This is a talk given by Albert Wenger one of the partners in Union Square Ventures and Fred Wilson shared this. I highly recommend this talk as it goes into the Context of the changes that we are starting to see in the world today. Future is not something that is going to happen, it is what is happening now in a context that changes how we do things in the future. I think there is only one way to not be a horse… learn to be an Entrepreneur, everyone can be an Entrepreneur. There are numerous problems that need to be solved. Learn tools, process and technologies that prepares you to take ownership of your life and professional careers. I advice all the students that I meet to start looking for ways to solve problem with teams and create jobs rather than search for a job.
Patent Trolls 0
In the world of bits and bytes, the above score means a lot. If you have been following my chain of thought, I believe Software is going to run everything we use. I have written about it before, the biggest hurdle in the exciting development is a cog in the wheel called the Patent Trolls ie. companies setup to just acquire the patent rights and basically bulldoze startups or any company trying to innovate by seeking high patent infringement fees. No-one is immune to this problem. If you want to understand how this whole software patent things has become convoluted and how to solve it read the post by Nick Grossman from Union Square Ventures. Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson, Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson have been writing (here, here and here), educating and lobbying for a better way to address this challenge. However, I think New Zealand has shown the way by completely abolishing Software Patents, in my opinion we need something as bold as that in Iceland. I don’t believe Software Patents work. In addition, since the patent process is so structured anyone with enough money and backing could define a problem and a possible solutions and patent it thereby prevent/block anyone else to approach or address the problem. This is silly. I think we need common sense to define laws and not allow laws to trump common sense. IMHO, Software Patents are for loosers! there you go I said it. I have worked in the software business long enough to say that there is nothing patentable in Software, it is like me patenting my thinking what good is that if we cannot create something of value that solves a real world problem? There are many ways to solve a problem using software and I think it behooves us as a community to allow anyone to solve it better and allow the consumers to vote with their feet. Look what happens with Software Patent troll:
- New Zealand to bar software patents, again (go.theregister.com)
- New Zealand Defies International Pressure and Makes Software Non-Patentable (diversity.net.nz)
- Software will not be patentable in New Zealand (nzherald.co.nz)
- IT Professionals support removal of Software Patents (iitp.org.nz)
- E-Commerce & Software Patent Trolls Targeted by Congress (patentspostgrant.com)
Brad Burnham has been a big supporter of Iceland. He has invested quite a bit of time, influence and effort to push the idea of the Freedom to Innovate and Internet Enterprise Zone in Iceland. There have been many channels of talks, efforts to initiate projects and gather support through a research and development approach. Brad has also been providing a lot of leadership to policy makers on how to look at the internet. Union Square Ventures, which was founded by Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson, is a venture capital firm based in New York City. They are a small collegial partnership that manage $450,000,000 across three funds. Their portfolio companies create services that have the potential to fundamentally transform important markets. They can work with an entrepreneur whether she needs $250,000 to test an idea, or $25,000,000 to buy an undervalued asset. They invest in New York, San Francisco, London, or Berlin and most places in between. Here is Brad talking to RUV last year when he was participating in Startup Iceland 2012.
Here is Brad talking about how Policy matter for Innovation. I am extremely excited to see the developments in Iceland, maybe Iceland call pull it off but I am more excited to see that Brad is still committed to Iceland and has agreed to come back and talk about the Freedom to Innovate. I think everyone is Iceland is going to win big if Iceland become the leader is coming up with policies that foster innovation. We are very fortunate to have access to someone who has been looking at this since for a long time and he believes Iceland is a key player in this transformation.
- Laws that choke creativity – Iceland to the rescue (startupiceland.com)
- A New York VC Spotlight: Fred Wilson (alleywatch.com)
- Entrepreneurs Roundtable 57 with Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures (alleywatch.com)
- Back to the Future (startupiceland.com)
I watched the High Schools participate in the Song contest in Iceland last night and I was very inspired to see the talent here in Iceland in the performing arts and through my random video watches I started bumping into a number of videos that I think sum the challenges we face with regard to laws and how it chokes creativity. I want to draw attention to the talk by Larry Lessig below, the main idea around it is Artists choose and I wanted to follow up that video by another one by Amand Palmer who has implemented the strategy suggested by Larry… and I am of the opinion, Iceland can really play an important role this challenge. Check out the Internet Policy Institute setup in Iceland.
