Jul
14
14



The Power of Anonymity

All important social platforms start with a context that sets the stage for how people will express themselves and connect on those platforms. Facebook was private, tightly-connected relationships; Twitter was real-time, public discussion; Instagram was visual expression. This initial context is critical in defining the social interactions and reasons for engaging on a platform.

Secret, by orienting around anonymity, taps into raw and honest human emotion and allows people to communicate in ways they can’t on any other network. While I was at Twitter, I saw the incredible role pseudonymity and anonymity played in allowing people to broadcast and express themselves freely. From whistleblowers, to citizen journalists trying to get information out from under oppressive regimes, to the deeply personal, to the funniest parody accounts, anonymity allows expression that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

But where Twitter is about putting a range of ideas out there for public consumption, Secret is much more about having an unfettered conversation with people closely connected to you, where individuals are free to express themselves without fear of embarrassment or judgment. We think it’s a fundamental and important part of social connectedness and we’re incredibly excited to back David Byttow, Chrys Bader, and the rest of the Secret team.

More importantly, at Redpoint we invest in great teams and we have been blown away by the Secret team’s ability to recruit, build and execute. They are one of the strongest teams we’ve seen and we think it gives them a huge competitive advantage to build and adapt a product to the emerging needs of their community. This is personally one of my first deals since I joined Redpoint and I’m really excited about working closely with the team on realizing the promise ahead of them. They understand and appreciate the power and responsibility that creating an anonymous network brings and we can’t wait to see what they build for their community.


Jul
8
14



Beepi starts Accepting BitCoin today!

 

Beepi has partnered with BitPay to insure buyers are provided with all the payment methods worthy of a 21st century marketplace.

Before Beepi, buying a high quality car involved a nasty trip to one or more car dealers.  Today people can buy a certified, pre-owned car, pay with BitCoin 100% online and have it delivered 48 hours later with a 10 day money back guarantee!

In addition to this news announced today, Beepi launches a site redesign that now features:

1- Redesigned listing page with advanced search, grid view and list view

2- Redesigned car page, with automatic zoom, pictures carrousel, safety ratings provided by the institute for highway safety, fuel economy provided by the EPA, standard and optional features provided by Edmunds

3- Redesigned Checkout with BitCoin integration, financing instant pre-approval connecting with Experian, and the Beepi Garage (which means you can now reserve a vehicle for 48 hours by paying a $300 deposit while organizing your finances)

Beepi continues to lead the way toward the next generation used car marketplace.

 


Jun
16
14



Redpoint Backs BitGo

At Redpoint, we are strong believers in the potential of bitcoin to change the way transactions are conducted, both online and offline.  But this promising system of digital currency is still in its infancy, a reality that has been underscored by a spate of security troubles. In numerous cases, bitcoins have been lost or stolen when wallets have been compromised, when exchanges have been improperly secured, or even when individuals have been careless with their keys.  Bitcoin has relied heavily on people and institutions protecting their own keys, and this has been a point of failure for the currency and technology as a whole.

In other payment and Internet commerce systems, third party security providers have helped resolve these issues.  This includes Verisign for websites as well as the card issuers for credit cards and merchants.  We believe that BitGo has the potential to be that provider for the bitcoin industry, which is why we are excited to announce our investment in the company.

BitGo has built the first-ever, simple to use and enterprise-grade multi-signature technology that works with the existing blockchain.  BitGo requires each account to have three keys – any two of which are required to recreate the private key and participate in a transaction.  Typically, one of these BitGo generated keys is maintained by the owner, one by BitGo, and the third is usually held by a trusted third party or in remote, or offline storage controlled by the owner.  Any transaction requires that two of the three keys be used, just like a bank safety deposit box – no single key is enough to open it. Even if a single key is lost or compromised, the owner’s bitcoin cannot be stolen or accessed.  Indeed, this could only occur if both the user (or his/her wallet) AND BitGo are compromised.  This also allows BitGo to act as a fraud detection and prevention player, helping protect users who are themselves hacked, while still giving the user the ability to access and spend his or her bitcoin without BitGo participating in the transaction.  BitGo is working with many major bitcoin players to implement this technology across the entire bitcoin ecosystem.

