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Technically Sentient

11 October, by Jason Calacanis[ —]


I’m excited to announce another fantastic newsletter today: Technically Sentient. It’s all about artificial intelligence, robotics, and neurotechnology.

This one is special, because it’s not starting from scratch like our other newsletters have. Rob May has been doing a fantastic job writing it over the past couple of years, and now he’s bringing his expertise to Inside to reach our smart, sophisticated audience.

If you think this is interesting, here are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Head over to Product Hunt and look for Technically Sentient, and leave a comment (I’m doing a Q&A right now)
  2. Subscribe: Inside.com/technically-sentient
  3. Forward to a friend who cares about AI.

Artificial intelligence is one of the most important areas of technology emerging today, and Rob really has his finger to the pulse of it. If you care about AI, this newsletter is simply a must-read.

As always, leave a comment and let us know what you think. — @jason

Email newsletters might save journalism — here’s why

19 September, by Jason Calacanis[ —]

[ Tl;dr: Today we’re launching the new Inside.com – a network of high-quality email newsletters. We have eight live newsletters, and we’re launching an exciting system that allows intelligent readers like yourself to decide which newsletter we launch next. Thanks to Rocketship for building the new platform. ]


When I started Inside as an app, our idea was that if we could do an exceptional job curating the news, then millions of people would download our product and use it daily.

We learned that, while a dedicated base of fans couldn’t get enough of it, most folks didn’t have space for another app in their lives. This is a lesson that has been hard-learned by a whole crop of “news-reader” style apps – from tiny startups like Circa to mega-brands like Facebook, both of which folded their news apps.

The facts are simple: people are adding an average of ZERO new apps to their phones each month, and most modern news consumption happens in social media) places like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, and, of course, email).

Meanwhile, publishers increasingly rely on viral traffic – which incentivizes silly clickbait, or worse they focus on writing headlines that rank in Google (best iPhone cases FTW!).

Email incentivizes the opposite — it drives us to build a lasting relationship with our readers who demand we deliver massive value. If we don’t they click unsubscribe.

I love that newsletters are held to such a high standard — it makes our writers focused on what matters most.

When it comes to news curation, here’s what we think matters:

1) Content selected by real-world relevance, not catchy titles or more-searched terms.

2) Content selected and presented in a fair way without obvious bias or added commentary.

3) Transparency. No hidden agendas. Literally email us and ask us why we ran a story and we’ll tell you.

We’re going all in with email newsletters because I think we can save journalism by putting 99 cents of every dollar we spend on writers. Our business has close to zero infrastructure costs and massive consumer feedback.

Nine months ago, we started with the Inside Daily Brief, a twice-daily roundup of the most interesting news in the world, which had 10,000 subscribers and just one writer/editor. Now, we have an audience of 100,000 subscribers across eight newsletters, with six people on our editorial team (and it’s growing!).

We’re just getting started.

In addition to letting you subscribe to our existing newsletters, the new site also lets you vote for which newsletters we’ll launch next. Do you want us to hire a top notch writer and launch Inside Golf or Inside Space or Inside Video Games?

Cast your vote, and tell your friends – when we hit 5,000 “early adopters” we’ll launch it.

So, here’s my ask:

  • Head over to inside.com and subscribe/vote for all the newsletters you find most interesting
  • Check out our post today on Product Hunt and leave some feedback
  • Tell your friends! If we can keep growing the readership of these newsletters, we can keep improving and launching new ones. That starts with you spreading the word.
  • Hit reply to the emails we send and tell us what you love, if we make a mistake and share an intelligent response to the question of the day. I read every email reply!

– @jason


PS – Here’s our subscriber growth in the past few months:


If you have a newsletter and you want to join our network, please email partners@inside.com. We’re looking to not only launch our own newsletters, but host and sell the advertising in other ones too.

The Six Reasons Smart Folks are Worried About Apple

13 September, by Jason Calacanis[ —]

There are two huge topics of discussion in Silicon Valley right now. The first is “Who will win the level 4 autonomy race, Tesla or Uber?,” and the second is “Is Apple in trouble?”

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/1132X ]

One of the greatest parts of my life, and boy do I lead a charmed life, is that, for some crazy reason, the smartest kids in the class have decided they like to hang out with me.

I’ve been asking my investor, founder and journalist friends what worries them about Apple, and I’ve been giving it a lot of thought myself. Here are the top six (valid) reasons I’ve compiled:

1. iPhone 7 announcement fell flat
2. Project Titan is anything but
3. The Underwhelming Watch
4. How is Apple MIA on VR & AR?
5. Machine Learning & AI
6. Jobs said he solved TV, but we can’t see it

iPhone 7

We wanted VR, we wanted a new form factor and Howard Stern wanted holographic phone calls. We got Samsung’s waterproofing from two years ago, a new color (or lack of color), a camera upgrade and they took our headphone jack. 

