Hello and happy Saturday. A quick scheduling note: Pipeline will be hitting pause for a bit, and I look forward to returning back to your inbox later this spring. In the meantime, be sure to check Protocol.com soon for a big story from me you’ll want to read.
This week in Pipeline, the great synthetic womb discourse, a chance to meet the new BFFs of the crypto world and why you shouldn’t think of this time as a bubble, but a balloon.
Meet the BFFs of crypto
When Brit Morin walked into the main conference hall at NFT NYC week, she didn’t see a single other female. “It felt like SXSW 2005 or something,” she told me. That’s the moment she decided she was going to build a community to do something about it.
She’s signed up Tyra Banks, Gwyneth Paltrow and a bunch of top tech investors and artists like Jessica Hische for her project. They are all founding members of BFF, which Morin co-founded with Jaime Schmidt to build an on-ramp for women and nonbinary people into crypto.
- The group unveiled more than 50 founding members last week, and is officially kicking off with an event on Jan. 26 that 15,000 people have already signed up for. From the VC world, founding members include investors like Katie Stanton, Sarah Guo, Rebecca Kaden, Kara Nortman, Deena Shakir, Maaria Bajwa and Haley Barna.
- But BFF isn’t just a bunch of VCs looking for investment opportunities. The goal was to bring in women and nonbinary people from across industries, meaning Hollywood A-listers like Mila Kunis and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff are also taking part.
That doesn’t mean everyone involved is an expert. In fact, the point is that people don’t have to be.
- Remove yourself from the Twittersphere and there’s a whole world of people who maybe have heard the terms “Web3” or “NFT” but don’t actually know how to go about buying digital assets, said Schmidt, who previously founded Schmidt’s Naturals.
- Morin and Schmidt want BFF and its Discord channel to be a place where people can let their guard down like they do with their BFFs, ask questions and get advice. People may be inspired to work on Web3 projects along the way (which is likely part of the draw for the VC crowd) but the goal isn’t to promote anyone’s project in the group, Morin said. In other words, it’s not another celebrity-backed pump-and-dump scheme.
It’s more than just the financial opportunity. Although, to be fair, that’s a huge driver of making sure women and nonbinary people are sharing in the wealth generation of crypto.
- “I worry that if women aren't participating, not only are we missing out on wealth opportunities, but more than that, we're not participating in building what could be the future of the internet,” Morin said.
- A big part of BFF will be the education component and getting the “crypto-curious” to just take the dive into learning more about it. But the bonus of having such a high-powered and networked community is being able to connect people across industries, whether it’s investors or creators or authors or artists, and having them help each other get projects off the ground.
The timing couldn’t be better. With the news this week that Twitter was making hexagonal profile photos featuring NFTs available to its subscribers (and rumors of Meta considering something similar), NFTs are pushing more into the mainstream than ever before. Morin and Schmidt just want to make sure their BFFs (and everyone else’s BFFs) aren’t left out of it.
Apparently the Uyghur genocide is “below the line” of things Chamath Palihapitiya cares about. In an episode of the All-In podcast, he said, “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” and that “I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all of the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.” He continued to say that he would prioritize what’s happening in the U.S. over what’s happening to a class of people in another country. The Warriors had to issue a statement saying the team’s part-owner doesn’t represent the organization, and Palihapitiya kinda sorta apologized after the outrage by saying he came across as lacking empathy and that he supports human rights anywhere.
“Below the line” then became its own meme, deployed by none other than Marc Andreessen in the Great Web3 Twitter Fight. This time Andreessen unblocked Jack Dorsey just so Dorsey could see a meme Andreessen made dunking on him. (This is a good example of things that should actually be below the line of what Palihapitiya cares about.)
Should “Wombshots” be the next moonshots? Elon Musk’s concerns about a population collapse and Sahil Lavingia’s reply about investing in tech to solve the problem diverted much of the industry to talking about synthetic wombs on Twitter. Some saw it as tech bros wanting to “vat grow babies” instead of fixing society through policies. Others pointed out that there are real challenges with IVF and other fertility treatments, and any investment in a technological solution that improves it would be better. Either way, it got investors and startup founders to have a serious discussion about the opportunities, and as Alexia Bonatsos pointed when she used the term “wombshot,” “It's time to meet femtech, fertility tech, women's health (whatever you want to call it) with the same excitement and energy as we meet space exploration.”
“I really screwed up.” DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman acknowledged to Reid Hoffman that he was a pretty relentless and demanding leader when he was at Google and had some responsibilities revoked. But he’s worked with a coach, taken responsibility and is now what Hoffman called an “infinite learner” and, also, Greylock’s newest partner.
Want a next-level Wordle? Try Primel, which is only prime numbers.
