Staying Safe(r) Online.

In light of the celebrity photo hacking debacle over the weekend, we sent an email to some of our investors, partners, and friends this morning. The more we thought about it, the more we realized that a broader audience could benefit. So here is a version…

Dear Friends,

We saw how ugly it can be when hackers get into your private pictures and emails. In addition to having very long passwords/passphrases, here are five concrete things you can do to make sure this kind of privacy invasion is less likely to happen to you or any of your pals/family:

1) Email – It goes without saying, use Gmail. Turn on what’s called “Two Factor Authentication” for your Gmail account. With that in place, when you want to log in to Gmail, you enter both a password and a secret code generated by an app on your phone. No hacker can get past that, even if they guess your password. (Well, other than the NSA.) Go here for directions on how to set it up: If your business isn’t already using Gmail/Google Apps, it is time to make the switch. It’s the most secure platform.

2) iPhone – turn on “Two-Step Verification” for Apple as well. Same idea. Whenever you need to enter your iTunes password, Apple will also send you a text message in that moment with a secret code. Type that in and you will get access to Apple. This matters because so many of your photos are in iCloud and Photostream, though researchers have revealed that Apple doesn’t actually protect photo backups using two factor authentication. That is disastrous and will hopefully be fixed ASAP. Meanwhile, you can still follow the steps here: (If you use an Android phone, be sure to install Lookout:

3) Dropbox – If you use Dropbox to back up photos and documents, they have the same feature. Log in to your account and click on your name in the upper right to open your account menu. Then go to “Settings.” From there, select “Security.” Under “Two-Step Verification” click “Enable.” Then “Get Started” and follow the instructions.

4) Twitter – Instructions on setting up Twitter’s “Login Verification” are here:

5) Facebook – Here is their “Login Approvals”:

Please note: each of these solutions will provide you with some backup codes just in case you lose your phone or phone settings. It is crucial to print them out and keep a paper copy of these (not a digital copy) in your safe at home. If you get locked out of your services, you may need these paper codes to manually get back in. Please print these out and store them safely. You will be sad if you don’t.

Also, consider using a two-factor authentication app like Authy or Google Authenticator to keep all of these profiles organized. They can also sync across devices if you have multiple phones or might be on a tablet without text messaging service.

All told, there are a bunch of other services that enable this kind of extra security now. WordPressYahoo MailMicrosoft AccountsLinkedIn, and Stripe are some big ones. But the five listed above tend to cover where all of our most sensitive data and content reside. The most complete list of other services using two factor authentication I have seen is here:

As I am sure you know, it’s not really about whether you have steamy photos on your phones. It’s about maintaining maximum privacy and control over your life. So much information lives on these devices now. Personal addresses, bank information, family matters, kids’ stuff, passwords to other sites, medical questions, etc. Skilled hackers can be relentless and their genius at devising new ways or breaking security features is almost eerily impressive. Using very strong passwords and taking the steps above will be a very strong step toward making sure your private stuff stays private. However, above all, please be smart about what you put in the cloud and realize there is always a chance it ends up in the wrong hands.

(Note: all security geeks, nitpickers, whitehats, etc. I love and admire you. You make all of this stuff work so well. You find the ridiculous corner cases and engineer against them so that we can stay safe. Thank you. However, this post is not intended to be an all-encompassing treatise on security. I just think we can agree that if more good people take these reasonable steps they will likely be in much better shape. Cool?)

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Four guys who deserve to win a Crunchie.

It’s flattering to be nominated for any award, let alone a Crunchie. I mean, these are the geek Oscars. I even picked up some fresh dry cleaning to wear to the show.

But, it doesn’t make sense to include me on a list of finalists for Angel of the Year. Put simply, I am not an angel. Lowercase is a family of funds that risk some of my money paired with lots of money from my investors. I am also not the only guy here after we recently hired Matt Mazzeo as a partner in the firm.

True angels are accountable only to themselves and their portfolio companies. They put their own cash on the barrel and know that if they lose it all, they don’t have anyone or anything else to blame. It’s entirely on them.

