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The New York City startup community is way more diverse than the other leading technology hubs in the US. According to a 2022 report from the Center for an Urban Future and Tech:NYC: Black and Hispanic New Yorkers make up 20.8% of New York’s tech sector workforce, compared to 8.5% in the San Francisco Bay Area and 9.7% in the Boston/Cambridge area. While this level of diversity represents a competitive advantage for New York over other tech hubs, it is still a far way off from New York’s overall demographic numbers.

So Tech:NYC, where I am the Chair, launched a program yesterday to tackle this head-on. They call it Startup:NYC and it builds upon the success of their Founder House, which launched in summer 2023 to give New York tech founders a space and programming to facilitate connection and collaboration with peers, investors, and industry experts. Over the first two cohorts of the program, Founder House has hosted 80+ founders, 63% of which are BIPOC-identified, and 46% identify as women.

Startup:NYC is about building a community of diverse founders who can together build the next generation of great startups in NYC. Go here to see the range of programming, events, and community that founders in NYC can access via Startup:NYC.

The Annual NYC Computer Science Fair

Our family's public charity, Gotham Gives, along with Tech:NYC, puts on the Annual NYC Computer Science Fair with help from the broader tech community in NYC.

The Fair happened yesterday at the Armory in Washington Heights.

The Fair brings together about 2000 NYC public high school students who are studying computer science with about fifty tech companies and about twenty colleges and dozens of after-school CS programs. It was described to me yesterday as a "science fair meets a job fair" and that's exactly right.

The idea is to show NYC public school students, many of whom are from families with no connection to the tech sector, that they are candidates to work in tech if they take the right classes, work hard, and develop skills that make them employable.

We have been putting on the Fair since 2013 and even did two virtual fairs during the pandemic. The in-person ones are a lot better!

I had the pleasure of touring NYC School Chancellor David Banks around the Fair mid-morning. We stopped at about a dozen booths and rooms and met a bunch of students, teachers, tech companies, and non-profits working in CS Education.

That's the Chancellor doing a robotics project with some young women from Forest Hills who compete in a robotics tournament under the name Metro Joules.

My favorite moment of the tour was a visit to the Dream Machine which is a visual AI experience built by the Bright Moments DAO which is in the USV portfolio.

That's a student "prompting" the Dream Machine with a story about Spiderman playing pickup basketball. The students enjoyed coming up with dreams and prompting the Dream Machine to display them on the big screen. On the way out, the Chancellor and I discussed how technology like this could be used in helping students learn.

It gives me great pride and satisfaction that we can put on a day like this for the students of NYC. It could not happen without the leadership of Jennifer Klopp, who runs Gotham Gives, and the Tech:NYC team. And we are incredibly grateful for the financial support of our sponsors; Etsy, Justworks, Warby Parker, Kickstarter, Microsoft, Google, Coinbase, Uniswap, SoundCloud, Splice, Deloitte, Pilot Fiber and Primary VC. And huge thanks to all of the companies, universities and non-profits that had booths at the Fair this year.

A recent survey suggests that about 60mm Americans own crypto assets. That's almost 20% of the country. That's three times as many people as belong to unions. That is twenty times the number of Americans that own an electric vehicle.

Crypto holders/advocates should be a potent voting bloc in the US and hopefully we will see that in this election cycle.

The non-profit is all about activating the crypto voter.

Almost 400,000 individuals have joined StandWithCrypto, including yours truly, and I want to encourage all pro-crypto readers of this blog to join me in doing that.

You can do that by going here and click on "joint the fight."

I've also added a call to action to join StandWithCrypto to the top of this blog and will keep it there through this November's election and possibly beyond that.

Helium Mobile vs Wifi Calling

I have been a T-Mobile customer for many years. I switched to T-Mobile back when they offered "bring your own phone" and ATT and Verizon were not doing the same. I like companies that let you do things your way.

But T-Mobile does not have great service in several important locations for me, like our home in NYC, our beach house, and our ski house. So I use wifi calling on T-Mobile in those locations and it works reasonably well. But it is not perfect.

I became a Helium Mobile customer last August and wrote about it then. Helium Mobile is the 5G cellular service offered by our portfolio company Nova Labs using the Helium hotspot network and backfill via T-Mobile.

And a month or so ago, I bought some of the new Helium Mobile hotspots and started installing them in our homes and offices. I did this to participate in the Helium network and earn Mobile token rewards.

However, I realized a fantastic side benefit which is that my second sim (a downloadable esim) on my phone has way better service when I am near a Helium Mobile hotspot than what I get using wifi calling on T-Mobile.

I've always thought of Helium as a way of participating in a network and earning rewards for doing so. But now Helium is also providing "single user utility" in the form of way better cellular service in locations that don't have that.

So if you live and/or work in a location where you don't get great cell service and if wifi calling doesn't completely solve that problem for you, trying signing up for Helium Mobile for $20/month, getting a second sim in your phone, and putting a Helium Mobile hotspot in that location. It works great for me.

