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Citibike Needs Competition

We just got back from week in Paris. We rode Lime and Dott bikes all over town and also rode the Metro extensivey. With the exception of the ride to and from the airport and a trip to the flea market, we didn't get into a car all week.

Paris has massively reduced it's dependence on car traffic and has built an extensive bike lane system. Apparently the pollution from cars is way down in Paris as a result.

Paris has had a city owned bike system called Velib for going on twenty years. Like Citibike, Velib has upgraded in recent years and offers electric bikes.

But in addition to Velib, Paris has licensed ebike companies like Lime and Dott that compete directly with Velib. From what I see out and about in Paris, it has not impacted the use of Velibs, but has done two very important things.

First, Lime and Dott offer ebikes exclusively so the availability of ebikes in Paris is abundant whenever you want one. And Lime and Dott are not Kiosk based but do have to park in designated "Velo" parking spots. Those spots are basically on almost every block.

Contrast this with NYC, which also has built an extensive bike lane system and has seen biking explode as an alternative to the subway and cars.

This morning my nearest Citibike kiosk had only eight bikes in it. Six were the new grey ebikes and none were available due to dead batteries. Of the other two regular bikes, only one was available. So I took it and rode to my coffee shop where I'm writing this post.

Citibike has been great for NYC. I use it pretty much every day when it is nice outside. I love it. But it needs competitors like Lime and Dott.

NYC only needs to look to Paris to see the benefits of competition and kiosk less systems. Bringing them to NYC won't hurt Citibike but it will massively expand the amount of riding going on, particularly on ebikes which are easier to ride and are a great way to get to and from work.

In the current NYC, where congestion pricing is dead and the subway system is scrambling for money, doubling down on biking makes all the sense in the world.

Overheard At USV

A month or so ago, we started sending out a weekly summary of things that were "overheard at USV" in the past week.

That first week was an experiment to see if folks care to know what we talk about around the office.

What we learned from it is that lots of people do care and so we kept doing it each Friday for the last month.

We call it "OH at USV" and you can get it on our USV Twitter account and our USV Farcaster account every Friday afternoon. You can also get it on the USV Farcaster channel.

Our hope and expectation is that by sharing our most interesting conversations with the world we will attract founders who are working on those things to come talk to us. So far, that seems to be working and we are thrilled about that.

Be Generous

I am struck by the difference in approach taken by the top onchain entrepreneurs and the top entrepreneurs from earlier internet eras (web1 and web2).

The earlier internet eras have been marked by companies and founders focused on selfishness:

"Your margin is my opportunity" - Jeff Bezos

"You know, one of my favorite Roman orators ended every speech with the phrase Carthago delenda est--Carthage must be destroyed" - Mark Zuckerberg

But when I look at the top onchain entrepreneurs I see generosity:

The Satoshi mic drop is the greatest entrepreneurial act I have ever witnessed. They created what has become a 1.4 Trillion economy and then just walked away. They gave it to the world and said "it is yours".

Vitalik stuck around but has taken a similar approach. He has welcomed other entrepreneurs to create systems that take value away from the Ethereum blockchain. I would say he has even encouraged it.

How can giving something away or letting others take value from you be good business?

It is all about zero sum thinking. If you think that the size of the pie is fixed, then you need to grab as much of it as you can. But if you are making a pie that can grow and grow and grow, you just take a small slice and let everyone else eat.

That is the Satoshi mic drop.

And it is the key to winning onchain.

Don't be selfish.

Be generous.

I've Moved Onchain (continued)

A few weeks ago I started a new series on this blog talking about how I've moved my Internet presence onchain over the last few years. The first installment talked about blogging onchain.

This installment is about tweeting.

As many of you know, USV led the first round of investment in Twitter back in 2007 when it spun out of Odeo. I sat on the Twitter board for a number of years and was an active user of Twitter until it was bought by Elon Musk.

When Twitter was put in play back in 2022, I said this:

Unfortunately, what transpired is the opposite of what I believe should have happened and so I left Twitter and have been casting instead of tweeting since then.

Casting is like tweeting but it happens on a decentralized social protocol called Farcaster which launched in June 2021. I joined immediately and I am Farcaster ID number 169 meaning I was among the first two hundred users of the protocol.

Farcaster is still relatively small. It has less than a million total users and something like fifty thousand daily users.

But it has something Twitter and Instagram and TikTok don't have. It has a decentralized and open social graph and protocol. Just like the early days of Twitter, anyone can build a social app on top of Farcaster and they will all work together.

The leading client for Farcaster is called Warpcast and it was built by the Farcaster team. But if I choose to use Supercast, Nook, Kiosk, or some other Farcaster client, anyone on any app can read and reply to my casts and visa versa. It is exactly like the early days of Twitter with Tweety and Tweetdeck and many other third-party clients.

