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09.01.16 | 8:50 am

VC firm Andreessen Horowitz charges top-tier fees without delivering top-tier performance

Investors Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, founders of their eponymous venture capital firm, have achieved cult status in Silicon Valley, where their tweet-storms and bon mots make headlines. But a new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that their veneration as technology prophets is only partially deserved: Despite charging premium fees, Andreessen Horowitz's three funds to date have yet to consistently deliver best-in-class results. 

The firm has branded itself as a peer to industry leaders like Sequoia Capital and Benchmark, which perform in the top 5% of all venture capital firms. But Andreessen Horowitz has not generated returns at that level since its 2009 fund, according to the Journal. Its two funds since, from 2010 and 2012, are currently performing in the top 50% and top 25%, respectively. (Most venture capital funds operate on a 10-year time horizon.)

A blockbuster hit, like a strong exit by portfolio company Airbnb, could improve those results. But the firm's portfolio also includes some disappointments, like Zenefits.

03.30.17 | 23 minutes ago

FBI director Jim Comey doesn’t seem to mind his Twitter and Instagram were apparently revealed

This afternoon, a story by Gizmodo's Ashley Feinberg that appeared to uncover Comey's real social media accounts got a lot of attention. (Read the full story—she makes a pretty compelling case that @Projectexile7, which goes by the name Reinhold Niebuhr, and the reinholdniebuhr Instagram account, belong to the FBI director. For your info, Niebuhr was an American theologian who is known for developing the philosophy of Christian realism—while a student at the College of William and Mary, Comey wrote his college senior thesis about him.)

Now, within the last hour, those accounts have responded and appear to be congratulating Feinberg for her scoop.

03.30.17 | 3 hours ago

Here’s what Reddit is doing to get serious about making money

Reddit has redesigned its self-serve ad platform to make quick ad-buys easier for advertisers. The move—a week after Reddit announced it would add user profile pages—is part of a bigger focus by the company on profitablity. Here are three big updates: 

1) Pay after you post: Previously you would have to pre-pay for your ad and Reddit would bill or refund you the difference. 

2)  More detailed reporting: Previously you could only view the performance of the campaign over the entire time. Now you can track particular weeks, months, days in addition to CPM, CPC, and click through rates.

3) Run multiple posts: Advertisers can now have more than one post per campaign. 

Reddit—whose dedicated users don't always take change easily—has made many attempts to get its advertising model right since 2009, but in the last year it has really ramped up its efforts. You can read more about Reddit's push toward profit in my story today

[Reddit co-founder and executive chairman Alexis Ohanian. Image: Flickr / Websummit]

03.30.17 | 3 hours ago

Palmer Luckey is out at Facebook

That's the word on the street. The Oculus founder has been a major PR drain ever since he was discovered to have funded a group that created pro-Trump/anti-Clinton memes. He was also the target of a lawsuit claiming that he stole the underlying technology for the Rift headset. According to reports, Oculus didn't say exactly why Luckey is finally leaving, but the VR company released this statement :

"Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer's legacy extends far beyond Oculus. We're thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best."

UploadVR first reported the news and has a nice timeline of Luckey's controversies.

03.30.17 | 12:00 pm

Your Twitter @reply names will no longer hog precious characters

In a move it first teased last May and has been testing for months, Twitter will stop counting the @names at the start of a reply against the 140 characters you get for a tweet. The change will free up useful space, especially in the case of conversations that involve a bunch of people.

Along with the accounting change, the service is tweaking its interface: the name(s) of people you're replying to will appear above the tweet rather than in it, with multiple names collapsed as they are in Facebook—a clutter-busting move that will probably provoke grumbles from some folks until they acclimate themselves to the new approach.

03.30.17 | 11:44 am

Lively created D-cup bralettes that sold out in 24 hours 

As I've reported, bralettes are now outpacing push-ups and padded bras. But one problem with the bralette is that they're not a particularly inclusive product. Most bra brands don't make them for larger cup sizes, meaning than many women don't have the option to wear this more comfortable, wireless style. 

Underwear startup Lively kept receiving feedback from customers asking for bralettes in a larger cup size. So the brand engineered a new bra, dubbed the Busty Bralette, for women who wear D to DDD cup sizes. This involved engineering a bra that provided the ease of a bralette with better support. Clearly this met an important demand in the market because the entire collection sold out in less than 24 hours. 

03.30.17 | 11:27 am

Ministry of Supply now lets you 3D-print customized garments in store while you wait

Technically, it's more like print-knitting. Customers visiting Ministry of Supply's flagship store in Boston can personalize a garment—picking colors, buttons, and cuffs—that will be 3D printed in front of them from start to finish as they wait. 

In addition to being a fun experience, the 3D-printing technology is less wasteful since it is printed in a single piece, thereby eliminating 30% of fabric that is usually thrown out in the traditional cut-and-sew process. Each item is made on demand, cutting out many layers in the supply chain. 

