Year in Review
2021's Impact on Entrepreneurship
As we approach the end of 2021, we’re taking some time to look back on the busy, exciting, and of course, often uncertain past year.
Greylock investors and specialists weigh in on topics ranging from the companies and technology they’re most excited to work with, to the FOMO they have over sectors they haven’t yet dug into. They also share personal learnings from another year of the pandemic, as well as what’s giving them hope for the coming year.
You can listen to the podcast here:
Hi, my name is Reid Hoffman. I work with founders operating networks of human interaction, ranging from social interaction to marketplaces, to Web 3.
This year, something new that I learned was how large scale AI models for language generalized to coding. In 2022, I predict that OpenAI’s Codex and Microsoft’s Copilot will be visibly on path to amplifying potentially every developer.
Something that makes me hopeful is how technology can solve every major world problem, climate change, through cheap energy, carbon capture and geoengineering. Health and disease through mRNA genetics, and precision medicine. Education through software and artificial intelligence. Supply chain grid problems through autonomous vehicles like Aurora.
When I reflect upon 2021, one of my regrets FOMO, if you will, is NFTs. In 2014, I gave a speech at Davos about how there will be one or more global cryptocurrencies good for the world, and that one or more of those will be derived from the patterns of Bitcoin, and then wrote an article in and Wired UK in 2015 on the exact same theme. The creativity palette of NFTs appeals to me, like for example, should we do NFTs of the Masters of Scale episodes? The Trump card games that I made? Or the Bitcoin rap battle?
Obviously, as a venture investor and as a technologist how do you create the marketplaces? How do you evolve NFTs into a palette for the creative economy and creators? All of these things are super interesting, but we’re seeing the early glimmers of this, the kernels, the seedlings right now already beating in the grow into potentially interesting forests.
My theme song for 2020 is Eminem’s 8 Miles because it captures this fact of you having a moment in technology, a choice, an ability to kind of think, “Okay, now is the time where you can make a difference, shifting from this possible less utopic outcome to this more utopic outcome.”
And with technology, we’re in this acceleration about how we create the future and that the technology enables us to do that. And so thinking a little bit each moment, this is the moment where you take the shot, you don’t waste the shot. You could easily say Hamilton Do Not Waste My Shot, as well as another theme song for 2021
In 2022, I’m going to focus on both Web 3 together with NFTs and a new infrastructure of an open internet of value and artificial intelligence, both of course, separately, because they have enormous development in each pattern, but also, of course, occasionally together.
In 2021, one of the things that I was most working on in addition to venture and investing in my portfolio companies was how do we regain a sense of techno optimism, not techno utopianism. Not everything that is built with technology necessarily is the right thing for humanity, is the right thing for sapiens, but how you can in fact chip so that it is. And how do we get back towards building that future that we all want?
If you think about, for example, science fiction, so little of it in video form – ands so little of it in movies and TV and even in writing – is still in that utopian [concept of] What could we build? What is the future that we are building towards? And I think that’s a great failure of our imaginations, a great failure of what is actually in fact possible.
And so part of the reason why to play forward is to shape that great future humanity, that great future society that we would want to shape. And that techno optimism is both something that I was working on a lot in 2021 and will intensify in 2022.
And in 2022, my first trip hopefully post pandemic releases is to go to the south pole, it’s the closest perhaps to experiencing another planet with the safety of this one.
Hi, my name is Christine Kim and I joined Greylock at the end of 2020 and have been investing in crypto, Web 3.0, and the decentralized Web. 2021 has given me a glimpse at how rapidly the world is changing.
There are so many categories within Web 3.0 that really took off this year. NFTs, played or earned gaming, DOWs, social tokens. Whether you measure VC funding, evaluations, developer contribution, or number of active users, we are seeing record activity in crypto, and it’s very exciting.
The crypto industry has experienced the snowball effect of innovation. From the early days of Bitcoin and Ethereum to the emergence of DFI, I think now we’re at a point where people have really woken up and started to recognize how wide the applications of crypto have become, from music to gaming and collectibles.
