Bothsides of the Table


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. We are too surrounded by responsibilities to others for pure narcissism.

The 40’s are the beginning of “sandwich years” in which many begin caring not only for children but also for parents. It is the beginning of not being able to live with reckless abandon but with the weight of knowing life has finality and beginning to understand your own mortality. One doesn’t necessarily decline into a depressing or fatalistic panic so much as come to a realistic sense of one’s place in history and the fleeting nature of our most precious moments.

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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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Last week Fred Wilson and I sat down in Santa Monica for an hour+ discussion with the video cameras rolling.

One of the questions we discussed was, “How much capital should a startup raise?” Fred & I are both in agreement that there is a tension between capital constraints and creativity. In his words,

[in some instances] “because lots of capital is available, the company takes on the capital and that ends up resulting in no constraints on decision making and so the company decides to do five things in stead of just one.”

Here is a three-minute video with Fred answering this question. I promise it’s worth watching.

We also spoke about what it takes to be an effective board member. On the one hand, I often find that some board members are seemingly reading the board materials on the fly and don’t have a firm grasp of the business fundamentals. On the other hand some board members like to tinker in the running of the business.

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