Can Facebook be replaced? Let’s invest $100,000 in seven teams and find out!

I could write another long email filled with criticisms about Zuckerberg’s horrific track record running Facebook, but instead, I thought I would seize the opportunity created by Mark’s self-inflicted crisis and announce the “Openbook Challenge.”

The “Openbook Challenge,” a competition with seven, $100,000 investment prizes.  

All community and social products on the internet have had their era, from AOL to MySpace, and typically they’re not shut down by the government — they’re slowly replaced by better products.

So, let’s start the process of replacing Facebook.

LAUNCH is going to fund seven, purpose-driven teams that want to build a billion-user social network to replace Facebook.

We are hoping to invest in a social network that is actually good for society. This means the new social network would:

  1. Respect and protect consumer’s privacy
  2. Respect and protect our democracy from bad actors
  3. Respect and protect the truth, by stopping the spread of misinformation
  4. Not try and manipulate people by making them addicted to the service
  5. Protect freedom of speech, while curbing abuse (not easy!)

We already have two dozen quality teams cranking on projects and we hope to get to 100.  

The timeline and frequently asked questions are below.

Best,

Jason Calacanis

Founder, LAUNCH

——————————————–

How will the competition work?

This is not an idea or business plan competition. We’re looking for teams that can actually build a better social network, and we’ll be judging teams primarily based upon their ability to execute.

The competition will occur in three stages:

  1. Apply to the competition with your video tour, MVP or full blown product with traction stats.
  2. We will pick 20 teams as finalists and communicate with them regularly for 90 days.
  3. At the end of 90 days, we will offer seven teams to join our incubator, invest $100,000 in each and host them for our 12 week incubator, which will start on October 12.

What are you looking for?

We don’t want to tell you what to build, we want you to come up with your own ideas. Keep in mind, that while ideas really matter, Zuckerberg has shown us, execution matters more.

“Don’t be too proud to copy.” — Mark Zuckerberg

Is this a competition to see who can simply copy Facebook’s current product or a competition to come up with a new, novel way to beat Facebook in the market?

No one knows exactly how Facebook will be replaced. In order to beat Facebook, many believe the winning team will have to not only build a base functionality that is familiar to users looking to switch, but also provide new experiences that will make users passionate about the new product. Other’s believe it will be a completely new paradigm. The reason we want to fund seven teams, is because we think many different paths could lead to the promised land. It’s not going to be easy, but startups never are.  

Who will make the investment?

Angel investor Jason Calacanis will be making the investment from the LAUNCH Incubator Fund. We will also syndicate the best projects to JasonsSyndicate.com (2300+ members).

What will the terms of the investment be?

Our incubator terms are at the industry standard of $100,000 for six percent.

How will you pick the 20 finalists?

Ability to execute.

How will you pick the seven winners?

Ability to execute. (I would also add something like Founder alignment with core mission, values)

How can we stay up to date on the project?

You can email openbook@launch.co anytime with your questions, join the email list at https://www.openbookchallenge.com/updates, and sign-up for the discussion group on… Facebook!

Timeline

Next 60 days (today through June 15): Rolling review of submissions. The LAUNCH team will review submitted video tours and/or link to your full-blown product/MVP and give candid feedback.

July 1st: We will pick the top 20 projects and review them on a special episode of This Week in Startups with two social media experts.

September 30th: We offer the final seven startups, plus three alternates, the opportunity to join our incubator class starting in September.

October 12th-January 15th: Openbook Challenge, LAUNCH Incubator class runs for 12 weeks.

Startup Tuneup: Pitches from 6 Australian Startups

E812: Startup Tuneup, Down Under! 6 Australian startups pitch me on VR therapy, food scrap collection, tree-planting robots, entrepreneurialism for kids, vets-pet owner platform, & homeowner all-in-one custom building

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Timestamps:

01:06 – Jason explains the Startup Tuneup: Six companies from Australia will pitch to Jason and he will provide honest feedback about their chances of raising money, the challenges they face, more.

Pitch: Neuromersive – VR-based brain rehabilitation

02:30 – Aims to reduce the boring and repetitive nature of brain rehabilitation programs through VR, with sensory feedback and electrical stimulation. Targets three-fold improvement in outcomes. Automated system measures and tracks progress. Hopes to capture 30 percent of the 300k US rehab centers.

06:06 – Jason compares the pitch to what investors look for: Founder is passionate about the idea but perhaps too understated. Work on monotonous speech. The persistent character is evident, strong team.

VR products are getting better, but are still too expensive. Plus side is that Neuromersive is targeting a niche market that buys high-ticket items. Customer acquisition cost is high at $1.5k. Jason requests clarification on neuroplasticity and how dopamine enhances it.  Also discusses its role in staying sharp and optimizing intellect.

12:24 – Cost to consumer is the same as more traditional treatments, but with much better results. Jason notes that citing huge, potentially addressable markets and working from the top down can make a startup seem less credible. Better to work from the bottom up: cite realistic numbers for an immediately addressable market.

14:10 – Jason asks about trials, medical device/service status, and regulatory concerns. He questions the flat rate model and the income per clinic.

16:20 – Jason asks about money invested to reach MVP ($75k, still working on MVP) and how much more is required to acquire paying customers ($950k).

16:54 – Jason thanks sponsor Walker Corporate Law, which specializes in startups.

Pitch: Kooda – Tech-enabled food scrap collection and composting

19:41 – Provides two apps: one for consumers, one for “Gatherers.” Provides homeowners, restaurateurs, etc with buckets for food scraps. Gatherers use their app for collections and are incentivized to perform quick, early pickups. Gatherers take the food to local composting centers, reducing the amount of methane generated by landfills. Produces soil conditioner.

23:36 – Jason asks about profitability, unit economics. Collectors get $1.50 per bucket base, $3 with speed incentives. The front-end collection service is break-even: customers cover collection. Subscription averages $20 per month. Revenue comes from product sales.

26:03 – Can the company reach venture scale or is it a boutique business? Response has been strong. People are asking about franchising. The company is working on numerous patents, is considering connected buckets, and is investigating blockchain integration.

