Strong Opinions @marksbirch

Random thoughts from a NYC entrepreneur and investor about start-ups, technology and the people that make it all happen. Also find time for good tunes and good food.
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Rage Against the Machine,
Rage Against the Machine

RAGE AGAINST THURSDAY: Bullet in the Head by Rage Against the Machine - Well folks, it is almost the end of the week and in celebration of that momentous point in the week when you can start to taste the weekend, here is some RATM to hold you over.

Their first album will always be a special one for me.  While not particularly summery or laid-back, it was played often that summer when I saw them just kill it at Lollapalooza with just sheer intensity.  One of the best songs on the album is Bullet in the Head and I was floored by what Tom Morello was able to do to achieve sound wise out of his guitar.  Like they said in the liner notes, not effects.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more. We think about productivity for people, teams and the business processes of entire organizations as one interconnected digital substrate. We also think about interconnected platforms for individuals, IT and developers. This comprehensive view enables us to solve the more complex, nuanced and real-world day-to-day challenges in an increasingly digital world.

-Satya Nadella, Microsoft

Not a lot of people seem to be taking Microsoft seriously in mobile and underestimating their potential in the cloud  But this quote reminds me of a similar proclamation that Bill Gates made when Microsoft finally got wise to the threat of the Internet to their business.  They turned the ocean liner around 180 degrees, embraced the Internet, went full-bore into Netscape, and came out on top.

This move may not reverberate in the consumer world, but it has a huge influence on enterprise technology decision makers.  The Apple-IBM alliance was interesting, but a refocused Microsoft could upend any progress Apple makes into the enterprise.  Remember, Apple may have a cool factor, but most companies still run on Exchange email, the Office productivity suite, and a good number of other corporate tools such as Dynamics CRM and Sharepoint.  Build a better mobile experience around that ecosystem and they will be a dangerous competitor.

Make sure that they “get it”—content-free executives have no value in startups. Every exec must understand the product, the technology, the customers, and the market

Why is it Hard to Bring Big Company Execs into Little Companies? (via johnborthwick)

…and “getting” includes the DIY necessity of small company life:  if your computer doesn’t work, crawl under the desk yourself and see if it’s connected; if you don’t keep the bathroom clean, it won’t be clean; and so forth.

(via annelibby)

(via annelibby)

NEW METAL WEDNESDAY: Until the End by Black Anvil - Whoa, Brooklyn black metal is bringing it hard on this latest release.  There are not a whole lot of legit black metal bands in NYC, but the few we do have are pretty excellent.  And with their third album Hail Death, I would have to put Black Anvil at the top of the list.

Until the End is definitely in the black metal strain but with strains of pure headbanging metal riffing and stoner rock influences.  But this is just one track of many that are pretty stellar, making Hail Death one of the years best metal releases.

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White Devil Armory

METAL TUESDAY: Down to the Bone by Overkill - The Bay Area gets way too much credit for thrash.  Overkill was one of the earliest on the scene and with Anthrax and Nuclear Assault made the core of East Coast thrash.  And Overkill is still doing it over thirty years later making relevant albums with two of the original crew, Blitz Ellsworth and DD Verni.

They just released their new album White Devil Armory and it is smoking hot awesome.  It is not that they are breaking new ground here, but they are simply making fun, bar brawl-liquor infused thrash punk metal.  It is old school without sounding old school.  Down to the Bone reps the style and sound best, with a monster of a start that kicks off with a huge riff/rhythm that goes full bore till the ripping guitar solo.  This is about the most fun I have had with a metal album this year.

At the VC level there are a few unwritten rules that go under the heading “it is the right thing to do”. The number one rule, IMHO, is to treat the entrepreneurs you invest in with respect. You might not necessarily approve of the way that they run their business or some of the decisions that they have made but if you have made financial commitments to that business and the business is succeeding then it is important to continue your financial support.
Don’t invest in “pedigreed” founders, with startups in hot sectors, that have lots of “social proof”, located in the Bay Area. Everyone wants to invest in those companies. So, as we saw in Angel Gate, valuations in these deals go way up. Instead, invest in a wide range of founders, in a wide range of sectors, before their startups have much social proof, across the entire US. Undoubtedly, these startups have a lower chance of succeeding.
Predictive SaaS companies will face a few challenges as they go to market. First, these companies must rise above the noise of the market. Many companies promise prediction and learning, but few truly deliver it. This is key to winning customers at scale from incumbent players. Second, predictive technologies work better with larger data sets. This typically means predictive SaaS companies should focus on mid-market/large customers and/or teams within businesses that generate large amounts of data. Last, the company has to create a machine learning team.

Next Era is SaaS by Tom Tunguz

There is plenty of noise in the market and predictive is starting to take on the taint of social and Big Data when it comes to SaaS and enterprise software. The truth is that many of these predictive tools are not very smart and we are a long way from technology that produces useful results in a business context.

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METAL MONDAY: Lagornas Rov by Vintersorg - Today’s edition of black molten metal comes from the region of metal awesomeness, that would be Scandinavia.  In this case, we are talking Sweden, and Vintersorg has been a fixture on the black metal scene for twenty years.  What I have always liked about them is that they were bold enough to go clean vocals and mix up styles well before it was cool to do that in black metal.

Their latest album Naturbal (“Nature’s Bonfire”) is more blackened, but that is simply a continuation of their quartet of “elemental” albums.  I am all good with that, and while it kicks things up a notch, there are still plenty of elements of folk and acoustic and prog stuff that makes up their mixed bag of styles.  There first release Lagornas Rov is killer song that gets the essentials; full frontal blast of screaming metal, some clean and melodic sections, a quieter strings interlude, and more screaming.  Now if they could fix the mastering on this album and get back some dynamic range, it would be a perfect record.


“If our leaders are to enjoy the trappings of their position in the hierarchy, then we expect them to offer us protection. The problem is, for many of the overpaid leaders, we know that they took the money and perks and didn’t offer protection to their people. In some cases, they even sacrificed their people to protect or boost their own interests. This is what so viscerally offends us. We only accuse them of greed and excess when we feel they have violated the very definition of what it means to be a leader.”

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

“All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which eventually you will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a Styrofoam cup.”

“The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

“And when a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.”

“Truly human leadership protects an organization from the internal rivalries that can shatter a culture. When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result.”

“It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.”

― Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t