Yes, ‘Learning Man’ becomes a thing
Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends from senior reporter Natasha Mascarenhas.
After a Tahoe-based tech conference, Sheel Mohnot, the fintech investor behind Better Tomorrow Ventures, beatboxes in his head — all day, every day. And while that might seem like an uncommon takeaway from an event showcasing the who’s who of 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, gaming and creation. The participants were in their 20s to 60s; in exchange for expanding their minds, tickets cost $750. The event, organized by friends Marie Diamond, Arielle Zuckerberg, Amit Kumar, Jared Goldberg and Kristen Winzent, ironically wanted to dig beyond what brought everyone together in the first place: the world of tech.
Diamond, communications manager and organizer, told TechCrunch that “the whole premise of the conference is that work is often the least interesting thing about us and we wanted to provide a space for people to dig deeper.”
The main rule? Bring up a subject you want to teach others. The main principles? Stuff like “Beginners are sexy” and “The world is a passion project”. Company merchandise is encouraged – as long as it’s not yours (a rule one person correctly interpreted as a chance to wear an FTX risk management shirt).
Participants collectively hosted more than 30 presentations, talking about everything from travel hacks to fertility 101 to planning the night. That said, artificial intelligence has made an appearance in at least two sessions, even a few hundred miles from what has been dubbed Cerebral Valley. And, beatboxing aside, Mohnot managed to take one professional learning out of the time management presentation: hire another EA.
Following the event, there was not so much joking that there was some interest from sponsors. I joked that maybe they accidentally created a community-driven tech startup. But Diamond says they’re not specifically trying to make money from the event. “I think it would change the nature of it, it was a key little experience and I think we want to keep the authenticity of it.” She adds, laughing, “if there is 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 at Long Journey VC, says they plan to make it an annual event. Community members who attended the first conference are preparing mini “Learning Men’s Dinners”.
“We actually barely talked about work and it was delicious,” 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 on Twitter Or instagram to continue the conversation. If you want to support me more, subscribe to my very free and still running Substack.
And before I really continue, I have a shameless take: Balls make me happy. If you hear of a venture capital firm or a startup that wins, raises, agitates, or, oh I don’t know, fires an executive because of internal events, tell me. Pitch decks and term sheets are also welcome. Happy to speak on anonymity and further explain my process and what I’m looking for. You can tell me stuff about Signal at +1 925 271 0912. No pitches please.
Amazon is finally getting into the race for generative AI, but not in the way you expect. Unlike Microsoft and Apple, which have both sought to build AI models in-house, Amazon hires third parties to host models on AWS. The effort is called Amazon base, and startups 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 has seemingly danced around the AI conversation over the bold moves of some of its competitors. Before Bedrock, Amazon’s interest was better perceived a partnership with Stability AIand even more recently, an accelerator for generative AI startups.
- Deciphering the rules that shape generative AI
- Betaworks’ New ‘Camp’ Aims to Fund Transformative Early-Stage AI Startups
- User spending increases by more than 4000% on AI-powered apps
Raise from me, but don’t you pay? No thanks
Some venture capitalists are giving surprising advice these days: 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 equity, anchored in the future success of your startup. Well, the TCs Haje Jan Kamps don’t like it, writing: “If you raised venture capital, you have to pay yourself.”
I don’t disagree. But here’s what haje said:
But do you know what is one of the biggest distractions? Not being able to pay your mortgage, rent, car payment, or Huel’s next expedition. As a founder, it is your duty to focus on building the startup so that it succeeds as quickly as possible.
As an investor in these startups, it is your duty to help the startup reach this point as soon as possible. Telling founders not to take a salary is wonderfully counterproductive on so many levels.
- At just 2.1% of all venture capital investments, women’s funding remains “meh” in Q1 2023
Three Perspectives on the Mental Health of Founders
On Equity this week, I spoke with three mental health experts. Pioneer Mind’s Naveed Lalani, psychiatrist Dr. Saumya Dave, and Graham & Walker’s Leslie Feinzaig all said different versions of the same statement: Founders shouldn’t have to choose between sanity and courage.
Here’s what you need to know: This episode is full of insights on how to hurry responsibly, ranging from a call to action for investors to help founders consider their mental health a business priority to the fragmented world of “health support mental”. Listen to him. I’m proud of it.
- Silicon Valley Bank’s chief risk officer is out, months after taking office
- loud cry youo Dominic-Madori Davis for join the Found podcast team!
- Return Saturday: If you missed Startups Weekly last week, check out my latest issue here: “We’re still talking about Y Combinator valuations.”
- Let’s hang out on campus? TechCrunch 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 Summit in town. Book your pass ASAP! Speakers include Kerty Levy from Techstars, Build Capital’s Dayna Grayson And NFX’s James Currier.
- Note on programming: If you’re reading this on a browser, get it delivered to your inbox too! Subscribe here and share it with your friends.
Seen on TechCrunch
Call me, beep me, if you want to reach me
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Seen on TechCrunch+
13 VCs talk about the state of robotics investments in 2023
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a16z’s Crypto Report Anticipates Developer Growth as Blockchain Scaling Solutions Develop
Computer or casino?
Take care and tell your people you love them,
If you have a juicy tip or a lead on happenings in the risk 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’ Becomes a Thing by Natasha Mascarenhas originally posted on TechCrunch
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