Ten Things I Think I Think – 2014

With a hat tip to Peter King, whose format I’ve used before:

1. I think 2014 was a great year for Bitcoin. #

No major security failures. No systemic loss of confidence, i.e., price dropping to single digits.

Increased merchant adoption:

Healthy regulatory scrutiny:

Most importantly, as a startup investor, developer mindshare in Bitcoin from developers was strong and steady in 2014. Just play around with the graphs here to see why:

For those focused on the drop in price in 2014, I’d offer this. If you think of Bitcoin as a startup, its share price went from effectively zero in January 2009 to ~ $350 in December 2014.

2. I think 2014 was the year of regulatory capture. #

Startups and tech companies are running into more regulatory and legal issues. Usually these “issues” are driven by incumbents and monopolists who oppose these tech companies and use the law and policy to fight back. I’m simplifying enormously here but if you want to look at definition by example, just look at what Uber, Airbnb and Zenefits had to deal with.

As software eats the world, technology becomes more mainstream and touches the offline world in everyday life. This usually means inevitably running into legal and regulatory issues. For tech companies, that’s usually meant antitrust because software is a networks effect, increasing returns business. In 2014, these speed bumps included substantially more.

3. I think “Zero to One” was the best book of the year. #

I’m biased because I mainly read only tech or business books. There are very few original thinkers in the world and especially technology.

4. I think 2014 was the year payments changed forever. #

Apple Pay launched. It will create a new behavior for how people pay and their expectations around the experience. Payments becomes invisible – services like Uber and Reserve will be the new normal.

5. I think this was my favorite blog post in 2014. #

It resonated way too deeply.

Second place:

6. I think “end user programming” emerged as a new investment theme in 2014. #

This idea has been around for awhile but it gained a lot of momentum in 2014. This blog post outlines the vision:

From the bottom-up, what does the world look like when everyone can code? I don’t want to romanticize it, but blogging and the internet created a world where anyone could be a creator and services like blogs, Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, etc. emerged. These services didn’t displace or ‘disrupt’ industries but they created new ones. What happens when anyone can build anything using code?

From the top-down, Gartner predicts by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than Chief Information Officers. This speaks to this trend of making tech (and not just coding) accessible to everyone. You already see companies like Optimizely, MixPanel and RJ Metrics enable ‘non-coders’ do the work normally reserved for engineers. In 2014 we invested in many companies (e.g., Blockspring) that hopefully ride this wave.

7. I think “Last Week Tonight” was my favorite TV show in 2014. #

I’ve seen John Oliver live at the TechCrunch Crunchies. Thought he was hilarious. His weekly show is awesome.

8. I think the “1099 Generation” became mainstream in 2014. #

The “on-demand” and sharing economies became mainstream in 2014. With a click of the button, you could get a car (Uber), get your food delivered (Instacart), get your house cleaned (Homejoy), rent a house (Airbnb) get your laundry delivered (Wash.io), get a lawyer (Upcounsel) and so on.

An offshoot of this is that chronically underemployed professionals (chefs, some lawyers, architects, etc.) now have a chance to utilize their skills and get compensated in a way commensurate with the value they’re delivering. That is, efficiency is injected into some job markets.

9. I think 2014 was the year “tech is global” became a mainstream idea. #

Not much to add here and you could have said this last year and possibly in 2012. But it became indisputable in 2014.

10. I think my favorite app in 2014 was Headspace. #

I turned 45 in July. I hit a mini existential crisis. When you turn 45, you’re closer to 50 than 40; you’re on the “back nine” of your life; you can’t say “40 is the new 30”; and you’re more like “Ocean’s 13 Brad Pitt” than “Ocean’s 11 Brad Pitt.”

I started meditating again more regularly this year and discovered the major redesign of Headspace, which launched in July 2014. I’ve tried and bought over 10 mindfulness apps (including the old Headspace) and this is hands down the best one.

2014 was the year mindfulness hit the mainstream. In the December 14 2014 episode, 60 Minutes did a piece on the father of mindfulness – Jon Kabat-Zinn. See here. I’ve been meditating (on and off) for over 20 years, have read all of Zinn’s books, took a class with him in the late 90’s and bought all his CDs. Again, I haven’t seen many great apps until Headspace. It’s by far my favorite and Andy Puddicombe is the closest thing to Jon Kabat Zinn.

Incidentally, for me mindfulness has never been about faith, spirituality or some pollyannish-notion of meditating your worries away. It’s as spiritual as lifting weights. If you believe that the mind is the important muscle in your body and it can be trained like any other muscle, then it’s something to explore.

Happy holidays, everyone!