2018: A Year in Review

IMG_20181117_101833_613

Back in January, I set a list of goals for myself this year.

It may have been a bit lofty, but I am nonetheless proud of what I got done this year. I achieved some of them, and some of them I’m reinstating for next year. But life is about more than just work goals — here are some of the highlights of my 2018. 👍

January

I opened January with a slew of great projects. I continued writing for Crunchbase News, writing more on Spotify as they approached this April direct listing. My dad then proceeded to make a joke about the direct listing — I’m still laughing. 😂

DSV0bSmVwAELaTS

A week later, I followed that with some interesting editing work on Andy Sparks’ new Holloway project.

January capped with a great talk from Arlan Hamilton here in Atlanta, which of course I enjoyed attending. It was great to see Arlan again and hear her backstory — “inspiring” barely begins to appropriately describe it. 🙌

27500953_10210703635683432_444974783585454804_o

Though I didn’t publish too many Minimum Viable Network pieces this year, one of the ones I’m most proud of drew heavily on my experience during Arlan’s talk. I begin to think a lot more about the power of ubiquity.

I finally said goodbye to my iPhone 4S. 📱

DUGp7KFU0AEGDri

Remember that time at the Product Hunt party last year that Eric Willis was poking fun at me for still being the only person in tech with one? 😂😱

C3jB6ttUMAAvzE8 (1)

I snagged an invite to the Atlanta Jewish Film festival — they made me wear a tie. 😱 👔

DUV1WnPVwAA11aR

February & March

February was slow, but in March, I took a break from Atlanta for a few days to fly up to D.C. for the gun reform march — the March for Our Lives speakers were amazing to hear in person.

DZE9-R-XcAE71uD

My college friend and I caught some culture at the Smithsonian.

IMG_20180326_154512425

A week later, March ended on a high note when I had the pleasure of meeting Randi Zuckerberg following her talk at Georgia State. 👏

DZZIejAUQAA6db4 (1)

April

In April, I started becoming much more vocal about harassment, diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility. I’ve been a huge supporter of Backstage Capital since I learned about their mission, and I believe equally as much in the work being done by Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, and others at AllRaise.org. I’m happy to be an ally in whatever way I can and will continue to be loud about changes which need to be made. I’m similarly inspired by and have become an ardent supporter of the work that Melinda Epler & Wayne Sutton are doing with Change Catalysts (plus their partnership with Backstage is fantastic!). 🤔

I saw some of my closest college friends in New Jersey and considered leaving tech for a future in modeling. Then reality set in. 😂

DaY0767VQAAzgjD FB_IMG_1523996907314

I published my last piece on time & money before taking a long, well-deserved break from writing.

I made a meme.

DbvSjIOVwAEjYtS

May

Right around mid-May, I hit a wall. I was having a hard time fighting past some anxiety and depression. I was having constant conversations with some of my closest friends and supporters, to whom I will always be grateful. But I realized that conversations may not be enough, and perhaps some fresh air was in order. So I took a break from Atlanta and worked on changing my perspective.

June

I flew out to the Bay Area and got to see Kiki Schirr again (she also hosted me, which means she’s a special kind of saint lol). Day 1, I had lunch with my super-patient editor Alex Wilhelm and he gave me a tour of the Crunchbase offices! 👍

Dglia_IVMAA__sj.jpg

I finally got to meet Ken Yeung in person after many months of snarky Twitter comments. He’s just as snarky in person. 😱

DgOqf-wUYAErrMr

I drank a lot of Philz Coffee. A lot. ☕

DgKaTo9W4AAVmye.jpg

Coffee with Barrett Daniels, who’s become a close friend and confidant, and with Rei Wang, someone whom I think is doing fantastic work with new founders. Then got to drop by and finally meet Ruben Harris in person! 🚀

Lunch again with Adam Singer, and got to hit up his album release party! It ended up making my list of new albums this year (see below). There was a lot of snark and even more discussion about music than we normally touch on.

DgGCsTqUYAAVsTW

I meandered down to San Jose and had lunch with Poornima Vijayashanker, who’s been both a pivotal influence on my understanding of accessibility in tech, and an amazing friend. 🤗

DgQ7zHuV4AAhhmS

I hit up Sacramento for some awesome hiking with college friends.

IMG_20180617_150936172

July

Then came some time in Chicago, where I had some awesome pizza with fellow Crunchbse News writer Jason Rowley. He’s got great taste in pizza places. 🍕

Dg-2P24WsAAcAJ0

I hung out with a college friend I hadn’t seen in years.

IMG_20180701_202933656_BURST000_COVER_TOP

I met Cory Warfield, who’s become a close friend and mentor, and has completely turned me on to using LinkedIn in a new way. 🙌

IMG_20180702_110955515

Got back to Atlanta just in time to go meet Emily Best— her company Seed&Spark was putting on a great event here in Atlanta. 📽

Dh65QtVU8AA58pK

I finally met Andrea Hernandez in person at an event here in Atlanta to promote more women in tech and business. 👏

DjJ71o7UUAAAQoQ

I saw the March for Our Lives speakers at their town hall here in Atlanta.

