Oh, startups. I am trying my absolute hardest to stay retired (this is the third attempt.) I know it’s wrong to keep at it, but I still feel the forbidden urge. My head tells me to “Do less, slower”, but…
The First Temptation: Ethereum
I have seen the future of fintech, and it IS distributed ledger technology. And Ethereum’s smart contracts are the key component for all payments. Accordingly, I’ve picked up the .eth domains for several hundred words, like “custody”, “studentloans”, “dividend”, “annuity”, “benefits”, “financialservices”, “collateral”, “letterofcredit”, “foreclosure”, “mutualfunds”, “stockloan”, etc. The auctions had an amazing cast of characters, as you can see in this piece I wrote on Medium.
Big thanks to Keaton Armentrout, a past Techstars associate, for joining in on the fun as we came up with strategies to look to rule the domains auctions.
Another part of the Ethereum fun is a ringside view for the current ICO craze, which most VCs never saw coming. Indeed, just in the past couple of months $1.2 BILLION, with a B, has been invested in startups via ICOs (or TGEs, “token generating events”, as some purists prefer). I was just interviewed on a few podcasts coming out, including an upcoming “Wall and BroadCast” segment as the old Wall Streeter mixing up with Bitcoiners like Charlie Shrem and Roger Ver, and in this one out today by the Token Report, with Galen Moore and William Mougayar. Video below, with cool additional comments/perspective from Galen here. Yesterday the SEC came out to define how they are going to regulate tokens that are nothing more than disguised securities. So suddenly us old Wall Street guys who have run regulated entities have become relevant to the cryptokids.
The Second Temptation: Podcasting about Accelerators
What good is knowledge if you can’t use it or share it? I’m no longer working full-time to help run an accelerator, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to backseat drive a little. While I was able to see some of my ideas take hold at Techstars, like the introduction of “Virtual Demo Days”, I think there is a lot of tweaking to do at every accelerator, especially in services offered to companies. It’s my view that the accelerator model hasn’t really moved forward since its heady early days a decade ago. Hence, I’ve begun doing interviews with people in and around the top 20 accelerators to create a podcast tentatively titled “Reimagining the Accelerator”. I’m talking with not just the MDs and founders of accelerators, but also the companies, investors, sponsors and mentors that all have their own perspective on what’s missing. Can we blend together the best of each? That’s the discussion. Disclosure: I’m an LP at Techstars, AngelPad, 500, and TheEngine (the last of which is mostly a fund but intriguingly also a quasi-accelerator); I’m mentoring or have mentored at Harvard iLab, MIT deltaV, VCET, and elsewhere; my wife’s company and one of mine went through MassChallenge, and my son’s company did FounderFuel and YCombinator and my daughter just joined a YC company in the current batch. I’ve invested in, at my last count, companies that have participated in over 20 different programs. I’m so conflicted that I don’t think I am conflicted anymore. I love the idea of accelerators, but hate how the opportunities seem so wasted via unimaginative, cookie-cutter practices. Like with many successful concepts that have sprung up hundreds or thousands of competitors, be they business schools, VC firms, or whatever, the bulk of accelerators are probably not worthwhile. How can we change this?
The podcast is intended to explore every angle of the accelerator experience, from the selection/training/monitoring/evaluation of mentors, to better analytic frameworks for companies, to creating vehicles to improve investor’s liquidity, to the blurring of lines between VCs and accelerators, to whatever else our guests are passionate about. Hopefully they bring some unconventional or controversial points of view to the discussion.
The Third Temptation: That Startup I Want to Commission
No, I don’t want to run another startup. But yes, there’s one startup yet to be launched that I really need to see happen. In my head, it incorporates elements of everything mentioned above, and I clearly visualize it as becoming one of the biggest decentralized, open-source protocols ever. Built on a stack of probably Ethereum, IFPS, and Aragon, all according to HIPAA standards But I certainly know I’m not the one to run it. But I’m looking hard for people who can do it to help get backed. If you’ve got chops on financial metrics (I’m talking to you, former PE or VC number cruncher associates who look to break out to do something themselves!) cybersecurity, privacy, coding mashups of APIs, or have worked in cryptocurrencies, find me.