What Happens When the Software for Our Technology-Dependent Lives Breaks?

I opened up my Pocket to develop my latest “Reads” post a few minutes ago, and got the message you see in the image. For five seconds, I felt like my world had fallen apart. That’s not good.

There are so many different ways I can access the news, but have built the majority of my news consumption around Pocket. It has been invaluable as I come across interesting articles over the course of a day, but do not yet have time to read them. When I get a few minutes, I can go to my Pocket app and read an article or two.

Andreessen-Horowitz, a major venture capital firm, operates under a thesis that software is eating the world. Do we really want that? What do we do when the software breaks?

I don’t know. I’m going to bed.

Eric Osiakwan Pushing the Growth of Africa’s VC Space

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Eric Osiakwan about his experience building internet infrastructure in its early days in African countries, and the transition to investing in African startups. On top of that, he is pushing to get more Africans in the investing game to support the growth of the technology industry across the continent. Here’s the transcript of our conversation.

New VC Firm To Fund Women-Led Startups

I was glad to see the news about the launch of Valor Ventures, a VC firm led by women and focused on finding women founders. 

Another firm that excites me is the Impact America Fund. Here’s a good interview it’s founder, Kesha Cash, did with the Andreesen Horowitz team. 

Some time ago, I posted First Round Capital’s findings from its 10 years investing in startups. One of its findings was that women-led startups outperformed those led by men. You wouldn’t guess that by the looks of all the startups getting funding for their ideas. 

The VC landscape is dominated by white men, leading to white men getting the lion’s share of funding. As the debate on diversity in the technology industry continues to heat up, firms like Valor and Impact America getting traction is huge.

I was disappointed to see that Valor’s team was all white women. That’s another ongoing debate as the tech industry tries to figure out its diversity problem. 

Nonetheless, this is exciting news and I look forward to seeing what companies Valor funds.   

No. 3: Thursday AM Reads and Listens

No. A little over a year ago, Jehiel was telling me about this idea he had for smart tractors. A few days ago, he talked about what Hello Tractor is doing while moderating a panel with President Obama. Amazing.

It is so frustrating to read story after story on America’s failing infrastructure.

Great post by Mark Suster on startup failure.

Barry Ritholtz’s Masters in Business podcast is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Here’s a great one with Dambisa Moyo, though he interrupted her a lot.

Mind boggling graphics on China’s investment around the world.

Nice rundown of the latest in the startup scene across Africa.

First Round Capital looked at ten years worth of data from its time investing in startups at the seed stage. The findings are interesting, though I don’t feel comfortable with the “Where You Went to School Matters” finding. I think that propagates some of the diversity issues in the US technology startup scene.

I highly recommend you read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me. I’ve been struggling with writing a post on it, so I’m just going to sit with it for a while. Perhaps I’ll have something of substance to say later.

No. 1: Thursday Morning Reads 

Tidjane Thiam gets off to a nice start at Credit Suisse

Silicon Valley’s Political End Game

Rocket Internet’s portfolio value has grown $2.5 billion in nine months 

Wistia founder shares how not being fake helped them close an account with a big customer 

Not sure I buy the analysis that Eurobond issuances among African countries with increase in the second half of this year 

Interesting points on what DC needs to do to prepare for population growth to 800k

Ethiopia centralizes coffee regulation; Nigeria rice industry dealing with Dangote’s push to eliminate imports; Ghana giving sugar another shot

New York fast food workers get their salary doubled 

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.

Pay Attention to the Air Through Which You Walk

Chinedu Echeruo gave a talk at Stanford University’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series on the value that creativity unleashes into the world. In it, he shared a parable David Foster told in a speech to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class.

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

I found this to be a really compelling commentary on the power of how one thinks. We see that power all around us. Political parties. Marriage. Entrepreneurship.

While thinking on this parable further, I remembered an interview angel investor Jason Calacanis did with Peter Thiel, the contrarian billionaire co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. He made a point about how one should pay attention to things that don’t work as well as one would like. What comes to mind now is the difficulty I have getting my daughter in and out of her car seat. His argument was that opportunities for a solution lie in those instances of discomfort.

For the past few months, I have tried to document ideas that come to mind during the course of a day. After hearing Mr. Thiel’s argument, I have tried to look a little closer at the everyday things with which I engage on a normal basis. My daughter’s car seat. The rectangular shape of my laptop and iPhone. To apply the language of Mr. Foster’s parable, I am trying to shift my thinking to be aware of the water in which I am swimming, rather the air through which I am walking.

For example, I remember that I heard Mr. Thiel make this comment about paying attention to the discomforts around you while I was sitting at a red light at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and K Street. I can remember this now, but with all the head shots I delivered playing football, I probably won’t remember this experience 50 years from now.

What if I could take a snapshot of that moment in time – the image of the intersection, the two-minute portion of the conversation, the day and time, how the conversation made me feel? Imagine being able to recall that experience 50 years from now as a form of treatment for my dementia.

You’ve seen the joy on the man’s face as he listens to jazz music he’d enjoyed decades prior. Imagine creating a playlist of sorts for your older self to enjoy pivotal moments of your life.

This may or may not be a good idea (I kind of like it and will mention it to my mom who works on dementia issues). That aside, the thought exercise of paying attention to something as routine as a memory unlocks a creativity that I look forward to experiencing more.