hard to find them. I talk about how I just read the book Abundance, wrote the longest book review of my life on it at Lucky7, and there are thousands of great ideas in the book for entrepreneurs to solve the world's biggest problems. A few months later, Waze gets bought for $966 million by Google. A few months after that, Snapchat gets a rumored $3 billion offer from Facebook, which I wrote about in this Lucky7 post on valuations. And then almost a year after receiving that question at Penn, WhatsApp gets a firm acquisition offer of $19 billion from Facebook, one month after Google buys Nest for $3.2 billion.

Who this new generation of aspiring entrepreneurs are and the new Golden Age of tech (part 2 of 3)

We live in very interesting times. It's 2010 and I'm at a family reunion. We've just barely survived the most cataclysmic global financial crisis in the modern history and one of my cousins asks me, "How can tech be doing so well while the rest of the economy is doing so poorly?". I did my best to answer but the question kept eating at me. I remembered Michael Porter's Harvard Business Review article about the Internet being the sixth force - and how it would disrupt all of the previous five forces cited in his famous strategic model.

Fast forward just four years later and a five-year old company, WhatsApp, is bought for $19 billion by Facebook, a company that itself is only ten-years old at the time but worth a mighty $170 billion. Just two years earlier, when Facebook went public, the media was asking for Morgan Stanley's head - and sometimes Mark Zuckerberg's or David Ebersman's (CFO of Facebook) head - for what was perceived at that time as an overpriced IPO. Except that it wasn't... and any investors that held on to their IPO stock should now be very happy campers.

On valuations - Snapchat at $3 billion, and more

Are we back in the tulip days of the Internet? I lived through it in Silicon Valley from the years 2000-2003 (the best years for humility-inducing training for a tech entrepreneur and investor, in my opinion). Facebook at a $113.5 billion market cap (well above their IPO price, BTW)? Twitter at a $22.3 billion market cap as a newly public company? Snapchat at a $3 billion private valuation with only around 30 employees? There is no doubt that we have had major valuation movements recently, including Google now being worth $344.7 billion - to put that in context, Walmart is ranked #1 on the Fortune 500 and is worth $259.9 billion. Apple remains the world's most valuable company at $467.7 billion, with Exxon Mobil in second position at $415 billion and ranked #2 on the Fortune 500. Tech is clearly beating the old world as the world's most valuable companies. But Snapchat, a company with no revenue, at a $3 billion private valuation? When valuations soar like this, I think it is time to pause and ask some questions.