As I've reported before, Ministry of Supply operates much more like a tech company than a fashion label. Before launching a new product, it goes through plenty of product testing and then constantly redesigns products based on customer feedback. It also tries to incorporate the latest technology into garments and manufacturing. If this new 3D printer is a success, Ministry of Supply will roll it out in all nine of its retail locations. 

03.30.17 | 11:10 am

Lyft manages to screw up its best opportunity to be a better Uber

With all the negative stories about discrimination, regulatory bypassing, and general cultural toxicity spewing out of Uber's headquarters like a broken damn, Lyft was in the position to benefit from riders and drivers who expect better from their businesses—and it was doing a pretty good job. That is, until Lyft's president, John Zimmer, described his company as "woke" to Time magazine. There was also this choice phrasing, which strikes me as both gross and confusing:

"We're not the nice guys," Zimmer says. "We're a better boyfriend." 

First, a "better boyfriend" doesn't make you a good boyfriend. And don't you want your partner to also be nice? Finally, why are you gendering your company?

While Lyft has a reputation for being the more human of the two services, calling itself "woke" is a stretch. It is not woke to keep your company's diversity stats hidden (apparently these are forthcoming). It is also not woke to pledge $1 million to the ACLU just after your main competitor is publicly accused of strikebreaking—it's opportunistic. Let's not forget that Lyft has also been called out for the way it classifies drivers and has every intention of replacing them with robots in the next nine years. 

[Photo: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Lyft]

03.30.17 | 11:01 am

Paravel creates luxury luggage that allows you to support social causes

Chic, direct-to-consumer luggage brand Paravel wanted to recognize the fact that while travel is a luxury for some people, it is a lifeline for others. This was particularly pertinent to founders Andy Krantz and Indré Rockefeller when Donald Trump first signed an executive order barring people from eight countries from coming to the U.S. "Like many others, we were troubled by Donald Trump's travel ban," Krantz says. "We're not a partisan company, but we wanted to give our customers, who travel a lot and are constantly at airports, an opportunity to express themselves."

Paravel partnered with Harlem-based graffiti artist Shaun Crawford, who hand-painted phrases like Stay Woke and GRL PWR on different pieces from the collection, which are all made from a waterproof and stain-proof canvas. The company is donating 10% of sales from this particular cause-driven line to the ACLU. Yesterday, Paravel made it possible to customize all of their products. Crawford will paint one of 12 emojis or a monogram onto any bag in the collection.

03.30.17 | 10:52 am

In one year, bra trends totally changed

We saw this one coming. Last summer, Fast Company covered the rise in sports bras and bralettes. The data is in and it turns out that in one year, America's bra shopping habits have totally changed, as I point out in today's Moving the Needle newsletter. (Sign up under "fashion weekly" here.) 

Fashion analytics firm Edited crunched the numbers and found that retailers—from Nordstrom to Victoria's Secret—are including fewer push-ups and padded bras in their mix. On the other hand, sports bras and bralettes are on the upswing. This has everything to do with the rise in athleisure clothing and a generally more casual approach to dressing. 

03.30.17 | 10:48 am

Amazon has a new secret plan to cut Walmart out of the supply chain

This is interesting: Amazon apparently wants to convince the owners of big packaged-food brands (Oreos, Cheerios, etc.) to reimagine their packaging for direct-to-consumer sales. Bloomberg got its hands on an invitation to an event in Seattle aimed at selling the idea that brick-and-mortar is passé and packaging need not be designed to stand out on store shelves anymore. Put another way, think less about Walmart and more about Amazon

Here's what was written on the invitation, per Bloomberg:  

"Times are changing … Amazon strongly believes that supply chains designed to serve the direct-to-consumer business have the power to bring improved customer experiences and global efficiency. To achieve this requires a major shift in thinking."

The pitch feels less like a friendly value proposition than a stern warning, and it rings similar to the argument Facebook made a few years ago when it was trying to convince media companies to publish directly to Facebook via "Instant Articles." Then, like now, there was the implicit overtone that those who didn't get on board would be left behind. Read more from Bloomberg.

[Photo: Flickr user jenny cu]

03.30.17 | 9:55 am

McDonald’s figures it will try fresh beef for a change

The fast-food giant said today it will start using fresh beef in lieu of its usual frozen patties for its staple Quarter Pounder hamburgers. The change will take place some time in 2018 at most McDonald's locations, per the AP. With consumers increasingly gravitating toward fresh ingredients, the change is McDonald's latest attempt to position itself as, if not a healthy option, at least a less-processed one. Read more about it here.

03.30.17 | 7:47 am

Google finally brings its Calendar app to the iPad

iPad users rejoice! The search giant's popular Calendar app is finally on Apple's tablet, the company announced in a blog post. Highlights of the new app include:

• Smart scheduling: "Calendar suggests meeting times and available rooms based on your team's  availability and room preferences."

• Goal targeting: "Add a goal and Calendar will intelligently schedule time for it so you can stick to it."

Calendar for iPad is a free download.

Image: Google