Applications of Computer Vision & AI Will be Life Transformative

(L to R) Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired, Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners, Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital, and Alex Iskold, Managing Director at TechStars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

(L to R) Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired, Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners, Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital, and Alex Iskold, Managing Director at TechStars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Join us at the next annual LDV Vision Summit.  This panel, “Trends in Visual Technology Investing” is from our 2016 LDV Vision Summit. Moderator: Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired. Featuring: Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners, Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital, Alex Iskold, Managing Director at TechStars.

Jessi: I'm Jessi Hempel. I'm a senior writer at Wired and a big fan of Evan Nisselson of LDV and here with a panel of folks to discuss a topic which I'm sure is going to a surprise to all of you, visual technology investing opportunities. It's kind of what the day is about. I could introduce our panel but I'm actually going to let them each introduce themselves because I'd like you each to also give a couple of lines about the institutions you represent. I know we've got a late stage, an early stage, and an incubator guy. Alex, let's start with you.

Alex: I'm Alex Iskold. I'm managing director here at Techstars in New York. Techstars is I think a world class accelerator. We help early stage companies go faster by surrounding them with incredible mentors and helping them figure out the business and secure capital.

Jessi: Thanks.

Howard: Howard Morgan. First Round Capital, early stage ventures and we try to help them grow.

Liza: I am Liza Benson of StarVest Partners. We are an expansion stage venture fund focused on primarily B2B SaaS and technology enabled business services and typically we invest in companies between 2 and 20 million of revenue.

Jessi: We've kind of got the whole gambit represented on our stage. So, I want to start big and I want to start by framing this according to something that Evan has spoken and written quite a bit about, this idea of the Internet Of Eyes, this idea of the advancement of the Internet Of Things into a sort of a visual representation. The idea that all of the objects around us could be watching us and that unlocks opportunities and also terrifies me. Let's talk about what those opportunities could be. Let's imagine a little bit.

Howard: Well, obviously if it knows what I am doing, I've just woken up, it can take actions. It can see that I actually got out of bed or I didn't. In which case it'd have to wake me up again, you know and sort of go from there to try to understand my intent for things, if I'm willing to let it watch me all day. I'd like to be able to say, no, for a while. You know, turn it off, turn your eyes. Close your Internet Of Eyes for a little while and believe that it's actually closed for a while. Obviously, we've already invested in things that are doing that in shopping, and stores, and so on and the same thing is going to be true in factories.

(L to R) Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired, Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners, Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital, and Alex Iskold, Managing Director at TechStars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

(L to R) Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired, Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners, Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital, and Alex Iskold, Managing Director at TechStars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Jessi: This idea that cameras are infiltrating our lives, are creeping into objects around us has been, it's been ongoing for a while. So, let's talk about the specific opportunities that 2016 unlocks. You know, I've had a camera in my iPhone for a while. What's new and maybe I'll jump to Alex because you're seeing a lot of what's new in the companies that come to you.

Alex: Yeah. I'm trying to figure it out. I have no idea, but in my camp this falls into separate categories. There's sensors. There's things that detect moving objects. There's things that have cognition and recognize things, and then there's algorithms that actually act on the information that sensors capture, and so I would bucket them all in slightly different categories and then kind of re-assemble to determine how it could be helpful. Let me start with an idea of applications for people who are visually impaired. Could we build something that is a camera in front of someone's door that would take pictures and actually recognize family members and caregivers and other people that come in and would tell you who is there? To me that's like a super interesting and pragmatic application. Way more useful than something following me and trying to be helpful where I don't need its help.

Jessi: For sure. For sure, but I guess my question is, are you seeing those kinds of companies right now?

Alex: I'm not running the IOT program. Jamie Fielding does. I do see some of these. So, the areas that I've been focused on, for example, is more of like frontier tech. Satellites, taking pictures and running some sort of computation. My focus is mostly on, not necessarily the sensors but, what do you do after you capture the data?

