Showing posts with label PayPal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PayPal. Show all posts

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not Mars

I don't feel any imminent danger that unless Homo Sapiens also colonize Mars, it is too great a risk. As of now, I don't believe in Singularity either. But I do see a lot of great things happening along the way. Like, truly, amazing, world changing great things. Man on the moon mission also gave people appliances.

But I see great promise in Elon Musk sending 4,000 satellites into low orbit to beam Internet to every corner on earth. And I see great promise in the Asteroid Belt. That is where he has to go to become a trillionaire.

Indians could use a little more gold.

Mars? I am way more excited about the earth's surface.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The A16Z (AHo) Numbers

English: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and...
English: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO, during his European Tour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each year, three thousand startups approach a16z with a “warm intro” from someone the firm knows. A16z invests in fifteen. Of those, at least ten will fold, three or four will prosper, and one might soar to be worth more than a billion dollars—a “unicorn,” in the local parlance.

With great luck, once a decade that unicorn will become a Google or a Facebook and return the V.C.’s money a thousand times over: the storied 1,000x. There are eight hundred and three V.C. firms in the U.S., and last year they spent forty-eight billion dollars chasing that dream........ Venture capitalists with a knack for the 1,000x know that true innovations don’t follow a pattern. The future is always stranger than we expect: mobile phones and the Internet, not flying cars. .... “The biggest outcomes come when you break your previous mental model. ...... en Horowitz, who sits next to his co-founder at the head of the table, is an astute manager who quotes the rap lyrics of his friends Nas and Kanye West to inspire fearless thinking—but he doesn’t try to manage Andreessen. ..... A16z was designed to be a full-throated argument about the future, a design predicated on its founders’ comfort with conflict. In 1996, when Horowitz was a Netscape product manager, he wrote a note to Andreessen, accusing him of prematurely revealing the company’s new strategy to a reporter. Andreessen wrote back to say that it would be Horowitz’s fault if the company failed: “Next time do the fucking interview yourself. Fuck you.” Ordinarily, relationship over. “When he feels disrespected, Marc can cut you out of his life like a cancer,” one of Andreessen’s close friends said. “But Ben and Marc fight like cats and dogs, then forget about it.” ....... He also tweets a hundred and ten times a day, inundating his three hundred and ten thousand followers with aphorisms and statistics and tweetstorm jeremiads. Andreessen says that he loves Twitter because “reporters are obsessed with it. It’s like a tube and I have loudspeakers installed in every reporting cubicle around the world.” ...... “We have this theory of nerd nation, of forty or fifty million people all over the world who believe that other nerds have more in common with them than the people in their own country. ...... Silicon Valley, the fifteen-hundred- square-mile shelf an hour south of San Francisco, was called the Santa Clara Valley until the rise of the microprocessor, in the nineteen-seventies. It remains contested ground. Armies of startups attack every incumbent, with early employees—and sometimes even their lawyers and landlords—taking deferred compensation, in the hope that their options and warrants will pay off down the line. Yet workers’ loyalty is not to a company or even to an idea but to the iterative promise of the region. “Uber is built on the efforts of thousands of people in the Valley,” the investor Naval Ravikant said. “On the back of the iPhone and Android and G.P.S. and battery technology and online credit-card payments, all stacked on themselves.”......... Apple and Microsoft got started with venture money; so did Starbucks, the Home Depot, Whole Foods Market, and JetBlue. V.C.s made their key introductions and stole from every page of Sun Tzu to help them penetrate markets. And yet V.C.s maintain a zone of embarrassed privacy around their activities. They tell strangers they’re investors, or work in technology, because, in a Valley that valorizes the entrepreneur, they don’t want to be seen as just the money. “I say I’m in the software industry,” one of the Valley’s best-known V.C.s told me. “I’m ashamed of the truth.” .......... they often follow one another, lemming-like, pursuing the latest innovation—pen-based computers, biotech, interactive television, superconductors, clean tech—off a cliff. ........ landing Sequoia, Peter Thiel, and a16z as seed investors “was a signal that was not lost on the banks we wanted to work with.” ....... The standard fee is “two and twenty”: two per cent of the fund each year, and twenty per cent of the ultimate profits. (The top firms, including a16z, charge thirty per cent.) ......... At the moment, venture funding accounts for less than 0.3 per cent of the U.S.’s G.D.P. “Venture is often called a rounding error in the economy” ....... the United States is as fossilized as Microsoft, and that the Valley has become stronger than Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., combined, Srinivasan believes that its denizens should “build an opt-in society, ultimately outside the U.S., run by technology.” ......... prescience. And then it’s removing every obstacle to the ferocious clarity of your vision: incumbents, regulations, folkways, people. Can you not just see the future but summon it? ....... A charismatic introvert, Andreessen draws people in but doesn’t really want them around. ..... has toyed with the idea of wearing a T-shirt that says “No hugging, no touching.” He doesn’t grasp the protocols of social chitchat, and prefers getting a memo to which he can e-mail a response, typing at a hundred and forty words a minute. He didn’t attend Netscape’s twentieth-anniversary celebration, because it combined two things from which he recoils: parties and reminiscing. ....... energetic and decisive, which makes him a valued counsellor. In 2006, Yahoo! offered to buy Facebook for a billion dollars, and Accel Partners, Facebook’s lead investor, urged Mark Zuckerberg to accept. Andreessen said, “Every single person involved in Facebook wanted Mark to take the Yahoo! offer. The psychological pressure they put on this twenty-two-year-old was intense. Mark and I really bonded in that period, because I told him, ‘Don’t sell, don’t sell, don’t sell!’ ” Zuckerberg told me, “Marc has this really deep belief that when companies are executing well on their vision they can have a much bigger effect on the world than people think, not just as a business but as a steward of humanity—if they have the time to execute.” He didn’t sell; Facebook is now worth two hundred and eighteen billion dollars. ......... Andreessen’s range of reference extends from Ibn Khaldun to “South Park,” yet he approaches new topics as if starved, eating through men’s fashion or whiskey-making or congressional politics until it has yielded every micronutrient. ....... He turns to theory the way a drinker turns to the minibar. ....... Horowitz also routinely forces a founder to abandon her script and regroup. It’s a stress test intended to elicit biography, resilience, and the real story...... the “idea maze”: you want the entrepreneur to have spent years thinking her idea into—and out of—every conceivable dead end ...... “we’re not funding Mother Teresa. We’re funding imperial, will-to-power people who want to crush their competition. ......... sixty-five specialists in executive talent, tech talent, market development, corporate development, and marketing. A16z maintains a network of twenty thousand contacts and brings two thousand established companies a year to its executive briefing center to meet its startups (which has produced a pipeline of deals worth three billion dollars). Andreessen told me, “We give our founders the networking superpower, hyper-accelerating someone into a fully functional C.E.O. in five years.” ...... They’ve moved into next-gen agricultural products and wearables and drone software ...... fifteen technology companies a year reach a hundred million dollars in annual revenue—and they account for ninety-eight per cent of the market capitalization of companies that go public. ....... “Deal flow is everything” ...... “I put ninety per cent of my effort into seeking out deals from the top eight venture firms, ten per cent into the next twelve, and zero per cent into all the rest.” ........ the bottom three-quarters of venture firms didn’t beat the Nasdaq for the past five years ...... “Since 1997, less cash has been returned to V.C. investors than they have invested.” ........ most V.C.s subsist entirely on fees, which they compound by raising a new fund every three years ....... V.C.s also logo shop, buying into late rounds of hot companies at high prices so they can list them on their portfolio page. ..... The tech publicist Margit Wennmachers built an eight-person marketing department and helped to orchestrate stories in Forbes and Fortune. ........ “In twenty-four months, Andreessen Horowitz was the talk of the town.” ...... house in Atherton, five minutes from a16z’s office ..... The toilet in the powder room is so visionary, and the surrounding dimmer lights so flattering, that I had to study it for some time to figure out how it flushed. ....... be aggressive and to fight your instinct to pattern-match. “Breakthrough ideas look crazy, nuts” ..... I see it in other people’s body language, and I can feel it in my own, where I sometimes feel like I don’t even care if it’s going to work, I can’t take more change.” ....... “O.K., Google, O.K., Twitter—but Airbnb? People staying in each other’s houses without there being a lot of axe murders?” .......... A16z passed on Airbnb’s A round in 2009. ..... Between 2004 and 2013, a mere 0.4 per cent of all venture investments returned at least 50x. The real mistakes aren’t the errors of commission, the companies that crash—all you can lose is your investment—but those of omission. There were good reasons that a16z passed on buying twelve per cent of Uber in 2011, including a deadline of just hours to make a decision. But the firm missed a profit, on paper, of more than three billion dollars. ................ Peter Thiel, who is four years older than Andreessen, observed that “the late nineties, for Gen Xers in Silicon Valley, was an experience as powerful as the late sixties was for the younger boomers. ....... “I always thought the entire venture thing was incredibly cool,” he told me. “Going to Kleiner Perkins”—the firm that funded Netscape—“with the high ceilings, the markers on the wall of all the great companies they’d I.P.O.’d, Larry Ellison walking through, and, at 11 A.M., the biggest buffet you’ve ever seen, at a time when I was eating at Subway? It was the closest thing to a cathedral for nerds.” Mark Zuckerberg told me, “When Marc started Andreessen Horowitz, I asked him why he didn’t start another company instead, and he said, ‘It would be like going back to kindergarten.’ ” .......... “Every firm we talk to now is ‘Hey, we’re doing all this recruiting, and we’ll introduce you to big customers.’ It’s become the table stakes.” ....... Andreessen is attempting to assuage the wound of the 2000 crash, by maintaining that it was an isolated event. “The argument in favor of concern is cyclical,” he told me—busts follow booms. “The counterargument is that stuff works now. In 2000, you had fifty million people on the Internet, and the number of smartphones was zero. Today, you have three billion Internet users and two billion smartphones. It’s Pong versus Nintendo. .......... “While Twitter is a lesser innovation than flying cars, it’s a much more valuable business. ........ Webvan was what he called a “ghost story”—a cautionary tale that still frightened investors. But Instacart proved that even haunted houses could be rehabilitated. ....... “This is an ‘I missed Uber, I don’t want to miss the next one’ climate.” ....... “Ordinary people love the iPhone, Facebook, Google Search, Airbnb, and Lyft. It’s only the intellectuals who worry.” ........ “Would the world be a better place if there were fifty Silicon Valleys?” he said. “Obviously, yes. ....... Pessimism always sounds more sophisticated than optimism ....... Software is already squeezing out other intermediaries—travel agents, financial advisers—and, at the end of the day, V.C.s are intermediaries. We’re all just selling cash.” ...... “What if we’re the most evolved dinosaur, and Naval is a bird?” ...... Already, more than half the tech companies that reached a billion-dollar valuation in the past decade were based outside Silicon Valley. ...... “Odds are, nothing your V.C. does, no matter how helpful or well-intentioned, is going to tip the balance between success and failure.” ........... “Over twenty years,” he continued, “our returns are going to come down to two or three or four investments ......... —you just don’t know which Tuesday Mark Zuckerberg is going to walk in.” ........ “Even if we could do perfect analysis, we just can’t know the future,” he said. “What if Google Ventures had access to all Google searches—could you predict hit products? Or perfect access to all of people’s conversations or purchases? You still wouldn’t know what’s going to happen. ....... If we could revise the industry completely, we’d just dump all the business plans and focus on people—the twenty-three-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs.” ......... “We’re imperfect people pursuing perfect ideas, and there’s tremendous frustration in the gap,” he said. “Writing code, one or two people, that’s the Platonic ideal. But when you want to impact the world you need one hundred people, then one thousand, then ten thousand—and people have all these people issues.” He examined the problem in silence. “A world of just computers wouldn’t work,” he concluded wistfully. “But a world of just people could certainly be improved.”

