Master Of Your Own Domain

I took a day off writing on the blog yesterday just to recharge and break things up. I may start to just post six days a week as I get busier in the fall.


I was feeling a little nostalgic a few weeks back and went to look over on YouTube for old Wallstrip episodes.

It turns out CBS has taken down all of the episodes.

I am really bummed about that, but I sold the show to them and I guess they can do what they want.

If anyone has ideas for how to go about getting an archive of the 400 plus episodes or another site that has them- please hit me up.

In searching, I found a Wallstrip highlight reel on YouTube that one of the producers Scott Solary had posted on YouTube.

It is a reminder to own your own domain like I do here on my WordPress site.

Have a great weekend.

PS – I asked SPAC king of 2020 Chamath to be on the podcast next week and he has agreed so that will be fun to dig in and get some of the insights and stories from him.

PSS – Thanks to my friend Todd Krieger for getting me the perfect birthday gift. You will laugh when you watch this.

Narvar Founder And CEO Amit Sharma Joins Me On Panic With Friends

I met Amit in San Francisco back in 2015 and agreed to invest right away. The post purchase e-commerce problem was something software could solve and it felt like a big problem to me. You will really enjoy listening to Amit talk about the company, the product, the journey and the opportunity.

You can listen to the podcast here on Spotify or Apple.

Guest: Amit Sharma

Profile: Founder and CEO of Narvar

Where to Find Him: LinkedIn, Twitter

Fun Fact: Amit left his job as a data engineer in India to pursue an MBA at Duke University. After graduating, he worked for some of the best-known brands, including Williams-Sonoma, Walmart, and Apple. He has an interesting Q&A with Thrive Global you can check out here.

What’s the Panic About: I love geeking out at eCommerce and if there’s one person to do that with it’s Amit Sharma. Amit is the mastermind behind Narvar, a customer experience platform pioneering the post-purchase experience and helping fill the gap between retailers, merchants, and consumers.The company assists the likes of Neiman Marcus, Home Depot, Glossier, Sonos, and more. Odds are you’ve used Amit’s company and didn’t even know it. And the great thing about Navar (and one of the things I’m proud of) is it’s actually one of the companies Social Leverage has helped fund. I loved getting to pick Amit’s brain on all things eCommerce, the consumer experience and challenges, supply chain, Narvar’s biggest clients, the effects of COVID on his industry, and more. Amit is a family man who truly cares about the work he is doing, so I had a great time getting his perspective on this episode.

The Takeaway: The biggest opportunities are in identifying gaps. For Amit, he used his 18 plus years of experience in business operations, saw a gap in the consumer experience, and ran with it. Also, it’s important to note that whether it’s delivering a shopping package or starting a company, your job is never really done.

Favorite Quotes:

“You have to invest in the customer engagement and customer experience.”

“For us the big question is: When is a brand ready to invest in customer engagement versus customer acquisition?”

“Fundamentally, consumers are looking for choice and convenience.”

Food for Thought: Listen up! If you want to help out and give back to our show, reach out to me on any leads to help Narvar grow their business. It’s a win-win piece of software.

PS – I am now doing two ‘Panic With Friends’ podcasts per week. Thanks for listening and make sure you subscribe over on Spotify or Apple.

Happy 55th Howie

I am 55 years old tomorrow.

All of yesterday I thought my birthday was today. Pathetic…I know.

I am excited to turn my calendar this year. I had a great year but it was the first one that left me helpless in a hospital bed for a couple weeks. It gave me the perspective almost worthy of the pain.

I let my friends know on Stocktwits and Twitter and to let me have it…

I got some really great replies.

Here is the link if you want to scroll.

I have many faves.

Young people always ask me ‘what would you tell your 20 year old self’. I generally reply ‘buy Apple’ or ‘invest in yourself’. My friend Chris Kimble went one step further with the investing birthday wishes…

This one from my friend Tom Lydon with me deep faked onto Forrest Gump.

Matthew Prince is the CEO of a multibillion company, but played along.

This one really cracked me up…

The one that made me laugh out loud was from Josh Elman:

I did get one great financial reminder though:

It really does pay to save for old age retirement…

Thanks everyone.

The FinTAM Explosion

The Fintech boom (at least for instividuals/retail) has come a LONG way since 2006 and the days of Etrade, Yahoo Finance and CNBC.