Jessi: Right. How much, when we're talking about sort of visual technology, how much is visual technology integrated into talking about technology that it's maybe not necessarily as useful to even put the framework visual on it and how much is unique to adding cameras to things?

Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Partners © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Liza: I think that visual technology enables you to go into the real world so that you're not only dealing with online. I mean, in our fund we've invested in some things that are looking at in-store analytics because most shopping, you know, 80% of retail still happens in stores.

Jessi: Right.

Liza: So that's a really important thing that visual technology enables us to do that is separate from you now, eCommerce technologies or something of that sort.

Jessi: Tell us a little bit more about that, because you were talking about a company, RetailNext...tell us a little bit about that company.

Liza: What they're doing is using visual technology in stores to actually create the same sort of analytics that you'll see online, in a store. How do people dwell? How do people navigate around a store? All those things are done via cameras and it's some very interesting insights for large retailers out there.

Jessi: So, where are retailers on the spectrum of their capability of using it? Is this R&D at this point? Are they actually deploying it?

Liza: No, actually deploying it but I think you know, absolutely nascent in terms of penetration amongst retail stores to have this type of technology everywhere.

Jessi: What is it going to take for it to be deployed more widely? Is this a question of computer comfort?

Liza: Time, money. I think it's just a matter of time.

Jessi: Yeah. Got it. Howard?

Howard: Well, one of our companies which does software for drones and the cameras is involved in doing inspections of power lines, there are lots of sensors on power lines but if you want to see if an insulator is broken, you fly the drone by and you can see, “gee that insulator looks a little bit off” and you can zoom in and you can fly around. You can do all sorts of things visually to inspect things in out of the way places. Sensors alone, non-visual sensors alone, just don't give you enough information.

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Jessi: Fair enough, and the name of that company?

Howard: Airware.

Jessi: Airware. Cool. You had mentioned another company when we were talking earlier. Is it Nanotronics?

Howard: We talked earlier about Nanotronics which is able to take very high resolution images. Super high resolution, almost the kind of things you get from electron microscopes, captured in an optical methodology and then put it in real time. For areas that you want to have very high resolution, because the defects that they're trying to find visually are way too small for the naked eye to see and way too small for normal cameras to see. Visual technology is advancing dramatically.

Jessi: So, where are those companies in their lifespan right now?

Howard: Airware's a few years old. Has raised a lot of money, with us, at Kleiner Perkins and others and is selling. Nanotronics is actually close to break-even and is installed in a lot of companies already. So, they're pretty far along.

Jessi: Pretty far along? As you are in investors out there looking, what is the flag that tells you that something has promise in this area, that you might be interested in investing in it?

(Speaking) Alex Iskold, Managing Director of Techstars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

(Speaking) Alex Iskold, Managing Director of Techstars © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Alex: Just following up what Howard said, there's a company that just graduated Techstars folder that's applying drones to building inspection and it's paired sort of like it's human smarts and software and drones to all act together, because it's super dangerous to go up those buildings. Now, going back to your question, in my mind this is an phenomenal application of drones and vision. It's sort of solving very obvious real life problems. I don't know if it's necessarily a billion dollar company but it's certainly solving a real problem and improving people's lives and potentially saving people's lives. So, when I look at like these texts, I think the challenges is that some of this stuff is very far out there. Like, if it's research projects. So when we look at the companies we ask, can we help accelerate them now? Is it an investable business? I'm sure you know investors at different stages kind of looking at the tech through different lens.

Jessi: Right.

Alex: What's the maturity of this tech? I think it's an interesting question.

Liza: I think it's like anything else. It's efficiency and doing things that were either too expensive or too difficult to do before. You know some of the things that you were mentioning in terms of examining power lines. How could you possibly send a guy up on every pole to look at all these power lines? I mean, it's essentially economically impossible. We don't invest in drones. It sounds very exciting but, I think from an investor’s standpoint it's completely disruptive to the current way of doing things.

