Last week Wildcard raised a $7 Million Series A round. We had about half of the initial $3M we raised in the bank when we did this, but we’re confident we’re going in the right direction and this additional capital enables us to grow our incredible team and build the future we see without hesitation. I thought about calling Techcrunch with “the story” but the reality is raising money isn’t a story in and of itself. When you try our products, both consumer and business facing, if they change your life…which I believe they will…that will be a story worth writing about. I feel very fortunate to have investors who believe in us enough to more than double down on Wildcard, and I’m really proud of our incredible team that built the product and technology that emboldened them to push a fresh $7 Million into a prelaunch company building into in a market coveted and controlled by giants.
In summary…we haven’t accomplished what we’ve set out to accomplish…but we’re onto something…and now we’ve got ~$8.5M to continue working our asses off to chase it down…see you in September.
Oh…and if you’re a merchant or publisher…or really anyone with an online presence and want to see your brand in highly performant, native cards…check this out and send a note for the early hookup.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
For the first time in months I find myself on a quiet train ride, no work, no girlfriend, no family…just my headphones and a print edition of the New York Times…it’s a different experience reading a newspaper cover to cover. In an age of scanning headlines and tweets…subconsciously pulling out and engaging only with the content that somehow seems relevant to me…there is a joy and bliss in reading a completely unfiltered…seemingly irrelevant collection of articles word by word with no regard for time or efficiency or practical application.
As I reflect on what I have read today I am reminded of something that I already knew but easily forget in the day to day hustle…which is that there are 7 billion realities in this world…and each person’s has the same depth and volume as the one that feels so fucking important and significant to me. I don’t know why we weren’t given the ability to hold empathy for all 7 billion realities in our consciousness…simultaneously…but we weren’t. Perhaps it would be immobilizing…somehow we were designed to maintain self importance because without it purpose and forward movement would be challenging to muster? Is it possible to raise venture capital while considering the family in California who sells homemade ice pops on the side of the freeway in order to avoid homelessness? The two seem irreconcilable when held in conciousness at the same moment. The success of Wildcard doesn’t mean shit to that family. They have no room for empathy around my challenges…and vice versa the fate of that family…in the moment of day to day doesn’t mean anything to me. I will forget about them tomorrow as I have the countless other realities that I drop into for a moment and then can’t maintain space for over time. Of course I do care…now…when I sit on this train with this free space in my head and my heart to consider their realty…but I’ve chosen…as most have…to allow myself to remain self absorbed in the name of my own realty and own interests. Sure I will pop out…move between contexts…volunteer or donate…but at the end of the day it seems there is no place for Sudan in a day filled with scaleable card creation…reconciliation of disparate card schemas and the implications of deep linking on reengagement vs. discovery…there is something to be said for focus…it’s what gets us where we want to go…but I can’t help but think with all this focus that we are somehow loosing focus…I subscribe to an idea that we were all designed to do something here…that each individual has a role to realize in a pretty complex and loosely choreographed 7 billion person dance…and it feels like I am making decisions in line with what I was put here to do…but even in full resolve that I am doing the right thing with my life…I can’t help but feel as though I am living in a reality marred with blindness.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Liz Gannes wrote an article this morning entitled “For Mobile Apps Like Tinder, Cards and Swipes Rule the Day” that did a nice job articulating some of the design advantages to using cards as the atomic unit of interaction inside native apps…she interviewed folks from Tinder, Swell, etc…and talked about how the unit and native actions around it (like swiping) are ideal for mobile experience. Things get a little muddled in my mind when the folks interviewed suggest that cards are not meant to be consumed in a vertical or scroll feed…i think there are a lot of interaction models on top of the core unit that work…but she sums up the trend of cards as follows: “The gist of all these posts is that the metaphor of a card is great for delivering well-formatted information that’s readable at a glance.”
Through this lens, cards appear to be the building blocks, or core atomic units, of well designed native apps…much in the same way that webpages are the core atomic unit of websites…ok, so cards are the native building block…cool, but I think it’s really important to distinguish between what I call “1st party card interfaces” and “3rd party card interfaces.” 1st party card interfaces in my mind are native applications like Swell and Tinder, that choose to display structured data from their own API or service in this contemporary design paradigm. The benefit or the leverage over more page based concepts lies in the brevity and conciseness of experience, in it’s physics and relation to native controls, and in the flexibility of interaction models you can build on top of many smaller pieces of data or experience, as opposed to fewer larger pieces…think of contextual surfacing of cards as an example of the last one…dropping a user into a finer pinpointed piece of data as opposed to the the same correct data surrounded by more irrelevent data (due to the larger “unit size” of a page for example)…the pinpoint makes for a better recommendation and discovery experience…
So yea, for “1st party card interfaces”, there are a lot of advantages to displaying your data and experience in this atomic unit…” but the impact of a card is not felt as deeply in 1st party as it is in 3rd party interfaces. A 3rd party card interface, to me, is a native application that displays data or experience in card format, but where the data is served not from an internal API, but rather from a 3rd parties API or markup. Examples of 3rd party card interfaces would be Twitter, Wildcard, Google Now (sometimes), Pinterest, and even Facebook although I don’t think they call them cards. In the “pre-card” era, when a native application wanted to display data or experience from a 3rd party, they would need to open a webpage or a webview to do so…in essence they would have to kick there user our of the native experience, and fall back on a legacy technology that, while effective in the desktop era…is quite inferior on mobile. In the desktop web, the cost to an application or website of linking out to a 3rd party was quite low…tabbed browsing, back button, consistent fast page loading, fluid movement and navigation between pages…or more generally…the interaction models on top of the core unit of webpage (or webpage represented as a link )…made webpage an acceptable atomic unit to move between 1st and 3rd party data and experience…