Another way to frame this is that the years leading up to now have mostly been about building foundational infrastructure like Ethereum, mining, exchanges, and wallets. And now that some of that infrastructure has matured, we’re starting to see some really exciting developments at the application and interface layer, which is an area that I’m particularly excited about as an investor.
Crypto has really grown up a lot in 2021. One of our portfolio companies, Coinbase, went public this year and we’re starting to see more growth investing opportunities as the sector matures as well. At the same time, it’s still super early. The industry has been around for less than a decade. I think of crypto similarly to early internet, mobile or cloud eras and believe blockchain will be a defining technology in the next decade of innovation. As an example of how early it is, there are 10 million decentralized finance users, which is a drop in the bucket amongst the nearly 5 billion internet users.
For 2022 and beyond, there’s a number of areas I’m following. I think we will continue to be enamored by NFTs and collectibles. There are many new gaming projects set to launch, and I think we’re just at the beginning of a DAO era. There is so much vibrancy and passion within these communities, but it’s still very early when it comes to tooling to support DOW operations. There’s still a lot of opportunity when it comes to crypto infrastructure. Scalability, security insurance, DevOps are all areas that are of critical importance.
And lastly, I’m most excited about onboarding the next 1 billion users onto crypto. As those of us who have red pilled continue to fall deeper down the rabbit hole, there’s an increasing gap between the crypto literate and illiterate. I’m extremely excited about education, onboarding, frictionless experiences that help institutions and mainstream users adopt crypto. The best companies will marry the learnings from Web 2.0. For example, all the slick consumer experiences we have grown to love, with the decentralized principles of Web 3.0.
Outside of crypto, 2021 has been a year of continued resilience. I started this job in the middle of the pandemic and several months went by before I met my team in person. We are still investing in founders that we haven’t met in person. And the remote first nature of work has allowed us to meet even more teams across more geos. We still have a ways to go in this pandemic, but I’m hopeful that we are moving on to better times soon.
In 2022, I’m looking forward to all the gathering, dancing, hugging, and human connections we’ll be able to have when it’s safe.
Hi, my name is David Sze. And I work with founders operating in consumer technology in particular, in gaming, media, and social platforms.
This year, something new that I learned was to always expect the unexpected – again. Despite having worked in venture for over two decades and being an operator for over a decade before that, this year has reminded me that you can never underestimate uncertainty.
In 2022, I predict that once again, we will be chested in our resilience and our adaptability in the face of extreme uncertainty. But I also predict that we’ll be amazed by the innovation and pace of change that is driven by technology. And this is what makes me so hopeful for 2022 and beyond, the innovation and great capacity of entrepreneurs to keep building and change the world around us despite what it throws at them.
In 2022, one area outside of work I plan to spend more time learning about is strategic impact philanthropy. The last two years have really brought home how dependent we are on the health of our planet and one another. But here’s to wishing everyone a wonderful end to 2021 and an inspiring 2022.
Hi, my name is Asheem Chandna. I work with founders who want to build the next generation of enterprise companies.
This year, something new that I learned was that I may never buy another suit and tie.
In 2022, I predict that crypto currencies will continue to gain more interest – not just from investors but also from regulators.
Something that makes me hopeful is that artificial intelligence is finally coming to healthcare.
In 2022, I am exploring where the largest and most overlooked business opportunities might lie around blockchain.
This week I’m traveling to India to see my parents. It’s my first time back there in two years.
Hi, my name is Elisa Schreiber. I am the marketing partner at Greylock. I work across our entire portfolio to help founders share their stories. This year, I learned how to buy an NFT. I saw a project that I really connected with, and it inspired me to dig in and participate. In 2021, the world of Web 3 seemed to explode all at once, and it’s been wildly exciting to be at the forefront of what is likely the next tectonic shift in technology.
I don’t like to make predictions, but I will say that I expect Web 3 to accelerate. In 2022, we will likely see a reduction in friction that is currently associated with participating. It will only get easier and more accessible to build, create, transact, and participate.