Jessi: Fair enough. So, what would you like to see improve so that some of this technology gets even better?

Alex: I don't know. I was thinking about the company that does sort of semantic object recognition and boundary detection and the application that I can see immediately is in augmented reality. Because if you were to build any kind of augmented reality you actually need very precise way to identify where you are and navigation. I think that is an example of something that's in the lab right now but me as an investor and a business person. I actually see relevant application and related vertical that maybe researchers don't necessarily see.  I think there's an advantage in these kind of forums and mixing us together.  

Something that's in the lab right now, me as an investor and a business person, I actually see the relevant application and related vertical that maybe researchers don't necessarily see. I think there's an advantage in these kind of forums and mixing us together.

-Alex Iskold, Managing Director of Techstars

Howard: Two things. One, I'm sort of old school. Better, faster, cheaper. That's kind of the usual mantra in technology investing, but also particularly when we're talking about vision we mostly think about human vision, but a lot of what's happening in agricultural inspection and in medical is outside the visual space. It's near infrared. It's ultraviolet. It's X-ray. So, expanding vision and those sensors are just getting to the point where they're cheap enough to be used. Visual sensors, because of camera phones are almost free.

Jessi: Right.

Howard: You can put cameras everywhere, but if you want near infrared or if you want ultra or you want X-ray those are still pretty expensive and we need to move those along.

Jessi: Were the cost to come down on those Howard, what could they begin to unlock?

Howard: Well, that's what we have entrepreneurs to dream up ...

Jessi: That's your job, guys. (To Audience)

Howard: Those things but think about X-ray technologies. If you had X-ray, there are a lot of military uses. You want to see in the buildings where the terrorists are. You want to see where the bombs are that are hidden in the walls. It's stuff like that, medical also. We heard about a company, looking at radiological images. Right now you have to go through an MRI. That's a pretty painful or at least uncomfortable thing. Why can't we get visual inspection of the human body the way we're doing visual inspection of other things without the same level? So, I think a lot of things could be interesting.

Jessi: Fair enough. I want to go back to what Alex said about AR. It struck me when Dijon was on stage just a little earlier. He said, “I want to like AR.” And he also spoke about 2D, 3D, 360 images as being sort of a bandaid fix until we got to VR and AR and I'm curious what each of your perspectives are on the future, the immediate and the far out future on these technologies.

Alex: I like both AR and VR in the sense that I see them as like fascinating and mind blowing. I quote my daughter. My older daughter tried on a VR headset and when she took it off she said “Daddy, virtual reality's much better than reality.” This is one of those sentences that gets etched into your brain and like until you go senile you're going to remember it.

Jessi: Alex, how old is your daughter?

Alex: She's 12. So, like my quick download on AR, we haven't invested in any of those companies but I'm very excited about it. In terms of the bandaids, there's a Techstars company called Sketchfab which is the largest repository of 3D models and they just released a VR viewer. Suddenly it becomes much more fascinating because you literally can go through a British museum and experience these artifacts and it's literally a mind blowing experience. So, I think that it's very true that 3D itself is a little "boring". You know, from the consumer perspective, but I think putting that stuff in VR becomes pretty incredible.

Howard: We have a company, Parcelable which is AR and selling into the oil well industry and basically the AR is used when you need hands free operation for people fixing machines. So, they're able to see the instructions. They're able to see what the next steps should be but instead of having a tablet or a book and when their hands are getting oily and dirty and they're holding tools, they're able to see it all right in front of them basically through the AR. Very effective usage and it started out using Google Glass. Now it's using other technologies, but AR has real uses in the industry sector when you need hands free operation of things and you need to see instructions.

Jessi: That makes sense to me when I think about the oil industry because I would think that they have the deep pockets to finance a tool like that and it could be very helpful to them. Are tools like that at any time in the near future going to be accessible to consumers in a useful or viable way?

