Week in Clubhouse – 1.22.21
Naval, Balaji and Suahail on decentralized social media, mayors of Austin, SF, and Miami, no-code and the future of remote work
In this weeks edition, we’ve included highlights from:
Virtual Dinner Party with Felicia Horowitz ft. Mayor London Breed, Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Francis Suarez in addition to other notables including Gayle King, Van Jones, Terry Crews, Jeff Lawson, Chris Lyons and Marc Benioff
TGIF – 1.15.21
Garry remarks about how he missed out on the no-code revolution because he was an engineer preventing him from thinking his skill set could be replaced. Other investors who had software engineering backgrounds also missed out.
Elad: Main trends powering the no-code movement: 1. The rise of a different type of coder resulting from coding bootcamps as well as CS as a common double major now (e.g. CS + X program at Stanford). 2. Turning services revenue into SaaS revenue - instead of hiring Accenture to build out internal tools, you just build them yourself internally with no-code.
Garry: Startup idea: low-code builder/integrator for government tech.
Brianne: No-code/low-code isn't all about taking away jobs from engineers. It's about empowering developers to be more efficient and productive.
Brianne: No-code is also enabling people who don't know how to code to build and ship software and create small businesses.
Elad: In addition to new types of development, the no-code movement is ushering in a new type of go-to-market centered around these developers. Stripe is the canonical example – every developer preferred it over Braintree. Much better docs, and much easier signup process.
Bryant Chou, CTO and co-founder of Webflow joins the room.
Bryant: Common investor feedback we got in the early days of Webflow: too hard for designers, and too simple for developers. But there was a big space of people in between that it resonated with.
Bryant: The first glimmer of hope for Webflow was it blowing up on Hacker News. That gave us the initial confidence that we were on to something.
Bryant: Eric Bahn was our most helpful early investor – he helped us figure out our customer personas allowing us to focus on building something valuable specifically for this customer persona.
Elad: I've noticed more founders with consulting/agency background who are doing interesting things in the no-code market. They've internalized pain points and are building products around them. Software is eating professional services.
Bryant: We have a barbell go-to-market strategy. Webflow starts at $12/mo, but we also have contracts with much larger ACV.
Elad: I've frequently seen that no-code companies wait too long to build out enterprise sales. It used to be that pre-PMF companies used to get post-PMF advice (which was bad), but now the opposite is happening: companies with clear PMF are not ramping up fast enough.
Brianne: I'm excited about no-code because there are lots of complex engineering problems that can be abstracted into low-code.
Elad: Too few companies are willing to grow without venture capital. VC also serves as a social signal, but many great advantages to also not raising money. Especially way less dilution for founders.
Elad poses a question for the room: What’s the best career in 10 years? Advice for high school students who want to break into tech?
Bryant: Computer literacy skills, including some lightweight programming skills. Understanding how a computer works is key to understanding how the world works.
Brianne: Learning technical concepts is a great way to accelerate your career. Companies are also now hiring technical people as their early sales/marketing hires, e.g. Segment.
Garry: I got advice from someone about how to be a CEO. You don't need to be a specialist in anything, but dangerous enough to know a bit about everything and be able to interview people outside of your core expertise. Society wants you to be an interchangeable cog, but you're not a cog in a machine. You're a human being.
Elad: First, learn technical concepts. Second, intern at some companies or do open-source projects. Third, find your crew online who are building interesting things. Building is super important. Fourth, move to some hub like SV or LA. Finally, just go for it!
Startup Bharat – 1.16.21
Naval: I can't imagine working on anything besides crypto. Crypto was the biggest changemaker and biggest wealth maker of 2020.
Balaji: Crypto is a civilization technology.
Naval: Property rights is one of the hardest problems to solve. That’s why we need nation states. Nation states exist to enforce property rights. Bitcoin is solving this decentrally. BTC is solving the hardest problem. If we can solve the BTC problem, we can solve everything else (decentralized media, file storage)
Suhail: The general premise of Bitcoin is that it doesn't matter who you trust. I don't think the goal is to trust one government or one company more than another. The goal is to not have to trust. "Trust minimization".
Naval: I think the next big thing we're going to see is decentralized social networks. All the centralized social networks just created the 2008-2009 moment [referring to recent Trump Twitter ban and Parler ban across App Store, AWS etc, it's going to change everything.
Balaji: I think we'll see a crypto operating system where everything from your messages, payments, identity, authentication etc will all be on blockchains.
Naval: "The unstoppable and un-snoopable phone."