Today, as the era of card emerges, I think it’s important to recognize that there is a unique advantage to cards in 3rd party card interfaces not oft mentioned when discussing the trend through a 1st party lens…which is that they are able to deliver 3rd party information with the same performance and speed as they are information coming from their own API. So beyond the consistency of user experience….beyond the ease of fitting a 3rd party data and experience directly into the 1st party design paradigm…3rd party card interfaces are using a different data and rendering model that makes linking to or relying upon the information and experience of 3rd party publishers, merchants, or brands with an online experience, much less expensive. This is a massive evolution, and a piece of UX that was lost in the migration from web to native…
Summarized…cards are cool in 1st party card interfaces, but even cooler when thought of in the context of connective tissue at both the data and application layer between mobile experiences…much more powerful alternative to this deep linking bullshit that everyone is hocking…deep linking is cool for engagement and reengagement…but a whack solve for discovery.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
One of the first questions Kenny always asks a founder is “what are you? give it to me in one sentence.” Amazingly, that is a very difficult question for msot early stage founders to answer. I find that moment to moment that answer is living and evolving…and that it is rare (but extremely valuable” for someone to settle into a “one sentence” that is repeatable over and over again. Last night I went to a dinner hosted by one of our investors. It’s the second dinner of it’s kind that I’ve attended and they both followed the same format. There were about 10 attendees and the host asked each founder to introduce themselves and what his or her company did. Some people had very straightforward answers. One founder would say “we help small and medium size businesses advertise online…” another would say “we built a game called X” or “we help people find tickets for last minute events.” Perhaps my blessing and my curse at Wildcard is that we don’t fit so neatly into one simple line. I thought back to the first dinner about 5 months ago I think and I had to include an educational sentence or two on what a “card” was before being able to explain what Wildcard does. As I sat there last night, I had this nice feeling that the market and people at least in tech circles are up to speed on that. I was able to drop the educational context and arrive at a more concise introduction than previously possible. Last night I said “Hi my name is Jordan and our company is called Wildcard. We’re focussed on an emergent unit of interaction on mobile called “the card.” We see a future where cards replace webpages on mobile and we’re helping consumers and brands with an online presence to explore that future.” My introduction doesn’t get into the how…but I realized that none of the other simple intro’s explained the mechanics behind their value propositions either. It wasn’t “we help smbs market online but we are better because of x, and y and z, and these are the dashboards we give them and blah blah blah…” it was just “we help smb’s market online.” So I guess Wildcard “helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to webpages.” It’s still a work in progress…and of course I want to explain in that sentence our 3 products, how they fit together, the beauty of structuring data and delivering it to any channel capable of accepting it…the elegance of replacing webviews in native apps and large social channels and how that ties into replacing Safari in the consumer’s mind…but you don’t get to tell a 15 minute story when people are going around a dinner table…you get one concise shot for people to decide whether they care or not about what you do…and the language that evolves around your company, product, and mission is the difference between success and failure in that context.
So yea, I’m going to try to wear this “one sentence” for a bit and see how it feels: “Wildcard helps consumers and brands with an online presence explore card based mobile interaction as an alternative to mobile webpages.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
Like most startups, Wildcard furnishes our team with the finest desks Ikea has to offer. It might seem stupid…but some of my favorite days I have ever had building companies have been assembling desks with my teammates. When you are building software, you tend to interact with your growth and progress in completely virtual mediums. Whether it be graphs and analytics, or simply visualization at the UI layer of your product, when things are going forward you feel them on a screen or in your head…but rarely does your progress exist in a way you can touch and feel…rarely does the interface to your growth carry matter…
Every time I have screwed a screw into a washer into a shitty metal leg with a 2 cent allen wrench things have been going well. And the process of assembling that piece of shit furniture takes just long enough…is just inefficient enough…that you have no choice but to slow down and reflect on the fact that you are entering a new phase…that things are changing…and that growth is in the air. A cold hard calculation…playing it just by the numbers…would tell you that it’s worth getting two dudes off craigslist to come assemble all the crap a startup buys at ikea instead of taking highly paid engineers, and designers, and founders away from what their work to sit and tinker with the heap of disconnected parts that will one day become office furniture…but that calculation misses… because it does not factor in the opportunity for a team to interact with their growth in a much more tangible…much more undeniable way than they are typically used to.
You can tell a lot about a new hire by his instinct on the day he walks into a room of pedigreed software engineers clumsily fumbling with “step 4: connecting the back of the chair to it’s stem”…either he sits at his desk and walks through the setup of his new machine as he’s been invited to do…or he pulls up next to you and grabs an allen wrench…understanding that the team is not building our product at that moment because we needed to make space for you who just arrived…because as you come in and we grow…our physical infrastructure needs to keep pace with our software development. Even on his first day, the new hire, at least our most recent hire, instinctually chooses to participate in our growth..because in the physical form it is truly undeniable. To me assembling crappy swedish furniture is a right of passage…some of my fondest memories of the last 6 or 7 years have been listening to tunes with my teammates…living in that very real physical metaphor of our progress toward a shared mission and vision.
