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The Great Firewall1

We arrived in Shanghai late Monday night after a long four-airport three-flight day and all I wanted to do was crash. The Gotham Gal wanted to check her email so she logged onto the hotel WiFi and attempted to do that. As I was falling asleep I heard her call down to the front desk and complain that the Internet wasn’t working. I told her we could deal with it in the morning. So when we got up, we grabbed our laptops and went downstairs to have breakfast and fix things. I set up VPN software on both laptops and the Gotham Gal’s iPhone. For some reason that I don’t entirely understand, my Pixel with a TMobile SIM card seemed to be able to bypass the great firewall and access Google and Twitter without need for a VPN. But even with firewall software on our devices, accessing western Internet services in Shanghai was flaky. Sometimes things worked, sometimes they didn’t and it wasn’t entirely clear why. But more than the inconvenience, and it wasn’t a big one, the entire notion that China has chosen to block some of the world’s most essential services inside of China’s borders seems crazy to me. I understand the value of protecting home grown services from competition from Google, Facebook, and Amazon. But the local versions of those services have grown so powerful over the past decade and cultural norms (like WeChatting) have taken hold so strongly that the protection seems unnecessary at this point. Of course there are the censorship issues, which the New York Times recently shamefully heralded, but how hard is it to get a VPN if you want to check Twitter and search Google for uncensored news? Xi Jinping heralded the dawn of a New Era for China in his talk at the 19th Party Congress this week. He asserted that China is strong and ascendent and those are both certainly true. I would argue that China is strong enough now to fully join the Internet without any controls or constraints on it, like the dominant modern society that it wants to be and, frankly, already is. http://avc.com/2017/10/the-great-firewall/

Fruit flies and a celebration of scientific research

The New Yorker has a wonderful article about the message of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Every year, the Nobel prize committee deliberates about the message they send when they pick one scientist over another. This year’s winners were not on any of the betting lists as most predictions bet on “applied research” that targets a specific, ongoing scientific problems – e.g., curing cancer. In picking this year’s winner, the Nobel committee sent a powerful message about the importance of basic scientific research. This year’s prize, in other words, is a kind of rebuke. Basic science is under siege, particularly in the United States. Congressional Luddites love to highlight federally funded projects that, according to their own stunted definitions, pursue meaningless questions that don’t readily translate into talking points for a public that is intent on curing cancer or preventing Alzheimer’s disease. It is possible that, in today’s political environment, Hall, Rosbash, and Young would never have received money for their research. After all, do we really need to know what makes a fruit fly tick? But, as the Nobel committee made clear this morning, the science that informs and occasionally upends our understanding of human health and disease often comes from unexpected places. Ohsumi used yeast cells to explore autophagy, but a similar garbage-disposal system exists in you and me. Similarly, studies of the circadian rhythm in flies have shed light on the genes and proteins that synchronize our own bodies with the day; they may lead to treatments for a wide range of maladies, from jet lag to obesity to heart disease. The joy of science is to learn for learning’s sake; whatever wondrous insights emerge may then be used to address the problems that we confront in our daily lives. The message embedded in today’s Nobel Prize announcement couldn’t come at a better moment—or a more fraught one. In creative endeavors, we don’t solve always problems by taking the obvious route. Studying fruit flies and yeast cells don’t seem like meaningful questions. Until, of course, they do. I am thankful to all these incredible researchers who’ve dedicated their lives to helping us understand how the world works. We’ve made more progress in this regard in the last 150 years than we made in all of the past millennia combined. And, the Nobel prizes are a celebration of that. Congratulations to the winners and to everyone in the scientific community. Share this: Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Like this: Like Loading... Related https://alearningaday.com/2017/10/04/fruit-flies-and-a-celebration-of-scientific-research/

My new book came out today!22

My new book came out today! Source: http://theoatmeal.com/blog/dogs_as_men_book

If pens worked like printers23

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Board Decks Best Practices

At our portfolio company CEO Summit this spring, the 60 or so leaders in attendance asked us if we could figure out a way to aggregate some insights across our entire portfolio and share the data with them. We said we would see about that. So this summer, we hired Max Heald for a three month stint after he graduated from college and tasked him with figuring out how to do this. The first constraint was that we were not going to ask our portfolio companies for data. They have businesses to run and they don’t need us dumping a big data request on them. So we pulled together all the data we already had on our portfolio companies, the spreadsheets, the pitch decks, the board decks, the financial reports, etc and asked Max to comb through it and see if there were insights in the aggregate data. Of course there was. Here’s an example of something we were able to determine via this effort. I have been telling the companies I work with to plan on eighteen months of runway from a financing and three to six months to raise the next round for years. But it is nice to see that advice validated in data. Along the way Max saw a lot of board decks and asked us if he could write a post on the USV blog describing some of the best practices he saw. We encouraged him to do that and he published it today. Check it out. http://avc.com/2017/10/board-decks-best-practices/