Intolerance and Dissent in Silicon Valley
This was an intriguing week in Silicon Valley. Various investors reacted to some negative publicity from the New York Times by calling for the Valley to boycott the newspaper, Facebook’s internal oversight committee seemed to side with those who disagree with Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of openness, and the advertiser boycott organizers doubled down on their attack. Boycotting (“Cancelling”) seems to be popular on the liberal wing of the political spectrum and is most often used to limit views that do not concur with the boycotters views.
In this weeks ‘That Was The Week’ we have content across the entire spectrum of this discussion and the video is a discussion between myself (not in favor of the cancel culture) and Andrew Keen (not a fan of Facebook). Enjoy. And if you do please consider a paid subscription
Reads of the Week
- For Facebook, a boycott and a long, drawn-out reckoning – Columbia Journalism Review
- Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media – The New Yorker
- Hans Tung and the 16 unicorns: How a global venture capitalist funds billion dollar startups (Video)
- Seed Investing Today: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t with Aileen Lee and Jason Lemkin (Video)
- America’s stockmarket just had its best quarter in 20 years – The Economist
- The Rise of the Solo Capitalists – Nikhil Basu Trivedi
- In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings – TechCrunch
- Founders need stewards, not masters – Venturebeat
- How Big Tech Makes Their Billions – Visual Capitalist
- The 20-year-old entrepreneur is a lie – MIT Sloan
- Is the Five-Day Office Week Over? – New York Times
Politics & Technology
- The New Ideology of Race – The Economist
- The People With the Power at Facebook After Chris Cox’s Return – The Information
- Facebook decisions led to serious setbacks for civil rights – report – The Guardian
- Ad boycott leaders say meeting with Zuckerberg was ‘a disappointment’ – Engadget
- Facebook is out of control. If it were a country it would be North Korea – The Guardian
- Extend US Facebook boycott to Europe, campaigners urge – The Guardian
- ‘It’s hitting their pockets’: a lead organizer on the biggest corporate boycott in Facebook’s history – The Guardian
- Jim Steyer: the man who took on Mark Zuckerberg – The Guardian
- A Twitter Mob Takes Down an Administrator at Michigan State – Wall Street Journal
- How Twitter is shifting the power balance from companies to their employees – The Verge
- Spies, Lies, and Stonewalling: What It’s Like to Report on Facebook – Columbia Business Review
- Zuckerberg Tells Facebook Staff He Expects Advertisers to Return ‘Soon Enough’ – The Information
- The Gaping Hole in Silicon Valley’s Meritocracy – MythMaker
- An Ending and Fallow Time
- Where Black Female Founders Can Find Funding, Resources, and More – Lolita Taub
- LocalGlobe and TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus back ‘frictionless finance’ startup Radix – TechCrunch
- Sequoia leads $100m financing round for Chinese storytelling app
- VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing
- Doctor On Demand Raises $75M To Grow
- Exclusive: Swap Taps $3.3M Seed Round To Create Better Infrastructure For Fintechs – Crunchbase News
- IPOs Are ‘Really Not Worth It’ Says Tim Draper
- Why investors are cheering the Uber-Postmates deal – TechCrunch
- Sequoia and Lightspeed are launching new India centric investment funds – The Tech Portal
- Pharrell Williams, Ron Conway Teaming Up for New Venture Fund – The Information
- Series A, B, and C Funding: Guide to Raising Venture Capital – Robotics Business Review
- Are financings and M&A slowing down during the pandemic?
- The Fundraising Market Two Quarters into COVID – Tomasz Tunguz
- Reviewing The CEO’S Performance Fred Wilson
- The Future of Remote Work, According to Startups – Visual Capitalist
- When Even Selling for a Few Billion is Not Enough – SaaStr
- Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings – Christoph Janz
- 10 Things I Wish My Board and VCs Had Told Me – SaaStr
- The New Playbook for Startup Fundraising During Covid-19 – Startup Grind
Tweet of the Week
- Paul Graham on Cancel Culture
That Was The Week, #26
— Reads of the Week
MARK ZUCKERBERG AND NOAM CHOMSKY are strange bedfellows in this political moment, but both found themselves on the same side this week in resisting so-called cancel culture. While Zuckerberg refused to make changes to Facebook’s policies towards misinformation and hate speech under pressure from a growing advertiser boycott, Chomsky joined luminaries including Margaret Atwood, Wynton Marsalis, J.K. Rowling, and Gloria Steinem in signing “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” published by Harper’s Magazine.
