David Litwak

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

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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...

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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....

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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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How We Came Up With The Name “Mozio”

We wrote a script to come up with the Mozio.com domain name.

About a year and a half ago we started our coding of Mozio V 1.0 but we were without a name.

I had a google doc full of potential travel names. I had gone through the dictionary looked up every synonym for “voyage,” “travel,” “adventure,” and many more. I then appended various Web 2.0 sounding endings and looked to see if the domain name was available.

I had two rules:

1) When someone says the name you need to have a reasonable chance of being able to know how to spell it if you had never heard of it before. You shouldn’t have to spell out what your name was to make people understand.

2) The domain name should be available. Obviously. No “GoMozio.com” for a website that is named “Mozio.”

After a while I had gone through 200 different names and the domain name was never available.

So I figured perhaps I should attack it from...

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The Groupon Lesson

I think there is a great lesson I’ve learned from Groupon. Don’t sacrifice long term relationships in exchange for short-term profitability.

Everyone in tech knows the ridiculous margin’s Groupon takes. They demand a 50% discount and then take 50% of whats left, often leaving the restaurant, skydiving instructor or whoever their client is operating at a loss.

What it has lead to is a lot of angry restaurants who after running one Groupon, never want to run another one. It led to stellar growth of Groupon as a company, but there are only so many small vendors that Groupon can take advantage of and discard, and their growth peaked and then their stock plummeted. There are many theories as to why, but my personal one is that they could get the margins they demanded, but it wasn’t sustainable for many of their vendors, who ended up walking away from the interaction bitter and resentful. I...

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2 Reasons Why 2023 is Optimistic for Autonomous Cars: Public Policy and Economics

2 Reasons Why 2023 is Optimistic for Autonomous Cars: Public Policy and Economics

I woke up this morning to numerous facebook posts sharing this article in TechCrunch, which was a mock press release from the future Uber and Google from 2023 detailing Uber’s purchase of 2.5k autonomous vehicles from Google.

It’s an entertaining thought exercise, but I thought was was more interesting and telling was what my friends posted along with the article, and what people commented on the article, things like :

“I’d be surprised if this doesn’t happen in 3 years, it only took Uber 2 to turn the transportation industry on its head.”

“5 years max for this to become a reality, Google already has the tech.”

I think this exposes the achilles heel of the silicon valley way of thinking: if the technology is possible, it will happen.

In Silicon Valley people too often neglect the...

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SF Meetups: EVERYONE who doesn’t know ANYONE trying to meet SOMEONE

Every other week I get a friend in the startup community inviting me to a meetup, drinkup, mobile mondays, conference, etc. I reject most all of them.

When I first moved to SF I went to all of them. I had no better options, I thought, but I quickly realized that the movers and shakers, the people with any influence in Silicon Valley, were not at those meetups.

Everyone at the meetups had no connections, but they came to the event to meet people who had connections. In short: Everyone who doesn’t know Anyone was trying to meet Someone. It was the blind leading the blind.

In retrospect it is kind of comical: I had the idea that these connections could then connect me to other people, when in reality those people were equally oblivious and unconnected to the SF tech scene, and thought the same thing about me. We ended up as this little interconnected group of people who knew no one...

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Working with Big Companies? Expediency Over Efficiency.

I just got off a very frustrating call with a partner. We closed a deal with this particular company 9 months ago, at the Phocuswright conference.

They mentioned that they were redoing their API (for non-tech people that is the way you get access to data from another company), that we could integrate with the older one, or we could wait a month or two for the new one. Since I had plenty on my plate, I wasn’t in a huge hurry, so I figured I’d be as efficient as possible and just wait for the new version of the API.

For the last 9 months I have now been getting estimates of “just another couple of weeks,” or “we’re undergoing some internal testing,” etc. They have since cutoff access to their old API, so our decision isn’t reversible. The last time I called I pointed out that we had been waiting 9 months, and the response was that he wasn’t gonna give us another estimate because the...

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The Unseen Cost of Using the Best Technology: Angular.js

Many entrepreneurs have a bit of a blindspot about what using the best technology means: they think that it’s mostly a decision about the functionality it will provide, how long it will take to code it up, and whether it is worth it.

Often they neglect the ramifications of choosing a cutting-edge technology on your companies ability to hire, do SEO, be compatible on many browsers and integrate with common plugins.

The front-end coder we hired suggested Angular.js, and after doing some research, finding out that Google supported it, we decided to give it a go. Ember.js seemed like it was too new and didn’t have much documentation at the time, and we had heard that Angular was a more elegant solution than Backbone.js, even though Backbone was much more common.

We are happy with our decision, but we have been surprised at how many different issues have come up that we didn’t even expect,...

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5 Reasons You Should Quit Whining About Gentrification

This ValleyWag article, which talked about how douchebag tech entrepreneurs were ruining SF really bothered me. It’s one in a long line of articles lamenting how “middle-upper class yuppie douchebags” have moved into “my city” and driven up rents, driven out artists and the truly creative and the locals by driving up prices. How Google was evil for colonizing SF by busing their employees back and forth, and they should “give back.”

Even our own tech publications seem to accept this argument, with Techcrunch’s Josh Constine asserting that “Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t seen the tech giants who’ve colonized the neighborhood do much to give back. Funding some local education or beautification initiatives could go a long way to reducing the gentrification backlash.”

These arguments and rants are based in resentment, not fact, and we should be rejecting the entire basis of the argument for...

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