Monday, December 31, 2012

By Request: Top Albums/Tracks/Collabs of 2012

A L B U M S*

1. Tame Impala: Lonerism
2. Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music
3. Kendrick Lamar: good kid, M.A.A.D. City
4. Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream
5. Frank Ocean: Channel ORANGE
6. Andy Stott: Luxury Problems
7. Passion Pit: Gossamer
8. Grizzly Bear: Shields
9. Japandroids: Celebration Rock
10. Beach House: Bloom
HM. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: The Heist

T R A C K S**
1. Frank Ocean: "Pyramids"

2. Grizzly Bear: "Sleeping Ute"

3. Tame Impala: "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"

4. Miguel: "Adorn"

5. Passion Pit: "Take A Walk"

6. Kendrick Lamar: "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"

7. Usher: "Climax"

8. Grimes: "Oblivion"

9. Andy Stott: "Sleepless"

10. Crystal Castles: "Affection"

C O L L A B O R A T I O N S***
1. A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Drake: "F*cking Problem"
2. Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T, 2 Chainz: "Mercy"
3. Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock: "Money Trees"
4. Frank Ocean, Ryan Hemsworth: "Thinkin Bout You" (Remix)
5. Burial, Four Tet: "Nova"
6. Schoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky: "Hands On The Wheel"
7. Jessie Ware, Disclosure: "Running" (Remix)
8. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: "Same Love"
9. Killer Mike, Bun B, T.I., Trouble, El-P: "Big Beast"
10. The xx, Four Tet: "Angels" (Remix)

* HM = Honorable Mention and does not necessarily rank at #11
** Excludes repeated artists (#s 1-4, 6) and collaborations for breadth
*** Remixes included, also prioritizes breadth over repeats (#s 2, 8)
    NB: It's unfortunate that "rock bands" don't collaborate as often
        or attract more remixes like rap, r&b and electronica

Friday, December 28, 2012

Founders At Work: Book Review

Author: Jessica Livingston

Length: 453 pages

What is It: An inside look at the creation of some of technology's most popular and most innovative startups, as told by the founders themselves through interviews. 

What's Said: Founders go through the evolution of their startups from conception to execution and often through exit. Difficulties, mistakes and setbacks are disclosed. Turning points and surprises of the businesses and their skills are discussed. Founders share times when they or their product were misjudged/misunderstood. The triumphs and tribulations of bootstrapping and funding are laid bare. Includes direct advice for potential entrepreneurs. Interviews are grouped by company and loosely ordered by relevance to previous interviews or technologies.

What's True: Founders tend to be product and user driven. Absolute persistence is a necessity. Adaptability and flexibility are key because nothing goes according to plan. Constraints on resources like time and money often spur creativity. Trust and culture are incredibly important between (1) startup founders, (1) + (2) first hires, and (1) + (3) active investors. Startups are very often built to solve personal problems or as vehicles for significant impact. Founders deliberately nurture incredible ideas, but they also simply stumble into them. Entrepreneurs create value from depth of experience as well as from naivety. Timing and luck are notable x-factors in the success or failure of a business. Good advice is not necessarily correlated with spectacular success, i.e. do not discount the startups/entrepreneurs you have not heard of.

So What: Each venture has its own solution that must be optimized for, but Founders at Work outlines very timely variables in the startup equation. Beyond the practical, FW can serve as a good motivational guide for frustrated, impatient or weary entrepreneurs. It humanizes these heroes who have often attained mythical qualities from afar (with some exceptions). By the end, Founders seems to ask the question, "Now that you know these things, what are you going to do about it?"