I’m actually excited about the camera upgrades, as I’ve got kids and I like taking pictures of food, but I know that I’m in the minority of people who will upgrade a 12-24 month-old phone just to take slightly better pictures.

Those of us who drop our phones into the toilet, or who spend too much time emailing in the hot tub, will certainly appreciate the waterproofing. I’ve started to see friends making videos underwater on the Cape with the Samsung waterproof smartphone and it’s cool, but the iPhone 7 is rated just under the Samsung in terms of water protection.

As an aside, it’s kind of cool that there is actually a rating system around “immersion protection,” with the iPhone 7 being resistant and the Samsung being able to operate underwater for 30 minutes (more).

Is this Apple’s shortcoming, or simply a sign that we’ve hit Peak Smartphone? Probably 50-50, and that’s a huge problem for Apple, either way.

More importantly, Android’s operating system continues to get tighter and easier to use, and don’t get me started on how much better Google’s Project Fi is than AT&T or Verizon’s offerings, providing a real reason to switch to Android: less carrier pain!

Apple really should make their own Project Fi, as the best part of Android is kicking out Verizon.

Project Titan

Reports are they’ve rebooted away from making their own car, and earlier this year we heard they couldn’t find a partner for the project (i.e., BMW or Mercedes). The car is the missing piece to the puzzle, and the facts that they can’t get a partner, and have decided to not release their own project is really sad — or it’s a diversionary tactic!

Seriously, it’s completely possible Apple is making the car and is doing a MASSIVE head fake to the industry by leaking that they will simply be a software provider.

The Underwhelming Watch

Everyone I know bought the watch and very few are still using it. They added GPS and made it swim proof in version 2.0, but that is basically a catch-up move. My Fitbit Surge lasts for a week on a charge and has had GPS for a couple of years.

Clearly Apple missed the mark with a timepiece and now realize they need to specialize and win over the athletes. I give them credit for that.

My prediction: The smartwatch is DOA until they can put a 4G connection into it and make it a standalone device. Imagine being able to call an Uber, check your email and make a phone call on your watch while leaving your phone at home — that’s compelling!

How is Apple MIA on VR & AR?

If any company should own the VR & AR space, it’s Apple, which has a massive App Store with loyal developers, sexy hardware and made-to-use chips that are exceptional at graphics. Yet, here we are, with Oculus being bought by Facebook and leading the pack along with…. HTC’s Vive. Samsung, Google, Sony and Microsoft have really compelling products in the market as well.

Heck, Snapchat is making some AR glasses as we speak, which I’m predicting will feature people’s Snapcodes above their heads while allowing you to “blink three times quickly” to publish the last seven seconds of your life.

Yep, Snapchat will release a “Life DVR” before Apple even announces something.

[ If you missed it, here is the video from the tiny startup they bought, and their public demo. ]

That’s seven major competitors out there getting it done and we don’t even have a rumor about an Apple product. Now, VR & AR are very new and there is no clear winner, so it is possible that Apple could come from behind — like they did in smartphones and tablets — and lap the competition. But given their recent track record, it is strange we’re not even hearing rumors.

Machine Learning and AI

Apple took forever to figure out the cloud and now it looks like the same pattern might be playing itself out again with machine learning and AI.

The sexy features in products we’ll be using in the coming years might not be measured in design and hardware specs, but rather in intelligence. Do you care about what the car looks like or the fact that it doesn’t let you get in a fender bender (or lets you sleep on the way to work)?

Will you care about the UX of your next email app and calendar, or the fact that it prioritizes your email perfectly, and finds the perfect cafe, time and people to invite to solve your latest business meeting needs?

All the good stuff coming will be based on machine learning and AI and that doesn’t play to Apple’s strength — but boy does it play to Google’s!

Jobs said he solved TV, but we can’t see it

Famously, Steve Jobs told Walt Mossberg that he had solved the TV issue, and that he was going to do an actual physical TV — not just the current hockey puck device called “Apple TV” that you plug into your Samsung TV. (The one that comes with a kickass Smarthub built in that does 90% of what Apple TV already does, and some things it refuses to do, like support Amazon Prime!)

There has been no word on a physical TV in a long, long time, and Apple can’t seem to figure out how to do a skinny bundle for an OTT (over the top) service.

The Big Question People Aren’t Asking Publicly — Yet

It’s super annoying when folks say “Steve Jobs would have gotten this done” and “Jobs would never have stood for this,” but the reason folks say it is because Jobs was that good at getting the final 10% or 20% out of product — and Apple.

