It’s rare for one of my weekly columns to go viral, but this one did. Would love to hear your reactions…
Silicon Valley and the tech world at large are filled with a variety of conventions. These conventions are now created, captured, and shared ad nauseam disguised as blog posts, tweets with links, and countless message boards. The benefit of such a canon is we all have access to a rich repository of knowledge — the cost, however, is we all, perhaps unwittingly, are exposed to the same suite of playbooks, which contain the same conventions, which could, if we’re not paying close attention, and especially when amplified in an echo chamber, trick us into believing a certain reality which, in turn, script our actions and lives down a path of predictability, or worse, mediocrity.
Like many of you, the entire story around WhatsApp’s acquisition this week has captivated my attention. It might be easy to quickly dismiss this whole event as an extreme outlier (which it is). Of course, this is a big outlier event, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be examined. The reality is that this week’s news was like Haley’s Comet, a once-in-a-lifetime event where everyone who works in and around startups stopped what they were doing, went outside, and looked up at the sky to catch a glimpse of something they’d only read about online. In situations such as these, my mind scans back over all the “lessons” or conventional wisdom that swirls around the atmosphere, and the story of WhatsApp does call on us to examine and challenge (yet again) some of those conventions:
“Yahoo! doesn’t have talent.” For a variety of reasons, Yahoo! gets beaten up by the press and in social media. The company has problems and is working through them, but as a result, employees and alumni have kind of been a soft target. The two WhatsApp founders worked at Yahoo! They built a native mobile product at scale, across many mobile platforms, and assembled a team to build a complex, global telephony system.
“Companies like Facebook have the best talent.” One of the WhatsApp founders applied for a job at Facebook and was rejected. I’ve seen countless startups get star-eyed trying to recruit “so-and-so” from a big name company, but all that glitters isn’t always gold.
“The center of gravity for consumer products has moved north from the Valley to San Francisco.” Well, that’s largely true, but WhatsApp remained headquartered deep in Silicon Valley. They didn’t even have an office sign. Hidden from the city’s bright lights, the company didn’t seek out PR coverage or any of the other trappings in today’s startup lifestyle culture.
“The best founders are relatively young.” The WhatsApp founders were in their mid to late thirties.
“Mobile products should be delightful, beautiful.” I often shudder when I hear this refrain. Of course, apps should look nice, but at minimum, they should work to solve some problem or provide some service or entertainment. WhatsApp simply worked for people. It didn’t have fancy features. It solved a problem at scale, building products for the following platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, Nokia, S40, Symbian S60, and others.
“Be mobile-first, build for iOS and Android.” The Whatsapp team took on the challenge of building products for all sorts of phones, many of which readers of this blog wouldn’t ever touch, even those running J2ME on older Nokia and Samsung handsets.
“Personal branding is important.” The WhatsApp founders did not have any personal brand. I would guess if 1,000 tech insiders were polled, less than 5% could’ve named the founders or anyone at the company.
“Preserve your startup’s equity.” In my opinion, many early-stage founders over-value the equity in their startups. Yes, a lot of sweat, blood, and tears go into starting even the smallest outfit, but an environment so competitive for products and so fragmented for talent, what was once conventional in terms of equity for early or key hires may now be outdated. Given this, I respect Zuckerberg’s aggressiveness to give up a really large chunk of Facebook to partner with WhatsApp, and to add one of WhatsApp’s founders to his Board of Directors. Instead of hoarding this equity, Zuckerberg realizes he must partner for the battles ahead.
“Don’t worry about making money, just grow big.” WhatsApp did both. Depending on what platform a user downloaded the app on, WhatsApp would charge them about $1 or, at times it was free — they also charged a $1/year subscription fee after the first year. WhatsApp was expensive to run, so it wasn’t breaking the bank in revenue, but they at least had cash flows, and one might conclude from this that such inflows helped them pace their operations and not get enamored, enveloped, and distracted by the pomp and circumstance of a modern-day fundraising process.
There are more conventions that were broken here. How about the fact that WhatsApp was a tiny company compared to their footprint, at only about 50 employees, mostly split between engineering and support? Or, how one of the Valley’s most successful venture firms — Sequoia — was quietly the major outside investor across a few funding rounds at the company, electing to not use their networks and celebrity to announce such deals or trumpet the company’s growth trajectories? Or, speaking of venture, how this particular VC firm missed the first wave of social networks, invested a large sum in the debacle known as Color, and then, in about three years’ time, turned their investment in WhatsApp into one of the great IRRs in the history of venture capital?
There are countless angles to examine, but the meta-point of this exercise is to use this rare, brilliant event to briefly hit the “pause” button and reexamine if we ourselves or our products or our companies are following a conventional path, one we’ve been told, or exposed to, or read somewhere.
I’m not suggesting we throw out all the rules and engage in chaos. But, it is a good time to reexamine them. Do we take these conventional biases into our work, into our lives? Do these conventions inform our recruiting strategies, our paths for monetization and/or growth, how we think about product design? It’s easy to start to believe something once you’ve heard it enough, or if it shows up in your Twitter feed often. It has to be true! Or, perhaps not…perhaps WhatsApp became a mega-outlier because it either consciously bucked or unwittingly ignored so many of the popular conventions we hear of today.
It’s an annual tradition around technology startups and investing to bash MBAs. I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter because, as I’ll share below, I likely took the worst educational path given the choices I had. That said, expecting any non-technical people (MBA or not) to create new technologies and bring them to market is like expecting a father to be able to be impregnated and give birth to a child. The implication behind this criticism is that the venture capital market has a preference for investing in technical founders and fundamental technology.
Now, I didn’t go to business school, but I used to work for one, have taken many classes at one, and used to develop educational materials for four of them, as well. My wife has also worked directly for two business schools for the last eight years, so I know little something about the environments, the culture, the curriculum. While there’s much truth to the critique that non-technical MBAs seeking a business education as a path to entrepreneurship may not find acceptance easily in today’s culture of technology, it’s also not entirely certain that the next decades of disruptive company formation will necessarily require the type of technical skills espoused by the investors who either critique or defend the value of an MBA. Snapchat, for instance, is successful more because of its creators’ product vision and mobile software literacy versus the deep technical acumen many investors may covet. As technology becomes more pervasive and fully-steeped into mainstream culture, some of the exhaust of this engine will result in, as Andy Weissman artfully explains, “new stacks” for the development of new startups. If Andy is right, the founder archetype is going to get a lot flatter, well beyond entering in a silly debate about whether MBAs make good founders or not. (Please make sure to read Andy’s post, click here. It’s very good and provocative.)