Final Word: Definite Read

Monday, December 17, 2012

Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream. Album Sketch

year: 2012

tones of:  r kelly, prince, cody chesnutt, marvin gaye, the weeknd (opposite twins), the isley brothers

genre samples: r&b, soul, house, quiet storm, the zombies (the end of: don't look back), labi siffre/eminem (parts of: kaleidoscope dreams), funk

music: futuristic, smooth, uptempo, danceable, pulsating, playful, silky, enveloping, head rocking

singing: soulful, pining, versatile, commanding, intense, high range, confident, crooning, independent

lyrics: sexy, intimate, raw, simple, r-rated, straight forward, blunt, amateurish 

favs: adorn, don't look back, do you..., kaleidoscope dream, the thrill, where's the fun in forever, p***y is mine, candles in the sun

score: 8.5/10 (pushes and bends r&b. miguel is future and past.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Startup Standouts: CB Insights


CB Insights is a financial services firm that collects private company information (including startups) to power data driven analytics, insights, tools, and statistics for those same companies and the general/investing public.

Location: New York, NY
Size: < 10 people
Funding: $650k in NSF grants
FoundersAnand Sanwal (CEO) / Jonathan Sherry

Why it stands out:
- Value proposition: aggregates often hard to find/get data on private and early stage companies 
- Provides simple, frequent, digestible data insights at the industry level
- The most consistent and comprehensive private company funding data flow that I've seen anywhere
- Hard won, slow built reputation topped by partnerships with Forbes and Silicon Valley Bank

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shooting Technology Across the Bow

This is a warning shot.

There appear to be many cultural behaviors creeping into Technology that surprisingly look like common practices from Finance during its days as master of the main deck. Here are a few.

Free Agency
You can clearly see this when major players from the hottest firms jump ship to the latest hottest firms, particularly with the more visible companies like Google and Facebook. The discerning question is: what is the motivation? Are these sharp shooters compelled to move because they want to face the next challenge and reap the equity returns or are they being lured because of a good deal on trading up responsibility and a bigger paycheck? If it is more of the latter, beware.

Opaque Screening
Here are the symptoms: Requiring x years experience for a position whose category only came into existence less than x ago. The catch-22 demand of industry specific expertise, when effectively the whole team is learning on the job. Downgrading front door applicants because they did not come through the side door (connections). The lack of clarity or communication on final decisions after interviews. These are all the little details of elitism - a good way to build yourself at odds with the general public.

Mishandled Talent
This is in partial a root cause of the first observation, but deserves to be separated. There is massive demand for engineering talent in the Bay Area, and fierce competition for it. As a result, the perqs and pay have gotten misaligned with contribution - but the ability to code is only worthwhile in the context of other talent. This atmosphere creates a culture where every other skill is devalued or grossly undervalued in the startup context. See: treatment of engineers in east coast finance. As a result you end up with the free agency problem and a talent-inflation problem.

Hollywood Interest
Granted this is a bit more on the frivolous side, but every time finance seemed to get a little heady, Hollywood got a little ahead of itself with a TV show based on the industry. Remember: The $treet, Wall Street Warriors or Traders? Of course not. They got canceled. Bravo now has a reality television show based on the startup life called Silicon Valley. That will get canceled too, but not before reputations and public impressions get formed. You get the point.

How will Silicon Valley hold up against these early encroachments on its collaborative and innovation culture? Let us hope it does much better than Wall Street did over the last three decades.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tame Impala: Lonerism. Album Sketch

year: 2012

tones of: the beatles, the flaming lips, the beach boys, the zombies, radiohead, caribbean rocksteady (on: feels like we only go backwards), the white stripes (on: elephant. yes.), pink floyd

genre samples: psychedelic rock, lo-fi, indie rock

music: trippy, peaceful, surreal, glowing, layered, smooth, wavy, happy, expansive, comforting, loose, gorgeous, mystical

lyrics: whispery, graspinglonely (obviously, right?), simple, struggling, fragile, depressing, exasperating, fatalist, mind games

album: creative, dreamy, time transporting, satisfying, artistic, breathes, grows, matures the 60s, enveloping

favs: mind mischief (A+), music to walk home by, why won't they talk to me, feels like we only go backwards, nothing that has happened has been anything we could control (lyrics)

note: the album cover really nails just what this record is. someone from the outside looking in on something beautiful

score: 9/10 (8.5, except on re-listens an underlying presence carries this LP to outstanding)