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Welcome

This is my personal & professional blog.  It's a place for me to think out loud and learn. I'll sometimes talk about things I don't understand as a way to begin to understand them. I'll often be wrong, short sighted, and unclear. When you see this happening, please point it out!

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Saturday
Sep252010

Jack Ma--The Chinese Mark Zuckerberg

Jack Ma is amazing.  When asked why he works all the time/doesn't have balance in his life he says: 

"I think because of the excitement.  And because I really treasure and honor this opportunity in my life that I can do things."

Also see The Surprising Religion of Jack Ma.

Sunday
Aug222010

I <3 Sports!

Thursday
Jul292010

LinkedIn makes me sooo Angry

I rarely get angry when using websites.  But I abhor LinkedIn.

Here's one simple example.  In hopes of increasing engagement with LinkedIn and better capturing the professional social graph, LinkedIn now prominently displays "People You May Know".  I often see people I know and think "wow, I'm not connected to Bill Nye the Science Guy, connect!".  I then click "Connect" and then select "Friend" as how I know that person.  LinkedIn then prompts me for that person's email address.  Doh!  Damn you LinkedIn.  You thought I knew that person and now you want me to give your their email address?

While this is a simple example, it's symptomatic of the product design at LinkedIn.  It makes me furious.  LinkedIn has the potential to be the people marketplace.  That's incredible!  They could singlehandedly make the world a better place by getting people where they should be.  Efficiently and quickly and passively.

If any current Harvard student is reading this and wants to Friendster their ass, I'm behind you 100%.

Of course, LinkedIn is not all bad.  Here are two things I love:

  • You can follow companies and track new hires and recent departures for companies
  • When you post a job on LinkedIn, LinkedIn presents candidates to contact that fit the requirements you defined in your job posting

I'm going to be unhappy for days when LinkedIn IPOs.

Saturday
Jul172010

Product<->Market Fit cures many sins of Mismanagement

Sunday
Jul112010

My Mom would be so Proud

Thursday
Jul012010

Etsy is Awesome (Jeff Bezos, are you reading this?)

Etsy is a great product!  And they've the potential to grow the market they've pioneered for hand made goods into a disgustingly large business.  And then sell to Amazon!  And, since Jeff Bezos recently decided to make Amazon a retailing conglomerate, continue to operate as a largely independent business.

I love the story of how Rob Kalin started Etsy--he made furniture and wanted a place online to sell it.

Etsy's "Shop by Color" is a great feature: http://www.etsy.com/color.php?ref=fp_nav_colors.  It makes browsing on Etsy (which already feels wholesome and like it's for the good of Mother Earth) fun and serendipitous.

Some part of me wants to pinch Rob Kalin's cheeks!

Wednesday
Jun162010

Quora: What strong beliefs on culture for entrepreneurialism did Peter / Max / David have at PayPal?

Amazing answer by Keith Rabois to this question on Quora here:

I don't disagree with any of the attributes that Yee identifies, but his answer omits a few key elements that were more unorthodox and could be closer to unique.

Extreme
 Focus (driven by Peter):  Peter required that everyone be tasked with exactly one priority.  He would refuse to discuss virtually anything else with you except what was currently assigned as your #1 initiative.  Even our annual review forms in 2001 required each employee to identify their single most valuable contribution to the company.  (Although I resisted some of this approach during the PayPal years, I am now a proponent of it and have even devised a theory of why it is crucial.)  

Dedication to individual accomplishment:  Teams were almost considered socialist institutions.  Most great innovations at PayPal were driven by one person who then conscripted others to support, adopt, implement the new idea.  If you identified the 8-12 most critical innovations at PayPal (or perhaps even the most important 25), almost every one had a single person inspire it (and often it drive it to implementation).  As a result,  David enforced an anti-meeting culture where any meeting that included more than 3-4 people was deemed suspect and subject to immediate adjournment if he gauged it inefficient.  Our annual review forms in 2002 included a direction to rate the employee on "avoids imposing on others' time, e.g. scheduling unnecessary meetings."