BitGo also has an exceptional team behind it. The team has a history of involvement in key technological innovations at some of the most dynamic technology companies, including Google, Facebook, and Big Fish Games. In addition, former VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos is a new BitGo investor and board member alongside Redpoint. The involvement of the man whose company made it safe to put credit card numbers on the Internet only adds to BitGo’s reach and credibility.

We are truly excited to join such a pioneering team and company and look forward to the great developments ahead.


Jun
12
14



Redpoint’s Founders Day Re-cap

Redpoint recently hosted “The Anatomy of a Breakthrough Performance.” Held at the innovative Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, it was an event that brought together a lineup of luminaries who have indeed achieved breakthrough performances. From the America’s Cup skipper Jimmy Spithill to Navy Seal Commander Pete Naschak to peak performance guru Andy Walshe, Redpoint asked these extraordinary people to share how they have succeeded where others have failed.

The result was an illuminating and highly entertaining conversation full of valuable insights and life lessons learned through decades of trial and error. Our founders and CEOs in attendance were treated to an out-of-the-box afternoon that saw them drawing with crayons, flinging toy rockets at one another and asking questions about how they, too, can achieve that breakthrough performance.

Redpoint partner Geoff Yang kicked off the event and then handed over the reins to Walshe, the director of Red Bull’s global athletic development program, who has trained Olympians and worked with daredevil Felix Baumgartner on his record-breaking 24-mile free fall from space. Walshe was joined on stage by Spithill, Naschak, IDEO partner Brendan Boyle, SONOS CEO John MacFarlane and data scientist Eric Berlow.

Though each person’s goal requires a unique blueprint, the men stressed some common themes that can help anyone push beyond their perceived limits. Here is a quick summary of those themes:

Failure – Every single speaker highlighted the importance of failure in his quest for success.  It wasn’t so much the ugliness of the defeat itself that mattered most. Rather it was the way in which that defeat led to better, smarter ideas and execution. Failure was educational, inspirational and motivational—and it was essential to the ultimate triumph. Failure for them is not something to fear because it is inevitable with any challenging undertaking. Failure instead is a stepping stone, something to harness and tame, or the proverbial making lemonade from lemons. “Defeat is a great opportunity,” said Spithill.

 

Jimmy Spithill

“Adversity can be one of the best opportunities to learn about yourself and your teammates.” – Jimmy Spithill

 

In his case, Spithill shared some of the “curveballs” that led to last year’s dramatic comeback victory in the America’s Cup. In particular, he noted a day when his $15 million catamaran went into a nosedive and was dragged out miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. The damage to the vessel was one thing—and it could be repaired. But Spithill said the way his team handled the situation turned out to be “a real plus” in their ultimate quest. They learned how to be better from the experience and they also strengthened their bonds as individual contributors on a team, gaining greater trust in one another. “Adversity can be one of the best opportunities to learn about yourself and your teammates,” he said. “Champions always come back from adversity.”

Pushing Limits – Underestimating either an individual or a team is a common failing. And this can be costly, particularly for people trying to achieve the seemingly impossible, such as Baumgartner breaking the sound barrier in a free fall. Our panel shared its experiences and viewpoints about how to push people beyond their perceived physical or mental comfort zones—and explained why it is a key ingredient to generating change and optimizing performance.

Seal Commander Naschak recalled taking a group of elite athletes through eight days of rigorous physical and “mentally mind-bending” exercises, exposing them to harsh conditions in varied terrain. Despite many moments of self-doubt, each man made it through the challenges and brain scans compared from before and after the endurance test showed notable improvement. Every man said they came away with more confidence and a new perspective on their own mental and physical capabilities. “You can reset what is possible,” says Naschak.

 

Naschak talks about the changes in the brain when people push past perceived limits.

 

Walshe agreed with that sentiment. He explained that the team behind Baumgartner’s thrilling leap into the record books shared a vision that you can “take the essence of a performance and push beyond all disciplines.” Despite the daunting task at hand, the group drew on the know-how and experiences of the best in the world to overcome the litany of challenges Baumgartner’s quest presented, from designing and building the right space suit to ensuring that Baumgartner would be physically and mentally prepared to withstand the fall.

