The weak link in OTT

Having been involved in OTT for many a year it was always obvious to anyone working in the industry that the whole DRM system is mostly a waste of time and money. This is the system that the movie industry forces on the OTT industry through lobbying that has driven up the cost of everything.

The idea being that if you pay for DRM that at least if anything happens, meaning someone steals a stream, you can say you are covered by so and so’s DRM. Essentially DRM is like insurance.

However, if you have ever worked in the OTT industry, the general security around how movies are sent around would floor you. Companies mail hard drives around, ship DVD’s, put movies on Google drive and all sorts of file transfer methods that are semi secure or not even remotely secure.

But since all these systems are run by people, usually any sort of leakage starts from the inside and involves people paying for access. Or, there is just a lack of security and any system that is based on people will usually have a flaw or someone makes a simple mistake which will allow a sophisticated tech person a chance to steal stuff.

In this specific case it sounds like the hacker got into the post production studio’s system and was able to take the episodes. These episodes probably were not even completed or ready to be streamed. Around the emerging markets there is quite a racket for copying the movies and selling them to pirates while they are being transferred around, supposedly in safe hands, but in places like India it is quite common for the film canisters to be dropped off at the pirates on the way to the cinemas.

I am sure Netflix is pissed and will be interesting to see if they figure this one out. As more and more media moves to online only – my guess is this type of situation will happen again. It also brings to light the issue in companies like Netflix realising all episodes at once since in order to do this all the shows have to be ready to go. This means all the shows are sitting there if someone gains acccess where in a normal TV show- they are being made as you watch or getting finished as you watch.

Singapore as a hub

Interesting post from Matt W at EF ::

Lots to parse in this but I generally agree in that the city is primed for potential and the big stuff is yet to come but we are on the cusp of it.

SeedPlus got a mention so I will just call that out but there is much more in the article than that. I personally like the section on Singapore as a hub:

3. There’s power in being a hub

I made the mistake of starting early conversations with: “What’s the Singapore venture scene like?” A simple question, but it immediately showed my ignorance. You can’t properly assess Singapore without taking all of Southeast Asia into account, because the two are cosmically intertwined. Investment strategy isn’t limited to the 277.6 mi² area of the island. It’s regional from day one. Singapore has achieved a remarkable amount in just 50 years, and it has done a lot of that by partnering with the rest of the world. International legal standards and advantageous tax treatment have made Singapore the de facto Southeast Asian hub for many businesses. So while there’s a lot of money in the small island nation, that cash is flowing to Vietnam, India, Malaysia and a host of fast-growing countries. The inverse is true for talent. Many of the region’s best minds flock to Singapore to build their startup HQ, and then attack their local market for dominance. This is, in no small part, one of the driving reasons EF set up shop there.

My relocation to Singapore after years of being around other parts of Asia was solely based on this premise – Singapore makes for a great hub and I think this is huge for startups and for VC’s. Of course no place is perfect and there are people that disagree but that doesn’t change the appeal of Singapore for me and most of the folks I work with.

An exit is usually an acquisition

I don’t have the slides for this and wish I did but the video is worth a watch.

Startups don’t always talk about it but most exits are via mergers or acquisitions. Yes – founders can dream about going all the way but that doesn’t noramlly happen. If the startup even makes its, cause going bust is the normal route, the path to exit won’t always be an IPO or making piles of cash.

Founders shouldn’t avoid an acquisition as an exit route, in fact it might very well be the most lucrative outcome.

All that aside though, if founders think companies are bought then they are in for another surprise. Companies are sold which means you need to know how to sell your company by understanding which companies might buy you and figuring out how to navigate corp dev.

Startups should start thinking about how all this works earlier than they normally do.


Thinking about AI

It is easy to go deep in the weeds or try to think about the complicated ways that AI can help make life easier.

I have an Alexa at home and apart from telling me bus arrival times, giving me the morning news update or making it easy for the kids to play some songs on Spotify, I don’t use it much. I do think voice and the home will offer a chance for AI to shine but we are not there yet.

I see the subtle things Apple does with iOS and some of their apps and it helps but nothing earth shattering yet. AI is slowly creeping into all things – like it or not.

As a VC I am trying to think of the many ways AI might permeate normal life and find companies to invest in. I will highlight one way that AI is helping me manage my calendar, yes this is a SeedPlus portfolio company, but wanto talk about the broader implications on AI or machines learning and my calendar.

I have been using Evie solidly for over a year and at first it was more novelty than anything but even in the early stages I liked moving the booking of a meeting off to someone else. I assume this is how people feel about their admin but I have never had a human admin. Of course Evie would always reply and ask me more questions, she was learning, but now those questions don’t come to me as much cause she is evolving and getting smarter.

Our team uses it and scheduling a meeting is simply one email. Find a slot. Book. If outsiders are involved than Evie will talk to them but save me from the back and forth of it all.

Generally I book meetings faster this way and use less of my time in doing so. I can tell Evie my preferences and over time she is even inferring some of them. It’s not perfect yet though. I would like Evie to be able to distinguish between time blocked for outside meettings and time blocked for inside meetings. Example – I would block time for people on my team to book but if they don’t use that time then it is still my time, it would not get booked bny outsiders. I would also like Evie to allow me to cap my overall meeting time – example might be setting a high water mark for how much of a week goes to meetings and if she hits that mark she would alert me as such. I know some of this is managed by time blocking but I also might book some of my own meetings but the thought is that Evie would know once I hit my mark and let me deal with it.

I know there is some chatter on the ‘net about how these personal calendar bots are impersonal. Meaning I should talk to the person and manually book it but I don’t see the issue to be honest. I think Evie is faster than my own calendar management and this means I get people booked faster and they don’t have to hear me find a time or discuss it, Evie just offers up the soonest available time. Meaning I still feel that by using Evie my time is better managed and people get the best of me. Maybe others don’t feel this way but to me this is the beauty of a personal AI bot, my own powers are augemted via technology.