The thing that makes me most hopeful is the vaccine for COVID 19. Two years ago, barely anyone had heard of COVID 19, and now 24 months later, more than half the world’s population has gotten at least one dose. The rate at which we could create a vaccine, produce and distribute it, and get it into arms around the globe is nothing short of breathtaking. In my opinion, the vaccine writ large represents the best of humanity. There is still a long way to go toward ending the pandemic, but the progress we made in less than two years makes me incredibly hopeful.
Hi, my name is Corinne Riley and I’m an Investor on Greylock’s Enterprise team, focused on early stage SaaS and B2B FinTech.
2021 was a year all about community on so many different levels. Communities were a staple in both our personal and professional lives as a place where we meet new people, learn together and find joy in our day-to-day. I continue to see enterprise companies building strong and valuable communities for their users, and being able to create a thriving business in return.
In the last year, we’ve seen the title of head of community and chief community officer become a normalized and much sought after role. Seeing this led me to write what was my first blog post at Greylock, Community Led Growth, the Product Led Growth Expansion Pack. I think our understanding and excitement of how communities are created and nurtured is expanding daily particularly as we start to think about communities and Web 3.
We’ve continued to invest in companies still in stealth that are predicated on the idea of community as mote and intend to continue doing so in 2022.
2021 was also the year for Castles in the Cloud, this was an interactive project spearheaded by Jerry Chen, where we showed how startups go up against the big three cloud vendors by mapping all 513 cloud services from AWS, Azure and GCP.
In a world where the big three cloud providers seem pretty much impenetrable with the scale of $80 billion in total revenue in 2020, and over 50% year-over-year growth, we tried to identify the areas where we saw opportunities for startups and how startups can avoid the clouds and find white space.
For 2022 and beyond, I plan to continue to focus on two zones, first is B2B FinTech. We are still so early in enabling businesses to truly own both their own financial stock in the way they transact with end users. 2021 saw massive innovation in payments technology, banking infrastructure, and embedded lending, and I’m excited to continue our work next year with companies that sit within the flow of funds, as well as software and infrastructure that enables said FinTech products.
My second area of focus will continue to be the customer engagement cycle, meaning improving the way we iterate between building product and driving a better customer experience, a loop which has grown smaller, particularly in product-led companies. The way we sell enterprise products continues to change and a modern customer engagement stack is being built around this.
For 2022, I’m excited to see everyone again and to enjoy the best part of VC, which is spending time with smart people who want to change the world.
Hi, my name is David Thacker. I’m on our consumer investment team here at Greylock. And I work with founders across a variety of different areas, including marketplaces, the future of work, gaming, FinTech, and crypto and blockchain.
This year, I learned quite a bit more about blockchain and crypto and Web 3. And for the last many years, I’ve dabbled in crypto currencies like many retail investors, but had never really, until this year, r thought deeply about how Web 3 and the decentralized web has the potential to change just about every aspect of the economy. So I went pretty deep learning quite a bit about DAOs, NFTs, different protocols, whether it’s layer one or layer two, but all the components that make up what we’re calling Web 3 today.
My prediction for 2022 for this next year is I think we’re going to continue to see a trend which has started to play out really in the second half of this year, which is I’m seeing some of the best technical talent in the industry and the best entrepreneurs going into the blockchain and crypto space. I think for many years now, crypto and blockchain has been on the fringes and only really the true believer entrepreneurs have been going there to start companies.
But I think something certainly has shifted this year, I think part of it was Coinbase having a very successful IPO in becoming a very large company, I think that really legitimized the space.
But what we’re seeing today is, of course, not only more venture funds and more venture dollars going into crypto and blockchain, but the best talent going as well. And so when I meet great teams leaving Google or leaving Facebook to start companies, more often than not, they’re starting companies in the Web 3 area. So I think there’s a lot of excitement about this going forward and so I would expect to see an increased amount of entrepreneurial activity in the Web 3 blockchain areas.
What makes me feel really hopeful about the future is just the optimism and the ambitions of the entrepreneurs that I meet almost every day. What you’re seeing today is entrepreneurs taking on really big problems with really inspiring visions and missions to make the world a much better place, changing everything about how we live, how we play, how we work. And the technology components in the building blocks are there – everything over the last decade that’s been built out from cloud technologies to AI, to mobile technologies – I think there’s a lot of ingredients there that entrepreneurs can assemble to take on really big companies.
