Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by senior reporter Natasha Mascarenhas.
After a tech conference in Tahoe, Sheel Mohnot, the fintech investor behind Better Tomorrow Ventures, is beatboxing in his head, all day, every day. And while it might seem like an unusual takeout from an event showcasing who’s who in tech, that was precisely the point.
Mohnot is one of 40 people who attended “Learning Man” earlier this month, a technology conference focused on immersing attendees in education, play and creation. The attendees were between 20 and 60 years old; in exchange for expanding your mind, tickets are $750. Hosted by friends Marie Diamond, Arielle Zuckerberg, Amit Kumar, Jared Goldberg and Kristen Winzent, the event wanted to ironically delve beyond what brought everyone together in the first place: the world of technology.
Diamond, a communications executive and organizer, told TechCrunch that “the whole premise of the conference is that work is often the least interesting part of us and we wanted to provide a space for people to dig deeper.”
The main rule? Bring a topic you want to teach others about. The fundamental principles? Things like “Beginners are sexy” and “The world is a passion project.” Company merchandise is recommended, as long as it’s not yours (a rule that one person correctly interpreted as an opportunity to rock an FTX risk management T-shirt).
Participants collectively gave more than 30 presentations, talking about everything from travel hacks to fertility 101 and date night planning. That said, the artificial intelligence did show up in at least two sessions, including within a few hundred miles of what has been dubbed Cerebral Valley. And aside from the beatboxing, Mohnot managed to take a professional learning from the time management presentation: hire another EA.
As a result of the event, not so jokingly, there was some interest from sponsors. I joked that they may have accidentally created a community-focused tech startup. But Diamond says they specifically aren’t trying to make money from the event. “I think it would change its nature, it was a key little experiment and I think we want to keep it authentic.” She adds, laughing, “if there’s any sponsorship, it would be from Sheel and Taco Bell.” (Mohnot married his wife last month in the Taco Bell metaverse.)
Zuckerberg, co-organizer, part-time DJ, and investor in Long Journey VC, says they’re thinking of making it an annual event. Community members who attended the debut conference are preparing mini “learning dinners.”
“Actually, we barely talked about the job and it was lovely,” Zuckerberg said.
With that, let’s move on to the rest of Startups Weekly. In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Amazon’s new bed and bad investor advice. We are surprised? As always, you can follow me on Twitter either instagram to continue the conversation. If you feel like supporting me extra, subscribe to my very free and still in the works substack.
And before we really go any further, I have a shameless plugin: The firsts make me happy. If you hear about a venture firm or startup winning, rising, failing, or oh, I don’t know, firing an executive due to internal events, tell me. Pitch decks and term sheets are also welcome. Happy to talk about anonymity and explain more of my process and what I’m looking for. You can tell me things on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches please.
Amazon is finally jumping into the AI generative race, but not in the way you would expect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, which have sought to build AI models in-house, Amazon is enlisting third parties to host models on AWS. The effort is called amazon bedrock, and startups have the ability to build generative AI-powered applications through pre-trained models from startups, including AI21 Labs, Anthropic, and Stability AI. It is currently in limited preview.
Here’s why we’re not surprised: I mean, we’ve been waiting for this. On the surface, Amazon has been dancing around the AI conversation compared to the bold moves of some of its competitors. Before Bedrock, Amazon’s interest was best viewed through a partnership with Stability AIand even more recently, an accelerator for generative AI startups.
- Dismantling the rules that shape generative AI
- New Betaworks ‘camp’ aims to fund transformative early-stage AI startups
- User spend increases more than 4,000% on AI-powered apps
Lift from me, but don’t pay yourself? No, thanks
Some VC firms are giving amazing advice these days: get capital from our firm, but don’t pay it yourself. In other words, if you are a founder with true ambition, your salary is based on the future success of your startup. well, CT Haje Jan Kamps does not love that, writing: “If you’ve raised venture capital, you have to pay yourself back.”
I do not disagree but this is what Haha saying:
But you know what one of the biggest distractions is? Not being able to meet your mortgage, rent, car payment or next shipment of Huel. As the founder, it is your duty to focus on building the startup to be as successful as possible as quickly as possible.
As an investor in these startups, it is your duty to help them get to that point in the shortest amount of time possible. Telling founders not to accept a salary is wonderfully self-defeating on so many levels.
- With just 2.1% of all VC investment, funding for women is still “meh” in Q1 2023
Three Perspectives on the Mental Health of Founders
At Equity this week, I spoke with three experts on mental health. Pioneer Mind’s Naveed Lalani, psychiatrist Dr. Saumya Dave and Graham & Walker’s Leslie Feinzaig had different versions of the same statement: Founders shouldn’t have to choose between mental health and grit.
Here’s what you should know: This episode is packed with insights on how to act responsibly, ranging from a call to action for investors to support founders in making their mental health a business priority to the fragmented world of “mental health support.” . Give it a listen. I’m proud of it.
- Silicon Valley Bank’s chief risk officer is out, months after taking over
- big greeting youor Dominic-Madori Davis for Join the Found podcast team!
- Remembrance Saturday: If you missed Startups Weekly last week, check out my latest issue here: “We’re Still Talking Y Combinator Valuations.”
- Let’s stay on campus? TechCrunch is coming to Boston literally next week. On April 20th, I’ll be at TC Early Stage with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts at the best one-day founders’ summit in town. Reserve your pass ASAP! Speakers include Techstars Kerty Tax, Dayna Grayson of Construct Capital and NFX’s James Currier.
- Programming note: If you’re reading this in a browser, get it in your inbox too! subscribe here and share it with your friends.
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Computer or casino?
Take care, and tell your people you love them,
If you have a juicy tip or a tip on what’s going on in the corporate world, you can contact Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Requests for anonymity will be respected.
Yes, ‘Learning Man’ is becoming a thing by Natasha Mascarenhas Originally posted on TechCrunch