Addressing Some Personal Misconceptions

One of the few things I’ve learned with a bit of age is to identify friends/colleagues who don’t mind giving tough feedback. I ask them for feedback quite often, and at the end of the year, I share my goals for the next year with them and encourage them to push back, guide, and help me shape them. One of the things I noticed through these conversations last quarter is that my writing and activity on Twitter may have given others a slight misconception about me and my interests. So, I thought I would bring them up and clarify them:

1/ I’m all-in on the “on-demand economy.” I think this term is loaded and confuses people. When you order an Uber, it’s on-demand. When you order Instacart, it’s more likely scheduled. There’s a tendency to lump all of these together, but there’s also “curbside” delivery models, “pick-up” models, and others. “On-Demand Economy” has taken on a life of its own, and that’s great, but many of the great services we chatter about aren’t truly “on-demand” – it’s just that it feels that way given the ease of tapping a few buttons on mobile.

2/ I only invest in mobile companies. I worked on mobile products and apps for three years and spent most of my column at TechCrunch on mobile, but that doesn’t mean I just invest in mobile. Now having invested in over 60 companies, over half of them B2B, a number are in new emergent platforms like Bitcoin and virtual reality, and stalwarts like SaaS and even a little hardware. For mobile, yes, any modern consumer effort will touch on mobile, but mobile distribution itself if a bitch (I’ve written extensively on this) so I’m always reluctant to swing here.

3/ I can help with coverage on TechCrunch. Ugh. No. I can’t. First, as of April last year, my column was sunset there, and second, gunning for TC coverage these days is usually not a great use of time. There are great reporters there and the trick is to develop relationships with them ahead of time, before you need it, by either building something interesting and/or engaging with them in a human way.

4/ It’s not clear what I’m working on. Yes, I admit my path has been not clean or easy to parse. Now in 2015, it’s getting cleaner…I’m a Venture Advisor to Bullpen Capital (early-stage and post-seed) and GGV Capital (stage-agnostic). I also invest small amounts out of a small fund called Haystack. I’m also writing a book on Uber in 2015, will be attending fewer events, not publicly speaking at events, but will likely be writing/blogging/tweeting even more.

5/ I’m not entirely new anymore. For a while, I’d qualify things by saying “well, I’m new here.” Now’s been about 3.5 years and this August will mark a full four years “in the game.” That means, for someone who writes a lot, tries to predict things, and puts my name on it, I have to slowly start showing there was a method to the madness. I planted a bunch of seeds and some have started to sprout. I’m excited to see what will happen.

Haystack is written by Semil Shah, and is published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. Copyright © 2018 Semil Shah.

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”— Epicurus