A few years ago, a class of investors called superangels emerged. Generally speaking, we raised small funds to match our own dollars and wrote checks to startups that were larger than those from traditional angels. These scrappy, understaffed funds still feel angel-ish to me. But, once a firm starts investing bigger checks in later stage deals, like we have done at Lowercase, I am not sure the angel moniker still applies.

On the other hand, I also wouldn’t begin to be named a finalist in the VC category either.  Those guys listed are all first-rate company-builders. The work that gets done at a Series B or C is very different from what we do at the seed level. It’s an entirely distinct form of efficacy, scale, and execution that my peers and I don’t deliver. So, no Crunchies with my name on them this year.

Nevertheless, I think each of the four other finalists for Angel of the Year is worth a shout and recognition for their impact on startups:

Mike Arrington – Sure Mike has a fund behind him now, but to get to that point, he risked a hell of a lot of his own money and well before he had seen any liquidity from the sale of TechCrunch. He backed up his talk with plenty of walk and ponied up his own coin to get into deals that moved him. More importantly, we can all agree that Arrington catalyzed a community from a loose and scattered mess and taught so many of us the language and process of this entire realm. It’s unnerving to consider what angel investing would look like without Arrington’s impact on the space.

Chris Dixon – Probably the most authentically angel-ly of the bunch, Chris always tends to find his way into extremely solid companies and has developed a strong reputation for being helpful to his entrepreneurs. His blog is incredibly rich and evidences how selfless he is with his time when it comes to educating new entrepreneurs and investors. He is also due credit for being one of the most ardent and unwavering fans of the NYC tech scene. Yet all this aside, I think it is most amazing to consider that he has accomplished all of this while busy founding, leading, and exiting his own startups as well. He is the real deal.

Paul Graham – No single person has had more impact on the creation and financing of tech startups than PG. Period. The YCombinator revolution emancipated the engineering class from servitude to MBA overlords, demystified the art of company-founding, and made huge leaps toward democratizing access to capital. I could go on, but we all already know how lucky we are to have Paul.

David Lee – This guy has only recently started to get the credit he deserves. Of course, he too is investing a fund’s money, and doing it very well at that. He also has started blogging more regularly and his pieces are invariably thoughtful and worthy of any entrepreneur or investor’s time. However, take an extra moment to consider the sheer gutsiness of the Start Fund, a project he created. By ensuring that an entire class of companies automatically had the funds necessary for months of operations and growth, David brought a previously unforeseen level of accessibility to startup capital. At the most crucial stages of a company’s life, thanks to the Start Fund, founders could focus on product and not be distracted by the harrowing burden of fundraising so early. That in itself is an entrepreneurial move and it makes me happy to see people recognizing David’s impact.

I will be excited and grateful when they call any of these guys’ names at the Crunchies. The startup world is a better place thanks to each of them. As for me, don’t you worry. Alexia assures me that a Western Themed Investor Attire category will be included in the voting any day now.


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WANTED: Cowpoke/Intern

[Update: The job has been filled. But, stay awesome.]

So, it turns out that managing a portfolio of thirty-nine companies, a couple of secondary vehicles, and two private equity fund partnerships is time-consuming. Who knew? Result is that there are lots of loose ends at Lowercase just begging for knots. Thus, we seek an intern with tiny, nimble fingers.

There is no formal set of requirements, many of the responsibilities will be up to you to propose, and the position will be mildly compensated. “Mildly” meaning on a heat scale ranging from Sweet Bell peppers to Habaneros… ketchup. You can perform your Lowercase duties from anywhere in the world, and this is non-negotiable, for the most part, usually, kind of. The prospect of a field trip to visit Lowercase HQ in Truckee should worry you a little bit, but you will nevertheless rehearse your best Real America colloquialisms and be ready to wear a “My kid shot a deer while your honor student was in school” shirt if survival requires it.

