Hi, I'm Nick Grossman. Welcome to my internet brain.

I work at Union Square Ventures and live outside of Boston with my lovely wife and two kids. More about me, me me.

The Regulation 2.0 Challenge

Last night, I had the pleasure of joining Meetup.com GC David Pashman's NYU Law class on Internet and Business Law for Technology Companies as a guest speaker.  Over the course of the past semester, David’s students have played the role of internet company General Counsel, working on a variety of legal and public policy issues — everything from terms of service & privacy policies to considerations around patents, copyrights and regulation of the “peer economy”.

The students workshopped, for example, how a company like Skillshare might consider entering the realm of accredited, degree-granting universities, and how a company like Instagram might respond to backlash from scaring users with an aggressive privacy policy change.

The big question that I posed to the group was about Regulation 2.0.  The idea that, given the huge volume of real-time data produced by modern web services and the potential for radical transparency based on that, there is an opportunity to explore  completely new regulatory approaches.  Approaches that, rather than make up-front decisions about an activity (say, ride-sharing or peer-to-peer apartment renting), as we do in a “1.0” regulatory regime, we can instead be more permissive on the front-end, while at the same time introducing increased accountability through transparency.  If this kind of approach worked, it would theoretically be simpler and cheaper to operate, while at the same time allowing for more new kinds of activities to be explored without fear of regulatory shut-down.

That is the big idea — that our regulatory regime can shift from “1.0” regulation to “2.0” regulation, the same way that online communities of user-generated content and transactions (think back to Ebay’s peer rating system) have developed internal systems that generate trust and enhance community safety.

A few months ago I drew up the basic idea like this:

Assuming you agree that there’s potential to forge a more effective, efficient, scalable regulatory regime based on transparency and accountability, that raises two major practical challenges, which I posed to the NYU students:

Protecting User Privacy: A transparency-based regulatory regime necessarily depends on some kind of data sharing agreement between web platforms (think Skillshare, Airbnb, Sidecar, etc) and the public (either the entire public, or maybe certain government entities).  How do you square that with the need to protect the privacy of your users?  How do you communicate the trade that users could be making (i.e., transparency in exchange for the freedom to participate) in a way that makes sense?

Protecting the Freedom to Experiment: Many new, web-enabled, network oriented businesses start off by operating in legal gray areas.  This is almost a guarantee in some respects, as these companies explicitly exist to forge a new model, establish new norms, and prove that new ways of doing things are possible and ideally beneficial to all participants.  But that puts them in an extremely tenuous situation: exploring new models while protecting users, avoiding undue regulatory or legal scrutiny (especially during early phases).  An approach built on transparency would seem to need an explicit safe harbor in exchange for that transparency, otherwise it’s difficult to imagine that companies would voluntary participate.

Both of these considerations are borne out in the recent kerfuffle between Airbnb and the NYS Attorney General’s office.  The AG is wants the data to suss out “bad actors” on the platform, and Airbnb wants to protect their users privacy (and likely, to some extent, the details of their business model.  But this case is already years in the making.  Can we imagine what it would have looked like to build a new Airbnb in a “regulation 2.0” era where transparency in exchange for freedom to operate was the norm?  Can we imagine that in other sectors that are emergent now (such as digital health)?

It’s seems clear to me that 1.0 regulation in the era of web and mobile everything is not going to work.  So we need to forge a new model — one that’s innovation-oriented, scalable, and takes advantage of tools & data that never existed before.  This idea of “regulation 2.0” is a direction I’ve been thinking about a lot — I think there is a kernel of truth in it that we should try and build around.

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30 year old hibiscus plant at my parents’ house.

30 year old hibiscus plant at my parents’ house.

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Mmmmm.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Mmmmm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

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jedsundwall:

"All of us have special ones who have loved us into being." A Thanksgiving message from Mr. Rogers. Have a great holiday!

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Bitcoin Black Friday on CNBC.  Pretty funny to watch the finance talking heads trip over themselves talking about BTC.

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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.

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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.

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people will think of everything if you let them
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if you’re an entrepreneur killed by bogus patent lawsuits from giant legacy players, thank Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Intense Lobbying Works: Goodlatte To Drop Plan To Allow For Faster Review Of Bad Software Patents | Techdirt

If you’re an entrepreneur or techie, call your congressmen today to support the covered business method patent review process, which would help kill bad patents.

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I hope they don’t wuss out on this case," said Cheng. "I hope they have the balls to try it. I am not optimistic that they will, because it would be a big mistake on their part to let this case go to trial.
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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.

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And thus, the only way we have to measure our successes and failures as parents – unless we are psychotic, in which case we also have college admissions – is against the yardstick of random motherfuckers we observe in public, all of whom are clearly doing a far worse job than we are.
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successful apps aren’t born out of great ideas alone but the result of hundreds of great decisions that get made every day.

Assembly - Help

filed under “Will people steal my ideas?”

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"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)

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