“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

It's been an extraordinary few days in Silicon Valley — a high-profile VC firm has been “blasted off the earth” and the industry is reacting in unusually visible ways.

The reactions have varied from the half-assed apology to the pre-emptive apology to the we-took-care-of-it apology to the high-minded-appeal-to-principles apology to the apology-of-the-day apology, from prominent VC firms (Lightspeed, Lowercase, 500Startups, Greylock and Binary respectively). Sadly all immediately put one in mind of Captain Renault in *Casablanca*.

“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Investor Reporting: Five Things to Think About

Tim O'Reilly recently wrote a great essay on the virtues of not raising external capital. It led me to reflect on one aspect of having outside investors that can feel like a gigantic chore -- reporting. This is irrelevant if, like Tim (or Craig Newmark), you haven't raised external capital.  But if you have, these five guidelines might be worth considering: 

Investor Reporting: Five Things to Think About

It's Not Just United Airlines Or: I Missed That Memo

Because I do so much long haul travel, I feel somewhat qualified to opine on the United-Dao saga. The current narrative misses two key things. The far more important one is the fact that the TSA was handed sweeping authority over travel in the post 9/11 dispensation.

It's Not Just United Airlines Or: I Missed That Memo

Raising The Next Round: Five Reasons Not To Think About It Until You Have To

Over the years I've had hundreds of conversations with CEOs about "the next round". This usually takes the form of a question: "What metrics do I need to hit to raise the next round?" In itself the question is rational; what is troublesome is when the question is asked right after a round has been raised, and when business decisions are made based on a theoretical future raise.Here are five concrete reasons to spend little time thinking about the next round in the context of building your business.

Raising The Next Round: Five Reasons Not To Think About It Until You Have To

Three Reasons I Took The GRE This Week

Earlier this week I took the GRE. I'm middle aged, not going to grad school (well, not any time soon), this is an extraordinarily busy time for me, it's several hours in the middle of the work day, so how did this make any sense? Three reasons (which may still not add up to much sense):

Three Reasons I Took The GRE This Week

The Three Roles Of A Venture Capitalist

I've been reflecting recently on how the VC-founder relationship evolves with time. As I see it, a VC's job falls into three buckets: 1. Cheerleading; 2. Helping to solve problems ("adding value"); and 3. Holding management accountable. The mix between these changes as companies grow. At the seed stage it's mostly buckets 1 and 2; at the Series A stage it's more of bucket 2, some bucket 3, and a fair dose of bucket 1; and at the Series B stage and beyond, it mostly bucket 2 and 3 with a bit of bucket 1.

The Three Roles Of A Venture Capitalist

Interviewing for Penn

Every year, at about this time, I and over 10,000 of my fellow alumni interview applicants to Penn. Penn seeks to offer alumni interviews to all of its undergraduate applicants -- this year, that number is over 40,000. It's a major logistical exercise, and works only because Penn is committed to it and because alumni freely volunteer their time.

Interviewing for Penn

My Best Books of 2016

Here’s the best of what I read in 2016. All, to varying degrees, enlightening, entertaining and infuriating. It was tough to winnow down to a short list — this was a decent reading year.

I offer a line or two of commentary on, and a quote from, each work. The titles link to the Amazon Kindle page for the book. Page numbers are provided for the quotes if available and Kindle locations if not.. 

P.S. The answer to one obvious question is “on far too many long haul flights”.

My Best Books of 2016

The Networked Episteme

The nature of human communication — that which makes us an animal unlike any other species — is now at a remarkable juncture. The revolution that started with the telegraph (the first innovation that allowed for communication faster than the velocity of animal power) has accelerated to the point where human society is being radically transformed. The world we know is ending; it is being made anew.

The Networked Episteme

Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Getting Global

In the fall of 1995 I cold called Jeff Bezos. I was an associate at General Atlantic, a growth-stage investor in software companies. I was the first VC to call him; he took the call and we got along well immediately, in part because I’d found my way to him after purchasing this weird and compelling book on the Amazon web site.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Getting Global

The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell

I read many of the new histories published during 2014, timed to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. These benefit from new research and greater distance from the conflict. But an older work still stands out: Paul Fussell’s critique of English writing about trench warfare, The Great War and Modern Memory. 

The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell

Penn Interview: Penn's Vice President for Public Safety, Maureen Rush

The fall semester is now upon us, which means universities across the world begin opening their doors to new (and current) students -- and anxious parents get even more anxious as the cubs leave the den. I have a special treat for Penn students and parents, especially those from international locations who may never have visited the Penn campus: Q&A with the amazing Maureen Rush, Vice President for Public Safety and Superintendent of the Penn Police Department.