28:52 – Jason likes that the idea is not obvious. The fact that people will question scalability means there’s an opportunity. People may be encouraging, but less likely to invest. Once the company figures out profitability, investors will come back looking to write checks. For now, the company has to prove there’s a real business. Jason also likes the positive impact on society.

Pitch: Sky Grow – Autonomous tree-planting robots

32:09 – Problem: Humans aren’t planting trees fast enough to compensate for deforestation. Solution: GrowBots plant trees 10 times faster than traditional methods and at 48 percent of the cost. Safer, easier. Can plant most tree species and add nutrients to the soil. Has contracted to serve its first customers, local governments, by the end of June.

34:44 – Jason asks for details on economics: The company charges $10-$15 per tree. Australian governments have targets for planting trees and isn’t meeting them. Sky Grow sells its services, not robots. Has considered growing trees and delivering and planting them.

38:06 – Jason says it’s exciting that the robots are out in the real world performing a job, but he isn’t sure how venture-fundable the company is in its early stages. Government grants might be a better starting point.

39:28 – Jason asks about the closest competition, which is a company using aerial drones to fire seeds into the ground.

40:58 – Jason thanks sponsor Athletic Greens, which makes superfood shakes. TWiST listeners get 20 free travel packs with first purchase.

Pitch: Kiddsbay – A platform enabling children to create and launch online businesses

43:42 – Provides a step-by-step wizard for creating a business, educational resources (including tutorials and quizzes), business templates, more. Kids can generate real money as well as virtual currency, which can be used for unlocking additional site features, adding features to their stores, more.

46:09 – Jason loves the idea of getting children involved with entrepreneurship. He asks about real-world sales, revenue, scalability. Notes the idea hasn’t really existed before in the world.

49:03 – Jason says there might be a bit too much going on. A sim system (no real-world sales) could be the best idea to pursue. Depends on early feedback. Jason says to stay open-minded about which features resonate and which should be abandoned.

Pitch: VetChat – Connects pet owners with vets for video consultations and chat

52:44 – Has served 2k pet owners. Not currently looking for funding but for introductions to marketplaces, pet-tech companies, etc, to learn about acquisition and growth strategies.

56:02 – Jason says the idea is brilliant: Nobody wants to take a pet to the vet when it isn’t necessary. Asks about pricing: $39 consultation works out to about $2 per minute. Cheaper than going to the vet, but gives vets the ability to earn at their convenience. Currently doesn’t support prescriptions and Jason says that’s key to everything – but the idea has legs.

Jason notes the pitch included specific numbers, the founder has passion, and she understands what investors want to know. She anticipated questions. This makes follow-ups more likely. Jason says to stay focused on metrics and margins until it’s time to raise.

Pitch: Udrew – DIY building plans and permit approvals

1:00:37 – Simplifies the process for home improvement projects: generating designs, ensuring compliance, listing materials, more. The system recognizes pipes, trees, etc. and enables the user to perfect a design before contracting. Piloting with fences will support more structures.

1:03:08 –  Jason says the idea is very innovative but it’s a complex area. He compares it to LegalZoom in that there are some legal difficulties when issuing permits. Udrew is a software company. The system recalculates strength, etc., as materials are changed to ensure everything is up to code. They have an in-house chief structural engineer. So far, the software has been more accurate than existing human-generated submissions.

1:07:44 – Cost: 70 percent cheaper than current standard price with an architect. Jason notes to be specific about numbers – it increases credibility. Regarding the product, Jason says mistakes could have a high cost, so it’s best to add support for new structures slowly and carefully. Jason says Udrew is super impressive.

Jason picks his Top Three:

  1. Udrew provides unbelievable value proposition and massive cost savings.

  2. Kooda is a wildcard that’s fascinating due to the concept and early traction.

  3. Neuromersive is interesting, has good timing. Efficacy is the question.

Jason speaks a bit about LAUNCH Festival Sydney

News Roundtable: Zuckerberg, Facebook, USPS, Youtube, Self-Driving

This Week In Startups

E811: News Roundtable! Iain Thomson, The Register & Brian Alvey, Clipisode: Zuck testifies to Congress, Facebook’s data dilemma, Trump orders USPS review, YouTube demonetization fallout, self-driving car accidents & the dangers of human distraction.

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Timestamps

00:30 – Jason introduces his guests: Clipisode founder Brian Alvey and The Register journalist, Iain Thomson.

Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress:

03:09 – Brian says Facebook users should be savvy and expect their data is for sale. Notes that Facebook and others charge per API call: it makes technical and financial sense for companies to retain user data once acquired. Jason expects Facebook to reduce its data gathering. Iain agrees and says the company will have to launch a paid service to make up for lost data revenue.

08:19 – Brian notes the brilliance of Zuckerberg’s response to questions about ad-targeting: with reduced targeting, the company would charge small businesses more to run campaigns – an implied threat.

10:51 – Brian says regulation is likely and it will inhibit competition because Facebook was able to achieve its position without those restrictions.

11:48 – Thanks ZipRecruiter for supporting This Week In Startups. Visit http://ZipRecruiter.com/twist to hire the perfect candidate for your business.

13:08 – Jason says Zuckerberg’s performance was very good and the questions he faced were not challenging. Jason does not expect new regulations. He challenges listeners to prove Facebook is lying about not being able to target individual users.

16:31 – Iain believes regulation is coming in the US, but it won’t be as intensive as the EU’s GDPR. Jason argues companies should be required to ask users if they want to see their stored data every 90 days, and to delete data regularly. Brian argues companies should show users how ads will suffer without targeting, then give them the option to opt in/out. Brian says service bundles would increase subscriptions for ad-free services.

Trump versus Amazon

22:12 – Regarding Trump’s accusation that Amazon is costing the USPS money, Brian says delivering letters is a dying business, while delivering packages is a growing business for the USPS. Iain says Amazon has been a savior for the USPS, but potentially resold bulk-purchased delivery services. Jason says the USPS needs to be significantly downsized.

28:54 – Thanks Squarespace for supporting This Week In Startup – Use offer code “Twist” for a 10-percent off your first purchase.

YouTube Shooting:

30:42 – Jason says while gun control, office security, and mental illness are obvious relevant topics, there is an important discussion to be had about YouTube and others changing terms and monetization opportunities. Brian notes such companies have a difficult responsibility because these decisions affect the livelihoods and potential earning power for some users. Jason says YouTube’s willingness to accept strange content and to monetize it is what made the company so powerful. Now, they’re shedding the bottom rung of creators. Iain says that bottom rung is where the next generation of superstars will emerge. The lesson for creators is to diversify.

NTSB removes Tesla from the investigation into fatal Model X accident:

39:01 – Brian says everything will be automated and self-driving vehicles will absolutely be safer than human drivers. Lain agrees but says the tech isn’t ready for full deployment. Jason accepts Tesla’s arguments that “Autopilot crashes” have been due to driver error.

46:11 – Jason asks if Autopilot should be paused. Brian says the tech should not be paused across the board – only for companies not ready for prime time. Speaking about the recent fatal accident involving a self-driving Uber, Jason says boredom is a problem. Brian notes that distraction is a huge problem for human-controlled vehicles so self-driving cars are a definite improvement. Jason argues for speed governors and stiffer punishments for distracted drivers.

51:05 – Iain says the trouble with implementing harsher laws for distracted drivers (car and phone impounded) is that voters would hate any politician who backed such an initiative. Says Finland has an interesting approach: Fining drivers a percentage of their annual salaries. Iain argues impounding distracted drivers’ vehicles could cause them to lose their jobs.

Sinclair Broadcast Group – Video shows various news stations reading the same script

53:56 – Brian notes similar videos have been circulating for years. Content services have been doing this in Radio and TV for decades: it’s the political agenda that has angered people. FCC will not take action.

Iain says next week will be big for security news.

Brian explains how Clipisode works.

Jason talks about LAUNCH Festival Sydney.

Abra Founder Bill Barhydt shares insights on ICOs (the good, bad & ugly), bitcoin’s euphoric rollercoaster, liquidity, mining, the IRS & crypto’s immutable fate to transform the world

This Week In Startups

E809: Abra Founder Bill Barhydt built the 1st global wallet to buy, store & invest 20 crypto- & 50 fiat currencies. In this episode, he shares insights on ICOs (the good, bad & ugly), bitcoin’s euphoric rollercoaster, liquidity, mining, the IRS & crypto’s immutable fate to transform the world.

Listen on iTunes



Timestamps:

2:22 Jason explains how he first met today’s guest, Bill Barhydt, Founder & CEO of Abra. Bill shares the fundamental vision behind Abra.

4:13 Jason asks Bill if his original idea for Abra is still in play, and how much his investment (from 3yrs ago) is worth now. Bill explains what worked & didn’t work.

5:43 What does the term digital gold mean?

6:32 Bill explains how Abra is using bitcoin as programmable money to create global financial inclusion.

10:45 Thanks to Walker Corporate Law for supporting the show. Call (415) 979-9998 to talk with Scott Walker directly, or visit http://walkercorporatelaw.com for more information about getting legal work done for your startup.

13:33 Bill explains his view on the current state of ICOs. (the good, the bad, the ugly). And why many ICOs are forbidding U.S. investors.

17:24 Bill & Jason explain the fundamental difference between ICO investors and Angel Investors.

18:42 Jason challenges Bill to list the companies (crypto projects) that have a product being used in the market, and how tokens are being used within those products.

23:18 Is the trading volume for cryptocurrencies inaccurate/fake? Bill explains the manipulation that occurred in China, and how it caused massive trade volume.

24:50 Jason & Bill talk about why bitcoin skyrocketed to over $19,000 within a short period.

27:57 Thanks to Asana for supporting this podcast. Visit http://asana.com/twist to try it out for free!

34:03 Will bitcoin become the ultimate winner in cryptocurrency? Jason believes that bitcoin will go to zero, and Bill explains why he thinks it will continue to be “digital gold.”

35:22 Why hasn’t anyone been able to hack bitcoin? Bill explains the complexity of which bitcoin was created with, which makes it 100% immutable.

37:28 Bill explains what Litecoin is, why Abra uses it in their smart contracts, and how Abra makes money.

40:34 Can the entire crypto ecosystem be ruined if something happened to Coinbase? Bill explains why this theory is false.

43:01 Where is crypto world headed? Bill explains what he wants to see, and what the market cap for cryptocurrency will be in 10 years.

50:25 How anonymous is cryptocurrency today? Bill explains the varying degrees anonymity associated with different cryptocurrencies.

53:27 Is the U.S being too conservative with cryptocurrency?

58:19 Bill explains why the IRS is not equipped to crack down on taxing all cryptocurrency gains.

1:01:03 Bill explains why he’s setting up a non-profit arm of Abra in Switzerland.

1:03:07 Will Abra do an ICO? Bill explains why he’s not interested.

1:06:02 Jason reveals his big plan for launching “J-coin”

1:08:04 Jason and Bill discuss the $1.7b Telegram ICO. Bill shares that Telegram will only need $50-$100m to follow through with their whitepaper. What will they do with the remaining $1.6b???

1:11:32 Jason ask Bill to come to http://launchfestivalsydney.com in June and present a keynote on Crypto. Bill accepts! (P.S.: we have 100 free tickets left for founders)

1:12:19 Bill explains why his career jump from Goldman Sachs to Netscape was one of his best career decisions.

Defending self-driving cars in the face of tragedy

Last month we reached the tragic, and long-dreaded, moment in the history of self-driving cars: the death of an individual who didn’t opt into using self-driving technology. (In this case, it was a pedestrian, but it could have been passengers in a non-self driving car).

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): https://ctt.ec/A29R8 ]

This follows the May 7, 2016 Florida death of a driver using Tesla’s driving-assist technologies (“autopilot”), which are often confused with self-driving technology.

Since that time, two other deaths have occurred while autopilot was engaged, including a driver in China on January 20, 2016, and the recent crash here in the Bay Area on March 23rd.

Four tragic deaths, in four separate instances, using two different flavors of self-driving tech (driver assist & fully automated), but one common thread which we must, as a society and industry, address candidly: user error and — most confoundingly — the abuse or misuse of this technology.

I’m a strong believer, and investor, in self-driving technologies.

I’m a shareholder in all three of the major players in self-driving: Tesla, Uber and Alphabet (aka Google), which owns Waymo. Two of those names, I own blindly via my Wealthfront “robo-portfolio” (i.e., I don’t actively trade them and don’t know how much I own of each). I invested in Uber, which is still a private company, during their seed round.

I also own two Teslas with self-driving technology, the Model X and the Model 3, and I’ve logged over 20,000 miles on autopilot.

I use autopilot almost every day on the 101 freeway, the same road where the most recent death with autopilot engaged occurred. It’s important to note that I’m not saying “autopilot death” here, but rather a death that occurred with autopilot engaged.

This is an important distinction, because in all three autopilot cases — and I want to be careful to not blame the victims here — the users appear to have potentially misused — or perhaps even abused — the technology.

Continue reading Defending self-driving cars in the face of tragedy

“Why do you hate crypto, Jason?” (I don’t, but… )

“If you are right, that 90% of crypto projects are scams or incompetent, what do you gain by taking that position publicly?” asked a close friend.

I took a moment to think it through.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): https://ctt.ec/3a1P0 ]

Why was I sounding the alarm on Twitter, my podcast, and CNBC, that civilians should be very careful investing in virtual currencies that are unregulated, anonymous, easily manipulated, phenomenally hackable, global, and often run by bad actors or the incompetent?  

“To protect people from losing their money?” I answered.

I’ve got a complicated relationship with crypto, having monitored early projects like Bitcoin with enthusiasm.

Six years ago I wrote a piece called “The Most Dangerous Project We’ve Ever Seen,” that introduced many in the investment community to Bitcoin.
http://www.launch.co/blog/l019-bitcoin-p2p-currency-the-most-dangerous-project-weve-ev.html

Full disclosure, while I don’t trade cryptocurrencies, I have a lot of exposure to it by investments in startups like Robinhood, Abra, and Talla.com (to name a few notable projects).

Here are five important points I would like to state for the record:

  1. This Will End Badly For Most

It would take me ten articles to catalogue all the risks and scams in this emerging space, but to give you the broad strokes here are the critical issues that most savvy people — including those with large positions in crypto — all agree on.

Billions of dollars in crypto have already been stolen, and *most* of the ICOs I see are horrible ideas run by people who have no track record or ability to execute.

Bitconnect is an instructive example that you can read about here:
http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/01/ponzi-scheme-bitcoin-site-bitconnect-shuts-down.html

Most importantly, you should watch this hilarious video:
https://youtu.be/lCcwn6bGUtU

And read about these pump and dump chat rooms, where thousands of people (it seems) are buying crypto coins before marketing them to the next group of suckers.
https://theoutline.com/post/3074/inside-the-group-chats-where-people-pump-and-dump-cryptocurrency?zd=1

Now, it is *possible* that while most projects fail, most of the money in crypto could wind up going to a smaller number of higher quality projects that become long-term successes — but that is obviously not guaranteed.

In fact, it’s possible that Bitcoin could go to zero (which I talk about below).   

Continue reading “Why do you hate crypto, Jason?” (I don’t, but… )

ANGEL in Miami 1/29-1/30/18

Friends,

I’ll be in Miami, FL, in a couple of weeks to talk about my book, “ANGEL.”

I hope you will join me at Refresh Miami on Tuesday 1/30 for a fireside chat and raffle. Raffle winners will join me for brunch the following day, Wednesday 1/31. Agenda & book tour itinerary are below.

Hope to see you there.

Best,

@jason

MIAMI ITINERARY: 1/30 & 1/31

TUESDAY 1/30:

12PM-2PM Private Lunch with Gramercy

6:30-8:30PM Public event: Refresh Miami fireside chat & raffle. Raffle winners to join Jason for brunch following day.
Purchase tickets HERE.  AGENDA:

6:30pm – 7:15pm: Networking, drinks and light bites
7:15pm – 8:30pm: Fireside Chat and audience Q&A. Jason will be interviewed by Melissa Krinzman, Managing Partner of Krillion Ventures

WEDNESDAY 1/31:

10:00AM: Brunch with raffle winners.

ANGEL Book Tour Dates (frequently updated)

The Seed Slowdown

My pal Fred Wilson wrote about the “Seed Slowdown” today. The numbers show two clear trends:

1. 2015 was the peak of angel investing in technology startups in terms of dollars and number of deals.

2. 2017 is crashing in terms of the number of deals closed, with dollar amounts off significantly — but not as much.  

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): https://ctt.ec/CmkbL ]

Fred points out some of the reasons for the boom and bust, and I’m in agreement and expand a bit on what happened — since I lived it and recently wrote about it in my book (angelthebook.com).

There were two major trends contributing to the 2014/2015 boom:  

1. Facebook created a crazy number of new investors (e.g., Dave Morin, TWIST #216 and Chamath Palihapitiya TWIST #238 & #776), who were added to the legions of Google angels running around town (e.g., Andrea Zureck, ANGEL #3).

2. Coordinated seed efforts: These started after Web 2.0 (the 2002-2006 era) and created a professional class of early-stage investors. These efforts include stuff I was working on like TechCrunch50/LAUNCH Festival, Sequoia Scouts & the Open Angel Forum (where Uber Pitched), and notably, Naval’s work on AngelList (TWIST #244) and Paul Graham’s scaling of YCombinator to mind-blowing heights (TWIST #421).