How a controversial rationalist blogger became a mascot and martyr in a struggle against the New York Times.
On June 22nd, visitors to Slate Star Codex, a long-standing blog of considerable influence, discovered that the site’s cerulean banner and graying WordPress design scheme had been superseded by a barren white layout. In the place of its usual catalogue of several million words of fiction, book reviews, essays, and miscellanea, as well as at least as voluminous an archive of reader commentary, was a single post of atypical brevity. “So,” it began, “I kind of deleted the blog. Sorry. Here’s my explanation.” The farewell post was attributed, like virtually all of the blog’s entries since its inception, in 2013, to Scott Alexander, the pseudonym of a Bay Area psychiatrist—the title “Slate Star Codex” is an imperfect anagram of the alias—and it put forth a rationale for this online self-immolation.
Hans Tung and the 16 unicorns: How a global venture capitalist funds billion dollar startups
- He has seen it all, and we discuss war stories (don’t miss the discussion of Alibaba in a global financial crisis and pandemic!), founders, and the future of food tech, software, and robotics.
- 16:14 Global food tech trends: Automation
Seed Investing Today: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t with Aileen Lee and Jason Lemkin (Video + Transcript)
- Obviously, our first priority was working with our portfolio companies, but if you’ve got your investing engine on and you’re rearing to go, it didn’t feel like in February or March or April or May was really the time to deploy.
- I have that feeling we will get super deployed probably maybe end of summer, this fall, and the winter, because I think a lot of the people who are raising right now are still raising on ideas and plans that were pre-COVID.
But investor optimism is becoming harder to sustain
OF ALL THE outcomes that might accompany a global pandemic, a historic stockmarket boom seems among the least likely. And yet on June 30th the S&P 500, America’s main index, ended the second quarter up by 20% on its March 31st close, its strongest quarterly performance in more than two decades. The rally has puzzled investors. Since March 23rd, the market has soared by 39%, even as the country’s official covid-19 death toll has climbed to more than 127,000. It is now just 8% below its historic peak. Why?
The Rise of the Solo Capitalists
- I (and others, privately) call these individuals solo capitalists because I view them as a distinct group, separate from angel investors and from venture capital firms, in today’s financing ecosystem.
- They are the sole general partner (GP) of their funds The solo capitalist is the only member of the investment team The brand of the fund = the brand of the individual They are typically raising larger funds and writing larger checks than super angels – i.e.
In pandemic era, entrepreneurs turn to SPACs, crowdfunding and direct listings
- Retail investors want into these new issues and are pouring into the markets, contributing to huge pops to new public offerings for companies like Lemonade this Thursday and creating an environment where SPACs and crowdfunding campaigns can flourish.
- Whether it’s from Reg A crowdfunding dollars, Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) or direct listings, these somewhat arcane and specialized financing vehicles are making a comeback alongside a rise in new funding mechanisms to get to market quickly and avoid the dilution that comes from private market rounds (especially since those rounds are likely to come at a reduced valuation given market conditions).
In the world of venture capital and startups, there’s always an ongoing dialogue of value and power, perceived and real. Because founders and VCs spend all of their time in a human-behavioral cluster where the sole focus is on equity, they often act in ways that are fundamentally broken. I’m writing this today, with the blessing of a brother and friend, to call out some truth that I believe many in our industry need to hear.
My message to VCs reading this: Founders are more than their companies, and truly honoring them is not just something to think about. It’s a requirement of the role you’re privileged to have. My message to founders: You’re more than your companies. It’s that simple. While you likely have poured and will continue to pour your lifeblood into the pursuit of your vision every chance you get, you have been, you are, and you always will be more than the business.