Way back in 2006, I was all in on Wallstrip to leverage the video network boom started by Youtube.

I was at CBS post Wallstrip acquisition when the bug hit me to start Stocktwits. I felt Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were going to start a boom in financial services, e-commerce and customer support/enterprise software solutions.

At the same time, my partner Tom and I started Social Leverage to invest our own money in as many companies as we could that fit into these categories (Lifelock, Buddy Media, Tweetdeck, Business Insider, Tubemogul, Ticketfly, Techstars, GolfNow). When I met Yoni in Tel Aviv in 2010 I knew the next eTrade would be mobile first and invested and when I flew up to meet Vlad and Baiju to see their mobile brokerage idea Robinhood I knew that if they could build it and launch it, people would come!

We also backed our future partner Gary at Assistly whose company went on to build a great customer support company that was acquired by Salesforce.

So here we are in 2020 and I have this new thought in my head around financial services called FinTAM.

Venture Capitalists are now saying that everything is fintech.

I simply see the TAM (total addressable market) of financial services exploding.

A key next driver of the FinTAM explosion beyond the social networks are API’s. This idea drove our investment in Alpaca last year (Fund 3).

TechCrunch wrote a piece on this API phenomenon titled ‘What’s driving API-powered startups forward in 2020?‘. The gist:

It’s not hard to find a startup with an API-based delivery model that is doing well this year. This column noted a grip of recently funded API-focused startups in May, for example, underscoring how attractive they are to venture capitalists today.

Yesterday, I caught up with Alpaca, a startup whose API allows other companies to add equities-trading capabilities to their own services. The company’s business is skyrocketing this year. According to data it provided to TechCrunch, Alpaca’s trading volume, processed for its developer users and customers, has grown from $388.1 million in January to nearly $1.6 billion in both June and July. Volume fell some in August, but according to CEO Yoshi Yokokawa, September’s trading volume could see Alpaca surpass its summer records.

Alpaca announced a $6 million round from Spark Capital last November that TechCrunch covered, with Social Leverage, Portag3, Fathom Capital and Zillionize helping boost its total capital raised to nearly $12 million. We confirmed with Yokokawa that his startup’s revenue scales with volume, meaning that the company’s top line has exploded this year, with trading volumes up 10x from July 2019 to July 2020.

Alpaca is a good example of what to think of when we consider an API-powered company versus something more traditional, like Robinhood, which provides services to end users. Alpaca considers developers as its users, and those developers bring Alpaca to market in their own fashion.

The developer-first model can lead to efficiencies. As Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson told TechCrunch regarding new software products: “I don’t want to go through a sales process,” he said, adding that he also doesn’t want to wait “a week to get a call back” but would rather “start exploring now.” With many API companies offering a free tier or low-cost options for tinkering, lowering sales and marketing costs in certain instances when developers sell themselves on an API-delivered service.

At Social Leverage we continue to be excited about the FinTAM explosion in financial services that API’s, social networks (exposure, education, mentorship and idea flow), fractionalization and the universal language of money, price and volume. Hundreds of millions of new investors and savers around the globe will have access to great tools and financial services and the TAM of financial services is the part of fintech that excites me the most.

Of course low interest rates and global money printing do not hurt. As I like to tweet monthly, ‘a special thanks to the green toner guy/gal at the FED’.

I hope this helps explain the huge opportunities Social Leverage continues to be excited about.

Momentum Monday – Brace Yourself…But For Now The Rotation is Real

As a reminder, Marketsmith (by Investor’s Business Daily) is now a sponsor of the weekly show. All the charts you have been seeing in the videos and will continue to see are from Marketsmith. They are offering my readers a three week trial for $19.95. Click this link if you would like to try it out.

HERE is this weeks Momentum Monday episode to watch and or listen on YouTube (if you watch you get the charts and better context):

In the episode I go through my largest positions and it looks like I will have to be patient as my technology focused portfolio rests.

There is no doubt in my mind that 2020 has been the craziest market I have been involved in and with two months until the election I can only imagine things get more volatile. The numbers back me up:

That said, nobody knows and right now, money is not moving out of the markets, just out of technology leaders into homebuilders, basic materials and some cyclical names.