What this debate triggered for me was the chance to reflect upon my own educational path. It’s a path that I’ve been privileged to go down (and one I never take for granted), yet I’d be lying if I said that it was a defensible choice to ignore certain subjects once I got to college. In high school, I had such a heavy dose of math and sciences that I quietly rebeled by focusing on the social sciences (broadly) in college and graduate school. I was privileged to finish up with calculus and physics requirements in high school (I also took a year of “computer aided design” if you can believe it!), and aside from chemistry (which I failed), the classes where I struggled the most — English, History, Political Science, Economics — is what I turned my focus to.
It wasn’t a conscious choice, but it happened. It’s now history. And, looking back on it, now given the world we live in, my choices weren’t wise. The best argument I’ve come across for an education that includes understanding even the basics of computer science is that those are not “technical” skills, but rather it’s about “literacy,” just like being able to read is important and how it’s important to be able to understand personal financial documents. That said, and not without plenty of struggle, I have somewhat managed to zig and zag my way around the technology startup world, though I wonder sometimes if I’m running on borrowed time. All of the noise in the chatter forced me to reflect on what I actually did study, and how a few teachers and classes made a truly deep impression on me, an impression that I carry with me every day, that seeps into my writing (blogs and Twitter), and helps inform how I interact with new people that I meet with, work with, invest with, and want to work with in the future. To come up with this list, which is intentionally short, I tried to think very deeply about what classes I still draw upon for guidance today, which lectures that still carry on in me today. Here’s what I distilled, five classes that I think about daily — I’ve also included some links to the corresponding syllabus, where available:
The Economic Strategies Of Nations, Bruce Scott
I’d heard about Scott’s class from many classmates who were taking healthy doses of macroeconomics classes. Scott’s thesis was to examine the economic strategies of nations with different political economies by looking at their macroeconomic balance sheets as if they were corporations. The key point he tried to drive home was to look at the percentage share of total gross domestic production of a country that goes to wages. As we went around the world, from democracies to autocratic regimes to quasi-states, it became clear that capitalism was the overarching system of political governance. What made this class even more special is the first lecture began in January 2008. Scott repeatedly criticized the U.S. economy at the time (he kept wondering why there was $45 trillion unaccounted for) and the political structure of the country which forced candidates to go to extremes in primaries where only certain people voted and how the Supreme Court was turning into a legislative arm of government. Most of what he predicted during these lectures actually came true, so I have to give him a lot of credit for reshaping my macroeconomic view of the world. One fun caveat — Scott had a small curmudgeonly streak, and the week before spring break, he randomly stopped his lecture and barked up to the folks in the back row of class and encouraged them to not only think about “Plan B” when they were drinking their martinis over the holiday, but also “Plan C” because Wall Street was likely to collapse. I remember everyone laughing, but he was exactly right. Even in his old age, he was sharp as a tack and would playfully rag on students. My wife worked at HBS and when he put two and two together that we were married, he slapped me across the back (in front of her) and said, “Nice job, kid!”
Industrial Structure and Strategy, F.M. Scherer
I didn’t know what to think of this class before entering, but I’d heard Scherer was a quirky guy. It was a pretty standard class. We had one textbook, and he wrote it. The book was classified into key national industries, and it was his syllabus for the class. Each class, for three hours, we were expected to have read the corresponding chapter, along with some recent articles about the specific corporations in said industry, and Scherer would then dissect the various technology and business strategies used by the market leaders. After a few disjointed classes, the themes started to come together, and patterns between seemingly unrelated industries started to take shape. This has helped me glean a better understanding of what larger players do within an industry, to better understand their core motivations, what may drive their long-term strategies, and how this may impact startups.
Public Narrative, Marshall Ganz
Ganz is a famous political organizer (with Cesar Chavez, and most recently, helping Barack Obama in his runup to 2008) known for his mastery of the “public narrative.” This means, being public, telling your story. It was one of the most popular classes at school, year in and year out. It did attract many people who perhaps one day wanted to hold some type of elected or appointed public office, but there were people like me, too, who were curious about storytelling, organization, narrative techniques. As part of the class, each person had to deliver three videotaped live “narratives’ to their peers and get feedback in real time and later through video. It was brutal, not only to hear yourself speak, but also to come to understand how others interpreted your words, your body language, your tone, or what was expected of you, how to use elements of surprise, and other techniques. Taking this class definitely broke me down but then, through speaking often in public, gave me the confidence to not only be more open, but to get over any fears of sharing my thoughts with others, either through the written word or in real life, in person. I never got to know Marshall that well, or as well as I would’ve liked to, and that was my mistake, but I still got a lot out of his class.
The Works Of Primo Levi, Ralph Williams
Williams was one of the most popular, visible professors on campus in Ann Arbor. He was famous for teaching lectures on The Classics and Civilization, on The Bible and World Religions, and A Survey of Shakespeare. He was a true intellectual polymath, fluent in over 15 languages and much more. His knowledge was encyclopedic, and he was a gifted orator. I took the latter in my first year on campus. I could barely keep up. What I learned from Williams oratory style is that he outlined his lectures on the board in what he called “rubrics.” I had to look up that word, “a set of instructions at the beginning of a book, or a test, etc.” It took me years to figure out why that was key. In reading tons and tons of text, he wanted his students to strip away the noise and pull out key themes, and he wrote them on the board, underlined them, and lectured around them so precisely, many of them I can still recall by memory. So, when senior year came around, I wanted to make sure I took his seminar on The Works of Primo Levi. Given the demand for his course, a seminar in which we had the read (slowly) all of Levi’s books, Williams kept the class at the standard 4-credit pace but only offered it as 1-credit. To be in the class, you implicitly had to take on the work of what would be a normal class, with attendance and discussion, with writing due weekly, scored by him, but only get a quarter of the credit. It’s a difficult topic to just casually discuss, but in my opinion, Levi is a genius. For those who don’t know, he was an Italian chemist (and Jewish) and he was sent to Auschwitz. Because of his technical prowess, he was kept alive by the Nazis and tortured in a different way. His written work was his attempt to share his story and try to comprehend the arc of his life, what he saw, and what he lived through. In his books, with Williams rubrics burned into my brain, it turned into a course into the deep, meticulous study of interpersonal relationships. I didn’t realize it at the time, as a 22-year old, but now as I get older and recall the lessons from the books and lectures, I try to take conversations with people to heart, to listen more, to not judge too quickly. (My #1 book by Levi is The Periodic Table, one of the most original pieces of writing I’ve ever read.)
