Cold Takes

Not Slacking Off

(First published on 2/2/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more)

Busy week.

Tuesday was Slack’s ‘Enterprise Gridlaunch — the version of their software meant for large organizations — IBM-large. What continually impresses me (obvious biases aside) about Slack’s launches is the time and care they put in to get the little things right. As with the Threads (threaded messages) launch a couple weeks back, the enterprise version of Slack was a continual iteration that has been close to ‘good enough’ for a long time, but not quite right. Slack always seems to find a good balance of taking the time to find ‘quite right’ and never shipping anything (since, after all, the product is “a giant piece of shit,” according to one person familiar with the matter 😜).

Yesterday was the first GV (portfolio company) CEO day/dinner we hosted in San Francisco. Huge success. And hats!

Today, Snap! Uber! Anyway, nice to have a break from Trump Twitter for a few days — which somehow seems to be getting worse, not better.

5ish Links


“To sell something surprising, make it familiar; to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”

Fascinating article about Raymond Loewy, the “father of industrial design” — filled with so many great blurbs like:

Loewy had an uncanny sense of how to make things fashionable. He believed that consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable” — maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.

Along those lines:

For that reason, the power of familiarity seems to be strongest when a person isn’t expecting it.

The reverse is also true: A surprise seems to work best when it contains some element of familiarity.


The preference for familiarity is so universal that some think it must be written into our genetic code. The evolutionary explanation for the mere-exposure effect would be simple: If you recognized an animal or plant, that meant it hadn’t killed you, at least not yet.

Mildly ominous.

A great industrial designer, it turns out, needs to be an anthropologist first and an artist second: Loewy studied how people lived and how machines worked, and then he offered new, beautiful designs that piggybacked on engineers’ tastes and consumers’ habits.


Max Planck, the theoretical physicist who helped lay the groundwork for quantum theory, said that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

So true.


Listening to bots

Enjoyed this post by Betaworks’ John Borthwick:

I realized in 2016 that so much of the power and the potential of bots lies in the specificity of the content or service and mapping that to social context seems to be an emerging solution to distribution.

Last year, I was a bit of a bot bear (say that ten times fast). But that was simply because there was so much hype that it didn’t seem like any of the bots could possibly live up to those expectations in such early days. With time now having muted such expectations, I suspect 2017 will be far more interesting for the space.


Hydrogen turned into metal in stunning act of alchemy

Ian Johnston:

For metallic hydrogen could theoretically revolutionise technology, enabling the creation of super-fast computers, high-speed levitating trains and ultra-efficient vehicles and dramatically improving almost anything involving electricity.

And it could also allow humanity to explore outer space as never before.

As the kids say: huge, if true. Which isn’t clear, yet.

Vukki net 3d tv tombstone
Vukki net 3d tv tombstone

3D TV finally falls down dead

David Katzmaier:

LG and Sony, the last two major TV makers to support the 3D feature in their TVs, will stop doing so in 2017. None of their sets, not even high-end models such as their new OLED TVs, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows.

Samsung dropped 3D support in 2016; Vizio hasn’t offered it since 2013. Other smaller names, like Sharp, TCL and Hisense, also failed to announce any 3D-capable TVs at CES 2017.

Good riddance. I’ve had a 3D TV for years and have never used the feature. I was never even tempted once. It was just so obviously a gimmick from day one — one whose main purpose wasn’t to enhance content, but rather enhance the wallets of those who make the content.

28hurt web2 facebookjumbo
28hurt web2 facebookjumbo

“Oh, no, not again.”

British actor John Hurt passed away last week at age 77:

“When I say that acting is just a rather more sophisticated way of playing cowboys and Indians, it’s my way of trying to quash all the pretentious crap that’s said about acting,” Mr. Hurt said in 1990. “What I mean is, if you pretend well enough, the audience will believe you.”

Such a great actor. RIP.

500ish Words


Ghost by the Machine

Thoughts on digital resurrection…

(First published on 2/2/17 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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