23andme

I’m in Mountain View to give a talk at 23andMe. Their latest funding round was $250M on a (reported) valuation of $1.5B. If I just add up the Crunchbase numbers it looks like almost half a billion invested at this point… Slides: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits Abstract: We apply methods from Compressed Sensing (L1-penalized regression; Donoho-Tanner …

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Low Earth Orbit from your backyard? (startup Vector Space Systems)

It’s great to see innovation and competition in space launch technology. These small launchers from startup Vector Space Systems can put 50-100kg payloads (e.g., micro satellites) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for $2-3 million. There are obvious military applications for the rapid placement (or replacement) of satellites. For example, see A2AD Fait Accompli? Commercial applications are …

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DeepMind and Demis Hassabis

Recent profile in the Guardian; 15 facts about Hassabis. The mastery of Atari games through reinforcement learning deep neural nets is described here (Nature). See also Deep Neural Nets and Go: AlphaGo beats European champion. Guardian: … “We’re really lucky,” says Hassabis, who compares his company to the Apollo programme and Manhattan Project for both …

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Leadership

I was asked recently to write something about my leadership style / management philosophy. As a startup CEO I led a team of ~35, and now my office has something like 350 FTEs. Eventually, hands on leadership becomes impossible and one needs general principles that can be broadly conveyed. I have a “no drama” leadership …

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Productive Bubbles

These slides are from one of the best sessions I attended at scifoo. Bill Janeway’s perspective was both theoretical and historical, but in addition we had Sam Altman of Y Combinator to discuss Airbnb and other examples of 2 way market platforms (Uber, etc.) that may or may not be enjoying speculative bubbles at the …

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Venture capital in the 1980s

Via Dominic Cummings (@odysseanproject), this long discussion of the history of venture capital, which emphasizes the now largely forgotten 1980s. VC in most parts of the developed world, even large parts of the US, resembles the distant past of the above chart. There is a big gap between Silicon Valley and the rest. Heat Death: …

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The Hollow Men

I highly recommend The Hollow Men II: Some reflections on Westminster and Whitehall dysfunction by Dominic Cummings. It is full of insights into the failings of bureaucracies, government by crisis and news cycle, and hollow leadership. The essay is long, but the excerpts below give some of the flavor. … Most of our politics is …

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Creation, Myths and Twitter

Great article by Nick Bilton on the creation myth (and true story) behind Twitter. To see that luck plays an unimaginably huge role in life you just need to look carefully at the story behind any successful company or entrepreneur. NYTimes: … Soon, the question of a name came up. Williams jokingly suggested calling the …

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Bezos quotes

These quotes appear in an excerpt from a new biography by Brad Stone. Stone uncovers some new ground — tracking down Bezos’ long-lost biological father, who was unaware(!) that his son had become a billionaire e-commerce titan. I had always heard that Bezos has a vulcan or hyper-rational management style. It’s good to know he occasionally loses …

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