VC is the Most Aligned Capital for Companies that Want to do Something Big

A common trope in discussions about startups and venture capital is a potential misalignment of incentives between startup team and investors. I don’t think this perceived misalignment actually exists in most, maybe all cases — and I want to explain why.

The argument goes, “When you take VC, you have to shoot for the moon; smaller outcomes that may be great for the team are precluded.”

First, obvious but important: No startup is forced to take venture capital. In fact, vast majority of successful new businesses do not. The main reason TO TAKE venture capital is in pursuit of a bigger outcome than the startup team believes it could achieve on its own. Hence, taking venture capital ALIGNS interest in a big outcome between the venture investors and the team.

Most non-VC investors are more risk averse than VCs; a startup shooting for a big outcome that raises money from non-VCs ends up MISALIGNED.

The argument continued: “VCs can tolerate higher risk of failure due to portfolio of bets, whereas founders and employees have only one bet.” In the modern era, that’s also untrue. Founders and employees generally make multiple bets as well, in two dimensions:

Founders and employees often have running room to try multiple products within a single startup; hence popularity of the term “pivot”. And, founders and employees often start or join multiple startups throughout their multi-decade careers = a personal portfolio of bets. In fact, some of today’s most successful startups are founded by entrepreneurs whose previous ventures didn’t work nearly as well.

In short: VC is very much not for every company. But for companies that want to do something big, VC = the most aligned capital there is.

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13

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photo credit: there's a unicorn on the roof - (license)

16 Less-Obvious Ideas for How to Expand the Number of “Unicorn” Great Tech Startups

Sixteen somewhat-less obvious ideas for how to expand the number of “unicorn” great tech startups over time — per query by @trengriffin:

  1. More Montessori and Montessori-style, free-form, and/or project-based K-8 public and private schools.
  2. Entrepreneurship magnet/charter schools — specifically designed to produce enterpreneurs, vs cogs in the industrial machine.
  3. Significantly expanded summer tech, science, math, entrepreneurship programs/camps for grades 5-12.
  4. Significantly expanded internship programs at tech companies of all sizes for both high school and college students.
  5. More interdisciplinary college programs — particularly engineering + business, and liberal arts + engineering.
  6. Comprehensive inclusion programs for underrepresented groups for each of the preceding five ideas.
  7. More public research universities should pursue the Stanford/Berkeley mentality/model; also, repeal Bayh-Dole.
  8. Comprehensive legal and regulatory reform to open access to federally-funded research; also, pass Aaron’s Law.
  9. Reform, or better yet eliminate, software and business method patents. Redefine patent trolling as a form of felony extortion.
  10. Fully portable economy-wide benefits, including health care, retirement savings, and immigration status.
  11. Eliminate tax credits for home ownership, and implement tax credits for renters.
  12. Implement tax credits for child care services for working parents.
  13. “Opt in” innovation zones with regulatory relief for various categories of new technology.
  14. More long-lockup capital at all levels of corporate capital structure.
  15. Eliminate tax credits for corporate debt, and implement tax credits for corporate equity.
  16. Zero capital gains tax for equity held for 5+ years, paid for by higher capital gains tax for equity held for <2 years.

Source – Tweets: 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

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photo credit: Vintage Japan-esque - cc

The Second Industrial Revolution Offers Insight Into Technology-Driven Economic Change

Over the last 2 days I’ve been tweetshotting excerpts from David Wells, “Recent Economic Changes“, 1890. For background reading on the economic period of ~1870-1890: Second Industrial Revolution.

This period is not a direct historical analog to ours, but it’s probably as close an analog as there is, along with the 1920s-1930s. Each of the three periods struggled with serious macroeconomic crises, albeit substantially different natures. It’s hard to compare those.

People of that time did wonder the same questions that are being so frequently asked today: What is the nature of technology-driven economic change and creative disruption? What is the future of income and wealth distribution and returns from progress — for labor and for capital? How do present changes compare to those in the past, and what can be forecast about the changes yet to come? What kind of world are we building, and what kind of world will we leave for our children and grandchildren?

Wells, writing in 1890, would have been wholly gobsmacked at the widely distributed gains of the next 100 years! It may not surprise you that I think we are going to repeat what Brad describes in Slouching Towards Utopia? in this century again. But, we actually have to prove it, and do it.

Source Tweets: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

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New Inside Growth Round for Mixpanel

Today, we @a16z are proud to announce we are leading a new inside growth round for Mixpanel. Mixpanel, led by Suhail Doshi, is one of our fastest-revenue-growth companies, and has been profitable since we invested 3 yrs ago.

In fact, Mixpanel is unusual in that the new investment round will not go to accelerating growth, opening international offices, or the like. Mixpanel generates cash internally to fully fund continued expansion of its current business. Rather, Suhail has more ambitious goals.

We originally invested in Mixpanel because it makes state-of-the-art mobile/web analytics easy for every company in the world. Mixpanel lets you track actions not just pageviews (The smartest entrepreneurs pitching us were showing us their data thru a MP dashboard).

The broader goal: Help the world learn from its data – to bring data science to every domain, to fundamentally improve how things work. Mixpanel will use the new financing to build new products, acquire, break into new markets – and take crazy risks that may work or fail. Mixpanel will go straight after the goal of predicting the future with data – what we think is the next phase of analytics.

And always, Mixpanel will be about merging the best of what machines can do with the best of what people can do: processing + judgment. We’re thrilled to double down on our support of Suhail and the Mixpanel team. Follow them at @Mixpanel and @Suhail!

Source: Tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

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It Doesn’t Matter Who Created Bitcoin

For what it’s worth, the smartest Bitcoin people I know don’t think that the Newsweek story is correct. (I myself don’t know.) In fact, they didn’t think it was correct before Dorian S denied it later in the day. (Again, I myself don’t know.)

My view is that it doesn’t matter who Satoshi is. The ideas stand on their own, the math stands on its own, the code stands on its own.

In general, there is a growing CP Snow-style divide between people who trust math/science/tech and people who trust people/institutions. Bitcoin is a perfect flashpoint instance of the divide. All the smartest computer scientists I know don’t think Satoshi’s identity matters.

A challenge for the general press–and business press–is to hire/train more reporters who are on the math/science/tech side of the divide. It is going to get far harder to understand–or explain–the world from here for people who aren’t deep in math/science/tech.

Corollary: It is becoming much more important for math/science/tech people to be able to explain things to non-math/science/tech people.

Important: Within the technology community, libertarians are a small minority. The “typical” US Silicon Valley technologist is mostly a normal Democrat.The idea that most computer/Internet people now are raving anti-government libertarian anarchists is simply wrong. It’s a false caricature.

Source: Andreessen’s tweets – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

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The Value of Wikipedia

wikipediaThought experiment: 1. Wikipedia is available to approximately 5 billion people globally (or will be soon). 2. The Print version of Encyclopedia Britannica costs $1,400 per copy. So does the existence of Wikipedia, (economic GDP value = ~zero), add 5B * $1,400 = $7 trillion of new wealth to the world?

Corollary: Are Jimmy Wales (@jimmy_wales) and colleagues the biggest monetary impact philanthropists ever? Does this leave JDRockefeller and WHGates in dust?

Source: Andreessen’s Wikipedia thought experiment tweets – 1, 2, 3