✍️ your editor in chief makes a new discovery
ft. a bit of your editor's personality, a deep dive on chips, writing from DRF members, and a special request for our readers!
Following a blissful spring break, your trusty Editor in Chief recently discovered a strange, new writing technique: first-person. So we’re going to switch things up with The Syllabus: my writing will be just a *tad* more casual and I’ll inject my personal musings on news topics when appropriate. The essence of the content will remain the same, but I’ll be writing with a bit of flavor. In an effort to not being replaced by ChatGPT, I am subjecting you all to a glimpse of my personality. So now, if you don’t share this newsletter with your friends, I will take it personally.
🎊 some exciting community updates!
Sam Broner, DRF investment partner on the Boston team, organized the MIT Generative AI Summit back in early March! Keynote speakers included Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, and Diane Greene, founder and former CEO of VMware. The livestream can be be found here!
FiscalNote (DRF I), a global policy and market intelligence platform, highlighted the company’s online dashboard of AI tools on the President’s State of the Union and leveraged OpenAI to predict Biden’s SOTU address before it happened.
Pisces (DRF III), a sustainable end-of-life startup, was mentioned in the Washington Post in an article on green funeral options. This was truly one of the most fascinating pieces I’ve read all month — water cremation, anyone?
Twentyeight Health (DRF II), a digital healthcare platform for underserved women, was featured in Forbes. On top of the incredible work that Amy and Bruno do, the company also donates 2% of its revenues to organizations including the National Institute for Reproductive Health!
On a related note, Twentyeight Health released the 15-slide pitch deck they used to nab $8.3 million in pre-Series A funding.
Participant Inc. (DRF II), an impact-as-a-service software company that measures social initiatives, was named an IFundWomen Fund Forward Finalist for Community Impact!
📱 tech news
Unless you’ve been on a digital detox this past month, you've certainly heard about the Silicon Valley Bank news by now. Rather than rehashing the same conversation here, see below for some of the best articles that explain the entire situation for those looking to dig deeper:
The Demise of Silicon Valley Bank (Marc Rubinstein)
Why Was There a Run on Silicon Valley Bank? (Noah Smith)
And of course, there's Matt Levine, who as per usual, has excellent coverage:
3/10: Startup Bank Had a Startup Bank Run (Bloomberg)
3/22: Silicon Valley Bank Ran Out of Money (Bloomberg)
⚡ Getting chippy with China.
Back in August of 2022, President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion bipartisan bill to increase domestic production of semiconductors. This is the single largest investment in American industrial policy in a half-century, and marks a significant change in attitude on state involvement in business — a role America has historically reserved for the private sector (with the exception of defense production).
However, China’s growing influence in the chip industry and America’s reliance upon foreign production for critical tech has raised concerns in Washington, leading to the CHIPS Act. Among other provisions, the bill includes $52 billion in subsidies and tax credits for companies that manufacture chips in America, and over $200 billion for R&D and manufacturing initiatives in emerging tech.
There are many angles to this story, but I want to focus on two in particular. Let’s start with the obvious: how does this legislation, along with American restrictions on China’s access to advanced semis, affect China’s long-term tech capabilities?
Some experts argue that cutting China off from the global semis supply chain will incentivize Beijing to invest more heavily into their own semis sector, thereby reducing their dependency upon other countries and potentially emerging from the chip war in a stronger position than its current state. However, the American federal government is betting that they can undermine China’s semis capabilities so deeply, that China simply won’t be able to catch up to America — regardless of how well-resourced and invested China may be in their own semis industry.
It seems pretty clear that Biden’s actions demonstrate zero-sum thinking (America’s technological gain exists only at the expense of China, and vice versa). Regardless of whether that assumption holds true, Biden’s restrictions represent an incredibly risky bet. The implications of the “Great Decoupling” bet on the global balance of power will only manifest over the coming decade.
