Google's space bets. Walmart patents. Smart money slowdown.

Serious eye roll

Hi there,

The best speakers at conferences are the ones who don't give an F and say what's on their mind. This is why Fred Wilson was a favorite at last year's Future of Fintech Conference and why Chamath Palihapitiya tore the house down at our Innovation Summit.

Unfortunately, the tendency for 90% of folks is to play it safe and talk their book or stick to their talking points.

As a result, they are totally and utterly forgettable.

For this reason, I'm excited that Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, is joining us at The Future of Fintech. Taleb is opinionated, irreverent, and brash. Beautiful.

Here's one of my favorite quotes of his.

Use the code insurgent through tomorrow to get $1500 off your ticket.

Sky's the limit

We mapped out Google’s space tech bets and created a timeline showcasing key activity. Since 2013, Google has invested in, bought, or launched three companies and projects, and participated in five financing rounds.

Cry me a river

After Monday's soapbox rant about the lack of risk startup founders really take, I got a bunch of emails.

Most were complimentary, but with 270k+ on the newsletter, a few weren't. The criticisms fell into 3 buckets.

Bucket 1 - People didn't get that the Elizabeth Holmes quotes (of Theranos fame) were sarcastic. Sorry. I continue to believe that the company that invents a sarcasm font will be a unicorn.

Bucket 2 - Some people thought picking on Elizabeth Holmes was unfair / mean-spirited. Two comments on that: (1) ha ha (2) that was nothing. 

Bucket 3 - Several founders wrote saying they left $200-$300k jobs and the opportunity cost was real and that their families had to cut back and make compromises.

I've been there after I left a nice paycheck and cushy gig at American Express. It meant the family didn't take vacations and we went out less with friends and we stayed in a smaller apartment for longer. And it meant dipping into savings and sending our daughter to public school instead of private.

It also meant the reputational risk of going back to a big co with my tail tucked between my legs if the startup didn't work out. 

It wasn't fun.

But let's not get it twisted. These are first-world risks. I could have swallowed my pride and gone back to being a corporate guy and gotten paid pretty quickly. And all the while, my wife was working and had insurance.

BTW, check out the Blurb for an amazing essay entitled "A Self-Made Man Looks at How He Made It." It is fantastic.

What is Walmart up to?

We dug into a series of recently published applications and grants from Walmart, highlighting the company’s ambitions to improve the in-store and e-commerce experience through the use of automation, drones, augmented reality, and other tools.

The below is a patent that illustrates using machine vision to help guide shoppers through a store.

I'm in India learning how bidnis gets done

I believe this is called reverse reverse psychology.

Smart money slowdown

We analyzed deal activity among smart money investors to see how their investment pace has changed since 2013. The top VCs have seriously pulled back on their investment pace compared to 2015 levels, especially at the seed and Series A stage.

Alternative lending

We took a look at funding trends and geographic deal distribution to private alternative lenders. While deals were up slightly in Q1'17, there has been an overall downward trend since Q1'16.

Industry Standard

CB Insights data is the most trusted by those in the industry and the media. A few recent hits.

Forbes. Tom Popomaronis (@tpopomaronis) writes about Twiggle's latest round of financing and refers to CB Insights research on retail AI companies.

Bloomberg. Lizette Chapman (@lizette_chapman) dives into Clover Health's newly achieved unicorn status and refers to CB Insights valuation data.

Silicon Republic. John Kennedy (@mrjohnfkennedyreports on startups to come out of Cork's RebelBio accelerator and cites CB Insights research on active investors in the synthetic biology space.

I love you.


P.S. We'll be digging into investment trends in wealth tech on May 23rd. Sign up for the briefing.

Google’s space wager: Mapping investments, acquisitions, and launches

Although Google's intentions for the sector remain hazy, the company’s investments are split between satellite connectivity and earth observation data. Read about it.
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Walmart patents point to opportunity in drones, AR/VR, and automation

We dug into Walmart's patents and found technology for automating the checkout process, guiding shoppers, and even flying drones throughout the store. Check it out.
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Smart money deals retreat to lowest level in at least 3 years

Smart money investors have slowed their investing pace, with investments at the seed and Series A stage falling off significantly. See the data.
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Alternative lending deals on pace for new low

Former unicorn China Rapid Finance went public last month at a $350M valuation. See the data.
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The Blurb

A curated mix of articles on private companies, venture capital, emerging industries, and innovation.

Self-made. John Scalzi (@scalzi) shares an essay on how he made it to where he is today.

Over-done diligence. Chris Douvos (@cdouvos) says often, the more diligence you do under the guise of “getting smart,” the more your mosaic of facts will resemble everyone else’s. 
Super LP

Negotiating as a VC is the worst. Marie Brayer (@marie_brayer) on the difficulties of negotiating as a VC and what startups should know in the process.
Serena Capital

Micro VC. Samir Kaji (@samirkaji) says from a mathematical perspective, small funds appear to have a less daunting path to returning a multiple of investor capital, but the actual analysis is significantly more complex.
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