Copycats can drown
Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. Subscribe here to receive this information in your inbox.
Let’s end the year by continuing to return columns I wrote that have aged, but, interestingly. I wrote in July about how Y Combinator is building a Product Hunt. Product Hunt is building an Andreessen Hoowitz, and Andreessen Hoowitz is building a Y Combinator. It was a not-so-subtle nod to how top institutions are trying to be accelerators, discovery engines, content marketers and check-writers all in one.
Enter to the latest. Future, Andreessen Horowitz’s formal foray into tech media, is shutting down less than two years after first launching, according to Business Insider. I believe the shutdown is less about a venture company failing to get into the editorial space — the company is still creating content and even building new podcasts on tech and culture — but more about how the medium truly conveys the message.
The whole appeal of being a founder or venture capitalist is built around assumptions. First, you must have something to say. You must also believe that you can present that content in a compelling manner, and that it is consistent. Third, and perhaps the most important of all, you must trust your valuable, well-packaged content.
It is one of many reasons media is hard business. Future was shut down despite the fact that Venture Capital could continue funding a version. While some believe that the firm had an obvious advantage in having a home to house smart content on its portfolio company ,, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has the impact an institution would desire.
A16z has built a reputation around being a services-oriented firm. The story is not about a venture company with billions under management failing to succeed in a bold experiment. Organizations are learning in real-time what translates and what doesn’t in their pursuit to become an accelerator, discovery engine or content marketer.
We often think of venture capital’s webs in a conflict-of-interest type aperture. There will be more on that angle in the coming weeks. This week, however, I was thinking about how the intertwinement between different themes, trends, and products changes as priorities change.
Executive turnover and the art of conflict
Tech has raised many questions about the stability of certain industries, roles, and if growth can prevent companies from being laid off. This week’s big news was Bret Taylor’s resignation as Salesforce’s CEO and co-chair. He had been fired from his position as Twitter board chair after Elon Musk bought it.
But this isn’t the only kerfuffle this week.
DoorDash and Kraken have cut portions of their workforce this week. BloomTech, formerly known as Lambda School, cut half of staff in its third layoff since the beginning of the pandemic. And on Friday, Opendoor CEO Eric Wu stepped down, to be succeeded by CFO Carrie Wheeler. I am constantly thinking about the second-order consequences of turnover, both voluntary or involuntary.
Here are the reasons why this is so important, via Brava Leaders CEO Karla Monteroso:
We are at the beginning of creating what multicultural institutions look like and how they will operate. I believe that a lot of the turnovers we are seeing, whether it’s the layoffs, or the new management, is indicative that people are trying to create homogeneity within their companies.
They do a layoff and take out all the complexity. They take out the friction-producing parts of the organization. This friction is what makes multicultural institutions more efficient, as they ask different types of questions. Many of the new leaders don’t have the experience or the ability to manage a multicultural company or organization. They just don’t have enough range to manage multicultural organizations. This creates homogeneity, which is what makes a group of leaders feel comfortable right now. We will need to have leadership that is more comfortable with complexity.
- No one seemed to see Bret Taylor stepping away from Salesforce (even Marc Benioff)
- Frequent conflict is a new requirement for startup leaders
- This secondary markets expert says we haven’t hit bottom yet
Are red flags that easy to spot?
Equity also unpacked the latest blog post written by famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley — in which he lists out the red flags that investors should look out for when investing in startups. As you may be able to tell by our title of the episode, we certainly had thoughts.
Here’s why this is important: While I’m all for highlighting explicit mistakes that budding investors should avoid, Gurley’s post missed a key point — which is that many investors do know how to identify red flags, they just choose to ignore them in pursuit of “the outlier.” What will actually stop investors from backing the next FTX is to create an environment where conflict is prioritized over groupthink.
[Insert good news here]
We’re officially at the season, and part the news cycle, when we’re desperately looking for good news to highlight.
Here is what made me smile this past week:
- IIT> MIT
- Luna the cat
- Ed Zitron’s cats
- This piece of art
- A love story
- A literal good news thread from Alex
- And this very thoughtful gift guide for frequent travelers
A few notes
- We’re going to space. It’s possible. We’re going to Los Angeles for space discussions. Meet the brightest space professionals on December 6. Here’s a link to buy tickets. We also have a special discount for students who want to attend, so check out this link if you are still in school.
- Speaking of events, we want to meet your startup at CES this year! The team is already gathering the startups they want to cover — so fill out this form so we can get some early eyes on your innovation.
- General shout out to Alyssa Stringer, TC’s audience development manager, for being one of the hardest working people I know. Follow her on Twitter for the latest and greatest.
- Big thank you to Equity listeners who shared how we ranked in their Spotify Unwrapped. It’s always a great reminder to remember that people listen — and there are many of them!
Seen on TechCrunch
Seen on TechCrunch
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I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.