Cold Takes

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more about it here.)

A two-day break this time, my apologies. Busy times.

So busy, in fact, that I haven’t even had time to catch up on all the new Google hardware goodness announced this week. Though, scanning things quickly, I will say I’m pleasantly surprised at just how positive the early buzz is — about the Pixel phones in particular.

I’ve had a Nexus 5X as a test device for about a year now. And it’s solid. By far the best Android device I’ve ever used — which, I know you could say about every new iteration of almost any product, but this felt like a different kind of leap — and the Pixel seems to be that much better still, by most (hot) takes I’ve come across so far.

And the main reason would seem to be the camera. Which is not a surprise — well, it’s a surprise that it’s apparently so good, but not that this is the main reason people are loving the Pixel phones. Not only is having a great camera on a smartphone table stakes these days, anything less than the quality of the past few iPhones is a massive win for Apple. And the chatter suggests this new Pixel camera is at least on par with the just-released iPhones 7 cameras — if not better in some regard. Crazy. Will definitely have to test it out.

Well, and actually read more about it, first — when I have a moment :)


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PlayStation VR Review: Plug & Play

The Wall Street Journal review of the Playstation VR is glowing — but perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. Some key excerpts from Geoffrey A. Fowler:

This isn’t a story about better tech. Sony’s much-hyped rivals, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which must be connected to powerful PCs, offer more sophisticated virtual reality experiences. (Vive remains my favorite tech demo of the year — it can fill an entire room with a virtual whale!) But Sony has wisely traded technical capability for something VR needs much more right now: broader appeal. PlayStation VR moves it out of the realm of expensive geek tech, and into something that fits in an actual family room.


Unwrap a few new pieces of PSVR hardware, swap around a few plugs on your existing PS4, and you’re set up in under 15 minutes. (With the Rift and Vive, I regretted not getting an engineering degree. You need to connect them to a high-end PC, with special graphics cards and drivers.


You can use PSVR without remodeling your house — or designating a spotter to ensure you don’t chip a tooth on the coffee table. And that may be PlayStation VR’s greatest feature: Instead of requiring you to fire up a Windows PC then creep around furniture, it’s just sitting there, ready for a rainy day escape or fun with friends.

You get the picture. Instead of being the most technically impressive version of virtual reality, they love Playstation VR because it’s the most accessible and approachable. This isn’t something that only the techiest of tech folk can use — provided they have the access or the means to access the right Windows PC hardware — it’s something any of the 40 million people with a PS4 can buy and use basically right out of the box. This sure seems like it will matter.

And it goes beyond the set up:

There is just one more problem with the actual reality of VR: It’s just awful being a bystander while some goggle-wearing geek gropes at digital dimensions you can’t see. But Sony has some ideas on how to make things more collaborative — without two headsets. PlayStation VR comes with a “social screen” option, which lets friends (and annoying little brothers) watch what’s happening inside the VR goggles on the nearby TV

They weren’t available to test, but Sony has also promised games that will have an interactive element for people in the room who aren’t wearing goggles. One, called “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes,” traps the person wearing the headset in a virtual room with a bomb they must defuse. Everyone else on the couch shouts instructions, which they get by deciphering what they see on the TV screen.

This is a great idea. On-trend with the e-sports — watching people play games — movement. And something the genre (VR gaming, in particular) desperately needs if it’s going to get off the ground any time soon.

The Verge review of the Playstation VR is decidedly less positive, but still acknowledges the savvy move by Sony when it comes to all of the above.

5ish Links

The Hive is the New Network

Thought-provoking post by Arjun Sethi and Andy Artz. As we shift beyond the era of the social network, how do we frame what comes next? With analogies to ants and bees, of course.

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graphic: @mcptato

Ants and Aliens — Why you need a thirty-year plan (yes, thirty)

Speaking of ants — a seemingly popular analogy these days — my colleague at GV, Ken Norton, has a great post about long-term thinking and planning within a startup.

“The Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up”

Farhad Manjoo looks at MailChimp, a startup many people have heard of, but most people probably don’t know that they’re not actually VC-backed.

And what’s up with the name?

Late in 2000, some of those customers started asking for ways to reach their customers by email. Mr. Chestnut thought he could repurpose some old code he had used to create a failed online greeting card business. One of his old greeting cards featured a drawing of a chimp, so he thought he would call the new email service ChimpMail, but the domain name was taken. So he went with MailChimp.

Meanwhile, on the topic of email

Though Mr. Chestnut insists that he isn’t worried about the longevity of email — people have been predicting its death for years, and email just keeps getting more important — the company is also pushing into other channels, including social media. The next phase of MailChimp, he said, is to become a one-stop shop for the entirety of a small business’s marketing needs.

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via Doug Chayka

Listen to your favorite websites on iTunes

A topic near and dear to my heart… BTW, I love what Audible has been doing in this space recently as well.

Get Up Close and Not at All Personal With an Enormous Jellyfish

I mean, just how amazing is this picture…

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“tentacles that stretch 200 feet…”

(Originally published on Cold Takes, my newsletter.)

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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