Author Archives: Michael Arrington

Lyft Line v. The Humble City Bus

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One or two tweaks and Lyft Line will…reinvent the city bus.

The last tweet exchange below is the best, imo. No idea what that’s all about.

Explicit GoTenna Use Case: Buying Drugs

I read about GoTenna yesterday – a neat little device that connects to your phone via bluetooth that allows you to send messages to other people using GoTenna even if cell service is out. It basically turns your phone into a handheld UHF radio with encryption (which you can’t do as a normal citizen with a CB).

Watch the video here on the GoTenna site. I noticed the guy smoking (and selling) marijuana yesterday and chuckled.

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Someone at Hacker News noticed the same thing and commented on it. Another says “I think they are quite deliberately pointing out that dealers can communicate with their users in private, outside of law enforcement spying on them [Use case A1].”

Cofounder Daniela Perdomo jumps in and says “Daniela, goTenna co-founder here, “Jason Greengrocer” is actually a real person in my phone I contact about once a month ;)” and “All transmissions are end-to-end encrypted, unless you use the “shout” or “emergency” features which are, by definition, messages to everyone within range of you.”

So there you have it. GoTenna – great for use while hiking, during power outages, and to get baked.

They Might Be Tearing Down The Creamery To Build Condos

If you’re involved in the startup world in San Francisco you’ve likely been to the Creamery on Townsend and 4th street. It’s iconic, even if only recently so.

In 2012 I wrote about the Creamery in a post talking about the shift in startups from the Palo Alto area to San Francisco, noting that “CrunchFund has probably closed (meaning the verbal agreement part) more deals there than anywhere else.”

Other press cemented the cafe’s reputation as the place to do business. Today there are probably at least a handful of startup meetings going on there at any given time – interviews, investment pitches, or just friends trading ideas.

Even this morning I ran into two people I know there. And a third saw me but I missed him.

Which is why I’m sad to say that from what I hear, the Creamery won’t be around that much longer.

The problem is the value of the real estate it’s sitting on. The cafe is a one story building sitting among much larger buildings.

CrunchFund recently bought a condo nearby as an office. In the disclosures of the building was a note that the land the Creamery was sitting on was being purchased.

I did a little digging – this is what I’ve heard: A group of investors have purchased the entire block, for hundreds of millions of dollars, and will be tearing all the buildings down and putting up a massive 20 story condo complex.

Good news for people looking for housing in the area. Bad news for those of us that like to hang out at the Creamery.

Update: Yup.

Fifteen Months Later

My defamation action against Jenn Allen, the woman who falsely accused me of rape last year after I ended our relationship, is over. She retracted her statements and apologized, which is the very relief I sought before filing this action, and I accordingly dismissed the lawsuit. The settlement agreement is here.

Unfortunately, when you have been accused of rape — even provably falsely as I have been — there’s no way to “win”. For the rest of my life, when someone searches my name on the internet, the word “rape” will appear somewhere among the results. And that person will always wonder whether or not I was capable of such a heinous act.

Despite the pain this has caused me and my family, I took action to enforce my right not to be defamed by lies. I sued Jennifer Allen last year for defamation based on the false rape allegations she made against me. The truth is, she made those allegations because I was in a stable and happy relationship, and would no longer communicate with her.

Today that litigation ended because I was innocent of this outrageous and malicious lie. Jennifer Allen herself offered to settle the case by voluntarily retracting her statements and apologizing, obviously without receiving anything from me in return. This – the truth – is what I and everyone deserves, and is all I’ve asked for from the beginning.

Three pivotal events led to today’s result.

The first was that Jenn had falsely claimed other witnesses would support her testimony. Allen accused me of raping another woman – that woman, once we discovered who she was, told us and the court that Allen had tried to coerce her into saying I had raped her. A recent message to me: “I feel so manipulated by Jenn. I can’t believe how it must feel to be you. If I had known everything that was going on I would have gotten involved sooner.”

The second pivotal moment: another ex boyfriend of Jenn’s came forward and, despite fearing that Jenn would attack him publicly as well, made a statement to the court that Jenn had been abusive and extremely delusional with him too, even scaring his young child. He also said that Jenn believed I had her under satellite surveillance and routinely hacked her phone calls impersonating other people. She would only talk via video chat to ensure that she was talking to this man. She believed that any voice only calls could be me impersonating him with a voice device. She was also unable to tell truth from delusion.

