iOS8, Health Data, and Open Data

News is leaking out of Apple that iOS8's primary feature will be health and fitness data. Rumors are that there will be a new app called Healthbook that will track a plethora of health and fitness data that iPhones and related devices (iWatch?) will be able to collect on the person carrying the devices.

This is interesting to me on a number of levels. We have been looking at this sector for a while and one of the things that has kept us (USV) from making investments in this space is the sense that all of this data capture is soon going to happen in the phone itself.

Once that happens, things can change pretty rapidly. The key will be APIs. And my big question is whether Apple will give its users an open API to send their health and fitness data to third parties they authorize.

I can see a button that says "auth with Healthbook" in my doctor's office, my gym's mobile app, my health insurers's web app, and a host of other places.

So to my mind, the big question is not what Healthbook will look like but whether Apple will make it easy to get our data out of it. If they do, this will be a massive game changer for the quantified self, health, and wellness markets.

Video Of The Week: The NYS DFS Bitcoin Hearings

I don't know who is going to watch all of these panels. There were five in total. I am not sure who is going to watch this video of our panel in its entirety. However, there are a number of fascinating issues raised in this discussion. From the role of regulation in the innovation economy, to the (I think false) choice between stopping bad actors and freedom to innovate, to the way a new technology comes to market. If you have two hours this weekend, you might want to put this on your TV and let it roll.

We were panel number one. I have watched parts of all five panels. I have included links to all of them below.

Here is the second panel (alternative virtual currencies, including the developer of Litecoin).

Here is the third panel (law enforcement)

Here is the fourth panel (entrepreneurs)

Here is the fifth panel (academics)

Reactions to these hearings have been all over the map. William sent me this video reaction from Andreas Antonopoulos which is worth watching if you still have time after (or instead of) watching eight hours of testimony.

A New Look For usv.com

A few weeks ago, Nick came into my office and asked if I thought we could get more engagement out of the new usv.com.  He felt that we'd succeeded on the transition from a blog to a link blog, but we had not succeeded in really stimulating discussions at the new usv.com. He had some ideas on how to address that and we batted them around. I encouraged him to follow his instincts.

He then posted this thread on usv.com and got a ton of feedback on it. And so for the past few weeks, he's been iterating on the usv.com front page. This past Monday, Nick and Brian did some more work, came up with the "cards" thing and Nick was excited. For the past few days, I've been encouraging him to "ship it." He did that last night. Check it out.

For those of you who did not click on that link, here is what it looks like:

New usv

The big changes are:

- Infinite scroll. This is something I've wanted since day one. I am so happy.

- All posts on the front page. No posts hidden behind the new tab anymore.

- Posts are bracketed by days. So each day you can come and see everything that was posted on the previous day to make sure you didn't miss anything.

- Posts are inside a "card" that shows the poster, tags, comments, bumps, the link, and for the most popular posts, a blurb from the poster about the link.

- The left and right columns have been switched.

- Search is now prominently featured at the top. Yesssss.

So that's it. I've been using this new UI for the past two weeks and I can't imagine using the old one anymore. I like it way better. I hope you all do too.

 

Tumblr

I read this in an analyst report published on Yahoo! yesterday:

We believe Tumblr is an underappreciated asset with fast growing user base and engagement levels. We think Tumblr may actually be capable of creating as much value as Yahoo! core.

It's not clear to me how much value the "Yahoo! core" has so it is not possible to put a number on this statement. But it is telling.

I have been using Tumblr every day for almost seven years now. USV invested in Tumblr in the fall of 2007 and we ceased being investors last year when Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! in May.

I still use Tumblr every day. I think it keeps getting better and better. My feed today is incredible. As it was yesterday and the day before.

The magic of Tumblr is that it sits between Twitter (short form) and WordPress (long form) and fills a gap in the world of blogging that nobody else has managed to capture. There are elements of Facebook and Instagram in it as well. So it's a lot like all of these apps but in the end it is like nothing else. It has a soul and pulse and a vibe that other social apps don't have. At times, it is simply magic.

When Tumblr was sold to Yahoo! a lot of people thought that spelled the end of Tumblr. I was not particulalry worried because I knew that David was committed to sticking around and Yahoo! was committed to leaving Tumblr alone. Nine plus months later, I think we can all say that to date the marriage has worked out well for the Tumblr users. The product has never been better and it feels as alive today as it did when I first logged in almost seven years ago.

So I agree with Carlos (the analyst who wrote the line I opened this post with). Tumblr is underappreicated. It always has been. But not by me. I love Tumblr.

Freedom and Innovation

I testified yesterday in a public hearing on Bitcoin as part of two days of hearings put on by the New York State Department of Financial Services. The hearings are being livestreamed here and you can click on the archives and watch yesterday's two panels.

I got pretty animated during the discussion, which is probably not a great thing to do when testifying in a government hearing. But this kind of thing is really important to me. We were talking about the freedom to innovate in an emerging market that is going to get regulated. I don't have a problem with regulation per se, but how and when it happens matters a lot.

As our panel was winding down, Superintendant Lawsky asked what countries were doing it right. I didn't answer that question but instead decided to talk about one that isn't doing it right and brought up China and noted that a fantastic investment strategy would be to have invested in every Internet servcies that China has blocked. My point being that the services China likes to block are the really important ones that have been built on the Internet.