A MESSAGE FROM APPIAN
Businesses need applications faster than ever before, and they need them to solve increasingly complex, sophisticated problems. This means IT teams need a more efficient way to quickly deliver powerful software and a better way to partner with their business counterparts. That’s where low-code comes in.
M.G. Siegler isn’t calling “bubble!” How about a balloon instead? He’s seeing what he calls “the great deflate” as the hot air leaves overheated tech markets.
The stock market has faced a major correction, but what will that mean for startups? Hint: The closer to the public markets, the more a startup may feel it, wrote Redpoint’s Tomasz Tunguz.
Parker Conrad wants companies to be more transparent about their customer-support response times, much like a website’s outage detector. Rippling is now publishing real-time metrics on how fast the company is responding to emails or chats.Startup employees paid an estimated $11 billion in avoidable taxes in 2021, according to Secfi CEO Frederik Mijnhardt, who crunched the numbers with proprietary Secfi data and public SEC filings.
Need to know
A16z is reportedly raising another $4.5 billion to invest in crypto, including up to $1 billion for a seed fund for “digital asset startups,” according to the FT. This comes six months after it announced its $2.2 billion crypto fund, and on the heels of the news that Kim Milosevich is returning to the firm to be the CMO of its crypto arm and Sriram Krishnan is moving over to that team.
$1 out of every $5 invested in 2021 went to fintech startups, according to CB Insights’ 2021 “State of Venture” report. (The sector also accounts for one-in-four unicorns.)
Acorns called off its $2.2 billion SPAC merger. It’s going to raise more money at a higher pre-money valuation instead.
Better.com’s CEO is back. Vishal Garg is back in charge after taking his own break for firing 900 people on a Zoom call.
New fund alerts: Foundation Capital raised a $500 million fund.
On Protocol: Should just anyone be given keys to the AI machine? Read Kate Kaye on why low-code AI tools pose new risks.
Also on Protocol: You know I love a good TikTok, so here’s a story by Sarah Roach on how Dan Space, aka “Dan from HR,” became TikTok’s favorite career coach.
Your weekend reading: Do you have an Agnieszka Pilat painting in your house? The Polish artist has become a favorite of Silicon Valley billionaires, both for her paintings of tech machinery and her muse, a Boston Robotics robot dog named Spot.
Five questions with … Emergence Capital’s Lotti Siniscalco
Originally from Italy, Carlotta “Lotti” Siniscalco joined Emergence Capital as a senior associate in 2018, was promoted to principal in 2020 and then became a partner in 2021. She focuses on early-stage enterprise investing and works with companies like Convex, Oyster and High Alpha.
What was your first job, and what’s a skill you still use from it?
At age 5, my mom took me to the local stationery store, owned and run by a woman well into her 80s. I was fascinated by all the merchandise she had, and also quickly became very upset at how chaotic the place looked. As my mom stood at the counter chatting with the owner, I began organizing the pencils, notebooks, etc. in a way that made sense to me. The owner gave me a job on the spot and told me that if I spent a few hours a week making sense of her chaos, she would let me pick any stationary item I wanted. To this day, I still really enjoy making sense out of chaos. I find joy in figuring out patterns behind noisy data, connecting dots across industries and companies and developing a view of what I believe the future may look like.
What problem do you want to see a startup solve?
I believe talent is equally distributed around the world, but job opportunities are not. I know this firsthand. I was born and raised in Italy — a place without many opportunities to flourish professionally, particularly in tech and particularly for women, or young people. I believe technology can break down geographic, gender and other barriers and let the best people and ideas emerge. COVID-19 has accelerated this idea (in our portfolio, companies like Zoom, Oyster, and Textio have contributed to this trend). I think we are just at the beginning of this trend, and I can't wait to see what other solutions will be conceived to address this inequality of opportunities.
What book do you think every startup founder should read?
I am a big advocate for mental health education and support for founders. Building a company requires deep resilience. The journey is long and not always up and to the right. Taking care of one's mental health is one of the highest ROI decisions a founder can make for themselves. Books I recommend on this topic include: “How Emotions Are Made,” “10% Happier” and “Altered Traits.” I also think every startup founder should have either a therapist, coach or both.
The way we work has changed in the last two years. What does that mean for enterprise investing?
Remote work has multiplied by one or two orders of magnitude the potential (and need) for enterprise software. I see two sides of this: On one hand, there is a need for technology tools to solve the collaboration problems and inefficiencies that remote work creates. On the other hand, I see the potential to create enterprise applications that not only get us to pre-COVID parity, but that supercharge the way we used to work.
What’s a secret obsession of yours that most people don’t know about?
I really enjoy science fiction! My favorite movie is “The Matrix,” my favorite book is “Nexus,” and I'm always looking for new recommendations for unknown, up and coming authors.
Thanks for reading this week’s Protocol Pipeline. I’ll see you again soon.