Is decentralization overhyped? And the future of voice tech.

Product Hunt Radio



Nov. 27, 2018, 9 p.m.

Today I'm at AngelList HQ in San Francisco for a bit of a reunion with two friends and investors: Parker Thompson and Erik Torenberg.

Parker Thompson is a partner at AngelList and early stage investor. Prior to joining the family here (Product Hunt is an AngelList company), he was a partner at 500 Startups where he invested in Erik's first company, among many others. Before that, Parker spent six years at Pivotal Labs. As you'll hear, he's also behind the popular Twitter account @StartupLJackson.

Erik Torenberg is co-founder and partner at Village Global, a network-driven venture firm. He is also co-founder and chairman of crypto company TokenDaily and On Deck, a community of top talent looking to start or join their next company. Erik was actually the first full-time teammate to join me at Product Hunt and prior to that, he co-founded, an app for participating in live online rap battles.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How investors choose which companies to bet on, including how investors think about investing in companies with distributed teams. We also run through the lessons learned from the early stage investing Parker, Erik and I have done and discuss the strategies founders should use when pricing their initial fundraising rounds.
  • The emergence of crypto and whether it will pose a threat to Facebook as well as the challenges Facebook faces in trying to regulate what can and can't be said on their platform. We also talk about when decentralization makes sense and why some of the benefits of centralization might be overlooked in the rush to decentralize.
  • How new business opportunities emerge through platform shifts, including whether voice as a platform is finally seeing its often-forecasted and much-anticipated shift to the mainstream. Erik and Parker also run through some of their requests for products.

Of course, we also talk about some of their favorite products, including a social network for books, an app to help freestyle rappers, and a device that lets you cook food to perfection by vacuum-sealing it and submerging it in hot water.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Also, big thanks to our sponsors, Airtable, GE Ventures, Intercom and Stripe for their support. 😸

Quotes from This Episode

“Every time there's a platform shift you sort of have two different types of companies built on the new platform: new-old things — you take legacy products and add internet to it, like Casper, bed plus internet, or Coursera, education plus internet. Then you have the new-new thing — things that could only be created on the new platform, which for the internet is something like eBay or PayPal or Napster.” — Erik

“I think just as a macro point, often we're too quick to extrapolate patterns like the new-new versus the new-old and with respect to crypto, I’m old enough to remember the lesson coming out of the 90s that open was always going to win. That’s how we built web 2.0… but then Facebook and Twitter came along… but now open/decentralized is coming back we're and saying actually we were right before and open is the future.” — Parker

“You make choices in defaults — these algorithms are choices, and even when you try not to pick winners, you’re still picking winners.” — Parker

“A lot of people criticize these incumbents, like Facebook or Amazon, saying these are the rent-seekers taking way too much and that we are going to build a decentralized version of them and pass on all the value to consumers. But what they don’t give enough credit to is that these products already pass along a lot of value to consumers... What I’m excited about with crypto networks is the ability to incentivize a lot more stakeholders, like the early users that contribute a lot to the platform. You have the ability to give upside to a lot more people than just early employees.” — Erik

“A puzzle to me is, why is there not a billion dollar exercise video company? It just seems like something that should exist, and the way I think about investing is: you're just wandering through the world and encountering these puzzles and the answers are not obvious but then someone walks in the door with the answer because they’ve figured it out. That's when you get excited and do the deal.” — Parker

Companies and Products Mentioned in This Episode

Anova — Connected temperature-controlled cooking device.

Goodreads — Popular social network for book lovers.

Rhymeo — Freestyle app that provides material for your shareable raps.

STEEZY — Online dance classes at your own pace.

Udemy — Learn anything, on your schedule.