And part of the reason this has been surprising for me is the recession that has been created by the pandemic. In typical times and past recessions, we’ve seen people shy away from entrepreneurship. People feel like they should be at big companies, the safety of big companies. But what we’ve seen during this pandemic is there’s never been a better time to start a company and so the quality of the entrepreneurs and the quality of their ideas has never been higher. And so this makes me really hopeful for our future because the entrepreneurs of today are building the innovations of tomorrow.
I think when we look back, say, 10 years from now, when we look back at this time in the pandemic, we’ll see that this was a period of time when some of the biggest and most important and most iconic tech companies were started.
This year I had fear of missing out, or FOMO, really about things going back in-person and having a lot of things that were virtual during the first year of the pandemic, starting to go back to in-person, whether it be conferences or meetings between investors and founders. And there was a fear that I wasn’t doing enough in-person meetings.
But what I think has happened is there have been some permanent shifts in the way we work. And a lot of the activities, whether it be board meetings, whether it be pitches, entrepreneurs pitching investors, or conferences, those things have moved to a virtual SaaS. And a lot of those activities will be virtual going forward. Now some activities that come back in person. I have gone to some conferences this year, I have met with my founders and I have been pitched in-person.
But I think the types of activities that we are willing to do in-person, the bar is much higher now because it’s so easy to do things virtually and it’s so effective. The tools and technology, things like Zoom and Google Meter are so good and only getting better every year. So I definitely had a fear that everything was going to go back in-person, I was missing out from that because I was still doing so much virtually, but what it turns out is that a lot of what’s happening virtually is really here to stay.
One of the places I plan to spend more time learning about in 2022 is I’m going to spend a lot more time looking at networks of people, whether it be professional networks, whether it be communication networks, whether it be other type types of networks in the blockchain space such as is decentralized autonomous organizations. I think what really fascinates me is the tools that allow people to come together to create, to communicate, to collaborate more effectively. And so I think this idea of networks is really powerful in helping people come together to accomplish some greater goal. And so that’s one area I’ll be spending more time on in 2022.
So where do I plan to travel once the pandemic restrictions are lifted? Well, during the pandemic, one of the benefits of the pandemic for me has been I’ve done a lot more local traveling. The United States is an amazing country and a very diverse country with a lot of natural resources and beauty. And so during the pandemic out of necessity or limitation, because of the restrictions, I’ve done a number of driving trips and I’ve explored places like Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Acadia National Park in Maine. And so it’s been great to be outside, it’s been great to explore America.
My goal for my next trip – I’ve traveled to 48 states in the United States, there’s only two states I haven’t traveled to, that’s North Dakota and South Dakota. Both states are known for their friendly people and for their natural beauty, and so I’m excited to go to those sometime in 2022, and really look forward to visiting those places.
Hi, this is Jerry Chan. I work with partners focused in cloud, big data and SaaS companies mostly around the enterprise software world.
2021 was an amazing year and I’d say my realization in 2021, my predictions for 2022 are all the same theme, is just these areas of technology are bigger than we always thought and they start to blur into each other. So consumer software, enterprise software, crypto, all these technologies will start to blur. So I would say crypto and DeFi will blur, I say cloud and edge or decentralized computing will blur together, increasingly every vertical, every consumer experience software tech company.
So I was surprised during 2020, 2021 during the pandemic of the recovery how technology touched everything from healthcare to food delivery to enterprise SaaS. And I think all these markets from the metaverse, to gaming, to media, to like I say, cryptocurrencies and NFTs, all the stuff will increasing blur in 2022, that is not separate to take markets like we’ve talked about in the past, but really one giant market.
Other thoughts about 2021, I think one of the questions was what was my best and worst tweet of 2021, and I don’t tweet much except for random thoughts around the Warriors, my vices of the day. But I would say one of the pieces of work I tweeted about in 2021 was this project called Castles in the Cloud. So it’s greylock.com/castles where me and the team looked at how Amazon and Google, Azure are winning the cloud, and we had a whole tweet storm about how to beat the big cloud vendors if you’re a scrappy startup. It’s the start of a project, there’ll be more tweet storms and more blogs about that topic, more podcast soon, so watch that space.
