What’s your medium?

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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 to talking about the different things that have been going on at Orbital and the ideas Gary is working on now.

One of the things he said that really stuck w me was the question of “what medium do you want to work in”?  Like, bits & pixels (design, coding), or dollars (investing), or people (events, teaching), etc.  I had never really thought of it this way, but it does make sense to think of things in terms of the medium, or put another way, the tools and objects you have at your disposal.  Or yet another way, what is the craft you really want to hone.

At USV, our primary medium is dollars, or more accurately, investments, which includes dollars but also things like deal terms, corporate structure, etc.  And it’s also ideas – we need to absorb ideas from the market, develop our own ideas (conviction around investing themes) and trade in ideas (influence within companies, attention in the market, etc).  And my personal medium has always included a healthy dose of bits and atoms, as my background is as a builder, designer, and hacker.

I never really understood money/investing as a medium until I joined USV, but now I see that there is real artistry to be developed here.  So much nuance involved in making situations “work out”, and the tools at hand are the tools of finance, corporations, leverage, and dealmaking.  It has been really incredible to see those play out from the inside, and I feel like I have the privilege of observing masters at work.

As a personal strategic question (from the perspective of someone working to develop their career path or professional identity), I find the framing of “medium” to be really clarifying and helpful.  What medium do you really want to be devoted to?  Where do you have the most leverage?  And as such, how should you be prioritizing your time, and what skills should you be focusing on developing?  Where are you dedicating to perfecting your craft, and honing your art?

This is a useful frame because, at least in certain fields like startups where things are often under-determined and fluid, it can help you prioritize and focus, which is perhaps the #1 most important overall skill.

So, what’s your medium?

 

Speaking page

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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 »

Mechanics of the token sale

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In case you missed it, today Brave raised $36M for the Basic Attention Token.  They had allocated 30 days for the token sale, but sold out of 1B BAT in 24 seconds. The Basic Attention Token (BAT) ICO just raised 30 million dollars in 24 seconds. VC’s didn’t even have time to put on a sweater… Read more »

Open source leadership vs. corporate leadership

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As cryptocurrencies and blockchains have continued to gain steam (and attract capital), a common question in the air is, what type of leader does it take to be successful in this space? A common variant on that question is: “will [leader] need a grownup in the room once they get ahold of all that money from… Read more »

Regulating source code

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As more areas of our economy become computerized and move online, more and more of what regulators need to understand will be in the source code. For example, take the VW emissions scandal: These days, cars are an order of magnitude more complex, making it easier for manufacturers to hide cheats among the 100 million… Read more »

Cryptocurrenices: the native business model of attention

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There has been lots of attention this week on cryptocurrencies and blockchains, what with Consensus conf and the Token Summit and lots of related announcements. And with like lots of new things (thinking back to Twitter circa 2010) I find myself spending a lot of time explaining to people what blockchains and cryptocurrencies are, and… Read more »

The Service Recovery Paradox

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I’m writing this from a plane.  I’ve been in the air for an hour and everything is fine, but for a few minutes before the flight, things weren’t fine.  At roughly the time we were supposed to board (on an already late in the evening flight), the gate attendant came over the mic to announce… Read more »

Complicity

I had an interesting experience today.  As I was in the air on my way to San Francisco, I got a text from my Airbnb host saying that they had made a mistake and accidentally double-booked my room.  I ended up taking their offer to cancel and booked a hotel room (at a steep increase… Read more »

Flexing the platform for good

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been touching base with many companies and individuals in the tech sector to understand how they are reacting to the current political environment. Every company and community (of users, customers) is different, with its own sensitivities, priorities, and goals.  So it’s been really interesting to understand the very wide… Read more »

Cycles

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It’s clear that right now we are in a moment of upheaval and turbulence, that seems to have come upon us very quickly.  Pretty much everyone I know has been wrestling to unpack this for the past several months. I’ve been trying my best to understand the worldview of Steve Bannon, who is clearly an… Read more »

The Public Data Layer

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I have been thinking a lot lately about the increasing importance of the “public data layer” — meaning, data that we will need (“we” applied broadly, meaning the general public, NGOs, government, scientists, journalists) to make sense of what’s going on in and increasingly busy, but increasingly quantifiable world. First, some of the drivers here…. Read more »

Experience ↔ Design ↔ Policy

People often ask me how I ended up working in venture capital, and more specifically in a role that deals with policy issues (“policy” broadly speaking, including public policy, legal, “trust & safety”, content & community policy, etc.).  Coming from a background as a hacker / entrepreneur with an urban planning degree, how I ended… Read more »