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These psychological issues became apparent during the third pivotal moment, her deposition. Jenn arrived so late to her deposition that her own attorneys weren’t sure if she would show up. She appeared drugged, and admitted that she had taken a strong antipsychotic medication before the deposition. She was prescribed and taking a variety of antipsychotic/bipolar/depression drugs, including at least Seroquel, Abilify, Lexapro and Trazodone.

Her lawyers then ended the deposition hours early. Jenn thereafter retracted her statements and apologized to me.

With Jenn’s retraction and apology, obviously without receiving anything from me in return, I agreed to dismiss this lawsuit. This – the truth – is what I and everyone deserves, and is all I’ve asked for from the beginning.

I’m going to try to move forward with my life now. I’m lucky to have had the support of family and friends. And most importantly, a loving partner who has stuck with me throughout this ordeal (and who had to remove large parts of her life from the Internet when Jenn became abusive towards her, too).

They say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I can say with certainty that is not true. My goal now is to try to continue seeing the world as a fundamentally good place. It will be something I struggle with for the rest of my life, but I’m confident that I’ll find a way.

Update: Scott Sullivan-Reinhart, the person I mentioned above who was brave enough to speak out about Jenn’s behavior, has made a public statement on his Facebook page:

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Ex-NSA Guys’ Startup To Protect You From NSA

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Virtu, a Washington D.C. startup, raises $6 million in new capital. The company is building an encryption product that will work with email platforms, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook.

Which is great except that the founders are ex-NSA guys who used to be paid to do things like collect emails and phone call information from hundreds of millions of terrorist suspects Americans.

The kind of stuff that this new product is designed foil.

It’s like hiring Darth Vader to build planetary defense systems to thwart the Death Star.

Except the analogy doesn’t quite work. Vader switched to the light side because of his love for his son. These guys are just doing it for the money.

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Microsoft Paying Bloggers To Write About Internet Explorer

Update: Microsoft says they’re suspending the program in a statement: “This action by a vendor is not representative of the way Microsoft works with bloggers or other members of the media. The program has been suspended.”

Why in the world is Microsoft (through an agency) trying pay bloggers to write about Internet Explorer? Do people still do this? And given my position on paid posts, why would they think I’d be willing to participate?

This is just layers of stupid.

Here’s the link in the request below. Here’s the hashtag (#IEbloggers) that they’re requesting people use, so I’m guessing anyone using that is getting paid.

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The Data Center Is Broken, And Mesosphere Fixed It

mesosphere2“The data center is broken, and we fixed it, like Google. Developers will never have to worry about scaling issues again.”

That’s a strong statement from Mesosphere CEO Florian Leibert.

At CrunchFund, we believed it and invested last year. And we’re very happy to see Andreessen Horowitz lead a new round (along with Data Collective and Fuel Capital) of $10.5 million today.

Mesosphere isn’t some hot new messaging app, but they do make it possible for that app to scale. As Cloudera is to Hadoop, Mesosphere is to the open source Mesos cluster manager.

To some including us, that’s just as sexy as that app. Or even more so.

In short, it’s the operating system for data centers. It lets you combine your severs into one, big computer. And it’s credited for fixing Twitter – Mesos manages some 50,000 cores at Twitter, in fact.

“Mesosphere brings Google-scale compute to everybody,” says former Twitter Chief Scientist Abdur Chowdhury.

Mesosphere provides the packaging and tools needed by companies without Twitter’s resources but who want the same ease of scaling. And those companies are starting to migrate to Mesos and Mesophere more and more frequently.

Airbnb, Twitter, Hubspot, URX, ebay, Groupon and others using Mesophere are just the beginning. We are very excited about where this company is going.

10 Million Designs On Studio And They’re Just Getting Started

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It’s been a good week for Studio, one of our investments.

Yesterday TechCrunch covered the launch of Studio 2.0 (download app here). And today Apple put it on the “Best New Apps” list.

What is Studio? If you haven’t tried it yet, it allows you to create, remix and share designs using your own photos. It’s extremely fun and really easy to create great looking images quickly.

