Bothsides of the Table


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.

Last month I met with Adi Sideman of YouNow, a website that is really innovating in the field of live streaming. When asking about his background he told me that he was an award winning documentary film maker. Huh. I love film and in particular I love documentaries. I asked him what film he had made and it was Chicken Hawk, a film about the National Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). He spoke openly and unashamedly that his inspiration for the film was exploring the fact that he was molested as a child by a neighborhood deviant.

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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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I love Twitter.

So far I’m loving Meerkat, too. It’s brand new but the enthusiasm that’s been seen for such an early product is truly awesome. I ran a VC AMA (ask me anything) last Monday on Meerkat and had > 1,000 simultaneous people asking me questions. The energy was electric so I’m going to do it again this coming week.

You may have read that Twitter has now made it harder for Meerkat to operate. As a user I felt immediately frustrated by this move and said so, in stead wishing that Twitter would win based on innovation.

If Twitter believes @periscopeco is a better product why not just try to win on that basis? They already have home court advantage

— Mark Suster (@msuster)

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