Wildcard ran out of desks a few weeks ago…and for the first time as a company, we felt what it was like to blow past the infrastructure that at the time of it’s creation was enough “for the foreseeable future.” We moved beyond what was foreseeable, and are now settling into the new reality of today…Thanks Ikea…for giving us the opportunity to nick our hands and bleed on the unsmoothed edges of growth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
I’ve been thinking a lot about career decision making lately…we have been assembling a small army at Wildcard over the past few months and that means talking to a lot of people and listening to how they are thinking about their next moves…it is deeply fascinating to me how different the frameworks can be from one person to the next. For me, career decisions have always been easy. I have taken a very long term view that money is just money…it’s important as a reflection of how much my employer or investor or whoever values my effort and contribution…but I have always optimized for people and opportunity first, and put faith in the idea that with these two dimensions way out in front…some time or another…money would follow. Chris Dixon was an investor in my very first startup and I remember him talking about differences between east and west coast engineers in terms of west coast being more “equity minded” and that it was a weakness in the startup ecosystem that New Yorkers didn’t think like this (not having grown up around models of people who made it big through options that hit when companies went public, etc…). I think that there is an argument to being equity minded about a company you believe in, and forgoing cash for the upside of what you help to create…but I think even this calculation is not how to make a career decision…I posit that thinking even longer term is the true optimization of wealth. Yes, the half a point you might get in an incredible startup could, in fact, be worth tens of millions of dollars…but I find it much more likely that the experience you get and the people you learn from if you pick the right startup, is what earns you the knowledge to own 50 points in the thing you create after that startup…and it’s in those points, combined with the deep investment you made in your own knowledge and relationships, that positions you to truly make bananas money…But even this is not the calculation that I find interesting…because a goal of making bananas money is so fucking empty…bananas money is not a goal, it is a side effect of some truly great and ideally positively impactful accomplishment. It is the side effect of great work…work that fills your heart and makes you smile when you look back at it. Work that you are proud of…that exemplifies the mastery of a craft, or the relentlessness of your drive, or the expansiveness of your creativity…it is the work itself…and the joy that comes from doing it, not in isolation, but rather in concert with others who share your pride and some dimension of excellence themselves, that feeds you…I know it is nice to buy a house, and I know it is nice to go on vacation, and I know it is nice to buy nice clothes, and I know it is nice to make a salary you can tell your parents about that makes them proud, but these things are not how you make career decisions…career decisions are about finding the place you can be the deepest expression of your excellence, and finding the people and the work that can help you realize that…and it is in that deepest expression where you actually find the optimization of wealth as well. I watch young, deeply talented people walk through my door, feel the potential of Wildcard and the people in this room as that context where they will reach their deepest expression, and then walk out the door to work at a large company that pays them an extra $50,000 a year…and I wish I had a way to tell them, from a non-biased perspective, that they are doing it wrong…but the nature of our relationship impedes my credibility in sharing this thought…so I write, so you can read it, and apply it not Wildcard, but to wherever fills your heart…take that job..trust your gut…fuck the dollars and cents…make sure you can live and make sure you can pay the bills…but life is too fucking short to live bird in the hand when the bush is where you were born to live…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
In my experience, there are two types of startups in New York City. Those that are driven by engineering and design, and those that are driven by revenue and sales. While this may not please the business people of the world, I don’t give a shit about sales right now and revenue thinking is almost nowhere to be found in Wildcard’s culture. There will come a time for that, but right now all I care about is building the future that hundreds of millions of people will use to interact with the information and experiences of the internet on their phones.
In order to achieve this goal, we place the highest value on world class engineering practice and world class design process. Our core engineering team hails from the computer science programs of Penn, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon, and everyone on our engineering team has built meaningful technology that has ultimately been acquired and used at web scale. We are hackers at heart and wanted to design a little programming challenge that should be fun for anyone who shares our values and interests. It’s not a competition, but if your skills are sharp, it should take you between 30 minutes and 2 hours to complete, and there are some cool prizes to be had by those that submit successful solutions.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
i watched them dance, wild and boisterous, a never ending huddle of black brimmed hats and curling facial hair falling off their faces..in the middle of the sidewalk…they chanted, and roared, in ebbs and flows and just as it quieted and appeared to settle, the energy would swell again to a roar. I have seen this energy more than once before…Jewish males only, intoxicated, dancing with vigor in the face of apparent constraints. A young man approached…noticing my noticing…”Are you Jewish”…”yes”…. “come dance with us”. I respectfully declined, but did not shut him out. He spoke of the events that had elicited such celebration… “This is the evening we dance to celebrate god giving us the torah…on all other days we study the torah because the torah is an academic document…but today we dance because…you see…everyone learns differently…you might be smarter than me…and understand the torah differently than me…but everybody has two legs and can dance, so we dance tonight so that everyone can experience the torah the same…to be equal.” I silently rifled through the obvious contradictions before me…but i looked in his eyes…he was young, not the old guard…but my contemporary…genuine in his belief and intention. Again, he invited me to dance with the group, to similarly experience the torah with him…I answered, “I will not go and dance over there, or say a prayer with all of you, but I will dance with you right here in this spot if you want to dance with me”…i agreed to dance not because I felt like a jew, but because his purpose was inclusivity, be it heavily bounded and objectively limited. He put his arms on my arms…a jolt of energy flowed through my heart, we danced…a connection made, that transcended his faith and my lack thereof…and I walked in the night, connected to him, that has chosen my opposite, as I am connected to all.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
I’m sitting on the plane home from Los Angeles. It’s the 1:35 Virgin America flight into JFK. Through an unusual set of circumstances I was able to change from the redeye to this flight while picking up a $500 credit and an upgrade to first class along the way. Nothing is usual about this moment. For starters, I wasn’t supposed to be in LA this weekend, but I was. Further, Jason Schwarzman, of Rushmore and Garden State fame is sitting across the aisle from me. Lastly, the woman to my right I have seen before. In the terminal…i noticed her…perfect style, unusual grace…yet she was unpackaging a newly purchased set of DJ style over-ear headphones…I remember thinking…still my heart…behold this dichotomous being…I was captivated, and here she is, to my right…acutely aware that she has captured my heart. She flips through the Times that she picked up for this flight…she has noticed that I am doing the same. It warms my heart that she starts with the Cover section…neglecting Style which she could have easily chosen…this is a woman of substance I think…this is a woman who I want to know. She wears two rings on her wedding finger…at first glance I dismay, but there is something not normal…I look again, and this is not a wedding ring at all…a large blue stone graces the finger…a mere tenant of the precious real estate she dons…I wasn’t supposed to be here, but I am. What is Schwarzman doing on my plane? Who is this first class woman with contemporary audiological taste?
Dare she be from the land of LA? My crush, star crossed, by 3000 miles and a cultural chasm more narrow than I had believed…but there is something about her…something different than the sea of relaxed souls that I had encountered in my brief Venice stay…she is focussed…working…there is a seriousness and ambition in her movement…something native to me, and seemingly absent in venice…why is she here? is she traveling for work? successful is sexy…and she is both.
Black jeans and a Knicks shirt…it would be a sad outfit to meet the woman of my dreams if it wasn’t also one of my most “put together”…too much time living in a land of peter pans…where corporations scale and lionize a culture of childhood…where video games and candy affirm engineers’ instincts that they need not be LA…and here I sit, somewhere in between…the Priority on my boarding pass perhaps giving me a pass on the sophistication my friend here has obviously amassed.
And what to do? …my heart beats…if only she is traveling to the west village as well…i might ferry her in a cab to a life that diverges…2A…dammit…it seemed perfect 6 hours ago…but now I am stuck, just one seat off from conversational range…an oblivious asian man separates me from realizing this dream…this whimsical…faithful…half invented dream…that coincidence has dropped me in the lap of my love…on this flight from LA…that I wasn’t supposed to take…alongside the king of coincidence himself.