Friday, May 01, 2015

Musk Magic

I have never bought an Apple product in my lifetime. I do appreciate Steve Jobs' excellence. But he did not directly touch me. Elon Musk is a whole different story. I am looking at this guy's battery and I am thinking, this battery could do for energy for the dollar a day people what cellphones have done for communication. And lack of energy is easily the number one reason for poverty. The first computers also cost thousands of dollars. But now you can get a Chromebook (an idea Google stole from me -- I pitched to Google Ventures, bad idea) for 200 dollars. This battery needs to go down in price from 3500 dollars to 350 dollars. You can light up hospitals and schools across the world with this. Kudos Elon!

I actually was one of the first users of --- but I did not hear about Elon Musk until at least 10 years later. Actually I heard of Peter Thiel before I heard of Musk. And I never connected with Thiel at any level.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Seven Takeaways from Marc Andreessen's Interview With Peter Thiel
The eBay acquisition of PayPal was famously drawn-out and, in fact, took five separate negotiations to finally complete. .... "In June 2002, there was this eBay convention in Anaheim. We managed to get a booth there even though they weren’t that friendly to us at the time, so we sent 30 people down to the convention. And we handed out all these PayPal T-shirts. They saw all their power sellers wearing PayPal T-shirts, and at that point, they decided to buy the company.” ......... how Musk crashed his uninsured million-dollar sportscar with Thiel in the passenger seat on the way to a venture capital meeting

Thiel is a big picture person. He has a stellar track record. And he paints in broad strokes.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jackson Heights: Possibilities And Limitations

Vinod Khosla
Vinod Khosla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
(written for Vishwa Sandesh)

Jackson Heights: Possibilities And Limitations
By Paramendra Bhagat (

I have had people tell me, go to California, go to Manhattan at least, this is not the place. I have been to California, and through my daily readings of news in Silicon Valley I have a pretty good feel for the culture there. Manhattan is but a short train ride away. You get on the E or F and you are in Manhattan in 10 minutes, maybe 15. There are people who work in Manhattan but live in Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania even.

There is something to be said to the culture of Silicon Valley. The top venture capitalist in NYC is on record saying it will take NYC decades to get where Silicon Valley is already in terms of startup culture. One generation of successful entrepreneurs provide seed funds and mentorship to the next generation of entrepreneurs, and the network keeps growing.

The first investor to put in half a million dollars in Facebook made his money for being one of the founders of PayPal: that half million became over a billion within years. The first person to put 100,000 dollars in Google made his billions for being one of the founders of Sun Microsystems: that 100,000 became over a billion in less than a decade. The guy who put his money into Twitter made his money by selling his company – Blogger – to Google: he sold Blogger for a few hundred million, his stake in Twitter is worth billions. Vinod Khosla made his money in hardware but is now a top investor in clean tech: he is the richest Indian in America. I don’t know him, but I do know someone who does.

But when I have approached local Nepalis who might have made middle class money through old economy ventures like law or medicine or the restaurant business for seed fund money for Nepal hydro, the reaction is, what’s wrong with you? Do you not have your own money? Are you so lame? That is the cultural difference between Silicon Valley and Queens.

I have met many merchants in Jackson Heights - most of them Indian, several Pakistani and Bangladeshi – to shore up interest in the idea of a virtual mall. The interest level, at least starting out, has been tepid (“Come tomorrow”) to non-existent (“We are not interested”). I have scaled back. I might have to start with an online community to go on to a virtual mall to perhaps a physical mall, a smart physical mall.

Walmart is the most successful company in the history of the world, and Sam Walton built it in the South, the poorest region of America. They are like the American Humla-Jumla. Message: do not underestimate Queens.

So what is the lure in Jackson Heights? The first one for me is that I guess you need a hometown. Jackson Heights for me is like going home without getting on the plane. It is also like being able to go to New York City, the capital city of the world, without getting on the plane. But the bigger lure is diversity: more than 50 countries are represented in Jackson Heights, the most diverse town of the most diverse borough of the most diverse city in the world. Even when I come to software and clean tech, I come from the human interaction angle. My feel for group dynamics is the number one thing I bring to the table for both, that and vision. I need the people to be there.