DjZRRPrU0AYMbCb

I snagged tickets to *the FINAL* Warped Tour here in Atlanta. Got to see Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish, Simple Plan, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Mayday Parade, August Burns Red, and The Interrupters. 🤘🎸

DjcgF6LU0AA53wE

August & September

In September, I had the super pleasure of meeting Jim Augustine— COO of Zuckerberg Media— when Sue’s Tech Kitchen came to do their event in Atlanta. 👍

DnJqy4jWwAAMBl8

I spent a lot of time thinking about anxiety & depression, and talking about how to address these issues in a much more pointed and accepting way. I am more thankful than I could really even articulate to those of my friends— especially those in the startup/tech world— who have supported me through these challenges in my own life. To Kiki Schirr, Alex Wilhelm, Jason Rowley, Christina Warren, Nikki DeMere, Poornima Vijyashanker, Adam Singer, Espree Devora, Nick Abouzeid, Bryan Landers, Cory Warfield, and numerous others who have helped me find a more positive mindset this year, I am eternally grateful. 🤔🤗🙌

October

I voted early—  there are big things coming in the near future for Georgia. 🗳

Dpp-IQxU0AAdEw0

Halloween encouraged me to wear a tie more often ha. 😉 👔

Dq1-nOEU8AALZA9

November

Hit up New Jersey for Thanksgiving break and Kerry Flynn took me to an awesome bar! We talked tech, music, and going to school in Boston. 🤘

Dsh9qOkUcAIBNTl

Some family time at Ellis Island. This has inspired my sister to start researching our family history and in the last few weeks, we’ve all learned things we never knew!

Dsixl5eWkAE4NoZ

Then the siblings and I pretty much froze at the Statue of Liberty. 🗽

IMG_20181121_140530886

I returned from my six-month break from writing, and damn it felt good.

I’ve been exploring new projects with some awesome people— we’ll see what picks up in the new year.

December

I doubled down on Atlanta.

And I capped off this year with my new list of “100 Independent Albums & EP’s” that you all probably missed at some point.  😎🎸

Reflecting on 2018

The second half of 2017 was extremely hard for me for a number of reasons and I tried to enter 2018 with a new mindset. Nothing ever goes 100% according to plan, and I had a couple stumbles this year. But I’ve grown my network, cultivated deeper relationships, tried to create as much value as I could, created new things, and became determined to live my life in a more positive way. None of these things happen overnight, but it’s all about the journey.

Be well all, keep moving forward!

Bring on 2019! 😎🎉

 

 

 

 

 

100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed in 2018

Another December just about passed, and another 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed this year. In any artistic industry, so much of the exciting content flies quietly under the radar, except for when you know where to look for it. 🤘🎸

Since 2015, I’ve given you lists of 100 independent albums and EP’s you probably missed during the year. Here they are:

Now here comes 2018’s. I’m so stoked for the new crop of artists here, as well as for those returning again. A lot of the content on this year’s list comes from artists I’ve known for years, producing music for new projects they’ve put together recently. This is a different kind of excitement; I love seeing the evolution of these creatives.

As with all previous lists, these 100 albums and EP’s come from artists all over the world. This year’s list includes artists from: Canada, Greece, Germany, South Korea, Belarus, Austria, Singapore, France, South Africa, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Spain, Estonia, Ukraine, Italy, the U.K., Switzerland, Russia, and 22 different U.S. states. The independent world is massive.

It’s always interesting to see what each year brings in terms of style and genre, and 2018 seems to have been heavy on punk, pop-punk, alternative, instrumental, metal, and jazz-influenced material, both in terms of my personal taste and overall releases.

With all that said, here are 100 of the independent albums and EP’s that you probably missed in 2018. All were released during the 2018 calendar year. Music is multidimensional, and all these artists should be treated as such.

As always, albums are in no particular order.

Come expand your universe and live in my world for a little while. 😎👍

1. Satellites — Chelsea Shag — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

91-og

2. Painting with Scissors — Andy Gruhin — Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

vinylcover1

3. Feels — Fair Panic — Wayne, New Jersey, USA

Fair-Panic

4. Overseas — White Coven — Zaragoza, Spain

a3003327969_16

5. Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones — Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