Without Steve, Apple seems to be getting by just fine, but these six red flags are leading folks to believe that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start thinking about putting a visionary product person in the top seat and having Cook move back to the more natural position of COO.

Tim Cook has kept the ship tight at Apple, but there is a growing sense among the most elite and informed people I talk to that someone with a bold product — or corporate M&A — vision needs to take over.

Founder authority, which is driving Tesla, Google, Netflix, Uber, Amazon and Facebook to dizzying heights of audacious innovation, is what’s missing at Apple today. Cook has managed the transition exceptionally when you look at the stunning balance sheet, but someone has to step into the driver’s seat and prepare Apple to compete with Elon, Larry, Reed, Travis, Jeff and Mark — who are just getting started.

In my follow-up piece, I’ll outline “the Path to a Trillion,” but for now, what do you think are the biggest threats to Apple out of those six? Are there any other issues that belong in the top six?

All the best, @jason

PS – I’m writing this on my iMac Retina, while my iPhone 6s and iPad Pro charge on the desk, but I’m wearing a Fitbit Surge and have my Nexus 6 in my pocket. I just bought my first Windows machine in years to power my Oculus headset. I’m 80% Apple, 20% other right now — and the Apple part is shrinking fast.  

PPS – Our next event will feature speed dating with the 100 founders who are the most ready for their Series A, pitching to the 50 top investors in the world. You get 10 minutes to quickly meet, so this is super efficient for everyone. Founders and investors apply here.


Scale v4.0

13 September, by Jason Calacanis[ —]

Founders, friends & investors,

On November 14-15 we will invite 2,000 of you to join us for the 4th edition of our SCALE conference.

The SCALE conference has two tracks featuring 26 speakers each, and we focus on the two most important aspects of running a startup:

1. Growth
2. Raising Money

This year we are also introducing “Founder | Investor: Speed Dating,” which will be 12-minute sessions between the 100 startups we’ve determined are the “most likely to scale” in the next 18 months and the 50 investors we think are the most active and helpful in the industry (both VCs & angels). Founders & investors apply for speed dating here.

There are seven ways you can participate in the event:

1. FREE TICKETS FOR FOUNDERS: Founders can come for free by clicking to tweet this message (limited to the first 1,000 folks): http://ctt.ec/lt362

2. Buy a Summit ticket for $295, which includes lunch & downloadable copies of all the videos from the event for your team. launchscale.net/tickets

 3. Buy a VIP ticket for $995, which includes lunch, videos of all the talks, and a seat at the two intimate dinners. launchscale.net/tickets

4. If you build a tool or provide a service for startups and/or investors, you can present your tool for 10 minutes on stage in exchange for helping support the event as a partner. Email partners@launch.co

5. You can nominate someone (including yourself) to be part of the SCALE 100 speed-dating program, which is limited to 100 founders. In order to be in the SCALE 100 you need to have a product in market that has traction but that has NOT raised Series A. The goal of speed dating is to introduce the “up and coming” startups that are getting ready for their series A in the next 3-18 months. If your startup is pre-traction, you should apply to present at the LAUNCH Festival (announcement coming October 1st). Nominate your start-up

 6. We have 10 (unpaid) speaking slots left for founders or investors. If you would like to talk at this event the best way is to pitch us on a talk with the format of “How I built COMPANY NAME from X to Z, and from A to F, doing these three things.” Every talk at SCALE is designed to be massively helpful in either growing your company or helping you raise capital.

7. We have eight paid speaking slots with demo tables for partners who are looking to demo their products or services to the audience. Email partners@launch.co if interested.


All of our speakers must rehearse their talks at least one time with me and my team. We give candid feedback and rank the talks before you see them. We do not allow anyone on stage who doesn’t score an 8.5 of 10 on our internal scoring system. Additionally, we ask all of our attendees to rank each speaker and we send those rankings to the speakers, along with your comments. We invite the speakers who are in the top 1/3rd to speak again the next year.

All the best, @jason

PS – Featured talks are listed below. Four stars indicate that this was a top-rated speaker at one of our previous events.