Jackson Heights has the largest concentration of Nepalis in the city. If you are thinking Nepal hydro, it is a good place to be. After all the idea is to marry NYC money to the fast flowing rivers of Nepal. You are trying to play matchmaker.

There is high tech and then there is high touch. Software would be high tech. People are high touch. In many ways high touch is old like wisdom. In several ways high touch is post high tech. The diversity of Jackson Heights is a great backdrop where to keep honing your people skills.

There are white folks to whom all Chinese look literally the same. I have met white folks to whom I look Arab. The day 9/11 happened I was in a small town in Kentucky. The locals called the cops on me! A month later I was in an office setting in Lexington, KY, in the open foyer. I overheard a guy in a cubicle talk on the phone: “There is an Arab in my office!”

But then there are seniors in my homevillage in Nepal who think the Christians belong to some kind of a fifth caste, way below the Dalits in the village. That village is not exactly progressive on gender issues. You have to maintain perspective when talking about race.

Give me broadband. Give me the subway. Give me my smartphone. Give me a mobile hotspot to go with my smartphone. Give me a Chromebook. Give me people. Give me a water bottle. Give me samosas. Gimme, gimme.
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Saturday, June 01, 2013

Late To The Bitcoin Story

I am running a little late to the Bitcoin story, but the buzz is inescapable. Gold was replaced by the government. Now the government itself is getting replaced. That makes it fundamental. It is Google not America that is leading the effort to take Africa online. That is notable. The nation state is being challenged, and not just by Wikileaks. The Bitcoin is about erasing the national boundaries and making global commerce frictionless, pretty much. The first global currency has been birthed not by heads of state and governments at summits but by anonymous tech entrepreneurs.