The reason for the decline? I would sum that up in 3 points:

a. Indigestion
When you break into the 30, 40 or 50 angel investments like Matt Brezina (ANGEL #10), Joanne Wilson (TWIST #358 & Fred’s better half) and I have, you need time to digest these deals. As I describe in the book, your startups will start coming back to you 9-12 months after you give them money, and most will not be able to clear market with other investors. This leads to dozens of founders needing your help to raise funds or come to terms with the death of their startups. It’s exhausting, and most angels take breaks investing.

b. Startups Staying Private
By now everyone knows that startups can stay private indefinitely, and this is a bad, bad trend for the entire ecosystem — but more often than not it’s worst for the company, which loses the discipline and the maturation that going public cause. My pal Bill Gurley (TWIST #722), considered by many to be the best VC on the planet right now, outlined this in his infrequently– but poignantly — updated blog, “above the crowd” (he’s tall, he’s a brilliant strategist): http://abovethecrowd.com/2016/04/21/on-the-road-to-recap/  

c. Angels Moving Downstream
Many angel investors learn their craft and get picked up by major firms. Cyan Banister was a frequent guest at the Open Angel Forum, and invested in Uber and Thumbtack at the events. Over the years she became one of the most respected investors in the world and Brian Singerman at Founders Fund recruited her. Joining a big firm is a better life for an angel investor because, well, you do fewer deals at larger dollar amounts. This leads to the opposite of the indigestion in point (a) above! Fewer, more meaningful bets is simply an easier life than being an angel, which at times feels like being a hospice worker — which it obviously isn’t! In fact, that’s a big part of the job of being a great angel investor: explaining to distraught founders that this isn’t life and death.

As Fred points out, being an early-stage investor is hard and some people are leaving to do later stage investing which means…it’s a huge opportunity!

Continue reading The Seed Slowdown

ANGEL media hits so far… thank you.

Wanted to say thank you to everyone who has had me on their podcast/networks/etc. to discuss my new book ANGEL.

Podcast/Radio: Guest Appearances on Angel
2CentDad: Interview by Mike Sudyk
Bloomberg Markets: Interview by Carol Massar and Cory Johnson
Educate Yourself: Interview by Ryan Carson
Forbes: Interview by Steven Bertoni
The Full Ratchet: Interview by Nick Moran
Inside Outside Innovation: Interview by Brian Ardinger and Josh Berry
Intercom: Interview by Des Traynor
The James Altucher Show: Interview by James Altucher
KindredCast: Interview by Alex Michael
The Learning Leader: Interview by Ryan Hawk
The Matt Report: Interview by Matt Medieros
The Meb Faber Show: Interview by Meb Faber
Mixergy: Interview by Andrew Werner
Success! How I Did It: Interview by Alyson Shontell
The Twenty Minute VC: Interview by Harry Stebbings

Media Hits

7/18/17: Cheddar TV (1 hour 35 min)
7/19/17: CNBC Squawk Alley
7/23/17: Salon
7/25/17: Bold TV
7/26/17: Fort Knoxx
8/25/17: Live Talks LA

If you would like to have me on your podcast to talk about the book, tech, angel investing and life, email me [ jason at calacanis.com ]

Should everyone be an angel investor? + some upcoming events

The biggest question I was asked about angel investing during my New York book tour was, “Can anyone be an angel investor?”

Today I want to try and answer that question and let you know about some upcoming events.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/6sNj5 ]

First, some upcoming events:

This Tuesday, August 15th, I will be in Los Angeles speaking at Google in Venice (Google employees only) from 11:30AM-1:00PM.

Tuesday night, August 15th, I will be speaking at a public event, “Live Talks Los Angeles: An Evening with Jason Calacanis” at 8:00PM, which you can register for here: http://bit.ly/eveningjcal

I’ll be going to Stockholm, New York and Los Angeles in the fall. Frequently updated schedule here: angelthebook.com/tour

Second, “Can/Should everyone angel invest?”

I wrote the book “Angel” in order to detail the risks involved in angel investing, and share strategies that might increase your odds at having a positive outcome if you choose to become an angel.

[ ANGEL book reviews: http://bit.ly/5starangel ]

There is one important rub, however, here in the United States: traditionally private companies only accept investment from “accredited investors.”

Accredited investors are basically rich people, who have a lot of money in the bank or have large, well-documented salaries. Non-accredited investors are the other ~95% of Americans (of which I was one for 75% of my life).

You can read more about this at the SEC’s website here: http://bit.ly/secinvestor

However, last year the SEC introduced a new class of investment commonly called “equity crowdfunding.” This is a way for non-accredited investors to invest in private companies. It’s a bit complicated, and it’s only a year old, but I think it’s a very positive development.

Continue reading Should everyone be an angel investor? + some upcoming events

ANGEL the Book Tour

Friends,

My book “Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups” is out and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it. You can order ANGEL here, and if you like it, please write a nice review on Amazon!

The book tour is in full swing, below are past & upcoming events. If you’re interested in hosting a book signing or meet-up, more info is here. Hope to see you on the road.

best,
@jason

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Upcoming Events
(updated frequently here)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Google Talk LA: 11:30AM-1:00 PM
Private Event

Live Talks LA: An Evening with Jason Calacanis: 8:00PM
Purchase Tickets Here

Monday, September 4 – Friday, September 8, 2017

Stockholm and Norway – Event details coming soon!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Speaker and Book Signing at TechStyle: 11:45AM-1:30PM
800 Apollo Street, El Segundo, CA

Fireside Chat, Q&A, Book Signing at Mind & Mill in Riverside, CA: 5:30-8:30 PM
Details Here

Previous Events

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Seed Invest – Fireside Chat: Jason and Ryan Feit at Silicon Valley Bank, NY: 12:30 PM

Seed Invest – Q&A and Book Signing at Silicon Valley Bank, NY: 3:00 PM

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dim Sum with Jason at The Golden Unicorn, NY: 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fireside chat: Jason and David Sorin at Montclair University, NJ: 6:00-9:00 PM

Monday, July 24, 2017

Book Signing at Barnes and Noble Tribeca, NY: 6:00-8:00 PM

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fireside chat: Jason and James Altucher at Squarespace HQ, NY: 6:00-9:00 PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Harvard Business School Event, NY: In Conversation w/ Jason and John Reese: 6:00-8:30 PM

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bloomberg Beta Future Founders: Fireside Chat: Jason and James Cham: 6:00-8:00 PM

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Fireside Chat: Jason and Michael Todasco at Paypal: 1:00-2:00 PM

Fireside Chat: Jason and Asra Nadeem at Draper University: 6:00-9:00 PM

Monday, June 20, 2017

Keynote Speaker at San Diego Startup Week with special guest James Heller (Wrapify): 7:30-10:30 PM

 

I wrote a book

Friends,

I wrote a book about angel investing, starting companies and the future.

