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My friend Luc Levesque wrote a piece on having a personal blueprint. It’s a great way to outline your work style and your quirks. Some people have called this a “user guide” or a “personal introduction”. Luc asked me to contribute to a group of others sharing them publicly and for the first time I assembled mine from a number of pieces I had written separately. I wanted to post here on my Medium too.


I’m thrilled to be working with you all. I care deeply about building great products for customers that help them in their lives. …

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What many products feel like without great onboarding — Photo by Patrick Hodskins on Unsplash

Apps are amazing. I use at least 15–20 apps every day to get information, connect with my friends, capture memories, make memories, order food, order everything, and more. I always enjoy learning about and trying out new products. So many times though, I get let down.

Here’s how it usually goes: I am excited. I set aside time to focus on this new app a friend eagerly invited me to or maybe one I found via an article or an ad. I open it. I go through a short little onboarding flow that asks me for my name, email, a TON of permission screens, and an attempt to find my friends by uploading my address book. I usually say no. I get dropped into the main screen of a new product I’ve never used before with some tabs, a settings menu, and a whole lotta information and words I don’t understand. There might be one tooltip or a few on the screen. But, I usually have no idea what to do next. Sometimes I call my friend who shared it with me and ask them what’s the deal? They explain it to me again and I try a little harder. I figure it out and try a few things. Sometimes it catches, but usually it doesn’t. All in all, I end up with hundreds of apps all over my phone that I don’t use again. …

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When my (now) wife and I graduated from college, we somehow managed to end up with a bunch of bowls and plates from our dining hall. We used to get food and eat in my room, and so they started to accumulate. We kept six of each. They were made by Homer Laughlin.

23 years later, they are still here. We still eat off of those plates and bowls almost every day. We have gotten new plates and bowls over the years — some at our wedding, some we bought at a local Japanese market. But when I was putting away dishes today, I realized we still had the full set from Homer Laughlin, and only two bowls and one plate from the Japanese set. …

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ThinkingTime is a Slack App that gives your team time to think. You use the App to post a question to your channel and then collect all responses to be released at the same time.

One of the best things about today’s communications tools like email, Slack, and messaging are they are incredibly fast and efficient. One of the worst things about today’s communication tools like email, Slack, and messaging are they are incredibly noisy, interruptive, and responding fast is often rewarded over responding thoughtfully.

Everyone has been in countless groups, threads, and channels where someone asks a thoughtful question and wants feedback. Very quickly someone replies with a snarky comment and the whole thread devolves and the asker never got any thoughtful feedback. These are the bad versions of “first responders”. (On that note, we love and deeply appreciate and thank our community first responders for all they do, especially in these complicated times!). On the other hand, even worse is when everyone waits until the most senior person in the group weighs in and then agrees with them without anyone sharing their independent thoughts. …

In late January, I wrote this with my friend Abraham Shafi who is co-founder and CEO of IRL — a great and fast-growing social calendar app. We were talking about the future of social apps and how much opportunity there is ahead in bringing people together to do more and better things with their time. Abe and his team have been very focused on helping people meet up “In Real Life” and share more and better experiences together.

While I’m taking a break from full time work and larger commitments, I was so excited about the team’s vision and opportunity, I joined in a small / part time capacity to help with special projects.

Thanks to Corona Virus, we’re quickly moving from social lives to social distancing. We’re changing work from in person / in office to WFH. This is a great window of opportunity for new products. Here are a few ideas I was thinking about. If you are building anything like this, let me know, it would be fun to jam.

1) ReplyTime

One of the biggest challenges with Slack, email, group messaging, and most group communication channels is what happens when you ask a question or ask for feedback. You usually start with a request for feedback by sending an email, a doc, or even just a thought. Then the responses start coming. It’s often the first person to reply who sets the tone for the entire rest of the thread and discussion. …

A lot happened over the past decade. As I was thinking about the impact of the past ten years, I thought about some hopes I have towards the next ten.

  1. Now that billions of people are online and using the same products, I hope that we can use them to help make society even better instead of just profit centers with great margins
  2. Now that we are seeing the real impact of our climate changing and global warming, I hope we can implement solutions that put the world in a better place for the next decades
  3. Now that we have seen a massive rise in the income and savings gaps between the wealthy and middle / lower classes, I hope we can reverse the trend and make sure everyone has access to jobs at reasonable income levels, affordable health care, and more, and create more…

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Mammoth Media CEO Benoit Vatere and team.

There are probably 1 billion phones in the world that people have looked at in the past hour. 98% of millennials in the United States have a smartphone. While some people say “mobile is dead” (for new investments / startups) or “no one is downloading new apps”, this just doesn’t match up with the rapidly increasing numbers and time spent on mobile. Consumers are always on the hunt for new, fun ways to interact with content and each other. Last year, I wrote a blog post on how the next great platform is still mobile and it rings even truer today.