SONOS’ MacFarlane brought this concept into a more business-like setting. He noted that it’s almost impossible to push strong teams too hard, though you can push individuals too far. Teams, he said, that are comprised of the right mix of people can typically withstand much more stress than any one member can endure. Instead of focusing on individual contributors, MacFarlane says it’s helpful to emphasize clearly defined goals to bring teams together and keep them striving, even when they may feel they are tapped out. “A higher sense of mission drives people in tough times and keeps them focused,” he says.

 

IDEO’s Boyle having a little fun

 

Unleashing creativity – New ideas do not often come without risk. Optimizing the risk –whether it comes by hiring people with a wide array of differing viewpoints and problem-solving skills or by pushing people far outside their comfort zones–is key to generating meaningful change.

IDEO’s Boyle discussed “the trap” some companies, particularly larger, established ones, encounter when they stick too much to like-minded colleagues. “New ideas don’t come from the same place,” he said. People also must be willing to shake up their routines and group mindset.

Just getting our group to find partners, pick up a crayon, and then quickly sketch portraits of each other seemed to prove the point. While Boyle said children do this task gleefully and fearlessly, adults tend to worry about the quality of their drawing or what others might think of it. The takeaway from this exercise is simply that people need to find more ways to relax and enjoy a task for what it is rather than what they think it should be.

Berlow, who is in the midst of a project dubbed “hacking creativity,” also emphasized the need for assembling groups of divergent thinkers and abilities. His team is currently working on a project to identify creativity profiles by studying the creative processes exhibited by 100 of the most well-known and high-achieving people, including Einstein, John Lennon, Andy Warhol and Steve Jobs. The goal is to form connections between people based on the way they think and work.

Culture – In a sense, creating a culture that optimizes performance requires organizations to embrace all the ideas presented by the speakers—from embracing the role of failure to nurturing the creative mind to never underestimating what the right mix of people can achieve.

SONOS’ MacFarlane emphasized the importance of establishing a higher mission that drives people to succeed as well as cultivating an atmosphere in which people feel safe even when they make mistakes. He went so far as to suggest that leaders might reward failure and risk-taking as a way to get people to test unconventional strategies or ideas.

And even when teams are progressing, be prepared for the inevitable roadblocks. Organizations that allow individuals to step away from the daily grind without fear of repercussions outperform all others. Whether drawing pictures with crayons or playing with toy rockets, Boyle recommends adopting strategies that tap into individuals’ creative energy in unconventional ways.

Culture, of course, starts at the top, with leaders most responsible for setting the tone that works best in their own organizations.

The unique event concluded with a dinner by the bay. Appropriately, the attendees were mixed up and assigned to tables with people they didn’t already know.


Jun
10
14



Data-Driven Applications: The Next Generation of Big Data by John Walecka, Scott Raney and Chris Child

In a sign of things to come, a few months ago startup RelateIQ announced that it has raised $40 million in venture financing, the largest amount to date for an emerging class of enterprise applications driven by big data.  These applications combine the flexibility of SaaS with intelligence gleaned from big data that help users make quicker and better decisions in their jobs virtually every day.

It’s a big bet in a space that is just beginning to show its enormous potential. Up to now, big data has been defined by players like Palintir, a leader among companies focused on addressing shortcomings in the enterprise infrastructure. Specifically, these big data infrastructure companies have enabled complex organizations and businesses—from Homeland Security to Wall Street–to analyze and utilize their treasure troves of information. To date, the market for these innovators tops a hefty $16 billion, according to IDC research.

But here’s the thing:  Much of the value derived from these technologies thus far is primarily accessible only through data scientists and engineers. They spend countless hours culling through and then analyzing information to reap the most meaningful insights they can. Business users, charged with making split-second decisions every day affecting everything from sales to marketing to finance, have been left waiting—and wanting.

Until now, RelateIQ is just the latest in a new breed of so-called Data-Driven Application upstarts poised to fill the gap. They are coupling big data with machine learning to fundamentally change the way business users make decisions. In the case of RelateIQ, which targets customer relations management (CRM), the company hopes to make it simple for users to track and manage all their business relationships by analyzing data from call logs, emails and calendars to recommend follow ups, optimal times to reach out, and make sure that no promising relationship is overlooked.

If everything goes as expected, virtually every category of enterprise applications will be transformed by the insights automatically derived from a multitude of data sources. In just the last 12 months, an estimated $150 million has been spent funding startups focusing on everything from security to ITSM to advertising to human resources.