Studio first launched eight months ago and since then they’ve gathered 2.5 million happy users who’ve created 10 million designs.

And that was just the old version. Check out the new version of Studio, you’ll like it. And let me know what you think.

The video below shows you how it works:

Finally, The Fake Follow On Twitter

It was, whoa, nearly six years ago that I humbly requested that Twitter give us the ability to follow someone without actually having to listen to them talk.

Why would we need such a feature?

But there are a lot of people who for some reason are greatly offended when you don’t reciprocate a follow…on Twitter… When this happens (and it happens a lot), you have a choice – deal with the fallout (“that guy is such a jerk”) or just friend the person and avoid the pain. Here’s the problem, though. When you follow too many people the service just becomes unusable.

The Fake Follow looks like a normal follow to the other person, but to me it’s like I didn’t follow them at all. This solves the ego stroking issue (and related problems) that so many people have, and it keeps the content stream clean and usable.

Twitter announced that exact thing today.

Muting a user on Twitter means their Tweets and Retweets will no longer be visible in your home timeline, and you will no longer receive push or SMS notifications from that user. The muted user will still be able to fave, reply to, and retweet your Tweets; you just won’t see any of that activity in your timeline. The muted user will not know that you’ve muted them, and of course you can unmute at any time.

They’re calling it “Mute,” but we know exactly what it is. A Fake Follow. A glorious thing.

Abacus, the Back Office Inefficiency Remover

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I’m fascinated by startups that remove inefficiencies from real world tasks. Abacus, one of our newest investments, does exactly this. But most people don’t quite understand why yet.

At first glance it’s just another useful app for streamlining business expenses. TechCrunch did a good overview of the service when it first launched a couple of months ago, but I don’t think they quite captured the essence of what Abacus is doing.

There are a whole class of “software-meets-reality” startups today that are successful because they remove pain from a real world activity. Sometimes people didn’t even quite know that the pain was there.

Uber is a perfect example. After using it for the first time people realize that it isn’t really about the nice cars. It’s about getting a car whenever and wherever you need it. That’s a service that taxis are supposed to provide, but they don’t. Anyone who has stood endlessly on a street corner waiting for a taxi, or who scheduled one for a ride to the airport but it never bothered to come, understands this. Uber fixes the taxi mess and makes life more enjoyable.

I’m not going to say that Abacus is the uber-for-expenses because it isn’t. But I apply the same thinking towards analyzing what Abacus does as I did when we invested in Uber.

First, like other apps Abacus makes it a lot easier on the user to keep track of business expenses. Take a picture of a receipt or let it interact with your email and you’re basically done.

The key differentiator with Abacus, though, is that it takes a (very painful) batch process of dealing with employee business expenses and removes pain at almost every point along the way.

Here’s how the old expense system works:

1. Employees gather expenses and file reports periodically to the company.

2. The company goes through an approval process, enters reports into accounting software and then either cuts physical checks or integrates into payroll. They need software for all of this, and more software for communicating with employees. lots of back office employee time is spent dealing with all of this.

3. Employees get paid eventually, but it may be 60+ days after the expense.

4. That means employees have to float the expense for a long time on their credit cards. If they can’t handle the delay they have to do things like borrow the company Amex to pay for bigger expenses, which adds further complexity to they system.

Here’s how Abacus works, eliminating pain and busy work along the way:

1. Employees use the app to get expenses into the system as they incur them.

2. A manager uses the app to approve expenses immediately (or every few days, whatever they want).

3. Abacus auto-syncs with the companies accounting software, makes a same day auto-payment to the employee’s bank account, and handles all communication with the employee.

Again, I want to highlight that the main feature here isn’t “taking pictures of receipts.” It’s about eliminating the need for employees to float expenses for weeks or months, and about removing a ton of back office manual process pain while doing it.

That means a company looking at Abacus is going to see a lot of happy and want it immediately. The fact that it’s very reasonably priced makes that decision even easier.

Not only did we invest in Abacus, we’re going to use it ourselves at CrunchFund and recommending all of our portfolio companies take a look. Once a startup has even a few employees, Abacus makes a lot of sense.

Big hopes for this one.

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