****Scaling Z2: The Next Generation of Zenefits, David Sacks, Zenefits

How Casper Revolutionized Sleep & Became a $100m Company in Less than Two Years, Philip Krim, Casper

****The Super, Way Early Indicators For Hyper-Growth SaaS Companies, Jason Lemkin, SaaStr

How to Increase Conversion 30% & Retention 35% by Giving Away Your Product, Amanda Richardson, Hotel Tonight

****How to Make Your Product Viral in 5 Easy Ways, Josh Elman, Greylock

Locking Down Series A: How to Know When You Have Product-Market Fit, Satya Patel, Homebrew

Winning With Data: How to Create & Scale a Data-Driven Company, Tomasz Tunguz, Redpoint

****A Step-by-Step Practical Guide to Getting Your Series B, Jed Katz, Javelin Venture Partners

10 Lessons From Scaling Pinterest & The Hierarchy of Engagement, Sarah Tavel, Greylock

****Stay Scrappy: How to Double Your Runway by Leveraging Co-working Spaces & Shared Resources, Paul Judge, Tech Square Labs

Take the Red Pill: The Billion-Dollar Opportunities Now Emerging for Businesses that Combine Software with Real-World Operations, Glenn Kelman, Redfin

****Beyond Fundraising: Building Trust With Your Investors to Ensure Profitability, Clara Brenner, Urban Innovation Fund

****Launching a New Market: Hacks & Guerilla Tips to Gain Attention in a New Geography, Sonny Mayugba, Requested

****Think Outside the Digital Box: Promotions in the Physical Realm, Aaron Magness, Betabrand

Leveraging Data to Maximize New Client Acquisition, Retention & Monetization, Melody McCloskey, StyleSeat

Every VC Thinks They’re a BizDev Rock Star: How to Really Leverage Them & Their Network, John Heltzel, Los Altos Advisors

Want Real Disruption, Have a Real Mission: 10 Ways to Scale by Strengthening Your Purpose, James Siminoff, Ring

Out of Office, On the Clock: Scaling with Remote Talent, Brian Alvey, Clipisode

****Why Attribution Modeling is Critical to B2B Startups & How You Can Master it in Under 60 Days, Andy Artz, Social Capital

****Beyond Sand Hill Road: Finding Great Investors Outside of Silicon Valley, Jonathon Triest, Ludlow Ventures

****After the Chicken-and-Egg Problem: How to Scale a Marketplace, Abigail Keifer, RedClay

Moneyball: How to Optimize Paid Acquisition via Segmentation & Landing Pages, Edgar Blazona, BenchMade Modern

****Don’t Take NO for an Answer: Creating AMP (Angel Market Pressure), James Heller, Wrapify

****Why you should NEVER Scale With Negative Unit Economics & How You Can Turn it Around, Jason Demant, Bento

****You Make What You Measure: Why Good Metrics are Critical to Good Growth, Kyle Hill, HomeHero

How to Scale Your Startup By Selling to the Government, Stonly Baptiste, Urban Us

****Zero to 60: Lessons in Building an Org Chart from Scratch, Adam Nash, Wealthfront

How to Land Customers, Employees and Investors Through Social Impact, Shaun Abrahamson, Urban Us

The Power of NPS & Relentless “Delightification,” Jill Bourque, RushTix

****How to Get 100,000 Users for Your Bot in 100 Days, Adelyn Zhou, TopBots

Delivering Delight: Why Customer Satisfaction is Everything & How to Achieve It, David Hassell, 15Five

How to Hack Your Hiring Process: Recruiting Top Talent as a Startup with Limited Capital, Andrew Farah, Density

Top 10 Rules for Customer Success, Mei Siauw, LeadIQ

****The Power of Customer Engagement: Leveraging Feedback Loops to Unlock More Revenue from Clients, Craig Zingerline, Votion

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar & Disney Animation, & author of “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration”

http://www.addtoany.com/add_to/email?linkurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcalacanis.com%2F2016%2F08%2F17%2Fed-catmull-president-of-pixar-disney-animation-author-of-creativity-inc-overcoming-the-unseen-forces-that-stand-in-the-way-of-true-inspiration%2F&linkname=Ed%20Catmull%2C%20President%20of%20Pixar%20%26%20Disney%20Animation%2C%20%26%20author%20of%20%E2%80%9CCreativity%2C%20Inc.%3A%20Overcoming%20the%20Unseen%20Forces%20That%20Stand%20in%20the%20Way%20of%20True%20Inspiration%E2%80%9Dplay episode download
17 August, by Jacqui[ —]


Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here. We were honored to have Ed Catmull in the studio with Jason last week for an epic conversation we had no choice but to split into two parts. :-) But you can watch them both here. Enjoy!

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/0UyJ0 ]

Subscribe in iTunes: http://bit.ly/TWiSTAV

Ed Catmull President of Pixar-Disney and author of Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is one of the greatest startup founders in the history of Silicon Valley. Today he joins Jason on This Week in Startups to share his own personal story, perhaps the best that has come out of Pixar. We learn about Ed’s journey from his early days as a pioneer of computer animation, being hired by George Lucas to run the computer division at Lucasfilm, working with Steve Jobs to form Pixar (ultimately Pixar-Disney) and leading it to meteoric success. Ed takes us into his existential crisis after megahit Toy Story, behind the storytelling scenes of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Inside Out, and around the risks, triumphs and failures that led to his building a massively successful and creative culture.