The only thing to do is send her this note…this real time missed connection…or disconnection…as the case may be…and if she dares…if she believes, she’ll write back with her version of perceived destiny.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Today we are stepping out a little bit. As of today the project that began as Coopkanics, Inc. back in January is graduating to a real name and identity. Our company is now called Wildcard. A wildcard is a card that can do anything…its a card that has magical powers, to break rules and be more powerful than any other within the tightly defined structure of a game.
Ok, so what does this have to do with the mobile internet? We are not a games company, why do cards matter? Well, it turns out that on mobile, the world is moving toward a new unit of interaction called a “card.” You might have seen a card in twitter. If you use Google now, their core unit is a “card.” New platforms like Kik have implemented a “cards api”…it’s all the rage. You might say, that slowly but surely cards are replacing web pages on mobile. A card is simply a “native unit that can be displayed in line within an app that is backed by information or functionality from an underlying webpage.” It gives the user everything they want from a page or site without having to click into the web itself, load annoying pages, and navigate an environment that wasn’t designed to be consumed on a phone (the legacy web).
Ok, so web pages are dying and cards are emerging in their place. We are building the definitive card platform for the mobile web. Every site in the world, every action you want to take, all the things that are hard to do on your phone but easy on the desktop web…they can and will live inside of cards…and we are building that reality.
We’re designing the easiest and most intuitive way for users to find mobile cards on their phone. Every brand on earth, actionable in a consistent form. All of the power and breadth of the legacy web, with the simplicity and functionality of concise native apps.
We value speed. We value navigation. We value merchants and publishers who need an answer to non-performing webviews and we value native apps that are tired of kicking their users to Safari every time a link is clicked in their app.
We are the largest library of high quality mobile cards on the web, and we’re bringing a level of functionality to this emergent unit that has never been seen before. Our cards can do things that regular cards can’t…between the tightly defined structure of the web…and the tightly defined structure of the native ecosystem, a unit emerges that is special in nature…that transcends the shackles of legacy and rules…the wildcard.
We are the best early stage team in New York City. We just raised $3 Million in Series A financing from top-tier venture capital to take on giants. And we want you to come build the future with us. Engineering and design DNA only please. Click here for more information or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So Dan Primack of Fortune Magazine sent me a nice note this morning that he observed a Form D filing related to our new company Coopkanics, Inc. While I wasn’t planning to disclose it this way, it is true that we just closed a $3 Million Series A round led by General Catalyst Partners. As many of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, I used to work at General Catalyst and have had a close relationship with them for a long time. Eric, Doug and I bootstrapped for as long as we could without harming the business (we actually probably waited a little to long to exit bootstrap mode, which I’ll write about later), but it’s time to grow, and I am excited to grow with some of the smartest investors, engineers, and designers on the planet. Here’s Dan’s article. I don’t have a lot to add to it just now, but I’m looking forward to telling you who else is involved, what we’re building, etc… real soon
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This is the first time in my life where I don’t consider myself part
of “the youth.” I walk down the beach and see groups of twenty
something’s and rather than peers I view them as what I once was. I
feel sadness that the future is not as expansive as it once was. I
feel sad that I will never again learn for the first time what
accomplishment feels like. I feel sad that my body now takes two days
to recover from a basketball game. I feel sad that I don’t have the
concerns and wants and feelings of one who is just embarking upon
their “adult life.” I feel sad that my future is more known than
it once was. I feel sad that things aren’t changing as much as they
used to…dust is settling to some extent. My early bets have for the
most part come in or crapped out…I sort of know how my idealistic
guesses and predictions panned out…and while I’m happy with my
decisions to date, I am sort of staring the next 10 years of my life
in the face and they don’t make my heart beat the same way that they
would have when I was 22. I no longer want to be master of the
universe..it’s wisdom not defeat that’s quieted this need. I no longer
play with the fabric of power…pushing and prodding to see where I
fall in relative to my peers and superiors. I don’t ask myself “who
are you going to be when you grow up?” Rather, I sit, somewhat calmly,
having seen enough flavors of human being to know who I am and what of
me is here to stay for the next 60 or so years…I have too deep a
glimpse into what I become to wonder and muse and dream and get lost
in a see of whimsical ambitions and dreams. I may, in fact, turn into
what I once dreamed to be, but if I do it won’t be with this huge
delta from who I am today. I now know that even large changes in
context don’t birth a man into something other than he is. The myth of
“if I just get to” or “when I achieve x” I will enter a new life…a
different life. The life I saw on the screen or that I once observed
from afar at the party that time…I now know that you never become
something other than you are…and life has moved from trying to
evolve out of who I am into trying to maximize who I am. In this
subtle change in mindset the leaps seem less large…the reach less
far…I thank god I am blessed with what I have and am, and I wonder
if what I am turns into something more exciting than this…life
breaks in all directions…we make our own destiny…until dad gets lung
cancer…and than that intrepid pioneerdom that drove us through our
twenties proves as naive as everyone told us we were back then. I wouldn’t
change the way I approached those years, but I can’t help but
live more measured than before. You might call this wisdom…days are
less exciting…less romantic…but certainly comfortable…I keep
waiting for the day when what I lost with youth is visibly replaced
with something new and shiny and better…I keep waiting to revel or
rejoice in my early wisdom…but I guess I am not yet
wise…perhaps rather I am in transition…not young…not full of
life and boundless opportunity…but not yet satisfied with where I
am…not yet capable of this bizarre happiness that comes from
“satisfaction”….I was never good at satisfaction…I would smile for a
moment and then ask “what’s next?” Satisfaction has never been
happiness for me. My happiness was always closer to “excitement” than
“satisfaction.” It’s a very strange time…31 years old…not yet
capable of satisfaction and seemingly less capable of irrational
excitement…I’m not totally sure if I need to double down on
excitement…cast wisdom aside…and “rip it and grip it” as though I
don’t know how the future likely turns out…or if this period of life
is about finding peace in how things are unfolding…and replacing my
obsession with excitement and the unknown with some other, more mature
fixation…but a lease on a BMW and a house in the hamptons just don’t
make my heart beat like the dream of changing millions of lives…of
being special…one of one…here for a reason…destined to do
something here that Nobody else could do…the wise man in me still
believes in that dream…but knows that if it happens it will be by
subtle breaks of fate and seemingly unheroic actions on a day to day
basis…he knows that many days will not be exciting…that maybe two
or three times in the next 20 years will come a pivotal moment…that
life is about being prepared for when those moments come as opposed to
brute forcing your way to make the moment emerge…so what of effort?