Biotechs as an index have struggled the last few months, BUT bigly deals are getting done so the speculators are not going to take theitr money and just go home…

Rates are low and money is being printed and the promises (lies) are flying. Mostly though, people are underinvested and angry the market is going up without them. The ‘wall of worry’ is being climbed.

Disclaimer: All information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute investment, legal or tax advice, or an offer to buy or sell any security. For full disclosures, click here.  

Some Sunday Reads

I’m going to take it easy today. In that spirit, here are some good reads I enjoyed this week:

This week Snowflake goes public. You will hear about it endlessly. You might as well know what the company does.

Morgan Housel’s ‘Save Like A Pessimist, Invest Like an Optimist‘ is a good one.

I liked this read on Masa from Softbank.

Julie Young has a great newsletter doing deep dives on big companies. Loves this one..”Insane Companies No One Talks About” Episode 2: MGA Entertainment‘.

Have a great Sunday.

A New Era of Creativity

Yesterday I talked about mental health being in a crisis (here is an excellent piece on Mental Healthcare 3.0) but we are also in a period of extreme creativity.

We are locked down and have time and all these wonderful new tools to create, edit and distribute to everyone everywhere all the time.

Unfortunately, this creativity comes at a time when you can’t enjoy one of the best parts of the creative process…physical proximity and interaction. This part will pass though and the creativity boom will explode.

My friend Jim O’Shaughnessy has an excellent podcast with Ron Howard on ‘The Past, Present, and Future of Entertainment‘ which is excellent.

Ron Howard calls this period great for ‘creative purists’ and this era of a ‘creative melting pot’. They discuss how ‘the story is everything’. I could not agree more.

I like to say this is the era of ‘beyond the spreadsheet’ when I talk of this burst of creativity.

Youtube, TikTok, Tesla, Peloton, open source software, SPACS, API’s, direct listings…the spreadsheet has been thrown out the window as investors gobble up assets they think are scarce and rare.

I tell my kids to just hold it together until we get to the other side of COVID…and VOTE!

PS – The MTV documentary is great. Bob Lefsetz writes about it here. I love that Martha Quinn wrote to Bob about his take on the era and the documentary…

From: Martha Quinn
Subject: MTV Documentary

Hi Bob!

I hope this email finds you safe and well.

Thank you for the kind words in your piece regarding the MTV documentary.

I’ve not seen the doc yet but you mention it’s the viewpoint from inside the belly of the beast. For the sequel I’d love to see a compendium of views looking at MTV from the outside, an exploration of the profound effect MTV had on an entire generation of fans.

Today when you see the MTV logo it takes no time at all for our brains to process what it represents. Like looking at a grilled cheese sandwich. One second. Boom. Got it. It’s hard to remember now, but in 1981 this was far from the case. MTV burst out of left-field like a meteor into an unsuspecting world. One summer night (August 1st to be specific, a night I will always remember) a fiery, mind-blowing, meteoric pop-culture disruptor blasted into our consciousness, changing the lives it touched forever.

You might have seen the (excellent) ZZ Top doc where Dusty Hill, Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard were calling each other the night they first saw MTV, asking each other “how long is this show going to be on??” No one could wrap their minds around what was in the world they were seeing. This extended to us working at MTV, we’d never seen anything like it before either. There were times when I Martha Quinn was late to my job working at MTV because I was home…watching MTV. One more video, just one more, just one more. The videos, the funky spray-painted logo, the unset we called a set, plus commercials with rockers?? Never, ever, ever witnessed before. The marriage of the 24-hour music radio format with television delivered an impact so massive it still reverberates today. I know first-hand how much MTV continues living in people’s hearts.

Listeners call in literally every day to my all-80s music radio station (iHeart 80s @ 103-7, KOSF in San Francisco) sharing what MTV meant to them. How they would dash home from school, turn on MTV and watch breathlessly for hours. Entire neighborhoods cramming into the basement of the one house on the block that had MTV. Kids who got jobs after school to help their parents pay for the cable. Stories of screwdrivers jammed into cable boxes to somehow receive MTV. Memories like these are Alive and Kicking. Fans have told me MTV was their solace while serving in the military, or enduring family struggles. Indie music fans have shared the isolation they felt until MTV blew into town showing them they were not alone, there was a tribe that existed for them in the world!