I then noted that this discussion is really about freedom. Chris McAlary recorded my assertion in this tweet:

Some will say that I was being overly dramatic or romantic with that line. But I really believe it. If you look at the countries around the world where the most innovation happens, you will see a very high, I would argue a direct, correlation between innovation and freedom. They are two sides of the same coin.

Bitcoin Tuesday

There are at least three Bitcoin events that I know of in NYC today. I do not think any of them are public events but the fact that there are three in a single day is interesting to me.

This morning, NYC's Economic Development Corporation is hosting a Bitcoin breakfast with some of the leading banks and financial services companies in NYC to discuss Bitcoin. My partner Albert will be attending that.

Also in lower manhattan, Ben Lawsky, New York State's Superintendant of Financial Services, will be holding hearings about Bitcoin.  I have been asked to testify and will do so, at 11:30 along with Barry Silbert, Jeremy Liew, and maybe a couple others, in a panel of investors.

Then at 6pm this evening, in the USV event space, Wells Fargo is hosting a discussion about Bitcoin. My partner Albert will be part of the expert panel. I plan to attend the first part and then duck out to see the Knicks play the Celtics in the battle for the cellar in the east. This is a public event, but it has been sold out for weeks and if you are not already attending, unfortunately you can't.

It certainly feels like there is a whirlwind of attention and discussion and debate about Bitcoin in the air in New York City. Last week Marc Andreessen penned a piece in the New York Times titled "Why Bitcoin Matters." Later in the week, JP Morgan's CEO dismissed Bitcoin on CNBC. And over the weekend, well known NYC Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem, shown in this AVC post from this summer, was arrested for knowingly transacting in Bitcoin with drug dealers (or something close to that, the complaint is here).

So there is a lot going on at the intersection of the Bitcoin world and the world of finance and money and regulators right now. I am happy that USV is engaged and involved in these discussions. They are important and necessary.

Humans Of New York

I have a new favorite blog and I thought I'd share it with all of you.

I found it via the Gotham Gal's blog (which in and of itself is kind of embarassing. We sleep together and I found this via her blog).

It's called Humans Of New York. I follow it on Tumblr.

Every day I get two to five posts. Each post is a picture of a new yorker or two. And something that was said by the subject of the photo.

It's like riding the subway, but even better. You get to see all kinds of people and learn a little bit about them.

Sometimes it is sad.

Sometimes it is funny.

Sometimes it is upsetting.

Sometimes it makes you smile.

But rarely does Humans Of New York fail to make me feel something.

And that is great art at work. And that is Tumblr at work. Tumblr is great art and so is Humans Of New York. I love both of them.

This For That

My partner Brad, who is the conscience of USV, said something in one of our recent monday team meetings that has been rattling in my brain ever since. It was a throwaway line for him. He probably doesn't even remember it. But I do.

We were talking about some investment opportunity and one of us turned to him and asked him what he thought. He said, "I generally can't get excited about anything that is this for that."

What he meant by "this for that" is Airbnb for boats, or Snapchat for emails, or Dropbox for videos.

What Brad is talking about is derivative works. There is nothing wrong with them, of course. But he was saying that it was hard for him to get excited about them.

We've made a few of these investments and some of them have worked out pretty well. Edmodo is Facebook for classrooms. SoundCloud is YouTube for audio.

If you are going to do a "this for that" investment, the first thing you need to make sure is the iconic company (this) is not going to go after this other market (that) themselves. Then you need to make sure the other market (that) is very large. And finally, you need to make sure that the founders are doing the startup for the right reasons.

Nic and Jeff, the founders of Edmodo, were tech administrators in local school systems. They were frustrated with the tools teachers were using to distribute information to their students. So they built a new way to do it, influenced by Facebook for sure, but different in some important ways.

Alex and Eric, the founders of SoundCloud, were musicians and sound engineers. They were frustrated by the tools that were available to them and their friends to put the sounds they were making out onto the Internet. They may have been influenced by YouTube (I honestly don't know that they were), but their drive to make SoundCloud was most certainly to scratch an itch, just like Nic and Jeff.

The worst kind of "this for that" startup is one where you can tell that the founders have no intrinsic desire to build a solution for a recognized problem, but instead they are opportunists being influenced by the latest hot startup. We certainly try to avoid those sorts of things and comments like Brad's certainly helps us do that.

Video Of The Week: Albert Wenger's DLD Talk

My partner Albert gave a great talk at DLD. It's short (15mins) and I would highly recommend everyone give it a watch this weekend.

Feature Friday: Google Maps Shortlinks

In the google maps android app, if you search for a place, you can click the share icon and send that location to anyone via a wide assortment of apps. I did that last night and emailed this to myself.

Buvette

http://goo.gl/maps/7dzMz

I absolutely love this feature and use it all the time. I email places to people, I kik places to people, I text places to people, I tweet places to people.

But for the life of me, I cannot figure out how to do this on the web. When I locate a place on Google Maps on the web and select Share, the only option I get is to share the place via Google+ which is the one way I would not want to share it.

Does anyone know how to locate a place on Google Maps on the web, pin it, and then share it out via a shortlink in email or otherwise?

I am sorry for turning back to back feature fridays into Google Apps help requests, but I love these features and then they go and change them on me and I can't figure out how to get them back.