By Keith Teare • Issue #305 • View online
This week Elon Musk joined Twitter’s Board and Roelof Botha was named head of Sequoia. The UK made a bid to become the crypto capital of the World and Substack announced improved Podcasting and Editing tools.
- Twitter, Solar, Space, and Automobiles
- Seed to Growth
- DA DA DAO
- Substack Developments
- Essay of the Week
- Startup of the Week
- Tweet of the Week
Elon Musk is very wealthy. The $2.5 billion he invested to buy 9.2% of Twitter is less than 1% of his net worth. With that he bought the attention of Twitter’s Board of Directors and is now firmly esconsed in the boardroom.
Elon and the Twitter management do not see eye to eye. As a result, after initially telling the SEC he will be a passive investor he re-submitted saying he would be activist.
David Sacks, speaking on CNBC’s TechCheck said that he expects Musk to be a strong supporter of free speech, opposing and censorship based on what a person or entity says. Sacks argued that Twitter is now a “town square” and as such should have first amendment rights extended to it. He made an excellent case. Watch it here:
The first amendment protects public pronouncements from Government censorship. It does not protect the same pronouncements from private spaces governed by others. Sacks argues that to all intents and purposes the large social media platforms are public spaces that need protecting from censorship by private owners. A private owner of public space is a new concept.
That Was The Week has always opposed the censoring of free speech on social media. Others have argued that a private company can decide what to allow and not to allow on its service. That is correct, but also a problem.
Free speech needs to be protected wherever humans gather in large numbers to hear each other. Today that includes Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and elsewhere. the ethics of closing down points of view one disagrees with are clear. You cross the line from liberal, open and democratic into the zone of authoritarian. Stating that a company has the right to do that makes it no less authoritarian.
We wish Elon good luck in any effort he makes to defend open democratic discourse on the most important platforms for expression the human race has so far invented.
Also in this week’s newsletter. A very good report from Lightspeed Ventures makes our essay of the week. It covers the latest on remote work and our desires to retain many of the elements of work born during the pandemic. I link to the announcement/summary and also the full report. If you have the need to manage teams that are partly or mainly remote then check out Kadence. I am an investor.
For those who saw that I was away last week being given an honorary doctorate by Kent University, I am embedding the video of my presentation and a short talk.
Twitter, Solar, Space, and Automobiles
Elon Musk Is on Twitter’s Board. What Could Go Wrong?
Musk’s appointment could herald a controversial push for “free speech” and invite more scrutiny from the SEC.
ELON MUSK IS one of the tech sector’s most inscrutable individuals — as evidenced by his recent decision to become Twitter’s largest shareholder. On Tuesday, four weeks after he bought a 9.2 percent stake in the social networking platform through the purchase of nearly 73.5 million shares at a total cost of around $2.4 billion, Musk joined Twitter’s board, where he will remain through at least 2024.
Musk’s shift from passive shareholder to member of the board is huge — and he now owns more than four times as much Twitter stock as the company’s founder, Jack Dorsey. (Musk’s stake was only announced on Monday, which is outside the time frame required by regulators, something experts say is a “slam dunk” violation of financial law.) His move has also left many wondering what’s next for Twitter.
Musk joined back in June 2009 and has amassed 80.7 million followers to date. But despite such popularity on the platform, he has a longstanding love-hate relationship with it. In July 2016, he professed his love for Twitter. Then in February 2017 he described it as a “hater Hellscape.” By December 2017, he was back to loving it. In February 2019, Musk replied to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to say that “Twitter rocks.” But in July 2020, he tweeted that Twitter “sucks,” just months after saying that Dorsey had a good heart.
Musk’s hot and cold relationship with Twitter sheds little light on why he has bought into the company and joined its board, though theories abound. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.
One hint could be found in his recent Twitter posts. The entrepreneur has long been an open book on the social network, saying in 2018 that “my tweets are literally what I’m thinking at the moment, not carefully crafted corporate bs, which is really just banal propaganda.”
Tesla’s first quarter sales show the EV revolution could be upon us
The electric vehicle future is here, it’s just unevenly distributed. Tesla had a massive first quarter in 2022 and continues to be the leader in EV sales that could climb ever higher due to wild gas prices.
The company reported delivering a total of 310,048 vehicles in the first quarter of 2022, up nearly 68% compared to the same quarter in 2021. Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y made up the majority of its cars delivered for a total of 295,324 units for the quarter.
In its announcement to investors, Tesla said it achieved these numbers “despite ongoing supply chain challenges and factory shutdowns.” The automaker hit record high sales last quarter, but it still announced a price hike of between 5% and 10% across its entire range in mid-March, citing inflation as the reason for the uptick in prices. (It’s hardly alone in the EV maker price hike department.)
Compared to the auto market as a whole, EV sales were high in the first quarter, according to an Autodata report viewed by TechCrunch, as traditional automakers electrify their offerings and EV manufacturers ramp up business. Hyundai has already sold 6,244 units of the Ioniq 5, its latest EV, which hit dealerships in late 2021.
What Musk Brings to Twitter
By Martin Peers
April 5, 2022 5:00 PM PDT
Elon Musk’s decision to plunge himself into the corporate morass that is Twitter, in a way that could spark a fight with securities regulators, suggests the Tesla CEO is a little bored and looking for a new distraction. The timing makes sense. After years of nail-biting struggle, Tesla is finally in a good place: It’s making real money. Meanwhile, his aerospace firm, SpaceX, is chugging along, even if it hasn’t made it to Mars yet. So it’s not a big surprise that Musk feels he has time to devote to Twitter — and not just as a user but as a director, which he became today.
But is Musk what Twitter needs? Twitter has struggled with uneven user growth and a spotty advertising business. As a Twitter power user, Musk likely knows what irritates people who use the service. And he can bring some much-needed energy to the company. Then again, he’s hardly an expert in internet advertising. And his absolutist free-speech stance won’t necessarily help bring in more advertisers (particularly if it ends with, say, a return of Donald Trump to Twitter). Plus, Musk is a loose cannon, which might complicate things. You have to wonder what Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal — whom Musk recently appeared to liken to Stalin — really thinks about having Musk on board.
It was notable that when Twitter announced tonight it was working on an edit feature — something Musk polled Twitter users about last night — the company’s tweet made clear the feature had been in development for a while and “we didn’t get the idea from a poll.” Translation: Don’t give Musk credit for this. Another complication: Whatever Musk manages to achieve on Twitter’s board may be overshadowed in the near term by regulatory questions about how and when he initially disclosed his stake in the company. His Monday filing classified Musk as a passive investor, which raised questions even before he joined the board.
www.theinformation.com • Share
Seed to Growth
The Late Stage Reset, Competing with Tiger, and Last Mile’s Unit Economics
Steve Sarracino of Activant Capital joins Nick to discuss The Late Stage Reset, Competing with Tiger, and Last Mile’s Unit Economics. In this episode we cover: Launching a Growth Fund & The Late Stage Repricing The Economics of Full Stack Delivery Startups Why Europe Maybe the Next Leading Market The…
The post 327. The Late Stage Reset, Competing with Tiger, and Last Mile’s Unit Economics (Steve Sarracino) first appeared on The Full Ratchet.
The Unicorn Report: Fewer Startups Stampeded Into The Billion-Dollar Club In March
Fewer companies joined The Crunchbase Unicorn Board in March compared to previous months, and none made public debuts amid a stalled IPO market and signs of a venture funding slowdown and lower late-stage valuations.
UPDATE 1-VC firm Sequoia Capital names Botha as global leader — Reuters
(Reuters) — Venture capital giant Sequoia Capital said on Monday Roelof Botha will take on the firm’s global leadership position, stepping into the role of senior steward from July 5.
