From the Porch

by David Levy:

(Fake) astronomer, chess player, politician and all other things that having a relatively common name afford me. (See here.)

(Real) Startup Bizdev at Amazon, Venture Partner at ER Accelerator, former EIR at Comcast Ventures, former EIR at Broadway Video Ventures, founder of a few companies (Tigerbow and Philo), and seller of one (to LocalResponse). Also advising, investing in, and playing with new ideas. Prior, spent a decade or so on Wall Street covering, investing in, and advising growth and technology companies.

Investor:
Hopscotch
Chromatik
Panna
ENIAC Ventures

Advisor:
Figure1
eduClipper

Email me at dslevy [at] gmail [dot] com.

All opinions/etc. are my own.
Recent Tweets @dslevy
Who I Follow

When Google acquired Android and word got out that it was building a mobile operating system and possibly a phone, the general consensus was that the company had gone looney. Another silly project from a giant company with fat margins and tons of cash that was akin to building space ships and flying (self driving?) cars. Turns out it was a good move considering the whole world moved to mobile and mobile devices outnumber desktop by an order of magnitude.

Microsoft and other tech giants followed suit launching their own phones, mobile operating systems, etc. But Facebook didn’t, despite persistent rumors they would. Separately, the company spent $2B to buy Oculus, which makes a virtual reality mask that you attach to your face. Looney? Maybe. But perhaps Facebook is looking past mobile to a world of that moves to wearables and “things” with Internet that outnumber mobile phones by orders magnitude.

Traffic origination is shifting to messaging. Once upon a time, traffic to websites originated from search. And Google put a toll on it by selling sponsored results. Now Google is worth >$350B. Then, social media went from driving 5% of traffic to >25% and probably a bunch more. Now Facebook and Twitter are worth >$150B and ~$20B. Now this….

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According to Digiday, 18% of sharing actvity on FTW (USA Today’s viral sports site) comes from the WhatsApp share button. (Same post notes similar WhatsApp sharing craziness on Buzzfeed, Shazam, and Aviary). This is a really big deal and may finally explain why Facebook laid out $19B for WhatsApp and why Evan Spiegel negged Facebook’s $3B Snapchat indication of interest.

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In 2010 I conceived, built, financed, and launched a social television platform called Philo. It let TV viewers use their mobile phones and laptops to connect and interact with programming and other viewers. Philo and its brethren kicked-off the social TV revolution. Ultimately, the original product failed and I pivoted and sold the company, but not before the television viewing experience was forever changed.

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I waited almost three years to finally put some thoughts down on this experience so forgive me if the facts are a little fuzzy. Sometimes it’s best to get your thoughts down right away. And sometimes it’s better to put some space in between the experience and the post mortem. In the case of both of my first two startups, I needed time to recuperate. Rested, recovered, and reflective… here goes….

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In honor of SXSWedu, which regrettably I am not attending, I thought it would be fun to put down a few thoughts about edtech, which I love - because, well, who wouldn’t? It’s one of the few trillion (with a ’t’) dollar markets (aside from healthcare and financial services?), it’s technology, it’s about education, and I’ve got a kid.

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First, a ‘market’ look at the education sector. These numbers are wrong - as usual - but the orders of magnitude should be sorta right and illustrative….

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Hedge fund managers and startup CEOs may appear to come from opposite worlds - the former numbers-obsessed nutjobs hiding behind dozens of screens, the latter product-obsessed nutjobs hiding behind dozen of bowls of ramen - but having masqueraded as both nutjobs I’ve noticed one unique quality ever present in the best of both: they know how to go all in.

What I mean by knowing how to go all in is that not only do they have the balls to do it, but they are experts about knowing where and when to go all in.

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Alexandra Jordan and Super Fun Kid Time finally got me to put some thoughts down re coding and its impact on youth culture. Who is Alex Jordan? She’s the nine year old fourth grader that dreamed up, designed, and pitched her playdate app at Techcrunch Disrupt the other day. Her (adorable) presentation and an interview are here. According to Techcrunch, she’s learning to code in Ruby and HTML with help from her father and Codecademy.

The bigger takeaway here is, as Mashable put it:

"Coding is 21st century literacy."

And it is permeating youth culture in a profound way. It is mainstream. It is cool. It is hip. And it is a really big deal.

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I’m excited to announce that last month I joined Comcast Ventures for a stint as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. EIR roles have many definitions, but for this one I’ll be sourcing and vetting deals, particularly in early stage digital, social, and mobile media companies in New York City.

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A little bit about Comcast Ventures and Comcast Corporation….

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Google directs traffic to websites and that has made the company the most powerful on the web. In social and mobile, the power will reside with companies that direct traffic to mobile apps.

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Right now, those companies include Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and (well) Google. And right now, the methods of directing traffic to mobile apps are via app stores and native / in-stream advertising (e.g., sponsored posts and promoted tweets) like this one:

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For the past several years I’ve been making comparisons between the dotcom bubble and this current tech cycle. At this point, that we’re in a period of exuberance (be it rational or otherwise) is a given (26 year olds don’t sell companies with little revenue for $1.1 billion in cash unless something awesome is happening - and FWIW I think the Yahoo/Tumblr deal is a win all around). But in July 2011 I said: “The question isn’t are we in a bubble. The question is are we in 1995 or 1999.” The question, therefore, remains: at what point in the cycle are we. The answer: it’s still early. Here’s why….

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I’m saying this for the third time. Facebook will do search. And [more importantly] they’ll do it well. Yes, they announced Graph Search in mid January, but since then the naysayers beat up the product with myopic criticism of the beta release. Some months have passed, but I figured now that everyone is focused on beating up Facebook Home instead, it’d be as good a time as any to answer back….

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