Election 2018 – How I accidentally became a “bundler”

The most recent blog post here was me talking about a little ActBlue page I had set up to make it easier to donate to a number of critical House of Representatives races all at once – the “Tossup Twenty”.  I primarily built it as a way of making it easier for me to donate to these campaigns – sharing it with others was an afterthought.

Why?  I believe that Republicans need to get kicked out of Congress for gross incompetence.  They tried to destroy the healthcare system for tens of millions of Americans with no plan to address it.  In the height of an economic boom, they passed a tax cut that will cost the economy trillions… completely backwards to how governments should work.  (cut taxes in hard times to grow, increase taxes in good times to build reserves)

So I built the “Tossup Twenty” page, and shared it twice each on Twitter and Facebook – not expecting much to come out of it.  But lo and behold, anyone can become a bundler!  Using the page I set up I ended up raising $8358 from ~30 people.  Except for one person, I’d never met or talked to anyone that donated via my page.

What I’ve learned from this is twofold:

  1. there’s value in making your own judgments and helping people make a bigger (or more specific) impact.  I think it was useful for others to quickly donate to a bunch of close races, but aggregating which ones wasn’t easy.
  2. people will donate even without any connection.  I had assumed this page would be a personal tool since I didn’t know many people that would donate to a page that hadn’t tried to specifically sell them.  I was wrong!

I now have a benchmark and plan to do a lot more in the runup to the 2020 elections.  And I hope to get some data on the costs of running races in various districts (based on media markets) to help make even more careful choices.

For posterity, here are all the candidates in the “Tossup Twenty” – I’ll be updating how their races turn out, so be sure to check back!

Candidate (District) Election Eve – 538 Likelihood Result?
Dean Phillips (MN-03) 85% WIN!
Katie Porter (CA-45) 83% TBD
Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) 78% WIN!
Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) 67% WIN!
Kim Schrier (WA-08) 67% WIN!
Jared Golden (ME-02) 64% TBD
Paul Davis (KS-02) 62% lost
Antonio Delgado (NY-19) 61% WIN!
Gil Cisneros (CA-39) 58% TBD
Dan Feehan (MN-01) 56% lost
Andy Kim (NJ-03) 55% TBD
Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07) 52% WIN!
Dan McCready (NC-09) 47% lost
Leslie Cockburn (VA-05) 46% lost
Amy McGrath (KY-06) 46% lost
Kara Eastman (NE-02) 42% lost
Danny O’Connor (OH-12) 35% lost
Brendan Kelly (IL-12) 28% lost
Aftab Pureval (OH-01) 20% lost
Joe Radinovich (MN-08) 19% lost

On an end note (for the record) there are a few other races I particularly care about:

Michigan Secretary of State – Jocelyn Benson is the only choice in this race.  She’s super-qualified, having literally written the book on the job of Secretary of State.  Also – she’s a marathoner and competed in the Boston Marathon while 8 months pregnant — can you say “badass”? — SHE WON!

Minnesota Attorney General – Keith Ellison has to be the choice in this race.  Yes, there are allegations about him that shouldn’t be brushed aside.  But his opponent – Doug Wardlow – is an a**hole.  I was in school with him for years, and he’s always been an a**hole.  He would be a travesty for justice in the state of Minnesota. — HE WON!

Texas Senate – Beto O’Rourke.  If Beto loses, I hope he runs for President in 2020 because he has a way of communicating issues that really resonates with me, and those messages need to be heard as the Democrats nominate a Presidential candidate in 2020.  I don’t have a view on if he could or should win the nomination — but what he says and how he says it would be invaluable to the rest of the field.  (Also, he’s running against Ted Cruz and I love the Al Franken line: “Here’s the thing you have to understand about Ted Cruz.  I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.”) — he lost

 

The Toss-up Twenty – please donate!

tl;dr – please donate to the Toss-up Twenty candidates for Congress

I’ve got a cast on my hand and it’s hard to type, so I’m going to make this short.  The current Republican party is corrupt to its core, with it’s elected members only serving themselves personally and their party, while not giving a crap about their constituents.

The best way to start changing this is for the US to elect more Democrats than Republicans to the House of Representatives on Election Day: November 6, 2018.  That is just a short 68 days away!

