No. 208: AI Drives News and Music | Alibaba’s Global Ambitions | 2019 Fundraising Environment

TikTok Is the New Music Kingmaker, and Labels Want to Get Paid (Bloomberg)

I wonder what it is about the music industry that has it looking at itself on the wrong side of a deal once again. Decades ago, Napster and file sharing put a massive dent in the industry, then Apple came along and dictated the price it was going to pay for music. Now, it finds itself trying to figure out how to get value out of the virality that TikTok is driving among artists.

What’s more interesting to me is the engine behind TikTok. The app is one of the products of Bytedance, the most valuable startup in the world at $75B. Bytedance owns a number of mobile-first products that are all powered by machine learning. There’s a news app Toutiao that is powered by artificial intelligence technology that can write 400 words in a couple seconds. There are 140 million monthly users spending around an hour a day on that app in China. Incredible.

I wonder what the quality is of the news the app is developing. To what extent is Bytedance in coordination with the Chinese government? What sort of unintended insights is the company getting as a result of having its finger on the pulse of people’s music and news consumption? How much more room for growth is there in its valuation before it goes public?

Breaking down Alibaba’s global ambitions (Digiday)

I’m yet to buy anything through Alibaba, but it seems like those days are more and more numbered as the company expands its footprint globally. The amount of handholding that its various subsidiaries engage in to ensure the success of brands is pretty remarkable.

The Fundraising Environment in 2019 – Three Major Shifts (Tomasz Tunguz)

Tom Tonguz argues that the fundraising environment for startups is very sophisticated in three ways – the types of funding founders can pursue, the sophistication of the pricing, and the speed with which money can be raised.

I agree with his takes on the first and third point, but wonder whether the pricing is really all that sophisticated. Investors are using enterprise value to forward revenue to value companies. Are startups hitting their forward revenue targets? If they aren’t, what adjustments are investors making to their valuations? How are late stage investors remaining disciplined in the face of Softbank dropping $1B in a startup’s bank account?

No. 127: Where Can I Buy African High Fashion?

Africa’s fashion industry has the potential to be massive and you should pay attention to it.

When I found out that Akin Adebowale, Kolade Adeyemo, Bobby Pittman, and the rest of the team were building Oxosi, I couldn’t wait to see what they would come up with.

Oxosi is an e-commerce platform that brings African high fashion to the US. Place your orders! Parts of African fashion have impacted taste in the West for a long time. It is good to see the creators of African fashion get credit for their genius through platforms like this.

The team has raised a good bit of money to start off and if their bet on the appeal of African high fashion in the US hits, Naspers and Tiger Global, two of the biggest investors in e-commerce out there, should pay attention.

Kudos to the Oxosi team. Here’s to, in the words of Paul Judge, building something from nothing.


No. 122: 3 Tuesday AM Reads/Views – Talib Kweli and Indie 500 | Kara Nortman Breaks Down E-Commerce | NJ Ayuk Takes Centurion to New Heights

  1. Within five minutes of meeting NJ Ayuk a few years ago, his gravitas came through clearly. After hanging out with him a bit longer, I figured his law firm, Centurion Law Group, was going to be a force across Africa. Here’s a cool video the firm just released. Be sure to check out the rest of the site and sign up for the firm’s newsletter.

  2. Talib Kweli penned a short history of how he got to the point of releasing his latest album, Indie 500 with 9th Wonder. I look forward to checking out the album.

  3. Kara Nortman, a partner at Upront Ventures, breaks down the categories within the behemoth that has become e-commerce. While I see the categories she outlines as more layers within e-commerce than buckets, her points are very interesting. In particular, the merchandising section caught my eye. Having a catalog of my wardrobe and companies selling into that is pretty compelling for someone like me. I have clear needs and criteria for what I will purchase (no more than six/seven shirts that all work with a suit or jeans, brown shoes always, etc), so something like this would be helpful for me as winter is coming and I am yet to purchase more blue v-neck sweaters or have my boots re-soled.