Mind, Brain, and Spirituality, Richard Mann
I took Dr. Mann’s class in 1995, my last semester of college. You had to write him a letter about why you wanted to be in his class. It was competitive. I can’t remember what I said to convince him, but I’m sure it wasn’t original or totally honest. The truth was, I’d heard great things about him and just wanted to be in the class. At a big school like Michigan, with all its red tape, you had to find out where the good stuff was and then jam into situations you wanted to be in. Mann relented and accepted me into his class, Psych 401, a seminar with no desks, no syllabus, no structure, no rules. You didn’t have to show up. You gave yourself your own grade. Each week, you had to write something about yourself on a broad topic and share it with Dr. Mann, or a classmate, or no one. It was up to you. The guiding principle in the class, though we didn’t realize it at the time, was to put yourself on a path of self-realization. Mann’s style in reading our work wasn’t to critique, but he’d just highlight some text and write a question mark, as if to say, “That’s interesting. What did you mean by that? Please, tell me more.” Mann himself has a curious background. He is one of the foremost academic leaders in psychology and was part of all the experiments done at Harvard with the Merry Pranksters and the like. He also suffered some personal tragedy, left his profession, lived in India for years, and returned back home to Ann Arbor to teach and begin anew. I spent a lot of time with Mann and my classmates. Tne nature of the conversations in and around that class were totally different than what I’ve ever experienced. Now, years later, the key lesson from that class was to always be alert about what could be causing me — or people around me — to struggle and learning the intellectual and tactical tools to work through those challenges without ignoring them, probably fueled by the fact that Mann set up his class to have no rules or administration — it was entirely self-directed, and now years later, the gift of being self-directed is helping me survive and enabling me to work with who I want on what I want to.
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I stopped fiddling with computer programs after age 17. I didn’t take a science class since finishing physics before high school graduation. I didn’t understand how learning these languages was more about literacy than it was about “taking an interest in a subject.” But, I also believe that people will continue to add real, long-term value at sale to society by taking different educational paths and cobbling together different experiences. The links in Andy’s post above shows the beginnings of those seeds. I entered graduate school thinking I’d work on macroeconomic-related work in India, but then I decided I just wanted to move back to California even though I had no idea what to do. I’m sure many people enter MBA programs with the desire to start a company, and many have — and quite successfully. And, they will continue to, because even if someone isn’t deeply technical, or if they don’t an MBA, it often comes down to an individual’s human desire, their drive to do something — anything — despite what one investor may say. Technology alone isn’t a prerequisite for creating sustained value or disrupting an incumbent situation. In some situations, initial branding and marketing matter a great deal, or the development of a new business model creates an opportunity to build something new. In these cases, advancements in underlying technologies may or may not driving these opportunities, but the value may often be captured by the creative person who stitches together the disparate pieces, who grabs different off-the-shelf stacks and positions them in a way no one else has thought of, who motivates people around them to innovate, who attracts talent and inspires them to stay, who knows how to bring new things to new markets. For me, that is the deepest insight of this whole recurring debate.
Founders will have undoubtedly heard this confusing, frustrating phrase: “I’d love to invest, so long as there’s a lead investor.” Oh boy. I have been there, on the receiving end. It sucks. The knee-jerk reaction is to wonder why, oh why is this person so afraid to invest in my startup — Do they not believe in me? Are they too chicken-shit to say “no”? Are they only interested in social proof? Now, having spent time on the investing side, I have a new perspective on this. I have, myself, been thrust into the position of uttering those dreaded words — “yes, I’d love to be along for this ride — so long as there’s a lead.” I knew as I soon as I said it, this was happening. How did it come to be, going from loathing a phrase to using it earnestly, sincerely? I’ll explain.
I invest very small amounts of money. That money is mostly not my money. The model I promised my LPs is that I’d be one of the last checks in a round given the level of small-ball I’m playing. In some deals, there is significant product risk or go-to-market risk. And, in evaluating those risks, someone in my role has to think about the danger of a sunk investment cost. The specific fear in this case is your money goes into a black hole and the company won’t be funded fully or without a strong lead who is invested with the right incentives. In those cases, unless there’s a miracle, the investment may vanish. In some deals, I assess the risk and feel comfortable taking it. In others, I don’t have that same secure feeling, even though I may love the founder, the product, the vision, and so forth.
Stepping away from me and my example, these few experiences have opened my eyes to why countless other founders hear this frustrating phrase, over and over again. The common mantra you read on Twitter or Hacker News is that leads don’t matter, that founders just need money and they’ll figure everything out. The problem with this is that most startups are destined (percentage-wise) to flail and fail. A strong lead in a deal, even if small, has enough incentive to guide the team to good milestones (especially first-time founders) and/or to pick up the phone and make a critical BD deal or acquisition happen. Here, the lead acts, in part, as an insurance policy to protect the founders’ initial equity stake.
In the heat of the moment and the mind-numbing back-and-forth of a fundraise, this crap can make any founder go crazy. That’s why I’m writing this — I know it’s a hard process, especially when trying to attract the right people to the deal, so hopefully this post shines a light on some of the dynamics that may be at play behind the scenes, and so that founders don’t take it personally when they get an arm’s-length offer. The search for the strong lead may be elusive, and some founders will succeed without ever finding one, but in the majority of cases, the founder-lead relationship is critical to instill confidence around everyone else (investors, key first hires, potential BD partners) around the table.
There’s also an emotional, hard-to-explain, chemistry-based interaction at play. There are a number of strong investors who lead deals, whether it’s seed, Series A or beyond. When those types of people lean into a deal, part of their calculus is assessing their compatibility with the founder(s). There are countless occasions where an investor wants to participate in the company as an investor but doesn’t want to be the lead, and this can be difficult for founders to understand because they’re “all-in” for their business and the investor who doesn’t lead is at arm’s-length. I’m sure I’ll face this dynamic head-on later in life. That’s why I’m taking lots of shorter, practice-swings, because I believe in order to be strong, decisive, and act like a lead, one needs to see a high-throughput of people and opportunities, and through that flow of people and deals, when special opportunities come by, and there isn’t a split-second for hesitation available, I want to be ready for it. Right now, I am the furthest thing from ready. Leading an investment is a great skill, and one that has been incorrectly minimized in today’s alleged popular wisdom.
