#google ventures

Loom, Dropbox, And Space Travel

Loom CEO Jan Senderek, on the news that Dropbox has acquired his company:

We know this is a big deal. This decision was made with great care. We have worked hard on our product and feel that our vision aligns perfectly with Dropbox’s vision for Carousel. Dropbox has invested the past seven years focusing on building a secure home for your files. And now with Carousel comes a home for your photos and videos as well. We share the common goal of crafting a high quality product, always putting users’ needs first. After spending some serious time investigating if this was the right move for us, we realized that Dropbox has solved many problems around scaling infrastructure and at Dropbox the Loom team will be able to focus entirely on building great features with a fantastic user experience. We are enthusiastic about being able to contribute our ground level perspective to help craft a beautiful experience for our users. And at the end of the day, that’s what matters most to us.

It always reads like bullshit when an investor says that a deal is a great fit. But I’m gonna say it anyway. From their shared Y Combinator DNA to a shared product vision with the just-launched Carousel, Dropbox and Loom seem perfectly aligned. It’s always a bit bittersweet to see a startup sell before fulfilling the original vision they pitched, but in this case, Dropbox really will help them achieve that vision so much faster. 

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Turning On The Lights

Earlier today, Rumr, a new pseudo-anonymous messaging app (backed by a group of folks including Google Ventures) unveiled itself to the world (well, technically just the U.S. for now). Given how hot the broader space currently is — actually, both “anonymish” and messaging services — the launch garnered quite a bit of coverage.

The most extensive article was by Natasha Lomas, while Ellis Hamburger was kind enough to quote me on a couple things. Much as I did with the Secret launch, I figured I’d paste my full quote to Ellis in context below:

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Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

I’ve written before about the importance of “the first app you open in the morning”. But the truth is that there are about a half dozen apps that I check each and every morning. The first, currently Twitter, is the most important to me. But the other in that gang of six, all have the potential to displace the first one depending on the day.

I knew Secret was on to something special when it entered this gang of six.

Of course, I am but one person. The more telling sign that Secret was on to something was the fact that basically every person I talk to who has used the app has said or implied the same thing: the app is a must-check, and it’s incredibly sticky. And that includes people who say they hate Secret, by the way. I have this sneaking suspicion that those who “hate” the app, check it even more often than those who claim to love it.

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Mark Rogowsky:

Well consider this: The number of “zero-car families” has been growing since 2007, after shrinking nearly every year since 1960; it’s approaching 10%. While the recession has doubtless played a role, it’s less than you might think. First, there has been an increasing move back toward the cities, where transit is more readily available. Second, millennials seem especially uninterested in owning their own cars. Third, the trend away from driving actually dates back to 2004, when the economy was still thriving. A government measure called “per capita vehicle miles traveled,” which had gone up steadily for decades began trending down that year and has fallen ever since. After 8 consecutive years of declines, on average we’re driving as much as we did in 1996.

The trend is clear.

This isn’t necessarily about sharing secrets. It’s about sharing secretly. People feel a sense of belonging or validation when we’re all feeling the same things. I hear people’s internal dialogues and they resonate with me.

Secret co-founder David Byttow, talking to Kim-Mai Cutler about the service.

I’m biased here, of course, but this strikes me as exactly what I find so compelling about the service. As I read through the stream, I’ll come across something and think, “huh, sometimes I think/feel this way too.”

As the service gathers buzz and attracts new users, there will be a lot of flaming/trollish behavior. But if it all settles down to this core, that will be valuable to people.

The Age Of The Social Network Is Ending

For his story about Secret, a Google Ventures porfolio company that launched today, Mike Isaac asked me the following question:

Just basically curious as to why you’re interested in Secret — why this after we have so many “social” apps — how different, etc.

This seems to be a common question both amongst journalists and investors. And it’s certainly a fair one. If there is indeed an “App Wall”, many of us hit it long ago. But it seems to me that things are shifting once again.

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If you read about Facebook’s Airlock testing framework a couple weeks back, this is an option for any app developer.

As I said so eloquently in my quote to TechCrunch, this service sounded great until we saw it in action — then it was clear that it was even better than great. I see no reason why every app developer that cares about A/B testing (and that should be every app developer) wouldn’t want to utilize Apptimize.

Incumbents Asleep At The Wheel

The numbers, as reported by JP Mangalindan for Fortune, are staggering:

The San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA), an association for registered taxi drivers that promotes fair working conditions and business practice, reports that one-third of the 8,500 or so taxi drivers in San Francisco – over 2,800 – have ditched driving a registered cab in the last 12 months to drive for a private transportation startup like Uber, Lyft or Sidecar instead.

Read that again. One-third. Twelve months. We tend to throw around the term “disruption” way too often these days, basically stripping it of all meaning. But this is actual disruption. And it’s disruption in such a short amount of time that it can truly be felt by all.

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Nest CEO Tony Fadell on the news that Google has entered an agreement to acquire his startup:

When Matt and I started Nest in 2010, we were determined to change our homes and the world around us. Starting a business focused on the lowly thermostat seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but it made all the sense in the world to us. That little device that went unnoticed and unchanged year after year on the walls of our homes was a lost opportunity to save energy and money. We knew we could do better.

Google will help us fully realize our vision of the conscious home and allow us to change the world faster than we ever could if we continued to go it alone. We’ve had great momentum, but this is a rocket ship.

As I previously mentioned, I’m incredibly biased here.1 But that doesn’t change the fact that Nest is a remarkable company that was able to take some Apple DNA and translate it into a startup. One working on both hardware and software, no less. It should be surprising to no one that Google saw massive value and opportunity here.

Huge congrats to team Nest as well as my colleagues at Google Ventures.


  1. Though, to be fair, I was a huge fan before I was conflicted. 

Michael Wolff:

Those idle words uttered in the cold and rain — “I would pay anything for a cab right now” — turn out to foretell a new business model.

The most recent uproar over Uber surge pricing has been one of the oddest tempest-in-a-teapot situations I’ve ever seen. I understand that some people want to make this into some statement about class or the state of world we live in, but it seems much more straight-forward than that. And the company is being very clear about it.

Felix Salmon:

Essentially, every time you take a cab, your money gets split roughly evenly between the driver and the medallion owner. Which means that when a company like Uber comes along, it can offer lower fares to riders and substantially higher income to drivers — a win for everybody except the medallion owners.

Which, of course, is the way it should be. The medallion racket has existed for far too long.