It’s called ANGEL and it’s coming out July 18th.

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They offered me a ghost writer, but I decided to write it myself. It took 19 long days, but I think it came out great. If you’re a founder, investor or in any way involved in technology you’re going to get a lot out of it.

If you’re not in the industry, but you’re interested in breaking in and understanding how it works, well, ANGEL is a candid look at how it works and how you can break in.

I wrote the book because I believe that the best way to generate outsized results is to own stock in high-growth, private, early-stage technology companies.

If you’ve ever come to one of my events, or appreciate the podcast or my writing, a great way to show your support is to spend $10-20 bucks on the audio book (I read it), the hardcover or the ebook. If you’re a super fan, buy all three or give them as a gift.

After you read it, please consider writing a review — if you loved it!

Barnes and Noble:
goo.gl/ZUw9k2

Amazon:
http://amzn.to/2sSyyKi

Audible:
http://amzn.to/2sAfEpv

iBooks:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/angel/id1166101041

All the best, @jason calacanis

PS – If you want to angel invest alongside me, or see my deal memos, sign up for http://jasonssyndicate.com

Billion Dollar Startup Ideas: The HBO of Podcasting

tl;dr: Someone is going to create the Netflix or HBO of podcasting, but it will take a legendary investor to put up $100 million to start a subscription-based network.

This post was originally published in the Inside Podcasting newsletter. Subscribe here for free!

Eight years ago I started a podcast called CalacanisCast. We quickly changed the name to This Week in Startups, and over the past seven years we’ve done over 700 episodes, twice a week, week after week.

This year we will hit $1m in revenue, 95% from loyal advertisers who are thrilled with the performance of their advertisements and my spectacularly heartfelt “reads.”

[ Note: We created something at the start called “white-listed advertising” which stated that I would never accept a sponsor unless I, or one of my team members, loved the product. We turned down things like LifeLock and e-cigarettes that would have been lucrative but that we personally didn’t use. ]

We have four full-time employees on the show, not including me, and we are doing not only audio but also video. We do a dozen live events a year on average and “the show” is often the professional highlight of my week.

The podcast was, in large part, the reason I signed a high-six figure deal for my first book, titled ANGEL, which is coming out on July 18th (pre-order from this link if you want to thank me for all the free content we’ve done live and on the show — I sure would appreciate it).

My podcast is the best reflection of who I am, probably even better than these email missives because they include me interacting with the startup founders who are trying to change the world.

The pod has also made me wicked smart, giving me the MBA and Psychology PhD I never had the time to complete.

2017: The year of the Podcast

I predict this year is the tipping point for podcasting, with “Serial” laying the groundwork two years ago for “Missing Richard Simmons,” as well as folks like Joe Rogan going supernova, podcasts which are taking the medium from the underground to the mainstream.

Add to that the fact that Bill Simmons’ TV show on HBO flopped (I liked it) but his podcast is surging, a testament to the fact that talk shows are often awkward and gimmicky — severely so when compared to the authenticity of podcasting.

I’m guessing Bill is way past $10 million a year in podcasting revenue, and my pal Leo Laporte (for whom I have had the privilege of sitting in as host from time to time) is also at that $10m mark after laying the groundwork for the rest of us.

Reading advertising isn’t horrible, in fact it’s enjoyable for the right partners. I love reading ads, and have had my listeners yell “ohhh Audible!” and “I love Squarespace! Tommy John! MailChimp!” at me when they meet me — which is hilarious.

Candidly, selling ads and living hand-to-mouth is hard, even for an established podcast like This Week in Startups, which sells out for three to six months in advance (thanks Luke!).

On top of all this, podcasts are still hard to measure — something that is a “soft” issue because all the ROI-driven marketers use codes to get directional info on how they are doing.

Most podcasters would jump at the chance to stop selling ads and start simply collecting a check from an HBO like Bill Maher and John Oliver do, or cash a check from Netflix to produce something pure and unadulterated.

Podcast fans are more than willing to pay, and we see many Patreons hitting thousands and tens of thousands of dollars per month. When we did our patronage effort (long before Patreon existed) we instantly hit $5,000 a month.

However it’s hard for a large group of folks to pay for five or ten different podcasts they love, and that’s where I think the opportunity lies: a group subscription for podcasting’s top talents.

This would remove the cognitive load on consumers looking to support their favorite shows, while allowing the talent to focus 100% of their effort building increasingly better content — not marketing or revenue.

Simple Math: 100 podcasters, five million subscribers

If you could grab 20% of the top 500 podcasts over the next two years for the “HBO of Podcasting” at a $4m payment each, you would be looking at a whopping $400 million content budget — or as Sirius XM would refer to it, “two Howard Sterns” and Netflix would call it four “House of Cards” or “three weeks” (of content).

That’s a ton of money, but for 50 to 250 episodes per year depending on the cadence of each podcast, it would be $16,000 to $80,000 per episode — a HUGE budget for content creators.

My guess is that every podcaster in the top 20% zone could deliver 10,000 to 100,000+ paid subscribers. Call it 50,000 on average, which means without overlap you would be looking at five million paid subs. With duplication call it three or four million people, each paying $10 a month.

In other words, you would break even if you could convert 1–2% of Americans into a subscription.

To put that in perspective take a look at this ranked list of paid subscribers:

  • New York Times: About 3 million (digital + print combined)
  • WSJ: 948,000 subscribers (digital only)
  • HBO App/Direct: 1 million
  • Pandora: 4.39 million (total)
  • The Podcast Company: five million in five years (projected)
  • Hulu: 12 million (launched in 2008)
  • HBO: 49 million (US)
  • SiriusXM: 31 million (US)
  • Netflix: 49 million (US)

To execute on this business you would need to do a Series A investment of $100m for 1/3rd of the company, followed by three or four additional rounds of investment in the $100–200m range. After spending ~$600 million you would have a service that was self-sustaining and have a high-growth value of 10x top line revenue of $500m — or five billion. You would have an outside chance of becoming the next Spotify or Netflix, putting you in the decacorn club.