Their missions follow much of the path already blazed by large, consumer-facing Internet companies, such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and LinkedIn. They have leveraged the massive amounts of data they collect and process to provide friend recommendations, personalized content, suggested products, and to help target potential new employers and employees. These processes have led to smarter, faster and more strategic decision-making.

Business users increasingly want the same level of sophisticated, quick insights powered by smarter software. And they are likely to get them from the dozens of companies sprouting up across the country.

This new generation of big data enterprise startups is a natural evolution from what began in the late ‘80s with the emergence of client-server companies. Peoplesoft and Siebel provided packaged software to help companies manage their employees, finances and customers. Then, about a decade ago, SaaS companies like Salesforce and Workday leveraged the Internet to change the way software is consumed and delivered. As powerful as the move to SaaS has been, it is clear that businesses today expect more than just automated processes. They want help making quicker, better and smarter decisions, every day.

That is where the powerful convergence of big data and SaaS comes in. Though virtually every sector will be moving toward these innovative software tools within the next few years, here’s a breakdown of some of the industries most likely to feel—and embrace—the transformation first:

  • Cybersecurity: Security companies have long focused on new technologies to defeat malware, but recently user behavior has come under scrutiny as well.  A new generation of companies like Fortscale is tracking user access logs to find unusual patterns that may show either a compromised computer or an employee with malicious intent, which they call the Snowden problem.
  • Human Resources: HR organizations have long embraced systematic and technological ways to measure employee performance and potential.  Recently, analytics has become part of this. Gild is one company taking a software developer’s entire online presence (including open source code but also social media profiles) and comparing it with known successful engineers at a hiring company. These profiles let them determine if an engineer is not just a good fit professionally, but also culturally.
  • Sales and Marketing: The art of converting marketing leads into sales leads and then bankable deals has always been a bit of black magic practiced by top sales people.  Infer is a company working to bring data science to the problem by building an enormous model of a company’s past leads to close deal conversion, and tying those deals to all kinds of outside data they can track down. Then, they use that model to predict which incoming leads are most likely to convert, and thus, where to allocate salespeople’s time.

The multi-billion-dollar opportunities for this next generation of big data innovators are as immense as the problems they are trying to address. And if they get it right, they will undoubtedly touch not just every function within a company but every person as well.

 

John Walecka and Scott Raney are partners at Redpoint Ventures, a backer of RelateIQ and Infer. Chris Child is a senior associate.


May
13
14



The Case For Censorship In The New Social Age

Intellectuals for centuries have campaigned against censorship. From Ben Franklin to John F. Kennedy to Justice Earl Warren, the argument has been much the same: Censorship is antithetical to democracy. More recently, megastar Jay-Z reiterated the point in his 2011 book, Decoded, writing simply that “we change people through conversation, not through censorship.”

It’s pretty hard to argue with Jay-Z — let alone Franklin, Kennedy and Warren. But I find myself, uncomfortably, thinking more favorably about the concept of censorship as we in Silicon Valley grapple with the emergence of several social networks built around the concept of anonymity. Companies like Whisper and Secret, among several other lesser-knowns, have attracted outsized attention and funding as the next generation of social media platforms. While each has its own unique features, they all allow users to send messages to groups without names attached.

Let me first say that anonymity can be a very good thing. Having the ability to speak freely without fear of repercussions can spark honest discussion about important, delicate or emotionally charged topics. Just being able to share feelings and fears within a supportive network can be a productive mental health exercise and even connect people in meaningful and fun ways. Upstart Secret, for one, has shown strong success in the quality of discourse on its mobile app. It isn’t perfect. I mean, some of it is silly and some of it is a little mean and petty. But overall, it’s much better than I expected. In general, the content is about real emotions, real fears, real aspirations and real desires.

Part of the genuine nature of the conversations on Secret stems from the fact that users are only sharing their personal reflections with people somehow relevant to them, as they come from their personal networks (via phone contacts). Secret is more like going to a masquerade ball with your friends versus being in a completely dark room with a bunch of strangers. You sign on to Secret with a verified identity and then can exchange messages anonymously with other people to whom you are digitally connected to, and who are also on Secret. This is an important distinction and works because the lack of total anonymity on Secret forces users to refrain from sending truly offensive messages they may otherwise send if they were among strangers. Deep down you worry that people might be able to figure out who you are.