Welcome to the eighth “Sunday Conversation,” this week featuring Asheem Chandna of Greylock Partners. For anyone interested in early-stage enterprise technology and company formation, Chandna is one of a very small handful of experts in the field, quietly amassing hit after hit after hit. Chandna was randomly one of the first people I met when I moved to Palo Alto, and we have stayed in touch over the years, so I was excited to have this discussion. Below are six videos where we touch on a range of topics covering all things cloud, how enterprise IT departments will make software purchasing decisions, what his investing style is like today (versus in the past), how Amazon and Google will compete to provide cloud services, and insights into his role as a big-time venture capitalist. If you’re a founder working in these areas, Chandna is one of the best people to learn from. ♦
Part I, Intersection of Enterprise, Cloud, and Mobile (4:36) — Chandna walks through how enterprise IT thinks about devices, cloud systems, and security, including BYOD policies, the assumption that any employee device is not secure, and big opportunity around device and application security. ♦
Part II, Public, Private, and Hybrid Clouds (7:07) — Chandna explains how enterprise IT departments think about selecting and designing various cloud systems, discussing what will run on private versus public clouds. He also discusses how software purchasing is done centrally. ♦
Part III, Chandna’s Path As An Investor (4:22) — Chandna’s path from India to the U.S., how he became an investor over time, and what he looks for when writing a check. ♦
Part IV, Chandna’s Investing Patterns At Greylock (5:15) — Chandna goes into detail about the range of his work at Greylock, seeding small companies all the way to through growth capital, which includes the formation of Palo Alto Networks (which went public). ♦
Part V, Thoughts On Early-Stage Enterprise Formation (6:28) — Enterprise-grade products often takes a larger team of engineers working for over a year to put a product in the hands of a customer, which requires more money. Chandna breaks down what drives this side of the business. ♦
Part VI, Amazon vs Google in Cloud Services (5:42) — A more free-flowing discussion around how new cloud companies may want to think about new opportunities given the strength of Amazon and Google in this area. ♦
Audio Recording, Full Conversation via SoundCloud
A special thanks to the team at Scaffold Labs for sponsoring the Sunday Conversation series on Haywire. Scaffold Labs is a boutique technology advisory firm based in Silicon Valley which designs and builds scientific and predictable talent acquisition programs that helps technology startups hire great people. Scaffold Labs has previously partnered with companies such as Cloudera, Appirio, and Nimble Storage, among others. For more information, please visit www.scaffoldlabs.com
In this post, I’m going to oversimplify decades of academic research to make a more colloquial point. I’ll also ad-lib a bit, so even though these thoughts below are not mine, they’re my own interpretation, for better or worse. In this post, I’ll try to weave together two lines of thought.
The first concerns information theory, where one believes that often the most valuable information to an individual sits on the edge of their own networks (work, personal). The everyday example I would use here is a site like Craigslist — every time I’ve had to move, I’ve been able to get free moving boxes or get rid of them within minutes of checking or posting to Craigslist. While I don’t have connections with these people, in that moment, our interests are aligned and what’s most valuable to us for this use case lies at the very edge of our networks, helped out by Craigslist’s ability to route supply and demand. (Rohit’s blog post here gives an interesting take on information theory and networks as it applies to venture capital.)
The second is about the strength of weak ties, which I’m sure many have been exposed through in Adam Grant’s “Give And Take,” which features a living master of this art, Adam Rifkin. The idea is pretty straight-forward: There is enormous value in the weak ties we have with acquaintances, people we sort of know but don’t really know or may never know. You’ve probably heard many stories (or experienced it first-hand) where someone meets their significant other, or finds a job, or a great apartment in NYC simply by intensely connecting with a “weak tie” in their network — the value did not arise from the people they know best.
In early-stage investing, it’s important to gather, sort, and process information that other people do not have (yet). While many groups try to figure out how to see every deal or opportunity that exists, I do not believe that’s possible. Rather, I believe investors can see more opportunities the more they work the very edges of their network (and their partners’ networks), and this is why professional investors are always in meetings, including when pitches where investors carry little to no intention of ever funding that particular company. (One classic investor trick is for him/her to ask someone about the companies or apps they like, a continuous hunt for actionable information on the edge of their networks.)
In a game where information isn’t evenly distributed and knowing pieces of information even hours before others can be critical, information theory applied to early-stage investing is, indeed, critical — and I have experienced this myself, first-hand.
For someone like me, I haven’t been around for too long. I don’t have deep networks. Most people build their networks through traditional jobs, collecting trusted people as they move from one to another. Today, people (like me, for instance) also have the opportunity to compress time and build new networks around online interest graphs (like Twitter), which in turn helps someone share their thoughts (as I blog) and have those thoughts distributed to others who may have valuable information to add to that canon (distribution, following, asymmetry). While these types of networks aren’t defined by depth of relationship (which carries its own value), they can be defined more consistent relevance and immediacy.
All this said, none of this works unless a person creates and maintains good relationships with others. This is where the strength of weak ties come into play. A person who is savvy at collecting information on the edge of their networks also has to make sure they are able to act on it in an actionable way, and quickly. Put another way, simply learning that a new team is forming or that a product is growing well only informs — it does not translate into access. What can translate into access, however, are the ties — even if weak — people can form with others. Those ties can be forged quickly by things like shared interests (especially through online networks like Twitter, Quora, Disqus, Facebook, and others), the precedence of a person’s reputation, and offering to help others (and following through on those overtures). In those moments, what is considered a weak tie can be — for even a few minutes — a very strong tie, one strong enough to help overcome the problem of sitting on inactionable but valuable information.
I have been thinking about the intersection of information theory, networks, and weak ties for some time, probably because I spend time thinking about investing and meet lots of new people. There is definitely a science to explain how all of this happens, but there is also art involved in making the theories come to life in the real world, and it is that art which interests me most — and which I’ll write about more as I continue to share the stories behind the investments I make.
I have conducted close to 80 interviews where I am the interrogator, about 70 with TCTV and closing in on 10 with “Sunday Conversations.” While I will continue Sunday Conversations with two more releases this year (TBA) and then only tape with Keith Rabois (4-6 times in 2014), I am also making an effort to be on the other side of interviews more. The few people who know me may think of me through an overly-active Twitter feed or through longer-form writing here on my blog, but I enjoy public speaking, taking questions, and engaging in live conversations. I also feel that now, I might have some perspectives to share about startups, fundraising, mobile ecosystems, and investing that either aren’t often discussed or perhaps different given the alternate path I’m trying to go down. To that end, I’d be very grateful if you could either watch the video or listen to the audio via SoundCloud and give me any feedback — be brutal! I can take it.