You’re so right nothing lasts forever (we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far) but wow what a miraculous We’re Not Gonna Take It moment in time. A shared experience that united a generation.

What do you say Bob, want to make the outside-looking-in documentary with me? We’ll call it I Got My MTV!

Best Always,


Have a great Saturday.

Mental Health – Give Yourself A Break

I have been meaning to talk about mental health for a while.

I saw this chart of COVID cases in France tonight and it screams ‘we are not close to getting back to a pre-COVID world or economy’…

The economic crisis and the mental health crisis is not just going to magically disappear.

I had my friend Brad Feld on the podcast recently and we always talk about mental health when we hang (as well as the strength of our pee stream), but we never got to the subject this time.

Brad takes the subject very seriously and always writes about it on his blog. Recently he had two great posts on the subject – here and here.

This from Brad is dead on:

Humans are not built to be isolated in their homes for months at a time. Founders, who are already under immense pressure from many directions, now have to contend with that dynamic for themselves in an uncertain business environment, connected only by video conferencing and email to their teams, investors, and customers. At the same time, there is no relief from the endless intensity of creating and leading a business.

It should be no surprise that the mental health part of the crisis is real and accelerating. Toss in the dissonance in our society. Some tech companies stock prices are at record highs, while established businesses are in a complete retreat or freefall. Many small businesses are on the verge of extinction – ponder all the local retail businesses and restaurants in your city. Local and state governments are under economic and functional stress. We have record unemployment and a macro communication environment (media, politics, news) that is divisive rather than unifying. We are in an election year in the US. Oh yeah, and the disease.

Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health, especially among founders, is lessening. It’s still real, but more are talking about it. There are many more coaching options like Reboot to help founders, CEOs, and leaders through this. There are companies, like Meru Health (which we recently funded) that are working to make mental health services more broadly accessible and affordable. And, many leaders are speaking out regularly about their struggles with their mental health, making it much easier to start and navigate conversations about mental health.

In the future, I hope we are much more effective as a species around addressing and helping with mental health issues. The sooner we can eliminate the stigma around mental health, especially in entrepreneurship, the better.

I struggled with intense anxiety for most of my life.

I dealt with it in the only way I knew how…make it worse for everyone else!

It was working too if not for those pesky things called a wife and kids and employees and friends.

Luckily, I could afford therapy and drugs (Lexapro for me), and I am mostly anxiety free.

I have no idea if I would be a better investor or entrepreneur, wealthier or more creative and ambitious without the therapy and the chemicals but I sure am happier.

I hope that does not sound too selfish. Maybe my happiness was not the plan for me and I will pay for it when I come back as a cat or a politician.

In the meantime, I love being calmer. I love not chasing every idea. I love being in the moment almost all the time.

I know most people do not have the luxury of my choices and options so I am trying to pay it forward every day and I am focused on being less of a burden and a better listener to the people I work with everyday.

DraftKings Co-Founder And CEO Jason Robins Joins Me on ‘Panic With Friends’ – We Go Deep on The Struggle and The Future

I have been patiently chasing down Jason Robins for my podcast because I love the brand, the incredible struggle and the opportunity ahead for the company (I do own a few shares).

We met way back in 2013 and I am friends with many people at the company which we discuss a bit in today’s ‘Panic With Frineds’ podcast.

Jason does a fantastic job of walking me through the history of the company and the roller coaster ride to their IPO (via a SPAC).

I promise you will enjoy this episode. You can listen right here. The quick notes follow.


Guest: Jason Robins

Profile: CEO and Co-founder of DraftKings

Where to Find Him: LinkedIn, Twitter

Fun Fact: Jason has been an avid sports fan long before DraftKings. Growing up in Miami, Jason would spend his mornings memorizing stats and box scores from the Miami Herald Sports section before heading off to school. Also important to note, the sports betting king himself made his first bet in Las Vegas during March Madness while he was in college.

What’s the Panic About:
Jason Robins’ journey with DraftKings has been anything but smooth. Since starting the Boston-based company in 2012, Jason’s been on a nonstop rollercoaster (with books to prove it). With three children, Jason is like many parents right now — living Zoom call to Zoom call and kid crisis to kid crisis. So, I was appreciative and excited to steal some of Jason’s time, get his perspective, and learn about the juggernaut that is DraftKings. On this episode, Jason and I talked about the booming growth of esports, the rise of sports betting, taking his company public during a pandemic, the impact of Barstool Sports, and more. And of course this wouldn’t be an episode of Panic if we didn’t talk about SPACs for a bit too.