I think of Secret as qualified anonymity, and this aspect of a company’s network is hugely important in establishing both credibility and value — and why startups like Secret have a shot at real success. But it is not enough by itself.

Here comes the tough part. As abhorrent as the concept of censorship is to many people who embrace the ideals of anonymity, including me, we need censorship to keep the dimly lit corners of cyberspace safe. It is just too tempting for people under the protection of anonymity to devolve into irresponsible and immoral behavior.

We have all seen how damaging it can be to offer an unbridled platform for the worst kind of human impulses, particularly for teens. Prejudice, bigotry and sheer meanness can easily proliferate, transforming a winning concept into little more than a digital bathroom wall.

That is why any platform leveraging anonymity will have to have some group of moderators that delete inappropriate and dangerous posts in real time — and then banish those posters from the site forever. To be clear, I am only in favor of striking comments that are truly hateful or dangerous. Unpopular or controversial viewpoints that are part of honest discourse should be allowed to flow freely.

Whisper, for one, has already hired dozens of employees whose sole job is to constantly monitor the site for inappropriate content. These are important actions because they ensure consequences for behaviors that deliberately cause harm. To purists, it may inhibit free speech, but to me it’s no different than why we prohibit people from yelling fire in a movie theater when one doesn’t exist.

Neither Franklin nor Jay-Z may like it. But I believe this is the only way these anonymous platforms can survive and thrive. Otherwise they will turn into walls in a New York subway station. And we all know how that will go.

Published on TechCrunch 5/13/14


May
12
14



A Framework for Learning: Investing in yourself for the long run

Background

During the last nine years, I have been fortunate to work with and learn from some great teams at Zimbra, VMware and Yahoo!. Together, we built a >$50M business with 200,000 customers and 100 million users. In hindsight, our success was a result of four actions: building a business that leveraged a new go to market model, providing unprecedented transparency to our customers, investing in product innovation, and fostering a culture of learning. Additionally, we learned how to apply these actions in order to build a successful standalone business as well as when to best leverage the resources of a bigger company. As we began 2014, I decided to leave Zimbra and VMware and to look for the next opportunity for me to learn and to be part of building another successful business. As part of that transition, I wanted to explain my approach to life long learning and how it has impacted my plans for 2014.

Lifelong Learning

One of the foundations of my career and life has been that I always want to learn more. I should always be open to learning from new people, experiences and companies. The three parts of the foundation are: (1) pick a passion, (2) honestly evaluate yourself and (3) develop a plan in pencil.

(1) Pick A Passion

In order to grow and learn, we all need to pick a place to start. One of the most important pieces of advice I have given to my team members and the entrepreneurs that I have mentored, is to pick a passion that is important to you and immediately begin the process of learning. The most common response I get is, “I am passionate about a lot of things and I don’t know which passion is the most important.” My simple response is that learning is never a waste of time and the only mistake you can make is delaying a decision. As an example, during the early days at Zimbra, it always amazed me how Satish Dharmaraj would jump at any chance to learn and there was no topic that was off limits. His energy and excitment was electric and it impacted everyone across the organization.

(2) Honestly Evaluate Yourself

We all have different strengths and weaknesses but more importantly we have learned different skills and we have worked in different industries. It is critical that we be honest with ourselves and evaluate what we know and don’t know. We need to know when to learn and when to teach. We need to know when to listen and when to speak. One of the hardest parts of being honest with ourselves is collecting feedback, it is critical that we find friends, co-workers and bosses that will help you see any blindspots in your self assessment. I recently, sat down with an important mentor for me, Scott Dietzen, and he told me: (1) be patient with a job transition, (2) seek out places to learn something new, and (3) make sure you continue to prioritize the team you work with over anything else including title and salary.

(3) Develop a Plan in Pencil

With an understanding of your passions and an honest self assessment, it is time to build a plan. The plan should be realistic and should include short term actions (<90 days) and longer term goals. You should develop the plan in “pencil” and assume you can change it along the way as you learn more. In 2014, there are a lot of ways to learn via online services (TED, Khan Academy, Code Academy, etc), learning from social new channels (Twitter, blogs) and lastly you can learn from your co-workers and bosses. At the end of last year, I reviewed my plan with Peter Fenton and his advice was (1) make sure your plan has specific actions (2) avoid meetings where the view is better than the content and (3) focus on improving your base functional skills and not just leadership.

A Call to Action!

As we jump into the second quarter of 2014, now is the time to come up with a plan and commit to teaching yourself something new. In my case, I have spent the last twelve weeks at CodingDojo and beginning today I am joining Redpoint Ventures, as an EIR.

At Coding Dojo, I had had the opportunity to learn first hand some of the most important new technologies: Node.js, Ruby on Rails, PHP and JavaScript. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to work with the new developer ecosystem that includes GitHub, StackOverflow, Code Academy and more.

Working with the Redpoint team, will allow me to work every day with some of smartest people in technology sharing ideas and learning from each other. The Redpoint team and their portfolio companies represent the next wave of innovation in the consumer and enterprise markets.

I very excited about 2014 and I hope that by sharing my framework for learning that we can each take one step forward.

 


Apr
15
14



Another Marketplace Ready for Reinvention: Why we invested in Beepi

Every year since Redpoint was founded we’ve made a marketplace investment. Technology offers brilliant ways to lower friction, enhance turnover, discover favorable economics and surface marginal demand in existing marketplaces. Stars in our portfolio like Loopnet, BlueKai and HomeAway.com have set the bar for others to follow, and exciting new investments like Thredup, Homejoy, The Receivables Exchange and Axial are on promising trajectories. They all have a common thread – a team with a determined vision to take on an existing marketplace in need of radical new solutions to simplify and speed up the connection between demand and supply.

One such category that has not yet been truly reinvented since the dawn of the internet is the process of buying and selling a used car. That’s why we are thrilled to announce our investment in Beepi – a company that has made it dead-simple for individuals to buy and sell used cars. Beepi bests the existing consumer alternatives – car dealers (who provoke a well founded mix of fear, uncertainty and doubt), and cumbersome, risky and complicated, peer to peer selling sites (such as Craigslist)– with an elegant solution that enables an individual’s second largest financial purchase to become a simple, high value, risk-free and positive experience.

After a seller’s car has become Beepi-certified by passing Beepi’s comprehensive pre-purchase inspection process, and has accepted an attractive and guaranteed price from Beepi, the Beepi created listing is made available to buyers. Beepi handles all the listing creation, payment, paperwork, pick-up and delivery of the vehicle to make the experience completely frictionless. Buyers can find attractively priced vehicles, without negotiating, or driving all over the state, and rest easy knowing Beepi has not only kicked the tires to find them a great car, but also offers a simple, highly reliable transaction and an unprecedented 10-day no questions asked money back guarantee.

In short, the potential for Beepi is to not only reinvent the car selling and buying experience for the better, but to change how consumers think about when and how to buy and sell their cars. We believe that Beepi can meaningfully penetrate the $300 Billion used car marketplace.

We are very excited to partner with two dedicated co-founding entrepreneurs in Ale Resnik and Omer Savir. Ale and Omer both have had the personal experiences and broad vision to build something really big in this category. In addition, we have assembled great partners and co-investors who bring to bear a great wealth of experience, insight and support in building this market: Fabrice Grinda, founder and Chairman of OLX –the Craigslist of Europe, and also chairman of Beepi; Brian Sharples, cofounder and CEO of HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation home marketplace and former board member of iMotors, Rich Boyle, the former Chairman and CEO of Loopnet, the largest online marketplace for commercial real estate, and Tina Sharkey, founder of iVillage and former CEO of BabyCenter.

It will be an thrilling ride, (pun intended) and we’re looking forward to Beepi’s first chapter here in the Bay Area. Check out their cars now – and maybe get ready to sell yours.


Apr
3
14



A Revolutionary Investment in Jaunt

Virtual Reality has been attracting a lot of interest of late, particularly in the wake of Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift announced on March 25. If you haven’t yet tried this new generation of VR headsets, you’re in for a treat. The immersiveness of the experience can simply blow you away. It is a little like going from a small television to a massive IMAX theater — but so much more. Like escaping the Matrix for the first time, you have to see it for yourself.

Still, throughout the history of VR, these incredible experiences have been constrained to virtual worlds, where the required multiple views in every direction can quickly be calculated and rendered. Over time, that rendering has gotten so good that it’s almost indistinguishable from reality, but it still isn’t the same. There’s a big difference between playing NBA Jam and watching a real game on television. The same is true of VR: There hasn’t been a way to record the real world in way that enables playback through a VR headset.