Howard: You want to put together your Ikea furniture and you know, how many of us have done that? Right? Wouldn't it be nice to have that AR giving us the instructions and have the vision pick out which is that screw that it's telling me that i need to have? I think that is going to be viable for consumers.

Jessi: Sure, sure, sure, but just to push back on that for a second. I've piloted the HoloLens and I actually fixed a light switch with the help of an electrician and with the Hololens but I still had to have it connected to this big ole computer behind me to use and the field of vision was small. So, it felt like actually it was pretty far from reality.

Howard: Yeah, it's early. We're focused mostly on like B2B applications but I think for example going back to an earlier point and you know, situational training. Like firefighters, nurses. Do we believe in like physical training? Do we believe that it's better to kind of like be in the lab and try stuff out versus just read a book? Sure. Now, therefore once VR and AR achieves its sort of like level comparable with reality, becomes incredibly interesting. To your point though, I do think it's pretty far out. I wouldn't bet on it going mainstream in the next, three to five years. I mean, three to five would be probably most bullish that I would get.

Jessi: Liza, how closely are you paying attention to these trends?

(Speaking) Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Capital Partners © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

(Speaking) Liza Benson, Partner at StarVest Capital Partners © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Liza: Personally, I would love it because it seems like it'd replace a husband for anything that you really needed done...

Jessi: Totally true, right?

Liza: As a person in a personal level I would love it but we haven't really seen anything at the expansion stage in the B2B side. These all sound really early. Some of the things that you're imagining, Howard, would be very interesting to us because they're applications that are used in the non-consumer, in the B2B space. But it does sound a little far off but I would certainly be a user of it.

Jessi: Fair enough. I think we all would. Do we have any questions from the audience? Anybody out there? Okay. This is your two minute warning to come up with something good while we jump back in here. So, what happens then to, you know, as we move into a world of 3D images do all our images become 3D? What happens into 2D images?

Howard: I don't think they do. We've had 3D movies since the '50's and they've never taken off. We've had 3D stereoscopic images and except for certain uses they haven't been that critical. So I kind of am with Dijon on the sort of 3D thing. VR is a very different experience than looking at a 3D image. Back in the '90's MED'A Creations bought a company called Real Time Geometry that could take 3D photos of objects and we were putting 3D pictures on the web so that you could look at what you were going to buy and turn it around and go, and it just never became a very critical thing.

People are used to very much seeing things in 2D, through catalogs. We've been sort of growing up with that. The 3D need was less than we thought. The 3D movies, Avatar was an amazing success and then kind of nothing. There's IMAX 3D things that you see every now and then but the 3D experience is not, those movies do just as well or better, make more money in the non 3D versions than they do in the 3D versions, and except for some specialized areas like real estate where you want to do walkthroughs we just haven't see that.

Jessi: Got it. So Alex, do you think anything is different now? You think we are going to want 3D now? I take your point that 2D's not going anywhere but is 3D then really upon us? Because now that I think about it I totally remember Avatar. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Alex: It's situational, right? I think we're framing the question as 3D versus 2D. I feel like it depends. So, example, if you're an engineer and you have a 2D sketch versus if you create a 3D model, you put more inputs into a 3D model. I think that what's been a trend is that, notoriously, in enterprise but also in consumer, visualizations aren't always winning. Example, on Wall Street they still love their Excel. There's been so many companies trying to go “hey, I can visually show you the portfolio” and the traders don't care.

Now, “why?” is a totally different question but I think it depends on what the application is. In B2B VR and 3D is already starting to make input certainly in architecture. We have a company called IrisVR that is basically helping you walk through the building before it's even built, so that's helpful, but with consumers, to your point, I think VR is going to be, the best 3D we've got, once it works really well.

Jessi: So when you're thinking about visual technology where does a consumers sense of privacy fit in as you're piloting some of these? I mean you guys talked about some very cool early stage applications, for example, and they all require to me to be pretty comfortable with the fact that I'm being photographed.