61Vm4h9-Q+L._SS500

6. Dreamland — Just Like Honey — New York, New York, USA

a3207220063_16

7. Personal Issues — Oh See Demons — Bergen, Norway

a3525937996_16

8. My Only Hope — Adam Singer — San Francisco, California, USA

320x0w

9.  Mind Tricks — Brownstone Inc. — Graz, Austria

a0439409715_16

10. Thriving, Given The Consequences — Soviet Ohio — Syracuse, New York, USA

a1112758894_16

11. In Moon We TrustHālley — Paris, France

a3577484841_16

12. What The Wreck? — Stan Stewart — Ithaca, New York, USA

a0554072234_16

13. Poor You, Part Two — Jinxbox — Middlebury, Vermont, USA

a2108324442_16

14. Centipede – EP — Blooming Fire — Los Angeles, California, USA

a3336471010_16

15. The Candleman and the Curtain — The Earth and I — Warwick, New York, USA

a3618777582_10

16. Everyone I’ve Ever LovedValleyheart — Salem, Massachusetts, USA

a0993442545_16

17. Kingdoms — Coopertheband — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

a2543267401_16

18. Self Titled — Alias May — Melbourne, Australia

a0918365614_16

19. Make My Millennium — Resident One — Atlanta, Georgia, USA

a0265427535_16

20. FunnySexyCoolHollywood Horses — Birmingham, Alabama, USA

a1698829475_16

21. .ghostworld – EP — .ghostworld — Singapore, Singapore

a3994727554_16

22. Heaven and Her Demons — BlackBeak — Johannesburg, South Africa

a2368806921_16

23. Wherever That IsPanhandler — Stockholm, Sweden

a3112158851_16

24. White Roses EP — Dream Chambers — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

a1866432777_16

25. Soul Transfer — Emphasis — Tallin, Estonia

a1829337801_16

26. Westline Drive EP — Westline Drive — San Francisco, California, USA

a2577008681_16

27. EP — Lampion — Montreal, Quebec, Canada

a3034075905_16

28. Salvation — The Penske File — Burlington, Ontario, Canada

a3710021663_16

29. Hypnotizing Euphoria — The Who Was Phone — Zurich, Switzerland

a3914038285_16

30. Bridges – EP — For The Fire — Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

a3123376777_16

31. Disposition — Young Animals — St. Louis, Missouri, USA

a4203563041_16

32. Glow In The Dark — Rachel Rose Mitchell — Melbourne, Australia

a0280072884_16

33. Dear Beer — The Bombpops — Los Angeles, California, USA

a1680664549_16

34. Aftermind — HighView — Canberra, Australia

a2269403411_16

35. It’s History, It’s Poetry — Detour North — Chicago, Illinois, USA

a2646676122_16

36. Voices in My Head — Failing Up — Los Angeles, California, USA

a3613083601_16

37. Omega — Shades of Dissonance — Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

a1886427652_16

38. From the Wild Sky — Halie Loren — Eugene, Oregon, USA

a0197767200_16

39. Up in Roses — Fever — Portland, Oregon, USA

a1085076350_16

40. Passing Years — Looking For Alaska — Regensburg, Germany

a1426972298_16

41. Desire Paths — Turnspit — Chicago, Illinois, USA

a1722262816_16

42. Absolution EP — Keating — Columbus, Ohio, USA

a0504944579_16

43. The Fallen King — Frozen Crown — Milan, Italy

a1414034459_16

44. Heartwoken EP — The Revies — Los Angeles, California, USA

a2680939145_16

45. Amnesiatic — ODD ROBOT — Fullerton, California, USA

a4084673321_16

46. Everything Is Temporary — Between You & Me — Melbourne, Australia

a4147721304_16

47. Duoyu — Duoyu — Athens, Greece

a2173508679_16

48. Six People in a Dream — Baronaqua — Melbourne, Australia

a1914810819_16

49. Hometown Static — Second Street — Kansas City, Missouri, USA

a0357217892_16

50. Happy Thoughts — Midfield — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

a2602300277_16

51. Becoming a Ghost — Becoming a Ghost — Troy, New York, USA

a3656578818_16

52. BedtimePawn Pawn — Toledo, Ohio, USA

a0153914848_16

53. Alliance — We Call The Shots — Phoenix, Arizona, USA

a0276805423_16

54. Mother’s Keeper — Mother’s Keeper — Birmingham, Alabama, USA

a1496483360_16

55. Is an EP — THIS — Buffalo, New York, USA

a0892900253_16

56. Distraction EP — Paper Citizen — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

a4169772564_16

57. Nostalgia — deerfield. — Syracuse, New York, USA

a4225159085_16

58. Street Talk — Big White — Sydney, Australia

a1264835841_16

59. For Me This Time — Analog Heart — Boston, Massachusetts, USA

a0201023423_16

60. While We DreamLights & Motion — Gothenburg, Sweden

a0020729055_16

61. Raw SugarL’Absence — Zaragoza, Spain

a0602446953_16

62. TamelessBuffalo Rampage — Moscow, Russia

a0283911500_16

63. Never Asked for It EPSorry, Scout — St. Louis, Missouri, USA

a1159769578_16

64. Old SoulSharp Sleeves — Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

a0335872128_16

65. Aspire — VENUES — Stuttgart, Germany

a0373931763_16

66. From Blue to BoneMama Doom — Poughkeepsie, New York, USA

a4067489887_16

67. Heart Whispers (EP) — Grace & the Midnight Angel — Clovis, California, USA

a1938454364_16

68. Cirque Du SkankSkunk Funk — American Canyon, California, USA

a3651745225_16

69. Spring Silver EP — Spring Silver — Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

a4215002345_16

70. The View From HereStealing Home — Concord, California, USA

a0623872756_16

71. Weird’N’ConfusedAppocaloosers — Madrid, Spain

a2512458705_16

72. InceptionWallbangers — Nantes, France

a4284346557_16

73. Wanderlust EPGrowling Rabbit — Minsk, Belarus

a1472767242_16

74. Paper SaintsPaper Saints — Dallas, Texas, USA

a0988209131_16

75. Spinneret EPJEM — Singapore, Singapore

a2623567396_16

76. Cashmore DemosCashmore — Brisbane, Australia

a2047122858_16

77. DakotaGo Murphy — Fargo, North Dakota, USA

a1782963943_16

78. Categories of ColourEither/Or — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

a4015250297_16

79. FacadeBoxford — Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA

a0762985239_16

80. Casual CornerBlesst Chest — Portland, Oregon, USA

a2822890915_16

81. Paper HeartsThe Brothers Union — Asbury Park, New Jersey, USA

a2354370146_16

82. New RuinsCandace — Portland, Oregon, USA

a2933760028_16

83. Growing PainEnvious View — Springfield, Missouri, USA

a0694230770_16

84. Hangin’ On!The Glycereens — Brisbane, Australia

a4093110467_16

85. Digital EPAnemoria — Fullerton, California, USA

a2139817272_16 (1)

