Friday, November 20, 2015

Rdio & The Music Industry

I'm grumpy that Rdio couldn't make it through the forrest of crappy music services that end-users lapped up in the name of "free." Especially when it comes to artistic endeavors, look past your wallet sometimes folks; life is better in the end when we do.

Clients & Services

Pandora's winding down of Rdio bums me out. While the landscape is littered with music playback clients (iTunes (or whatever it is now), YouTube, Spotify, SoundCloud, etc etc), there isn't a single one that gets the music listening experience right for the end user. All of them have significant deficiencies. Rdio was closest though.

Today's end-user music experience requires high-quality music files (320kbps+), seamless offline playback (consistent, high-throughput, low-latency, network access is a myth), cross-platform support (browser, iOS, Android, Sonos), social networking, access to _all_ the music out there, ad-free playback, and playlisting (I can't believe I have to even mention this one). Rdio was the service that got closest to all of this, however it just didn't have critical mass; sadly.


Who's to blame? Obviously, us (the end-users) at the end of the day. In our quest for saving money, we demanded that our experience be littered with advertising so we could "listen" to music. While the industry needs[ed] a revenue model reset, "streaming" harried the process and now we're throwing babies out with bathwater to try and keep up and build a new model that appropriately distributes dollars to artists and middle-men. It starts with us being willing to pay though.

I don't have any answers to how the overall landscape should shake out, but I do like some of the thinking from Imogem Heap around how money should move. I believe Rdio, despite its own issues (of which there are plenty), had the end-user experience closest to correct. It's a shame it's going away. Like my fellow Rdio users, I'm now cast into the wasteland of VHS quality music experiences because the industry couldn't get its shit together. I want my Beta!

What Now?

My friend Kevin figured out a way to migrate from Rdio to Google Music and posted about it here. I've exported my playlists (using Rdio Enhancer) and posted them here. Rdio's announcement says they're going to provide exporting capabilities before they shut it down. I'm curious to see how that goes.

I'd much prefer that Pandora reverse its headspace on Rdio, and instead of shuddering it, double-down with it. Lift it up and push the overall industry forward here. You have an opportunity to set the right experiences (for the end-user, and musicians/artists) in motion for all of us.

For the record, I've always been a card-carrying, full-paying, subscriber to Rdio (RIP).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

International Business Travel And You

I was in my mid-20s when my boss asked me to go to India to do some work with our office in Bangalore. I was stoked. I was so excited that I was going to travel to India and a) meet my colleagues there and b) to experience another, radically different, culture from mine here in the U.S.

I booked the trip; economy class, two-nights. In and out, on the cheap to be respectful of the companies' resources.

When my boss saw the itinerary, he called me into his office. He reviewed the itinerary with me, and asked if I could be effective on the trip. "Yes sir! I'm going to crush it, and I've minimized the financial impact on the company." "Great!" he replied. He then asked me if I'd ever been to India before; I hadn't. He then proceeded to tell me that it is a special place unlike anything I'd ever experience again in my life. He then asked me if there was more work I could do while I was over there; there was. He then asked me if I really thought I could be effective flying overnight into 12+ hour timezone shifts, with only a two-night stay, in economy class (sleepless); I couldn't. He pointed out that I would need *some* semblance of sleep in order to be effective, and that I should make the most of my time on the ground "over there" by extending the trip a couple of extra nights. He then asked if I wanted to burn vacation days and spend my own money on hotel nights beyond what work needed, in order to truly absorb the experience; I did.

He then suggested that if you're flying on 8+ hour legs, you should be in business class where you can get some shut-eye. He pointed out that for business purposes it's prudent to amortize a long international business trip by elongating things rather than cutting them short. Business-class seats are expensive, so amortize them by staying longer (assuming there's work to be done... don't make shit up). He pointed out that it's probably prudent to take personal advantage of being overseas on the company's dime, and to take personal/vacation days and your own money to make the trip even longer to soak up the experience and culture.

Traveling long distances to different cultures isn't something you're likely going to get a lot of opportunities to do over the course of your life, so take advantage of these opportunities when they arise in business. Stay longer on your own dime; the company has already sunk the cost of at least one of the expensive bits (the airline ticket).

Experience this life. Experience this world.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Parenting, "the talk," and a Request.

A couple of days ago I tweeted about "the talk" I had with my 10-yr-old daughter, and it received an intense amount of attention.

The tweet was actually about "the network," as opposed to sex, which everyone undoubtedly assumed it was about. I included a diagram that I had sketched for her in real-time, which unintentionally turned out to be click-bait that drew a lot of attention.

A really neat thing happened; a few people tweeted back to me with their version of the diagram that they used to teach their children. That got me thinking that it would be neat to compile a bunch of these diagrams that people have drawn for others (their parents, their children, their friends, themselves), and build a book out of them.

These diagrams are kind of like modern cave drawings we're using to communicate the structure of a huge part of our lives; the internet.

If you have a diagram that describes "the network"/Internet (or some facet of it) and want to participate in this, please email a pic/scan of it to me along with the following information. Happy to include you with credit, or anonymously. I'm at

- your name
- your gender
- the country you live in
- who you drew the diagram for (a child, a parent, a colleague, a friend, whoever)
- the approximate age of the person you drew it for
- the gender of the recipient

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spending Capital

The Joker burning "his half" of the cash in The Dark Knight.

Enough data points now to write this post without giving anyone in my portfolio away, and enough that I feel like I see a pattern.

I'm seeing a lot of first-round/seed stage capital going unused. I'm seeing millions of dollars, per company, sit in the bank while the founders subtly brag about "low burn."

As a reminder, the capital is there for one thing and one thing only... to be burned! I'm not saying blow it all in six months, but I am suggesting you take a close look at your roadmap, and draw circles around the stuff that you can get answers to faster if you spent more money. Whether it's discrete project based targeted spending (a contractor who can vet an idea quickly), or leveling the team up with a new hire to iterate on an aspect of the product that's core to the strategy, spend the money to move the football forward. Everyone in the room wants to know how this business is going to work (or not), sooner rather than later.

Sitting on capital because it's comfortable and feels good to have the buffer is fear driven execution, and remember, we don't want to be driven by fear.

At my previous company Gnip, we took $400k of our $1m seed round and handed it to a contracting firm to help build our prototype. 40% of our $ allocated very early in our existence. Scary, sure, but we got everything moving very quickly.

How you feel about your burn rate is a function of a zillion factors: personality, risk tolerance, state of your industry, competition, etc, etc. Burning too slow can be as problematic as burning too fast. Push yourself!