The New Ideology of Race
America’s problem with racism can be divided into two parts. One contains all the myriad injustices that still blight African-American lives a century and a half after the end of slavery. The other is the way that factions on the right exploit racial division as a political tool. An example of the first occurred on May 25th on a shabby street corner in Minneapolis, when George Floyd was killed by a white policeman. An example of the second occurred on July 3rd, at Mount Rushmore, against the monumental backdrop of the country’s greatest presidents, when Donald Trump sought to inflame a culture war centered on race to boost his chances of a second term. To be successful, a campaign for racial justice needs to deal with both.
Leaders like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King used vigorous protest and relentless argument to push society towards their vision of equality of opportunity and equality before the law. Most Americans still hew to that classical liberal ideal as do many of those who marched with justified anger over the killing of Mr Floyd. But a dangerous rival approach has emerged from American universities (see article). It rejects the liberal notion of progress. It defines everyone by their race, and every action as racist or anti-racist. It is not yet dominant, but it is dynamic and it is spreading out of the academy into everyday life. If it supplants liberal values, then intimidation will chill open debate and sow division to the disadvantage of all, black and white.
An Ending and Fallow Time
I joined Shasta as an Associate, age 23, but I remember one of my partners pulling me aside early on in my tenure and telling me:
Don’t worry about the title on your business card. You’re a venture capitalist now. Do as venture capitalists do. Find, Decide, Win, Help, Exit – those are the 5 parts of the job. Work on them all.
The number of Black Female Founders in the U.S. is growing, but they remain underinvested by VCs and angels
Arlan Hamilton — founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital — summarized best why investing in Black Female Founders (BFF) isn’t just important, but could produce high yields:
“Less than 0.2 percent of all early-stage venture funding goes to Black women, while we make up approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population and are one of the fastest-growing entrepreneur segments in the country,” Arlan wrote. “It is my firm belief that because Black women have had to make do with far less for centuries, equipping them with early-stage capital that is on par with their white male counterparts has the potential to lead to outsized returns.”
To help bridge this gap in funding, I’ve put together this reference guide for Black Female Founders to provide context, references, and links to resources
The Future of Remote Work, According to Startups
- In the following charts, we feature data from a comprehensive survey conducted by UK-based startup network Founders Forum , in which hundreds of founders and their teams revealed their experiences of remote work and their plans for a post-pandemic future.
- Although most survey respondents had plans to be back in the office within six months, those startups are rethinking their remote work policies as a direct result of COVID-19.
LocalGlobe and TransferWise’s Taavet Hinrikus back ‘frictionless finance’ startup Radix
- Radix , a U.K. startup that’s building a decentralised finance protocol on which new financial apps can connect and be built on top of, has raised $4.1 million in new funding.
- In its own words, Radix DLT is building a decentralised finance protocol that aims to provide “frictionless access, liquidity and programmability of any asset in the world.”
Sequoia leads $100m financing round for Chinese storytelling app
- HONG KONG — Kuaidian, a Chinese storytelling mobile app that offers an immersive experience through a dialogue-based text-message reading format, has closed nearly $100 million in a Series C round of financing led by Sequoia Capital China.
- With about five million daily active users, or DAUs, Beijing-based Kuaidian said that over 30,000 UGC-based short-form mobile soap operas are currently available on its platform and about 70% of its users have purchased the video content.
VCs are cutting checks remotely, but deal volume could be slowing
- Indeed, according to OMERS Ventures’ research, 69% of the VCs it surveyed in June were willing to do fully remote deals; for startups worried that the venture class was simply going to pack up its checkbook and take an extended vacation, it’s good news.
- The historically grounded feeling from startups in Q2, as the stock market sold off and unemployment rose, was one of concern: VCs were about to cut their deal pace, and the number of dollars that they were willing to put into each deal would likely fall as well.
Reviewing The CEO’S Performance
The CEO is an interesting case when it comes to performance reviews. They manage an entire company and they specifically manage the senior leadership team. They do not have a single reporting supervisor. They report to a Board. And that Board may, like the team they manage, have differing views on their performance.
Also, some executives are strong at managing down but weak at managing up. And the reverse is often true, where an exec is great at managing up but weak at managing down.
A failure mode I have seen in CEO reviews is when a Board thinks a CEO is doing well but they are not and that CEO gets a strong review. I’ve seen the opposite when a CEO manages up poorly but down well and they receive a weak review from the Board.
The People With the Power at Facebook After Chris Cox’s Return
In Facebook’s upper ranks, what’s old is new again. That’s because Chris Cox, one of Facebook’s most senior executives, recently returned as chief product officer, reporting to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, after a yearlong hiatus.
Doctor On Demand Raises $75M To Grow
- “We believe virtual care has reached an inflection point, with significantly increased adoption levels, and that Doctor On Demand is well positioned to capture the sustained growth of the broader industry,” said Robbert Vorhoff , managing director and global head of health care at General Atlantic, in a written statement.
- The San Francisco-based company provides on-demand and scheduled visits with U.S.-licensed health care providers, in both medical and behavioral health, and said it currently covers more than 98 million lives.
Facebook decisions led to serious setbacks for civil rights – report
- “Facebook has not, as of this writing, reversed the decisions about the Trump posts and the auditors are deeply troubled by that because of the precedent they establish for other speakers on the platform and the ways those decisions seem to gut policies the auditors and the civil rights community worked hard to get Facebook to adopt.”
- But while the company has committed to a number of changes proposed by the auditors, including hiring a civil rights leader, banning ads that are “divisive and include fearmongering statements”, and investing $100m in black-owned small businesses, even before the audit was published Sandberg had warned that not every recommendation would be implemented .
Ad boycott leaders say meeting with Zuckerberg was ‘a disappointment’
Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook officials met with the leaders of the groups behind the growing advertiser boycott of the company. It didn’t go well, according to the civil rights leaders in attendance.
“#StopHateForProfit didn’t hear anything today to convince us that Zuckerberg and his colleagues are taking action,” Jessica Gonzalez, Co-CEO of Free Press, one of the organizations behind the campaign, said in a statement following the meeting. “Instead of committing to a timeline to root out hate and disinformation on Facebook, the company’s leaders delivered the same old talking points to try to placate us without meeting our demands.This isn’t over. We will continue to expand the boycott until Facebook takes our demands seriously.”
Facebook is out of control. If it were a country it would be North Korea
- A United Nations report says the use of Facebook played a “determining role” in inciting hate and violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya, which has seen tens of thousands die and hundreds of thousands flee for their lives.
- Because this is a company that facilitated an attack on a US election by a foreign power , that live-streamed a massacre then broadcast it to millions around the world, and helped incite a genocide .
Extend US Facebook boycott to Europe, campaigners urge
- A growing number of companies have halted advertising on Facebook after criticism that the platform was not doing enough to counter hate speech on its sites.
- While some advertisers, including Patagonia and Ford, have pulled spending internationally as part of the campaign, others such as Unilever have only taken action in the US.
‘It’s hitting their pockets’: a lead organizer on the biggest corporate boycott in Facebook’s history
- What we have done differently this time is to go directly to big advertisers who also have not been able to get changes from the platform: advertisers who see their ads on Facebook showing up next to white supremacist and white nationalist content and who have watched as Mark Zuckerberg has seen himself as too powerful to have to listen.
- Among the organizations participating is Color of Change, an online civil rights group that has been campaigning for racial justice on Facebook for several years.
Jim Steyer: the man who took on Mark Zuckerberg
- It’s a typically bold statement from the man who set up the Stop Hate for Profit (SHFP) campaign calling on advertisers to withdraw from Facebook for the month of July.
- “It’s critical the UK and Europe speak up,” says Steyer, “because they’re incredibly important territories for Facebook and the big tech companies, and there should be a universal rejection of hate speech and racism and mass disinformation because they’re actually undermining the norms of our democracy.”
Exclusive: Swap Taps $3.3M Seed Round To Create Better Infrastructure For Fintechs
- “We are like AWS [ Amazon Web Services ] for payments, helping companies improve connection, experience and embed finance into their business so they can stop outsourcing those functions,” Swap`s co-founder and Chief Product Officer Ury Rappaport , told Crunchbase News.
- The company plans to use the funding mainly to help finalize the product infrastructure and runway so Swap can focus on onboarding new clients, Douglas Storf , co-founder and CEO, said in an interview.READ MORE
When Even Selling for a Few Billion is Not Enough
- And yet, neither really met the bar of selling for 10x the total amount you raised, and/or 3x the last round price.
- The lesson is just that the stakes really do go up with each round, that’s all.
How Twitter is shifting the power balance from companies to their employees
- The conflict began with an investigation into the travel company Away in The Verge for which I served as an early editor; that story was written by Zoe Schiffer, my partner in bringing this newsletter to you every week; and the most recent controversy started after my friend Taylor Lorenz called attention to some comments that Korey, Away’s CEO and the subject of the original investigation, had made on Instagram.
- Last week, the worlds of technology and journalism were transfixed by a conflict that played out across across Instagram, Twitter, and the upstart audio-only social network Clubhouse.
Bringing the cocktail effect to video meetings
- Unbundling Zoom If you wanted to design a software product aimed at replicating the experience of, say, a team lunch in the online world, that product would likely look very different from a tool for online lectures or software for brainstorming sessions.
- Let’s imagine a dinner with 40 people, four tables with 10 participants each: The initial seating order is either provided by the host or emerges as attendees pick seats, in which case it’s a result of the attendees’ relationships, personalities, interests, status, plus an element of randomness.
IPOs Are ‘Really Not Worth It’ Says Tim Draper
Serial blockchain investor Tim Draper welcomes diversity in terms of funding blockchain and crypto startups.
It’s been two quarters since the coronavirus has hit Startupland. And you can see the impact of the shutdown in the numbers. We reviewed the data in May and compared it to the effects of the financial crisis in 2008 on startup fundraising.
As a reminder, 2008 saw a 40% reduction in venture dollars invested in startups. It took about six to eight quarters to return to normalcy.
But the patterns this time are different. The Seed, Series B, and Series C markets are down 37%, 23%, and 29%, respectively. These corrections match 2008. On the other hand, the Series A market is up about 10% from the trailing 2 year period previous high.
10 Things I Wish My Board and VCs Had Told Me
They say CEO is a lonely job, and I guess in some ways true, but in many ways it’s quite the opposite. If you do it right as a founder, there’s nothing more rewarding than getting to work on Monday. Checking in with the team. Being on a journey together.
But what is hard is getting help seeing the forest through the trees. Here are the Top 10 things I wish I’d been told.
How Big Tech Makes Their Billions
- For Microsoft, growth in cloud computing and services led to stronger revenue in almost all segments.
- Services and ads drove increased revenues for the rest of Big Tech as well.
Why investors are cheering the Uber-Postmates deal
- This explains why Uber investors are excited about Uber’s Postmates buy; what about the smaller company is making Uber shares so buoyant?
- If we reexamine Uber Eats’ recent growth, contrast it to Ubers Rides’ own growth, mix in Eats’ profitability improvements along with Postmates’ own financial results, we can start to see why public investors might be heartened by the deal.
The New Playbook for Startup Fundraising During Covid-19
- VCs are reluctant to consider unfamiliar startups with unknown founders, so you may need to pivot towards VCs with members you’ve met before, or spend more time nurturing a relationship before making your pitch.
- However, others scent the opportunity to snatch up great startups while the competition is down, they have more time to carry out due diligence, and deal terms are likely to be more favorable.