Anatomy Of A Twitter/X Account Takeover Hack

On Tuesday, I had my @fredwilson account taken over.

I haven't used that account for almost eighteen months, but it has almost 700,000 followers and has the potential to do a lot of harm in the wrong hands.

I am writing this to explain what happened so that others might learn from my mistakes.

On Tuesday at 3:35pm eastern, while I was in a taxi on my way from a doctor appointment to my home office, I saw this email come into my inbox.

That got my attention. A "login to my account" from an iPhone in Greece was certainly not me.

I should have looked more closely at the sender email address. That would have told me this was a scam. But I was on a call on my phone, in a taxi, so I clicked on the "Secure your X account now here" link and logged in to change my password. In doing so, I provided my password and two factor code to the hacker.

There are a host of mistakes in that last paragraph. All of them are things I know better than to do. But I did all of them.

First, I should have inspected the sender email address more closely. I did not.

Second, I should have inspected the URL of the webpage that the "secure your account now here" link took me to. I did not.

Third, I should have just ignored the email because I have a strong 2 factor system using Yubikeys on that account. I also have a very strong password on it. A login from an iPhone in Greece would be almost impossible.

But I did none of those things. I was multi-tasking, in transit, and jet lagged. And I screwed up.

I knew it almost instantly. And then, for three hours I tried escalating the situation to Twitter/X support to get them to shut the account down. I knew what was coming. Anyone who has access to that account can run a scam at almost 700k followers.

I was unable to get to anyone who could escalate to Twitter. I filed several account takeover support requests and texted a bunch of people I thought could get to someone at Twitter. But none of that worked.

It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I knew what was coming and could not stop it.

Around 6:15pm eastern, this scam was posted to my account.

Almost immediately my phone filled up with messages from all sorts of people letting me know my account had been hacked. A few of them offered to escalate to Twitter/X. I encouraged all of them to do that.

In particular, Sriram Krishnan came to the rescue. Not only did he escalate to the right people at Twitter/X, but he also helped me in the following days to get control of my account back. I am extremely grateful for all that he did for me this week.

I am not clear what kind of scam was run on claim-fred dot com. It could have simply been a way to get minting fees. But I fear it was a more sophisticated attack aimed at sweeping wallets of funds and NFTs. I feel terrible about that. It would not have happened but for my mistakes.

I'd also love any suggestions for getting claim-fred dot com taken down. Coinbase Wallet has a warning on it already which is great.

But I'd like to see it come down entirely if there is a way to make that happen.

I am frequently targeted with hacks. There have been three now that I have written about on AVC. Two of them have come in the last few months. I understand I am a target. I also understand that I have a responsibility to exercise great caution because of that.

I failed to do that this week and I am very sorry about that.

From Kik to Kin to Code

Thirteen years ago, USV invested in the Kik, the company behind the popular messaging app of the same name, and I joined the Board. That set me off on a journey that went from mobile messaging (Kik), to crypto (Kin), to payments (Code).

One of the things about me, and my partners at USV, is we tend to stick with companies and their founders for the long haul. One can argue the merits of that approach, but it is what we do, and this particular journey is an excellent example.

When the Kik messenger app lost out in the race to become the dominant mobile messenger, the team, led by Kik's founder Ted Livingston, pivoted to building a native cryptocurrency, Kin, that would work inside the Kin messenger. That was a novel idea at the time and we are only now starting to see how powerful messaging and money are together in a single app.

That led to the idea of building a developer ecosystem around Kin, which led to the Kin Rewards Engine, another novel idea of giving developers an economic incentive to build on a crypto asset. That idea has very much come of age now.

After giving Kin to the ecosystem, and selling the Kik messenger, Ted and the team behind Kik and Kin, started a non-profit to build the killer app for Kin, called Code.

After two and half years of iterating and building, they have formed a new for-profit company called Code to bring to market a global payments app, also called Code. And they have raised a round of financing to support the go-to-market effort.

You can see Code in action by scrolling down here and you can download it here.

We are very bullish on payment applications being built on web3 rails. The Code team has a novel and different approach to the market that we are excited about.

And, of course, we are always eager to support a team that we have worked with over a long period of time and built strong and deep relationships with.

Investing At The Edge

About a year ago, the USV partnership kicked off a process to articulate an overarching thesis for how we invest across all of the sectors we are active in. Over the years, we have broadened the aperture of where we invest but have approached each sector with a similar angle. We wanted to find the words to articulate that angle and put them on the home page of our website and front and center in our minds.

That process culminated in a blog post that Nick wrote and posted yesterday. You should go read that entire post. It is excellent. But to summarize, we chose these words to describe what we invest in at USV:

USV invests at the edge of large markets being transformed by technological and societal pressures

Each word in that sentence was chosen for a reason but two of them are worth calling out:

Edge - we want to be investing at the edge of markets. We have found that attacking the status quo with a full frontal assault is difficult. Making an end run around it is a lot easier.

