I'm an entrepreneur, most recently with Lore. Thinking about what's next.

  1. 19th Century Typography & New York City →

    Great post by Tobias Frere-Jones: 

    I was able to plot out the locations for every foundry that had been active in New York between 1828 (the earliest records I could find with addresses) to 1909 (see below). All of the buildings have been demolished, and in some cases the entire street has since been erased. But a startling picture still emerged: New York once had a neighborhood for typography.

  2. Escher

  3. Squaw Valley, April 5, 2014

  4. The Decline of the Mobile Web →

    Chris Dixon articulates the danger of an app-dominated internet, where big companies like Apple and Google regulate innovation: 

    People are spending more time on mobile vs desktop.

    This is a worrisome trend for the web. Mobile is the future. What wins mobile, wins the Internet. Right now, apps are winning and the web is losing.

    Moreover, there are signs that it will only get worse. Ask any web company and they will tell you that they value app users more than web users. This is why you see so many popups and banners on mobile websites that try to get you to download apps. It is also why so many mobile websites are broken. Resources are going to app development over web development. As the mobile web UX further deteriorates, the momentum toward apps will only increase.

    The likely end state is the web becomes a niche product used for things like 1) trying a service before you download the app, 2) consuming long tail content (e.g. link to a niche blog from Twitter or Facebook feed).

    This will hurt long-term innovation from a number of reasons:

    1) Apps have a rich-get-richer dynamic that favors the status quo over new innovations. Popular apps get home screen placement, get used more, get ranked higher in app stores, make more money, can pay more for distribution, etc. The end state will probably be like cable TV – a few dominant channels/apps that sit on users’ home screens and everything else relegated to lower tiers or irrelevance.

    2) Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.

    Most worrisome: they reject entire classes of apps without stated reasons or allowing for recourse (e.g. Apple has rejected all apps related to Bitcoin). The open architecture of the web led to an incredible era of experimentation. Many startups are controversial when they are first founded. What if AOL or some other central gatekeeper had controlled the web, and developers had to ask permission to create Google, Youtube, eBay, Paypal, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sadly, this is where we’re headed on mobile.

    Chris is right that if the current trend continues, the internet will be a less interesting place. Not only does an App Store-world preclude business innovation, it limits individual expression, the lifeblood of the internet.

    The problem with the current model extends beyond big companies playing gatekeeper roles. Publishing an app is much harder than publishing a website. It takes more dollars, more know-how. And apps live in silos, not in an interlinked network like the web, limiting content diversity. 

    That said, we can’t ignore the superior user experience that native apps bring. Facebook’s mobile app is much better than their website. You don’t have to log on. There are no page loads. It feels fluid and simple and alive. It’s always on your homescreen, so you’ll never forget to check it. These are killer features. 

    But an internet that looks like a mall—with 10 or so major brands—is a depressing future. That future isn’t inevitable. A core interest of mine has been rethinking what the web, and the internet, should look like in this new era of computing. 

  5. Win at All Costs

    Via Quora

    Aaron Levie is down to a 4% stake heading into the Box IPO. How does he feel watching DFJ and USVP laugh to the bank after 10 years of sweat, blood, and tears?

    Aaron Levie: So far, I have yet to bleed while building Box (well, one time I was late to a meeting and cut myself shaving). And honestly, if anyone is regularly bleeding while building a software company, I would have some serious questions about their strategy and if they’re executing properly. Definitely lots of tears and sweat though. Start your company because you want to change the world, and the rest is gravy.

    Aaron has made it his goal—no matter what—to build Box into a huge, important, impactful company. This is the latest example of that. This kind of relentless drive is rarer than you’d think. 

    TAGGED: writing business startups

  6. Your Mediocrity is My Opportunity

    There tends to be an elitism at the top end of consumer markets that only certain people are “sophisticated” enough to appreciate the quality or nuance of well-designed products, while low-end customers don’t know any better. The past decade in the consumer market has shown us that this isn’t true at all. Apple, Warby Parker, Whole Foods, and many others are successful precisely because they elevate the quality of products for the average consumer.

    Time just published an interview with Jonathan Ive that touches on this point:

    For such a determined maker, you might think that Ive would single out a product, probably the iPhone, as his greatest achievement […] But it is an idea he likes most. He and his team have, he says, proved that consumers are not the price-obsessed philistines they are often assumed to be.

    “We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made. We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. our success is a victory for purity, integrity — for giving a damn.”

    This is a big idea. When Starbucks first hit, $3 coffee seemed outrageous. But we quickly learned that an “affordable luxury” can take over the world.

    With coffee, we’re now seeing the next wave with premium coffee roasters like Blue Bottle, Sightglass, and Fourbarrel. These companies have a fanaticism around coffee that envelopes the whole experience. The cafes are beautiful and comfortable, the packaging is thoughtful, and there’s a heavy focus on coffee education. And they charge just as much as Starbucks.

    It’s easy to think of these “high-end” coffee shops as the domain of affluent metropolitans, but the reality is that they are spreading all over the world. They will continue to make their way into “mainstream” culture. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in a gorgeous cafe with a perfectly crafted cappuccino for $3?

    Over the past year, I’ve been helping a company called Reformation scale their business. They make women’s fashion—mostly dresses, for now—with cutting edge design and sustainable materials at great price points. In working with the company, people have often questioned whether average consumers have the appetite for such forward-looking products. They absolutely do. The business is growing like crazy, with more and more sales happening online, in all geographies.

    Everyone wants nice things. The trick is figuring out how to give it to them. This often lies in the right mix of design, pricing, and education. All markets are ripe for this kind of change, because most consumer experiences are still mediocre. Not for long.

    TAGGED: writing product design

  7. San Francisco, March 14, 2014