Bothsides of the Table


We recently released the video sharing app Ferris and announced that Upfront Ventures led the funding in the company in our seed round of $2 million and I personally joined the board.

We hit the top spot recommended on Apple’s iOS App Store on the day of the launch, which is a testament to the team and all of their hard work. I wanted to spend the rest of the blog post telling you why we decided to fund the company, how we settled on the final product design and our unique way of launching the app.

I’d love it if you’d take a moment to download the app and tell us what you think. Yes, we’ve only launched on iOS for now. That was just a question of limited resources and wanting to get V1 right. We will port it to Android ASAP after our first rev of proper user feedback.

So Why Did We Invest?
As a VC (especially based in LA), I see hundreds of video apps. This accelerated after I co-led the seed & A rounds at Maker Studios, which sold 3 years later for $1 billion to Disney. I see many good video companies (media companies, mobile apps, distribution platforms, monetization platforms) but it’s often hard to distinguish good from great.

I first met the Ferris founders (Paul Boukadakis & Chris Shaheen) more than a year ago. I was simply blown away by their long-term vision for building a video company that stood out both technically and from a product vision. It was scary how closely their views mapped to my own, which I often don’t make public.

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Why do we do all that we do?

Is it for the money? The recognition? Is work a part of life and life a part of work? Is it just the next rung in the ladder after we finish college and join the next grouping of people we’re tied to for a brief period in time?

These aren’t generally the thoughts of  20-year-olds. That is the age where you do more than think. “Of course I work!”

They aren’t often the thoughts of 30-year-olds. You finally accumulate some amount of money. You’re no longer entry-level. You think of coupling, of family, of work/life balance and you begin to feel the weight of a responsibility in the world you never had.

I think the “why” often begins in the 40’s. You’ve had enough ladder climbing alongside peers to form some sense of human motivations. You’d seen enough set backs in lives and careers to take it all a bit more seriously. Often you’ve gotten through the drowsy years of diapers and playgrounds and set the basic trajectory for your children if you chose to have them. Most of us party less often, almost never cart off last minute to some island for frolicking and almost definitionally become less narcissistic.

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I was contacted today by Matt Lauzon, the founder of Dunwello, who I had met previously when he was running his startup Gemvara. I always liked Matt and found him to be quite thoughtful so I enjoy when he reaches out.

This time it wasn’t pleasant.

He was asking me for a simple favor. He wanted me to read some information and if I felt both moved and comfortable he wondered whether I would retweet him. I couldn’t. Not because a retweet was hard for me but because it wasn’t enough.

I used to write personal posts on these pages and I mentioned earlier in the year I would do so from time-to-time. Now seemed the right time.

Matt brought to my attention an issue that deserved increased awareness on multiple front: Police abuse, police cover-ups and child molestation. Why do I feel compelled to write about this? Aside from wanting to help out a colleague and decent person – I also can imagine how hard it must be for somebody in our society to be public about something as traumatic as sexual abuse. It was the second such instance in the past month where this had come up.

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Many of you will know that Twitter unexpectedly cancelled it’s contract to allow DataSift to resell Twitter data to 3rd parties. I read the declarations by industry analysts on Twitter that this was “proof that you can’t build a business on somebody else’s platform” and perhaps DataSift should have known better.

This misunderstands the situation so I want to clarify things a bit. DataSift was never built on a single platform and never desired or expected to be Twitter’s re-syndication provider as its sole business.

Let’s start with the most important fact that wasn’t discussed. DataSift was selected as the topic data supplier for Facebook, which allows companies to analyze a data feed that is > 20x larger than the entire Twitter feed and creates privacy-safe insights from a network of 1.4 billion people.

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We built MakeSpace’s logistics systems and customer applications (to see all of your items in storage in beautiful photography) in the first year. Then we launched our service in NYC and in just one year captured 2% of all new storage customers in our target demo in just one year with almost no marketing budget.

How did we achieve these initial results? We offered a service that has a net promoter score of 87 placing us higher than such great brands as USAA, Costco, Apple and Amazon. Our churn is incredibly low giving us a projected lifetime customer value that extends multiple years.

We have now announced that MakeSpace is available in Chicago and Washington D.C. with further markets being announced later in the year but plans to expand our facilities are already under way. In year one we cracked 7-figure ARR (annual recurring revenue) and we plan to approach 8-figures this year.

This has been a great start we wanted to push harder. If you’re already at 10 – where can you go from there? Where? What if we could turn the dial to 11?

We started by beta testing ephemeral photos.

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