Just own the damn robots.

We could be in the midst of the first fear-based investment bubble in American history, with the masses buying in not out of avarice, but from a mentality of abject terror. Robots, software and automation, owned by Capital, are notching new victories over Labor at an ever accelerating rate. It’s gone parabolic in recent years – every industry, every region of the country, and all over the world. It’s thrilling to be a part of if you’re an owner of the robots, the software and the automation. If you’re a part of the capital side of that equation.

Source:

http://thereformedbroker.com/2017/10/16/just-own-the-damn-robots/

If I’d Known What We Were Starting – Ray Dillinger

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/id-known-what-we-were-starting-ray-dillinger/

And the Trustless nature of Bitcoin was the main thing that convinced me Satoshi wasn’t scamming. He built a highway with no toll bridge. People could use Bitcoin without creating any obligation to pay him anything ever. He wasn’t selling coins, he was giving them away for solving hashes. He reserved nothing for himself.

He wasn’t trying to line his own pockets at the expense of others. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever encountered someone so completely uninterested in personal wealth. You know the old saw about being able to get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit? Satoshi doesn’t want the credit. Two years later he walked away and left the pseudonym behind. And hard as this may be to believe, it looks like he doesn’t even want to be paid for it. As far as we can tell he mined approximately a million Bitcoins and has never sold a single one of them.

ZepplinOS Draft White Paper Released

Interesting new project from a thoughtful group in the crypto space

https://blog.zeppelin.solutions/introducing-zeppelinos-whitepapers-first-draft-a66b67319cef

https://zeppelinos.org/data/zeppelinOS_Whitepaper_Draft.pdf

The blockchain ecosystem has seen an explosion in new protocols recently. These protocols promise to provide everything from traditional transfer of value to decentralized file storage. This is an exciting time as the blockchain industry can redesign and rebuild much of the traditional internet infrastructure. We have an opportunity to make it faster, easier and safer to deploy complex applications online, in a decentralized environment.

However, the industry has been plagued by security breaches and it is becoming clear that while the promise of blockchain technology is phenomenal, we need to approach this technology with caution. At the same time we want to make this technology as accessible as possible, fueling innovation and accelerating the move to a decentralized, open economy.

As an answer to these problems and opportunities, we propose zeppelinOS, an operating system for decentralized applications. zeppelinOS allows developers to easily build secure applications that use and combine existing protocols. zeppelinOS is made up of five distinct components: the kernel, the protocol marketplace, state channels, the scheduler and off-chain tools. We also propose a new token ZEP to fuel the zeppelinOS ecosystem. The token allows end users to seamlessly interact with zeppelinOS applications, is used as the primary governance mechanism for kernel upgrades and creates liquidity across protocols in the marketplace.

Bitcoin’s Academic Pedigree

http://queue.acm.org/detail.cfm?id=3136559

This article challenges that view by showing that nearly all of the technical components of bitcoin originated in the academic literature of the 1980s and ’90s (see figure 1). This is not to diminish Nakamoto’s achievement but to point out that he stood on the shoulders of giants. Indeed, by tracing the origins of the ideas in bitcoin, we can zero in on Nakamoto’s true leap of insight—the specific, complex way in which the underlying components are put together. This helps explain why bitcoin took so long to be invented. Readers already familiar with how bitcoin works may gain a deeper understanding from this historical presentation.

Roku Files S-1

Interesting read for hardware startups.

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1428439/000119312517275689/d403225ds1.htm

Some highlights:

15.1m active users (increasing each quarter)
3.5 billion hours of content streamed (increasing each quarter)
$11.22 average revenue per user (increasing each quarter)

293m in device revenue in 2016 (15% gross margin)
104m of platform revenue in 2016 (73% gross margin)

269m of device revenue in 2015 (17 gross margin)
49.8m of platform revenue in 2015 (82% gross margin)

$43m negative loss from operations in 2016
$37m negative loss from operations in 2015

Platform revenue is from:

Advertising sales, subscription and transaction revenue share, sales of branded channel buttons on remote controls and licensing arrangements with TV brands and service operators

Time to Change Your Investment Model

Interesting analysis of how valuing of public companies is changing with an increased focus on intangible assets and decreased focus on earnings

http://www.cfapubs.org/doi/pdf/10.2469/faj.v73.n4.4

We demonstrate empirically that the gains from predicting corporate earnings, or consensus hits and misses—an activity at the core of most investment methodologies—have been shrinking fast over the past 30 years. We identify the main reasons for this loss of earnings relevance and propose an improved alternative to current investment methodologies, one that focuses on the “strategic assets” of the enterprise and their contribution to maintaining the company’s competitive edge.

New Investment Checklist (2017)

Below is my current working pre-new investment checklist.