For millennials and Generation Z, mobile devices are the primary screen in which they connect with their world. They communicate with their friends and families constantly over text, iMessage, Facetime, Snapchat, Houseparty, etc., and keep up with each other’s lives and more through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. People play games — lots and lots of games. The mobile gaming space is massive — over $46B was spent on mobile games last year across App Store and Google Play, and this has become the largest segment of the games industry.

Beyond just communication, social media, and games, these devices have become more and more common place for seeking out entertainment — books, video, music. One of the fastest growing areas of mobile have been subscription services accessed through your phone. People pay for Spotify or Apple Music to get their music, and Netflix, Hulu, and HBO to access their videos, or Kindle Unlimited to read books. What’s interesting about these services is, unlike mobile games, none of these started on mobile, nor are optimized for mobile.

This brings us to Mammoth Media. CEO Benoit Vatere believed there was an opportunity to create a new “studio lot” that could produce apps that provided unique mobile-first entertainment on a daily basis. They incubated this company within Science, with the idea that true mobile entertainment should be interactive, shareable, and provide a few minutes of fun, multiple times per day, instead of a 30 minute or longer show.

They first launched Wishbone, a polling app. Wishbone provided a “daily dozen” poll of 12 questions in the format “which do you prefer — A or B?” Millions of people opened their phones to vote and compare their taste to others. Over time they extended this to multiple times per day and opened the question creation to their community. Mammoth Media’s next big hit is Yarn which lets users read and watch interactive stories, with new content created daily. Yarn started with stories told through simple text message threads, and have evolved to a rich new storytelling format including video, “live streaming”, and more to tell the story. Users can subscribe on a weekly or monthly basis to access the catalog of stories within Yarn — similar to subscribing to Netflix or HBO. Yarn and Wishbone are just the beginning of Mammoth’s vision for a new mobile-first entertainment network.

In just two years, Mammoth Media has become the leading mobile-first media company to produce, distribute, and monetize original content. They deliver engaging, short-form content through their suite of mobile products and online channels, which has garnered a mass audience of users and downloads. Mammoth’s mobile apps, like Yarn and Wishbone, are consistently ranked in the Top 100 App charts. Yarn is one of the fastest growing destinations for short-form storytelling with a total of 36 million stories read, 1.6 million episodes read per week and 7.5 billion messages read. Wishbone, a community where millennials can share their opinions, has an average of 352 million votes per month and 17 billion votes created to date.

Today Mammoth is announcing its exclusive content partnership with Skype and their new series HACK’D. This is the beginning of taking more professional content and bringing it to this new mobile-native format. The Mammoth team is uniquely poised to take advantage of this opportunity with their deep experience of mobile dynamics including acquisition and monetization. For content owners, Mammoth provides direct access to millions of viewers and a platform to deliver quality content.

Along with that announcement, I am excited to share that Greylock led the $13M Series A financing in Mammoth Media, and I have joined the board. Mammoth Media is located in Santa Monica, making this my first Los Angeles-based venture investment. I’m #longLA and I believe there will be many more great companies that bridge technology and entertainment and LA will be a great place for those companies to grow and prosper. …

Recently, a friend of mine took a week off for learning that he called “Think Week”. I was reading his post and his preparation and felt a little jealous that he was in a place to take a week off, be free from schedule and responsibilities, and able to do all this great learning. I saved many of the articles to read later, and wondered to myself what it would take to get a week off. It’s hard between work, commitments, and family…

And then last week happened. It was supposed to be a very full week ending in a trip to Summit. I had a number of meetings with founders, meetings with important contacts, and 4 different speaking engagements planned. But instead, I didn’t do any of it. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I cancelled my entire week. I had no choice. I was sicker than I ever have been. …

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The Otto Team.

We believe that over the next decade, our homes will become as digital and connected as our phones are now. In 2013, I led Greylock’s investment in SmartThings, a company building the hub and OS for connecting devices in the home. Less than a year later, Samsung acquired SmartThings and they have continued to make great progress towards that vision. Things were moving quickly, with great products like the Nest thermostat and Ring doorbell showing everyone the potential of replacing simple devices in your home with new versions that were smart, connected, and provided important new value. The following year, Amazon unveiled its Amazon Echo which quickly became a top selling product and brought deep interactivity and engagement to what could have been just a speaker.

It is still very early in the cycle of bringing smart devices to all parts of our homes, though it’s starting to happen. Today, most of my friends own an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and their houses are more and more integrated with smart devices for lighting, climate control, cameras and security, and even kitchen appliances. (Admittedly, I have a lot of early adopter friends.) From smart phones to smarter homes, we are at a moment where people are ready to use smart devices that make their lives more convenient and comfortable. But there are still a lot of key areas in our home waiting for great products to bring them into this smarter, more digital world.

That’s why I am excited to share the news that Greylock invested in Otto. Otto has built today’s most secure, fully digital lock designed around the family experience. They have redesigned the concept of a deadbolt lock from the ground up. They are announcing their digital lock today, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team on reaching this important milestone. …


Josh Elman

I love building products that people use. I‘ve helped build Twitter, Facebook Connect, LinkedIn, Robinhood. Investor in Medium, Tiktok/, Discord

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