Roger Chen

@rogerbchen

Thoughts from an Austin VC #1

On Books, Fatherhood, Diversity, Crypto

On Books… Over the holidays, I reread “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz. The last time I read this book, I sent Ben a cold email congratulating him on it and asked him for career advice. That led to an intro to Frank Chen at A16Z which led to my first project ever for a VC. That’s a fun story in itself and I’ll write about it another time. A few years later, “Hard Things” still holds up and I still think this is a must read for any business software entrepreneur.

On Fatherhood… Julie and I became proud parents of a healthy baby boy on January 2. A week and a half later, we’re in a good rhythm and things are pretty manageable. Since leaving the hospital, I have slept more than 5 hours every night which is fantastic but I’m told this may not last…

On Diversity in Tech… Back in November, I gave a talk on Asian participation in the Austin startup ecosystem at a great event hosted by the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce. The idea for the talk came from what I saw as an underrepresentation of my own view that there were very few Asians being represented in Austin startups relative to city demographics when compared to NYC or the Bay Area where I had worked before. I was so encouraged by the response that I wanted to experiment further with access and inclusion efforts in Austin.

I went on the popular Facebook group “Austin Startups” and posted a link to my availability for virtual investor office hours on a first-come, first-serve basis from the broader community. That post sparked hundreds of reactions, and I ended up speaking with more than 30 entrepreneurs in total, with more than 2/3 female and underrepresented backgrounds. An amazing thing to come out of this was that we actually just closed on an investment in an Austin company led by a phenomenal female entrepreneur who I met through this Facebook post. There’s clearly a gap in access and inclusion in the Austin tech ecosystem and I aim to be part of the solution. It’s a no-brainer.

On Crypto… Spending this time at home on paternity leave has given me a lot of time to dive deeper into cryptocurrencies. Between diaper changes and feeding, I’ve easily spent 40 hours this week reading whitepapers and subreddits devoted to various coins and tokens. My view on crypto investing is that the majority of retail crypto investors are gamblers and these new crypto funds are simply taking advantage of the lack of sophistication in several ways. Crypto is a bubble, and while I understand the value in a decentralized and distributed ledger, I believe the near-term economic impact of the actual blockchain technology is <10% of the current aggregate crypto market cap. Having said all that, who knows when this bubble will end and I’m still interested in meeting entrepreneurs with ambitious ideas around blockchain. I’m not above the hype myself and have made additional bets of my own from my “zero or to the moon” portfolio allocation.

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