Most of these questions are answered early through conversations with the Founder or others at the company – so this is mainly a final reminder of what qualities I’ve found to be important in potential investments over my time at True (either through others or learning directly the hard way)

Would love any feedback on any potential new qualities to add (or questions about attributes on the list that you’d disagree with)

New Investment Check List

Founder Questions:

1. Who is the main protagonist Founder that you’re backing?

a. Are there any potential trust issues?
b. Would you want to work with this person for the next 12+ years?
c. How do they treat other individuals? (Lawyers, employees, etc)
d. Do they have the ability to be a long-term leader for the company?

2. What do they understand about the market that other don’t?

a. What experience led to that unique insight?
b. Why would others think they’re wrong?

3. Do they have the ability to recruit great talent?

a. Who are their co-Founders and how is equity split?
b. Who are early advisors and why are they excited?
c. Can they identity the people they will hire for their first 10 roles?

Business Questions:

1. Does the company’s mission matter?

a. Will you be proud to talk about this investment?
b. Can it inspire employees, future investors, etc

2. What is the company’s long-term sustainable competitive advantage?

a. Network effects are ideal
b. Are there features that increase customer lock-in or switching costs?
c. Is this a company that could exist for 100+ years?

3. Are you swimming with the tide long-term?

a. What are the major macro market forces in your favor?

4. Why is this possible now?

a. Why would have previous attempts failed?
b. Either technology or capital efficiency story
c. Why would others say this business won’t work now?

5. Is there significant innovation around product?

a. 10x better than alternative products
b. Are there any alternatives that could be indirect competitors?

6. How often do customers interact with the product?

a. Ideally more than once per day

7. What is the quality of the company’s future revenue?

a. Visibility or predictability of revenue matter
b. Recurring or Re-occuring revenue is ideal
c. Arbitrage doesn’t usually lead to long-term enterprise value
d. Any customer concentration issues?
e. Any partner dependencies?

8. Is there a path to $100m in Annual Revenue? $1 Billion in Annual Revenue?

a. At scale, what is the customer + margin profile of the business?
b. What is the profile + challenges of similar businesses at scale?

9. Is there significant innovation around early go-to market strategy?

a. Organic marketing is best
b. Are there channels to effectively reach your target customers at scale?

10. How much equity capital is required to scale the business?

a. Are there alternatives financing sources if more capital intensive?
b. Can you make money as a seed investor?

Most Important Question:

1. If you could only make one investment this year, would this be it?

The Fifth Protocol (2014)

Cryptocurrencies are an emergent property of the Internet – almost a fifth protocol in the Internet suite. If Satoshi Nakomoto did not exist, it would still be necessary to invent them. Someday, they will be used by the machines in our network, on our desk, in our garage, and in our pocket to exchange value and achieve consensus at blinding speeds, anonymously, and at minimal cost.

Source: https://startupboy.com/2014/04/01/the-fifth-protocol/

Crypto Asset Analysis + Seed Investments

Presentation from our Annual Team Offsite at Stinson Beach in July 2017 included below.

This shares some of our internal discussions on how we’re starting to think about evaluating new types of crypto projects + assets.

As an active investor in startups built around open source software, we’re increasingly excited about new + interesting business models to support community activity and have been participating in the cryptocurrency space since WordPress.com started accepting Bitcoin in November 2012.

As a firm focused on pre-seed and seed investing, we believe there will continue to be opportunities for venture capital firms to invest the initial startup capital into new crypto projects (as part of an initial equity financing or as part of an agreement in exchange for future protocol tokens.)

We’re interested in potential opportunities in:

  • Decentralized applications (ie projects like FunFair for Decentralized Gaming)
  • Enabling infrastructure (ie projects like 0x (Decentralized for Trading Tokens) or zCash (Blockchain + technology focused on privacy + selective transparency)

In particular, in potential crypto investments we’re looking for:

  1. Applications that truly need to be distributed (“Need to be built on a blockchain”)
  2. Solid technical team (with expertise across Internet infrastructure and crypto)
  3. Utilization Token tied to business model
  4. Potential for Strong Network Effects

If you think you’d be a fit with our portfolio based on the above information, please reach out – it’d be great to learn more.

True Science Investments

Presentation from our Annual Team Offsite at Stinson Beach in July 2017 included below.

This shares some of the lessons from our investments involving life sciences (starting with Ginger.io in 2011 + Moleculo in 2012) as well as some of the evaluation criteria we think about for potential future opportunities.

As a firm, our focus is leading the first institutional round (usually pre-seed or seed) with investments of $500k to $3m. We often invest with angels and love research work coming out of universities or other labs.

For companies based in core science or research – we like to see:

  1. Great science with large potential impact
    1. Therapeutic applications in healthcare
    2. Other non-healthcare applications with high margin potential
  2. Founder is a leader in the space
    1. Ability to develop cornerstone IP + reputation in the space
    2. Multi discipline teams; cross discipline individual expertise
  3. Path to efficacy (or similar metric) on less than $10m of paid in capital
  4. Market size + Product + New Type of Regulatory Risk
  5. Platform opportunity with large market potential
    1. Ability to build defensible data moat is key
    2. More data makes technology better; increases enterprise value

If you think you’d be a fit with our portfolio based on the above information, please reach out – it’d be great to learn more.