86. AgonizeSever The Ear — Gwangju, South Korea

a4158821855_16

87. Laugh It Off!Domino & the Derelicts — San Jose, California, USA

a3382894542_16 (1)

88. Glass BonesWolvesMouth — Voorhees, New Jersey, USA

a2811134904_16

89. AshesLed By Lanterns — Birmingham, England, UK

a4010357676_16

90. A Quiet Riot Vol. 1We Are Riot — Bremen, Germany

a2485402848_16

91. Membership DuesSad Girlz Club — San Francisco, California, USA

a3094191861_16

92. Broken CodesIn Parallel — Nashville, Tennessee, USA

a0816977467_16

93. The Deep Sleep — Unveil — Sherebrooke, Quebec, Canada

a1191201111_16

94. The NexstoneThe Nexstone — Kramatorsk, Ukraine

a3120780925_16

95. Comfort Zone — Superhaunted — Miami, Florida, USA

a2639596339_16

96. Fault Lines EPAeve Ribbons — Manchester, England, UK

a0287160869_16

97. Visions EP — Noise Maze — Udine, Italy

a2788192620_16

98.The Outer Space (EP)Fallcie — Saint Petersburg, Russia

a3491251552_16

99. JarenJenn’s Apartment — Lansing, Michigan, USA

a1357539315_16

100. Nothing LeftMy Favorite Fault — Moscow, Russia

a2490215276_16

***

If you enjoyed this please share, and feel free to Tweet me. Let’s talk music and tech!

Atlanta: Signs of the Next Major Tech Hub

Atlanta, Georgia, USA downtown skyline.

The Question

Almost two full years ago, in January of 2017, Ryan Hoover asked me what the tech scene in Atlanta was like. I was in San Francisco, and had flown across the country (on a very cheap ticket!) to attend Product Hunt’s celebration party following its AngelList acquisition. We were hanging out on the upper floor of the venue, me, trying to look like I belonged there, and he, casually leaning against a wall, gratefully shaking hands with everyone who wanted a picture with him.

I was actually caught off guard a bit because, frankly, I didn’t know too much about the Atlanta tech scene at the time. I’d grown up here, but left for college in Boston, and if I’m being honest, I only meandered back here after school because of family & the post-college reality of starting a company with essentially no money. As much as I enjoyed my childhood, I’ve never been much of an “Atlanta guy” — I’m a Mets & Red Sox fan (for the rare times I watch sports), I like the cold, and I yearn for the deadpan, brash humor of the Northeast. But I recognized financial reality and made the best of my situation.

The truth was that I hadn’t really invested much time or effort into exploring the Atlanta tech scene. I was head-down working on my music startup, so I was spending more time wiring myself up in the music industry than the startup world. Additionally, everything in 2014-2017 was (or seemed to be) San Francisco, New York, L.A., or Seattle, and that’s where my head was too. I figured it was only a matter of time until I left Atlanta.

From Bust to Boom

Part of the frustration I felt personally during this period was how the tech scene here felt & the tech press seemed to view Atlanta after Yik Yak’s failure: “well we tried, but Atlanta’s not ready for real tech investment yet,” despite our having TechStars, MailChimp, and Calendly, among others. This coupled with “go to California, that’s where all the money is” mentality.

But things change. Calendly has grown. MailChimp is a bona fide unicorn. Salesforce is building Salesforce Tower downtown. And now, Walker & Company Brands is moving here, following their sale to Procter & Gamble. And these are just the names many people are familiar with; there are others, blooming down at the Tech Village, scattered around Buckhead and Midtown, popping up around Tech Square, and nesting outside the Perimeter (OTP) in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

On the Cusp

Atlanta is fast becoming a tech hub for crypto, SaaS, and media startups. Yet it’s still not mentioned in the same breath as Austin or Denver. Why this is could be a topic for debate, but what ultimately matters is that 2019 will bring a new sense of tech startup intrigue to Atlanta. Warm weather, affordable housing, and ready pools of talent from at least 5 major universities in town (Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Spelman, & Morehouse) — not to mentioned UGA just over an hour away — are some of the unavoidable perks of the city.  And, we’ll begin the year on a homegrown IPO and a major acquisition coup.

What’s missing — at the moment — is the same sort of starry-eyed, dare-to-dream-it dynamic which pervades tech in SF and NYC. Yes, we have SaaS meetups, startup chowdowns, and interesting groups which meet in the rooms of the Tech Village.

But what we really need to invest in are the more abstract, informal meetups, dinners, and coffee-shop interactions which don’t require reserving a room or having a planned discussion for each get-together. It’s these more abstract, informal dynamics which will generate some of the most exciting ideas, build reputations & relationships, and draw investment to the city in a way that’s more representative of the “dare to dream, go for broke” feel of Silicon Valley.

The Next Crop

As with everything, there will rise a set of core voices and personalities who help shape this new era of tech in Atlanta. They will be the people who just “seem to be everywhere,” seem to know everyone, and have a vision for how to transform the city in the next 5-10 years. It will be interesting to see who’s included on this short list.

