About / Albert Wenger

Albert Wenger is a partner at Union Square Ventures. Before joining USV, Albert was the president of del.icio.us through the company’s sale to Yahoo and an angel investor (Etsy, Tumblr). He previously founded or co-founded several companies, including a management consulting firm and an early hosted data analytics company. Albert graduated from Harvard College in economics and computer science and holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from MIT.



Albert's posts

Taking a Break

This will be my last post until Labor Day. I will be spending as little time online as possible, reading books instead, spending time with family and friends and working on World After Capital .  I will be disabling all notifications on my phone and checking email only twice a day. Given all the craziness here in the US and elsewhere in the world, I have been spending too much time on news and I am looking forward to this break to dial things down.

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Uncertainty Wednesday: Risk Seeking (Jensen’s Inequality Cont’d)

Last Uncertainty Wednesday , we saw how diminishing marginal utility of wealth provides an explanation of risk aversion via Jensen’s inequality . Why would it be then that lots of people seem to like small gambles, like a game of poker among friends. One possible explanation is that the utility function is locally convex around your current endowment. So this would look something like the following:

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ICOs and Governance

As has been widely reported , in the last few months ICOs have raised significantly more money for blockchain startups than has come from traditional venture investors. This can be seen as a sign of the long discussed unbundling of venture capital . The idea is that while VCs bundle capital, advice, governance and possibly services (e.g., help with recruiting), technology may make it possible to separate out these different functions. Today I want to focus on “governance ” which is the least understood, and I believe most difficult to accomplish, of these functions.

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Preparing for Superintelligence: Living the Values of Humanism Today

In my draft book World After Capital , I write that humans having knowledge is what makes us distinctly human and gives us great power (and hence great responsibility). I define knowledge in this context as science, philosophy, art, music, etc. that’s recorded in a medium so that it can be shared across time and space. Such knowledge is at the heart of human progress, because it can be improved through the process of critical inquiry. We can fly in planes and feed seven billion people because we have knowledge.

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Uncertainty Wednesday: Risk Aversion (Jensen’s Inequality Cont’d)

Last Uncertainty Wednesday , I introduced Jensen’s Inequality . I mentioned briefly that it explains a lot of things and today we will look at the first one of these, which goes by the name of risk aversion. This is simply economists way of saying that most people prefer a smaller guaranteed payment over a large but uncertain one. We will now see that this follows directly from diminishing marginal utility of money via Jensen’s inequality.

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The Fallacy of Biological Determinism

In my draft book World After Capital , I write about how digital technology has given us the possibility to leave the Industrial Age behind and enter the Knowledge Age. In an early chapter on Optimism , I argue against economic, historical and technological determinism. These are all theories in which an external force determines the shape of society, instead of the decisions made by us humans under the guidance of a set of values.

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Uncertainty Wednesday: Jensen’s Inequality

Last week in Uncertainty Wednesday , I introduced functions of random variables as the third level in measuring uncertainty . Today I will introduce a beautiful result known as Jensen’s inequality . Let me start by stating the inequality:

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VPNs and Informational Freedom

In my draft book “World After Capital ” I have a section on the need for increased “Informational Freedom .” There I write:

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Putting People First on Healthcare

There is lots wrong with the healthcare and health insurance system in the US. One can also have a rational debate of the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act and how we might proceed from here. What should not happen, however, is pushing through poorly thought through measures just for the sake of making a change. Even more so, when there has been ample of time to come up with a something well designed.

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Uncertainty Wednesday: Functions of Random Variables

Just as a reminder, we have been spending the last few weeks of Uncertainty Wednesday exploring different measures of uncertainty . We first looked at entropy which is a measure based only on the states of the probability distributions itself. We then encountered random variables , which associate values or “payouts” with states and learned about their expected value and variance (including continuous random variables ).

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Attention on Digital Monopolies

The dominant position of companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon is sure receiving a lot more attention these days. There is critical media coverage, including in traditionally pro business publications such as the Wall Street Journal “Can the Tech Giants Be Stopped ?” and Bloomberg “Should America’s Tech Giants Be Broken Up ?”  There is also the Democratic Party’s “Better Deal” memo which focuses more broadly on the negative effects of corporate power. And then of course there is the European Union, which already fined Google 2.4 Billion Euros for manipulating search results and is considering another fine for Google’s alleged forced bundling of Google services with Android .

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