With each of the Ooga Labs portfolio companies, Stan and I spend a half day to give the whole team the basics on thinking about growth. Then, over many weeks and months, we will work on specifics.
We have also occasionally been ask to hold closed-door “Growth Days” for some of the top VC’s in Silicon Valley, like Andressen Horowitz and KPCB, where they invite their portfolio companies to get a Growth overview and spend one on one time with us working through specific ideas they have.
I’ve been fascinated with the nature of money, since 1993, when I read a history book which mentioned that prior to the US Civil War, there were thousands of private institutions that were issuing paper money notes… and people used them effectively. I realized then that money is simply a collective belief that “something” can be exchanged for value in the future. Confidence. Belief. Self-fulfilling group trance.
In 2004, thinking that creating a global digital currency was a good idea, I bought the URL Blue.com, which I have to this day. The logic was that US money is green, so maybe the global currency should be named after the dominant color of our planet.
In 2005 I joined the board of SecondLife, a company with an internal economy in virtual Linden Dollars and a free floating exchange rate between Linden Dollars and US dollars. The magnitude of that internal economy eventually reached the equivalent of US$750 million. Very real virtual dollars.
In 2009, Philip Rosedale — the CEO of SecondLife and a true visionary — Bill Tai, Stan Chudnovsky, Mitch Kapor and I spend several brainstorming sessions trying to come up with a plan to create a world digital currency, either by spinning out Linden Dollars or by creating something new, and calling it Blue. Our plan came down to a BitTorrent-like system for an encrypted currency, open sourced software, currency units to be programmable, a floating exchange rate with all other currencies, and it even included a disappearing founder. In other words, it was very close to what BitCoin actually pulled off while we were just talking about it. There were two main differences: we hadn’t come up with mining as a mechanism to compensate the operators of the distributed network, and we never really believed we could keep our identities secret and thus “disappear” — something we knew was critical to building confidence in the currency. So we never did anything.
In 2009, that same year, at David Hornik’s tech gathering The Lobby in Hawaii, Philip Rosedale and I led a group discussion called “One Currency to Rule Them All” where we discussed the potential for the creation of a digital currency that would live outside a virtual world like SecondLife in our real world.
So in 2011, when I first heard about BitCoin late, I immediately recognized it for what it is. Since then, Stan and I have been playing with it and following it. This lead to me running the BitCoin discussion at The Lobby in 2013, and the BitCoin panel at LeWeb in December 2013. Here’s the video. It is probably best viewed as a BitCoin 101 for your friends who want to understand the fascination with Digital Currencies and BitCoin. Obviously, the next forty years will be interesting for money in general, and BitCoin is clearly the first shot, not the last.
As I put it to my Dad over the holidays: When humans had metal technology, we made money out of metal. When we had printing technology, we made money out of paper. Now we have software technology, we’re going to make money out of it, and BitCoin is the first potentially viable instance of that natural evolution.
Because of this medical project the Ooga team has been working on, I’ve been introduced to some physicians who are at the top of that industry. I have been absolutely blown away by them. They are like astronauts. Focused, clear, physically talented, mentally agile, gracious. Sitting and talking with them you can FEEL this amazing depth of knowledge, ability and character. The rigors of that medical hierarchy must be like the astronaut program, where it both trains people and also weeds out those it can’t train, until all you’re left with is the diamonds.
The Richter Scales is a 15 man a cappella group I founded in 2000 with some friends. We often practice at Ooga Labs on Thursday nights. Over the last 6 weeks or so, one of our group members, Matt Hempey, decided to do a project to create a funny music video. The idea for the video, to make fun of Silicon Valley and the current Internet bubble we’re in, was a group idea, but the execution was all him. The name is “Here Comes Another Bubble,” and over 600,000 people have seen it in three days. Matt wrote the words, did an original arrangement of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” sang the solo, and edited the video. Like a man possessed, he pushed this thing forward.
We put the video out there on Monday night, and by the end of Wednesday, it was getting rave reviews, had over 300,000 views on YouTube which was good enough for the #2 most popular slot on YouTube (for the minute or the day or something). (For you data junkies, we’ve seen that since we put it up on YouTube, we’ve been getting 94 views per minute.)Today, Yahoo saw fit to put it on its homepage as the main piece of content at the top. Hellooooo!The Video has been reviewed on Kara Swisher’s blog, Battelle’s blog, Scobelizer, TechCrunch, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, etc.There is still some viral left out there, my friends, you just have to become obsessed about it and pick something that strikes a chord.
Here’s an old 50 minute film by Arthur C. Clarke I’ve been watching when I can called “Fractals, the Colors of Infinity.” It’s the first video I’ve seen talking about the clear connection between the world we see around us and fractal geometry, even though it’s kind of obvious. You can see some fractals coming out of the fire on the Ooga Labs home page.