we’ve been telling people for a little while now, but figured it was time to make an official announcement… especially now that we just learned -- it’s a girl!

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you still probably wouldn’t know that pei is pregnant (my stomach is still bigger than hers :), but we’re just about to cross into the 20th week.  life is definitely getting easier now that we’re in the second trimester.  gone is the crazy morning sickness (often china-time morning sickness), and starting to think ahead about the coming months…  leading up to independence day, which is an ironic due date.

 

looking forward to catching up with friends and family as this magical time unfolds, but thought i’d answer a few questions straight away…

 

do you know if it’s a boy or girl?

well, did you read the subject of this post?  of course, for those who know how pei cannot stand surprises, there was no question that we wanted to know asap.

 

are you sure it’s a girl?

yes.  this pic on this post is actually from a few months ago…  we learned yesterday it was a girl and they gave us a cd with all the images.  but alas, we don’t own a device that plays cds.  rest assured, we’ll get those new pics somehow.

 

have you thought about names?

up until yesterday, we were thinking about both boy and girl names, but now we can start to narrow in on a name for her.  we have a few favorites right now, but always looking for suggestions -- both english and  中国名字.

 

are you going to be those annoying people who start spamming facebook?

hell no.  aside from an occasional pic, we’ll mostly be posting on path (go download now and friend me if you want baby madness), and you can also bookmark http://baby.hegranes.com/.

 

 

one of the best parts of our pregnancy so far has been the loving words and awesome support that we’ve received.  from gifts and advice to high-fives, the excitement you’ve shown us is special.  thank you.

 

Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes

the speed at which small teams can work is well understood.  we expect two guys in a garage to move faster than a fortune 500 corporation with thousands of employees.  we marvel at how quickly a startup with dozens of employees can iterate, and out maneuver a massive incumbent who either isn’t focused on that problem, or simply doesn’t have the organizational mindset to disrupt itself.

as facebook is legendary for saying, “move fast and break things.”  dick costolo’s primary focus at twitter is cadence, and how they can move faster in every aspect of the business.  evernote talks about being a 100-year startup.

but if all goes well, eventually that small startup becomes a billion dollar corporation itself.  an organization now all too aware of risks -- from external legalities to internal roadblocks.  very uncommon ground is a large company that can iterate, take risks, experiment, and evolve at a fast pace.

the nfl is a lovely exception, worthy of examination by all industries.

the national football league (nfl) is one of the best “big startup” organizations out there today…  right up there with google and amazon in terms of creativity and risk taking, willing to cannibalize existing business while targeting higher and higher revenues.  while other sports take up new issues every decade (such as the nba), or once a generation (looking at you mlb), the nfl changes every year.

1) global: the nfl is growing in international markets.  they started a few years ago with a preseason game in mexico, to now having a regular season game in london…  now there’s talk of having up to three games next season, with rumors of one day having a team based out of london.

2) tech: the nfl was an early adopter of technology, particularly in the use of replay.  every year they add new plays that are available for replay… and many people expect larger replay changes next year, such as central replay (instead of on-the-field under the hood replay).

3) extra points: even something as fundamental as the extra point is up for debate.  why? because the game has changed.  kicking as become extremely specialized, and thus 99.9999% of extra points are made.  read -- wasted time by boring plays.  if the nfl can make the game more exciting by having more 2-point conversions, or tweaking the extra point -- they will.

4) pro bowl: the pro-bowl used to be the forgotten asterisk to the season, scheduled after the super bowl.  now, the pro-bowl is scheduled during the off-week between the conference championships and the super bowl.  but even that wasn’t enough… this year the nfl tapped two hall of famers -- deion sanders and jerry rice -- to pick their own pro-teams in a fantasy-style draft.

5) social: last fall twitter and the nfl announced a partnership designed to bring exclusive content to the twitter audience.  but it didn’t stop there, as the nfl is active on everything from facebook to vine (though have yet to get a snapchat from them)…  clearly the nfl not only understands the importance of social, but they are willing to experiment with time, money, platforms, and reputation in an effort to build and engage their audience.  of course, the tweet above tells you everything you need to know.  great content with a compelling image.  perfect logos and clear calls to action.  spot on.

6) playoffs: this is where the money is made, thus the nfl is looking into adding more games and more teams…  can they find a balance of rewarding the regular season’s best teams, while also adding more playoff excitement (read $$$)? i think they can.

perhaps most impressive about all of this risk taking, experimentation, and evolution is that the nfl has accomplished this in the face of lawsuits, having to deal with a union, and juggling a bevy of different stakeholders.    

that’s what happens when you have a great product and managers with a vision.

Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes

as bitcoin fervor nears tulip-esque levels, it may disappoint some of you to consider that the ultimate winner of bitcoin will not be some cool new startup with fancy venture capitalists, but probably more likely your current bank or brokerage.  plus, if bitcoin is successful -- either as a store of value or a means for transactions -- i find it hard to believe that those interactions with bitcoins will *not* be with apps or accounts already established on your phone.

when thinking about bitcoins more as an investment (aka store of value), it’s far too specialized and inefficient to think that i’ll need a separate account to manage just my bitcoins -- as opposed to with my existing brokerage accounts where i manage my stocks, bonds, and currencies.  right now i have an account with coinbase (which is killing it), but it’s really just an intermediary between bitcoins and my linked bank account.  

thus, in the ‘store of value’ scenario, the winners go to schwab, ameritrade, e-trade, merrill lynch, etc. so that users can manage their portfolio of all assets in one synchronized account.

when taking the transaction route, which bitcoin is superior at in many ways when considering fees, speed, and identity (or lack thereof), it would be painful to consistently manage a separate account with ample bitcoins for when my spending happens.  i don’t want yet another app or yet another account to forget a password for or to keep funded if and when i want to pay with bitcoins.  transactions need to be seamless -- whether i’m paying with my amex, debit card, or bitcoin wallet.

in this scenario where bitcoins are the best way to buy things, the winners to go chase, bank of america, visa, etc.  in other words, just let me pay and not worry about managing balances and transfers.

better yet, i would be surprised if i couldn’t just use my google wallet or scan my finger on an iphone and complete my transactions with bitcoins.  those that solve the user flow will win, and i’d put the edge in favor of incumbents at this point.

a specialized app can’t win…  at least, not that many of them.

right now it’s the wild, wild west in bitcoin land.  scams are abundant and new bitcoin ‘wallets’ are popping up left and right.  not just in the u.s., but around the world, every country / currency is finding ways to interact with bitcoins -- whether that’s to buy suspect goods on a black market, or speculate and trade in the massive volatility that is bitcoin.

this point in time is analogous to past bubbles, such as the internet bubble where a silly number of companies pop on the scene trying to capitalize on this new craze.  in short time, however, we’ll be left with two buckets of “winners”.  

the first bucket will be those select few early entrants that survived.  think of this bucket as the cohort of internet companies from the bubble that still stand -- priceline, amazon, yahoo.  

yet, think of how much money has been made off the “internet” by incumbents in related industries, and i’m guessing this second bucket accounts for something like this of the total cash flows.  most of the money, of course, being made by existing players that learned to leverage the internet.

before that, there was the car bubble, and just like internet stocks, everybody was making cars.  hundreds of car companies emerged overnight, and now we’re left with ford, chevy, and so on.  new entrants come in later, but they are evolutionary.  not revolutionary (except for tesla, maybe).

having studied past bubbles, i have been anxiously awaiting the next.  it’s so predictable on how to make money.  with a solid game plan, sans emotion, there is a lot of opportunity to profit from bitcoin.  

1) speculating in the asset, though i think that time has passed… or at least is only applicable to the nimblest of traders.

2) recognizing early winners who will bring bitcoin to the masses… these aren’t buy and hold, but given the early stages of bitcoin, getting a piece of the purest play bitcoin companies you can will work in the near term.

3) farther out, the profits and market share will go to companies that will both dominate bitcoin and also for which bitcoin is a rounding error on their books.  just imagine if apple cornered bitcoin transactions, or if paypal became the paypal for bitcoins.  this won’t move ebay stock, but it will be good for a) consumers and b) all the companies these companies acquire in the process.

there’s so my systemic risk involved with bitcoins, for governments could shut this down in a second and bitcoins are dead.  until then, there is not just opportunity, but bubble-level opportunity.

i, for one, am ecstatic...

 

Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes

it’s always interesting to see the transition from early adopters to mass market.  if the company is lucky enough, it will soon face the high class problem of having way too many customers.  such events often come with negative press, whining customers, but mostly much ado about nothing.  

uber is the latest example of what i consider a very bullish moment in a company’s history, when a little snow in new york city drove surge pricing -- uber’s answer to supply / demand of drivers -- to more than 8x the normal fare.

frustrated customers took to twitter to voice their consternation, and uber’s ceo boldly stood his ground… as well he should have.

this moment for uber reminds me of the twitter’s fail whale, or aol’s busy tones (for those who remember dial-up internet).  just as those events were positive for those companies, i believe uber’s surge-gate will end up being positive -- driving awareness of it’s lovely, lovely service to more people.

last, i will note that i think uber is overly communicative when a customer will be subject to surge pricing.  having paid surge before, i found it over the top that uber had me key in the surge levels to reaffirm that i did indeed want to pay that price.  anything but user friendly, but anyone complaining that they were unaware of massive pricing is an idiot.

now, i'm off to catch an uber myself.  

Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes

following the well-warranted frenzy of angel list launching syndicates, famously active angels are forming their syndicates (earning carry) and helping startups raise money.  tim ferriss, who i’ve respected, read, and even hoped to work with (back when my team and i were hustling to do more faster and get @workables into techstars), was one of the first to put angel list syndicates into practice.

tim ferriss

tim ferriss

tim, known for the four hour work week / body / chef, launched the news of his syndicate with a blog post -- which also announced the startup with which he would first invest: shyp.

while reading the blog about tim’s investment, and reading tweets about brand spanking new angel investors joining in the mix, i was initially caught in the gravity of what this meant for startups, venture capital, and entrepreneurs for decades to come.

and tim's not the only one getting in on this deal.  homebrew and hunter walk -- who is also on my personal hero list -- were in on the deal and wrote about it here and certainly make a good case for the pain point shyp is targeting. 

yet, as i kept thinking back about this, i couldn’t help but think -- fuck.  isn’t shyp just a niche taskrabbit or workables?  workables, of course, being my previous (relatively failed) startup.

still love the old @workables logo

still love the old @workables logo

way back (circa 2010), my cofounder and i were attempting to build a real-time marketplace for small jobs… some of which are what the entire focus of what shyp is trying to solve.  quite a few of our jobs actually had to do with tasks like shipping.

shyp (currently beta) offers to send “shyp heros” to your door, and they’ll then take care of packing and shipping whatever you want.  not a bad idea.  something i’d use now and again -- if the price was right / if the experience was amazing. but as i play this out, i struggle to see the long-term home run... but they do make a compelling video.

so why are tim and hunter, long-time heroes of mine and successful investors, investing in this seemingly limited company?  why have i seen some of my friends jump on his syndicate bandwagon and plunk some money into shyp? wasn’t workables so much better?  or were we just a too early?  

without question the growth of services like uber -- where you get what you want immediately and thusly are willing to pay a bit more than you should -- will help services like shyp find a market.  plus, the ubiquity of mobile provides an opportunity to make this a more seamless experience for both sides of the market.

perhaps i’m still more cynical than most, having tried to form a similar -- albeit less focused -- company, but i know how hard it is.  plus, i’ve seen zaarly (to whom we later sold workables) struggle and pivot.  taskrabbit, at least operating model-wise, seems the closest to shyp.  not having any first hand knowledge, but it appears that shyp’s “heroes” are equivalent to taskrabbit’s, well, taskrabbits.  whereas workables and zaarly didn't put our own t-shirts on the people doing the tasks.

plus there’s still the problem of shipping costs.  amazon has spoiled us into thinking that shipping stuff is virtually free, even for two-day shipping.  but head on over to ups, fedex or -- heaven forbid -- the usps and try to ship something with relative urgency, and it will cost you.  not only money, but also time -- my wife recently reminding us just how much time we spend waiting.

to shyp’s credit, they no doubt have a better team than we had. seriously.  plus i like their focus (which is great getting started, but then limiting as you scale).... for workables, i think this lack of focus hurt us early on.  focusing on a vertical or geography would have helped a ton at the outset (even if we had went with the exact same site and name). 

i’m eager to see how syndicates change angel investing -- maybe even getting my feet wet -- but i’ll also be rooting for shyp.  i hope they succeed, and i’ll be interested to see how they do it… might even inspire us to dust off @workables for another go :)



Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes

following my last day at disqus, i turned in my macbook air and began a three week trek of mobile-only computing.  between my phone (samsung galaxy s3, rooted with cyanogenmod) and ipad (v2, ios 6), i handled all of my computing needs.  it wasn’t always efficient.  it wasn’t always perfect.  but between the two, they got the job done.

the key learning for me, was that it would be hard to have had only android or only ios devices.  across a variety of needs, the two compliment each other quite well, but i’m not sure i’d recommend a mobile-only household.  having just started my new job, it was a pleasure to move into my new mac and become reacquainted with the ease and speed with which computers, keyboards, and trackpads work.

i used to have a “home” laptop, but rarely touched it.  so i donated it to the global press institute (if you have decent tech lying around -- laptops, cameras, etc -- send them their way).  so i was already gradually using mobile more and more.  across a typical day, the phone gets a ton of use (waking up, commuting, during work, during lunch, during pretty much anything)... i know, i know.  i’m working on it.

now i’ve started to use a tablet for almost all of my consumption...  working through morning emails.  reading books.  watching tv.  playing candy crush.  only when i’m doing serious work (personal or business) does the laptop come out.  

so during my three week vagabond status, with no job to worry about and only getting ourselves across the country, i looked forward to this experiment.  as we were moving during this time, there was a lot to take care of -- from updating addresses across dozens of accounts, to travel research -- but mobile was easily up for the task...  given that i had two different operating systems.

google docs is a critical app for me, but it works so much better on android.  plus, some sites / services i use (such as stocktwits50 subscription service) don’t display at all on ios.  on the other hand, certain apps are just prettier on ios (plus, with my ios device being a tablet, it’s just easier / better to use for things like netflix or reading).

the only true pain points of mobile-only had to do with documents...  the occasional need to print, send attachments, or download showed the area of weakness.  granted some of this had to do with a particular site sucking at supporting mobile (i.e. my insurance company website not enabling me to download an updated certificate), but between the device / os / and third party -- documents has been and continues to be a spot of bother for mobile.

so while i’m back to blazing fast typing, efficient multi-tasking, and full features with a computer on my lap, mobile is still a growing piece of my computing pie.  to that end, i recently purchased the new nexus 7, and it’s already my new default device at home.  i never touch my phone at home, and occasionally pick up the ipad or laptop.  

 

give one a try if you get a chance (better screen than the ipad mini and $100 cheaper :).

 

Posted
Authorjonathan hegranes