Here is a talk by Amanda Palmer on how to fix the challenge of rights to artists:
Brad Burnham, the Managing Partner at Union Square Ventures is participating in Startup Iceland Conference 2013 to talk about these policy challenges and how it can really influence the Startup Community in Iceland. If you have not booked your tickets to the conference this is the time to do it, don’t wait till the last minute because we will sell these seats very fast. We have some fantastic speakers coming to Iceland to talk about Startup Communities. If you are a startup, you can have your booth in the conference, send us a note through an email booth at startupiceland.com
- Iceland the First Internet Enterprise Zone (igzebedze.com)
- Let Net strengthen democracy: Iceland president (vancouverdesi.com)
- Iceland to Ban Internet? (socyberty.com)
Union Square Ventures just announced their investment in Duolingo.com. The company founder Luis Von Ahn is so smart and has a track record of really creating valuable solutions on the time people spending doing boring tasks on the internet. As Brad Feld says, the machines have taken over, they are just making us enter information about ourselves into them, they are being patient and eventually the machines will run the asylum. Luis invented CAPTCHA and re CAPTCHA two technologies on the internet that everyone who is reading this blog had to do many times while signing up for service or posting a link to Facebook or Google or Twitter or any of the Web Services that we use to let the machines know that we are human. What we all probably did not know is that this “data entry” is used to digitize all the books in the world! How cool is that? Here is the TED talk that Luis gave which explains how they did this, more importantly he explains subtly WHY he did this.
I believe this is incredibly smart investment by USV. The next frontier is language and sound, I have written about my investment thesis around sound and voice. The biggest problem we have with language is that machines don’t understand the semantics of translations and Luis is solving that using powerful motivators and incentives on the internet, the need of people to want to learn another language and making that affordable (read FREE) to everyone on the internet. Luis is nothing if not ambitious, but I have a feeling that he will be successful in translating the entire web. If you always wanted to learn another language and did not want to spend $500 to do it, Duolingo.com is the place to do it and BTW, you will be helping in translating the web which is 50% in english into a language that you are learning.
To Brad Burnham and the rest of the partners in USV, Congratulations! this ones a winner and keeper! you are really showing why USV is the top VC firm in the world.
- A Start-Up Bets on Human Translators Over Machines (bits.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Duolingo: Learn a Language While Translating the Web (pcmag.com)
- reCAPTCHA founder’s Duolingo teaches languages while crowdsourcing translation (nextlevelofnews.com)
- reCAPTCHA Founder’s Duolingo Teaches Languages While Crowdsourcing Translation (allthingsd.com)
- Learn a Language for Free while Helping to Translate the Web with Duolingo (lifehacker.com)
Brad Burnham and Fred Wilson started Union Square Ventures in 2003 after the destruction of the dot com bubble. I can only imagine the courage, insight and vision that they had to create a Venture Capital company focused on the Internet when everyone was running for the hills when you mentioned technology. Brad is a veteran, it does not take a lot to see the wisdom and leadership he continues to demonstrate. Check out this post by Fred Wilson about how the investment thesis that he and Brad created required discipline and this post describes why they picked thesis driven investing vs thematic investing and Fred always credits Brad for sticking to the thesis, that requires discipline, dedication and wisdom… Brad has plenty of that. I am extremely excited that Brad agreed to participate as a speaker in the Startup Iceland Conference on Building Sustainable Startup/Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Brad and Fred live in New York which was not known to the technology or the Innovation hub, however they have invested in companies like Twitter, Tumblr, Four Square, Etsy, Kickstarter, Zemanta, Zynga, Boxee, Duck Duck Go, Sound Cloud etc To get some glimpse of his wisdom, just read his post on Freedom to Innovate
“Innovation depends on keeping the costs of innovation down, making sure that financing is available, and making sure that markets are accessible. It does not depend on R&D grants or targeted industrial policy.
So the next time you see a piece of legislation that has an impact on an open Internet, software or business method patents, copyright enforcement, free and fair competition, open government, or cyber security, I urge you to see it through the lens of the competition between incumbent industrial hierarchies and emergent networks.
Consider who is sponsoring the legislation. Does it really protect consumers or does it protect the business models and cost structures of the incumbents?“
Brad blogs in the USV Blog and also has a Tumblr Blog. One has to read through all the posts to understand the evolution of the thing we call the Internet. Brad has been a participant through out the entire short history of the Internet and he has incredible insight and wisdom about the Internet. He visited Iceland 3 weeks back and the reason why he is here is something that I blogged about.
Brad Burnham began his career in information technology with AT&T in 1979. He held a variety of sales, marketing and business development positions there until 1990 when he spun Echo Logic out of Bell Laboratories. As the first AT&T “venture,” Echo Logic was a catalyst for the creation of AT&T’s venture capital arm, AT&T Ventures. When Echo Logic was sold in 1993, Brad joined AT&T Ventures as an Executive in Residence. He became a principal at there in 1994 and a General Partner in 1996. At AT&T Ventures, Brad was responsible for 14 investments including, Argon Networks, Audible, Avesta Technologies, Classic Sports Network, Multex Systems, Physicians Online, and Paytrust.