PART 1 – Timestamps

00:20-09:17: Jason introduces his guest, Ed Catmull, and starts off by asking him about his early inspirations of being an animator.

09:38-11:28: Ed shares an early model he made of his hand and explains how he wrote the programming language to make it move.

13:10-16:05: Alexander Schure, President of the New York Institute of Technology, hires Ed to start an R&D lab in Long Island, NY.

16:40-17:30: At 25 years of age, Ed says No to working on the Space Mountain ride for Disney, because it didn’t line up with his goal of making a film

17:51-22:51: Ed explains why he thinks Star Wars is the single most impactful film in the history of the motion pictures industry.

26:57-30:26: Ed describes what it was like working with George Lucas, and the birth of Pixar.

30:58-34:27: The journey of Steve Jobs, and how it changed him.

35:02-36:06: Despite the difficult times of failure at Pixar, Ed recounts how everyone stayed together and became a cohesive group of people who shared hard times, trusted each other, and had each others’ backs.

40:00-41:35: Jason and Ed talk about the history of Ed’s short films, and how Luxo was the transformational piece.

43:48-48:35: The making of Toy Story, the risks & negotiations behind it.

48:56-49:58: Jason asks Ed what the main “switch” in the Toy Story story line and when he knew it would be a great film.

50:51-53:20: After the release of Toy Story, Ed found that reviews were mostly about the story, and not about computer graphics. Pixar goes public.


PART 2 – Timestamps

1:16-6:16 Ed reveals the two big questions he faced following Toy Story’s success and Pixar going public.

6:17-9:52: Ed explains why “candid” is a powerful word.

13:30-14:52: Jason talks about why Ratatouille is his favorite Pixar film and asks Ed about the origin of the Anton Ego speech.

14:53-18:36: Brad Bird’s influence in Ratatouille, and why they had to fight to get The Incredibles made.

18:37-20:08: Ed explains the research that goes into their films in order to achieve the feeling of authenticity.  

23:35-24:42: Why Inside Out is the single most impactful film.

25:12-26:05: Ed breaks down the 3 phases of risks.

27:27-29:32: Jason asks Ed what his favorite moment from a Pixar film is.

33:38-36:27: Ed reveals the flaw that Disney caught in Inside Out.

37:56-43:08: Ed describes the merging with Disney, how they removed the barriers, and the challenges of keeping a culture safe.

43:39-46:02: The two discuss the human condition in Toy Story, and what makes good filmmaking.

46:27-50:04: Ed imparts advice on how to build a safe culture.

51:29-53:10: Jason asks Ed about his thoughts on virtual reality.

53:11-54:25: Ed expresses his thoughts on using skepticism as a tool.

57:32-58:20: Lucasfilm and Disney/Pixar are different entities and have different working models, but the teams all still communicate with each other.

01:01:04-01:02:25: Ed talks about his father.

01:02:26-01:08:06: Ed describes how we are living in a time that feels surreal, and the two explore what’s wrong with today’s times.

Do you live in the Bay Area?

17 August, by Austin Smith[ —]

tl;dr: We’re launching an awesome newsletter about the Bay Area today, called Inside SF. It’s also up on Product Hunt, and we’d love if you join the discussion over there.


We’ve been on a roll at Inside, launching and growing email newsletters. In the past 6 months we’ve gone from one newsletter with a total of 10,000 subscribers, to 6 newsletters with a total of 100,000 subscribers — and we’re just getting started.

These newsletters aren’t crafted by algorithms, and they go much deeper than just a curated list of links. We have a talented (and growing!) editorial team that dives deep into each vertical we tackle: scouring the top blogs and the obscure ones, participating in the online communities, learning which reporters are really nailing it, and digging in to deliver a polished, comprehensive roundup of everything you need to know.

Today we’re launching Inside SF, a newsletter all about the Bay Area. We’re covering everything from breaking news to politics and housing to fun stuff like events and new restaurants, five days per week.

If you live in the Bay Area, we’d really appreciate if you give it a try and let us know what you think. Also, it’s up on Product Hunt today, and we’d love if you join the discussion there.

Soon we’re going to be rolling out a platform that brings all of this work together more cohesively, but in the meantime, here are all the Inside newsletters you can subscribe to:

Inside SFInside Daily Brief — Inside VR & AR — Inside Security — Inside Electric Vehicles — Inside Drones — ReadThisThing

As always, leave a reply and let us know what you think. — @jason

PS: to celebrate the launch, we’re giving away a $150 gift card to Pizzeria Delfina. Enter to win here.