What of reaching? What of making your heart beat hard every day or
going crazy when in the calm? In this transition I don’t know how much
of that spirit to bring with me…into adulthood…and how much to
leave it behind in the name of the wise….Some days I want to beat
the “old” out of me…to deny what is becoming apparent and hold onto
my youthful mind. The crazy part is I don’t have a choice. I know more
than I did. I believe I can get to the same place through true
understanding as I could through delusion…I must learn how to leap
in this new body…in this new mind…I am sure that this form is
capable of what “youth” was not. I am sure my “youthful” self did not
understand that part of the journey would be to evolve into this
form…that we have to become this to get there…strangely…in this
“wisdom”…for the first time in a long time…I find myself
unsure…searching…full of angst…as I was when I was first a
I have been walking around without cash in my pocket for 24 hours. As I walked to lunch today, I realized that the restaurant I was going to was CASH ONLY. I made a pit stop at a local deli, where I paid $3.00 to retrieve $200 and continued on my way. As I reflected on the inconvenience, I was reminded of a disconnect that has existed in my mind for more than five years. It never made sense to me that I had to go to a bank or ATM to get money…I always thought how cool it would be if cash was delivered to me instead…the gating factor that always throttled my desire for a “Cash Delivery service” was cost. I couldn’t figure out how to stay within the bounds of acceptable transaction fees while employing a courier force to move money from central locations to the edge where consumers would request delivery…ATM Networks are an edge network that pushes money from a central location to NEAR where a consumer needs money, but still they require the node or ultimate end point of the cash (the consumer) to travel away from it’s natural state or position in physical space in order to receive the funds. The optimized cash distribution network would get cash into a user’s pocket without inconvenience or deviation from day to day life.
As I reflected on this problem, I realized that the world is different than it was the last time I considered my “cash delivery service.” Today we live in a world where smart phones have penetrated mainstream. Consumers are used to pressing a button, and having value delivered to them. Goods and services now travel to users instead of the other way around. If I want a car, I press the uber button. If I want food I press the seamless button. In both of these cases, a combination of location based technology and easy to use software on top of existing supply side infrastructure allow me as a node to chill where I am and have value come to me. In Uber’s case, they leveraged existing car services and drivers to satisfy the supply side of their marketplace, and there were enough cars operating below capacity to satisfy demand. In Seamless’ case, they leveraged existing restaurant delivery infrastructure to satisfy supply in their marketplace. Which brings me to the second major change in today’s world that didn’t exist last time I thought about “cash delivery.” In today’s world of COLLABORATIVE CONSUMPTION, consumers have learned to transact with each other directly in markets that used to be dominated by enterprise. So B-2-C transactions, thanks in large part to advances in the social graph and a universal identity/trust layer, have started to become C-2-C transactions. Companies that have been enabled by this trend include AirBnb which allows consumers to rent rooms from their peers instead of hotels or Lyft which allows consumers to get a lift from a pier instead of a cab service.
Ok, so at the convergence of one click delivery enabled by LBS and Collaborative Consumption enabled by social identity layer…I present to you: UBER FOR CASH $. My demand side network looks a lot like Uber or Seamless. Press a button, and have cash delivered to you wherever you are. Very simple…but that was never the problem. Sure smartphones make it easy for me to give you a slick UI to express your demand and location, but the supply side was where cost became an issue in my previous vision…but we’ve seen with Lyft and Airbnb that consumers are willing to be the supply side of previously enterprise supplied markets when properly incented and with the right tools…so today I propose the supply side of cash delivery service is everyday people…in fact the network of supply is MASSIVE. Way larger that Uber or Seamless’ addressable supply. Every single person on the street has the capacity to satisfy demand with the cash in their pocket. It’s a 7 Billion node walking ATM network. I envision users, much like uber drivers, getting a push that says “Jordan C is requesting cash .1 miles from you. (btw he has 5 star rating and is not going to murder or rob you).” Supply side user “accepts”, walks over, matches Jordan C’s picture with the guy sitting at the prescribed location, and hands Jordan C $60 out of his pocket. Jordan C’s account is charged $3 fee. Supply side users account is credited $62. Newco Cash Delivery Service keeps $1.
Granted, that arbitrage is tight, and the economics of incentivizing supply and operating within bounds of acceptable fee structure need some massaging and deep diligence, but that is but one revenue stream to newco…I think you could figure out some creative ways of subsidizing the arbitrage with secondary and tertiary revenue streams….
So yea, who wants an ATM app on their phone? Press a button, cash shows up? I know I do.
P.S. if you want to build this, i might invest in you. go do some research and then hollerRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 14 so far )
My friend Andy Weissman wrote a post today entitled “Interestingness.” Despite voicing a very different perspective than my own on the subject, it’s one of my favorite blog posts of the year, and you should read it. In it, he explores our tendency to be obsessed with greatness. It’s very nuanced, and identifies the relationship between “great” outliers who now, in a media age, are so visible to us, and the questions one asks themselves about purpose and role in life. His message is that not everyone needs to be exceptional, and that when traditional concepts of greatness are not “within grasp”, we needn’t obsess over achieving something held only by scarce outliers who simply appear less scarce in today’s world. I think I got that right, but read the post and then come back…it’s too hard to encapsulate.
