Stuff Worth Reading – August 2017
This post is the first of a new feature on the Ascent Venture blog hosted by Baiyin Zhou (@BaiyinVC), a Senior Associate at Ascent, and Eric Schultz (@ericebs), an author and former Ascent portfolio CEO. Every so often we’ll highlight a handful of articles from our reading, mostly things we stumble upon in the course of doing our real jobs, but which seem relevant to the Ascent audience. These posts are not meant to be comprehensive, and we don’t necessarily endorse everything we post. We’ll try to avoid gated items, though we’ve got subscriptions to most standard business publications (like the Wall Street Journal and Economist), so we won’t hesitate to post from those sites. If you find an article you think should be featured, please let us know. And please forward this to other entrepreneurs and investors.
A Strategist’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence is a soup-to-nuts review of the state of AI, full of links and exhibits. “In developing their own AI strategy,” author Anand Rao says, “many companies begin somewhere between assisted and augmented, while expecting to move toward autonomous eventually.” Also, be sure to read Matt Fates’s recent take on AI, AI in the Real World: A Snapshot of What’s to Come.
If you’re involved with the Internet of Things (IoT), GE’s Bill Ruh (The Thought Leader Interview: Bill Ruh on The Industrial Internet Revolution) is bullish on the future, saying “if we can organize. . .data effectively and look for patterns of behavior that an unaided human being couldn’t see, we could drive productivity gains that couldn’t be had before.” We welcome GE as one of our newest neighbors and a great addition to the Boston-area entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Over $2B of VC-dollars has been invested in AR/VR in the last twelve months, and make no mistake–we at Ascent have been keeping a close eye on the space. However, when Apple entered the mobile AR market with ARKit in June and Facebook with Camera Effects Platform, it had a ripple effect on the space and how investors are thinking about allocating their AR/VR dollars. Some industry analysts have already “declared Apple the winner”, with 200 million customers ready to go. Check out Five Ways Apple AR is Going to Change Everything. If you’re new to AR, entertain yourself with the AR version of A-ha’s Take On Me.
Marketing, Operations, and Culture
Many successful products and almost all successful companies require a pivot (or two) before they find their sweet spot in the market. Alphabet’s Google Glass is no exception. Almost universally derided when it was launched for the mass market, the product has now found a foothold on the factory floor. In Google Glass Gets It Right the Second Time, author Leonid Bershidsky writes that “its revival demonstrates how Silicon Valley’s innovations can have applications that their creators might never have envisioned.” It’s a good lesson about learning from mistakes, and not giving up.
Those of you of a certain age will remember April 23,1985–the day Coke introduced New Coke–as a moment of marketing infamy. Recently, Coca-Cola announced plans to stop selling Coke Zero in the US. The company spent more than a year market-testing the product, Kate Taylor tells us in Coca-Cola Is Killing Coke Zero and Replacing It With a New Drink. A great marketing company does a year of market research; what could possibly go wrong?
This “Knowledge Project” podcast by Shane Harris, Naval Ravkinant on Reading, Happiness, Systems for Decision Making, Habits, Radical Honesty, features the CEO and co-founder of AngelList. It runs more than two hours and covers a lot of ground, but is worth the time. Among other good advice, Ravkinant recommends that you “be present,” work on yourself before you work on others, and–first and foremost, understand the basics.
Pando’s Sarah Lacy and Silicon Valley’s Morality Crash is a 24-minute video that features Lacy, the founder, editor-in-chief, and CEO of PandoDaily, addressing the issue of “toxic masculinity” in Silicon Valley. For some positive news on that front, read about the changes made by CEO Blake Irving and his team at GoDaddy (If GoDaddy Can Turn the Corner on Sexism, Who Can’t?). “The most important thing we did,” says Debra Weissman, a senior vice president at the company, “was normalize acknowledging that everyone has biases, whether they recognize them or not.” If you need any convincing about how powerful our unrecognized biases can be, spend a minute with this classic piece of research by Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse from 2000, Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians. Once major orchestras “hid” the auditioning player from the jury, female new hires grew from less than 10 present to, in some cases, near 50 percent.
There’s still much work to be done, but taking steps to level the playing field is a powerful first move. In Boston, the New England Venture Capital Association hosted an event to address Sexual Harassment in VC. 200 community leaders in venture and tech convened to discuss this important topic, which (surprisingly to some) occurs in our own Boston community.
Some Stuff We Just Liked
Anne Helen Petersen, BuzzFeed Senior Culture Writer, returns to 1999 when we were all Living In The Beautiful Bubble of the Not-Quite-Internet. For some of you this piece will be nostalgic, and for others a peek into the recent past–which really was very different.
So there you have it – a mash-up articles, podcasts, videos that we felt were worth sharing this month. Hope you enjoy it!