Refusal to accept constraints, external or internal:We were expected to pursue our #1 priority with extreme dispatch (NOW) and vigor.  To borrow an apt phrase, employees were expected to "come to work every day willing to be fired, to circumvent any order aimed at stopping your dream."  Jeremy Stoppelman has relayed elsewhere the story about an email he sent around criticizing management that he expected to get him fired and instead got him promoted: 

I was a 22-year-old whippersnapper, and I remember firing off this e-mail that disagreed with the entire executive staff," says Yelp's Stoppelman. "I didn't get fired--I got a pat on the back.
Peter did not accept no for answer:  If you couldn't solve the problem, someone else would be soon assigned to do it.

Radical transparency on metrics:   All employees were expected to be facile with the metrics driving the business.  Otherwise, how could one expect each employee to make rational calculations and decisions on their own every day? To enforce this norm, almost every all-hands meeting consisted of distributing a printed Excel spreadsheet to the assembled masses and Peter conducting a line by line review of our performance (this is only a modest exaggeration).  Even after we had our IPO, Peter impelled our legal counsel to allow us to continue 95% of this practice (basically stripping the explicit revenue line off of the printout).

Meritocratic opportunity &  opposition to traditional general managemen
t:   Just as responsibility for initiatives was frequently re-allocated based upon performance, so was "management."  Peter and Max crusaded to replace under-performing senior colleagues, which introduced some fear and less stability into the office, but, also forged new opportunities for new stars promoted from within to thrive.  Peter and David also were opposed to general managers or hiring people whose core skill was "managing."  People were promoted based upon their technical proficiency at a given role--i.e. the best engineers would manage engineering, the best product people who be running product, etc.  I still recall concluding my first week at PayPal by jogging around the Stanford campus on a Saturday afternoon  with Peter when he explained this philosophy to me; any other approach he argued would breed resentment by talented employees.  This approach was perceived as radical in 2000, by now it is much more "acceptable" in the consumer Internet realm, at least.

We did not invest in many other traditional management techniques (which are poorly suited for managing talented employees anyway).  As  David summarized, one's prestige at PayPal was measured by how few people could stop you from proceeding with a new idea.

5) Vigorous debate, often via email:  Almost every important issue had champions and critics.  These were normally resolved not by official edict but by a vigorous debate that could be very intense.  Being able to articulate and defend a strategy or product in a succinct, compelling manner with empirical analysis and withstand a withering critique was a key attribute of almost every key contributor.  I still recall the trepidation I confronted when I was informed that I needed to defend the feasibility of my favorite "baby" to Max for the first time.
Tuesday
Jun082010

My Name is Dug!

The movie Up by Pixar is amazing and beautiful!  Watch it like right away.  I'm sure it's better than Sex in the City 2.  Does Sex in the City 2 have a dog named Dug that's effusive?

My Name is Dug.  I have just met you and I love you!

I was hiding under your porch because I love you.  Can I stay?

Tuesday
Jun082010

Netflix's 2010 Pitch Deck

This slidedeck is a masterpiece.  Netflix crisply captures the tumult in the industry, the nuances of consumer behavior, their value proposition, and competitive threats.  This is a great model for thinking about businesses.

Netflix is simple.  And Netflix intends to remain simple.  I tend to think Netflix will do well because it's laser focused, a well run company, and because they will be quick to shift to prevailing winds.

Monday
Jun072010

Digsby--is this magic or it actually works?

Monday
Jun072010

The iPad: Everything You Can't Imagine (yet)

To my surprise, lots of folks are missing out on the potential of the iPad!  To me, it heralds the era of ubiquitous computing.  Devices with the power of an entire computer, connected via 3G anywhere you go, and versatile enough to be used for anything.  Let the innovation begin!

Sunday
Jun062010

Internet Treasures (circa 2009)

Here are the top 30 websites in the entire world according to Comscore (stolen from Fred Wilson)

A couple thoughts:

I was surprised to see Conduit.com on the list.  I simply didn't realize they were that big.  Conduit makes non-spammy, branded browser toolbars!  Internet sites brand and distribute the toolbars as a way to push updates to their users through the toolbar.  Conduit has a strong relationship with Google--Conduit toolbars come with a Google search box and Google pays Conduit for every search.  Conduit shares the revenue with the brand that distributed the toolbar.

AOL is number 6?  Wow!  Tim Armstrong, you can make AOL worth more than $2.5B easy!