This is what I want to see more of. Example I just had to fill out an India Visa form and it would be great if Apple or Google could pre-fill out the form for me and save a bunch of time. I can honestly think of other things I wish “computers” were doing for me – all in the same category of “augmenting me” so that I get more done in the same span of time. Of course this same “augmentation” could mean that some people are put out of work or are needed less – I am not sure how to defend against that but I know that if much of the world is augmented that overall productivity will go up which everyone benefits from.

However this does lead me to think that society will have issues with grappling how to deal with some folks out of work while others are benefiting. The world has always had this issue though and I think about it a lot when I look at my young kids.

For the time being though I will continue to enjoy the benefits of calendar and meeting automation.




20 years of Panic

Really good read from some great people. I totally hope to visit their office if we hit Portland in June.

The post has some great stuff about their 20 years which in and of itself is just amazing. It does suck about iOS and I just don’t see it changing anytime soon. I must admit that I am getting more work done on my Mac and buying stuff for it more often then stuff for iOS. Maybe a mindset of sorts where one thinks they do more of their real work on macOS and are willing to buy more tools for it versus the iPhone. Not sure but this does create an issue for folks like Panic.

However the paragraph that stands out the most for me is this one:

Defining roles is important. What happens when you’re truly a “flat” organization and you have a bunch of incredibly smart people that can all offer valuable input on almost every task happening at any one time? Things can actually slow down a little at times. You want the right people on the right tasks, and you want someone who can make tough decisions and process the possibilities. It’s possible we’ve outgrown complete flatness. We’ll be experimenting with this more into the future, although it’s so tricky — you don’t want people feeling excluded, and you don’t want to extinguish the passion of creating!

I am guessing this is a just a matter of size. When teams are small flat can work but as teams grow one wants process and some level of authority. Flat tends to mean that everyone chimes in or has an opinion which of course takes more time. However people like to be included. Moving from flat to not flat can create the feeling of exclusion. Moving from flat to not flat might be more painful than starting out not flat.

I don’t have the answers and will be watching to see if Cabel posts more on this as Panic evolves.

Stemming from my product days I am always geeking out on managing people in tech. As I moved to VC I find it much easier. I tend to think of the team as more collective or partnership than boss/employee or manager/employee but again I wonder if this is ideal or can scale. Fortunately for VC the teams don’t get that big since a small team can scale in VC given how it works.

As always there is much to learn.

More struggle, less hustle

I have been on a digital detox and in a 5 day yoga program. Been killing me but I have slowly seen some progress over 5 days which is pretty amazing for me. I think it is the concentration of daily sessions plus workshops to dissect one pose and with a pro showing you how to fix it. Hopefully I can take some of this back with me and keep it going.

One thing thing dawned on me though, normally I will watch people in a class and marvel at their pose and feel a tad bit deflated over the looks of my poses. Reminding me I am new to this, 16 months in to my yoga, and that I have so far to go. However, once we had the workshops that focused on fixing people’s poses I was amazed that many of the people who look like they are doing the pose right are not actually struggling. For those not into yoga, the idea is that each pose should push your own body and should hurt just a little. Not in a painful I am breaking something kind of way but in a simple personal struggle sort of way.

If you are not feeling it just a little, you probably are not doing it right.

Once the master had fixed everyone’s poses you could see that many of the people looked much different and were groaning a lot more. He corrected the pose so that everyone was back to their own personal struggle. I actually realised that my poses look not so great but that I am feeling it and slowly I am getting the pose right. It’s all about being in the pose and struggling – something no one may see but you certainly will feel.

I like to think that the startup world needs to do this a little more. I see the hustle all the time, the press releases, the vanity metrics, the blog posts and the showing up to speak at every event. Not saying this is not useful stuff or part of the journey but at the same time the startup needs to correct their poses and focus inward a bit more. Most of the important stuff the folks around you can’t see. There is also no point in promoting it.

It’s the struggle to fix the funnel, find ways to increase productivity, figure out how to get your employees to communicate better, better the right metrics and fine tune product/market fit. These things are not easy but as you look back over the years you will feel the incremental improvements and realize these are the things that need the most attention.

One more session before heading home…

The Upstarts

Of course I am on a semi digital De-Tox but need to update on my latest read. Probably one of the better books I have read in quite some time. Brad is a unique and gifted storyteller. I couldn’t put down The Everything Store and I am having the same feeling about The Upstarts.

Such a history lesson and as an Apprentice VC – I find it all very inspiring.

Ask A VC #6


I am doing a startup and need capital. I understand I need to raise from angels or friends and family and I am curious your thoughts on the friends and family part?


Good one. My advice is to really think the friends and family part through. I normally see them as a last resort since if you take money from them and your startup goes south, which is quite probable, then these people may not want to be your friend anymore and at the next Christmas dinner you may find some disgrunlted family members as well.

I think it is best to first find incubator, grant money or a professional angel network since these groups might force you to come up with a better plan before funding since they have seen many startups. This would be better than potential F&F money where they probably can’t help you with your business or idea all that much. Then as you raise from more porfessional sources and your idea continues to live, coming to the F&F connections might be less risky.

Maybe you have a rich friend or family member and they are interested in funding startups and they want to help you, but make sure you do it all properly like any other investor. Don’t let is get personal. Use a proper investment vehicle like a note and be sure to have similar terms for all parties. Also stay away from loans or any thing that promises pay back as other investors come in. Nothing scares of institutional investors more than seeing a deal where early investors get to cash out with new money coming in.