I think from every IPO to every weird crypto NFT drop gives you a little of FOMO. You wouldn’t be a VC if that didn’t get you, but you also wouldn’t be a venture capitalist if you could understand the motivations behind all these new companies, all these new stocks and motivate you to go out and find the next great founder. So, yes, lots of FOMO, but I look at every element of FOMO in the past year’s motivation for 2022.
And then where do I want to go post [pandemic] travel? I mean, I think during COVID, I’ve gone to see my family a bunch of times. I’ve gone to a couple warm locations, like the beaches of Mexico, at least once. I planned to do some more traveling to beaches or national parks soon in 2022. And I’m just looking to get out and see some friends.
Finally, outside VC and startups, what has held my attention the most in the past year? I think like a lot of folks, I vastly whatever’s trending on the top of my feed from the sports of the day. But right now I’m obsessed with HBO Succession, so I’m consuming every podcast and every blog about what’s going on that TV show. I think it was Ted Lasso before that, I’m not unique in terms of my desire to consume content. So looking forward to the rest of that season, and looking forward to seeing all of you guys in-person over Zoom soon. Happy new year and happy 2022.
Hi, my name is Lee Haney, and I work with enterprise startups on go-to market and customer development at Greylock. This year, I learned how much I can increasingly run my life from my phone, which is a bit scary. And specifically, I’ve been super impressed by my app-connected home sprinkler and main water supply monitoring systems, helping me waste less and understanding where my water is going.
Over the coming year, I expect that cryptography will begin to enter household conversations as it intertwines with more and more of our lives. I’m just waiting for my mom to ask me about whether she should invest in cryptocurrencies?
I have a lot of hope for the future, especially when I see my 14-year old niece thriving in her freshman year of high school. I’m not at all worried about the next generations taking on the mantle from us.
This past year, I ritualistically annoyed my wife every Friday morning by playing the song “Friday” by Riton and Nightcrawlers to celebrate the impending weekend. Outside of startup land, this past year, I’ve been most focused on getting ready for the birth of my first child, a boy in early 2022. The first trave l I’m planning once life returns fully to normal will be to go on a road trip food tour of the American south, transiting from Atlanta to New Orleans, through Nashville, Memphis and everywhere in between.
Hello. My name is Glen Evans. I work with our companies and founders on all things recruiting and talent at Greylock.
This year, something that I was reminded of was how critical quality and fit are when hiring for your team, especially in the earliest days. And no matter how tempting it is, based on pressure to hire in this competitive market, fit should never be ignored in favor of quality alone. Making sure the candidate fits from a motivation and skill standpoint in addition to the quality will lead companies to win more often.
In 2022, I predict that companies and founders who have learned from this competitive landscape to attract, hire and retain great talent will begin to invest in recruiting and HR sooner and more effectively than in years past, treat them as strategic partners and will have a much greater chance of success as a result.
Looking ahead, something that makes me hopeful is more time in-person with my team at Greylock. And as I reflect on 2021 and my attention outside of work, I’ve been very grateful to be able to spend more time with my three sons during this time when they actually still want to hang out with their dad.
Hi, my name is Seth Rosenberg. I work with founders operating in FinTech and crypto, mostly based in New York.
This year, something new that I learned was space repetition learning as an effective tool for memorizing all 100 questions on the American Citizenship Test. And I also became an American citizen this year.
In 2022, I predict that some of the hype from Web 3.0 will cool, which will be really healthy for the ecosystem.
Something that makes me hopeful is there’s never been a better time for a creative people to find their audience and build. And in the process, find freedom.
In 2022, I’m excited to explore more applications for zone knowledge proofs, and truly digitally native consumer investment platforms.
In 2022, outside of the VC and startup world, I’m excited to continue to explore one of my personal passions, which is mental health. I actually spent the last two and a half years volunteering at the San Francisco Suicide Prevention Hotline answering phone calls. And I’m working with my sister to see if there’s ways where we can tell some of those stories more broadly.