In this conversation with Startup Grind’s Derek Anderson (thank you Derek, for having me!), here’s a short list of topics we go into detail on:
-overall investing landscape (angel to Big VC)
-overall mobile ecosystem (why app activity feels bubbly)
-my own personal path into Silicon Valley (quite brutal)
-tactical fundraising advice (what investors look for but don’t often say)
-discussion around angellist + equity crowdfunding
-fielding an audience question about Twitter as a public company (recorded on Twitter’s IPO day)
-how I think about relationship building (tactical)
-how writing on Quora and TechCrunch enabled me to ride out a difficult storm
-…and much more!
This is a transcript of an old conversation I had with @Poornima. There’s been a lot of chatter over the years about how to get more women into the technology field, but Poornima actually is building a business around it and delivers (below) one of the best rationales for why computer science and development is a great career choice for women. This is worth a close read.
@semil: We’re in the studio today with Poornima Vijayashanker. She is the CEO and founder of BizeeBee, focusing on management, membership services, and software for small-medium businesses and she’s also the second employee at Mint.com. Welcome to the studio, Poornima.
Poornima Vijayashanker: Thanks for having me.
@semil: So, one of the largest issues in the Silicon Valley, the tech world and the startup world, is this issue of women and technology, including women founders and technical women in the industry. I think would be helpful to start off the conversation if you would dial the clock back a little bit and explain to the audience how you got into technology to begin with.
Poornima: Sure. Well, I was a bit fortunate growing up, because my dad’s actually a hardware engineer. Around the dinner table we always talked about the big tech companies that he worked for, like Sony, TI and Samsung. I grew up with that. I got to see my first fab when I was about eight years old and my brother and I did zany things, like take our computers apart. Growing up, there was a lot of tech focus. That’s not to say I wanted to be an engineer. It wasn’t until I got to college and took my first computer science class that I actually got interested in technology as a career.
@semil: As you were growing up in middle school and high school, were you exposed to computers? Were you learning programming at that time or only when you applied to college and enrolled?
Poornima: I did do some basic programming in HTML and, back then, we had geocities. I did that sort of stuff, but…
@semil: But for how long?
Poornima: Probably less than six months. I never took a high school CS class and I certainly wasn’t sitting there hacking away at my laptop. It was the kind of thing I only learned to do when I got to college.
@semil: How did you decide from the moment when you graduated high school and you were going to go to college that you were going to focus on electrical engineering and computer science? How did you decide that’s it, or did you pick a number of different majors?
Poornima: I wanted to be a lawyer. All through high school I did speech and debate. When I got to college, though, I wasn’t too keen on becoming a lawyer, because I felt like I wasn’t going to be building something and I really wanted to build. Computer science gave me that outlet. Once I started, then I just fell in love with building software. Then, I realized I really wanted EE, because I really wanted to know not only how to build to programs, but how to build computers and systems. That’s why I decided to do the double major.
@semil: What did you do after college? What was your next career move?
Poornima: The minute I decided I was going to be an engineer I knew I wanted to be in California. One, because it’s the tech capital of the world and two, I was always fascinated by the startup scene, as well as the fact that there are so many companies that form here all the time. So, I made the long trek out from Duke to California, and my first job was actually as an R & D engineer at Synopsis, which does CAD tools. It was a good integration of my CS and EE background and I spent about two years working there.
@semil: What was your next move?
Poornima: Then I went to Stanford. Actually, while I was still at Synopsis, I did a part-time Master’s. I did that partly because I really wanted to get into the startup scene and I thought it was the best way because so many Stanford grads, starting with the HP guys all the way to the Google guys, were from Stanford. I thought, there’s got to be something in the water there. Maybe if I start taking classes or meet people, I’ll be able to get into this scene.
@semil: Then you dropped out of the program at Stanford to join Mint as their second employee. Walk us through that decision. Did you agonize over leaving your Master’s program or did you just say, “This is what I’m here for and I’m going to go for it?”
Poornima: Since I only went to the program because I wanted to get into the startup scene, it was a pretty simple decision, in that I wanted to be at Mint. I loved the idea from the minute Aaron introduced it to me and I also really just wanted to be building and be in industry. Leaving wasn’t really hard because I’d taken a few classes, gained some skills in web development, and now I wanted to put it into practice.
@semil: Now you’ve founded your own company, after Mint was acquired by Intuit. You’ve obviously been noticing a lot of the debates around women and technology. It seems to come up again every three or four months and it seems to get louder and louder. And, so, maybe something is happening. You do a lot of work outside of BizeeBee, outside of being an engineer and founder, to mentor and interact with the community. Can you share a little bit about the types of things you do, how long have you been doing it for and what you’ve learned from it?
Poornima: Yes. Right about the time I started at Mint, I was on an all guy team, which wasn’t a new thing to me. I was used to that in college and at my first job. I really wanted to have a forum where I could showcase that you can be a girl and be in engineering. So, I started my blog, femgineer.com, and the whole purpose of it was not to bitch or gripe. It was just, “Let’s talk tech and let’s talk about what it’s like to start companies and build products.” That became the focus, and it’s been going on for five years now. Just over the course of writing the blog, people were contacting me and asking me questions and asking me to come speak. So, it basically morphed into me becoming a lot more of a role model or a figure in the area.
What I do now is go to conferences, like the one I went to on Saturday at Stanford, C++. There was one at Berkeley, as well, about a month ago. I talk about what it is like to be in tech, the jobs that are available to you and how you set yourself up. Whether it’s a CS degree or product design, I try to give people who are in college an understanding of what the major is going to translate to in terms of practice in the industry.
@semil: So, you’ve been blogging for five years and you’ve been very generous with your time, in speaking with either students or post-grads who are looking for advice. What are the common types of questions that come up? What do you hear most often and how do you respond to that?
Poornima: People just have no insight into what a software engineer does or what other jobs there are in tech. A lot of it is, “Look, here’s what startup life is like, here are the kind of skills that you need,” and they’re not just coding in Rails or Java or anything like that. There’s more; there’s being able to wire-frame, do visibility tasks.