In a world where the company operating the social media app can de-platform a politician, can change the algorithm to optimize ads, or can be shut down by the US Government, we need a different model.

And, ironically, the early days of Twitter showed us the way, but we did not have a business model back then to make that approach sustainable.

Satoshi’s Bitcoin white paper in 2008 laid it out but it took another few years before the onchain business model was in plain sight and could be adopted by anyone.

So that's what Farcaster is. Simply put it is the Twitter ecosystem circa 2007 with an onchain business model that ensures that it cannot and will not ever be closed.

Developers are not just building short text social (like Twitter) on the Farcaster protocol. They are also building social image sharing (like Instagram) and social video sharing (like TikTok) on Farcaster. They are also building blogging and marketplaces and more. All with interoperable identity and onchain posts.

I am certain that onchain social is the best answer to the problems of monolithic big-tech social and that it will yield an enormous diversity of social experiences that are not attention optimizing and advertising driven and controlled and curated by a single entity.

If you want to experience onchain social, you can follow me on Farcaster.

Once you do that, you will have an onchain identity that you own and is not controlled by anyone other than you. That will be your gateway to many more onchain social apps that will be built over the next decade. 

We are going back to the future with onchain social and I am incredibly excited about it.

Disclosure: USV is an investor in Farcaster and a number of other onchain social apps that were mentioned in or linked to in this post.

I've Moved Onchain

I posted this on AVC.com today explaining that I've moved here to AVC.XYZ.


Over the last few years, I’ve moved my internet life from web2 to web3 and rarely use any web2 services anymore.

So I am starting a series called “I’ve Moved Onchain” to explain this journey to everyone and today’s opening post is about blogging, naturally.

I’ve blogged at AVC.com for a very long time. I started out in September 2003 at avc.typepad.com but moved to avc.com a few years later.

AVC.com has been my home for blogging for over twenty years.

AVC.com has served me very well over the years but it lacks a few things that really matter to me.

First, the posts are stored in a closed database hosted by me in the cloud.

Second, the services that I use to create AVC.com are not “composable” meaning that others cannot build things on top of AVC.com and the services that create and display the posts I create here.

Third, the identities of the authors (me) and readers (you) here at AVC.com are not tied to any sort of portable identity and reputation system.

While none of these issues may seem like a big deal to you, they are huge deal to me as I will explain in a bit.

So when web3 blogging services started cropping up, I started to use them.

My first rodeo was at Mirror.xyz where I kept avc.mirror.xyz for most of 2021, 2022, and 2023. This was my first post at avc.mirror.xyz on March 18, 2021.

I really wanted to blog at AVC.xyz and that became an option for me in November 2023 when I joined Paragraph.xyz and wrote this Hello World post.

These web3 blogging platforms store all of my posts onchain at Arweave. These posts are available to anyone to read regardless of what blogging platform I use. And if I get abducted by an alien and fail to pay my hosting service, they will still exist onchain. Forever. That’s a huge deal to me.

They are also composable web3 services. Any developer can take what I create at AVC.xyz and build on top of it. That’s also a huge deal to me. My partner Nick describes the composability benefit so well in his post today on USV.com.

And my identity and the identity of my readers are mapped to a web3 wallet address that authenticates who they are, what they do onchain, and allows developers to create reputation systems on everyone. Given my fight with spam and trolls and jerks and assholes that largely drove me away from blogging and commenting in the latter part of the last decade, this last bit really matters to me.

At the start of this year, I took everyone who receives an email when I post here at AVC.com and imported that email list to Paragraph.xyz. So a lot of the AVC readers have been getting emails of my posts at AVC.xyz this year. But even so, I still get a ton of daily traffic here at AVC.com and I have not posted anything new here since January 10, 2024.

I do not plan to post here at AVC.com going forward, but I will keep the archive up and I may choose to cross-post a thing or two here whenever I want to reach the broadest audience.

My home for blogging is and has been onchain for a while now and if you want to follow my writing, please go visit avc.xyz and subscribe to receive my blog posts via email by clicking the green subscribe button on the upper right.

But what about Mirror.xyz and avc.mirror.xyz? you might ask.

Well, I am also thrilled to be able to say that Mirror and Paragraph have merged and these two leading web3 blogging services will now be one. And, as you may know or suspect, USV has invested in both of them and now will be a major shareholder in the merged company. I am very excited about that. Here is Paragraph’s blog post about the transaction and here is Mirror’s.

The team that built Mirror.xyz is now turning their attention to a new app called Kiosk and they blogged about that today. So USV is now also an investor in that project.

Over the last thirty years, our lives moved from offline to online. They are now moving onchain. That’s a wonderful thing and I hope you will join me in moving onchain as well.

Startup:NYC

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.

StandWithCrypto.org

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 StandWithCrypto.org 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.