No. 254 – Wednesday Reads


When regulation presents a (rare) opportunity – Bradley Tusk, a political wizard, who secured Uber’s policy wins across the U.S. with masterful and aggressive campaigns has written a piece that’s quite disturbing. He calls for startups to take advantage of what I’ll call “pandemic capture.” Because of the current situation with COVID-19, he argues that policymakers can’t focus on “privacy, worker classification reform and fears of AI,” so startups should push for rapid change in policy that will allow them to operate that way they want. Yes, this is a time for urgency and moving the ball forward, but doing the right thing and should never take the back seat. What Tusk is arguing for isn’t it.

Black Caucus seeks to squash liberal insurgents – I look forward to a world where black politicians of varying viewpoints go at it in vying for legislative seats. Unfortunately, from the looks of this article, we have a lot of black legislators in Congress who can’t believe a challenger would stand up after how long they’ve been in their seats. We don’t move black people forward that way.

How Streamlytics is Innovating – I’ve been watching Angela Benton move the past several years and was excited when she announced that Streamlytics was in the works. We talk about how much value black people offer to corporations. She is developing a platform that can turn that value into actual dollars for black consumers. I look forward to seeing her win.

Bullwhip and Base Rates – The Two Major Forces Impacting Startups in Q2 – Tomasz Tunguz wrote a nice piece highlighting how small shifts in retail can cause massive disruption in the supply chain. He also looks at how startups need to go back and rethink what growth looks like moving forward.

Investing in Tecton – Andreessen Horowitz announced their series A investment in Tecton, a start up led by three Uber alumni who have built a platform that enables data features to be easily plugged into systems that use the data for production. What’s really interesting to me about the potential positive effect of Tecton is it potentially making it providing more time for good decision making around machine learning systems and their potential unintended consequences. Now that so much time won’t be spent uploading data into different applications, organizations can make sure vulnerable folks don’t get hurt by their systems.

No. 244: Timbaland and Swizz Beatz Should Build a Platform

Source: Pardon my poor drawing skills

The Verzuz battles Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have been organizing on Instagram have been a fresh breath of musical air the past several weeks. They’ve really done something special for the culture. While so many music greats are getting their flowers, I can’t help but remember that these battles are adding to Zuckerberg’s net worth. Apparently, networks have approached Swizz Beatz and Timbaland about taking the battles to another level. For now, the duo are keeping the battles organic for the culture, but I think there’s definitely an opportunity for Timbaland and Swizz to follow Dr. Dre into the land of billion dollar businesses. Here’s my thought for the Verzuz platform.

The Second Screen

A few weeks ago when T-Pain and Lil’ John had their battle, T-Pain mentioned that it would be great if they could plug their audio straight in to come out of the audience’s speakers. The bad audio in parts of RZA and DJ Premier’s battle showed how valuable this would be. T-Pain’s thought got me thinking about the second screen conversation that has been taking place in the media world the past few years. It’s the concept of enhancing your viewing experience on a TV or computer with parallel content on another device like your phone.

Source: Nielsen

Lots of people are consuming data on their phones while looking at the screen. Further, I imagine a lot of people have been casting the IG battles to their televisions, Sonos, Google Home, and Alexa devices. Imagine the Verzuz app taking advantage of people’s propensity to use a second screen to create higher fidelity in-home experience for folks.

Lisnr Has the Answers

How would the Verzuz app create this in-home experience? There’s a startup out there called Lisnr that uses ultrasonic sound to deliver instructions to your phone or other devices. I’m pretty sure the technology Rodney Williams and his team built could be used to send direct audio from a battle you’re watching on your phone or casting to your TV. 

Shazam may be coming to mind for you as the more realistic option to handle this. The problem with Shazam is that it uses a library of recorded samples of music to identify songs. That’s why you get all that latency when trying to figure out what that banger is you’re listening to. Shazam’s servers are busy searching for the song that matches the sample they captured from the song you’re listening to. Lisnr sends a direct instruction to your device on what to do, making for way faster speeds. 

What Could Go Wrong?