A lot of it is just getting people acquainted with, “Here’s what life is like.” And then the other part of that, is there is a lot of anxiety. A lot of people come in and they say, “Well, I don’t know if I want to work for a startup or a big company. What’s the different dynamic?” It’s also exposing; what is it you want out of your career? Do you want to be an entrepreneur or are you really happy being specialized or solving big problems in the world?
@semil: What are the questions that come up with technical women who are in high school, college or just leaving college?
Poornima: Some people ask some pretty hard-hitting questions. There’s this phenomenon right now going on, that I think happens with both women and men, which is that first-year CS class that they take. They come in and say, “I’ve never coded before, so I have no idea to begin. I’ve done these Google searches, but there’s just so much content out there and I don’t want to appear dumb in the class.” So, part of it is just me saying, “Look, take that first project, learn that first language, and then build upon it.” No one is going to look at you and say, “Why don’t you have an entire string of keywords in your resume from your first CS class?”
You also aren’t expected to know everything when it comes to attending that class. It’s really meant to be an intro level. Part of it is just reducing their anxiety and telling them it’s a building process. You learn your fundamentals, and then you’re going to learn actually how to create a program. From there, you’re going to learn the entire computer architecture. Really, the focus is just saying, “Take a class; see if you like it.”
If you like to cook, programming is a lot like cooking. You grab your ingredients, you read a recipe. That’s what an algorithm is. Making it that simple helps them understand, “Okay, I’m willing to take a shot. I’m willing to sit through this first class and then go from there.” That is a lot of what I do when I mentor. The blog itself, though, is a little more focused on things like, “Here’s what it’s like at a startup.”
@semil: Let’s dig into that other side of the coin, such as more personal things and lifestyle things, that you’ve noticed being in the startup world. Obviously, it’s male-dominated. What are some lessons that you impart from your experience to people who maybe ask you about that?
Poornima: I would say a lot of it is, what is it that you want in your life? If you want to be at that startup that’s really changing the world and really going at a fast pace, there are a lot of those to choose from in the Valley. It’s up to you to get out there and promote yourself, either as the developer or the designer, or whatever your skillset is.
There are also a number of startups that are bootstrapped or that have been around for a while and are making a lot of progress. So, if you don’t want to be on that fast track and you would rather still have the ability to make a change in the world, you could choose from those. I think a lot of it is exposing that there’s not just one type of startup out there. If you want to have the freedom to affect your end-users and make change, that’s what a startup is for. It’s to be able to do that. It’s to be able to have that immediate connection with the customer, which you don’t necessarily get working with a larger company or if you have more specialized skills.
@semil: What about the more personal side of it, such as lifestyle choices that either that you’ve made or that your career has afforded you?
Poornima: When I left Mint, it was pretty much to start my own business. I had the experience as a founding engineer and liked seeing the evolution of an entire product from prototype to launch and then acquisition, but I wanted something different. I wanted to build a business that would grow with my lifestyle.
And at the time, I had a lot of different interests. I liked to mentor; I liked to speak on a number of topics; I loved yoga; and I wanted to spend time with my friends. I didn’t want to be at another startup where I was forced to go by whatever the founder’s schedule is. I wanted something where I could establish a business, one that’s still going to become big, but that’s operating on my timeframe.
@semil: How do you think a career in technology affords that, specifically for women?
Poornima: The first way is that I have a remote team. And my remote team is primarily on the West Coast, but I’ve noticed that my employees are really happy when they don’t have to commute. Everybody logs in, they do their work, and then they can go out and do what they need to. I think flexibility is really important, especially for women and especially for that group that is 20-30. They might be starting families, they might even be thinking of starting families. They want some freedom and they don’t want to be chained to a desk or even chained to particular environment that they have to be somewhere. Instead, they want to get work done still, they want to be productive, they want to be contributors. Technology and being able to log-in from anywhere and work from anywhere gives them that ability to do so.
@semil: You’re saying this specifically about people who are working in technical professions.
Poornima: Right. That can be anything. That can be marketing. That can be software engineers. It doesn’t have to be one versus the other. Being in a startup or being in a tech company gives you a lot more flexibility, just given the way that they think about how work is going to be done. It’s a pretty progressive industry when it comes to making sure there is work-life balance and also in making sure that you’re working when you are most effective, rather than punching a clock.
@semil: Let’s wrap up and talk a little bit about what you’re working on right now; where the majority of your focus is on BizeeBee. You mentioned that, and we were talking about it earlier, that it’s a software company helping small-medium businesses manage their memberships. Tell us a little bit about BizeeBee, who’s using it, and dig in a little bit as to what it’s like to actually build a company.
Poornima: Well, the first thing is that it’s extremely gratifying to see an idea start from nothing and have it affect hundreds, if not millions, of lives. I’ve always been a fan of that and with BizeeBee I get to do that. BizeeBee itself is member management. We basically help small businesses or organizations, like fitness studios, and even continued education and professional services, like acting coaches and writing workshops.
The big problem these folks have today is that their data is everywhere. There’s too many different tools. It really makes it hard for them to keep track of their customers, get them to come back, and even do simple things, like get paid on time. BizeeBee just streamlines the process, puts all of that into one product, and then let’s them do what they do best, which is teaching and interacting with their customers.
@semil: How did you get the idea for BizeeBee? How did it come about?
Poornima: So, I’ve been doing yoga for about eight years and I just kept seeing the same problems no matter where I went, whether it was in the US or outside. All these yoga studios I went to couldn’t get their people to come back after an introductory special or they just couldn’t get paid on time or were using software that was really old or had an install base. I thought, there’s got to be a better way. I looked around for some products, even consulted for a number of those businesses and found out there wasn’t a lot in the space. That was the inspiration to start BizeeBee.
@semil: How much do you think that idea process to get to BizeeBee was also influenced by your time at Mint, which is focused broadly on finance and then was acquired by Intuit? How was that experience formative for what you’re doing now?
Poornima: The first thing is that Mint taught me how to build a product from scratch. That really helped tremendously and that’s one of the reasons I went there. That’s the first. The second is, at Mint, I learned so much about financial tech, which is becoming more and more prevalent in the industry today. I learned everything from managing a transaction stream and the growth of that, to a lot around security. Mint was really the forefront of managing people’s personal, confidential data. I learned a ton of security information.
