Erik Moore, Venture Capitalist, ‘Unapologetically Black’

on Monday, Mar. 17th

Erik Moore’s career in venture capital began with a hot tub.

It sounds like the ultimate Bay Area cliché, perhaps even more vividly so when you hear that the hot tub in question was destined for the downtown building once sought after by flashy former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

It was 1999, and Tony Hsieh, one of the building’s well-to-do tenants, had just sold his first company to Microsoft. Hsieh wanted to install a Jacuzzi in his penthouse apartment – but it was against policy in the building, where Moore lived, too. After the fellow tenants ran into each other one night, Hsieh drafted Moore onto the homeowner’s association. They got the sought-after hot tub installed, and became friends.

Good enough friends that Moore invested in Hsieh’s company, one called Zappos.

At the time, he told Hsieh, “I’m not sure I have ever heard of a more stupid idea than selling shoes online.” But, deciding that Hsieh’s obvious talents as an entrepreneur outweighed the apparent dead-end nature of the internet service that became Zappos (which was later acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion) Moore made the investment that eventually provided the seed money for his venture capital fund, Base Ventures. (more…)

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Reflections on Innovation Past and Present, From SF Designer Yves Behar

on Wednesday, Feb. 26th

When San Francisco designer Yves Behar was 14 years old and living in his native Switzerland, he had a design epiphany, thanks to the Sony Walkman.

An aunt had sent the device to Behar, who’s now the Chief Creative officer of Jawbone, as a gift. He told the crowd at this week’s Launch Festival that for a teenager, being able to carry his music around was revelatory enough, but there was more — the ability to plug in a second headset, allowing him and a girlfriend to create an intimate world, free from adult intervention.

This seeded his philosophy that if you’re treating customers well — emotionally, ergonomically then you’re probably practicing good design. (more…)

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YCombinator Founder: “Starting a Startup Hurts”

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The founder of YCombinator is very, very happy that he’ll no longer be running that startup incubator.

That was a recurring theme of Paul Graham’s “Fireside Chat” with Launch founder Jason Calacanis, in which Graham also touched on various lessons from working with more than 600 startups, and being flamed on Twitter for comments about foreign accents and women in tech. (more…)

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Uber CEO: New Surge Pricing Feature “Brings Humanity” to Car Service App

on Monday, Feb. 24th

The online car service Uber will offer a new feature that gives users an option to reject controversial surge pricing until prices decline.

CEO Travis Kalanick, who was the keynote interview this morning at the first day of the Launch Festival in SF, told interviewer Jason Calacanis the company wants to “bring humanity” to the app, in part by introducing the new feature. (more…)

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Eat Your Heart Out, Snapchat: Facebook Buys Whatsapp for $16b

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

After this afternoon’s news that Facebook is purchasing messaging app Whatsapp for $16 billion, there’s a sentiment that’s swirling around in the non-tech Twitterverse: “how can an app we’ve never heard of” be worth this much? (Emphasis mine).

Sequoia Capital’s blog has a celebratory post that breaks down some of the numbers, including a key one: Whatsapp has 450 million users.

And a lot of those users are in India and the UK, where the app took off a full year before I began noticing American friends appearing in my contacts list.

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The Allure of Anonymous Confessional Apps Secret and Whisper

on Wednesday, Feb. 19th

This post was also published on NPR’s All Tech Considered.

“I’m worth 83.7 million dollars and bored out of my mind.”

“My friend who is a banker just told me he’s working on Dropbox’s IPO…oooh.”

“The drug use in Silicon Valley is outrageous. So are the inflated egos. It’s like LA for smart, ugly people.”

Declarations like these — some plaintive, some fueled by professional frustration, and some just plain gossipy — tumble forth anonymously on the new app Secret, and because many of them seem to be coming from within the booming tech industry, the app has built early buzz. But if Secret, designed to maximize sharing and minimize risk, picks up traction, the whistleblower-enabling capability of the app could have implications for a broad range of industries that would prefer their workers be quiet as kept.

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First Ever Crappy Awards Target SF’s Tech Industry

on Monday, Feb. 10th

Inspired by the sly tradition of the Razzie Awards, which commemorate the worst of Hollywood, San Francisco fair housing advocates are kicking off “The Crappy Awards” tonight in the city’s art’s district.

A coalition of housing groups decided to throw an agitprop counterpunch to The Crunchies, the tech industry’s awards party for itself, which will be happening inside the Davies Symphony Hall while activists hold court on the sidewalk outside.

Fresh off the weekend’s tenant convention by the Anti-Displacement Coalition, The Crappy Awards will address the same themes that fair housing groups have been hammering for months, said Tony Robles, the Housing Organizing Director for Senior and Disability Action. (more…)

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California Regulators Say Coding Bootcamps “In Good Faith” Won’t Be Shut Down

on Monday, Feb. 3rd

The cease and desist letters sent to so-called “hacker schools” in California is an attempt to protect students, not entrenched educational institutions.

That, according to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), the state agency that regulates non-accredited schools (with some exceptions, like the Corinthian schools, and those that charge less than $2500 for the entire course of instruction). (more…)

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Who’s Behind the Wheel May Help Drive Attitudes on Surge Pricing

on Tuesday, Jan. 14th

The online car service marketplace is already valued in the billions of dollars. But to keep growing, its leading companies may need to get better at managing customer perceptions around variable, or “surge,” pricing — and who it benefits.

Here’s a more familiar paradigm for the issue: say that on Christmas Day, it costs you $660 to fly 400 miles from SFO to LAX. The same flight two weeks later? $58.

Is the airline price gouging? Or simply capitalizing on market demand?

In a tongue-in-cheek Tweet over the holidays, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick used the aviation industry example to point out that it’s generally accepted that flights are exorbitant during the high-demand holiday travel season.

But when it comes to Kalanick’s online car service, customers have steadily attacked its surge pricing policies since they were instituted about a year ago. And for his part, Kalanick has steadily maintained that surge pricing is simply a response to market demand. During the wee hours of New Year’s revelry, for instance, an Uber ride might cost three times the normal rate (a ride from San Francisco’s Noe Valley to the Embarcadero for $60) to incentivize more drivers to get on the road.

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SF Port Director On Google Ferry: Relax, We’re Just Floating It.

on Thursday, Jan. 9th

This is only a test.

That’s what San Francisco’s port administration is emphasizing in its announcement of the rollout this week of Google ferry service that will shuttle about 150 of the company’s SF-based workers to Redwood City each day. (more…)

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Tribeca’s Storyscapes Returns For An Epic Second Year

The Tribeca Film Festival leapt into the vanguard of transmedia art last year with the inaugural edition of Storyscapes, an event led by TriBeCa’s Director of Digital Initiatives Ingrid Kopp.



Simple Machine Announces Micro-Festival Grants

We’ve been keeping up with Simple Machine, the independent film curation tool for festival and art house programmers, since running across their booth at South By Southwest last year.


Transmedia Beat: Bernie Su’s “Emma Approved” Monetization Secrets

Disclosure: I’m one of the organizers of Transmedia LA, so take any excessive positivity with a grain of salt.


First Ever Crappy Awards Target SF’s Tech Industry

Inspired by the sly tradition of the Razzie Awards, which commemorate the worst of Hollywood, San Francisco fair housing advocates are kicking off “The Crappy Awards” tonight in the city’s art’s district.


Image Disruptor: Flag Looks To Upend Photo Printing Through The Magic of Free

Flag, a photo printing start-up that is holding a barnstorming 14-day Kickstarter campaign right now, turned up on my radar this week thanks to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball.