Category Archives: Technology

Butterfleye is acquired by Ooma

Butterfleye is a producer of wireless security cameras with image recognition technology. I wrote about the company, which we had invested in at Aslanoba Capital, here and here.

Butterfleye was recently acquired by VoIP phone service provider Ooma.

Building a hardware business is hard. The combination of supply chain commoditization and the large budgets required to differentiate your brand in a world where consumers have access to tens of unbranded products through horizontal e-commerce sites, are big challenges.

Led by its founder Ben Nader, the Butterfleye team did a great job in light of these challenges. I congratulate them for the acquisition.

Making versus reading the headlines

When I read the headlines in the tech news, sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough. There are so many people working on world-changing projects that reading about the amazing things they’re attempting to do and doing is humbling.

Upon deeper reflection, the feeling of humility relative to the goals and outcomes achieved by others in the tech community cedes its place to a feeling of gratitude for all that they’re doing. When producers produce, it’s primarily consumers who benefit, so I’m grateful to all the producers.

Finally, the feeling of gratitude cedes it way to questioning why I am not contributing more.

A great way to test whether you’re doing enough and thinking big enough is to ask yourself whether, if done well, the projects you’re working on will also be featured in the headlines.

Rather than read the headlines, your life gives you the opportunity to make them.

AI: What’s working, what’s not

Frank Chen from Andreessen Horowitz recently published a presentation sharing the most recent progress in the field of artificial intelligence.

The presentation is a follow up to Frank’s primer, published last year, on artificial intelligence and deep learning. The presentation’s primary hypothesis is that AI will augment all software. It follows up on this hypothesis by featuring current examples of how tech companies are using AI, and addresses some of the concerns around AI including the threats of general AI which could fast be followed by super AI, as well as the potential for job losses due to AI.

You can watch the full presentation below.

Wind sculptures

A wind sculpture is a sculpture that changes shape based on the strength and direction of the wind.

I first encountered a wind sculpture when my wife and I visited Buenos Aires about a year and a half ago. The Floralis Generica at the United Nations Plaza in Buenos Aires not only has petals that close in times of high wind, but also changes shape based on the rising and setting of the Sun.

Here’s a video with more examples of wind sculptures.

Small lethal drones in action

I wrote about the development of infinitesimally small lethal drones in an earlier post.

Based on the video below, we’re well on our way, for both good and bad.

Although the drone is currently small, infinitesimally small is the natural next evolution.

Peak Games and Zynga

Peak Games, one of the world’s leading mobile gaming companies, based in Turkey, recently announced that it has sold its mobile card gaming studio to Zynga for $100M. Peak Games will retain the rest of its games including the very successful Toy Blast and Toon Blast, and will continue operating as an independent company.

This transaction is a great example of how successful companies that compete globally primarily on the basis of their technology, rather than companies where technology enables a primarily offline operational experience that is more defensible against global competition (like e-commerce or marketplaces), can emerge from Turkey.

Congratulations to the Peak Games team, led by Sidar Sahin, as well as the company’s investors Hummingbird and Earlybird.

Apple AirPods

I recently purchased the Apple AirPods. They were released in December 2016 so I was pretty late to make the purchase. The reason is that I didn’t think that wireless earphones would provide a much better user experience than wired earphones. I was wrong.

Here’s what I like about the AirPods:

  1. The ease with which the earphones automatically connect to your smartphone each time that you place them in your ears (I use an Android phone and Apple’s AirPods also connect to non-Apple phones using Bluetooth)
  2. The absence of the wires that often get tangled when using wired earphones
  3. The fact that, relative to wired earphones, they’re a less dismissive way of signaling to those around you that you’re not available to talk

I liked them so much that I purchased a second pair for my wife.

The advantages and disadvantages of decentralized services

In an earlier post, I wrote about the hype around initial coin offerings (ICO’s) in general, and the specific danger of conflating the ICO investors of a decentralized app with its eventual users.

In this excellent post on cryptocurrencies, Adam Ludwin makes the same point:

“There is a pervasive narrative out there that supports entrepreneurs looking to create new crypto assets. The idea is that by selling assets to users before your network launches, you create “evangelists” who will be early users and promoters you wouldn’t otherwise have if there were no financial incentive to participate in your community.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it conflates early investors with early users. The overlap between people who buy your crypto asset and people who actually want to use the service you are building is likely very, very small, especially during market manias like this one. It creates a false sense of “product-market fit.” Yes, people are buying your crypto asset. But that’s because the “market” are people who want to get rich and the “product” you are selling is a “way to get rich.””

However, more important than this specific point, is Adam’s observation that:

“On almost every dimension, decentralized services are worse than their centralized counterparts:

They are slower

They are more expensive

They are less scalable

They have worse user experiences

They have volatile and uncertain governance

Except for one dimension.

Censorship resistance.

Censorship resistance means that access to decentralized applications is open and unfettered. Transactions on these services are unstoppable.”

In other words, Adam is stating that for most people, centralized services do just fine. As Adam states, “you cannot argue that for everyone Bitcoin is better than PayPal or Chase. Or that for everyone Filecoin is better than Dropbox or iCloud. Or that for everyone Ethereum is better than Amazon EC2 or Azure.”

But for those users who are optimizing for censhorship resistance, the tradeoffs of decentralized services are worth the censorship resistance feature that it enables.

In other words, there is heterogeneity in the homogeneity.

And that is why Adam concludes with the following statement, with which I fully agree:

“Don’t bet against crypto assets in the long-run: as we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Bitcoin paper it is clear that they aren’t going anywhere and that decentralized applications may very well find an important place alongside all the other forms of organization we have come to take for granted.”

The FIFA eWorld Cup 2018

Electronic Arts is the owner EA Sports, the world’s leading sports video gaming label. EA Sports produces the FIFA soccer game series, named after the sport’s governing body, as well as video games for the NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA, and UFC.

So it’s big news when Electronic Arts partners with FIFA to launch the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018. While professional soccer players will be battling it out on the pitch during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, professional esports players will be doing the same behind their video game consoles.

The partnership is yet another signal of just how far esports has come in the 6 years since esports streaming service Twitch introduced the sport to the masses in 2011.

Global IT companies, avoiding trends, and defensibility

In this recent interview, Peter Thiel of Founders Fund makes several important points that I agree with:

  1. Successful IT companies, which depend on talented people, capital, and the right governance structures, will increasingly emerge from global locations rather than primarily from Silicon Valley.
  2. Investing in specific companies, led by the entrepreneurs behind them, produces better returns than investing in trends.
  3. Companies that have the potential to be one of a kind, or in other words companies which are defensible, are better investments.

I couldn’t embed the video in this post, but you can watch it here.