Both Sides of the Table


By now you likely know that Marc Andreessen weighed in on anonymous apps in a 12-part Twitter diatribe.

Anonymity. As the old joke goes, “on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog.”

I have been weighing in slowly on the topic over the past few weeks on Twitter but have avoided writing a blog post about it until now. This was in part due to a tremendously busy 30-day period for me (in which my overall writing has been down) and in part the inevitability of knowing that weighing in just tees me up to take abuse on one anonymous app called Secret.

I have thought a lot about anonymity over the years and actually have enjoyed debating the topic with those passionate about anonymity’s benefits because of course that’s how I learn.

One really great experience was a discussion I had with the camera rolling with my good friend Dmitry Shapiro who founded the major YouTube competitor of its time (Veoh) that was sued into oblivion by Universal and who also founded a social network designed to promote pseudonymity. If you want to see that discussion it is here and its especially fun because we also debated Google Groups, which went on (after the interview) to buy Dmitry’s company so he now works there.

The most relevant segment is where we talked about his passion for pseudonymity – the notes of which are linked there.

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A few years ago I started calling the local tech ecosystem down here #LATech. I had an agenda. We graduate more engineers in our greater region than anywhere else in the US. We have top 25 engineering schools than anywhere else, too.

I never wanted to be a derivative of Silicon Valley. I have the utmost respect for the tech produced by our northern colleagues and acknowledge it is the tech capital of the world and that won’t change. In fact, many people know I grew up in NorCal and still have a 650 area code on my mobile phone.

But.

LA has a serious technology scene. #LATech. And I’m proud of that, too.

Last week displayed the best of LA last week for a gala event of all of Upfront’s portfolio companies + the CEOs of many of LA’s top technology companies + 75 VC firms from LA, SF, NY & Boston + 25 LP Funds + the Chairman of Yahoo! (Maynard Webb) and the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. We also had many senior studio executives and leaders.

I’ll try to publish some video from the event when we get a chance to edit some of it.

#LATech

It is not your mom’s old LA. We know the perceptions you have of our market from our past.

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My blog had been looking tired for a year or two. The problem is that with WordPress I just found it a bit too cumbersome to change the design on my own.

I’m more of a verbal content guy. I like to get what is in my brain out into words and as you probably know I worry less about typos, grammar or – generally – visual design. I appreciate beautiful design – I just wasn’t blessed with the skill of producing it.

I considered changing to a blog publishing platform that would allow me to change the visual design more easily myself. But that seemed too much work for me. ¬†And I tried a couple of times unsuccessfully to pay designers to do sketches for me of how it could look. But when you’re not a designer it’s hard to translate your sense of aesthetic to somebody else.

And then Jess Bachman came to my rescue.

We had collaborated before. Jess reached out to me a few years ago and suggested we team up on An Infographic about Dilution in Startups.

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Mark. You disappeared? What the fork happened to you?

And what’s up with this crazy new blog design? Well … more on that next week. I will tell more.

But for now …

Every year we run a big VC, LP & Tech Summit in Los Angeles (this year downtown) to showcase the best of our community and invite others from around the country. Our event this year will feature many portfolio companies and also emerging LA tech companies such as Tinder & Whisper. It is a CEO & founder gathering.

The Mayor will come and talk about LA innovation. And every year it seems a celebrity or two sneaks in.

I look forward to being back to blogging next week. And maybe sleeping, too.

Have a quick view below for what is in store at our Upfront Summit – a little bit of LA startup energy and creativity. Whaddayathink? (not that I can take any credit for it, but I’ll pass along the credit when I talk about my new spiffy blog).

Link here if image not turning up.

If you like it, spread the word with that little Twitter button up there – go on – give it up. And either way, join me in the comments section down there.

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I often talk about what I’m looking for when I meet with an entrepreneur. Above all else I’m looking for a genuine passion for what the entrepreneur is doing. It’s even a direct quote in my Twitter bio.

Of course passion isn’t enough. You need a set of innate skills that differentiate you from the thousands of others who set out on your similar journey. You need a great concept in which you will build something that is truly unique and that will be valued by your customers. But without a passion for what you do I am dubious about your chances for success.

If I had to put a number on it I’d say 1 in 20 pitches – maybe 1 in 30 – are by an entrepreneur who comes across as truly passionate about her project. You can sense when it is a “mission” for this entrepreneur to succeed and she will continue the journey even if success isn’t easy or immediate. It is in her blood to see this journey through and try to launch her product or service to the world.

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