Tennis Is The New Boxing

For all those who got up extremely early today to watch the Australian open finals, you witnessed one of the epic mano y mano battles of all time.

Tennis truly is the new boxing.

Replace Ali and insert Novak and Liston becomes Rafa.

With the Super Bowl coming up and people talking about just how fantastic athletes the players are - or when you get into an argument with someone who will make the argument that soccer players are better athletes than baskeball players remember these stats.

Soccer players run for 90 minutes - perhaps a little longer.

Basketball players run for 48 minutes - perhaps a little longer.

The Aussie open finals just lasted almost 6 hours - 360 minutes of 1 on 1 battle. No dogging it - no timeouts - nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide.

Check out some of these points:

Just unreal - 2 guys at the absolute pinnacle of their powers giving it their all for 6 hours.

And oh yeah, their semi final matches lasted 5 1/2 hours for Djokovic and 4 1/2 hours for Nadal - that's like playing 7 basketball games 2 days ago - then coming back out and doing it again today - at a pace that is nothing but run and gun.

Crazy - and just fantastic.


Don't Humanize My Enemy

Last night HBO aired the last installment of its excellent series 24/7 Flyers Rangers.

As a passionate Rangers fan, I've hated the Flyers - their players and their fans - with the irrational hatred of a partisan for 3 decades.

Bobby clarke - the Broad Street bullies - Ed Snider - Peter LaViolette (a former Islander coach even) - in my book they all have horns and a tail.

And yet here on HBO we see them playing with their kids, cracking jokes and having fun like normal human beings.

My cartoon enemies have become little different than my heros.

And I hate that.

Don't humanize my enemies.

I need my enemies, I want my enemies, I love the fact that I can root passionately for my team knowing full well that we have the moral high ground - we are not only winning games against them - but doing the Lords work along the way by punishing the wicked.

You need look no further than the last 5 minutes of the Winter Classic to see just how wrong the flyers are. Somehow they cajoled the refs into making bad call after bad call - all in their favor. Clearly the work of a hated enemy.

So why this topic?

It dawned on my that if you read tech blogs and interviews with founders you get a general sense of niceness, wishing their competition well, complementing people on their technicall prowess or innovations.

you rarely see any mean side.

And yet the world is fiendishly competitive. The tech world even more so given the speed in which it moves.

I say let's get some nasty back in the business. Let's see the competitive fires burning. Let's hate our competitors the way I hate the Flyers (and Devil, Islanders, Penguins, etc...) Let's wish them less success than we have.

I may love the new Spotify, but in my heart, I'm rooting for my old friends at Pandora. Sure I think Rapleaf has some interesting tech, but I am invested in, and thus rooting for Fliptop - a Raptor portfolio investment.

Let's keep our enemies out there - cartoonishly large - hating them - and channeling our hatred into more innovation, more grit, more competitiveness. Hate that they do anything better than you. Learn from it - but hate it.


Platform or Algorithm ?

Yesterday, I spoke with a founder in the wine business.

Interesting guy, interesting company.

And as we talked we started musing on Spotify, and how it had grown quickly here in the U.S.

This led us to the question of whether you want to be a platform or an algorithm.

do you want to be Spotify or Pandora?

The latest version of spotify is most decidedly a platform. They provide all you can eat music, but the curation is provided either by spotify through its deal with Echonest, by self generated playlists, or by apps that attach to the platform. (check out We Are Hunted)

Pandora is more of an algorithm. It has a ton of data suggesting which songs should be played next in any given situation but you can't tell it which song to play. No one plugs in an app to the Pandora engine to make it better - they optimize themselves.

Back to wine.

Do you want to be the recommendation engine for social sharing - enabling your consumers to make great decisions in the face of overwhelming choice? Or do you want to try and be the distribution platform - enabling the sale of wine to the consumers?

Two different directions, two different sets of challenges, and two different business models.

They key is making sure you understand the distinction between the two.

So which do you want to be?



A Nation Of Digital Shopkeepers

Yesterday Fred Wilson had an interesting post up on about the Louis CK experiment.

On it, I said the following:

Yeah and that's the real interesting thing about all of this.Guys like Louis CK are going to be able to do this because of their built in audience, hard won over years of work, but they are going to make less than they did in the past - as those middlemen extracted pretty high rents for their services.The unknowns will have the ability to make something - rather than nothing.And the middlemen just get run over.So the high end comes down to the middle, and the low end moves up a but - and everyone in the middle gets pushed out of the system period. Frictionless capitalism = Europe. A vast middle class

Which I realize probably needs a little explaination.

I have long held a theory that the Internet is the great leveler - leveling the playing field for just about everybody - or certainly more people than ever. In Internet 1.0, there were a few firms and people that controlled all the traffic, and thus all the monetization - and that Internet reflected the world around it pretty well - to me it looked just like the U.S. at the time - the big corporations got bigger and controlled more and more.

With Web 2.0 and the rise of the social web, and a higher level of inter connectedness (if that's even a word) we've gone back to being nations of shopkeepers. Don't want to buy from Target, no problem - do your XMAS shopping on ETSY. Don't like what Yahoo music is serving up - no problem - Spotify is giving away 6 months of free music - with some great apps to go along with it.

In short, the Internet has driven us back to a more European model.

We live in a wide variety of small villages and groups (Facebook friends and Google circles) and shop in small marketplaces with  highly specialized and curated selections (, Lot 18, Gilt, etc...)

We are a nation of digital shopkeepers.

Only now, we are no longer bound by geography and can live in multiple worlds at the same time.

Also, in the typical European model, due to the social programs, there is a vast middle class who gets by okay. Sure there are still stratas of society and people do move around, but the middle still dominates. Here in the US there is far more stratification and far more mobility but the edges dominate.

The web changes all of this. Margins are consistently compressed driving the high end lower toward the middle, and because of the vast audience you can reach, the very bottom can move up. Those who preyed on the middle - the so called middle men, get squeezed as their traditional command and control function disappears.

Tim Westegren of Pandora used to refer to all of this as an artists middle class - where you were neither struggling to make ends meet nor U2 - but there was a place in the middle where you could produce your art, find an audience, and get by.

We've seen this in music, in crafts (the Etsy's of the world), in book publishing (Wattpad comes to mind), and in other creative pursuits.

It's an interesting phenomenon and certainly worthy of thought and discussion.

Perhaps one of these days, elections in the U.S. and elsewhere will not be framed in light of the traditional issues affecting the physical nation, but the issues affecting the towns we choose to live in and become active in online.



Farnam Street, the fantastic behavioral economics blog, has a great post up there today, on why the mind sometimes misses things it should otherwise catch:

Read it here or check out the better video below.

As an investor in any sector, it is always easy to see things ex post - how many times have you thought to yourself: " Well that was obvious"

The key is to look at every situation, and don't simply dismiss ideas based on your initial biases. Revisit the investment ideas with a clear mind, and see if you spot the dancing bear. Spot enough of them, and you become a better than average investor.