A Democratic-controlled Congress will rein in ethics abuses and corruption that Republicans have let flourish, address healthcare costs and access, and try to fix the growing divide between the wealthy and average Americans.

There are twenty seats that could easily tip the balance (or not) for Democratic control of the US House this fall.  They’re all “toss-up” races per the FiveThirtyEight House forecast.  (Which I used because I really like 538’s approach to forecasting.)

I’ve created an ActBlue page that lets you donate to all 20 of these Democratic candidates at once.  Every single dollar helps!  It will pay for texts to potential voters, phone lines to contact voters, staff to organize volunteers, advertising and more.  Your money has the biggest bang for its buck in these “toss-up twenty” races, where Every. Single. One. could decide the fate of Congress.

So please check out the Toss-up Twenty ActBlue donation page, and donate what you can to turning the House blue this November.

 

Becoming Superhuman (with email, at least)

In the original Matrix movie, one of the most striking scenes to my younger self was the scene where a simple upload of combat training turned Neo from a n00b to a bad-ass warrior, going toe to toe with Lawrence Fishburne in a kung fu dojo.  As an optimist, I dream of the instant step-change in personal capability.

giphy3

While technology can’t turn anyone into a kung fu master via uploading a program directly to your brain, that was the feeling I got when I got on-boarded to Superhuman a few months ago.  It was a step-change in my ability to process my email.

You can find endless tweets about Superhuman – they fall neatly into two categories:

  1. New users tweeting about how Superhuman has blown their mind and/or transformed their productivity
  2. People who want to be users begging for access. 🙂

I couldn’t find any blog posts about what it’s like to use Superhuman, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.  Consider this a love letter to a product that’s already made me much more productive.

Speed

Holy s**tballs, Superhuman is FAST.  Like crazy-fast.  Instant responsiveness fast.  The website talks about the 100ms threshold “where interactions feel instantaneous”… and yeah.

I even went through old email, pressing the “E” key (to archive) as fast as I could to see if Superhuman could keep up with it, and yeah… Superhuman can respond faster than I could repeatedly press the same key.  There is nothing – anywhere in the Superhuman interface – where a user has to wait.  And as everyone knows,

⏱ == 💰💰💰

giphy2

Command-K (aka Quicksilver for email)

About ten years ago I was a rabid user of Quicksilver on the Mac – where in a simple interface you could do anything – launch apps, manipulate files, trigger emails… anything.  It was super-powerful.

In Superhuman, hitting “Command-K” triggers the “Superhuman Command” menu – which gives you ultimate power over your email.  No matter what you want to do – you can do it by triggering the Superhuman Command.

This leads me to another reason why Superhuman is so fast, and why Command-K helps make it so powerful…

Keyboard shortcuts

You might think – “hey, Gmail already has keyboard shortcuts” or “it’s hard to remember all those shortcuts” or maybe even “huh?”.

If you want to process email quickly, one of the fastest ways you can do that is with keyboard shortcuts.  Your fingers are already over the keys.  Moving them to click/drag/double-click on your trackpad or mouse means moving your hand, making that movement, and then moving your hand back.  It might not seem that slow, but if you have to do it constantly that time adds up… especially when you compare it to the fractions of a second it takes to do the same thing on a keyboard.

giphy1

Whatever you do in Superhuman, the interface gently reminds you of the keyboard shortcut needed to do that same thing.  If you move your mouse over the compose email button, it reminds you that you just have to type “C” to do the same thing.

compose.png

Do you want to delete your draft?  It’s “Command-Shift-period”

Discard.png

Want to cc or bcc someone?  There’s a shortcut for that:

CCBCC.png

 

The amazing thing about how Superhuman helps here is that these pointers are only shown to users who aren’t using those shortcuts already.  If you’re a power user, Superhuman just stays out of your way.

Until you’ve used keyboard shortcuts as the core of your email experience, you have no idea how much faster you can get through email.

