Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Who's Smarter than a High Schooler? Not the CDC

My comments in the New York Times about why the tech community needs to speak up about fixing government in the 21st Century.

A high schooler was able to do a better job than the entire CDC. Think about it.....Don't we know how this works and what the solution is?


Thursday, May 14, 2020

"After the Disruption": What Tech People Think of the COVID-19 Lockdown and Aftermath

After the Disruption – Preliminary Report

Highlights from yesterday’s meeting. A full annotated report with links and comments will appear next week The actual conversation in its entirety can be viewed here (Password: 2T*T@6x1)  

In a wide-ranging discussion, a group of tech execs, entrepreneurs and investors led by startup advisor, Alan Brody, discussed the COVID-19 lockdown from the point of view of the tech sector.
The picture emerging is that the world will be different, especially in cities like New York. Many people will take a break from big cities and big employers are likely to stick with telecommuting, dropping leases and treating headquarters as a gathering place rather than a daily location. Talent and population will experience a dispersal to secondary and remote regions. However, there will always be a desire for social gathering and so, over time young people will return to the big cities. Families may not. In the intermediate period, as business opens up there may well be a staggering of work hours, enabling lower density of public transportation and leisure. Immigrant workers – especially in tech will be encouraged to return to home, resulting in more outsourcing and new kinds of talent dispersal. Many government, business and societal structures will be profoundly challenged. 

• Everything that can or has gone digital will go even more digital and contactless.

• Robots will appear everywhere and the public will welcome them.

• AI will become more nuanced (remember fuzzy logic?) and embedded wherever possible.

• Lack of faith in government is at an all-time high, with self-reliance and personal high tech solutions preferred.

• Sweden vs the rest of the world. Still an ongoing debate…..

• Contact tracing will be passively resisted as no one seems willing to trust government with their data.

• Retail as we know it is probably dead. Online is the new norm. Only highly automated, highly convenient or highly bespoke retail is likely to return with any strength.

• Restaurants will be culled but diners may accept staggered seatings. Freelance chefs will emerge everywhere……

• We have become a quasi-socialist country with Universal Guaranteed Income a new reality.

• Potent desire to bring jobs home and reduce reliance on China but deep sense of impotence at our overwhelming reliance on them.

• Big corporations and governments might even require China to second-source production in other countries as a condition of doing business.

• Many calls for new kinds of Marshall Plans will emerge.

• College students are feeling deeply cheated abut the prospects of a virtual college experience. This will cause a rethinking of the higher education system, a breakdown of non-brand colleges

• 4 year colleges may never return intact. Layers of nonessential administrators are likely to be retired.

• The possibility of new kinds of national service - including one for older people whose health vulnerability makes them doubly unemployable.

• Sales of mood altering prescription meds exploding. (Up 35% as of March 31st)

• Mental health awareness and empathy increasing. This may well be part of a new kind of WPA.

• The expectation of a true vaccine and antidote is low. The expectation of new viral and environmental threats are high.

• Most expect the public to manage the virus anyway and return to life regardless - even bucking nervous governments who lockdown for too long. Democrats tend to be cautious and lockdown-seeking, Republicans more risk-tolerant.

• Generally, entrepreneurial solutions are expected to emerge to manage social distancing in business etc.

• Concerns with healthfulness and ways to measure this will proliferate. Expect a mad rush of testing.

• Blockchain technology may emerge as the key management technology.

• Healthfulness will be the new cool. The new status hierarchy will be based on immune vitality and the culture will look for formal and informal ways to display this. This may be the key to social gateways.

• Religions were mostly absent and in some cases were the unintended promoters of the contagion. As the plague once fueled the church Reformation and this virus may similarly challenge formal religions. Spirituality, on the other hand, appears enhanced.

• Economic recovery – will there be enough money to go around? Governments might turn to creating cryptocurrency type bonds while wealthy individual may turn to cryptocurrencies to protect wealth. (FDR’s Executive Order 6102 and Gold Hoarding Act cited.)

• Distance voting is now a must.

• New referendum technologies that force officials to be constantly accountable to the public may be demanded. (In this pandemic the public knew as much as or more than the government, sometimes more proactive and expected them to plan only to find they didn’t.)

• The standard Democrat vs Republican debate may appear irrelevant. Expect new voices to emerge.

Bottom Line. Present leadership is grossly inadequate, planning non-existent - even though clear warnings have been public for decades – including numerous hit movies that were largely anticipatory. There is a profound lack of vision and a high willingness for the public to accept conspiracy theories and unconventional explanations. While we have had pandemics the world has never shut down at once. Have we lost our nerve, our leadership? What is the lasting footprint?

Was this lockdown the overreaction of the underprepared?

Please share your thoughts and comments.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

"This Won't Go Viral" - Life After Lockdown

The world is taking a big hit. Its unprecedented and we are all wondering how one little bug can do this? There are probably many others with this capability, so how do we deal with this.?

