David Lee

Trying to bring something to the table.

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10 Things I Think I Think on Bitcoin

I’m relatively late to Bitcoin. I’m probably more current than 99.9% of the general population but less informed than the hackers, hobbyists and investors who have been studying this since its inception in early 2009.

I’m no payment systems or cryptography expert. So I went back to first principles and studied the Khan Academy lectures here during this past summer. If you’re interested, I’m happy to send you my notes.

With that as a backdrop, here are 10 things I think I think; the format is one I’ve used before and a hat tip to Peter King, whose Monday morning column I read religiously.

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  1. I think Bitcoin is just a bet that the world becomes more multipolar. In this world, there will be stages of heightened instability and chaos economically and politically. In this world, something like Bitcoin (or “Gold 2.0”) backed by no sovereign makes eminent sense.
  2. I think whether it is

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Homeland and The Long Game

Because Abu Nazir is playing the long game. This way no one expects a thing. -Carrie Mathison, Homeland

I missed the Season 3 premiere of Homeland last night. It’s one of my favorite shows in recent memory. For those that don’t watch it, the main plot is this: a POW returns home after 7-8 years from the Iraq War. One CIA agent (Carrie Mathison) suspects that the POW is actually a Manchurian Candidate-esque operative of Abu Nazir, a fictional Osama Bin Laden-like character. Mathison’s hypothesis is that Abu Nazir is an evil genius willing to do what the other guy isn’t. In short, he’s playing “the long game.” If you watch both Seasons 1 +2, Nazir proves that he is willing to do some Keyser Soze-like shit.


The term “building a long-term business” has become as much as a punchline in Silicon Valley as “changing the world.”

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Pitching SV Angel: The Executive Summary

This post will give a small glimpse into how we evaluate opportunities. It’s more about process than substance (i.e., what we look for).

When we receive an email from a referral source introducing us to a founder, we typically ask the founder if they have an executive summary. This may sound tedious and old-school. But it is a quick and easy way for us to decide if a call or meeting is a good use of both parties’ time as a next step. It’s also a decent way to evaluate the founder(s). The ability to communicate your idea concisely and articulately is essential. It not only shows a potential to persuade (i.e., sell) but also shows clarity of thought and priorities.

Below are some tips on how to create a good executive summary. There is no generic template or “one size fits all.” The goal is to simply persuade your reader that taking a next step is worth everyone’s time.

The best

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Photo-sharing Fatigue

Photo-sharing gets a bad rap in startup worlds. The conventional wisdom is that there are too many and that bright entrepreneurs should work on something more significant than “just another photo-sharing app.” Douchebag investors pontificate about how bright founders should use their gifts to solve hard and valuable problems. This obviously implies that photo-sharing isn’t hard or valuable.

For me, I don’t have any fatigue when it comes to photos or “photo-sharing” apps. The reality is that photos are the new cheap, abundant data. And cheap, abundant data leads to or is a foundation of big technical breakthroughs. I am speculating here but I would imagine that applications like Google Earth, self-driving cars, Google Glass, etc. all rely on the explosion of abundant, freely available photo data.

Another take on this is that “another photo-sharing” app is just another way of

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Richard Feynman and FoundationDB

Richard Feynman is one of my heroes. He was a true original thinker and probably one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. He was the Michael Jordan of physicists. In his day, NBA All Star players said Jordan was on a different level. They were great but he was different. That’s a staggering admission - the top .00001% of all basketball players who ever lived said he was that much better. Nobel Prize-winning physicists said the same about Feynman.

I was a Physics major in college. I struggled; I got a “B-” in Newtonian Mechanics. Not promising. I then picked up the “Feynman Lectures on Physics,” or “the red books” as known in the Physics circle. They are online here (hat tip, Hacker News).

Feynman’s great skill was to communicate complex ideas in clear, simple and penetrating ways. He made the complex simple. No jargon. All plain English. Powerful use of analogy. He

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Peter Thiel on Mapping A Life

A good intermediate lesson in chess is that even a bad plan is better than no plan at all. Having no plan is chaotic. And yet people default to no plan. When I taught at the law school last year, I’d ask law students what they wanted to do with their life. Most had no idea. Few wanted to become law firm partners. Even fewer thought that they would actually become partner if they tried. Most were going to go work at law firms for a few years and “figure it out.”

That’s basically chaos. You should either like what you’re doing, believe it’s a direct plan to something else, or believe it’s an indirect plan to something else. Just adding a resume lines every two years thinking it will buy you options is bad. If you’re climbing a hill, you should take a step back and look at the hill every once in awhile. If you just keep marching and never evaluating, you may get old and finally realize

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Keyser Soze

“[Keyser Soze’s] supposed to be Turkish…[o]ne story the guys told me, the story I believe, was from his days in Turkey. There was a gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t. After a while, they come into power and then they come after Soze. He was small-time then, just running dope, they say. They come to his home in the afternoon, looking for his business. They find his wife and kids in the house and decide to wait for Soze. He comes home to find his wife raped and children screaming. The Hungarians knew Soze was tough, not to be trifled with, so they let him know they meant business. They tell him they want his territory, all his business. Soze looks over the faces of his family. Then he showed these men of will what will really was.

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Investing in Things You Love

I wrote before about lessons I learned while investing. Here’s another. I don’t know if it’s a lesson; probably, more like an observation.

I like investing in products that I use or love. Here’s the problem with this. This doesn’t always work out well. And regardless of the outcomes, it can shade your decision-making process, which is even worse.

This is a classic example of an anchoring bias. You let an initial data point (“do I love the product?”) affect or infect your decision-making process afterwards. Sometimes it works out well like a Vine, Instagram or Twitter. But I can say from experience that more often than not - and this is by a wide margin - it doesn’t work out so well.

The converse is also true. Sometimes you look at a product and have a ‘blah’ reaction either because you don’t like it or you’re not the initial target user. So the whole investment decision process has a

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On Writing

I’ve always been insecure about my writing. This isn’t some falsely modest claim. Growing up, I was much better at math classes than my English and history classes. My grades and SAT scores reflected that. I wasn’t “better” in the sense of getting an “A” in AP Calculus and a “B+” in AP English. I mean “better” in the sense of taking AP Calculus and not even qualifying for AP English. I wasn’t a voracious reader, to say the least. “Mouth reader” is probably more accurate.

After a break from studying engineering in my mid-20s, I was deciding between going to law school and business school. I decided on law school partly because it would help dispel some of my personal insecurities towards reading and writing. But that’s why I value getting my JD degree more than other putative accomplishments. Seems silly and a waste of $120K, but whatever.

In law school, I learned how to write for the

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Things I’ve Learned - 6 Years

You talk about this stuff like you read it in a book.

 -Ward Abbott, “The Bourne Supremacy”

I’ve been investing in or a part of startups for about 6 years. Given the volume and intensity here at SV Angel, I feel like it’s been in dog years. We’ve been a part of a prolific number of startups so I feel like I have been able to develop a unique and advanced “pattern recognition” when it comes to startups (and having Ron Conway as a mentor and advisor is a huge plus too, obviously).

That said, I’ve only been doing this for 6 years. I have a ton to learn. And I don’t say that out of any sense of false modesty. If technology cycles for investing are about 14 years, then I’ve only been a part of a third of one technology cycle. And one thing I’ve learned the hard way is that there are some lessons that only time and experience can teach you. As Ward Abbott would say, there are some things

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