Veteran investor Botha will continue to lead the company’s U.S. and Europe business as managing partner, Sequoia said. The Silicon Valley stalwart has been expanding in Europe recently and opened an office in London last year.
Sequoia’s local managing partners will remain in charge of the firm’s other regional divisions, Sequoia said, with Neil Shen set to continue to lead Sequoia’s business in China. Shen has been a vocal supporter of investment in enterprise tech startups in China.
Why Venture Debt has become a Popular Choice for both Founders and Investors — Business Today
Capital-hungry start-ups are turning to venture debt as increasing frequency of liquidity events make founders realise the true cost of equity capital. Plus, venture debt can be deployed faster, and might even yield greater returns at lower risks.
Venture debt. Isn’t that an oxymoron? While venture signifies high risk, debt signifies the opposite. But start-up founders seem to love venture debt. In fact, it is fast becoming a multi-purpose tool that founders deploy at the heart of their growth strategy. It also means that venture debt funds are able to deploy more capital, faster.
Investors, too, seem to be enamored by venture debt, if fundraising is anything to go by. The pace at which India’s top venture debt firms are closing their fundraising tells the story of this asset class and its blistering growth
12 up-and-coming European university spinouts, according to VCs
Investors are beginning to take spinouts seriously. Here are the startups they’ve got their eye on.
DA DA DAO
Peter Thiel claims ‘finance gerontocracy’ is holding back bitcoin | Financial Times
PayPal founder attacks Warren Buffett as he touts crypto’s ‘revolutionary youth movement’ in Miami
Peter Thiel, the libertarian tech investor, challenged some of the most powerful US financial figures on Thursday over their criticism of bitcoin, accusing them of trying to suppress what has become a powerful political movement. Thiel, who made his name as an outspoken contrarian and early investor in Facebook, dismissed revered investor Warren Buffett as a “sociopathic grandpa from Omaha”. He also cast Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and Larry Fink, head of BlackRock, as part of a “finance gerontocracy” that was looking to lock cryptocurrencies out of the mainstream. His outburst came in front of a cheering crowd at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami, where he described the cryptocurrency as part of a “revolutionary youth movement” that was out to overturn traditional finance, threatening the power and wealth of the establishment.
Decentralization for Web3 Builders: Principles, Models, How
To guide web3 builders tackling what decentralization means in practice, across several use cases, we cover: the design challenge of web3 decentralization; how builders can use the novel components of web3 systems to achieve decentralization; and an analysis of several models of decentralization and how they apply in practice.
The UK changes crypto strategy
Crypto’s ride in Britain has been bumpy and unpredictable. Last month, the country’s top financial regulator warned about investing in crypto, saying people “should be prepared to lose all their money.” On Monday, the country’s chief financial minister declared that the U.K. intends to be a crypto powerhouse.
Governments everywhere are struggling to come to grips with the promise and peril of blockchain. One official warns of crypto’s dangers, only to get scolded by another for discouraging innovation and financial inclusion. The U.K. is just the latest example of crypto whiplash.
Great Britain has grand crypto ambitions. The U.K. aims to become “a global hub” for crypto, “the very best place in the world to start and scale crypto-companies,” John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury, said in a speech.
- Just like other governments, the U.K. is exploring a future with stablecoins, which Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer, said would be “brought within regulation paving their way for use in the U.K. as a recognised form of payment.
- The U.K. will set up a “‘financial market infrastructure sandbox’” to enable crypto companies to innovate and experiment. A new body, the Cryptoasset Engagement Group, will be formed to make sure the government is working closely with crypto companies.
- And the government itself plans to dip its toes into the crypto realm. Sunak said the Exchequer will work with the Royal Mint to mint its own NFT “as an emblem of the forward-looking approach the U.K. is determined to take.”
Multicoin Capital: In Search of Outliers
How do you find the next Solana? In the final part of our trilogy, we examine where Multicoin is looking for future fund-returners, exploring emergent themes and groundbreaking startups.