I expect that we will soon be seeing more tech conferences here as this new mentality sets in. And while I may not start rooting for the Braves anytime soon, I will nonetheless have my eyes peeled for this group of individuals with the vision to make Atlanta the next great tech hub.

I’m a Writer—Here’s Why I’ve Taken a Six-Month Break From Writing

pexels-photo-1375261

The Writer’s Rub

It’s been about half a year since my last real essay or post. I took almost the entire summer and autumn off from writing full-length essays, response posts, and even shorter thought pieces. It feels—and maybe seems—that the only things I’ve been writing this summer have been tweets and LinkedIn posts.

This might seem odd for a writer—after all, writers are supposed to write consistently and be able to produce high-level content with each topic they cover. But here’s the rub; writers are also human. We hit walls, experience burnout, and need breaks like everyone else—especially those who are motivated to produce content at break-neck speed.

And damn was I burned out.

Where Startups and Writing Diverge

In startups and tech development, there’s the notion of “ship early and often.” It doesn’t matter if the first version has bugs (it will always have bugs) or if it’s a little unfocused; there’s time to fix all that junk later. The important thing is shipping, and your perfectionism is holding you back.

The same cannot (and in my opinion, should not) be said of writing. Yes, if you’re a writer or content producer you should employ every tool at your disposal to produce content at a consistent pace. But the “bugs” that exist in writing are a different breed than those of the “ship early, ship often” startup world; pieces aren’t supposed to go out sloppily written, half-focused, and “all over the place” as my mom would say. They’re supposed to be tight and bullet-proof, however you define that. In some ways, Alexis Ohanian addressed this issue in tech recently with his statements on “hustle porn.

Don’t Be Forgettable; Be Magnetic

To maintain this self-defined standard, sometimes the answer is that you simply can’t consistently produce at break-neck speed; sometimes you need a break to recharge and find new ideas and motivation. This is the frustrating, unsexy aspect of writing. It’s what happens behind your closed mental doors, and perhaps the thing that has the potential to make you feel like you’re “not a real writer.”

Stave off this thought and instead focus your energy on recharging. Come back to the writing when you have something real to say. People can always tell when you’re writing just for the sake of filling a quota.

Spoiler alert: that kind of writing is boring and ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable; be magnetic.

All of this is to say that it feels damn good to be back. 😎👍

Time and Money As a Function of People

People: The Uncertainty Factor

Last week, Fred Wilson wrote a post about time and money, and how to value each of them against one another within the context of investing. In it, he broke down a series of considerations which each impact the time-money balance. Rereading through it again, though, it occurs to me that a lot of Fred’s considerations also point to another, perhaps more subtle factor: people.

The people factor weighs heavily on the time-money dynamic, and arguably has the potential to significantly alter one’s perceived outcome. Inasmuch as the time-money assessment is predicated on the concept of effort—that is, how much effort one must put in to a venture in order to effectively procure a sufficient return for one’s investment (both time and money herein)—that effort is nonetheless dictated (or at least impacted) by the people around whom it centers.

Much of Fred’s argument—broken down amongst four examples—revolves around the notion of uncertainty as it applies to people. Uncertainty in this case (or these cases) stems from the fact that people are inherently different, and what holds true for one may not necessarily hold true across the board.

This is why so many investors articulate “the founder/team” as one of the most important factors—if not the most important factor—in their decision to invest. As Hunter Walk notes in his response piece to Fred’s post: “…we don’t invest in people we don’t want to spend time with, even if it could be a profitable investment.” Herein, the investors clearly value their time simply as a function of the personal connection they feel with the founder(s).

The Value of Evaluating Relationships

Yet as Fred notes, the reverse is true too: founders are just as much playing a “game of people” as investors are—the return on an investor’s value to a founder most times goes far beyond the money. The investor is similarly in the position of proving to the founder(s) that s/he is able to balance his or her portfolio while still delivering the necessary value to the startup company.

Evaluating people and relationships helps to assuage the challenges on both sides of this equation. When people learn to know what they’re looking for in a partner (be it a founder in an investor or vice versa)—and to articulate that to themselves, their team, and prospective collaborators—they are able to dramatically increase the value factor in the overall equation. This directly affects the time-money portion of the equation. An investor’s time is better utilized because the founder(s) can communicate their needs and vision, and thus deploy the investor’s money in a more focused manner (all while keeping open lines of communication as to how and why certain strategies might have been taken). The dollar value of the investor’s money thus increases, which increases (again) the value of their time input.

All of these factors work similarly axiomatically for founders looking to extract the most value from their potential investors.

Who You “Click” With

The evaluation of people—being able to discern who you “click” with and the type of personality which best fits your portfolio (or startup) strategy—is key in evaluating one’s time commitment to a project. The time-factor, which Fred articulates should be priced into early-stage investing math, can in fact be thought of as the people-factor. In the early stages especially, the clear dollar value of a company may not be readily apparent and some other—perhaps less tangible—metric may be necessary to consult. This is the people-assessment—this is the scenario in which investors are rife to say, “there was just some ‘It’ factor about her resilience” or “her charisma just sold me on the idea.”

This is not a shot-in-the-dark decision; it’s often a carefully calculated decision that is based less on spreadsheet numbers and more on personality—the potential we’re all theoretically (hopefully) capable of. This is a honed skill—gut feelings about people are as real as any metric and have the potential to return value on time and money investment as much as anything else in the decision process.

