Bothsides of the Table


We can often get lost in the sideshows of the political season talking a bunch of nonsense about immigration, China bashing, race baiting and overplaying social issues and fear.

We have reduced our discussion to a reality TV show or People Magazine and thus we debate the price of Marco Rubio’s shoes, the length of Hillary Clinton’s bathroom breaks and whether being born in Canada should exclude Ted Cruz from the presidency.

The reality is that world events and geopolitics will determine our future including climate change, combating terrorism, dealing with a world of scarce resources and an increasing population.

Some of the world’s biggest threats include: the increasing tension between Sunnis & Shiites in the Middle East, the ability to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the impact of massive reduction in oil prices, the fact that China has been propping up its economy since 2008 by incurring massive amounts of debt, which often precedes a big recession.

I only know of one great political show on television that takes on these issues in a thoughtful and intelligent way with political analysts who are respectful and debate the issues without shouting. That show is GPS (Global Public Square) by Fareed Zakaria. I tape it every Sunday morning and watch it religiously.

So while this morning on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd we had to sit through 20 minutes of the Donald Trump side show / joke where he says things like “I’m not going to say that Ted Cruz has a problem, but many people say he has a problem. And I think the Democrats will sue him if he wins the nomination. So I think he should try to get the Supreme Court to weigh in. I’m not saying he has a problem. But leading constitution experts at Harvard say he has a problem. So he has a problem.

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Spoiler alert: MCNs don’t exist. They are a figure of your imagination.

20 months ago we sold Maker Studios to Disney for $500 million in cash plus a large earn out. From the day after we sold the company until today I felt it was important that I not comment too much publicly about online video even though I continued to work actively in the sector and made five more investments. I figured I owed it to both Disney and to Maker not to state views that could be construed as their views during a period where I was still involved.

The initial period of the agreement has ended so I wanted to get back to talking about online video.

There is a terminology that I really fucking hate because it’s both pervasive and meaningless. MCN. Multi-Channel-Network. What does that even mean? Who came up with this term and why? And why does every investor who talks about online video say things like “We don’t want to invest in MCNs” as though anybody even knows what one is?

Nobody invests in MCNs because they don’t exist and anybody doing what investors *think* an MCN actually is would never be able to raise money or build an interesting business.

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Do VC Platforms Make Sense?


Posted on Jan 3, 2016 | 0 comments

In the VC insider baseball world a discussion has gone on about “VC platforms” over the past 5 or so years. While firms define platforms differently, let’s just say they are the services that a VC offers outside of investment capital and partner time on boards or providing intros.

Examples of VC platform services include: recruiting, marketing, design support, inside sales reps, consulting, accounting services and so forth. Each VC has their own take on which services to provide and mostly they’re free but some smaller VCs charge portfolio companies for use of these services but usually at a cheap cost.

[Side Note: Upfront has hired Kerry Bennett as a member of our executive management team to run marketing – please follow her on Twitter here]

Platform services aren’t a new concept – in the late 90s a new breed of firms emerged who provided services that hadn’t typically been offered. The two most prominent – Internet Capital Group (ICG) and CMGi – raised the bar for others and every firm in the Valley seemed to have a new war for services.

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What drives economic inequality in the US? Should we be concerned about the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many?

I am not writing about this out of the blue – this seems to be the topic of the day in my social stream based on blogs written, retweets rendered and attaboys handed out.

I found the conversation a bit disconcerting. Yes, income inequality exists and yes it’s a natural consequence of capitalism and other forms of government are decidedly worse than capitalism because they inefficiently create and allocate resources. But the celebratory nature of today’s conversation felt tone deaf and seemed to ignore the rules that get bent in favor of those with resources or born into privilege.

So in stead of celebrating income inequality perhaps we would be a bit more compassionate about it.

Here are a few things on the topic worth pointing out, in no particular order. :

1. Founders start companies. They get huge tax breaks for doing so. They get to have “long-term capital gains” taxes which are much lower than short-term capital gains taxes paid by people who have stock options or income taxes paid to workers.

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Having time to think about “leadership” at most startups feels like a luxury. It feels like something you could turn your attention to once you have tens of millions of dollars and a large staff to run operations and you could step back from it all and think about how to lead.

The reality of most startups is about survival. And because running a company requires money to fuel staff and offices and acquire customers and the like, much of the time spent in early days at a start feels like a constant struggle to raise money, convince others to join your company when they can get offers from companies that have more money and convince existing staff to stick with you despite the hours and stresses and set-backs.

But of course all of these things are intertwined. Those who know how to lead are those who have an easier time doing all the things that feel like such a struggle. So spending time thinking about what your leadership style is, whether it’s effective and what you could do to improve it can yield dividends.

It’s a new year – 2016.

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