Competitors at the Time

At USV, we talk a lot about how the landscape is changing, as more entrepreneurs and investors get behind the idea of building networks around problems, communities & verticals.  And that means that we are seeing more competitors in each space we look at, especially compared to what it looked like when USV invested in tumblr, etsy etc. (i.e., the halcyon days of yore)

I have a suspicion that — while this is no doubt true — that there was more competition around these ideas than we remember, especially because many competitors fell off as the leaders emerged, so we don’t remember them anymore.

It would make for a neat research project to look at modern-day category leaders across a bunch of categories, and map them back to the competitors around them at various times in their history.  Funding milestones would be an easy way to do this.

Does any such thing exist?  Seems like something that could be done relatively easily using the Crunchbase API.

The No List (or, Do Less Better)

Saying no to things is something I’ve always been bad at.  I have always been (and to some extent, have prided myself on being) more of a “why not” guy than a “why” guy.

This has many of advantages — I’m open minded and I end up doing tons of interesting things w interesting people.  But it also has some obvious disadvantages — like feeling overwhelmed, getting behind on things, getting spread too thin, not doing a good enough job on any one thing.

I remember reading that one of the cornerstones of Warren Buffet’s approach to life is writing up a list of the 10 things you want to do, prioritizing them, then putting the bottom six on a “avoid at all costs” list.

And I believe in my heart that the projects / apps / ideas that are tight, focused and well executed are better than the ones that are broadly ambitious and try to boil the ocean.

One of my favorite lines, from one of my favorite books is “half, not half-assed”.

But still, it’s hard to say no to things.  Meetings, phone calls, projects, you name it.  It’s just hard.

But every time I look at my long to do list, or my inbox, or my calendar, and think — what can I do to be more efficient and effective at doing all of this?  The obvious answer is to just do less.  That’s by far the most simple and most impactful approach.

How do you save money? Spend less.  How do you save time?  Do less. Easier said than done, but no doubt important.

Swimming Like a Shark

Andy and I were talking yesterday about how both of us really struggle on email, especially during busy weeks when we’re really focused on something (travel, a project, etc).  I can’t tell you how many emails I start with: “I apologize for the long delay here…”

I described it as being afraid of the inbox.  I live in fear of the inbox, especially when I get behind.  And then, rather than just dive in, face the fear, and get through with things, I end up procrastinating and then of course it only gets worse.

One way to think about it is that you have to keep swimming so you don’t drown.  Like a shark.  That’s how I think about walking through NYC, or driving in a car — in the midst of chaos, it’s better to be assertive and aggressive, make your own path, rather than get swept up by being tentative and timid.  

But while that really works for me for driving and walking, I still often live in fear of my inbox. I am not an inbox shark.  I am a tiny minnow getting cast about in the sea.  I suspect I’m not alone.

And of course, it’s not just email.  There is an overwhelming stream of stuff coming at all of us from every angle.  I’m adding to it this very second by writing this blog post on Tumblr :-).  

It seems to me — though I haven’t mastered this yet — that the right way to face it is to swim ahead like a shark, stay in the game, not get afraid, and not feel guilty for all the things you’re inevitably going to miss, despite all that.  Easier said than done.


"Marshall Phelps, who previously led IP Strategy at both IBM and Microsoft, shared his views this week at the AIPPI conference in Tel Aviv. “Within 10 years, the Smartphone platform wars will be over, replaced by a series of licensing arrangements. I have seen estimates of 10’s of thousands of patents implicated in the Smartphone situation. With that much intellectual property involved, no one can realistically build a Smartphone risk-free or without the IP of others”.

(via Smart Phones & Trolls: The Current State of the Mobile Patent Wars | Jerusalem Post - Blogs)

"Marshall Phelps, who previously led IP Strategy at both IBM and Microsoft, shared his views this week at the AIPPI conference in Tel Aviv. “Within 10 years, the Smartphone platform wars will be over, replaced by a series of licensing arrangements. I have seen estimates of 10’s of thousands of patents implicated in the Smartphone situation. With that much intellectual property involved, no one can realistically build a Smartphone risk-free or without the IP of others”.

(via Smart Phones & Trolls: The Current State of the Mobile Patent Wars | Jerusalem Post - Blogs)

We’re here to help you through that maelstrom of musical choice. We’re here to pull people up each level of that pyramid. But we don’t do it the old-fashioned way by anointing a handful of artists geniuses and declaring selected albums masterpieces. We do it by building services that let thousands of potential masterpieces find their ideal audiences.

This is one of my all time favorite web pages.

I first read it back in 2002 while managing my first big web project  at Project for Public Spaces.

I still think about it a lot, to this day, and try to email it around to people who are new to bug tracking as often as I can.

I can’t exactly put my finger on why I like it so much, but I think it’s that the writing and examples are so crisp and clear (thanks Joel!).  And I feel like reading it embedded some really good work habits deep into my brain.

I still, to this day, feel proud every time I submit a bug report in the format suggested here:

 * steps to repeat
 * what you expected to happen
 * what happened instead

I know that’s geeky and weird, but it honestly does fill my heart with warm happiness to think about those steps and use them.