Ok, welcome back. So I’d like to explore the concept of “greatness” for a minute. About 6 months ago, I sat on the corner watching a ten year old boy play what I can only assume was concert level piano for a sea of agape mouths…it was simply awe inspiring…after each song, droves of passers by dropped dollars into a hat and I thought to myself…”wow, that is a truly deep expression of human life.” Around the same time, I had been grappling with concepts of energy and the universe…general what are we and where do we come from type questions…and it occurred to me that every human being is an expression of the same fundamental “thing.” You could define that thing however you want…you could say we are all expressions of carbon and other elements in composite, or you could say we are all expressions of the same energy or source, or we are all expressions of god…whatever your affiliation or predilection, we can agree that a human being is a human being, derived from the same source, and simply expressed differently at the “phenotypic” layer…When I close my eyes, and try to see that “source” it generally renders to me as a composite of some sort…in the same way that black is the absence of light and white is all the spectra of light combined…the thing that we are all derived from feels like a combination of every spectra of humanity or life….it is an aggregate, that when expressed in an individual manifests with uneven distribution between each ray in the spectrum…at a crude level this 10 year old boy that I saw in union square was handed a full sliver of musical flow…deeply connected to the “musical pattern or ray” in our source…and perhaps less connected to the ray of love or physical movement (i.e. athleticism), or any other piece of the spectrum. In Andy’s model, this child is an “outlier” or embodies “greatness.”
In my model, he is simply the deep expression of a single facet of a very broad spectrum of human energy. Most people…are more blends…a blend expresses all the elements of the spectrum in a more even distribution…Andy would call a blend “normal.” They are no weaker an aggregate expression…I believe, rather they are equal…but without some outsized sliver of the source…or an uneven distribution…the source or “where we came from” is less visible.
So now we have a new model for expressions of human life, even and uneven distributions, and we understand that outliers show a particularly deep expression of an aggregate composite that we all are derived from…but why were people putting money in the hat? This is where things got interesting to me…I realized that we revel and envy in these deep expressions because they make “the thing we all come from”…weather that’s our humanity, or life, or energy, or god or whatever…more visible in day to day…deep expressions of life remind us what we, ourselves are…what we all have the capacity to do or be…if even we were only dealt a small sliver of the thing we look at and envy or admire…we, as a society and a species, reward these deep expressions of ourselves, these visible reminders of who we are…with resource…with money…we want them to live…we want them to excel…to become even more visible…we want them to remind everyone else what they remind us…that we come from an amazing and shared place…weather a rock star, a performance athlete, an inventor, or a painter…we as a group, systematically sustain the deep expressions, elevate them…in a way that we do not sustain blends…it’s harder to see ourselves in a blend…no piece of the composite is super visible to relate to…we need to work harder to see what we share…or to see ourselves in a blend…even though they come from the same exact place as did the deep expression…
So do we all need to be “great”…I think not…a blend is as “complete” as a “deep and unevenly distributed expression”…but I like to think that life is an exploration…and we know not what pieces of the spectrum we were dished in outsized distribution….and discovery and self discovery to find the parts of the source that we can channel and harness is a life long and worthy pursuit….envying the “outliers” and trying to be them when you’re not is a fools game…discovering weather you might be a different type of outlier…a unique expression of something…I like that as a pursuit…my response to Andy would be “there are a lot of rays in a blend…make sure you explore them all in yourself before throwing in the towel on “greatness.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
I wrote this about the mobile internet a few months ago. I didn’t publish it because it felt pretty raw and not necessarily representative of what I aspired to solve as a company, but I just reread it before sending to a friend, and it still feels pretty true…so here ya go:
when you take your phone out of your pocket, i want you to feel limitless. When you open the internet on your PC there is a sense of infinite opportunity that is lost on mobile
We have sacrificed that sense of infinite opportunity in the name of instant access to known habits and intentions
We have done this because the internet is a vast and nuanced environment. On our phones it is very difficult to move around in it. It’s hard to move between corners of the web. It’s hard to make a mistake. It’s hard to see content and take actions. It’s hard to engage with an internet that was designed under the assumption that you would be seated with a keyboard and mouse when accessing it.
In many ways, you could say Apple is spawning a new internet, free of these challenges. The architecture is different (it’s not truly the web), but consumers don’t care. Apps submitted through the appstore are where users get to enjoy some of the experience of the internet (communication, information consumption, etc) delivered by designers and developers who didn’t have a keyboard and mouse in mind when they tried to figure out how to help you do what you are trying to do.
I think this is half right. Apple’s focus on quality and consistency of experience does, in fact, solve much of the frustration existent within the web on your phone. I agree with Apple…I want to banish the “old web” from your phone forever. I want to banish the concept of a centralized browser as the way you access the web on your phone. But the long term solution is not to throw away the infinite opportunity that we have come to expect. It is to design access that honors both that promise of infinity and the requirement of usability, independent of what edge you happen to be interacting from. To get there I think the web needs to be completely reimagined. Some of the underlying infrastructural components that brought infinity to the desktop are surely welcome in this new mobile paradigm (at least evolutions of them, if not mirrors), but new infrastructural components must emanate from the realities of modern hardware and interface. We must think of what the web would look like and feel like and work like had we never seen it on a PC. And we must not let one company’s vision of this future dictate it. Influence it? Most certainly…I am deeply grateful for how far Apple has pulled us into the future. But they will not get us to infinity on their own.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last night I had dinner with a friend who has been thinking quite existentially of late. He used to work in our world, but had dedicated the last year or so, and most of his mental energy, to what I can only call enlightenment or understanding. It is an unusual path to take for sure. Half of me worries that the is going of the deep end and the other half worries that I am not focusing on these important questions he’s so deeply examining. In the same way that you look at a monk and think “wow, different life choice…I wonder if he’s doing it right and I’m doing it all wrong” I sometimes look at this friend’s year in such fashion.
Anyway, last night we got to talking about existence, the purpose of life, achieving one’s destiny, dealing with death, and a myriad of other related concepts. It was nice to exercise this part of my brain. One thing that I realized, which I think is fascinating, is that weather or not there is something before or after the “embodied life” (embodied life = traditional concept of human life from when we are born till we die), one of things that is unbelievabley special about this period of time, is that we are in a form that is capable of changing things. In a world where there are particles (matter) and waves (energy), the human form is this unusual composite, or combination of the two, that is capable of mixing shit up and moving it around. I can lift a glass, move a particle, rearrange the way that things are in this form. If I were to exist in some form after death, as a tree, or a glass, or pure energy, or really any other distribution or composite of particle and wave, I may well participate in existence, but I may not be able to change it. Especially where you examine such concepts as space and time, it seems that this window of embodied existence, especially on a system level, assuming we are part of a broader system or set of things that exist, is the part of any cycle where we have our chance to rearrange or improve, or simply impact existence as a whole.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I value change deeply. Look upper right of this page and you’ll see how important impact is in a human’s life. Sometimes I wonder if people fear death, especially as it nears, when they are dissatisfied with the way things are in the world (or their small sliver of the world) and they realize that they are running out of time in this special “embodied form” when they have the capacity to change or reorder things. Those who can find peace or satisfaction in the way things are, perhaps come to accept death more easily, where they don’t feel this deep feeling that their work as a change agent is far from done.