Best-of extensions

There is frankly a pretty big universe of Gmail extensions to give Gmail users powers that Gmail has never built.  Specifically, features like:

  • Send later (at a time you want)
  • Remind me (at a specific time if someone hasn’t responded to your email… or no matter what)
  • Read receipts – who’s opened your message
  • Undo send
  • Rapportive-style sidebar (Superhuman’s founders also created Rapportive)

ALL of these are BUILT-IN to Superhuman!

giphy

Clean and beautiful

Gmail was revolutionary back in 2004, but even with the recent changes to the interface, it’s still cluttered.

Superhuman is simple, clean, and beautiful.  Just… beautiful.

And if/when you get to Inbox Zero, you also get a beautiful reward — a screen like this: (details of my particular inbox setup are blocked out)

Superhuman.png

Hold on… it can’t be THAT amazing…

Ah, but it is.  Seriously.  If you spend a substantial amount of time in email the time and effort Superhuman saves you will be worth every penny you spend on it.

That said, Superhuman is still early.  There’s an iPhone app, but no Android app.  There are some promising calendar features… but they’re not (yet) as powerful as they eventually will be.  I know many heavy email users who depend a lot on separating communication (email) from tasks, so I think there’s opportunity in Superhuman helping those users move easily between email and a tasklist.  For new users to Superhuman I’d love to have a Superhuman Command for “email bankruptcy” where it archives literally everything in your inbox so a person can start from scratch.  And there are still some fairly rare cases where Superhuman sends you to Gmail to do particular things, like adjust filter settings.

Despite all that, you can think of my problems as those of absence.  What’s been built in Superhuman is amazing… just not everything has been built yet. 🙂

Final thoughts

I wrote this because I’ve become a massive fan of Superhuman, and I wanted to share why.  You may have seen the tweets of new users who are blown away by it, but I wanted to share at least my experience as to why it’s been so meaningful to my productivity.

The wait list for Superhuman is… long.  Tens of thousands of people long.  That said, the onboarding process is white-glove: Superhuman has a team who works with each new user, helping set up Superhuman to match how each person works.

If you live in email, I strongly recommend that you sign up to (eventually) get access.

 

TweetOrder – I built a thing

If you’re a frequent Twitter consumer (as I am), you might be familiar with the frustrations of millions of users that want to see their Twitter stream in chronological order, not the “algorithmically-best-based-on-what-Twitter-thinks-you’ll-engage-with-order”.  When news is breaking (or during live sports) it’s… jarring to see Tweets from early in the day mixed in with very recent tweets.

But…

A few months ago I saw a tweet from Andy Baio (@waxpancake on Twitter) that showed how to use Twitter’s native search functions to get to a Tweetstream that showed Tweets in chronological order.  And not only did it do that, but it also removed replies, ads, etc.  You only saw tweets from people you followed, and in chronological order.

Because Twitter is Twitter, there’s a different URL scheme to access what Andy shared, depending on if you’re on a desktop or mobile browser.  Because… Twitter.  <sigh>  Which sucked because there’s no way I was going to bookmark two obscure URLs (and absolutely no way I was going to remember them offhand).

So I built TweetOrder…

🔥💥🌟 Check out https://tweetorder.com to get your Twitter feed in chronological order! 🌟💥🔥

As a fun bonus, if you go to https://tweetorder.com when you’re logged out (or in an incognito window) you see what appears to be the most recent tweets across *all* Twitter users.  This is a really interesting window into the diversity of Twitter worldwide.  Finally, if you’ve read this far, also check out the TweetOrder about page, and follow TweetOrder on Twitter.  Thanks again to Andy Baio for the inspiration!

Make a difference in government: a 3-step guide for blue state tech workers

money-talks

As a blue state tech worker (CA, in my case) it seems that I don’t have a lot of ways to affect politics. My Senators, representative, and local politicians already hold the same values and believe in the same policies I do. But I want to make a difference for Americans across the country, especially those that are in danger of a Trump administration. For others in my situation, here is a simple, 3-step guide to make a difference in our country:

Step 1 — Ask if your employer offers a gift match on charitable donations! It’s not unusual for top technology employers to match thousands of dollars a year.

Step 2 — Create an account on CharityNavigator. It’s a leading site to help make good decisions on how to spend charitable donations. It rates charities on a 0 to 4-star scale, where 4-star charities are “Exceptional”, exceeding industry standards and outperforming most charities in its cause, and 3-star charities are “Good”, exceeding/meeting industry standards and performing as good or better than charities in its cause. (Donating through CharityNavigator then makes it very easy to do your tax paperwork!)