At scale, you would integrate some modest advertising back into the product without having the subscribers get upset — SiriusXM did just that, and it’s barely noticeable when Howard does a quick ad read every hour or so.

Venture capitalists don’t normally deal in this kind of $100m investment range, so it would take either a very bullish one or a later stage private equity fund to do this.

There have been dozens of attempts at a podcasting network, but none of them have had the nine figures of funding it takes to get a true subscription flywheel going. A ten or twenty million dollar round of funding won’t get you to first base in a media landscape with Netflix and SiriusXM.

Sure, SirisXM, Spotify, Audible or Netflix could take this on, but greats companies tend to be great at one thing — so it’s unlikely they would dip into podcasting.

So, in the words of Kanye West, “Now who’s gonna be the Medici family and stand up and let me create more; or do you wanna marginalize me ’til I’m out of my moment?”

Best,

@jason


PS — LAUNCH Festival is next week… join us: launchfestival.com/tickets // use code JASON10 for 10% off any ticket.

PPS — Angel Summit is on Wednesday: 40+ angels talk about what they are investing in and why.

PPPS — My book comes out July 18th and it’s called ANGEL. Will be doing two weeks of media in New York city from the 17th until the 30th of July. If you want to host a book party at your startup or in your city, please hit reply and let me know. We are forming “ANGEL Squads” in various cities to setup Q&A and pitch sessions and I could use your help getting 100 folks to each one.

PPPPS — We just finished our sixth syndicate at Jasonssyndicate.com (no longer on AngelList). If you want to see the deals I’m investing in, and possible join us in funding these companies, you can signup to get my deal memos.

PPPPPS — I’m having fun with jasonstxtlist.com, where I regularly share these emails BEFORE I publish them to get feedback. I send maybe five to ten txt messages a month. Nothing crazy, it’s just sort of a fun way to communicate with y’all.

PPPPPPS — My startup, Inside.com, publishes concise, compelling newsletters that round up everything you need to know in 20 different verticals.

Airpods are Apple’s Best Product Since the iPad

To say Apple’s product launches since the iPad have been underwhelming to Apple fans would be an understatement.

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Apple Watch: everyone I know bought one, almost no one I know wears one. It’s confusing and not very useful.

Siri: after a four-year lead, Apple’s most fascinating service has been embarrassed by the prowess and ubiquity of Amazon’s Alexa — which is finding its way into TVs and washing machines!

Macbook Pro: After taking years to upgrade the standard laptop for developers and creatives, Apple released an underpowered and overpriced computer with all the important ports removed, creating a healthy market for used Macbook Pros.

Let those three missteps sink in for a moment.

Apple’s products used to be drool-worthy by default, now consumers expect to be let down by Tim Cook. In the words of POTUS… SAD!

The iPhone 7 Plus was an OK release, with its exceptional camera and underwater functionality making up for an otherwise “meh” update.

Despite all this, Apple is still a money-printing machine, leading folks like Warren Buffett to load up on it while the pundits wonder if Apple is losing its product edge.

Their one notable exception is Airpods, the most gloriously elegant, addicting and game-changing product that Apple has produced since the iPad.

Airpods are wireless headphones that look like hearing aids with a tiny stem attached to them. You look like an idiot wearing them right now, primarily because they only come in bright white, not in an array of darker colors that would make them elegantly disappear.

These tiny wonders are designed to work instantly, as opposed to every other experience you’ve had with bluetooth devices, which constantly fail to connect or lose their connection so often that you ultimately stop using them.

Here are the nine brilliant features of Airpods I love:

Continue reading Airpods are Apple’s Best Product Since the iPad

The Syndicate

[ Tl;dr: We’re creating the world’s largest startup angel syndicate at the LAUNCH Festival on April 6th & 7th. –@Jason Calacanis ]

For close to 100 years non-accredited investors — currently defined as those making less than $200,000 a year or with less than one million in net worth excluding their home — have not been able to invest in private companies.

That all changed this past May when the SEC started allowing everyone in the United States access to what I believe is the greatest wealth creation vehicle in the world today: startups.

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Over the past 10 years startups like Dropbox, Mint (sold to Intuit for $170m), Yammer (sold to Microsoft for $1.2b), Fitbit (went public in June 2015), PowerSet (sold to Microsoft for $100m), Clicker (sold to CNET for $100m), Trello (sold to Atlassian for $425m), TrueCar (raised $70m in its 2014 IPO), and Cafe X (raised $5m) have presented at our event — but 97% of the people at the event were not allowed to invest in them.

This year we’re inviting all 120 startups at the LAUNCH Festival to accept investment from the 12,000 attendees, SeedInvest’s network of 150,000 investors and the tens of thousands watching at home.

We’ve known this was coming, so four years ago — back in 2013 — we created a “virtual investing” contest at the LAUNCH Festival where consumers could invest 10,000 “LAUNCH Dollars.”

This year the investments will be real!

Continue reading The Syndicate

Inside.com launches 14th newsletter

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Inside.com has launched its 14th newsletter: inside.com/facebook. Our mission is “to make you smarter & better at your job.”

We write every single newsletter with this in mind, and we’ve perfected a format that is wildly addicting to our readers. We read hundreds of stories in a vertical, and we summarize the top 12 of them perfectly so that you can quickly get up to speed.

We respect our readers and don’t try to trick them into clicking on links to get more page views. In fact, we only want one page from you ever, and that’s on the signup form for the topic you care most about.

https://inside.com/ev (electric vehicles, autonomous driving, etc.)
https://inside.com/streaming <– netflix, amazon, etc,
https://inside.com/technically-sentient <— AI, Machine Learning
https://inside.com/readthisthing <— one great long read a day
Some upcoming newsletters you can vote on:

 

Donald Trump

From the Inside team:

TL;DR: We just launched Inside Trump, and we think you should check it out.

We’ve been busy at Inside over the past year building a network of email newsletters. We’ve added a dozen newsletters and 10xed our audience since March of last year, and have nailed down an editorial model that delivers huge value to our fast-growing readership.