Then the other thing was, how do you take complex data? Personal finance, lotto numbers, people hate doing these kinds of things. Make it interesting, make it fun, and, most importantly, make it simple, right? People don’t want to do their taxes. They don’t want to do their accounting. So, what can you do to make it really push-button? Those are the same lessons I apply at BizeeBee. It’s “How do you take that business management, the hard parts of managing a small business, and make it super simple for these people that are super-strapped by cash and by time?”
@semil: You’re doing a lot of mentorship and you’ve touched a lot of people already through the blog and through the speaking. This conversation is another chance to talk to the audience. What would you say if someone’s out there just on the verge of wanting to join a startup or wanting to start their own thing, like you finally did? What would be your parting advice to them?
Poornima: I think the most important thing is, don’t overthink it. I think people sometimes worry, “Well, I don’t have all the pieces in place.” You need to just go for it and you need to make sure you’ve got a good support system. That can be advisors, mentors, even other founders out there. I think that it’s a really nurturing community. Being able to just say, “Hey, I’m stuck,” once you get stuck is great, but there’s never going to be a good time. You might as well just jump in if you are excited about an idea and if you think you can make it happen.
@semil: Alright. Thank you very much, Poornima, and good luck.
For Sunday Conversation #8, Haywire will host Asheem Chandna of Greylock Partners on Sunday evening, January 26. Asheem is, randomly, one of the very first people I met when I moved to the Valley. I was invited to a conference graciously by Om and tried to meet new people in the hallway. Asheem was one of them. One would never have guessed by how he unassumingly moved in between sessions that, in reality, he’s one of the best enterprise and security technology investors in the world. Over time, he’s been gracious to meet for coffees, catch up on his work, share his voracious reading sources (he turned me onto to @FarnamStreet and Shane Parish), and his general advice overall as I started Haystack. So for me, personally, I was excited to videotape this discussion with Asheem because I knew we would get into his mind and how he thinks about cloud, security, and enterprise businesses and technologies today. If you’re working or investing in this space, or if you’re looking to broaden out from consumer to see what the other side of the Valley works on, these videos are a must-watch. As always, the conversation will be broken into smaller bits. I’ll post the videos next Sunday evening (January 26), and the audio will be available on Swell through SoundCloud, as always.
Expectations are a mindfuck. Why? Because, many of us live inside our heads. And, many of us are ambitious. We don’t have much time. Everything should have arrived yesterday. In the relentless pursuit of our goals, we move fast, talk fast, write fast, and bounce from situation to situation, human to human, all in an elaborate dance (or sprint) to, as George Jefferson may say, “finally get a piece of the pie.”
In the world of startups, expectations are their own special kind of mindfuck. Lately, this topic has surfaced in more of my conversations in real life. So, it’s been on my mind more, and I have been trying to come up with an answer to this specific query:
“How can we all take a more zen-like approach to effectively deal with all the personalities, egos, nooks, and crannies around startups today?”
Here’s my answer: “We should never expect anything.”
Let that line swirl around your brain for a while. It’s important. I believe that so much of the stress, confusion, misunderstandings, grudges, dislikes, and everything else in between in the startup world is due, in large part, to the fact that we now live in a time where people just expect shit to work out, they expect others to behave a certain way, they expect things to follow a pattern that they deem is right.
There’s another word that neatly captures all of these characteristics: “Entitlement.”
I know this because, for a while, I carried many expectations. I expected that if I emailed someone out of the blue, they should write me back. Worse, I expected that if I met someone or even spent time with them, that they should write me back. I expected that after a bunch of interviews, I should be given a crack at a job, or maybe even a longer tryout. I expected that if I wrote a good post, on the merits, that the right people would find and read it. I expected that if I helped someone, they’d help back or at least acknowledge the effort. I expected that if someone granted me options that they wouldn’t reneg on them before the termination date.
For a while, I stepped out of my body and tried to assess why everyone else was wrong. It’s really easy to do this. And, it appeals to the reptilian neurons stuck in our brains. Eventually, however, I realized it wasn’t other peoples’ faults, or their wrongdoing — rather, it was me. It was my fault. It was I who had committed the original sin — I expected something.
I believe everyone in the startup ecosystem — investors and founders, operators and executives, journalists and bloggers — should never carry expectations or feel as if they’re entitled to something. Investors should never expect that if they worked with a potential star founder for 10 years that this founder would have the courtesy to call up his/her investor-buddy and invite them to invest in a new venture; rather, the investor should relentlessly pursue their contact and close the deal, fully expecting to miss the opportunity if they don’t push. Founders should not expect that they should be able to get a meeting with any investor, or that their cold email advances should warrant a reply. Handshake protocols don’t matter because the real world has its own protocol.
I challenge everyone to man up, to woman up…to take a step back and intellectually reason what they may be fairly entitled to, yet to not impose their own arbitrary moral constructs on others, let alone to expect anything of anyone else in any situation. We must realize everyone is different, everyone has their own limits, their own motives, their own communication style, and — specifically, this was hard for me to come to terms with — to not take the silence or indifference of others personally. Thankfully, there is a free market out there, and lots of healthy competition. There are people who will surprise us with their attentiveness, their willingness to go an extra mile for us, and their willingness to listen. Yet, some of the most helpful people won’t do more than listen, and that’s OK — we must not expect more of them. It’s dangerous to expect too many things, and therefore, perhaps, wiser to move through business and life being surprised by the outliers rather than beaten down by the masses — and the weight of our own entitlements.
Manu Kumar of K9 is a pure early-stage technology investor, very hands on, and one of the few people who recognized the waves around mobile cameras and digital imaging technology overall. If you’re building an app that leverages the camera (or investing in them), this transcript is for you.
@semil: Let’s talk about the mobile phone camera. I know this is an area that you spent a lot of time in. You invested in companies, I think Lytro, a long time ago, which maybe people have just heard about over the last 18 months. CardMunch, which was acquired by Linkedin, card.io, which was just acquired by PayPal. You have Occipital, which does the 360 iPhone panoramic pictures. There’s HighlightCam, and then there’s a sixth one you said.
Manu: The sixth one is 3Gear systems, which hasn’t launched yet.
@semil: How did, as a seed-stage investor, you amass this portfolio of companies that are leveraging the iPhone camera?
Manu: First, not all of them are leveraging just the iPhone camera, but the camera in general. I think four out of the six that you mentioned are leveraging the iPhone camera, and two are using just cameras in general, Lytro, and 3Gear. I should point out that you were one of the people, who actually pointed out to me that I had all of these companies, which were using cameras.
@semil: I think I had a Manu Kumar folder on my iPhone.