Step 3 — Give to top-rated non-profits that correspond to the causes you care about, and take advantage of your employer’s gift match! Make an impact with dollars. A $1000 donation with an employer gift match gives $2000 to the charity, but could only cost you ~$700 with your tax deduction. Check these causes and charities out… and donate:

Environment

Civil Rights

Women’s Health

Other


Originally published at per aspera ad astra.

President Trump

It’s official: Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.

I’m deeply saddened, and am finding it hard to deal with this news. It shows just how insulated we’ve become as a country. We’ve always been divided (Hamilton reminded me of this), but the effects of social media has made this feel worse. Because you only tend to hear the news you want from the people that believe the same way you do, it hits harder when you realize how many people are on the other side.

I deeply worry about the country under President Trump. Less because of what he believes in policy-wise, far more because of how his election could embolden those who try to drive us apart. If you’re not a white, straight, Christian male, the next four years just became a lot scarier. People I know are literally scared for their personal safety. The kind of visceral hate, racism, anti-Semitism, and sexism that we saw in the primary and general elections could become far more powerful and dangerous to individual American’s lives when Trump leads the government and the party that controls all branches of government. Incidents of violence toward Muslims, Jews, LGBTs, and more have had an uptick during Trump’s run because his campaign implicitly (explicitly?) encouraged that type of behavior. I pray that this trend will stop and reverse, but I worry it will only get worse.

This was lost in the coverage last night, but for the second time in five presidential elections, the Presidential candidate who won more votes lost the Electoral College. I don’t think the Electoral College will ever go away, but I’m frustrated by this frequency.

Practically, there will be two years of a unified Republican government (Presidency, Senate, House, Supreme Court) before voters have their say again to re-elect Congress. Maybe things will change then, maybe not. I certainly hope so, but given built-in advantages the Republicans have with congressional districting, I’m skeptical. I worry that America’s debt will skyrocket from poorly-planned tax cuts. I worry that rights (like the right to marry who you want, whether you’re straight or gay) will be rolled back and cause chaos across the country. I worry about violence toward anyone that’s not a straight, white, Christian male.

I worry about the message that this has sent to women, especially young women. When the most qualified Presidential candidate in history (Senator, SecState, etc) is beaten by the least qualified Presidential candidate in history (no elected history, no military service), and the most qualified candidate is a woman? That message from voters is a punch to the gut to millions of women who have had the same thing happen to them.

But I believe in America, and as a country I believe we can survive four years of President Trump. The cost of survival may be high, and it the burden of that cost will be unequal. But in 2020 he’ll have to face voters; this time with four years of actually being President. Will he be able to achieve what he’s promised, or will he have been outed as a carnival huckster? That will be an interesting election.

I keep coming back to the Zen Master story from Charlie Wilson’s War:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/B2L1-TgfKb4

“We’ll see”


Originally published at per aspera ad astra.

$20 Billion — and a relaunch of Seed-DB


Just 11 years after Y Combinator funded the first handful of companies in the first seed accelerator, over $20 billion has been raised by accelerator graduates. For those keeping track at home, this is just 16 months after accelerator graduates passed the $10 billion raised milestone.

Over $5 billion in exits have already been achieved by accelerator graduates. Companies that have yet to exit are collectively valued at over $80 billion.

Early stage startups continue to be a power-law phenomenon. Despite funding over 6,000 companies in nearly 200 programs around the world, 75% of the investment dollars have gone into accelerator graduates of just four programs: Y Combinator, Techstars, 500 startups, and Angelpad.

That said, this stat isn’t as dramatic as it might appear. Those four programs have collectively funded over 40% of the 6,000+ graduates. Essentially, they’re prominent because they figured out ways to scale effectively, either through bigger class sizes or more frequent programs. Between these programs’ alumni and mentor networks, and reputational effects, they’re able to consistently find, fund, and mentor a higher-achieving tier of startups.

