David Litwak

Founder @ Mozio, World Traveler to 65 countries, Berkeley EECS, Lapsed Classical Musician

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Lagging Regulation: Uber and Amazon

I was reading the Amazon book “The Everything Store,” and it was interesting to see the parallels between them and Uber. They both took industries by storm and one way they were able to win a lot of territory in the land grab was that regulation didn’t catch up to them for a LONG time. It took years before legislation for an online sales tax was passed. The fact that an Amazon “store” wasn’t located anywhere worked to their advantage. They had a 8% advantage on price for years. They also had a model where they didn’t have to store inventory, and many other advantages over Barnes and Noble, but still, this helped.

Looks like the same thing is happening with Uber, Taxi drivers legislated their protections in by way of minimum prices and many different hurdles to becoming a taxi driver, medallions, etc.

Regulation has given Uber and Lyft the legal right to operate and without any of the

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Vicious and Virtuous Cycles

I’ve been reading Good to Great recently and they talk a bit about the Flywheel and the Doom Loop, systems within companies that feed on themselves to help them either grow or decline .

I’ve been thinking a lot about how this applies in investing and fundraising dynamics as well as to the core operations of a company.

A few years ago I saw this foreign incubator that wanted 30% equity from all it’s participants. I remember thinking that even as a brand new startup I wouldn’t even consider going with them.

My guess is that they did some analysis of what their likely returns would be, determined that to make their money back or the return they wanted considering traditional exits in their country, etc. they needed to get X% of the companies they invested in right off the bat. It was harder to get returns in their market, and deal flow wasn’t super great in that geography, so they had to

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What Bernie Sanders Taught Me About Fundraising

Clinton has gone from inevitable nominee to on her heels to back looking like she will pull it out, but the whole experience begs the question: how did a little known socialist get this close?

Clinton likes to quote Mario Cuomo a lot:

You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.

  • Mario Cuomo

But she doesn’t seem to take his advice to heart.

Bernie Sander’s promises a “political revolution” that includes single payer healthcare and breaking up the big banks, big promises no matter how you look at it.

Clinton is promising incremental change, improving upon Obamacare and further regulation of the banks but takes pains to not commit to things she doesn’t think she can accomplish.

Bernie is the startup founder promising a billion dollar company, disruption of the status quo, and massive exits for anyone who jumps on board now.

Clinton, is well, promising a 5% return on your money if

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What Bernie Sanders Taught Me About Sales

At UC Berkeley I took a “Wealth and Poverty” class taught by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. He recently endorsed Bernie Sanders and I saw this choice quote from him:

“I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old, and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have,” Reich said. “But Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have, because he’s leading a political movement for change.”

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this, and I turned to my COO and said “now THAT is some great framing!” For the record, I’m a Clinton supporter so I didn’t like his quote because I agreed with it.

I liked it because he was reframing the issue in the exact same way we had been teaching our sales team to reframe questions about Mozio.

For Mozio

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Find your Career Algorithm

I was speaking with a friend recently about joining Mozio, and he had some doubts. I tried giving him advice but after a while I told him that he really needed to figure out what type of career he wanted before I could honestly tell him if Mozio was the right fit for him. That kind of thinking works for me: I know what my end goal is, I know exactly what I want my life to be in 40 years, and that allows me to plot my next step. It’s a very simple greedy best first search with the criteria to evaluate the best next step being “likelihood to end up being Elon Musk.” ;)

However, after thinking it through and talking to some friends, I realized most people don’t know exactly where they want their career to be in 40 years, and I’ve revised my original opinion a little: I don’t think everyone needs to know where they want to end up, but I do think everyone needs to know the algorithm, the

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The Misalignment of Mid-tier VCs

We just finished raising 750k in a seed round. We are extremely happy with the investors we got, most of them are execs at big-name travel sites like Orbitz, Cheapflights, Momondo, Trippy and CarTrawler, and a couple smaller VC firms. But I encountered a bunch of mid-tier venture capitalists along the way who I thought were borderline delusional, and it was extremely frustrating.

The number of VCs or investors I’ve met with who have said something along the lines of “once you have hit ____ ridiculous metric we’d be interested to reopen the conversation.”

Now, Sequoia, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, KPCB, A16Z, they can say that. Because once we hit that ridiculous metric, we WILL come back to them and still ask them for their money.

In our case, it’s often a full integration of Mozio into an airline, etc. which is kind of ridiculous: if we can convince an airline to integrate us

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“Tours and Activities” is like Craigslist: It Will Be Carved Up.

I have never been super excited about the “Tours and Activities” category, but what exactly made me uneasy wasn’t made clear until recently, when a friend with a tours and activities startup asked for an intro to our investors, and I didn’t feel comfortable recommending them.

I took a look at everything they sold on their website, from Hop On, Hop Off bus tours, to scuba diving excursions, to airport transfers to walking tours and realized that they were trying to conquer not one vertical, but 20+ verticals at once.

I had just gotten back from a scuba diving trip to the Philippines, and during that trip I had to choose between several dive shop options, some of which had different requirements for my certification, some offered Nitro, others didn’t, some offered a course onsite so we could do a more complicated night dive that was offered, some offered accommodation on the premises of

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What Ted Cruz & Entrepreneurs Have in Common: Lack of Self-Awareness

Watching the government shutdown a couple months ago I was disgusted with Ted Cruz, his ego, and his utter lack of respect for the way the U.S. government functioned. For those of you who don’t know who Ted Cruz is, he is the Freshman Republican Senator from Texas who embarked on a quixotic mission to repeal Obamacare, despite the fact that he didn’t have the votes in the Senate and the Presidency was occupied by a Democrat. He was so committed he helped cause a government shutdown over it.

Cruz refused to compromise and steadfastly stuck to his position regardless of the reality that he didn’t have the votes to change any laws. In his hubris he viewed himself as a crusader, a “disrupter” you could say, of the status quo in Washington, a position that is only reinforced by the “echo chamber” that is Fox news, Tea Party rallies and “unskewed polls.” Cruz didn’t care about Washington and

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Google is the new Bell Labs

Google just acquired its 8th robotics company in the past few years with the acquisition of Boston Dynamics and it got me thinking, is anyone else truly investing in deep technological research? What about Apple, or Microsoft, what are they doing?

It reminded me of this wonderful Ali G bit at the BAFTAs.

It’s not just me that has changed, it’s technology too. There are things you can’t even have dreamed of. The iPhone. The iPhone 2. The iPhone 3. The iPhone 4. The iPhone 5. Who can even imagine what is coming next.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 11.48.55 PM.png

Certainly not funding cool robots. Or virtual reality glasses. Or autonomous cars.

Only Google is investing in truly groundbreaking research.

Google has become our generation’s Bell Labs.

Bell Labs was the research division of AT&T and Western Electric Research Laboratories, originally formed in 1925 to work on telephone exchange switches. However, over the next 50

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Paying Attention to Industry Norms

Uber is a $3.5 billion lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work. - @levie

I remember seeing that quote from Aaron Levie and thinking it was great. It’s exactly how I think of things. We entered the travel industry with people constantly telling us “this is the way things work and you won’t be able to change it.”

We were firm believers that things should work differently.

A good example is that for many ground transportation bookings you need to select a hotel from a dropdown list. Or you need to figure out the zipcode of where you are going. General informational searches aren’t possible, if you want to figure out the general price to get from SF to SFO you can’t search for that, you need a specific place in SF.

We thought that was wrong, and we have spent a lot of time integrating Google Places, messing with geolocation

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