At True we have a new $310 million fund

Photo by @Om (http://om.co)

Time flies – and there is nothing to make you aware of that zooming through life than memories. I remember walking into the tiny offices of the yet fully formed True Ventures in San Francisco’s Presidio, not too far from the Lucas Arts sprawling campus. I sat down for a meeting with the core team of the newly founded True Ventures and walked out with a term sheet for my company. That was ten years ago. 

John Maeda Joins Automattic

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John Maeda is one of the most thoughtful people I have met in my long career. After spending years at MIT, he took over the helm of Rhode Island School of Design, and help generations understand the symbiotic relationship between design and technology, and how it impacts humans. He was one of the first supporters of my design conference, Roadmap and over the years we have become good friends. Today, he announced that is leaving the esteemed venture capital partnership, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. And he will be joining Automattic, a company that offers WordPress as a cloud services and other related offerings.

Automattic is the brainchild of Matt Mullenweg, who was one of the founders of WordPress, an open source software that has grown to become such a large community that it now powers about 25 percent of the websites. Matt, also is one of my closest friends. It is great to see John and Matt team up — they are both cerebral and human centric leaders. I am excited to see what develops in the near future. (Photo courtesy of GigaOm)

Truth about food & delivery startups

“I think the pricing of some of the food startups is borderline criminal. I think it’s absolutely disgusting the way they hide fees in order to fake profitability.” Matt Maloney, CEO of Grubhub

There are a lot of hidden costs in services such as Postmates, Caviar and DoorDash. I have definitely reduced my reliance on these offerings and instead now plan my dining better. However, there are days when convenience trumps these hidden charges or even inflated prices. Morgan Stanley Research estimates that the online food delivery is about $10 billion of a total $210 billion “core addressable restaurant spend.”

Baby Bombers & the A-Rod Weekend

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Friday was the last day of Alex Rodriguez as a New York Yankee! He was released from the team but was given a ceremonial send off, which had a lot less pomp-and-show than the send off for Derek Jeter. Still, it was a send off worthy of a 13-year Yankee, not perfect but not without talent either.

I am not an A-Rod fan. I actually prefer Bernie Williams as an example of a good player who does whatever needs to be done quietly. It is important to celebrate low key souls like Bernie. Rahul Dravid in India and Tim Duncan from San Antonio are two players who are less flash and all fact. Anyway A-Rod was on my fantasy team last year, helped me finish in top six and well that’s something.

Anyway, after the game, when he said his final goodbye, I got a little misty eyed. I guess, I am not a hater at heart and as a result even I got over the A-Rod’s sins! Or perhaps I know that I live in a glass house myself. Anyway it was sad end to a splashy career of once in a lifetime player. It was a rude reminder that no matter who you are, time finally gets you. Somehow, time sends you a rude reminder that you are human, here on this planet for a short time and then gone, back to being carbon in the soil.

Saturday was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Yankees World Series after a long one. It was thanks to the infusion of youth and a blend of veteran talent that made that championship possible. It is a great formula – fearlessness and lack of any institutional memory of the young with the steadying experience of the established.

The young don’t grow up with baggage of the “what ifs” while grown ups come with answers, pattern recognition and most importantly, ability to get it done right. They come with the knowledge of now and more seasoned come with an arsenal of how.

It is true in movies, startups or baseball teams. It was so good that the Yankees kept on winning and then they forgot what made them great.

At trading deadline this year, Yankees finally realized that they need to get rid of their bad habits of buying big names and start stocking and developing their own farm system and bet on some of the young kids. Spending money to buy aging all stars is not a sustainable strategy. And Saturday was a great example of the type of energy young talent brings to the field. Tyler Austin who grew up a Yankees fan joined the team, and hit a home run in his first bat. Aaron Judge, another rookie call up, too hit another dinger in his first at bat. I would take losing with the new talent than mediocrity.

I am excited for the first time in a long time for Yankees are watchable again. And yet I can’t think about A-Rod and the end of the road for him. I have been there – it has taken a long time to get comfortable with the idea that I won’t get up at 4 am to get on a press call or break a story by chasing down sources for days at length, forgetting about everything else. It is how the circle of life goes – around and around. Till someone new comes around. Thanks for all the memories Alex. Too bad I couldn’t appreciate you more, but I hope you find happiness.

