Ryan Caldbeck is on fire on Twitter right now. Ryan is the CEO of our portfolio company CircleUp, and he just joined Twitter for the first time earlier this year and is, I may say, feeling very comfortable in the medium. Over the weekend he put up a great diagram-oriented tweetstorm with a bunch of gems in it. I will focus on this one:
Focus. It is one of the most common topics of discussion with startups, at board meetings, in pitches, etc. Are they/we/you doing too much? Everyone wants to win at everything, right now, so there is always an inclination to do more. Saying yes is easy; saying no is hard. Saying no means FOMO. Saying yes means opportunity cost (which is a little harder to internalize)
As broad as it may seem, the USV investment thesis is about focus. Over the years, that focus has a) helped us develop a deep experience and specialty in a certain kind of company / investment and b) saved us lots of time by making it easy to say no to lots of things. Today, we are seeing a new round of that kind of focus — I am particularly aware of it in areas like crypto/blockchain, where the groups/funds that are hyper-focused in the space and hyper engaged are way ahead in terms of their learning and network.
This is as true for individuals as it is for companies. Here, it’s maybe even harder. Who am I? Who do I want to become? What will get me there? Closing off any potential door is painful. But on the other hand, slowly progressing along a number of fronts is a recipe to get you nowhere.
In order to have focus you have to have conviction. That the thing you are focusing on, while not being everything, is enough of a thing to chew on for a long time — and is important enough a thing that if you really succeed at it you’ll accomplish what you want to accomplish.
It’s really not easy, but experience and repeated observations say that it’s really important.
As readers of this blog can tell, I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently focused on cryptonetworks and blockchains, and in particular, working through the complex legal and regulatory issues involved. Explaining what cryptocurrencies, cryptonetworks and blockchains are is hard to do. As Naval recently said on twitter: It is the mark of… Read more »
On Tuesday we announced our investment in Cryptokitties, and, as you might expect, received a combination of enthusiasm and skepticism in response. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies already sound ridiculous to most people, and virtual “real” kittens made out of cryptocurrency take it a step further. But, as with many new technologies, these first use cases just… Read more »
An idea I like from Zen Buddhism is becoming a Bigger Container. My understanding of the idea is this: There are a lot of difficult/bad/sad/scary things going on in the world, ranging from serious global issues, war, famine, terrorism, etc; to things in your city like homelessness or joblessnes; to things in your family, like… Read more »
“Cryptonetworks” can help us build a more competitive, innovative, secure and decentralized Internet. “Tokens” (also known as cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets) are integral to the operation of cryptonetworks. As we design new laws and regulations in this emerging space, we should keep these concepts in mind, beyond the financial aspects that are today’s primary focus. In… Read more »
We are in the middle of our 2018 Analyst hiring process at USV. For the last several hiring cycles, USV has had an open process where anyone can apply. I actually wrote about it back in 2011, right before I joined, remarking at the high quality of applicants that the process produced. That is still the… Read more »
I’ve written a bunch about why it’s expensive to be poor, why we need better tools for managing money, and how to move from a labor mindset to a capital mindset. A big takeaway for me is that accumulating wealth isn’t just a functional activity, it’s a mindset that needs to be learned, and taught…. Read more »
Avoidance is to be avoided. — Nick Grossman (@nickgrossman) February 22, 2018 I’m on a plane right now. I always find plane/train rides to be some of the best times to focus and get work done. On this trip, I managed to get two “monkeys” off my back — little tasks that have been lingering… Read more »
I’ve written for a long time about my desire to re-build personal finance infrastructure in ways that benefit people with the least money. We see new personal financial products all the time targeting high value customers, but it still feels like they are ignoring a huge, and important part of the market: people scraping by… Read more »
We have spent a fair bit of time over the past year working on security at USV and across the USV portfolio. Anyone who has spent time working on personal or corporate security — and in particular information security, knows that there are a million ways in, and you’re never “finished”. Fred wrote a bit… Read more »
I’ve been quiet on the blog lately — writing is one of those things that’s hard to build a habit for, but always pays big dividends when you do it. Every time I’ve gotten into a good blogging rhythm I am undoubtedly surprised by the feedback I get (good and bad!), but more importantly, by… Read more »
The week before last, we lost a dear friend to cancer. Deb was an incredibly sweet, caring and giving person. The memorial service last weekend was held at the elementary school where she taught first grade for the past 15 years. The room was decorated — to the hilt — with hearts, butterflies, and ribbons,… Read more »
Today is the last day of September, and I’m happy and relieved to see it go. I’ve been holding my breath. September is a violent month. That may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, but I think there’s some truth in it. Something about the end of the summer and the abrupt change to… Read more »
Yesterday, in the process of cleaning out my closet and donating a bunch of old clothes, I did something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: got going creating a t-shirt quilt for my old “sentimental” t-shirts. I’m a bit of a t-shirt hoarder, especially when it comes to shirts that memorialize some special… Read more »
In the world of startups and investing and ideas, things are always chaotic and fluid, and as such a key skill is to somehow cut through the noise and find focus. That’s on a micro level, like what do I do for the next five minutes, and on the macro level, like am I (or… Read more »
I was emailing with a friend recently, who asked: “On the web, in order to build a platform you first need a hit app. Do you think this dynamic is different in blockchain?” It’s a great question, and one I have been thinking about a lot lately. First, let’s unpack the idea that the way… Read more »
The beauty, and the danger, of the internet is that it’s open to everyone. Anyone can put up a website, about pretty much anything. This “open platform” is an amazing thing, and means that innovation can come from all corners, without barriers or gatekeepers. It also introduces new challenges for how to deal with the… Read more »
I had lunch yesterday with someone who has been investing in the crypto / token space recently — having pooled together a small “fund” from friends and family. It’s a short-term vehicle (like, 6 months), and a large part of the goal is simply to become hands-on familiar / capable investing in token sales /… Read more »
We recently had our daughter’s birthday party, and we held it in a public park near our house, where there’s an old parks department building. The sun plan was outdoors, but of course it thunderstormed and we didn’t have a back-up plan. So we called an audible and asked if we could use the back… Read more »