Brad is not much in the public eye, but his words are enough. I am excited to hear him talk about how they started in the early years in New York and what made New York the next best thing to Silicon Valley in terms of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurialism. Brad himself being an entrepreneur can relate to everything all of us go through as Entrepreneurs. I believe the best learnings are when you do something, the next best thing is to learn from someone who is currently doing it. Brad falls in the latter category and I cannot wait for May 30th. For those of you who have not registered yet for the Conference, you can do so by going to http://2012.startupiceland.com -> BOOK NOW
- Union Square Ventures adds technology ‘advocate’ to its payroll (thenextweb.com)
- Win lunch with Albert, Fred and Brad from Union Square Ventures (twilio.com)
- Entrepreneurs and investors meet in New York to organize for profit and for revolution (venturebeat.com)
Iceland has a unique opportunity to lead the world by defining a Internet Enterprise Zone, Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures defined this term to me while he was in Iceland. What do we mean by this IEZ? We mean a Policy framework focused on allowing innovation in the Internet space. There are many policy issues as it relates to Internet, Copyright, Information, User Data, Data Security, Spectrum, Net Neutrality etc etc but as I had written about earlier, IMMI is by far the most inspirational effort towards creating this IEZ. There have been many pieces that are aligned for Iceland to execute on this, what we need is a SOPA, PIPA Resistance like initiative at the grass roots level to drive political will to put a stake in the ground to start the global discussion around this. Fundamentally, what we are seeing is a paradigm shift in terms of value creation. We have a WordPress Economy, a Etsy economy, a kickstarter economy, where an individual could create something of value, use the social media to spread and attract customers and partners and get economic value out of that endeavor. No point in our lives have we had this freedom.
Iceland has many value propositions, I have written about some in previous posts on My Vision for Iceland, Rebooting Iceland and Why Iceland can create the next Google. The simplest is the access to cheap renewable power, well educated young workforce, non-incumbent industry establishments, the recent financial collapse, change in the political order and mandate. All these have provided Iceland with all the right impetus to really change the structure of the economy to accomodate the next phase of our global growth. Not only will this environment be conducive for Icelanders, but it will attract Investments and other innovators to locate to Iceland to truly create a zone where Internet Enterprises can thrive. So, what is needed? to start with we need to push the envelop on the initiatives like IMMI, actually push the initiatives to be law of the land where we provide protection to User Data i.e the User owns his data and no-one without the Users permission can access it. The policy framework should define the governance structure and not the mechanics of it, so innovation in implementing the framework brings value to the innovator.
- Iceland Bets on Green Data Centers (cleantechies.com)
We tried a different method to capture our discussion this week using SoundCloud.com and I have to say it works like a charm, here is the SoundCloud stream, fresh off the press.
We discussed the January 18th, 2012 class Customer Development and Running Experiments session, especially the presentation by Giff Constable on the process of running experiments. I really like the down to earth style of describing the steps involved and giving examples of what one could do to test the hypothesis. The Sound Cloud link is about 1 hour and 6 minutes long, this is the first time we are using this technology I listened to it and it sounded fine. Haukur Gudjonsson, talked about Bungalo.is and how they launched, worked on the MVP, talked to customers, ran experiments and now it is starting to become a viable business. I really like what Haukur is doing.
I have written about the course being offered in the School of Design in NY with the title Entrepreneurial Design by Christina Cacioppo
Gary Chou of Union Square Ventures. I wanted to take the opportunity to bring attention to the material. I believe the structure, the reading material and all the links they have put together is incredibly relevant and useful. I keep getting back to looking at the syllabus and discovering new things that I never thought about. If you have not visited the site and checked out the material please do. Depending on the startup cycle you are in there is material there that is relevant and valid. I think particular section is valid for the Lean Startup Meetings that we have having with Hugmyndaráðuneytið. The coming week I am going to try something where we will record the discussion and share in SoundCloud for those who were not present. Here is the topic and I think I will go through the Giff’s Slides. Here is the link to the Event on Facebook
- Customer Development talk by Steve Blank
- Ask HN: How did you find your first paying customers?
- 12 tips for customer development interviews (revised) by Giff Constable
- When has a startup hit product/market fit? by Andrew Chen
- Goodbye, Google by Doug Bowman
- A few good online survey tools by Eric Leland
- When do you throw in the towel on your struggling project? by Vin Vacanti