Time and money are very concrete things, but like so much else in life, their value can be drastically affected when they are thought of as a function of people.

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

Why I Continue to Be Loud About Female-Inclusivity Initiatives in Tech & Business

Over the last few months, I have grown increasingly loud about my support for initiatives that foster diversity and inclusion in tech & business. This has been especially true over the last couple months as I’ve watched what started out as Female Founder Office Hours culminate now in AllRaise.org. What I wanted to see grow and expand—a push from female VC’s like Megan Quinn, Aileen Lee, Jenny Lefcourt, Jess Lee, and their team members to bring more women into tech and foster a support system for them—has indeed now germinated into a force (and I can’t help but be amazed at what they & their allies have already accomplished in such a short period). I’ve written a response piece to AllRaise’s announced launch already, but sometimes one statement of support just isn’t enough.

I came into tech almost accidentally from the music world. That’s really my wheelhouse and one of the main industries I continue to build for and strive to impact. But lately, I’ve been running a thought experiment: is there theoretically anything that could make me walk away from music, even for a little bit?

Recently, I’ve come to the answer that yes, there is: diversity, inclusivity, and egalitarianism.

We’re at an inflection point now—the smart people realize that the future success of and in tech/business will be had by those who invite new perspectives and prize egalitarian dynamics. The future of the tech IPO no longer looks like a bunch of white guys huddled around a singular mindset. Now it looks exactly like Stitch Fix founder & CEO Katrina Lake holding her infant child ringing the bell to bring her company public—just as that picture was a metaphor for changing dynamics in tech, so too is an initiative like AllRaise key in helping usher in that new era of opportunities.

DO4PJlHWkAAT7sz

So if I sound excitedly determined, it’s because I am. Because the historian in me can discern that we’re at the beginning of a new cycle rife with possibilities to have a more diverse tech and business universe than we’ve ever had before.

At the end of the day, I will always be the first to make a music reference, and this just has Riot Grrrl punk written all over it. It’s brilliant and I am 100% behind it.

Note: This post was (unsurprisingly) written while listening to Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, L7, Sleater-Kinney, and 7 Year Bitch. 🤘🤘

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

Allies for AllRaise.org

Given my somewhat short break from writing since January, I was wondering what my first post back would be on, and if it would be a lengthy assessment or a short burst.

Short burst it is.

I’ve been following (and championing) very closely the initiatives proposed and undertaken by the group of amazing women behind (first) Female Founder Office Hours, (then) Founders For Change, (followed by) Women in VC community events, and (now) AllRaise.org. Reading Aileen Lee‘s post from yesterday, it’s clear to me that even as painfully slow as it sometimes feels, change is indeed happening. I have sought and want to be a part of the change. And I know there are others like me who do as well.

I have tried to stay keenly aware of my inherent white guy privilege and use that to the benefit of others. I can only be what I am, but I get to determine how that helps others without the same afforded benefits. I can be an ally for the scores of women and underrepresented founders (POC, LGBT+, etc.) who aren’t afforded the same benefits of the doubt off the bat which they should be, and I can similarly use whatever position I have to push for more egalitarianism. And that’s what I try to do daily.

With the announcement of AllRaise.org and its focused initiatives, it is my hope that there is and will be room for the (white & male) allies out there like myself who want to be a part of this new evolution. I am excited to see where something like this can go. We are in the midst of a massive paradigm shift—one which is long overdue in creating a more level field of merit, diversity, and inclusivity. Consider this my name in the AllRaise hat.

I encourage my white and male counterparts out there to afford Aileen’s post and this initiative a heavy dose of retweets and attention; this is the new direction. Be the person who gives the shots to people who otherwise might not get them, and bring attention to the fact that there is clearly work to be done here. Take it from a history major: there is a right side and a wrong side of history—you want to be on the former, not the latter.

To Aileen, the AllRaise team, and the other women, POC, LGBT+, etc. looking for allies: we’re here. Tell us what you need and how we can help. We’ll follow your lead.

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

The Power of Ubiquity

An entry in the Minimum Viable Network series.


uwjiyzl9xln25itwlzcz.png

I remember once telling an artist that if you want to be in the music industry, you need to be ubiquitous. Turns out the same is true for tech and startups. Who knew?

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk here in Atlanta during which Arlan Hamilton of Backstage Capital talked about how she broke into VC and how she’s driving her vision forward. As much as I enjoyed the talk, this post isn’t about that discussion. It’s about what transpired after.

After the Talk

Up until then, I’d been lucky enough to converse with a few of the amazing people at Backstage, other than Arlan. I’ve had a wonderful experience getting to know Partner & Chief of Staff Christie [Pitts] and Backstage podcast producer Bryan [Landers].

As neither Bryan nor Christie were in attendance at this event, though, after the talk wound down, I proceeded to go say hi to Dianne [Cherrez] and Chacho [Valadez], other Backstage team members I’d only interacted with briefly on Twitter. I received almost the same response from each (as if it was practiced ha!): “Adam…oh you’re Adam Marx! From Twitter!”

