You need a budget

  •   Comments

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 living paycheck-to-paycheck.  This is a huge slice of America and the world, and I believe that tools that serve this population well will not only make a huge positive social impact, they can build huge businesses.

One such product that I’ve started using recently is the very aptly titled You Need a Budget.  I have tried nearly every app out there that tries to help people get a handle on their moment-to-moment finances, but this is the most thoughtfully designed (and I suspect, the most effective) one I’ve seen so far.

YNAB is full of product nuances that show that they’ve thought deeply about how people use money, and how to help people craft effective budgets.  The main idea, of course, is that you need to start with a budget.  The nuanced parts are the way YNAB helps track budget categories, map expenses against them, make tradeoffs when categories are overbudget, and start to understand new concepts like aging your money.

Having used apps like Mint in the past, which work on the same ideas, I’ve found that YNAB has figured something new out, which is how to make tracking your money, and tending to your budget, a daily activity.  The YNAB mobile app makes it easy to categorize expenses as they come in, on a daily basis.  It’s this daily check in that both makes the process less overwhelming (since you’re only dealing with a handful of transactions at once) and potentially change-making, since you are reflecting on your budget and expenses in real time.

Getting a grip on finances is hard.  It’s emotional, complicated and often overwhelming.  I like the way YNAB demystifies the process and provides a real helping hand.  I hope we see more things like this come to market.

The weakest link

  •   Comments

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 »

From a labor mindset to a capital mindset

  •   Comments

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 »

Service

  •   Comments

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 »

Changing seasons

  •   Comments

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 »

Labor Day: Project Repat

  •   Comments

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 »

Optimizing for energy

  •   Comments

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 »

On the blockchain: platform first or app first?

  •   Comments

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 »

Who should police content on the Internet?

  •   Comments

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 »

Learning by doing

  •   Comments

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 »

Keeping it simple

  •   Comments

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 »

What’s your medium?

  •   Comments

Yesterday, I caught up with my old friend Gary Chou.  Gary was the first General Manager of the USV Portfolio Network (predating Brittany and Bethany), and has since been running Orbital, a community space and “studio for building networks” (which happens to be in the original Kickstarter building on the Lower East Side).  We got… Read more »

Speaking page

  •   Comments

I’ve been doing more public speaking recently, and finally assembled videos into a single place: https://www.nickgrossman.is/speaking/ As I look at that list, I realize that I’ve been doing a ton of speaking in Europe. Of course I know this, because I was there, but didn’t quite realize the pattern that the majority of my recently… Read more »

Getting Help

  •   Comments

I’m on vacation this week, and we have some old friends and their family staying with us.  Last night we got to talking about therapy (like psychotherapy) and how valuable it has been for me over the past few years. Maybe four years ago I started seeing a therapist on a bi-weekly basis.  There were… Read more »

The joy of fixing things up

  •   Comments

I am on a plane right now, watching home renovation shows on HGTV, thinking about how much fun it is to fix things up. Doing projects around the house (last year I built an exterior staircase and made new kitchen countertops, the year before that I built a mudroom), coding and buding apps, and working… Read more »

Getting in over your head

  •   Comments

I was out last night with some of the little league coach dads, and we got to talking about whether it’s better for our kids to be bumped up a level (but be at the lower end of skills/experience) or stay back a level and have a chance to really excel.  The consensus was that… Read more »

For web platforms considering a token strategy: cryptocurrency vs. dollars?

  •   Comments

A lot of founders / teams have been asking if they should be adopting a cryptocurrency strategy.  This is understandable given the frenzy of fundraising recently and the ongoing dialogue about the potential for cryptocurrencies as an alternative business model for web platforms. As “traditional” web & mobile platforms explore this option, there are a… Read more »

A little better every day

  •   Comments

I just got done coaching my son’s baseball practice. It has been amazing to watch this group of 7 and 8 year olds improve over the course of the season – learning the fundamentals and now starting to make some pretty great plays. I had a great baseball coach as a kid.  I’ll never forget the… Read more »

Entering the world of smart contracts

  •   Comments

One thing that’s interesting about yesterday’s Basic Attention Token sale is how quickly it went – $36M transacted in 30 sec. Lots of people were surely disappointed as they attempted to buy into the token sale only to have their orders canceled for missing the sale window. I haven’t nailed this down for certain, but I suspect… Read more »