Societal - most people think VCs invest in technological changes. We have found that our greatest returns come from societal changes.

A single sentence can say a lot and we think this one does. If you want the detail and context behind it, go read Nick's post.

Minting Is the Native Business Model for Web3 (and maybe AI too)

We have all been targeted by ads that you look at and wonder “how do they know I am in the market for that product?” The answer is that the AI/ML models that big tech companies have trained on our personal data are incredibly accurate and powerful. 

There are two problems with this:

The first is that “our data” which they use to train their models actually belongs to us but for two decades now, we have been giving it to big tech companies.

The second is the models that are trained on our data belong to big tech even though they are trained on our data.

It doesn’t have to be this way and I don’t believe it will be this way for much longer.

Web3 will help.

Let me explain.

If you go to, you will find a social feed that feels like Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, etc that you can scroll through and like the things you see. But there is one difference, liking is called minting on Zora. You don’t just tell the creator you like their work, you send them a tiny bit of money and you get to own a copy of the work.

It may not seem like much, but the difference here is that you own one of the things you liked and you paid a tiny bit for it. If the creator gets a thousand people to do what you did, which is not that uncommon at places like Zora, they make a nice bit of money on their work.

And the collector is building their own data set that they own. It is on the blockchain and it belongs to them.

The next obvious step is for companies like Zora to offer collectors the ability to train models on their collections. This turns their collections into training data sets. But these are training data sets the collectors own. Not training data sets that Zora owns.

It won’t be long until we have open-source AI/ML models that we can run on our phones. These will be our models and we can train them on our data sets.

Consider this blog post. You can collect it too. There is a green button on the upper right of this post that says Collect. When you click that the same thing happens here as what happens on Zora. I get a tiny bit of money and you get your own copy of this post. 

Below is a screenshot of an Ethereum wallet I have connected to this blog. You can see some of the collecting transactions from this blog over the last week or two.

So what is going on here?

1/ Writers are getting paid for their work

2/ Readers are building a data set that they own, On Chain. Not on Facebook.

The next obvious step is for us to have our own open-source models that we train on these collections we are building.

These open-source models will help us write, find new things to read, and more. It can inspire us to start a new company, invest in a new company, listen to a new song, find artwork to hang over our fireplace and many other things we want to do.

Going back to Chris Dixon’s words in yesterday’s post:

in the long run, we are still going to need an economic covenant between AI systems and content providers. Al will always need new data to stay up to date. The world evolves: tastes change, new genres emerge, things get invented. There will be new subjects to describe and represent. The people who create content that feeds AI systems will need to be compensated. 

There is a way forward that works for writers, readers, collectors, creators, and everyone.

It starts with us owning our work and allowing others to pay us to collect our work.

The thing that makes me so optimistic about this is that it is not some dream. It is happening right here on this blog. The tools we need to change the way the world works are already here. We just need to start using them.

My next post will be about how we get more people using these tools.

The Native Business Model For Content

If I asked you what the native business model for content is, you'd probably say either advertising or subscriptions. But I am starting to think that AI is to content what search engines are to browsers. Money machines.

I was emailing with my friend Lock a few weeks ago and we were talking a bit about my 2024 predictions post. I made reference to the section in that post about AI and litigation and said:

maybe we will get a settlement that makes all the big AIs pay 2/3 of their revenue to content companies and writers and we will have the native revenue model for media!

I was only half joking. 

When the Hollywood writers went on strike, I suggested to all of my writer friends that they should be happy to let AIs write films and TV shows as long as they get paid to sit home and do nothing under the premise that the AIs were trained on their work and so they are due royalties.

I was only half joking about that too.

In Chris Dixon’s book, Read Write Own, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, he said this:

Most current AI systems have no economic model for creators... in the long run, we are still going to need an economic covenant between AI systems and content providers. Al will always need new data to stay up to date. The world evolves: tastes change, new genres emerge, things get invented. There will be new subjects to describe and represent. The people who create content that feeds AI systems will need to be compensated. 

I could not agree more.

The only question is how this will come to be.

I think web3 is sitting on the answer.

Tune in tomorrow for more on this.

Transit Tech Lab

The Partnership for NYC, alongside its partners at the MTA, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, NJ TRANSIT, and NYC Department of Transportation, launched a call for applications for the 6th annual Transit Tech Lab this week.

To kick off this year’s program, the Transit Tech Lab is seeking early and growth-stage tech companies with compelling solutions to one of three local transit system challenges:

 Representatives from each participating agency will evaluate applications based on the technology’s impact and the applicant’s product, team, and overall value proposition. Finalists will advance to conduct a proof-of-concept over an eight-week period; the companies demonstrating the most compelling technologies that align with the agencies' objectives have the opportunity to secure a yearlong pilot.

Applications are due Wednesday, February 28.  Interested applicants are invited to attend an information session on February 1 at 1pm ET.

If you know of a company or emerging innovator that would be a good fit for this year’s Transit Tech Lab, please let us know about them via email or encourage them to apply here: