Iceberg is the big pointy one. Iceburger is the flat one
"do you think it’s better to build your career around skills or around ideas?".
Brittany immediately said “skills” and I immediately said “ideas”. We argued about it for a few minutes, and ultimately we both agreed that skills and ideas are both important (duh) and that you can of course build both sides in parallel.
But more interestingly was Brian’s respnose — he had previously asked the same question to Albert, who had a more interesting answer, which was:
"you should build your career around momentum"
In other words, you want one thing to flow into the next, accumulating a crescendo of importance, impact and reach, that builds its own center of gravity and energy. This really struck me, and has been on my mind since then. Now that I’m writing this, it strikes me as a very natural answer to get from an investor, as momentum is what startups hope to create — traction, energy, network effects, “the flywheel”.
Separately, the word momentum has been on my mind a lot lately because of the really awesome and inspiring Momentum chrome extension that replaces your “new tab” screen with an inspirational photo and a simple prompt asking you what your goal for the day is. Mine looks like this today:
As simple as it is, the Momentum screen has really been great in the week or two I’ve been using it. The idea of identifying a single focal point and priority for the day is refreshingly simple and surprisingly calming. And really nailing your top priority, rather than getting spread thin and scattered across a million other things, is how you build momentum.
So, momentum. Momentum. mmmmm.
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 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.
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.