Howard: Well, I brought up earlier this morning the Enemy Of The State movie or Dave Eggers' The Circle. You know, there's pretty dystopian views of what can happen. Even go to London and you're on camera pretty much anywhere you are in London. So the answer is, it's not that we have to be comfortable. The people who own these images are going to be controllable and use them in good ways and most people have proven over the last 20 years of the internet they're willing to give up quite a lot of privacy in return for pretty good other values. Other things that they get whether it's social networking, shopping, etc. I don't know how far that'll go.

Jessi: You mentioned some dystopian tales that are familiar to me. Can you guys think of any, any tales that are the opposite? That offer a hopeful view of what the world will be like once we're able to capture it all?

Howard: Well, you can see accidents. If the image recognition says, gee we just noticed an auto accident in this out of the way place you can dispatch emergency life saving there minutes before it would've ever been reported and you can see that in lots of possible areas. You can see it in hospitals where the patient monitoring as a visual characteristic. So, I think you can see a lot of positive things, they're just, they're not happening as quickly.

Jessi: We don't tend to write science fiction about them?

Alex: I mean to me, I'm just horrified at all the false positives. I'm an algorithms guys. I'm a math guy and I find it insanely unhelpful when things around us are trying to suggest us things and try to butt in. Because they're doing it in such a quirky and incorrect way, I think that yes, there's going to be incidents when we have algorithms that detect things that are going to save lives, but my question is, how many times this algorithm is going to blow the whistle and be incorrect? So, I think we need to give them a chance on one hand. On the other hand, I don't know if I want every millisecond of my life to be captured and analyzed in catalogs. I kind of want to be human still a little bit. I don't know. Maybe I'm getting old. Who knows?

Howard: Well, Gordon Bell's gone around with recording his entire life for the last about 20 years or so, at Microsoft and of course there are some issues in some states with the people he's photographing and particularly if he's recording them he has to get permission. But you know the old Greek philosophers talk about the examined life, if you're on camera 24/7 it's easy to examine and re-examine that life.

Jessi: The flip side of that is if you're on camera 24/7 it's easy to let go of the habit of actually examining your life because it's always there for you.

Howard: True, but look at cameras for the police. The trend now to put cameras on police and that's certainly impacting the way that they interact with some members of the public and probably for the better.

Alex: Jessi, also going back to your point, I actually think, for example, social media is chewing up a ton of our lives. I'm looking at my kids texting and all...

Jessi: They're not texting. They're Snapchatting.

Alex: They're texting. My kids don't have Snapchat yet but they're sending each other text messages and we don't butt in but I feel like there's a lot of time that goes into it and I feel like the content - I don't really look at what they're sending but I do see a lot of emojis flying around. I don't think the content is super intellectual. They read books. They still do a lot. My point is, when I write a new blog post, I want to know how many people like my stuff on Twitter and if the post I wrote like got a ton of likes on Linkedin. But that takes a lot of time. Now, if we're constantly recording ourselves, if everything is captured, do we actually have time to live our lives and what does it actually mean? Maybe that's like too meta but it sort of like ...

Jessi: In some Alex that's the question that these conversations always come back to and Liza you look like you had heard it before.

Alex: My pre-tweens, I guess spend their entire lives on and they're more concerned about how many likes they get that privacy. Privacy means absolutely nothing to them. They want to be broadcast. They want everyone to like them, to comment. That's so much more important to them than privacy.

Howard: The issue of living your life. I mean you go to a concert and how many phones are up in the air and people you know, not quite listening to the concert but showing that they're listening to the concert to the rest of the world and whether it's, and in that, that's a little bit of a frustration you know, where you really want to experience some things first by yourself and have your own feelings about them rather than being totally influenced by the crowd around you, and by particularly by the online crowd.