Balaji: Eventually password managers and crypto wallets will converge because they're the same thing. By the mid 2020s we'll see phones come with a charger and a hardware wallet. It goes into the phone port and allows you to unlock your crypto.
Naval: The original internet protocols (e.g. HTTP) were stateless. So then private companies like Facebook started to store state and identity. But now they own and have data lock-in. Bitcoin is now the first *stateful* protocol. The data is all public and open to anyone.
Naval: In the future, there will be one canonical social protocol with all the social data. The future YouTubes, Clubhouses, and Twitters will all be built on the winning social protocol. (We don't know yet which one will win.)
Naval: Instead of following me on Twitter, you'll follow a pointer to me on the blockchain. If Twitter deplatforms me, I'll update the pointer to my new location on the blockchain.
Naval: The other advantage of decentralized social networks is payments built-in. Right now, YouTube takes much more of the value created by users of the platform then they deserve.
Naval: Decentralized social media will also be programmable. No more being limited by the one client made by the single company. In the future, there will be 100s of clients all competing with each other, all using the same underlying decentralized social protocol.
Naval: This future decentralized social protocol will create trillions of dollars in value, but it won’t all go to some white guy in the Bay Area. It will be distributed across all the users of the platform.
Naval: Decentralized social media is what I want to spend the next significant years of my professional career working on. Don't want to be a serf on Jack's or Zuck's farm.
Naval: I want my followers to be permanent. I don't want to be de-platformed. I want my followers forever just like email addresses or RSS subscribers.
Virtual Dinner Party - 1.16.21
Hosted by Felicia Horowitz, Nait Jones, Kmele Foster
Speakers: Felicia Horowitz, Mayor London Breed, Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Francis Suarez, Gayle King, Van Jones, Terry Crews, Shaka Senghor, Nait Jones, Kmele Foster, Maud Arnold, Chris Lyons, Jorge Conde, Marc Andressen, Marvin K. White, Cole Kmet, Rohan Seth, Paul Davison, Sriram Krishnan
Kmele: acknowledges the challenges facing London Breed. First question for her: How are you doing and what should people know about San Francisco?
Mayor Breed (SF): I can't wait to be around people again. My number one priority is figuring out how to safely open up the city. With regards to tech, lots of uncertainty right now. But lots of opportunity for economic development outside of tech today. SF has a long history of committed entrepreneurs like Levi Strauss. Today we have Jeff Lawson and Marc Benioff. There is no other place like San Francisco anywhere. Nothing can match the combination of weather, spirit of innovation, beauty of nature, and educational institutions. (Mayor Breed expresses her deep conviction for the resilience of San Francisco. Even over Clubhouse, you can really hear her passion for San Francisco.)
Mayor Breed: As a leader, I also have to be open to criticism. There's a lot of criticism about San Francisco that is justified. But there's also a lot that San Francisco did for the tech industry. To those who are moving: where's the love? This is where you made your millions. We need to do a better job connecting the tech industry to those who were born and raised in this city, who feel like they were left out of the growth of tech. We want companies that are willing to work with us, like Twilio and Salesforce.
Mayor Adler (Austin): People are coming here for quality-of-life. There's also a spirit of tech and innovation. Austin emphasizes the people - no income tax. It's not about specific policies. It's about the culture. Policies follow the culture, not the other way around. It's not about specific policies. It's about the culture. Policies follow the culture, not the other way around.
Mayor Suarez (Miami): I saw the opportunity being created by the tech industry starting to relocate and knew I had to take action and do everything I could to make it happen. It all started with a tweet: "How can I help?"
Mayor Suarez: Miami has great weather. A dollar in Miami goes further than a dollar in many other cities. Lowest homicide rate since 1954. Quality-of-life is central to Miami.
Mayor Suarez: Some people are moving here to test it out, and others are already placing big bets on Miami. These days it feels like I'm a college football recruiter for the former group of people.
Mayor Suarez: I would be doing a disservice to the city if I wasn't doing everything I can to help the tech industry move to Miami.
Mayor Breed reaffirms that SF needs to focus on building more housing. She also repeats something similar to what DA Chesa Boudin said a few days ago: challenges that are facing SF are also facing many other major cities.
Chris Lyons: Covid made me realize that Silicon Valley is about the people, so not being able to interact with people in-person made it really tough to stay.
Naithan Jones: I loved living in SF, but when the pandemic hit, the negatives started to outweigh the positives. And the pandemic has accelerated many of the negatives.