Evolving Twitter, A message from our CEO

13 August, by Jason Calacanis[ —]

Twitter is an exceptionally important platform, but it’s struggling massively in the past couple of years because it can’t figure out how to be an open, anonymous platform, while controlling harassment.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/kVdC0 ]

It’s kind of embarrassing that Twitter can’t figure this out on their own, so I figured I would redesign the product and write the memo to the user base for their CEO Jack.

You’re welcome! @jason Calacanis

twitter verified [A troll-free twitter is coming. Image by @paljasma]

Evolving Twitter, A message from our CEO

By @Jack, January 1st, 2017

On behalf of the Twitter team I’d like to wish you a happy new year and thank you for not only using our service, but for passionately sharing with us how you would like to see it evolve with the hashtag #twitter2017.

Today we’re taking a major step in the evolution of Twitter by rolling out verified accounts to all of our users. Verification isn’t a perfect process, and it will take a year to give our most active users the blue check mark, but we think it will be worth it because people will have to “own their words.”

You can visit verified.twitter.com to start the verification process.

We are going to still allow anonymity on Twitter, because we all know that some voices need to be heard without revealing their identity. From political dissidents to parody accounts, anonymity has a place on the service, but as we’ve seen, some small percentage of users are abusing anonymity in order to harass people. 

That’s going to end.

Twitter will soon be “verified only” by default. What this means is you will only see users with the blue check mark, with Tweets from unverified accounts being “blurred out.”

If you want to test this right now visit verified.twitter.com or go to your settings and click on “verified only” on your mobile app.

Here is an example of a tweet from the self-admitted troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, whom we recently kicked off the platform for harassment. In this example, actor Leslie Jones is not following Milo’s @nero account, which is unverified and is tweeting to Leslie’s @lessdoggg handle.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 10.11.02 AM

[Since Milo is unverified, his tweets, which are often trolling in nature, would be blurred by default until Leslie followed him. By @willmerchan]

After clicking on the blurred-out tweet I can read it and see three buttons: block, follow and an X (to close the tweet).

If you block the person you will never hear from that anonymous account again. If you follow them you’ll simply follow them like any other user (this sends us a signal that this might be a quality account).

If you hit X or do nothing their tweets will remain collapsed in the future.

Please visit “verified Twitter” at verified.twitter.com to get a feel for the service and give feedback to me directly @jack. On June 1st 2017 everyone will move to “verified by default.”

If you want Twitter to remain the way it’s always been, you will have that option by selecting “show unverified accounts in my timeline” in your settings.

All the best,

@jack Dorsey
CEO, Twitter

[ Note from @jason: hope you can all make it to the SCALE conference we’re hosting on November 14-15 in SF. We’ve just announced our first 17 of 52 speakers who will talk about how to raise money for, and how to grow, your startup, including Philip Krim of Casper, Jason Lemkin of SaaStr, Melody McCloskey of StyleSeat, Tomasz Tunguz of Redpoint and Clara Brenner of Tumml. If you want to speak about a topic please email speakers@launch.co or go to launchscale.net/speakers and fill out the form. ]  


News Roundtable! Ari Levy, CNBC & Rolfe Winkler, WSJ: Walmart & Jet, Google & anti-trust, Uber & China, Elon & Energy, CEOs & bad behavior

play episode
10 August, by Jacqui[ —]

Hi everyone, Producer Jacqui here. Ari Levy of CNBC and Rolfe Winkler of The Wall Street Journal joined @Jason for a must-see News Roundtable on This Week in Startups. An amazing discussion that kicked off with big deal of the week, Walmart snapping up Jet.com for $3b, that crackled on to Google, the government, anti-trust, the entire U.S. debt problem, the Chinese Market, the very future of energy (featuring, naturally, Elon), and the latest in startup CEOs behaving badly. And more.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/00i8b ]

Subscribe in iTunes: http://bit.ly/TWiSTAV

And watch here! :-)

Some key discussions

The big deal of week is Jet.com being bought for $3B by Walmart. What’s behind the deal? Walmart.com has been around since 2000 and has never bridged the gap with Amazon, remaining the #2 player in e-commerce. Could Jet.com & CEO Marc Lore be the answer?

Politics & Google

What’s the story of Google, the White House, and anti-trust? Google was investigated on anti-trust grounds by the FTC, but ultimately, the decision was made against pursuing any anti-trust case. The Obama administration has been pro-tech and pro-Google. And lobbying works — both parties have been fairly reluctant to launch any anti-trust campaign within technology in the US.

Debt in economy

Debt-to-GDP in the economy, even after some of the de-leveraging from 2009, is still at a level that is “mind-boggling.” The problem is in private debt (corporate, student loan, credit card, mortgage debt). Is this why millennials do not accumulate assets? Where do we go from here?