Manu: It wasn’t something that I was consciously looking at when I was investing in stuff, meaning that which is related to cameras. I was looking at each investment independently. But given my filters of looking for core technology and radical innovation, it turns out a lot of the stuff seems to be happening related to cameras.
@semil: Can you walk us through a little bit? In the last five years with the iPhone and somewhere in-between, there was some tipping point, right? MG has written about this with Instagram, on the consumer-side. What do you see from the hardware point of view, that enabled the software to have people snapping images all over the world?
Manu: I think there were a couple of hardware innovations that happened that enabled things to take off. One was just straight-up resolution. The resolution on the original smart phone cameras just was not good enough to take interesting pictures. In fact, I think that was one of the big motivations behind Instagram making pictures look good. What happened somewhere around two, or three years ago, is that the camera quality on phones actually became really good. It became good to a point where it’s comparable to the quality you would get from a point-and-shoot, and it’s only going to improve in that direction. A couple of key technical innovations: One I mentioned is resolution, the second is auto focus. Older phones used to be fixed-focused, focused at infinity, so you couldn’t really take things that were up close. In fact you mentioned CardMunch, and card.io, both of which use the iPhone camera to take a picture of a business card or a credit card. Neither of those would have worked if we didn’t have auto-focus cameras. The focal length of a fixed-focus camera was so far out that the image you would capture would be too small and illegible. Having an auto-focus camera really made it possible for both of these companies to actually do what they were doing.
@semil: A couple of quick questions there. Was it not possible then to have software to auto-focus the image, or wouldn’t it happen fast enough, or would the image quality be degraded, or did you need that step-up in the hardware?
Manu: You needed that step-up in the hardware as an enabling feature. Essentially, the image that you would capture with a fixed-focus, if you put the card too close to the camera, would be blurry. Once it’s blurry, sometimes it would be so blurry that even humans couldn’t read it, and so having auto-focus cameras was a big change. The third change that happened is the introduction of back-lit sensors. Once the sensor is back-lit, it’s actually capturing a lot more light, and that’s what improves the overall image quality. This is stuff that we’ve seen in the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4S, and in a lot of the Android phones as well. That improvement in image quality, the auto-focus, higher resolution, all of those contribute to being able to do interesting things with the camera. A fourth piece, which is not necessarily related to camera hardware, is an improvement in the overall processing power on the devices themselves. The devices are now capable of doing some fairly heavy-duty graphics computation, that they were previously not able to do. When you take the example of things like Occipital, where you are able to literally just wave your phone around and grab a panorama, they’re doing some very heavy-duty computation on the phone, as well as on the server-side. That wasn’t possible in earlier generation phones, and is now possible on the phones that we have today.
@semil: I see. Just quickly before we move on, how did you amass this knowledge-base in it? Because I know you invested in Lytro years ago; you met the founder when you were at Stanford. What personally caught your interest in this area?
Manu: When I was at Stanford, doing my PhD, my PhD was actually on eye-tracking. Eye-tracking also happens to use cameras. For eye-tracking, you essentially have a camera that’s looking at your face, and it’s really looking at your eyes, trying to figure out what your eyes are looking at. I was doing eye-tracking, and as a continuation of my interest in eye-tracking, I also started looking more into what cameras were being used for, and what they were doing. A lot of what I learned about cameras actually came from working closely with Lytro during the first few days. I didn’t know much about imaging and cameras when I started, but just being close to Ren and helping Lytro helped me to learn more about that.
@semil: Education by investment.
Manu: Education by working on a startup, yes.
@semil: Looking ahead a little bit, I think a lot of people who are interested in photos and developing for the iPhone or are thinking about Android Jelly Bean updates. Walk us a little bit through the future, like in iOS6. What’s going to change and improve in the hardware, that can enable innovations in the software, that you see coming up?
Manu: I can talk in general about things that I would like to see. I don’t know what Apple’s got planned, or what Google’s got planned. Basically, you already have two cameras in most devices. You have a front-facing camera, and a back-facing camera. The quality of the front-facing camera is actually still very low. It’s almost a VGA camera in most cases.
@semil: Is that done for any specific reason?
Manu: I’m guessing it’s just a cost reason, and over time I would expect the quality of that camera to also improve. The direction that the camera is looking at relative to the screen actually has a big impact in what you can do with it. There are applications that I’ve looked at which need a front-facing camera, but the quality of the front-facing camera isn’t good enough. First thing is they just need better quality over there. Another innovation which is a little bit further down the line is depth-sensing cameras. A typical camera is just going to capture RGB. With a depth-sensing camera, you are getting RGBD for the depth as well. That opens up a whole other realm of possibilities for things that can be created. I have companies in my portfolio that are actually working with depth-sensing cameras.
@semil: What’s an example on a consumer level, of what somebody can do with a depth-sensing camera that they can’t do today?
Manu: The company that I’m working with is actually doing hand-based gestures. They’re using a depth-sensing camera. Now, this is not in the context of a mobile phone. This is a conventional camera, a depth-sensing camera. The Kinect is a classic example of what a depth-sensing camera can do. The Kinect is essentially a depth-sensing camera, and it opened up a whole new realm of how we interact with games and with devices. You can imagine basically taking the technology that is in the Kinect, and bringing that down into phones and other places. It opens up new ways of being able to interact with these devices.
@semil: For developers and potential developers out there who are looking to build out the next application that leverages these advancements, what kind of advice would you give? What would be your general advice, after coaching and investing in so many entrepreneurs?
Manu: The biggest thing is a lot of these types of applications, which rely on computer vision, on graphics, hardcore algorithms, and computation, are not weekend projects. These are projects which actually require a lot of depth of expertise, to be able to pull these off. In fact, with card.io, which was just acquired this week by PayPal, at the surface it’s, “Oh, you use the camera to scan a credit card,” And you’re like, “Yeah, obviously. Why shouldn’t you be able to do that?” But it’s actually a very hard problem to get it right. Most computer vision-based applications and products require deep expertise, and so having a team that actually has that deep expertise is very important. When you talk about advice for developers, my advice to them is always, “It is important to have deep knowledge in a certain area before you can really unlock something new.” That’s the focus of the types of the things that I invest in as well – deep technology. Folks who are basically doing a lot of computer vision stuff, they should actually now start looking at the new devices and new cameras that are emerging, and think about how they can take things that they were doing in a lab setting or in a research setting. You now have the capability sitting in your pocket to actually be able to do some of those things.