The other angle we should talk about has less to do with semis themselves, but rather the mechanism in which the CHIPS Act is being used to shape social policy. Surprise! There are stings attached to the CHIPS money. Funding will be prioritized for companies that promise not to engage in stock buybacks. Companies seeking $150 million or more must guarantee high-quality child care for plant workers. Companies must share part of any unanticipated profits with the federal government.
Attaching conditions to federal funding is certainly not a new phenomenon (see Biden’s “Buy American” provisions on the Inflation Reduction Act), but the White House’s approach here is interesting because many of the conditions announced by Biden’s administration draw upon Democratic social policy goals, such as universal child care and stock buyback reform. These standalone policies would have been unlikely to make their way through Congress, but elements of these policies are now being repackaged and infused into a massive industrial policy on American tech. I’m keeping an eye on how this plays out (both politically and legally), as this will have massive consequences on Biden's (and future presidents') abilities to advance their agenda in the absence of political consensus on hot-button issues.
Biden’s Unprecedented Semiconductor Bet (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Joe Biden’s industrial policy is big, bold and fraught with difficulty (The Economist)
Biden Is Betting on Government Aid to Change Corporate Behavior (The New York Times)
Past U.S. Industrial Policy Offers Lessons, Risks for Chips Program (The Wall Street Journal)
Biden Is Now All-In on Taking Out China (Foreign Policy)
📣 new tech and investing opps
🌱 Making a special note for any climate-tech roles moving forward because I think we’d all appreciate if our Earth continues to function for a bit longer :)
🌱 Voyager Ventures: Summer Associate (Remote)
Adobe: Software Engineering Intern (Multiple)
Adobe: Product Manager Intern (SF)
Discord: Security Software Engineering Intern (Remote)
Robinhood: Product Public Relations Intern (Mulitple)
Mercury: Software Engineering Intern (Remote)
Formally: Account Executive (SF / Bay Area)
Can’t recommend Formally (DRF & Bessemer-backed) enough! Amélie and her team are building the TurboTax for immigration.
First Round Capital: Chief of Staff (Remote / PT Hours)
Charlie Health: Growth Strategy Analyst (NYC)
Figma: Software Engineer (SF)
Ramp: Frontend Software Engineer (NYC)
🌱 Voyager Ventures: Senior Analyst (Remote)
🌱 Voyager Ventures: Senior Associate (Remote)
Two Sigma Ventures: Investment Associate (SF)
Summit Partners: Tech Investment Associate (Bay Area)
Summit Partners: Healthcare Investment Associate (Boston)
📖 new essays we’re reading
I want to hear about your content consumption — other than The Syllabus, your main source of tech and VC news, of course. If you come across any recent articles + essays on tech that are interesting, send them my way. If an article you recommended is included in the next edition of the newsletter, I’ll send you photos of cute puppies that belong to DRF partners (and credit you). Although the former is clearly the stronger incentive.
Talia Goldberg, partner at Bessemer and DRF alumna, describes the market dynamics of consumer vs. B2B companies
ICYMI: Daniel Aboul-Hassan and I spoke with Talia on her career (and favorite ice cream shop) back in 2022 on Office Hours. Catch the episode here!
Anne Wen, Princeton senior and former DRF editor in chief (so basically my old boss who needs to stop FaceTiming me when I’m in the library), describes how fears over ChatGPT in academic environments may be misguided
Tori Orr, DRF Philly managing partner, published a presentation that highlights Black-founded VC firms and policies that shaped these opportunities
Elad Gil argues that the startup valuation reset is increasingly decoupling from the macro economy, and its implications
Rob Toews, partner at Radical Ventures, lays out three key areas that will define the next wave of innovation in large language models
Eric Newcomer, author of Newcomer newsletter, writes about the first update to the Founder’s Choice VC Rankings, a system created by Daniel Tao (a fellow DRF HQ member). Hopefully Marc doesn’t change his Twitter bio again.
Issue written by Andrew Xu and thumbnail designed by Kia Uusitalo
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