All of this brings me to the following: whether there is something after this, whether I will persist or not, I do not know. What I do know, is that I have this unusual super power that all other embodied beings have, which is to change and reorder the way things are…I can change existence…and I’ll be damned if I don’t use it, consciously, every single day. I can’t help but view this embodied life, however long or short it may be, as an incredible opportunity…and one that I am deeply grateful to have.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I just read the news that Andrew Mason is out. Before you hate, ask yourself, what the fuck have you done lately? Every VC that opines or sneers, remember he created billions of dollars in value for his early shareholders. For those founders that hate, remember that he was a fucking kid, like any of us, who started something from nothing and scaled into the leader of an organization with tens of thousands of people. We admire the founder who raises a $20M brow-raising growth round from a big name VC…Mason raised more than $1 Billion in private capital from Accel, NEA, Andreesen, Greylock, Kleiner and on and on…oh and by the way…CEO of Starbucks on the board…no bigs…lot’s of us founders hobnob with likes of Howard Schultz… it’s not the $1B raised that’s impressive…of course…raising a lot of money doesn’t mean you were successful, but even if you look at it objectively, with the current depressed public pricing, he created a multi-billion publicly traded company…fought his way through one of the most competitive, blood thirsty markets in the world, remained last man standing, while every other company in the space fell one by one…he fought this ridiculous battle and won… ask yourself, how would you have performed in this fight? Why is Groupon GRPN and Buywithme…oh wait…yea…to what end I don’t know…we’ll see who takes over, we’ll see where the company lands and how it evolves, but as a founder, Andrew Mason was a dazzling success…as a public CEO maybe less so…fine…but strictly as a founder, if we measure his run against what every founder reading this aspires to do…he will have outperformed all of you…remember that before you grin and make and off-color comment about how “Mason is finally out” or how “Groupon is a mess.” The “mess” Andrew Mason created is 10x the scale of the greatest accomplishment you will ever have….dude built the fastest growing company in the world…respect
Oh, and for the overly smart analysts and financiers in the making on wall st, who are making jokes around the water cooler and discrediting Mason with “I told you so’s” as though you are somehow his intellectual or professional superior…unless your name is the one on the door to your office building…get real…you are not even in the same atmosphere.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 18 so far )
I stare at the white box, curser flashing in my face. Scrolling through an index of recent observations…trying to pick out unique thoughts, pointed words, and determining what/if any of the days experiences are worth sharing with the twitterverse. I consider my agendas…what I want to communicate to the world…in this case my professional world…and the cursor continues to blink…I keep things tight at the moment….bite my lip and sit out of the mobile web conversation…bite my lip and don’t rail the arrogant VC that presumes I want his money (a presumption that couldn’t be further from the truth)…wrapped up in this self involved process of strategic content creation…as I replay the index, and tire of the mundane, or already said…I glance to the right of this empty white box, and see Eghosa’s tweet in which he admits he has wept…a rare display of emotion in a usually strategic feed of self-advancements and clever quips…click through to the words of a mother who has lost her 6 year old Noah…and sure enough, I well up myself. I am not a parent. The loss of a child is not a pain I immediately understand. Her words bring me into the pain. I have thought about the massacre in Newtown on a number of different levels…I have been involved in conversations around policy and action…but only in reading the words of a mother, speaking to her slain son…do I begin to feel Newtown. I am so sad. My heart aches…my agenda for creating this content is base…it stems from a need to share with you the fact that I am human…to revel in humanity…to trump professional agendas and express a sense of connection to Noah and his mom, and you, and every other being on this earth. We advance products that strive to connect all human beings on earth. We laud Facebook for connected a billion people together partially because of the beautiful visualization of humanity it provides. It seems as though we should attack products that rip us apart with the same force and energy. Demandaplan is a good place to start: http://we.demandaplan.org/Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
I was walking on the beach today, as I have done almost every day for the last week and a half, and as usual, over the sounds of crashing waves, the mind wanders to one of 3 or 4 topics that are not fully resolved in my mind. Today and in general I have been grappling with the question of “what’s next?” There have only been a few times in my life where I have stared at a blank slate and agonized over what to draw. When I left General Catalyst to start my first company the slate was not blank. Even before I knew what I would build, I knew the next step was to build something, and that was direction enough. I had such a chip on my shoulder after GC decided not to blank check invest in me as a founder that I had rocket fuel in the tank driving me toward entrepreneurship right out of the gate. That endeavor was less about what I was going to build and more about becoming an entrepreneur…one of the many lessons I learned from that failed experience was that all the will in the world to start something is not enough to succeed at building something.
Fast forward about a year and half, I had just shutdown my first company, lost 50% of my investors’ money, returned the other half…and again…I faced a blank slate. This time I wasn’t so sure I would build again. Maybe I was supposed to be an investor? Maybe I was better at that? Maybe I was supposed to build again…but what? Would I be able to raise capital again even though I lost money for investors? Was I emotionally ready to jump back in or did I want the safety of sitting behind some Sandhill desk, working hard, but working for someone else…not putting my identity and name on the line…collecting a cushy salary and waxing philosophical…
In making the “what’s next” decision in the face of a blank slate, I created a new set of filters…they were different than the first time I decided to start a company. I had already been a CEO and gone through the process of raising money, building a product (sort of), managing a board etc…so just those activities didn’t feel like enough anymore…what I would build had to satisfy a more rigid set of filters. Industry became much more important to me having flamed out in a market that I didn’t understand and never really figured out. Team chemistry and DNA was a much deeper focus. Ability to generate revenue immediately was a new filter (b/c I wasn’t sure I’d be able to raise capital without traction now, and I was basically out of $ and living pretty poorly), social proximity to the value chain was a filter (or more broadly “actionability”)…and so on and so on.
I kept a spreadsheet where I power ranked all of my ideas by an aggregate of these various filters…and ultimately decided to jump back in and build what became Hyperpublic.