It's not that Snapchat is a documentary feature of an experience but that it is actually a facet of the experience. If I'm an entrepreneur how do I design into that world? Do I want to be designing in order to help people pull out of it or do I want to design in order to help them dive into it more?

-Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer at Wired

Jessi: Well, so there's also a school of thought that would say that actually that is now part of the experience. Snapper didn't happen. It's not that Snapchat is a documentary feature of an experience but that it is actually a facet of the experience. If I'm an entrepreneur how do I design into that world? Do I want to be designing in order to help people pull out of it or do I want to design in order to help them dive into it more?

Alex: Well, I think as an entrepreneur you have to go with the flow and you have to go into the future. It's not inconceivable to think that some of the things we will do will end up being dumb, but that's okay. We will self correct later. I am a deep believer in power and creativity of humanity but you know, you can't help to wonder, to Howard's point, if somebody's Snapchatting half of the concert, they're probably not watching it. That's their choice. As a founder if you build something that makes this go viral you'll make a lot of money so probably go do that.

Howard: Well, you could do both, right? You could make an ad blocker or you can make an ad, you know, a better ad network tool and they both will sell. So, you can pick which one you're most passionate about.

Jessi: Fair enough. Anything from the audience? Oh, right, way back here. Give us your name and affiliation quickly and then your question. There's a mic coming to you.

Audience Question 1: Thanks for speaking. My name is David Blutenthal, the CEO of Snapwave. We're a global community that combines photos and music for a more visually engaging music experiences and since we're talking about music a bit I'm wondering what you think of this as an investment space for engaging music experiences and certainly we're here today about imagery with any sort of a visual layer. Photos, VR, video, what have you.

© Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

© Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Jessi: So, investments based for engaging musical experiences?

David: Correct. Thank you.

Howard: Well, look, the fact is that from sort of tweens-on, every few years there's a new music thing that catches on and becomes very very important to them and so it's a very ripe investment space. But it's a very fickle one and so it's a little difficult. At First Round we've mostly avoided them since because you know, we've seen how fickle it can be. You get a million users in year one and then you're back down to a hundred thousand in year two and so it's difficult for us to know which one's going to become the next Snapchat and which one's going to become the next Whisperer you know or Secret or whatever. You know.

Jessi: Fair enough. You can't even quite get the name, Secret or Whisperer. Is Whisperer even still around? Yeah. Alright, another question from the audience. Back here.

Audience Question 2: Hi, I'm Derek Hoiem, CEO of Reconstruct and we hear a lot about social media. I was wondering if there are any sectors that you think are heavily under-invested in?

Alex: Not social media. I mean, what sense? I think you guys are working on mind blowingly awesome next gen applications that's going to be totally life changing. I think vision algorithms, machine learning, AI, all of these things, not just for the sake of algorithm but when applied to real life businesses are going to be completely life transformative and already have been I think. So, like any one of those areas I think is highly interesting at least to me personally.

Jessi: Cool. Let's take a question right over here.

Audience Question 3: Taking about RetailNext, a company which can zoom inside a store and then give some actionable information, how do you connect that with increase in revenue? Is it just based on some past experience or what is the connection? How do you sell these kind of things to large corporates who would want to use them?

Liza: Well, I mean, they're interested in many facets of the consumer experience, whether or not they had good or bad customer service, even in terms of merchandising - you know, what was interesting to the consumer: What did they dwell on most? What caught their eye? Those types of things are very difficult to ascertain without seeing the movement around the store. Those are the types of things that we've seen that retailers are very interested in.

Audience Question 3: Yeah, but how do you put a value to that, is my question. If i were to sell it to a company right now, I would say, how much do you want this for? Right? For free it's great but for a million dollars, where do you draw that price point?

Liza: You know, I don't. I haven't seen their latest ROI model but  I think from a merchandising perspective if you have an idea as to what's working vs. what's not working, what store layouts work as opposed to store layouts that don't work, that's huge in terms of uplift of sales.

Jessi: Okay, and there was a question behind you. Right back here. Thank you.