Penn Interview: Penn Admissions, Episode III

Right, it's that time of year again -- a few days before most U.S. universities announce Regular Decision admissions -- and so this blog springs to life after a while with an interview with Eric Furda, Dean of Admissions at Penn, joined once again by John McLaughlin, Senior Associate Director at Penn Admissions who covers several international locations for Penn. We've met them before here, and my thanks as always for their time, courtesy, and frankness.

Penn Interview: Penn Admissions, Episode II

This blog features an intermittent series of posts on American universities, with a focus on Penn, my alma mater. Here I speak again with Eric Furda, Dean of Admissions at Penn, joined this time by John McLaughlin, who oversees Penn Admissions’ efforts in India. Eric also blogs here -- check out his wonderful Convocation 2014 welcome. My thanks for their time and courtesy. And because it's buried down below, I want to highlight here a free online course offered by Penn on U.S. college admissions. And now to Eric and John.

Penn Interview: Dean of Admissions at Penn

Great American universities, usually from a single location, foster a global presence and influence.  I was an international student at the University of Pennsylvania, and so I know this from personal experience.

Eric Furda, the Dean of Admissions at Penn, was kind enough to speak with me about how Penn Admissions is "getting global". A big thank you to him for taking time out at one of the busiest times of the year for college admissions. Eric tweets here and blogs here, and is a Penn alumnus himself (C'87). 

Book Reviews: Five of the Best (History)

The thread linking this post's reviews is that each book offers a view into 19th or 20th century Europe.

My reviews are those of an intellectual dilettante, and I make limited attempts to place works or their authors in a wider context. For example, a "professional" review of Joachim Fest's memoir would certainly allude to his role in the Historikerstreit, among other things. Book titles link to the Kindle store page.

Satya Nadella: Only In America?

The appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO of Microsoft has been greeted with joy within the Indian American community and in his native country. I find Nadella's story, however, not especially illustrative of the "success" of Indians in America; there are plenty of prior examples, and there will be others in the future, as there have been for immigrant communities from the Jews to the Irish. That part of the story is a non-story.

A better illustration of the assimilation of Indian Americans may be their pro rata participation in major large-scale white collar crimes, as so brilliantly outlined by my Penn classmate, Anita Raghavan. Thereby showing that Indian Americans are just as good or bad as the rest of America -- what could be more illustrative of assimilation than that?

Getting Global Interview: CEO of ReferralCandy

I sat down for a chat with Dinesh Raju, the co-founder and CEO of Anafore, the company behind ReferralCandy, an industry-leading referral marketing SaaS product.

The company is headquartered in Singapore, and from day one of the launch of the product, in 2010, has had to look beyond its home market. In December more than 90% of the company’s revenues were generated outside Asia. Dinesh had insightful things to say about getting global, entrepreneurship, and whiskey.

I am an investor in the company. Here's a "five questions" version of our discussion.

Roebuck, Ponting, Clarke and the Fall and Rise of Australian Cricket

Michael Clarke and his merry unchanged-throughout-the-series men have crushed England -- 5-0 in the Tests and up 3-1 in the one-dayers as of this writing -- and it is not too early for the Australian to envision a return to some kind of leadership, if not the dominance of the Steve Waugh era. This Aussie team is an aging one, but there is something about it that suggests the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

This most recent peak follows a trough whose marker, in my view, isn't the retirements of the all-time greats at the end of the 2006-07 Ashes. Rather the buoy marking the place where Australian cricket subsided the last time has the name of Peter Roebuck emblazoned on it. For it is Roebuck who called for Australian captain Ricky Ponting's head on a platter in a famous headline. "Arrogant Ponting must be fired" was the leader. From a member of the one-eyed Australian media, this was an unprecedented volley.

 

Convertible Notes: Asia Needs More Of This Virus

I invest in cross-border companies that operate between the United States and Asia. Often enough the company is incorporated in Asia rather than in the U.S., and so I run into variations of the highly contagious Ebola virus, sorry, convertible note in many countries -- the U.S., of course, but also in India, Singapore and the Philippines. 

The pros and cons of convertible debt for startups have been extensively debated -- see here (mostly pro) and here (lots of con) for good overviews. 

But there is one place the convert absolutely shines, and that is speed. For both the entrepreneur and the investor, mostly because the valuation can has been kicked down the road. This is why the convertible note has been a fantastic catalyst for the startup financing explosion in the U.S. (and specifically in Silicon Valley). And in this respect Asian policy makers, who are constantly looking for ways to catalyze a startup ecosystem, could take a page from the U.S. book.