Now again, I find myself facing the blank slate. In many ways, it is blanker than ever before. More is possible, less constraints, and more knowledge/domain expertise. I have batted around a bunch of half baked shit over the past few months…not jumping into the blank slate fully…mostly because I knew it would be healthy and valuable to heal and recover from a hell of a battle with HP. As the summer winds to an end and I walk along the beach, I have begun to bring some real process back into “what’s next?” I always keep an ideas spreadsheet, but today on the beach I realized something that was causing me great angst. I haven’t been able to build real conviction around a new goal/direction, and I realized it is because I haven’t built new filters…new to fit a new context…I am very gut driven, and my gut has held me back from many potential directions over the past few months…but that is just intuition listening to new filters that the mind has not properly articulated or realized.
Today I isolated the first major new filter that a new company must satisfy. I made a new spreadsheet. Many of the filter columns are the same as before, but I added a box: “Would I be happy living in this company for the next 10 years (Y/N)? This is not will this be successful or can we make money or can we do it or is this the direction the market is going or anything else like that. This is, “change your focal length, don’t build to sell, forget about following your passion, passion is powerful, but this is will you be happy and comfortable in this space building this thing with this impact and mission, because once you push your stack in, it’s for the long haul. Reality changing innovation takes a long time to come to fruition. The larger the vision, the longer the focal length and time it takes to get there. Are you patient enough? Can you live in this new vision and company for a long time, without getting bored or antsy? Can you build a life and a family and identity around this new company? Is it sustainable, not just as a company, but as your company?”
It is a tremendously unforgiving filter, but it is now defined, and into the Fall we hurl, head first, and for the first time not angry or defensive, not with any chip on the shoulder, but wrought with anticipation, excitement, and a sense of pace…no need to frontload the conversion of ambition into action and energy. What does a company look like where we amortize our ambition and energy over a longer term horizon…still acting with urgency in the throws of the fight, but having bitch slapped the shit filter that is “satisfies my fear/insecurity of failure (Y/N)” so far down that it can only be heard on a day when the ocean is still and not a single wave crashes as we walk on the beach, contemplating what’s next.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
Something I find interesting is that there is a liquid market for “soft-landings” in todays technology landscape. If you build and don’t succeed, there are 10 or so places you can go to be acquihired…these conversations don’t begin with product or technology, but rather resumes and technical interviews. We are in a moment in time when downside case is not, in fact, a goose egg, as it has been portrayed for so many years…people think that when you startup a technology company, the likelihood of crapping out is great, and that is true…but today’s “crap out” actually looks more like a set of cushy jobs at “Bigco” with your closest friends and colleagues at about 130% of market salaries…
No founder endeavors to build for a soft landing…but even for investors, these deals can yield 25-100 cents on the dollar depending on how much $ was raised and how the acquirer performs over the year or two post deal. Note, however, that the soft landings that you read about where a team was acquihired, at least from what I’ve seen in the current market are not the “1 Million per engineer” that we scrawl on the backs of envelopes around board tables…the buyers that I see active in this “soft landing” market are increasingly frugal when it comes to doling out for even strong teams…deals are looking more like $2-4M in common/restricted stock with 4 year earn outs and less than $1M paid out to the cap table than they are “singles” from an investor’s standpoint. And…when you amortize the equity grants over 4 years, that “purchase price” starts to look a lot like market comp + 30% where the excess can be justified as a backloaded recruiting cost.
In these deals, Bigco’s M&A group looks a lot like HR on steroids. Should you find yourself in a position where “soft landing” or “crash landing” are the two options, and it’s time to figure out how to make it happen…here are a few rules of thumb:
1) Time is the buyer’s most valuable asset. A corp dev team has effectively infinite options for “soft landing” targets…especially post seed boom…so you are but one opportunity in a pretty full pipeline. The key metric that corp dev will look at out of the gate is “likelihood of close”…where they don’t want to waste their cycles on you if A) your not excited, B) your not reasonable, and C) your not efficient. Going into “soft landing” conversations with any posture other than “I want to get a deal done” seems like a pretty sure way to get booted out of the funnel. Now, if you have any options, or are strategic to Bigco, or have technology that will be usefull post deal, you are not in the “soft landing” funnel I am describing and there’s a whole other set of nuances to consider, but just for “soft landings” I think the best approach is to make corp dev believe that their investment in recruiting you will yield fruit…
2) An initial offer can often be 50% or what they’re willing to pay. Don’t be spooked or offended by the first offer Bigco makes
3) If your deal is a soft landing…nobody is getting rich. Not founders, not investors, not employess…and that’s fine…you are fighting to make a less than ideal outcome as good as possible. A typical “trick” that Bigco will employ is separating founders’ interests from investor’s interest. Large stock grants in the employee pool and minimal payouts to investors is the most classic example…buyers will keep dropping little carrots along the way in a negotiation…you have options on what you can push for in a series of terms…my suggestion is to optimize for investors and employees first, and yourselves as founders last…life is long, build good will…don’t be penny wise and pound foolish because this isn’t the deal that will define your career or lifestyle on the upside, but if handled poorly, could define it on the downside.
4) Pay attention to tax implications of the deal and make sure that it is structured in a way that is efficient for founders and employees…it will be more work for Bigco (and sometimes…hopefully…they have got it down to science already), but it’s worth fighting that battle up front
5) Talk to your lawyers all the time…don’t sneeze without their blessing…this is a scenario where it’s worth the $ to pick up the phone before acting
6) Your tone when talking to the buyer should always be “I’m pumped…assuming” or “We’re excited…as long as.” Bigco doesn’t want to buy you if you don’t want to be there…just like startups don’t want to hire people who don’t want to be there…so always lean in…but establish caveats… “assuming the vesting schedule is reasonable” “as long as we all get to work on things that interest us” etc…leverage is a very tricky animal, especially when they know you don’t really have any…but the threat that you will walk away once they’ve invested in the process is the only thing you’ve got, so love them…but don’t let them believe you’ll do the deal no matter what…because if they think that…they are sure to serve up “what”
7) If you find your way to the “close,” congratulations. These are strange times…there will come another era where failure = 0. You happened to crap out at the right time.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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