And while you obviously don’t have to go through an accelerator to succeed; it helps. Pitchbook found that one-third of startups that raised a Series A round in 2015 went through an accelerator. But only about 1,200 companies per year went through an accelerator in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and there were far more than 3,600 companies started each of those years. So while companies that go through an accelerator are a small portion of early-stage startups (likely 10% or less), they are a much larger percentage of successful startups (33%).

Why Seed-DB?

One of the big reasons I created Seed-DB is because the world of accelerators is plagued by anecdata. It’s easy to remember the accelerators that helped the B2C companies that you may use today; it’s harder to know about accelerators behind the B2B hard-tech companies that don’t get a lot of press but are growing like crazy. I also believe there are some great accelerators (or at least accelerators that have found great companies) that don’t get the attention they deserve.

For example, did you know the Flashpoint program at Georgia Tech funded two companies that have both gone on to raise over $100million each? Did you know the third biggest exit of an accelerator company (for $350million) came from AngelPad?

Seed-DB exists to give entrepreneurs the data on which companies have been through which programs, in order to make more informed choices. To answer the questions: is an accelerator right for me? Which accelerator is right for me? And why?

Seed-DB — relaunch

Today also marks a re-launch of Seed-DB! While the user interface hasn’t changed substantially (I’m not a strong front-end developer), the data structures behind the scenes have changed substantially.

Charts & Tables

Tabular data is valuable, but charts bring data to life. Seed-DB now has a dedicated “Charts & Tables” page to showcase this information. There are four key charts:

  • Total number of accelerator companies over time, updated monthly

TotalCompanies

  • Total funding (in $) of accelerator companies over time, updated daily — now > $20 billion

TotalFunding

  • Number of funding rounds over time, updated daily

NumberOfRounds

  • Number of accelerator cohorts/batches over time, updated monthly

NumberCohorts

  • Log/Log chart of company total funding (for companies that have raised >$500k)

LogLogChart

You can see from these charts that there was a significant change in trajectory with more companies going through accelerators starting in 2011, which increased further in 2012. The chart of total funding has a significant trajectory change in 2014, which increased again in 2015.

The same page also has some of the most popular tables:

Focus on Cohorts

The biggest data structure change has been a pivot on accelerator cohorts or batches. Previously each accelerator was a flat list of companies they had funded, though Seed-DB did store the month they started with at the program. Now each accelerator shows the highlights of each individual cohort, and then you can drill down further to see individual companies in that cohort. (You can toggle back to the old view if you want, though.)

This is significantly faster for most users, but also shows a new layer of detail. It’s clear to see that one of the most successful YC companies to date (AirBnB) was in one of the smallest YC classes ever, in the middle of the financial crisis in Jan — Mar 2009.

Additionally, this cleans up the user experience for accelerators that run multiple programs in different cities or verticals. (Specifically, programs like Techstars, DreamIT Ventures, Startupbootcamp, Wayra, etc) Instead of each of these programs getting listed as separate accelerators, the various cohorts are all grouped together in one overall accelerator.

Sign Up for Updates

Interested in how accelerators progress over time? It’s been just 16 months for accelerator companies to raise $10 billion; would you like to know how quickly the next $5 or $10 billion is raised? You can now click Login, OAuth with Google or Facebook, and click one button to sign up for updates on when high-level milestones are reached. (Your email address won’t be shared, and updates will be infrequent.)

You can also sign up for the Seed-DB newsletter, which will have more analysis and long-form updates, and is sent even more infrequently.

Better on Mobile

While I won’t say Seed-DB is truly mobile optimized, the tables of data in Seed-DB can be used far more easily on mobile than they ever have before, and the new charts work great on mobile, too. (Thanks, d3.js!)

Patreon Campaign

Finally, I’ve kicked off a Patreon campaign to help support Seed-DB. If you find Seed-DB valuable for yourself or the startup community, please consider supporting the campaign! No funds will go to Jed; they will all be used to either pay monthly infrastructure costs, or go to contractors to help with data collection. In other words, any contributions only go to keeping Seed-DB running and improving data quality.

Personal Disclaimer: I did my first research into accelerators in the summer of 2009, and created Seed-DB in the summer of 2012. Two and a half years ago I started working for Techstars as a Product Manager. This post represents my personal views, and not those of Techstars. All data comes from Seed-DB alone.


Originally published at per aspera ad astra.