11 Thoughts For A Thursday: Density, Bitcoin, Female VCs, Raising Money, Google Dependence
About 11 Thoughts For A Thursday: With an endless firehose of opinions, comments, blog posts, articles, tweets, etc., I felt there was a lot of great insight being drowned out. I plan to surface insight that interests me, both new and old. I’ll also be working to extract perspective from some great minds that aren’t very vocal in public print. I am always looking for great insight, so hit me up on Twitter @popo if you spot any.
1. Jessica Livingston (Y Combinator) says this could be the tipping point year for female founders. Y Combinator is already at 25% female founders in the current batch of startups. That led me to wonder what percentage of VCs were female: 14% (I compiled data from the top 10 most active venture capital firms in 2013). This seems correlated to founders — the more successful female entrepreneurs there are in coming years, the more female VCs there will be in years to come. Another profound stat from Y Combinator: 1/3 of all startups with female co-founders were started with their significant other.
2. I met a local startup called Density (from digital agency Rounded out of Syracuse, NY). They recently won the ‘best enterprise hardware’ award at Launch. They have a customized Raspberry Pi device that plugs into a wall and will tell you how many people are in the room. That seems an amazing feat. How it works is that if you’re a restaurant owner (or any venue), you plug it in, and use their app to tell it which of the wifi networks is yours — that’s it, setup is done. Then, you know how all our mobile phones are always looking to see what available wifi networks there are? The Density device is a wifi router itself and thus is signaling it’s own network, which your mobile phone sees and essentially pings. The Density device registers your mobile phone’s unique device ID (like a MAC address) and anonymously keeps track of how many people there are, which is reported in real-time and in trending charts to the restaurant owner via their app.
The Density team said they plugged the device into a venue of 20k people and saw 14k people, thus 71% of people had a mobile device that was looking for wifi networks. It’s not 100% accurate obviously, but wow, this is pretty amazing. Foursquare is able to see where people go, but that’s only on their 25(?) million users. I see Density as a prime Foursquare (or Yelp) acquisition. I’d then send a device to every restaurant (or any venue) that requested one for free, provide basic stats and maybe charge monthly for better stats — or maybe not. Imagine anonymously tracking users as they go from venue to venue around the world, via their device’s MAC address. Again, Foursquare has this data, but on a very self-selecting audience.
3. Related to #2: a study out of the University of Cambridge used location data from Foursquare users to see if they could build a recommendation algorithm to predict what sporting events, concerts and conferences you would want to attend in the future based on what you have attended in the past. This study takes some mental stamina to read through, but being an avid concert-goer, I’d love to know what shows I should be attending that I don’t even know I should be attending (because likely I’m not familiar with the band/artist performing).
I love the future.
4. Yesterday, Google Ventures teamed up with Uber to do UberPITCH. Basically, you requested an UberPITCH vehicle and an investor from Google Ventures would show up in an Uber and you’d get 7 minutes to pitch them, then 7 minutes for Q&A. Essentially, mobile office hours. I think this is a great marketing idea for Uber and Google Ventures, but could also be a TV show — Cash Cab is awesome entertainment. This isn’t the first time someone has pitched a VC in a car ride — Dave McClure (500 Startups) asked via Twitter if someone would give him a ride and they could pitch, which Alex Moore did and Dave joined the seed round of Baydin for $100K in that 40min car ride.
5. Great gem from Goldman Sach’s report on Bitcoin mentioned in the 15-minute podcast from Andreessen Horowitz’s about the state of Bitcoin Ecosystem with Chris Dixon and Balaji Srinivasan: $210 billion in fee savings for payments going through bitcoin in the space of e-commerce and retail. That’s disruption.
6. Seth Goldstein (Turntable.fm and Fred Wilson’s first EIR) has an e-book he co-authored with Michael Simpson out called ‘The Secrets of Raising Money‘, which there are different tiered packages of the ebook — the highest tier includes 8 video interviews with the likes of Fred Wilson. Here’s a few 4-minute previews (including the Fred Wilson interview). They tease me enough to likely buy.