Spies, Lies, and Stonewalling: What It’s Like to Report on Facebook
- Covering the company soon became a full-time job for some tech journalists, especially at digital publications like TechCrunch or Gizmodo that expected writers to generate a stream of news and scoops.
- Nuñez recalled reporting on an internal poll in which Facebook employees asked Zuckerberg whether the company should do something to try to stop Donald Trump from becoming president.
Sequoia and Lightspeed are launching new India centric investment funds – The Tech Portal
- Sequoia and Lightspeed, two giants of the venture capital game, have announced new funds for the Indian market as they look to increase stakes in the country’s burgeoning startup market.
- While Lightspeed has proposed its third entry in the Indian market, the Lightspeed India Partners III, LLC, Sequoia has decided to double down, quite literally, and floated two new funds.READ MORE
The 20-year-old entrepreneur is a lie
- According to a working paper from MIT Sloan professor Pierre Azoulay and PhD student Daniel Kim, the average age of entrepreneurs who’ve started companies and gone on to hire at least one employee is 42 years old.
- To find out the correlation between age and entrepreneurship, Kim and Azoulay went to the government, specifically, administrative data from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, and Schedule K-1 business owners data from the Internal Revenue Service.
Veteran tech investor and SV Angel founder Ron Conway is working with Grammy Award–winning musician Pharrell Williams to raise a venture capital fund, according to two people familiar with the matter. The new fund aims to make investments in startups led by underrepresented minorities.
The pair are currently in discussions with limited partners. News of the planned fund follows nationwide protests against racism and police brutality that have spurred several VC firms to pledge they will increase investments in companies founded by Black entrepreneurs and diversify their staff.
- Now, you must have a firm understanding of the venture capital ecosystem and prepare yourself for an arduous process: introductions, pitches, negotiations, term sheets, and all the intricacies that go with each stage and every round.
- If liquidation preference has not been included in the term sheet, and the company sells for less than its valuation on the private markets, the investors can actually lose money while the founders get compensated.
The Graduate Employees Union denounced Stephen Hsu, and the president demanded his resignation.
‘We are scientists, seeking truth,” Michigan State University physicist Stephen Hsu wrote in a 2018 blog post. “We are not slaves to ideological conformity.” That might have been too optimistic. Last week MSU’s president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., yielded to a pressure campaign, based in part on that post, and asked Mr. Hsu to resign as senior vice president for research and innovation.
The trouble began June 10, when MSU’s Graduate Employees Union composed a lengthy Twitter thread denouncing Mr. Hsu as, among other things, “a…
The pandemic has shown employees and employers alike that there’s value in working from home — at least, some of the time.
Most American office workers are in no hurry to return to the office full time, even after the coronavirus is under control. But that doesn’t mean they want to work from home forever. The future for them, a variety of new data shows, is likely to be workweeks split between office and home.
A Field Guide To B2B Marketplaces
- For this series, we covered history lessons from the prior era of companies with a focus on learnings from winners in the B2B Marketplaces category.
- Founded in 1999 Alibaba has grown from a B2B Marketplace focused on Chinese SMB’s to a tech powerhouse with offerings ranging from cloud computing to financial services.
Zuckerberg Tells Facebook Staff He Expects Advertisers to Return ‘Soon Enough’
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he was reluctant to bow to the threats of a growing ad boycott, saying in private remarks that “my guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”
The Gaping Hole in Silicon Valley’s Meritocracy
- Women and people of color are still being lowballed by recruiters, stonewalled in negotiations, and passed over for promotions As protests against racial injustice erupted across America over the last month, I watched with interest as companies in the tech industry, where I’ve spent my career, came out with statements of solidarity, donated to the cause of racial justice, and promised to do better with their diversity and inclusion efforts.
- One person claimed that women at the major tech company where she worked were often hired at a lower “internal level” (which determined pay) than male colleagues, even when they shared the same title.
Are financings and M&A slowing down during the pandemic? (Update through June, 2020)
- Back in April of this year I wrote “ Are financings and M&A slowing down during the pandemic?
- Here’s an update to that data through the end of June, 2020