PS: I became a US citizen three years ago. And now I get to vote, for the first time. Time flies!

August 13, 2016 San Francisco!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Gruber & I disagree about a few issues about Apple

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My comments (made on Leo LaPorte’s Twit) about Apple, Eddy Cue and the fragile state of iCloud services have struck a nerve, with most disagreeing with me and only a few actually agreeing with the general sensibility of the comments. One of the co-panelists Philip Elmer-Dewitt disagreed vehemently with what I was saying, though he was in agreement about Planet of the Apps as a distraction.

This is coming from the so-called celebrity influx into the company, whether it is through the Beats acquisition or Eddy Cue. I mean, look at Eddy Cue. The guy was hanging out at the playoffs when iCloud was burning. For six hours. You know, he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around. I’m sorry, that’s what gets me worked up about this company. They have all these wrong priorities. They want to do entertainment content? Buy damn Netflix and move on from there. Do it properly if you want to do it. Don’t try to do this stupid penny-ante stuff which adds no value to the company. Absolutely none.

Today John Gruber (a dear friend and a fellow Yankees fan) and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the spectrum and he disagrees with me as well. He picked up on my argument that Eddy Cue would have struggled to last under Steve Jobs. Here is what John said:

I’ll just point out that Eddy Cue started at Apple in 1989, and reported directly to Jobs while creating and running the iTunes Store, App Store, and iLife suite. You’re free to argue that Cue is doing a shitty job, but “he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around” doesn’t hold water.

And the whole thing about Cue attending a Golden State Warriors game — game one of the NBA Finals — during an iCloud outage is nonsense. If Cue had skipped the game, the iCloud outage would not have been fixed a minute sooner. Not one minute.

I think Gruber is missing the point — attending a game when a division you are responsible for is down for six hours is a clear lack of empathy for the customers, and also is a sign that standards are falling of what used to be an Apple Standard for building products of delight. Sure, things might have taken as much time to fix the iCloud, but the message you would have sent out to rest of the Apple team would have been different.

In the wake of Antenna Gate, I distinctly remember reading about the then Apple executive responsible for hardware, Mark Papermaster leaving the company. “From what I’ve heard, its clear he was sacked,” John wrote on his blog. The continuous iCloud and Apple Services challenges are on the same plane as far as I am concerned, as they impact millions of users.

If Apple is indeed serious about services and its services business, it needs to own up to the fact that it’s iCloud can’t go down for six hours. This isn’t 1999! And the company’s executive team needs to show with actions and not just words, and that means leader of its services oriented products must prioritize uptime over Steph Curry!

Sometimes the game isn’t just a game!

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On another note, Gruber disagrees with my argument that Apple should buy Netflix and writes:

… he’s off his rocker on this one. I’m as skeptical as anyone about this Planet of the Apps show and why Apple is producing it. But I highly doubt it’s a distraction for anyone at Apple. It’s not even shooting in the Bay Area; it’s shooting in L.A.

Buying Netflix, on the other hand, would be a huge distraction. I’m not saying it could never happen or would certainly be a bad idea, but Apple’s services are built to take advantage of its hardware. Netflix is the opposite — it’s a service designed to be available on any device with a screen. With iTunes, Apple already has a library of movies and TV shows. If Apple wants to produce original content, they could start their own production company for a tiny fraction of Netflix’s $42 billion market cap. A fraction. To me, this reads as Om being bored with Apple, and wanting them to just do something.

Actually it not me being bored with Apple, but pointing out what Apple observers constantly miss — Internet services and infrastructure are its Achilles heel. They are in tough competition with services provided by Internet native giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Even Microsoft has decided that desktop is their past. Ask around the cloud-circles, and even the most generous souls give Apple’s infrastructure and its growing army a “B” at best. Whether it is Siri or Music or even the always syncing desktops, Apple’s infrastructure has to work flawlessly – and not go off for hours at length.