Bad behavior

Using the recent Hampton Creek controversy as a starting point, the panelists debate questionable CEO startup behavior of late. When Silicon Valley prioritizes growth over everything, yet any appearance of impropriety IS impropriety, where is that line … exactly?

Elon Musk & the future

How much do you want the future to arrive early? Elon would like the world to solve global warming and get off fossil fuels in his lifetime. But we have to decide as a society where to allocate funds. Is there a sustainable, bull market in electric- & self-driving cars? And when you factor in all of the capital and regulatory requirements required, do you bet on Tesla? (or Apple? Google?).

Splashy Cashy: Deep Stack M&A in Silicon Valley

9 August, by Jason Calacanis[ —]

[ Disclaimer: This piece is pure speculation on my part, with just a little input from folks who voted on and responded to this tweet storm. I obviously haven’t spoken to the founders of any of these companies, nor would they tell me if they were considering selling (obviously). ]

If you’ve ever played poker you know that a player’s ‘stack size’ — the value of the chips they have in front of them — can deeply impact their behavior in a hand.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): http://ctt.ec/0Z7xR ]

When playing poker at the $1-$2 game, where the bet sizes are very small, you’re going to play differently depending on if you have $5,000 or $50 in front of you.

Every hand matters when you’re short stacked, but very few hands are material when you’re deep stacked, as you have the luxury of playing a lot of hands or waiting on the sidelines.

Tech companies that are wildly deep-stacked right now:

1. Apple $200b+ in cash/equivalents, $593B valuation
2. Google $75b+ in cash/equivalents, $551B valuation
3. Amazon $16b+ in cash/equivalents, $366B valuation
4. Facebook $23b+ in cash/equivalents, $362B valuation
5. Microsoft $105b+ in cash/equivalents, $457B valuation
6. Cisco $60b+ in cash/equivalents, $157B valuation

Those six companies have $470b+ in cash/equivalents and $2.5t in market cap.

Zuckerberg has been the master of acquisitions in the past couple of years, having the audacity to pay $22b for WhatsApp and $2b for a *pre-customer* Oculus. Think about that for a moment. Zuck paid $2b for a company without a market, and that may take a decade to have 100m users — if that ever happens!

And look what just happened. Unilever, GM and Walmart just sat down at the big game and shot the locks off their wallets:

1. Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1b
2. GM bought Cruise for a rumored $1b+
3. Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3b
4. Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83b

… and let’s not forget that Bob Iger is absolutely the greatest acquirer in the business, with Disney buying Star Wars, Marvel & Pixar for a paltry $15.45b — combined! He also bought MAKER, which was probably worth the $500m for the education.

Who’s Next?

In looking at the market, I made two lists: the most desirable companies for the deep stack players to own, as well as the startups that I hear (publicly and privately) are most likely to sell over the next two years.

A smart person told me one time, “great companies are bought, bad companies are sold.”

The Six Most desirable companies for big stack players to buy, but who are not likely to sell:

1. Netflix ($42b market cap, ~$8b in 2016 revenue)
$8b in subscription revenue, a growing library of quality IP & international ambitions make Netflix a no-brainer for Apple, Amazon and Google. Given Disney sells into Netflix, and they own the best IP in the world, it doesn’t make much sense for them to overpay.

2. Uber ($68b valuation)
As an Uber shareholder I shouldn’t — and wouldn’t — speculate, but according to my Twitter poll y’all thought that Google should buy them (27%).

3. Tesla ($33b market cap, ~$4.8b in 2016 revenue)
I speculated back in February 2015 that Apple should grab Tesla for a host of reasons. That being said, I think Apple might have missed their window, with Tesla getting “escape velocity” with the pre-sale of 375,000+ Model 3 cars.
Who should buy: Apple, Google.

4. Snapchat ($22b valuation, rumored ~$300m in 2016 revenue)
Facebook is the logical buyer for Snapchat, but that’s not going to happen — ever. Facebook tried to buy Snapchat back in 2013, and when they couldn’t, Zuck tried to kill Snapchat with a pathetic knockoff called “Poke.” His PR team made a big deal about how involved Zuck was in this completely embarrassing knock-off, which candidly felt beneath someone with Zuck’s level of success.
Of course, Mark has gotten his revenge by getting the killer team at Instagram to launch a blatant ripoff of Evan Spiegel’s brilliant “stories format,” in what I think could be legally actionable (I don’t know SC’s patents and trademarks, but making a pixel-by-pixel knockoff with the same exact *name* feels actionable).
Who should buy: Facebook, Google.