That is, there wasn’t until now. Palo Alto-based startup Jaunt, led by extraordinarily talented Silicon Valley veterans Jens Christensen, Arthur van Hoff, and Tom Annau, is tackling this head on. They are building the hardware and software needed to record real world experiences and play them back through VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. To experience the real world through a VR headset, you need a very complicated custom camera system to record the world, a new type of compression and playback, and a way to get that content to viewers. Jaunt has created all this by engineering an entirely new system of VR recording, distribution, and playback. Jens, Arthur, Tom, and a crackerjack team of engineers have designed their own camera to capture 360-degree stereoscopic video. They have developed complicated stitching algorithms to turn the video into something consumable on the Oculus as well as tools allowing creators to edit these complex pieces of content. And they have created compression and streaming technologies so that the videos can be experienced over the Internet.

The best way to describe the feeling you have while using Jaunt’s system is that’s it’s teleportation — your brain is convinced that you’ve left your living room and are instead on stage sitting next to your favorite guitarist during a concert. Or maybe you are sitting courtside during a basketball game, able to not only watch the action in front of you, but to turn around and see how the fans behind you are reacting. Or you can teleport into a horror movie and hear the back door creak open behind you, spinning around just in time to see a shadow slip into the next room. The possibilities are endless.

Oculus alone is an incredible way to play and experience video games. With Jaunt, you can now experience so much more.

We are very excited about our investment in Jaunt, the all-star team behind the company, and by the future of virtual reality. In Facebook’s announcement of its acquisition of Oculus, Mark Zuckerberg said that what’s really exciting about Oculus is what comes after gaming. We couldn’t agree more. Thanks to Jaunt, that next leap in immersive entertainment has arrived.


Mar
27
14



Reflections On YCombinator Demo Day: How The Seed Market Has Changed

Earlier this week, I attended the Spring YCombinator Demo Day. I’ve been attending for six years now. Each time, I’m impressed by the intelligence, ambition and the polish of the founders presenting companies only a few weeks or months old.

As I listened to the pitches, I wondered if the types of startups founders decide to build at YC has changed over time and whether those trends are lagging or leading indicators of the market as a whole. At each Demo Day, the YC team provides investors a list of all the companies pitching and I’ve kept a few. To get a sense of the broader trends in YC companies, I’ve compared the Winter 2012 class and the Spring 2014 class by sector (consumer v. enterprise), segment (ecommerce, education, social, gaming, delivery) and by revenue model (subscription, ads, transactional).

These are the trends I observed in the data:

Mild shift toward enterprise: In 2012, 48% of YC startups were enterprise. In 2014, enterprise startups were 57% of the class.

Within enterprise, there has been a shift toward industry specific Software-as-a-Service (vertical SaaS) at the expense of horizontal SaaS. Vertical SaaS startups comprised 29% of the 2012 enterprise companies and 40% of the 2014 class. To make this idea more concrete, here are two examples. VidPresso provides software to the TV broadcast industry and is an example of vertical SaaS. ZenPayoll, a provider of payroll services, serves many different types of businesses and is a horizontal SaaS company.

Platforms-as-a-Service, which enable developers to build and scale applications (Heroku), have also seen a decline in numbers. In 2012, there were 5 PaaS companies while in 2014, I counted 2. Shifting to consumer, social apps have fallen from 24% of consumer startups to 15% at the most recent demo day. Unlike the 2012 class, there were no gaming companies in 2014. Food delivery companies, education companies and consumer market places have cropped up in their place.

As for revenue models, subscription remains dominant. 53% of 2012 YC companies chose this revenue model and 56% chose it in 2014.

Also notable is a marked increase in the number of non-profits. The 2014 class graduated 6 of them, up from zero in 2012.

All in all, YC startups do seem to be shifting with the market and/or YC partners are screening for startups that are more reflective of the environment. The shifts toward vertical SaaS and away from social and gaming apparent in this class are consistent with the patterns I’m seeing in the fund raising market. Unfortunately, the data isn’t able to tell us who is setting the trend. In any case, I’ll be tracking these trends in the future and hope to be able to draw more conclusions over time.