7. Josh Constine (TechCrunch) wrote a great post a couple months ago called ‘A Facebook Life‘. At the beginning I almost stopped reading, but I’m glad I didn’t. The post is ready for a movie studio to option. Hypothetically if it were optioned, I wonder if he owns the rights or if it’s AOL/TechCrunch. Presumably AOL/TechCrunch, but I’d be curious. Well done for summing up the digital life today, Josh.
8. Chris Dixon (Andreessen Horowitz) blogs about the data coming out of Flurry last week showing that the mobile web is losing vs apps, and how this is bad for innovation. Highlight quote from his post, which is scary:
Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.
Most worrisome: they reject entire classes of apps without stated reasons or allowing for recourse (e.g. Apple has rejected all apps related to Bitcoin). The open architecture of the web led to an incredible era of experimentation. Many startups were controversial when they were first founded. What if AOL or some other central gatekeeper had controlled the web, and developers had to ask permission to create Google, Youtube, eBay, Paypal, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sadly, this is where we’re headed on mobile.
Reminds me of how the internet evolved on the desktop. Seems temporary. Fully integrated won first (i.e. AOL) which ultimately got replaced by open web (Browser) as the web caught up in terms of technology (just as fast, easier to browse, find content etc.). Same will happen on mobile. Fully integrated / native apps will win first until the mobile browser technology catches up to be just as fast and fully featured as the native apps.
9. Love this mission from Charlie O’Donnell (Brooklyn Bridge Investments) writes in a blog post this week about how he often invests pre-product and pre-deck:
Personally, I’d rather write that check than wait for tons of traction. It’s fun for me and particularly rewarding if you can help a company get off the ground at the way too early stage. Does it scale? Not at all. Who cares? I’m not playing that firm building game and don’t care to.
Incubators and accelerators have become the pre-product money rounds these days, but Charlie is holding down the fort of being a seed capital fund as another option for entrepreneurs. Keep up the enthusiasm Charlie, entrepreneurs need as many options as possible. The timing, location, (etc) of incubators and accelerators doesn’t always align with entrepreneurs.
10. Naval Ravikant (AngelList) sums up the “Series A Crunch” well in a video interview (preview) with Seth Goldstein, saying that these days there is seed capital and growth capital. Naval says:
If you’re in between — you’ve already raised your money on hope and you haven’t yet clearly reached a break-out inflection point — it’s actually extremely difficult to raise money.
Adam Besvick (Lowercase Capital) blogged this week about how he believes “it’ll be a trend that consumer apps will take longer to “officially” launch as they seek to mitigate as much risk as possible before showing up in the App Store.”
If you are trying to build a VC-backed startup (aka a grand slam, because that’s what VC firms want in terms of financial returns), you need to nail product/market fit in your first raise. If you don’t and your numbers flatline, you’re SOL.
11. Good post outlining the coupon codes industry online and how much $1.8b public company RetailMeNot ($SALE) relies on Google (63% of their traffic). It’s amazing the number of public companies that rely on Google — Demand Media ($DMD) and Synacor ($SYNC) are a couple off the top of my head. Demand Media knows first-hand the consequences when Google changes their algorithms and traffic drops — 40% instant drop in traffic back in 2011. With the big shift of consumers from desktop to mobile, from websites to apps, Google’s dominance as the middle man to consumer intent isn’t going to last and there’s going to be a ripple effect of consequence to those companies that continue to depend on Google. The bright side is that this disruption opens new opportunities for entrepreneurs. (h/t @ericnagel)
About the Author: Steve Poland is working to bring asynchronous charades to mobile with Act Away (currently fundraising). Follow him on Twitter @popo or reach-out firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to receive this weekly column via email, input your email address here (I promise to only send this column weekly and you can unsubscribe at anytime): http://tinyletter.com/popo