The Takeaway:
Take it one game at a time and know you’re only as strong as your teammates. I know you’re probably thinking, “Howard, cool it with the sports cliches.” To that I say — you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. OK that was the last one.

But in all seriousness, talking with Jason made me think about just how true these cliches are. Whether it’s putting in 100 plus hours a week building a business from the ground up, taking a chance and investing in a startup, or sticking it out through the uphill battles — Jason has surrounded himself with some good teammates and has never lost his love for the game.

Favorite Quotes:
“People want to help each other in the startup community. There’s so much optimism and disruption and ambition in the air. It’s invigorating.”

“I have to fight the urge to gravitate toward the things I want to do and really try to focus on the places that I can have the most impact.”
“It’s amazing what you can get accomplished over Zoom.”

“I never thought DraftKings’ claim to fame would be invigorating the SPAC market, but here we are.”

Food for Thought:
Keeping with the sports theme for this recap, who’s excited for football to start back up this week? What players and teams are you betting on this fantasy football season?

Here is a Draftkings offer to play your first game for free with your first deposit.

PS – I am now doing two ‘Panic With Friends’ podcasts per week. Thanks for listening and make sure you subscribe over on Spotify or Apple.

Panic With Friends – Sean O’Brien Joins Me To Discuss Why Atlanta is absolutely positioned to be a top-tier venture city.

I am catching up on publishing some podcasts I had in the hopper. This one is with an old friend and great investor Sean O’Brien. I met Sean in Dallas when we were both getting trained to be brokers at The Principal, in Dallas. You can listen to the podcast here but please do read a bit about the podcast and Sean below.

Guest: Sean O’Brien

Profile: Managing Partner at Overline VC

Where to Find Him: LinkedIn, Twitter

Fun fact: Sean is an avid supporter of the arts. He has sat on the boards of the Atlanta Ballet, Nashville Ballet, and Ballet Arizona. He also supports various nonprofits such as Hands On Atlanta and Safe Haven Family Shelter.

What’s the Panic About:
Sean O’Brien panics slowly, if at all. In all honesty, I don’t think he’s really panicked since 2001. I’ve known Sean for 30 years now since we first started back as brokers together in the early 90s. Back then, I was rocking short-sleeved button downs and Sean still had his obnoxiously perfect hair. We’ve both moved around a bit since then, and I’ve upgraded to a long-sleeved button down (although recently it’s been t-shirts during COVID). But Sean is still the same level headed friend with perfect hair I can always count on to yell at me. It was great catching up with him on this episode and learning about his first foray into the venture capital world with his new Atlanta-based company Overline. We talked about why he believes Atlanta is the next hotspot for businesses, the backyard chicken market, bugs (both metaphorical and literal), and how investing has changed since Sean and I first met.

The Takeaway:
Sean is proof that even if you’ve been in the game for a while, you can always change your position and goals. It’s never too late to get more creative, challenge your perspective, and try new things with the work you’re doing.
And, if you’re looking for the next place where trends and businesses are growing – look to the Southeast region. As Sean mentions, it’s the up and coming place for new businesses, trends, and apparently backyard chickens.

Favorite Quotes‘:

“Your seed investor should be chosen by who is best positioned to help your business. You want to make sure they’re on the same side of the table as you.”

“The art of stock picking is fun, but it’s not fun when you know every company is overvalued.”

“Atlanta is absolutely positioned to be a top-tier venture city. There’s no doubt about it.”

While Sean had some great insights, one of my favorite and most data-driven points from this episode came from the host himself (me):

“Who doesn’t have backyard chickens? You ask 9 out of 10 Jewish people – they’ve got backyard chickens.”

Food for Thought:

Sean doesn’t just invest to make money; he invests in ideas and causes he truly cares about – whether it’s supporting the arts or investing in a sustainability-driven company. What companies come to mind when you think of this idea and are they worth investing in?

PS – I am now doing two ‘Panic With Friends’ podcasts per week. Thanks for listening and make sure you subscribe over on Spotify or Apple.