Broadly speaking, your professors/bosses consider you brilliant and therefore turn to you for help managing their Facebook privacy settings. (Having actually successfully reset them is not a required skill.) You have strong opinions about new tech products, are ultimately wrong more often than you are right, and are proud to admit so to everyone except the TechCrunch journalist you called a “sycophantic fanboy douchebag” in the launch post comments. You know exactly how Google could win at social if you could just get Eric, Larry, and Sergey to return your damn emails, and you have tattooed three potential business models for Twitter on your inner thigh. You can foresee how Groupon will be retailing human organs by Q3 2011, and you have asked your parents to stop calling you on Sundays and instead submit their questions to you via

By this point, your copy of Excel should have a Pavlovian desire to please you, and of course, you have a pet name for it. You have considered if and how spreadsheet macros could solve the climate crisis and you have already begun coding them. You’ve gotten to second base with HTML and PHP, even better if at the same time (you animal). Your business-y friends tease you for being a geek, but your money-allergic nerd friends bust your chops for being a greedy sellout and they write open source rallying cries on your forehead when you pass out. You have considered whether there is a mass market for Fred Wilson, Chris Dixon, Ron Conway, Brad Feld, Josh Kopelman and Dave McClure trading cards, and even if you decided there isn’t, you printed yours anyway.

You refer to people by their Twitter handles first, and find every third sentence from the old lady who lives next door to be OH’able. You have submitted at least one word to the Urban Dictionary and you’ve said “stack that cheddar” to someone 20 years your senior. You believe that golf is the old golf. You can immediately tell if you have stepped in a new meme and have it all over your shoe, and somewhere has data showing you are Patient Zero for viral links. Gary Vaynerchuk and Kevin Rose order whatever you’re drinking, Tony Hsieh calls you when he is feeling unhappy, and Tim Ferriss has given you the password to his inbox.

You’ve had a tipping job, or dug ditches, or dug ditches for tips. You’ve traveled extensively abroad and can say “What is your Wi-Fi password?” in over 10 languages. You have a hobby or an interest that has likely put you on a government watchlist, and you’ve responded by putting the government on your watchlist. You play sports more than you watch sports on TV (partly because you think TVs are quaint anachronisms), and you likely grew up somewhere that when you mention it to others you have to follow it up with, “No. Really.” You wish the Dos Equis guy would post his 23andMe results with you to see if you really are related.

To apply, send us your resume, a bio, a general statement of why the hell you would want to sully your reputation by being associated with such a sordid outfit as Lowercase, and what three things you would do if you were in charge of Fanbridge, Twilio, and Posterous. Lastly, to insure you have actually read this far, and if you have, I probably owe you an apology, please include a link to your favorite cowboy shirt made by Scully. Bundle all of this up in a digital saddlebag and Pony Express it to: [the job has been filled for now…]

Thanks, all,


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Closed. Thus, Open.

I’ve always found it goofy to use the word “closed” to describe something that finally kicked off. Nevertheless, I’ll play along with convention this one time and note how thrilled I am to announce the Lowercase Capital has closed its latest fund: an $8.5 million pile of loot intended exclusively for awesome startups.

Our investing philosophy is sprinkled all over this site, so no sense spitting it onto this page as well. Furthermore, I will spare you the “at the end of the day Lowercase Capital pings you so we can think out of the box to get to a win-win while avoiding the sharp elbows and pivoting toward opening the kimono of the 800-pound gorilla to fire up his A-game” bullshit.

Nope. Instead, I just want to say how f’ing fortunate we feel to be doing what we do for a living, and grateful for all of your help. Thanks to all of our investors who entrusted their money to a guy who dresses like a mugged rodeo clown, and to our fine lawyers who reassured me I could get this done without having to shave or tuck in my shirt. Most importantly, thanks to all of the Lowercase portfolio entrepreneurs. Their energy gets me out of bed in the morning. (Figuratively, figuratively.)

With all of this paperwork nonsense behind us, I can’t tell you how eager I am to get back to work. Thirteen-year old me would have been disgusted to hear that. But, it’s true. So, if you are working on some hot shizz that you think could use our help, you know where to hit us. In the meantime, you can keep tabs on Lowercase in the Tweets. Also, now that I no longer need a securities lawyer’s permission before endeavoring to form complete sentences, I might even post some half-baked notions here on this blog from time to time.

For now, thanks to all of you,


(Did that end up being more than 140 characters? Seems close.)

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