From YC company Helion, this is one gram of heavy water (D2O), which has the potential to generate as much energy as 10k tons of coal.
The Challenge in VC
Over four years ago I wrote this old post about the spawn of craigslist. It hit a nerve in the zeitgeist and tends to go re-viral about once a year. That happened again this morning as someone emailed me a usage of this image in a post calling for YouTube to be similarly fragmented.
Looking at the image this morning, I’m struck by the arc of the companies on this list. Some of them have IPO’d. Others are out of business. If you could have made investments in all of these companies back in 2010, you’d have a portfolio of 34 companies with roughly 6-8 billion dollar outcomes, which would likely be one of the best venture funds of the decade.
The lesson here is that venture capital is less about identifying great investment opportunities and is far more about getting access to those opportunities. Knowing that this handful of companies would become interesting in 2010 is not what makes a great VC. It’s convincing the entrepreneurs in all these companies to partner with you on their journey; that’s the battle.
When you hear someone say, “I was using the Google yesterday, and I found this great recipe.” It rings like the speaker is a novice or trailing adopter.
When you hear someone say, “I was using the Facebook yesterday, and I saw this cute kitten photo.” I have this conflicting internal monologue: “Wait, did they say it wrong, or are they being retro?”
Graffiti at 11 Spring Street
I use Graffiti frequently to explain thought leadership to entrepreneurs.
I tell a simple story: at 11 Spring St (depicted above), the Wooster Collective created an a three-day expo of graffiti featuring some of the best graffiti artists in the world. How was that location chosen? Well, for many years it had been a primer location to tag, and it was about to be torn down to build condos, so the expo was a celebration of the many years in which this wall had served as a graffiti nexus point.
If you were a graffiti artist, tagging the wall across the street was not good enough, it was this one building at 11 Spring that was the wall that mattered. This is thought leadership. Be the wall that matters. This phenomenon describes the success of Stack Overflow, Wikipedia, and other crowdsourced resources of top quality. There are countless places to ask and answer tech Q&A, and the internet is littered with forks/clones of Wikipedia… but, the key difference is these two properties have thought leadership. They are the walls that matter.
(Fred had a concise blog post this morning expressing his interest in Graffiti. I left a comment that turned into a blog post, so this post is a cross-post of my comment there.)
Stellar is fascinating. I’ve spent much of my day today learning everything I can about it.
I’m curious about what the total value of the currency is worth at this beta beginning. There’s a couple answers:
1) Stripe made a $3,000,000 loan to Stellar to fund initial operations. Stellar repaid this loan using 2% of all stellars*. This means $3MM / 2% = $150MM stellar market cap.
2) On reddit people are offering the following conversion rates:
- 4000 stellars for 1 hr of full-stack dev consulting work. 1 hr of a dev’s time =~ $100. So, that’s a 40 stellar : $1 ratio. There are 100 Billion stellars in existence. Which implies a stellar market cap of: $2.5B.
- Paying $2 for 5000 stellar. So that’s a 2500 stellar : $1 ratio. Which implies a stellar market cap of: $40MM.
Both of those are only offered rates. Nothing has actually transacted at those prices as far as I can tell. So, they represent the bid side of the bid/ask spread.
3) Stellar.org is giving away 19% of all stellars to owners of Bitcoin. This ratio implies a value of 1450 stellar : 1 BTC, which is a 2.4 stellar : $1 ratio (using today’s BTC price of $601.97). Which implies a stellar market cap of: $41.5B
This last # is pretty fishy because you don’t have to actually exchange your BTC to get your 1450 stellars… it’s just a gift for being an early supporter of bitcoin. So, it’s not really a conversion rate.
In conclusion, what is a stellar actually worth? Whatever someone will pay for it. Which of these valuations holds the most veracity, I guess the $150MM number… although $3MM is really just option value to Stripe, so it’s not perfect. The best valuation metric would be to know the salaries being paid in Stellar, compared to market rate alternatives.
* lowercase = currency unit. Uppercase = the non-profit company.
I’ve been taking the Cryptography class on Coursera recently, taught by Dan Boneh. It’s terrific… just difficult enough to be a fulfilling challenge, but easy enough that I haven’t churned (yet).
We recently studied a practical application of the Cipher Block encryption methodology called Cipher Block Chaining (CBC). Here’s a diagram from Quora that articulates how CBC works:
It immediately reminded me of the bitcoin blockchain diagram from Santoshi’s original bitcoin white paper:
The key relation in both images that the output cipher from each round of encryption is fed into the input of the encryption of the subsequent round, to create a chain. It’s very elegant. I never knew the origin of this structure before… and I’m sure its roots go back beyond CBC.
I love moments of abstraction connection like this… this is why I take Coursera classes. They’re very academic, which doesn’t seem useful at first, but I find they make me look at my day-to-day interactions through a new lens, which spurs serendipitous moments of creative connections I would otherwise miss.
Timehop Raises $10MM, led by Shasta Ventures
Jonathan, Benny, and the rest of the Timehop team announced today that they raised their Series B, a $10MM round from Shasta Ventures, with participation from Spark, OATV, and Randi Zuckerberg.
Timehop has been growing their user base incredibly well. More people read their Timehop each day than read NYTimes and USA Today. I’ve been asked frequently (as recently as today) what is their secret to their App Store success, and I’ve blogged about my response before. Quite simply, their secret is that there is no secret; just persistent high-quality product iteration. I’m sure that answer sounds too easy to be true, but it’s actually incredibly hard to execute: it takes dedication to constantly refine and improve a product, polishing every last rounded corner.
I’m delighted Shasta has joined the investor syndicate. The interactions I’ve had with Sean Flynn, the partner at Shasta that led the deal and joined the Board, have been terrific, and I know they’ll be a great partner for the company going forward.
I’m so impressed by Timehop’s continued execution. Frankly, I’m a fanboy. This round is another validation point for the great progress they’ve been making. Onwards! :)
In 2011 Neal Stephenson penned an essay called Innovation Starvation about our current stagnation in accomplish big honking technical marvels. He is not alone in this worry, a classic fear often ascribed to pessimistic curmudgeons that pine for the good old days, but unlike that stereotype, Stephenson’s essay is great because it present a path forward, led by sci-fi.
The primary reason I read sci-fi is to be inspired by what’s possible, to view through a window a compelling and convincing possible future. Stephenson takes my interest one step further by saying that it’s sci-fi authors’ responsibility to create the hieroglyphs for future innovations. Hieroglyphs? Stepheson describes it best:
Good SF supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place. A good SF universe has a coherence and internal logic that makes sense to scientists and engineers. Examples include Isaac Asimov’s robots, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ships, and William Gibson’s cyberspace. As Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research puts it, such icons serve as hieroglyphs—simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.
I agreed back in 2011 when I originally read this essay, and the concept of sci-fi as hieroglyphs has been banging around in the brain every since. I saw a great quote tweeted out by Ian Hogarth today, quoting a blog post by Albert Wenger. He said, “[I]t is almost too easy to write a dystopia these days. The real challenge, it seems to me, is to write a new utopia.” Cue vigorous nodding in agreement, and the quote reminded me of Stephenson’s essay.
So, I googled the essay, and in the process of falling down the Internet rabbit hole, I discovered that the Arizona State University had partnered with Stephenson to create an organization dedicated to fostering the next generation of moon-shots, through sci-fi. It’s called Project Hieroglyph and their first anthology of fiction is being released in September. This sounds like a terrific read and I can’t wait to check it out.