For all the hulabaloo around Twitter, it's still smaller than the New York Times and about 10% the size of Facebook (even if you assume that 50% of twitter mobile users don't ever visit twitter.com)

20% of the top sites are Chinese today.  That despite China being home to more internet users than any other nation.  And despite cultural differences and the Great Firewall of China, which isolate Chinese users/encourage adoption of homegrown sites (as opposed to their American forefathers).  In the next 3 years, Chinese sites should comprise >50% of this list!

Sunday
Jun062010

I <3 Factories

from xkcd.com

Thursday
Jun032010

I Heart Good Grammar

Wednesday
Jun022010

Make sense of this?

Someone make sense of this!

Thursday
Apr222010

I dislike people that say NO!

“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty. And so, Ron, in short, get out of Salton City and hit the Road.

I guarantee you will be very glad you did.

But I fear that you will ignore my advice. You think that I am stubborn, but you are even more stubborn than me. You had a wonderful chance on your drive back to see one of the greatest sights on earth, the Grand Canyon, something every American should see at least once in his life. But for some reason incomprehensible to me you wanted nothing but to bolt for home as quickly as possible, right back to the same situation which you see day after day after day. I fear you will follow this same inclination in the future and thus fail to discover all the wonderful things that God has placed around us to discover.

Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon.”

— Part of a letter from Chris McCandless to ‘Ronald Franz’, as documented in Into The Wild

Saturday
Apr172010

Keith Rabois, what was the most important decision you've ever made?

I'm reposting this from Quora.  I'm not sure who the Rabois Fanboy is that keeps asking Keith personal questions.  But I'm beginning to like it.  Here's Keith's answer (republished without permission):

In February of 2000, I agreed to leave the safety and security of large law firm life for the wildnerness of Internet startups.  The market crashed less than a month after I started my job at Voter.com, a hot startup funded by over $15 million from CRV, Sigma Partners and Bessemer.  Our CEO was a 22-year old Harvard graduate.  

This decision would eventually alter my entire identity.   Until that moment, I had followed the most predictable, well-established paths and chased the most well-established credentials (Stanford poli sci, HLS, federal appellate clerkship, S&C etc).  I eschewed risk.

I had never even used an Internet browser until one year before that decision.  We were not even allowed to have an external email address at work until 1998.   I spent nearly all of my life with people from the same educational backgrounds and pursuing identical professional aspirations.

I jumped into a world I knew nothing about, with no real life-line.  I needed to learn everything on the fly, forge a completely new network, and navigate people who were unreliable, even willing to lie or betray you in a second.  We had to fire a guy on my team who would frequently show up for work drunk; this did not happen at Sullivan & Cromwell.

The first month was rough.  But by the third month, I was hooked.  Fortunately, Geoff Donaker was able to teach me the fundamentals of Internet BD and Excel-modeling quickly.  I mastered the BD part, and could at least fake a decent model (although Geoff always barfed on the formatting.)  I received a promotion in my fourth month.

If I had not quit the law before the market collapsed at the end of March 2000, I never would have been able to.

To quote a friend of mine from Stanford from the mid 1990's:  "Rabois, you went from the most risk averse person I knew"....  to someone who intentionally embraces risk.

Monday
Apr122010

Wayne Mak has found it.

When I first met Wayne Mak, he made me really angry.  But I now love Wayne.  In fact, I think Wayne has found it.  He's hit his stride, living life as he was meant to live it, and is aggressively pursuing making every day the best day of his life.

He's doing a bunch of awesome things.  Since he's a great writer, I'll link to his blog and let it do all the talking.

From the About Me on Wayne's blog:

5 years ago, I decided to turn my life around. Every day since then has been amazing.

I'm a firm believer in Carol Dweck's theory of the growth mindset. You're capable of so much more than you can imagine and you can only realize your potential when you start to believe.

This is the first of a series of my blog I'm calling "People I Like".  Like is really a euphemism for admire!

Sunday
Apr112010

The Tiger Woods Economy

Sunday
Apr042010

Parikrma Humanity Foundation

Takeaways:

  • Wow, the stats are scary: 200M children that should be going to school but do not, 100M that go to school but are illiterate.  Because they're so scary, forget about them!
  • The Hardy Boys lives on!
  • Get parents involved.  They want to believe too!
  • The girl who effuses joy at the 10:30 mark is moving!  Her new-found confidence and ambition is the birthright of all children.
  • Progress is hard.  Start now.

TED is spectacular!  Where is TED China?