Our team has become masterful at deeply understanding a topic, tracking down the most important people, companies, and developments, consuming every bit of news and information around it, and delivering a must-read roundup inspired by the famous presidential daily briefings. Given that coverage of Trump is absolutely ubiquitous, we knew we had a challenging undertaking with Inside Trump, but we set out build it.

After much back-and-forth with our most loyal readers, and many Google Doc iterations of what this newsletter might be, we think we’ve got something that really does add value to the discussion.

Inside Trump is partly curation — we’re finding the best coverage across hundreds of publications and providing the high-level details along with links to great reporting so you can dive deeper. It’s also partly synthesis — after reading as much news as possible, the newsletter is relaying a concise, clickbait-free roundup of the news you need to know. Finally, it’s also partly original content from deep dives into Trump’s appointments and policies to explorations of the actions he takes in his first 100 days.

Inside Trump has no political agenda. We’re just here to relay the most important news and information to our readers.

If you want to stay up on this ever-fascinating topic, we hope you’ll subscribe to Inside Trump (also, we hope you’ll hit reply to our newsletters and let us know what you think.)

Here’s how you can get involved:

Subscribe to Inside Trump 

Join the discussion about Inside Trump on Product Hunt 

Click to tweet about Inside Trump 


LAUNCH Incubator is looking for a Program Director

Program Director, LAUNCH Incubator

LAUNCH is looking for a driven and resourceful leader to develop content, curriculum and events for founders in the LAUNCH Incubator, as well as for our alumni and potential investments.

The ideal candidate is resourceful and a great communicator, who can listen to our founders, determine what speakers, skills and content would be most helpful to them in building their businesses, and quickly build content for them.

Responsibilities
  • Develop content for the LAUNCH Incubator, LAUNCH Festival, LAUNCH SCALE, Angel Summit and This Week in Startups that helps founders grow.
  • Manage mentors & speakers for 18 sessions of the LAUNCH Incubator. (Each session has five mentors, so this would be 90 mentors per year.)
  • Understand Lean Startup methodology to optimize your efforts.
  • Build and maintain relationships with our network of influencers.
  • Identify key topics, events, and issues for influencers to offer input on.
  • Communicate actively with our team & alumni, including reporting directly to our CEO/founder.
  • Help in selecting our incubator startups.
Qualifications
  • Five years working in and around startups.
  • Proven track record of building quality products, content and/or events.
  • An extensive network of startup people and a deep grasp of the ‘who’s who’ in areas like growth, sales/bd, saas, hr/ops, engineering, design, etc.
  • Intelligence & the ability to quickly build efficient, repeatable processes for scaling our organization.
  • Technical skills, with the ability to quickly add new ones.
  • Excellent communications and presentation skills.
Qualities
  • Hustle. You need to be able to track down busy, influential people and get them to come to our events. This requires creative communication, research, persistence, and hustle.
  • Persistence. We mentioned this above, but it bears reiteration. You might need to email someone six times before you catch their attention. We need someone willing to push hard.
  • Communication. This position requires exceptional writing ability for private (email, mailing lists) and public (social media, blog posts) communications.
  • Curiosity. To excel in this role, you need to be able to build a deep understanding of each of the verticals we publish in. That means knowing the events, companies, products, and most importantly, people, in each of these verticals and having your finger on the pulse of any changes or developments.
  • Time-management & Organization. We have thousands of founders apply for our incubator, and tens of thousands come to our events. We have to manage a deluge of interest that results in a finite amount of deep engagement. This requires organization and time management skills.

This is a full-time position, splitting time between Burlingame and San Francisco.

Compensation: $80-100k/year, plus equity

Apply: https://launchevents.typeform.com/to/WpdStG

Inside.com is looking for a Community and content development manager

Cool gig at Inside.com….

Inside.com is a network of email newsletters. We publish high quality roundups that curate, summarize, and analyze all of the most important news in many different verticals and industries. Some examples are cybersecurity, electric vehicles, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, drones, and more.
Over the past 10 months, we doubled our entire subscriber-base. Then we doubled it again. Then we doubled it a third time. And we’re just getting started. We also track net promoter scores and all of our newsletters score between 66 and 89 – which is right on par with world-renowned products like the iPhone and the Tesla Model S.
Our editorial team is masterful when it comes to creating a “presidential briefing” style update in any of these areas, but we also want to bring in voices of industry leaders to level up the content of the newsletters. This program is loosely modeled off the LinkedIn Influencer program, which you can read more about here.
We’re looking for someone to help create and grow this influencer program. The role consists of a few things:
  • Developing lists of the most influential people in all of our current and upcoming verticals
  • Identifying the best ways to contact and build relationships with these people
  • Applying a Lean Startup methodology to your outreach efforts
  • Building and maintaining relationships with our network of influencers
  • Identifying key topics, events, and issues for influencers to offer input on
  • Communicating actively with our editorial team to get this influencer content into our newsletters
Here are some key requirements:
  • Hustle. You need to be able to track down busy, influential people and get them to talk to you. This requires creative communication, research, persistence, and hustle.
  • Persistence. We mentioned this above, but it bears reiteration. You might need to email someone 6 times before you catch their attention. We need someone willing to push hard.
  • Communication. This is a growth position, not an editorial position, but we are an editorial-driven company and everybody needs to be able to write and communicate well.
  • Curiosity. To excel in this role, you need to be able to build a deep understanding of each of the verticals we publish in. That means knowing the events, companies, products, and most importantly, people, in each of these verticals and having your finger to the pulse of any changes or developments.

apply here

Heading to CES 2017; looking for interviews

Going to CES Wednesday until Sunday, currently attending the Core Dinner (Wednesday), DFJ dinner (Friday) and taping three episodes of This Week in Startups at James Siminoff’s Ring booth (GREAT product btw, I have two). Staying with my boy Tony Hsieh in his trailer park in an Airstream.

Have two of three interviews for TWIST locked up… need one more remarkable CEO/founder in the gadget/hardware/tech space…. cc: Jacqui Deegan, my producer (jacqui@launch.co).

Might do a quick hit for CNBC while there, have time for 1-2 other interviews if folks need a talking head.

The main goal: don’t get the CES flu.

Who else is going / what are your goals? <– click here for Facebook discussion about CES.