Bitcoin Hits the Big Time, to the Regret of Some Early Boosters
bitcoins, an intangible, digital currency that is backed by not gold or any government, but by math...... the cryptocurrency was set to upend the world of finance, perhaps more ..... Scribner, who, after buying large numbers of bitcoins early in their short history, has seen them soar in value ..... he bought his first 100 bitcoins when they were just $3 each, and then steadily amassed more at relatively low prices. A single bitcoin today now sells for just over $120..... ‘What does this do for global commerce?’ ...... easy transactions between conventional currencies, bitcoins, and a math-backed currency of the company’s own design...... CoinBase, the media sponsor of the San Jose event, received the largest venture investment in a Bitcoin business to date earlier this month. The company, which originated in the incubator Y Combinator and helps individuals and businesses use bitcoins, received $5 million from Union Square Ventures, a fund better known for backing Tumblr and Zynga. In San Jose, I also met the founders of BitPay, which enables online stores—including those hosted by Amazon—to take Bitcoin payment. Bitpay recently received $3 million from Founders Fund, led by Facebook’s first major investor, Peter Thiel....... how the company could help ease online commerce across borders ...... “Traditional payments such as credit cards don’t even work in half the world, so companies just choose to not service international customers” ..... could displace the practice of wiring money across borders, which underpins much international trade today and can be onerous ...... “If I’m trying to wire a supplier in China it’s a three- or four-day process with heavy fees,” he says. “Bitcoin transactions can be instant and free.” ...... BitPay, OpenCoin, and others also offer services that make it possible for a business to make sure incoming bitcoins keep their value by having them instantly converted to dollars. “Bitcoin can be used as just a transport network” ...... will enable money to flow as easily across the world, and between people, as e-mails and video do today..... Bitcoin’s earliest adopters were libertarians, cryptographers, and coders attracted by the idea of money that could operate without government oversight. They liked the idea that people could exchange bitcoins without knowing or trusting one another...... he quit a job with Goldman Sachs’s commodity desk in Tokyo to operate a private, one-man Bitcoin exchange business in Seattle. “These companies would be happy for it to just function like Mastercard. That is not what Bitcoin is about.” ....... the potential for a truly anonymous currency like Zerocoin to undermine existing financial and political systems ...... Bitcoin could hit the big time as less an idealistic reinvention of currency and more a technology to move payments more efficiently than today’s systems...... Jared Kenna, a 30-year-old Bitcoin millionaire
What Bitcoin Is, and Why It Matters
In 2008, a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto—a name believed to be an alias—posted a paper outlining Bitcoin’s design to a cryptography e-mail list. Then, in early 2009, he (or she) released software that can be used to exchange bitcoins using the scheme. That software is now maintained by a volunteer open-source community coordinated by four core developers....... “Satoshi’s a bit of a mysterious figure,” says Jeff Garzik, a member of that core team and founder of Bitcoin Watch, which tracks the Bitcoin economy. “I and the other core developers have occasionally corresponded with him by e-mail, but it’s always a crapshoot as to whether he responds,” says Garzik. “That and the forum are the entirety of anyone’s experience with him.” ...... Nakamoto wanted people to be able to exchange money electronically securely without the need for a third party, such as a bank or a company like PayPal. He based Bitcoin on cryptographic techniques that allow you to be sure the money you receive is genuine, even if you don’t trust the sender...... The existence of a public log of all transactions also provides a deterrent to money laundering, says Garzik. “You’re looking at a global public transaction register,” he says. “You can trace the history of every single Bitcoin through that log, from its creation through every transaction.” ...... If the Federal Reserve controls the dollar, who controls the Bitcoin economy? No one. The economics of the currency are fixed into the underlying protocol developed by Nakamoto. Nakamoto’s rules specify that the amount of bitcoins in circulation will grow at an ever-decreasing rate toward a maximum of 21 million. Currently there are just over 6 million; in 2030, there will be over 20 million bitcoins. ...... if more than half of the Bitcoin network’s computing power comes under the control of one entity, then the rules can change. This would prevent, for example, a criminal cartel faking a transaction log in its own favor to dupe the rest of the community...... “The combined power of the network is currently equal to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world,” says Garzik. “Satoshi’s rules are probably set in stone.” ..... “Elaborate controls to make sure that currency is not produced in greater numbers is not something any other currency, like the dollar or the euro, has” ..... “In a Bitcoin world, everyone would anticipate that, and they know what they got paid would buy more then than it would now.” ..... even limited success could allow Bitcoin to change the fate of more established currencies. “Competition is good, even between currencies—perhaps the example of Bitcoin could influence the behavior of the Federal Reserve.”
Big-Name Investors Back Effort to Build a Better Bitcoin
OpenCoin, a startup with a new digital currency called Ripple...... digital currency called Ripple and tools for making transactions in other currencies, including Bitcoins ..... Ripple, the currency developed by OpenCoin, is similar to Bitcoin in that it uses math to prevent counterfeiting and fraud ..... transfers made with Ripple can be confirmed in seconds; Bitcoin transfers take, on average, 10 minutes to be confirmed, and many sites that accept Bitcoins make users wait an hour for confirmation ..... The company’s website for Ripple is more polished and easy-to-use than most sites built for Bitcoin users. As well as sending Ripples to other people, users can also send and exchange U.S. dollars, Euros, Bitcoins, and other currencies using the site. Ripple’s design has those transactions automatically routed through exchange companies that are working with OpenCoin. Tools are also available to allow others to offer software or websites that make use of Ripple....... Transferring Ripples is free, while transactions that involve converting between currencies involve small transaction fees—typically 0.02 percent. That’s significantly less than the fees levied by existing financial companies, such as PayPal, credit card issuers, or banks ..... “You can send e-mails for free, but not payments,” says Larsen. “Finally we might get finance to the place where e-mail or social networking has taken communication.” ..... OpenCoin plans to hand out some 50 billion Ripples in coming months, and more in the future, in an attempt to get the currency to function independently..... his company aims to turn a profit by retaining a chunk, likely 25 percent, of the total 100 billion Ripples that will ever exist, in the expectation that the currency gains value...... large Internet companies are starting to accept payments or donations in Bitcoin, including Expensify, Wordpress, and Reddit

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