Naithan asks Mayor Adler about his recruiting efforts to bring people and companies here. Mayor Adler: We don't want people who just come here to harvest from it. We want people who will join the community in earnest and actively participate.
Naithan asks Mayor Suarez about crypto. Mayor Suarez: I am a believer in crypto. When I looked at the regulatory landscape, I saw an opportunity for the city and state to position itself well for crypto. There is lots of low-hanging regulatory fruit we can leverage to attract the crypto community.
Jeff Lawson: I don't begrudge anyone who is leaving the Bay Area for financial reasons. I want to focus on the ultra-wealthy who are leaving. I take two issues with the ultra-wealthy leaving SF. First, don't abandon the community. Second, don't trash it on the way out. Let's be honest. The ultra-wealthy are leaving because of the taxes.
Although he didn't mention him by name, Jeff seems to be taking a clear shot at Keith Rabois for his move and the tweets.
Marc Benioff: Instead of viewing the challenges as a reason to leave, I look at them as an opportunity to change the city for the better. Salesforce is the largest employer and tech company in SF. But the city is starting to run out of capacity. Almost all of the affordable housing is already sold out.
Terry Crews asks Mayor Breed about the hostility towards tech. Says that he finds the California wealth tax that taxes people after they leave "absolutely terrifying".
Terry: The hostility towards tech reminds me of the hostility towards the entertainment industry in LA. Everyone else wants in on the wealth creation.
Mayor Breed: SF wants to be an inclusive community for everyone. As a leader, my job is to bring the communities together. "Look at what companies like Twilio and Salesforce are doing.”
GOOD TIME 1.21.20 Remote work
Marc: All things considered, the fact that at a macro-level so many businesses were able to move to remote work was a surprise to me. I would have expected the shift to be a lot less productive.
Marc: "Zoom fatigue" was also a thing a couple decades ago when videoconferencing was first invented. When I first tried a videoconference, I found the experience a bit jarring. The fact that it works as well as it does today is an incredible achievement.
Marc: There are also real questions about how productive in-person offices really were. Evidence: the fact that lots of online social networks saw lots of usage between 9am-5pm on most weekdays.
Marc: The double-edged sword of remote work is that people tend to naturally work longer hours without realizing it. This could explain why some companies are seeing increased productivity after moving to remote work.
Sriram: There is also a power dynamic shift. If you worked at a big company, there was often a waiting room to enter the CEO's office if you had a meeting with them. Now the CEO is just another rectangle on the screen. I'm 6'6". There was a tall person privilege I would have in in-person meetings that I don't have anymore on Zoom.
Steven: Right now, the main tool for remote work is Zoom. But this will change - different types of work require different types of remote tooling. Whenever a new tool gets introduced, we first try to use it for everything. When word processing first came out, people used it for everything to the point there was a mini-spreadsheet feature for calculations. Then a huge ecosystem of specialized tools emerges.
Garry: Kim-Mai Cutler released a survey we did with our portfolio companies about remote work: Biggest surprise was the question about the most preferable location to start a company: went from SF (last year) to distributed/remote (this year). Incredible that happened in one year.
Garry: One of the most popular remote work tools we've heard a lot about from our portfolio companies is Donut (not an investor!)
Avichal: In the mobile era, it took us 5 years before we found the killer use case of using GPS to get stuff to come to us. We're still only 2 years in the remote work era and trying to convert old processes from the office instead of inventing entirely new working processes.
Steven: Current productivity tools (Asana, Atlasssian) still assume that discussion is happening in-person and the end result is being stored in the tool. What about doing the strategic work in the tool itself?
Sriram: Going "async" isn't as simple as just having a bunch of people adding comments into a Google Doc. Need to also change the culture and processes.
Marc: The most interesting remote work case study to me is open source. The culture has embedded within it the fact that people never meet in person. Large office campuses are on the one extreme of in-person culture, and the open source universe is on the extreme of a fully-remote culture. Most companies want to be somewhere in between those two.
Marc: Is it possible to have a culture where half people are in-person and half are remote? Will remote work still focus on video/audio communication, or will it look more like open source models of working?
Sriram: The litmus test for hybrid in-person/remote cultures is whether you can be promoted to an executive without living in the main hub. I'm generally skeptical of remote work models with half people in-person and half remote.
Marc: Private Clubhouse rooms are underrated. I think this will be one of the most important use cases for Clubhouse going forward.
Avichal: Clubhouse is a great example of remote communication tools that blend offline and online interactions.