Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced look at this week’s startup news and trends from senior reporter Natasha Mascarenhas.
After a Tahoe-based technology conference, Sheel Mohnot, the fintech investor behind Better Tomorrow Ventures, has been beatboxing in his head all day, every day. And while it may feel like an unusual takeaway from an event featuring the who’s who in tech, that was exactly the point.
Mohnot is one of 40 people who attended “Learning Man” earlier this month, a technical conference aimed at immersing participants in education, play and creation. Those present were between the ages of 20 and 60; in exchange for broadening their minds, tickets cost $750. Hosted by friends Marie Diamond, Arielle Zuckerberg, Amit Kumar, Jared Goldberg and Kristen Winzent, the event ironically wanted to go beyond what brought everyone together in the first place: the world of technology.
Diamond, a communications manager and organizer, told ukbusinessupdates.com that “the whole premise of the conference is that work is often the least interesting thing about us and we wanted to give people a space to go deeper.”
The main rule? Bring a topic you want others to learn about. The main principles? Things like “Beginners are sexy” and “The world is a passion project.” Company merchandise is encouraged – as long as it doesn’t belong to you (a line one person correctly interpreted as an opportunity to rock an FTX risk management shirt).
Participants collectively gave more than 30 presentations, talking about everything from travel hacks to Fertility 101 to nighttime scheduling. That said, artificial intelligence showed up in at least two sessions, even a few hundred miles from what’s called Cerebral Valley. And aside from the beatboxing, Mohnot managed to take a professional learning experience away from the time management presentation: hiring another EA.
As a result of the event, there was, not surprisingly, some sponsorship interest. I joked that they may have accidentally created a community-focused tech startup. But Diamond says they specifically aren’t trying to monetize the event. “I think it would change the nature of it. It was a little key experiment and I think we want to keep its authenticity.” She adds with a laugh, “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, a co-host, part-time DJ and investor at Long Journey VC, says they are thinking about making it an annual event. Community members who attended the debut conference cook mini Learning Man Dinners.
“We barely talked about work 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 talk about Amazon’s new bed and bad advice from investors. Are we surprised? As always you can follow me Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation. If you feel like supporting me extra, please subscribe my very free and still in the making Substack.
And before we really go any further, I have a shameless plug: Bubbles make me happy. If you hear about a venture firm or startup that wins, raises, flounders or, oh I don’t know, launches an executive because of internal events, tell me. Pitch decks and term sheets are also welcome. Happy to talk about anonymity and explain more about 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 in the generative AI race, but not in the way you might expect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, both of which have attempted to build AI models in-house, Amazon recruits third parties to host models on AWS. The effort is called Amazon soil, and startups will have the ability to build generative AI-powered apps 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. Amazon seemingly dances around the AI conversation compared to the bold moves of some of its competitors. Before Bedrock, Amazon’s interest was best understood a collaboration with Stability AIand even more recently, an accelerator for generative AI startups.
- Unraveling the rules that shape generative AI
- The new Betaworks “camp” aims to fund early-stage transformative AI startups
- User spend increases over 4000% on AI-powered apps
Raise from me, but don’t pay yourself? no thanks
Some venture capital firms today give surprising advice: raise capital from our company, but don’t pay yourself. In other words, if you’re a founder with real ambition, your salary is in shares, rooted in the future success of your startup. Well, TCs Hi Jan Kamps dislikes it, writes: “If you raised venture capital, you have to pay yourself.”
I don’t disagree. But here’s what Hey said:
But you know what one of the biggest distractions is? Not being able to pay your mortgage, rent, car payment or next shipment of Huel. As a founder, it is your duty to focus on building the startup so that it is as successful as possible as soon as possible.
As an investor in these startups, it is your duty to help the startup reach that point in the shortest possible time. Telling founders not to take a salary is wonderfully counterproductive on so many levels.
- With just 2.1% of all VC investment, women’s funding remains ‘meh’ in Q1 2023
Three perspectives on the founder’s mental health
At Equity this week, I spoke with three experts on mental health. Naveed Lalani of Pioneer Mind, psychiatrist Dr. Saumya Dave and Leslie Feinzaig of Graham & Walker all said different versions of the same statement: founders shouldn’t have to choose between sanity and perseverance.
Here’s what you need to know: This episode is packed with perspectives on how to be responsible, ranging from a call to action for investors to support founders in considering their mental health as a business priority to the fragmented world of “mental health support.” Have a listen. I’m proud of it.
- Silicon Valley Bank’s chief risk officer is gone, months after taking the job
- Big scream To Dominic-Madori Davis for join the Found podcast team!
- Review Saturday: If you missed Startups Weekly last week, check out my latest issue here: “We’re Still Talking About Y Combinator Valuations.”
- Shall we stay on campus? ukbusinessupdates.com is literally coming to Boston next week. On April 20, I’ll be at TC Early Stage with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts at the best one-day founder meeting in town. Reserve your pass as soon as possible! Speakers are incl Kerty Levy of Techstars, Build Capital’s Dayna Grayson And James Currier of NFX.
- Programming Note: If you’re reading this in a browser, get this in your inbox too! Subscribe here and share it with your friends.
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Be careful and tell your people you love them,
If you have a juicy tip or clue about happenings in the corporate world, you can reach Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Anonymity requests are respected.
Yes, ‘Learning Man’ is something by Natasha Mascarenhas originally published on ukbusinessupdates.com