27500953_10210703635683432_444974783585454804_o

Both were fantastic to meet, and clearly integral parts of the Backstage team. While other attendees asked Arlan questions, I spoke with Dianne about the normal stuff; how she got involved with Backstage, her role there, exciting things Backstage has going on, etc. During the course of our conversation, she matter-of-factly quipped, “You know, you’re just everywhere on Twitter…I don’t know where you find the energy.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the point she was making stuck out to me: ubiquity matters — people notice.

Why Ubiquity Matters

When you’re setting out to build your network, whether it’s your Minimum Viable Network or a more mature version, ubiquity is a key factor in that network’s success.

It’s important to keep in mind that the term “ubiquity” might itself be somewhat of a misnomer; it’s not about actually being everywhere at once, all the time. It’s about appearing to be ubiquitous.

One reason that people remember ubiquity is precisely because of the immense time commitment it requires. Time is energy (and, as always, time is money)—indeed, time is ultimately your most precious commodity. Your time and attention are what businesses want, and what dwindle as you check off the basic boxes like your spouse, family, friends, coworkers, etc.

When people perceive you as ubiquitous in relation to their project or mission—especially when it’s characterized by a positive dynamic—it’s a (sometimes subconscious) recognition that tends to stick with them. 

Ubiquity and Reality

Of course, you can’t actually be everywhere at once, all the time. People are realistic and only an irrational person would believe otherwise.

Rather, it’s about creating a perception that you devote a significant portion of your time and energy (as much as one could ask, or even more) to something you’re really passionate about. This might be tuning in to a podcast weekly to tweet constructive thoughts (something I enjoy as well), volunteering one of your professional skills across a variety of projects (for me, editing and proofreading), or simply promoting a company whose product and/or mission really resonate with you. This type of long-term commitment to a mission creates the perception of ubiquity.

Ultimately, this is how you want people to think of you; as someone who just seems to consistently pop up at the right times. You don’t need to be associated with every project; but by being open to working on new opportunities, the natural side-effect is a quality of associated ubiquity. This creates a positive feedback loop of potential. 

The More People Create…

The wonderful thing about ubiquity is that as people create more things and start more projects, more opportunities are had to further one’s reputation as a thought-leader, team member, and colleague.

No doubt, many of these initial opportunities have the potential to germinate into extended relationships with the right cultivation. In this sense, the ubiquity becomes self-fulfilling; the more you “pop up” and people know you, the more people want to know you. This dynamic becomes naturally and iteratively expansive.

In the end, ubiquity is about a constant collection of “small victories” rather than pursuing a “one-and-done” approach to the opportunities before you.     

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

screen-shot-2017-04-03-at-11-58-16-am (1)

Three Questions Concerning Spotify’s Direct Listing Decision

Originally published on Crunchbase News on January 3, 2018.


Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 2.00.02 PM.png

As everyone was in holiday mode a few weeks ago in December, Spotify confidentially filed documents with the SEC to go public, likely in Q1 of 2018.

Previously, I discussed Spotify’s numbers and examined how those figures looked before an IPO filing. Now we can see how those numbers look in context.

This filing bolsters prior reports that Spotify would forego a traditional IPO in favor of a direct listing, a method of going public that has left many scratching their heads. For those unfamiliar with it, a direct listing is a way allow a firm’s shares to begin regular trading while avoiding the normal IPO roadshow process.

When asked about the direct listing strategy, IPO expert Barrett Daniels of Nextstep Advisory Services told Crunchbase News that there are a few reasons companies might choose to pursue the strategy. It typically boils down to the fact that the company may not be “strong enough” to transact a traditional IPO due to these reasons:

  1. The company’s growth (or lack thereof).
  2. The company’s size (in terms of revenue).
  3. The general climate of the industry.

So do these reasons provide Spotify grounds to go direct, especially considering how much money could be left on the table? Let’s find out.

1. Company Growth

Spotify has the kind of crazy growth that companies dream of. As its subscriber numbers have gone from 50 to over 100 million users, Spotify’s valuation has similarly been adjusted. It’s worth remembering, though, that while the total subscriber number sits somewhere north of 130 million users, approximately 60 million are paying listeners.

So Spotify is big enough to attract attention and generate a lot of excitement. In fact, because Spotify is such a well-known company to go public, an IPO roadshow seems to be precisely what it would want. More attention and more hype might mean more money on gameday.

2. The Company’s Size

This kind of fast-paced growth also contextualizes the music company’s size in terms of its revenue. According to Daniels, the size of a company’s revenue will dictate how larger institutions view it; if the revenue looks too small, larger institutions could deem the company too early or too risky, and therefore might be uninterested. But given Spotify’s outsized growth, though, perhaps this is a reaction to its continued unprofitability (as of yet).

3. General Industry Climate

Daniels also noted that in some direct listing cases, the decision to forego a traditional IPO could be something as simple as a timing issue. Industries go through hot and cold periods, and a cold period could convince a private entity to forgo the public process.

However, this doesn’t typically apply to the music industry. Because of business with mainstream acts, music companies tend to be more well-known among public investors than, say, a company which perhaps works on tooling or shipping. Therefore, Spotify has no reason to think that the climate would change at all between now and an expected 2018 IPO date.

Going through Barrett’s list of reasons, we can see that Spotify’s direct listing doesn’t pass muster on these grounds. But there are two outside arguments that augment the viability of direct listing: saving money on the IPO process and stopping the clock on Spotify’s convertible debt raise.

