Monthly Archives: January 2012

On the Evolution of Investing

Today Y Combinator announced they are adding two new partners, Garry Tan and Aaron Iba. This announcement is unique because it does not list their academic credentials, their previous investments, the boards of companies or non-profits they have sat on, how many years of experience they have, or any of the usual badges of honor investors parade in their biographies and Crunchbase profiles.

Instead we get accolades of “rare individuals who can both design and program” and “best hackers among the YC alumni.” Take note of this moment.

I was part of a dinner conversation the other night that included institutional and angel investors, entrepreneurs, and someone who was part of the YC program. The group circled with alarming intent on grilling the YC entrepreneur: “How much time did you actually get with PG?” “It’s a cult of personality.” “The average quality of the companies has really dropped as they’ve broadened.” “I can’t wait for this bubble to pop.” I believe it was mostly in jest — few topics were spared that night — but there was some truth in the defensive undertone.

The hackers and engineers of Y Combinator are doing what hackers and engineers do to any industry, they’re efficiently and ruthlessly disrupting the traditional model of venture capital and are going to destroy far more more wealth for their contemporaries than they create for themselves, as broadband did to entertainment, Craigslist did to newspapers, and Amazon did to traditional retailers. This is what outsiders, by definition, do.

The dark humor in this is that the same people who delight and celebrate investing in disrupting other industries are blind or in denial about it happening to their own.

The question then becomes if you’re an investor with a traditional LP model (and expectations), or a more financial background than an operational one, or an operational background more in management than in design or coding, what should you do to stay relevant through this shift?

Two excellent essays on how Hollywood has completely put our legal system out of whack through years of twisting our legislative process to their ends, or as Shirky put it “imagine the possibility of a longer jail term for streaming a Michael Jackson video than Jackson’s own doctor got for killing actual Michael Jackson?”

Andrew Bridges on PandoDaily: Forget SOPA, Hollywood Already Had a Field Day with the Justice System.

Clay Shirky on his blog: Pick up the pitchforks: David Pogue underestimates Hollywood.

Really great article from my friend Hunter Walk on #Reinventing the Chamber of Commerce, which is especially relevant given how the US Chamber of Commerce has been tending to side with the MPAA and RIAA rather than actual small businesses, startups, and tech communities.

I've built my life on a free and open internet. As the co-founder of WordPress.org, a free software project that aims to democratise publishing, and the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com that hosts blogs from around the world in pursuit of the same goal, the proposed US legislation to regulate and censor the free and open foundation of the internet makes my mouth go dry with fear.

The rise of the web over the past two decades and the freedom to publish and express yourself online will be looked back upon as a cultural revolution.

We have gone from a world split between gatekeepers and media "consumers" to a world in which anyone regardless of geography, finances, social class, race, gender, or any other demographic identifier is free to engage with the rest of the world on their own terms.

That freedom is of paramount importance and must be protected.

That's why we're blacking out our websites on the 18th to raise awareness of this issue, and giving our users tools to do the same.

The tech world is fiercely competitive and companies seldom agree on anything, when you see so many united in solidarity on a single issue, you know there's something to it.

What concerns me the most about Sopa and the Protect IP Act is not that media companies and legislators want to have measures in place to protect copyright – for example we reply to and comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices on WordPress.com when we receive them, it works well for everybody – it's that the authors of the legislation don't seem to really understand how the internet works.

The definition of domestic versus foreign sites shows a woeful lack of comprehension about how domains are used and how traffic flows on the internet.

Where do I stand? On the side of publishing freedom.

What do I hope for? That these pieces of legislation be set aside, and that any future legislation in this arena be drafted by people who understand how the internet works – and how it won't if they do the wrong thing.

My part of the set of op-eds on the BBC concerning today’s blackout. Check it out to also see Jimmy Wales, the MPAA, and the Chamber of Commerce. Hat tip to Jane for helping out with the above.

Twenty-Eight

This is the tenth year I’ve blogged my birthday: 19, 20, 21, 22 (this one is funny), 23, 24, 25, and 26, 27. Wow… I don’t think I’ve ever done anything for ten years in a row before.

The public awareness of blogging comes and goes every two years, but for me it’s been a rock of intrinsic goodness that I keep coming back to. I think that’s why I love working on the platforms around it so much.

I was on the road a lot this year, covering about 190k miles over 245 days. (An average velocity of 21.6 mph.) I spent longer stretches in the same place, and often to places I had been before, which was nice for starting to appreciate the character of a given place. (52 cities and 12 countries.)

It was also one of my most productive years yet. The big resolutions from last year — launching Jetpack, Jazz Quotes, three major WordPress versions — all were completed, and as the team at Automattic grew and matured I was able to focus my time a lot more, even finding time to start coding again and switch (back) to Mac after 8 years on Windows.

In my twenty-eighth year I want to focus more on friends, family, and loved ones, something I’m running late for by doing this blog post, so will wrap this up now and see you all more later in 2012. 🙂

Reminder: In lieu of gifts, I’m trying to raise $28,000 to help bring clean water to Africa. It’s ambitious but I think we can do it. Please chip in!

Exclusive: Microsoft and Nokias Plans for Marketing Windows Phone in 2012.

I dont want to reveal more, and Ive been sitting on this information for weeks so that Microsoft can make its big announcement at CES this coming week. But with these leaks, as with the equally inaccurate LTE leaks last week, I felt the need to set the record straight. The way tech blogs work these days is that any information, no matter how inaccurate, is simply parroted between all the gadget blogs and then, inevitably, to the increasingly lazy mainstream news as well. So lets at least get it right.

Mr Thurrott, perhaps if you didn’t sit on stories for so long other people wouldn’t break them. Your responsibility is to your audience, not Microsoft’s CES launch plans.

“Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Pico Iyer on The Joy of Quiet.

Matt is turning 28 I’m turning 28 next week on January 11th. My friends and family always complain that I’m impossible to buy for, and it’s true, I don’t need any more stuff. (Exception is a mixtape / playlist, I eat those up.) The most important luxuries in my life are time, friends, and time with friends. The thing I covet is impact. So this year going to try something different: I’m giving up my birthday to raise money for charity: water and provide clean water to people that need it. 100% of money donated goes directly to projects in the field. Please donate — let’s build some wells. 🙂