No. 222: Minerals, Electric Vehicles, and AI

Andreessen Horowitz posted this interesting conversation on cobalt – the mineral helping power our phones, electric vehicles, and more.

The conversation got me thinking about a piece I wrote back in 2015 (time flies!) on Jean-Yves Ollivier, Marc Andreessen, and the common interests they share in minerals that power the global economy.

There has been a lot written about how problematic cobalt mining is because of the extent to which child labor is involved in Democratic Republic of Congo where much of the world’s cobalt is currently produced. Companies like Tesla and Apple are working on improving the sourcing of these minerals.

While the adoption of smartphones is rapidly growing, we’re still in the early stages for electric vehicles. According to Clean Technica, about two percent of vehicles sold last year were electric vehicles to give you a sense of how far there is to go.

So, if the world moves to electric vehicles we could be consuming a lot more cobalt. In the piece I wrote, I link to a BBC piece on a city in Mongolia called Baotou. The city is a hub for the production of some key minerals in smartphones and other complex devices. There’s a lake near the city that is extremely toxic as a result of industrial waste.

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence and are moving towards the technology becoming more and more a part of our lives. Devices will come along with this: cars, sensors, devices connected to our brains, and more. Proponents of artificial intelligence say the technologies could create something of a utopia where we’re able to focus more on caring for others, the arts and more.

My worry is that this supposed utopia would be layered on top of an underworld like Baotou. I had never heard of the place before reading that BBC piece.

Perhaps we’re really moving to the singularity and an artificial intelligence-driven world like Ray Kurzweil says we are. Maybe Elon Musk succeeds in driving the global adoption of electric vehicles. If that’s so, we’ve got to be sure we’re thinking through to the outer edges of the supply chain to ensure we’re treating folks and the environment well.

No. 186: 3 Thoughts – Time | A16Z, a VC No More | Opportunity Zones

In his acceptance speech at the NAACP Image Awards this weekend, Jay-Z recited a quote that struck me: “It’s not the number of years in your life that count. It’s the amount of life in your years.” The quote echoed a question I had been pondering a couple days before I saw his acceptance speech on Sunday: “If today was your last, how would you assess the extent to which you’ve lived a full life?” Later Sunday evening, I learned Nipsey Hussle was murdered. I’ve had several conversations with friends about his death. This man was having a real impact in his neighborhood, and had a big vision. He wasn’t finished yet. His death is a reminder to remain focused on the reason we’re on this earth and handle our business there.

Andreessen Horowitz Is Blowing Up The Venture Capital Model (Again)

So, Andreessen Horowitz isn’t a venture capital firm anymore. Wow. The firm recently registered all of its employees as financial advisors and gave up its venture capital exemptions in order to be able to invest deeper in the cryptocurrency space. I’m not quite sure what to make of this, but I am curious to see how it impacts recruiting. I don’t get the sense that folks interested in VC are particularly interested in taking financial advisor reviews and being audited.

The Real Roots of ‘Black Capitalism’

I’ve been skeptical of opportunity zones for some time now, and this piece reinforces my feelings. It’s been quite distressing watching firm’s like Anthony Scaramucci’s Skybridge Capital lay the groundwork for massive funds to take advantage of the incentives in program. The opportunity zone program is supposed to foster investment in distressed communities, but I worry that firms like Skybridge will muscle out investors like Nipsey Hussle who was also laying the groundwork to take advantage of the program. This article does a nice job laying out the roots of the opportunity zone program about which I knew little. I look forward to learning more here.

No. 91: Girls Killing the Technology Game

Andreessen Horowitz just posted a short interview with four high school girls who recently competed in Technovation 2015. (If you’re opening this in your email, click on the title so that you can see the podcast linked below.)

The winner of the competition was a team from Nigeria! All of the teams are really impressive. Check out their pitches.

No. 80: Can Tech and Government Work Together?

What does it look like for tech startups and governments to work together well? Andreessen Horowitz posted a new podcast with Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser today to discuss this, alongside former DC mayor Adrian Fenty. Pretty good conversation.

Some of the topics covered in the conversation, included:

1. Catching up to the technology startup sector with the proper regulatory environment;
2. The progress DC government has made in incorporating technology in its service provision; and
3. Pain points that startups could be helpful in addressing – affordable housing and wellness are examples.

What was Mayor Bowser doing out on the West Coast talking to the Andreessen Horowitz folks when Steve Case is in town, you ask? Apparently, the US Conference of Mayors met in San Francisco a few weeks ago. Further, the DC connection to Andreessen Horowitz is not a particularly new one. Former DC mayor Adrian Fenty, who was also on the podcast, is a special advisor at the firm.

The intersection between governments and the startup community will only increase, particularly as Andreessen Horowitz’s theory that software is eating the world continues to prove true. It’s cool to see conversations like these taking place.