Aside from the ability of rich countries to print money and take on debt, lets consider the world going forward.


• We have no choice but to get back to work. The cost of pausing the world for more that 1 month, and the ensuing depression, would probably be higher than the medical cost of the pandemic. It sounds harsh but we have no choice other than to somehow bite the bullet. China seems to have shown the way.

• We will learn to mass test and separate out the healthiest and send them back to work while isolating out the at-risk. (As a joke, we suggested sending them to casinos and ski resorts, Club Meds and back on cruise ships. The serious answer might be a more virtual monitoring and homeserving system.)

The biggest business opportunity takeaways are probably:

• Ideas that address future pandemics – from medical to social and any numbers of solutions in between. Mass testing is big now and so are life science solutions, such as managing our immune systems.

• Extracting value or higher efficiencies from current businesses, properties and other assets. We are going to have to find a few trillion dollars somewhere……

• Multisourcing products, bringing production home, robots and 3D Printing. The downside of globalization is that we are dependent on other sources for too many of our basic products. This time its a bug, next time it could be lots of bugs or, an enemy…..  Do you have a solution for any of this?

• Old is new again and every dog has its day. As we are seeing, some ideas are really old (malaria drugs as a possible solution to the virus) and some are relatively new but now have a new urgency (videoconferencing). Do you see other oddities, re-tooled anachronisms or "its time has come" situations?

The One Thing We Can All Agree On
No one, and I mean no one, will say their site/campaign/idea "will go viral" again.


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The 5 Things You Need to Know About Pitching

After reviewing thousands of pitches, we can identify a few critical issues that most startups need to understand. We also have a few traps that trip up many, and few ways to figure out what makes you look interesting to investors.

1.     Sell The Business Not the Idea: Forget about your genius idea for a moment and ask what does this look like to your prospective market and then, your investor? Completely change your point of view and tell us who will buy it and why. How much they might pay. This is the key point – event though it seems obvious to you it does not to an investor, who knows nothing about you, your industry or the problem you are going after.
2.     Whats the Headline – the One Thing That Matters? You have a million ideas and a hundred ways to monetize the idea. Maybe. But no investor can absorb all these and they are probably not seen as credible. What they are looking for is the one thing that matters. In our experience, we have usually found it somewhere near the end of the pitch – like at the conclusion. If you see people perking up at the end, thats probably your hook. Make that your headline.
3.     Know Your Pitch Structure. You should never spend more than 1/3 of the pitch explaining your idea, then you want to talk about the business proposition and how you are going to make it happen and then, why you and your team are uniquely qualified to do so. Ask for the money and tell them what its for (finishing the tech or setting up a proven marketing plan).
4.     Find the Big - or Describe the High Growth. Your idea needs to be big to be interesting to investors. If it cant grow 10 times within 3-5 years dont bother. And try to think whether it can grow 100 times because that is what investors are really looking for.
5.     Tell Us How It Scales: The only reason you need an investor is because you have an idea that will grow with the infusion of capital. They are not there to give you free advice or share their contacts (if youre lucky, they might) but to invest on the theory that you will grow at a fantastic rate. So you need to give them a formula or a conceptual structure that shows how an injection of capital can make it grow. Forget narrative, jargon or flowery adjectives and get down to gameplan.

1.     Build Credibility: Show how your business background or experience somehow led you to or qualified you for this business.
2.     Where is the Opportunity Sweet Spot? Tell us where money is to be made. Investors arent here because they love ideas, they are here because they love ideas that can make them money. In other words, ideas are the vehicle, the destination is a wealthy exit.
3.     Talk About Sales. Products and services dont sell themselves. You sell and it is going to cost you somehow. Tell us how you get customers and how much it costs you. Better still, tell us how you can piggyback on bigger partners..Never mention viral, they wont believe you. (If you do have viral sales, show how you can institutionalize it because every investor knows that in the rare case that viral happens it can also stop just as quickly.)


1.     Dont Tell Us How Big the Market Is – Tell Us How You Will Carve Out a Piece Of It - And Make It Bigger.
Just telling us how big the market is implies that if you just show up youll get a piece of it. Sorry, but it doesnt work that way. No one gives you market share, you have to earn it. Better yet, you have to make a new kind of market.
2.     Dont Tell Us What Other Companies Raised – Only What They Sold For
Just because company x raised a bunch of money in no way suggests that you will. There are a million reasons how they did that. But what they sold for has a roadmap and maybe you can follow that.
3.     Dont Say You Need Money For Sales – Say You Have Proven How To Market It And You Need Money To Scale. You are the no. 1 salesperson of your company so when you ask for money for sales, you are saying you really arent and the money is to help you find one. But if you say you have figured out how to market it, that scales.