Saving Money

Outside of Barrett’s outline for going direct, Spotify could limit costs by foregoing a normal, pre-IPO roadshow. However, experts have pointed out that this doesn’t make much sense. The money which Spotify would save on an IPO roadshow is negligible compared to the amount it would ultimately raise in a normal IPO.

But there are other ways Spotify can save money.

Stopping the Clock

Last year, Spotify took on convertible debt from Dragoneer and TPG, totaling $1 billion. According to David Golden of Revolution Ventures, by listing directly, Spotify could essentially “stop the clock” on these debt-conversions, and presumably, save itself tens of millions of dollars.

As a refresher, under the terms of these notes signed in 2016, Spotify was required to pay 5 percent annual interest, a figure that grows by 1 percent every six months for a total of 10 percent. Investors could then convert the debt into equity at a 20 percent discount of Spotify’s IPO price. If there were no IPO within a year, the discount at which investors could eventually buy back stock would increase 2.5 percent every extra six months.

The Questions Left Lingering

All of this leaves a lingering question: if neither of the two most-cited arguments hold water, does the decision to direct list have anything to do with Spotify’s $20 billion valuation? There have been, as of late, multiple sources which have raised concerns, expressing reticence and opining what a public Spotify will look like. Spotify did not respond to a request for comment.

The streaming market also faces stiff competition. Apple can subsidize its music service until the end of time through its phone and computer sales. Facebook just signed a major deal with Universal, and YouTube is gearing up for its own music service launch. Pandora has just created a Spotify clone, and its post-IPO performance doesn’t bode overwhelming optimism. All of this is now against the backdrop of a $1.6 billion lawsuit filed by Wixen Music Publishing against the streaming music company.

Additionally, here are a few numbers we don’t know which will impact Spotify’s business model long-term:

  1. What Spotify royalty rates are. It has been reported the company pays anywhere from 58 percent to 83 percent.
  2. How often Spotify needs to renegotiate royalty deals with the major labels.
  3. What the percentage stakes each major label owns of Spotify.

We’ll see how things roll out by the end of Q1.

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!

2018: A New Year with New Goals

a95xAVhP_400x400-3

Perhaps the last picture I’ll post with my trusty iPhone 4S

2017 is over and 2018 is now here. That’s a good thing; last year was a tough one. A few very close relationships ended, and after a few years, I closed my first company. But I also learned that there is life after failure.

So here we are now in the new year, and I’m excited to start working on a bunch of new things. Here are some of the things you’ll see from me in 2018: 

  • 😎 🎸 I’m working on a new music project (company? 😎 ). That’s right — after a badly needed six-month hiatus (maybe longer?) from actually running a music-startup, I’m gathering feedback on a new idea which is incredibly exciting. So far, feedback has been very positive. Discussions with a select number of artists as well as a few journalists, founders, and confidants have yielded an ever-clearer perspective on how this can grow. I’m excited to read more people into this as the year progresses.
  • 📝 I’m working on editing a very special document that I’m extremely excited to finish. I’m a word-nerd, and in editing this piece, I can honestly say it’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done in my professional writing career.
  • 📝 🤘 I have an avalanche of new music articles written and in the works which I can’t wait to see published. Some of these will shake things up (I hope), but hey, what’s the point of being a music journalist if you’re not a little punk about it? 
  • 📝 📽️ I’m working on writing a rough draft of a screenplay (no, really!). Last year, I was kicking around an idea which I thought could be fun to work on, and over the last week, I’ve started mapping out characters and basic scene dialogue. I’ve never done a screenplay, so I am more than happy to have collaborators!
  • 🙋 🙋‍♂️ 🙌 🤝 I will start driving harder towards being more central to the discussions on sexual harassment and how to fix the issues we have before us. This is less of a “me” thing, and more something I am incredibly passionate about; I am open to collaborating with anyone on projects which will help with the goals of creating a paradigm with more meritocracy, equality, and egalitarianism. 
  • 😎 🎙️ I’m incredibly excited (and flattered) to have an invitation to be on a few podcasts starting this year — because I don’t talk enough as it is ha!
  • 🤔 📝 I’m working on plans for a new guide which will (hopefully) excite word-smiths everywhere; more on this project in the coming months. 
  • 📝 📖 I’m writing a pseudo-review of a book I’ve been reading which has changed my perspective on so many things, and has similarly confirmed a lot of the mantras which I try to live my life by. This will be out by the end of January.
  • 📝 🤝 I will be releasing many new articles in my Minimum Viable Network series.
  • 🎸 😉 I’ll be doing more work with artists (some have asked me to manage ha!) — maybe there’s a producer-credit in my future.  
  • 🤔 📖  There are a few of my past articles which I have been toying with revising into a rough pitch for a book. Let’s see what the year brings. 
  • 😄 I will be exploring more speaking opportunities.
  • 😎 🤘With the 2017 list out, I’m ready to start working on the new “100 Awesome Independent Album and EP Releases You Probably Missed” list for 2018.
  • 😄 🙌 I’m excited to start having * Many * More * Conversations * — I’m all about creating new things, and I look forward to picking up new projects throughout the new year, both with current partners in crime and new draftees.

Thank you to everyone who helped me pull through 2017. Your support means more than you know. Now, on to 2018!

***

Find me on Twitter @adammarx13 and let’s talk music, tech, and business!