When I say “Ok Google,” both of my phones and my Google Home devices perk up listening for instructions. I often wake up to alarms from my phones and Google Home. For some reason, the technology for listening devices isn’t at the place where multiple listening devices on the same WiFi network can coordinate which device will answer a query. If all the devices are getting instructions from the Lisnr signal, it would be a mess having multiple devices playing music out of sync. For now, I suppose the fix for that would be to make sure only one phone in the house has the volume up. 

Use Cases for Days

There are so many ways Verzuz could power the audience ownership innovators like Ryan Leslie have been pushing for years. Imagine listening to a new artist at a concert and you get a pop-up on your phone asking whether you like the track they’re performing and then whether you want to get on their email list? Imagine these live battles where you get a ping after every round of tracks giving you the option to vote on who won the round. The amount of data artists could get access to would be boons for them and create interesting partnership opportunities for platforms like Steve Stoute’s UnitedMasters, Ryan Leslie’s SuperPhone and Angela Benton’s Streamlytics

I look forward to seeing where Swizz and Timba take Verzuz. Hopefully they build something rather than sell it off. Maybe this could be a start for figuring out what that looks like.

No. 50: Three Podcasts That Will Make Your Daily Commute Amazing

While working on #NewRulesAfrica last year with Cherae Robinson (Be sure to check out her app Tastemakers Africa), I discovered that there are interesting people who interview other interesting people and post those interviews on platforms like iTunes and TuneIn Radio – for free. I now listen to at least five hours of podcasts a week during my commutes to my daughter’s school and the amount of insight I have gotten into the worlds of authors, other entrepreneurs, and investors has been amazing. I used to listen to Bloomberg Surveillance and Taking Stock with Pimm Foxx on the Bloomberg Radio+ app during these listening times, but find the podcast deep dives much more rewarding.

The Leaders

Here are three podcasts that I think you would find worthwhile to check out:

This Week in Startups – Jason Calacanis is a media entrepreneur and angel investor. He has invested in at least 90 startups, including Uber. He has no qualms about making his feelings known about certain companies like Google and Secret, which I appreciate. He opened my eyes to the value of listening to podcasts. Start with his interview with Angela Benton, founder of NewMe Accelerator. I listened to his interview with Chamath Palihapitiya at least four times.

The Entrepreneurs Library – Wade Danielson interviews business authors about their books, getting them to walk through what each chapter of the book is about, portions of it that a reader should definitely take a look at, and solicits their recommendations of other books to read. He probably could improve as an interviewer, but I do like that he gets out of the way and lets the authors do all the talking. His interview with Robert Galford on his book, The Trusted Advisor was really good. Galford flips the script on “name it and claim it”.

Marketplace – I have listened to Kai Ryssdal for years now, though my consumption was dependent on my ability to get in the car at the right time. The episodes are equally entertaining and informative – providing you with a snapshot of what happened that day and of broader issues like gentrification.


Here are a few more that I listen to, though I am not blown away by every interview like the two above:

Eventual Millionaire – Jaime Tardy brings on a lot of entrepreneurs who have bootstrapped and hustled their way to high revenue generating businesses.

The Strategic Entrepreneur – I met Michael Williams years ago through a mutual friend and was thrilled to discover his podcast.

Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast – Some pretty insightful interviews here on issues like the United States’ criminal justice system.

Freakonomics Radio – The show’s deep dives on issues like education are pretty eye-opening.

HBR Ideacast – The content is typically pretty solid. Check out the interview with Boris Johnson, London’s mayor.

Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders – These are interesting fireside chat conversations with some of the leaders of Silicon Valley.

A16Z Podcast – Andreesen Horowitz is one of the top venture capital firms in the United States, despite their relative youth compared to stalwarts like Sequoia Capital.

The School of Greatness – This podcast may move up to the “you should definitely listen to this” list, for the sole reason that Lewis Howes takes the time to affirm each interviewee at the end of every episode. He nearly brought Baratunde Thurston to tears.

Start With Why – This is another one that may move up. I appreciate Simon Sinek’s laser focus on gaining clarity on why one does the business she does.

The James Altucher Show – I enjoyed James’ interview style for a long time, then I noticed that I felt like he was pushing his “Choose Yourself” framework onto other people’s work during the interviews and lost a bit of interest.

The Tim Ferriss Show – For a while, I really enjoyed the podcast. Tim did a few shows where he did not interview anyone, and I lost interest.