If you only have a couple of minutes to spare, here’s what investors, operators, and founders should know about where Multicoin Capital is looking for its next winning investments. (We’ll refer to the firm as “Multicoin” going forward.)
- Composability is coming into its own. Crypto-money Legos have reached maturity, making it easier for these building blocks to combine and create novel applications. Multicoin has backed several startups that fit this theme.
- Data DAOs allow us to profit from our personal information. All of us create data that companies like Google and Facebook monetize. Crypto networks give us control over our data that we can use to our benefit. We might see decentralized hedge funds, banks, and health insurance companies built on this premise.
- Crypto has real-world applications. Projects like Helium show the power crypto incentives have to secure and grow tangible networks. We could see similar efforts create alternative power grids, ridesharing platforms, and logistics providers.
- Multicoin isn’t interested in empire-building. Managing Partners Tushar Jain and Kyle Samani aren’t looking to staff a large team or grow assets under management (AUM) too rapidly. Instead, Multicoin is focused on expanding the “state” of crypto networks — a computer science concept that refers to the sum of remembered user interactions.
www.readthegeneralist.com • Share
How DAOs Could Change the Way We Work
Today’s creator economy, populated by vloggers, bloggers, and podcasters, can give us a glimpse into what the Web3 working world might look like, with the typical creator earning income from a variety of projects such as coaching, consulting, and content monetization on various platforms such as YouTube, SubStack, and Patreon. DAOs are effectively owned and governed by people who hold a sufficient number of a DAO’s native token, which functions like a type of cryptocurrency.
DAOs could revolutionize how startups are run — VentureBeat
The crypto sector has had a profoundly disruptive impact on just about every industry over the past few years. Now, the sector is turning the fundamentals of running an organization on its head by codifying how they’re governed in the blockchain.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO) are owned and run by their members, who can vote on operational decisions via a blockchain-based governance token. Unlike traditional companies, DAOs give just about anyone the opportunity to contribute to a shared project with other like-minded individuals and have a say in the project’s direction.
It’s this user-first and community-owned approach that underpins the ideals of Web3. But not everyone is convinced — especially when it comes to who’s funding these novel enterprises.
The debate over venture capital funding of Web3 is a highly nuanced one. While it can be a viable step for startups to scale swiftly by leveraging the funds, operational support, and networking opportunities that VCs provide, this comes with its own set of caveats. One drawback, in particular, can be a significant pain point for founding teams — how do startups ensure that the business remains cognizant of all relevant perspectives when VCs hold the controlling share? VentureBeat
Podcasting, but better
Listen now | Now we’re really talking. The best thing about being a podcaster is the joy of a really good conversation. It feels like that moment at a cocktail party when you find yourself in a corner by the cheese table, chatting with the most interesting person there. And then it gets even better: you get to share that conversation — with your listeners, who come along for the ride and experience it with you.
An upgrade to the Substack editor
We’re introducing a more powerful editor to enable future features writers have asked for.
Essay of the Week
Remote work is here to stay, but it’s not all or nothing.
The Lightspeed Founder Success Team Presents our Annual Workplace Re-Entry Report of 218 Startups and their approach to returning to the workplace.
In the early days of the pandemic, many pundits predicted a remote work renaissance and the abolishment of traditional offices. We imagined nomadic knowledge workers roaming the globe or migrating to low-cost rural areas. While this was the case during the mandatory lockdown, post-covid work structures will fall on a broader spectrum.
To answer the most common questions from Founders, Lightspeed ran our second annual Workplace Re-Entry & Remote Work report. We asked companies within our portfolio and outside of it from across the startup ecosystem how they will operate in a post-pandemic world.
What we heard might surprise you: while the traditional office model is indeed broken, it’s not dead. Offices remain an important driver of company culture and employee connection. At the same time, employee’s have greater flexibility in how they work and more leverage in compensation decisions, regardless of location.
Flexible work is here to stay
Prior to 2020, only 37% of companies allowed flexible or remote work. Going forward, 95% of startups will allow for remote work, with 41% not requiring employees to ever return to an office.
What this means for startups: Employees will expect greater flexibility in how and where they work. Ensure your workforce plans align with current and future employee expectations. Surveying employees is an essential step when designing a plan.
Offices remain important to the future of work
The rapid shift to remote work hasn’t been seamless. Cultural challenges, 48%, and employee demand, 40%, were the main drivers of office re-opening.
What this means for startups: We predict a move away from centralization around headquarters to a “hub and spoke” model with many smaller offices near clusters of employees.
Hiring remains highly competitive
Nearly every industry has felt the tight labor market over the last 6 months. 88% say their hiring constraints are due to compensation against other offers & internal recruiting capacity. Only 3% of companies find candidate location an impediment to hiring.
What this means for startups: The days of candidates accepting lower salaries at startups are coming to an end. We have already seen a compression of the historical startup salary discount compared to late-stage and public peers.
What this means for startups: Internal recruiting capacity is an often overlooked metric. The market for strong recruiters is white-hot, preventing many companies from building the function in line with headcount plans. Executives should carefully map their recruiting capacity to headcount plans and expand teams accordingly at least 1 quarter in advance.
Hiring plans don’t account for the Great Resignation
Overall attrition predictions for 2022 are not as bleak as the Great Recession would lead us to believe. Companies are projecting lower attrition this year compared to 2021.
What this means for startups: Getting attrition wrong is painful. Annual operating plans are built on assumptions of employee productivity. Any unexpected resignations will rapidly spiral into missed company goals. Executives should revisit their attrition assumptions and create contingency plans in case the Great Recession emerges.
Companies are minimizing the impact of location on salaries
Given compensation is the primary challenge to hiring, companies are unsurprisingly searching for solutions. Before 2020, the vast majority of startups used employee location to determine salaries. 50% of companies will now offer a location-agnostic or single-tier premium salary (ex. SF & NYC) for US-based employees.
What this means for startups: Companies must understand the compensation philosophies of their closest hiring competitors to remain compelling to candidates. We predict a continued smoothing of regional salary differences and a move to one US-national rate with premiums for expensive markets.
Where to go from here
Two years into the pandemic, companies have learned how to adapt their operating models to align employee productivity with engagement. There is no one-size-fits-all model for company building, and employees will have more options than ever before. We are still in the early innings of the shift to remote work, learning and adapting as we go.
We welcome questions, thoughts, and feedback in the comments on your startup’s evolving workforce plans.
-Luke Beseda on behalf of the Lightspeed Founder Success Team
2022 Workplace Report
Full Report Here
Startup of the Week
Fast is closing its doors: ‘We ran out of money’
Online payments service Fast announced Tuesday that it is closing its doors, a sudden, stunning end to a seemingly fast-growing ecommerce venture once considered a pandemic darling.
The one-click-checkout software maker will discontinue service of its Fast Checkout on Friday, CEO and co-founder Domm Holland said in a statement. “Sometimes trailblazers don’t make it all the way to the mountaintop,” he said.
Fast ran out of funds after failing to secure additional investment fast enough in what had become a tough fundraising environment, a Fast employee told Protocol.
“We waited too long and we ran out of money,” said the employee, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation. Fast “misjudged significantly” the mood in the VC community, he added: “What was acceptable revenue and burn and prospects for growth in the summer of 2021 looks looks very different in April of 2022.”
But Fast’s pending demise has also created an expansion opportunity for another fintech. Affirm is hiring roughly 130 Fast engineers, the employee said. “With Fast winding down its operations and discontinuing its brand and products, we saw another opportunity to invite a great technology team to join us,” an Affirm spokesperson said. The “buy now, pay later” company does not plan to offer a one-click-checkout product like Fast’s.