• If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the startup hosting it worth?

    I first met Kevin Systrom when he did one of the first public demonstrations of burbn at the ReadWriteWeb Mobile Summit in 2010. If you’re not familiar with that app, you’re not alone.

    When he emailed to share the pivot, to be honest I thought it was a crazy change. However, as is well known, less then two years and millions of users later Facebook strongly disagreed with me.

    [Luckily when I was suggesting not to pivot, I was still at ReadWriteWeb and not in my current profession of investing in startups. That’d be one heck of a deal to have in my anti-portfolio.]

    In hindsight, part of what I’ve come to appreciate is how valuable images (and more broadly visual content) is in consumer tech.

    That’s why I’m really excited to be joining attending the LDV Vision Summit on May 19th as a judge. I unfortunately have a board meeting on May 20, so will only make the first day but hope to see many of you there.


  • photo from Tumblr

    Current State of the Machine Intelligence


  • One thing I like about this stack is that it’s growing from the bottom up. First we had miners, the blockchain, and Bitcoin, and now we’re building everything else on top.
    Joel Monegro: The Blockchain Application Stack 


  • In Defense of Joining a Startup (vs Founding)

    I had a few conversations this week with a few of my students at CMU about what they want to do after graduation.  The “career conversation” is one of my favorite privileges as a professor.  

    Specifically I value this because of a few of my core beliefs:

    1. I believe we are all wired to want to have a career that lets us create and as Steve Jobs said “dent the universe.”
    2. Entrepreneurship is a special opportunity to do this as you get to be part of organizations that make the world the way it ought to be. 

    So when a student asks to get together and have a career conversation, I consider it a real privilege to help reinforce those above truths and help them realize they don’t want to join that big consulting firm or large tech company where they will be a cog in a large machine. 

    As entrepreneurship increases in popularity as a career path, I’ve realized there is a new choice that students are thinking through: joining a startup versus starting one right out of school.

    For many of my students they have an idea they are so passionate about the only real solid advice I can provide is encouraging them to pursue it.  

    However, I have found myself also defending the strategy of joining an early stage startup.   I find myself recommending this a lot when the student is searching for an idea they can get passionate about.  It seems to surprise them that I’d encourage them to look at someone else’s idea to see if it sparks that passion.  Upon reflection I think this is because some of the benefits of joining a startup are a little less obvious. Specifically, I’m thinking about: 

    1. The ability to learn from a team of other entrepreneurs.  This is especially compelling when that startup contemplated being joined has a really strong CEO who can be a great mentor. Certainly in my case, I benefited greatly early in my career from some amazing mentors including Dave Mawhinney.  
    2. The ability to see more of the lifecycle of a startup and have a better understanding of what “progress” ultimately looks like.
    3. The ability to dent the universe.  This last one is especially easy to overlook as we tend to glorify founders, but that early team beyond the founders still has a HUGE impact of the businesses ultimate trajectory.

    There are others as well, but those are the big ones in my mind.   To wrap this up, I’ve been encouraged my students earlier this week to watch this short talk by Jack Dorsey from Disrupt 2012.  I think Jack sums it up well.    


  • 9 Great Quotes about Data

    One theme that keeps coming up as I put together the cases for my Science of Growth course at CMU is how the companies that breakout and scale after achieving product market fit use data to inform their decisions.  

    Over the last few days I’ve been canvasing a lot of writing on the power of data and the recent emergence of data scientists.  While doing this, I came across nine very powerful quotes on the power, use and analysis of data from historical leading thinkers (Einstein) to contemporaries like Tim O’Reilly & DJ Patil.

    I put them up in a quick slideshare - hope you enjoy!