Audience Question 4: Thank you. My name's Jacob Loewenstein. I run MIT's VR and AR community. I'm curious. It sounds like when it comes to investing in social media there's a huge advantage if you can predict shifts in societal values. So, suddenly people value publicizing themselves, then perhaps suddenly people prefer privacy or sharing only among a niche audience. I'm curious if any of you predict or see an upcoming shift in values that might tip your hat or give you a clue as to where to invest in next?

Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Howard Morgan, Partner & Co-founder of First Round Capital © Robert Wright/LDV Vision Summit

Howard: That's a terrific question because what we do see is that roughly every two years, the tweens are the predictor. They're the ones who do the next thing and the difference today is that the kids who are becoming tweens today have pretty much been on iPads for five years and so they've had a much different growth experience then even the generation two or three years before them. They're sharing differently and I do think that, but I don't know that I can see what to predict yet but there's definitely some differences happening. One of them is the importance of music to them. You know, they're not texting anymore. As Jessie said, they're Snapchatting, they're, and they have the time to figure out ...

You know, New Yorker had a fantastic cartoon last week which showed a patient in the doctor's chair with his head exploded. It said, I was just another 40 year old trying to learn Snapchat. What you have as a tween, is time to explore an app that we as adults in general don't have, and Snapchat has no instructions  so you have to explore it to figure out what to do with it. We don't have the time to do that but this new generation will have even more language at their disposal to figure out what these things might do. So they'll explore them faster. So, I think we'll see a faster pace.

Jessi: Just to build on that, one thing that I'm very curious about is the visual language that's emerging, that this new, young generation is pioneering. I'm not fluent in reading it, let alone writing it but it feels to me that people assume that you can understand the language because it harkens back to pictography. If you could see pictures on the cave wall then certainly you can make and share images. But as I look at that language, in particular emerging on the Snapchat platform, I think that we begin to move towards a world in which there's going to be a nuanced way of writing in images that carries the same nuance that writing in language carried in the last century and we're going to have to somehow get ahead of the coding on it.

Howard: IMHO. I mean, we had to get through that, that battle with the text world which changed what we were writing right, and learn that language. And it is a new language between the way you're doing things in Snapchat, what things you're putting on people, the emojis you're putting in tech, but it's not unlearnable. It's just that kids always want a language that they can keep from their parents, from their elders for a little while.

Jessi: Fair enough, and I guess in that paradigm I qualify as the elder?

Howard: Yeah.

Jessi: Yeah, thanks. So I want, I don't want to leave this question though because it's a great question. I want to go back to sort of what cultural shifts you might see just up ahead and where they might come from.

Liza: We don't invest in consumer just because it is so fickle and we're more interested in more business models that have a longer lasting. But I think it's extremely challenging, just having tweens, seeing how they communicate and what they do and what's hot now and not. I mean, it's very even difficult as a parent to make sure that they're being safe, to keep up what they're doing safe, let alone investing in it. So, anyone who does that, hats off.

Jessi: Yeah. Fair enough.

Howard: I think the other big cultural shift is the, and I don't want to say it's attention span, but the byte size of what they're doing. You know, 50 years ago I would write letters. Multiple page letters to people and certain in social interactions. You know, what's the longest thing? I wrote a blog post about eight years ago saying that the Gresham's law of blogging was the cheap tweets would take over from the deer of blogging. Blogging takes a long time so even though the mediums are doing reasonably well, so much more is happening in this short form whether it's 140 characters or 500 characters. It's not 500 words, and that's been a real difference and that's one of the biggest differences - everything has to be said or thought through in something that could be consumed in one or two minutes.

Jessi: One or two minutes. Which is exactly how much time I have to sum up all that we have talked about in the last 40. Thank you guys so much for joining us for this conversation.

The annual LDV Vision Summit will be occurring on May 24-25, 2017 at the SVA Theatre in New York, NY.