5. Airbnb ($30b valuation)
Given Airbnb’s massive valuation, which is greater than Wyndham ($7.69b), Marriott ($18.58b), Starwood ($13.35b) and Hilton ($23.95b), it’s unlikely to find a buyer in the hospitality space. Like Uber, Airbnb has a created a new market, which means there isn’t a natural “buyer.” Not having a natural buyer, like social networks have in Facebook and ad-based businesses have with Google, makes companies like Facebook, Google, Uber and Airbnb less likely to sell (they simply get fewer offers).
Who should buy: Amazon, Google, EBAY (more likely a merger).

6. Slack ($3.8B valuation, rumored >$60m in 2016 revenue)
No enterprise software company has ever grown as fast as Slack, which has a deceptively powerful network effect that makes it hard to displace: API integrations. Once a company gets the Slack bug, they start piping all kinds of data from around their organization into chat rooms. Ripping out that plumbing and rebuilding it in a competitor, from say Google or Microsoft, wouldn’t be impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Who should buy: Google, Microsoft, Facebook.

Probably looking, or at least willing, to be sold:

1. Jawbone: Hardware is hard and Jawbone’s innovations have been copied long ago. Perhaps Amazon could make Jawbone their house brand (think, a better AmazonBasics), or Google could absorb them into their phone and watch teams.

2. Instacart: Amazon has probably figured this business out better than Instacart, so that leaves a buyer like Whole Foods, Alibaba, FedEx, UPS or someone looking to solve the last mile.

3. Twitter: Going sideways in a time of explosive growth with a half-time CEO is no way to live. Twitter should have been sold by now, which leaves one to wonder why it hasn’t been snapped up.

4. Zenefits: The massive clean up project David Sacks took on seems to be reaching an end game that would realistically value the company at $2b. At that level a company like Intuit or ADP would be crazy to not pick it up. [ Note: I’m an LP in a Fund that has a small stake in Zenefits. It’s not material, but I always like to disclose. ]

5. Dropbox: Apple tried to buy them when their cloud efforts were a mess. I’m sure Microsoft and Google kicked the tires as well, but they too have robust cloud products that, well, work just as good. This former high-flyer is less strategic now than it was, so it’s gonna need to sell on the quality of its revenue — not plugging a hole for a buyer.

Anyway, I’m going to talk about all this on CNBC tomorrow at 8:20AM (Pacific), so I thought I would get my thoughts together in an essay, which I haven’t been doing since going on paternity leave. [ UPDATE: 8/9. You can see my CNBC appearance here. ]

Yeah, we had identical twin girls four months ago — mom and babies are amazing and I’m back at work (on the book, podcast, TV show and incubator).

Best, @jason

PS – We filmed two interesting podcasts for founders called “Jam Sessions” during which seven different speakers shared the following strategies for how to grow your business:

1. Melody McCloskey, StyleSeat: Leveraging data to drive growth and engagement.

2. David Temple, Hello Scout: Thinking beyond digital and using offline acquisition to create trust.

3. Edgar Blazona, BenchMade Modern: Micro-conversions to a big ticket sale and optimizing paid acquisition.

4. Jill Bourque, RushTix: Net Promoter Score and the difference among promoters, passives, and detractors.

5. David Hassell, 15Five: Why customer success is a top priority in his company.

6. Craig Zingerline, Votion: Customer-driven development and prioritizing items based on feedback.

7. Mei Siauw, LeadIQ: How to increase customer satisfaction and three simple rules for anyone in her company who faces customers.

Episode 662 – http://thisweekinstartups.com/jam-session-styleseat-benchmade-scout/

Episode 650 – http://thisweekinstartups.com/jam-session-customer-management/

PPS – We’ve launched two new newsletters at Inside.com:

1. Inside VR & AR: vr.inside.com
2. Inside Security: security.inside.com

PPPS – our SCALE event is November 14th & 15th here in San Francisco. Buy a ticket at launchscale.net and suggest a speaker here: launchscale.net/speakers

Inside Drones

21 July, by Jason Calacanis[ —]


Today we’re thrilled to be launching yet another awesome newsletter: Inside Drones.

If you think this is interesting, here are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Head over to Product Hunt and look for Inside Drones, and leave a comment (I’m doing a Q&A right now)   

  2. Subscribe: drones.inside.com

  3. Forward to a friend who cares about drones.

  4. Click to tweet a subscribe button (can edit before sending)

Drones continue to shift industries from film and photography to farming and urban development. They are advancing in quality, speed, and price at staggering rates, and the innovation doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

We’re committing a substantial amount of our editorial efforts each week to understanding this industry and the communities that are growing around it, and to delivering all the news that technologists, investors, enthusiasts, and pilots are looking for.

We’ve been iterating on it in private beta with a group of 50 drone experts and founders in the space, and have dialed in an editorial angle/process that we think you’ll find compelling.

As always, leave a comment and let us know what you think. – @jason

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