Marcus Stroud and Brandon Allen met six years ago as roommates at Princeton University. The pair bonded over a common interest and a shared dream: to be venture capitalists.
“We were at a lecture and there were a couple VCs on campus speaking,” 25-year-old Stroud told TechCrunch. “Being a kid from a small town in Texas, Princeton was already a huge culture shock, but hearing about a world of VC, investment banking and private equity just really intrigued me.”
In 2016, Stroud and Allen graduated. Stroud, a former linebacker on the Princeton football team, went off to Wall Street where he was a fixed income analyst, and then to Austin, where he joined the alternative asset manager Vida Capital to learn the ins and outs of investing. Twenty-four-old Allen, meanwhile, clocked in about two years as a consultant.
It didn’t take long for the aspiring VCs to find their way back to each other to finally start on the project they had discussed in their dorm room. Over the last several months, Allen and Stroud have been quietly building a Dallas-based venture firm called TXV Partners . Their lofty target: $50 million, which would be the largest fund ever for an all-black line-up of general partners, an especially notable feat given Allen and Stroud are located in a market largely ignored by the storied VC firms of Silicon Valley.
Building the next great VC hub
Stroud and Allen plan to spend the $50 million on millennials. That is, millennial-friendly startups in the consumer, fintech and blockchain verticals, of which they’ll provide between $500,000 and $3 million in equity funding. So far, they’ve invested in one company, an Austin-based blockchain music platform called Matter Music.
Thanks to Stroud’s time on Princeton’s football team and his father, who is a former NFL player, TXV has tapped some athletic talent to support the fund and its portfolio companies. Former NFL player and Northgate Capital managing director Brent Jones is a mentor, and the firm’s advisors include athletes-turned-investors Torii Hunter and Steve Wisniewski, a former professional baseball player and NFL player, respectively.
Allen is leading the firm’s Dallas office and Stroud is scouting full-time for startups in Austin, which is already a well-known source of tech talent.
“We wanted to be part of the next great VC hub,” Allen told TechCrunch. “We felt like it made sense and we felt comfortable in Texas. The thought of moving to San Francisco was out of reach for us. Texas has the opportunity to be at the forefront of what the next generation of technology will look like.”
With large universities feeding the talent pool, Texas has the potential but has yet to fully emerge as a force to be reckoned with for technology investors, even with the buzz surrounding Austin’s rising startup ecosystem. So far this year, companies headquartered in Texas have raised roughly $2.5 billion, on par with levels seen in the state in recent years, according to PitchBook. California startups, for context, have raised more than $50 billion this year.
Texas has the opportunity to be at the forefront of what the next generation of technology will look like. TXV co-founder Brandon Allen
In Austin this year, startups have pulled in $1.4 billion, just north of the $1.3 billion in total capital commitments in 2017. Dallas startups, for their part, have raised just $600 million across 87 deals. Deal count in Dallas actually looks to be dropping, hitting 173 in 2013, 143 in 2016 and falling down to 106 last year, but localized funds like TXV’s may help push the city’s tech scene forward.
‘For Texans, for African Americans and for millennials’
Stroud and Allen are not only first-time general partners of what may become a multi-million-dollar VC fund, but they’re also two African Americans in a field dominated by white men. For them, it’s high stakes and failure is not an option.
VC is known for its lack of diversity. Indeed, 81 percent of VC firms don’t have a single black investor, according to data collected by Richard Kerby, a partner at Equal Ventures. Roughly 50 percent of black investors in the industry are at the associate level, or the lowest level at a firm, and only 2 percent of VC partners are black.
Base10 Partners’ $137 million fund, announced in September, is the largest black-led VC fund to date, but only one of the two general partners are black. Based in San Francisco, Base10 is run by two veteran investors with a well-established network in the Bay Area. The challenges for TXV are much larger, and the barriers may be much tougher to overcome.
“We’re young, black and in Texas,” Allen added. “We’re trying to do it differently. We wanted to really see if we can redefine the VC model from the bottom up. It’s important for Texans, for African Americans and for millennials.”
Allen was raised in New England and Stroud in Prosper, Texas, a small town outside of Dallas. Neither of them comes from wealth, as many Stanford-educated Silicon Valley elite do. They’ll have to put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into TXV, but if they succeed — and even if they don’t — they’ll have helped paint a new archetype for VCs.
“African Americans aren’t that well represented on either side of the table as an investor or a startup founder,” Stroud said. “I think, if anything, that doesn’t discourage us, it just makes us feel proud and empowered that we have an opportunity to help cultivate a fund that is majority minority-led. It’s something that fires me up.”
Instagram Stories links are now available for all accounts
Instagram has confirmed that it’s bringing the ability to and links to Stories for all user accounts. When Stories links were first revealed, they were only available for verified accounts or accounts with a certain number of followers. However, Instagram says over the years it has seen that the ability to share links to stories is helpful, so it’s expanding access to everyone.
The Instagram community has been asking for Stories links for everyone to make sharing content with friends and family easier. Links are now available for sharing for everyone with no stipulation on account size. To add links to Stories, users can use the Link sticker.
When people click the sticker, they will be redirected. Adding a Link sticker is easy and starts with capturing or uploading content to the story. Users then select the sticker tool from the navigation bar and tap the Link sticker to add the desired link. Once that is complete, users can place the sticker on their story, and there are variations of the sticker available.
Instagram also says it’s working on customizing the sticker to make it clear what users will see when they tap it. Instagram is also talking about its ongoing effort to keep its community of users safe. To facilitate safety, new accounts and accounts that repeatedly share content, including hate speech or misinformation, as well as anything that violates community guidelines, won’t have access to the Link sticker.
The Link sticker isn’t the only change Instagram has made this month. Previously, Instagram announced that its desktop app was getting photo upload capability. Before adding the capability to upload content from the desktop app, all uploading had to be done from the mobile app. The change was implemented on October 21.
2021 MacBook Pro teardown tease shows what’s on the inside
It’s very common for manufacturers like Apple to release new products, and fans always want to know what they look like on the inside. However, the last thing most of us want to do is tear apart our brand-new and expensive gadgets to look. Thankfully, IFIXIT has been gutting new devices for a long time, giving us a look at what’s on the inside without having to trash our own hardware.
Right now, a teardown for the 2021 MacBook Pro is being teased with a few pictures ahead of the full reveal. As you would expect, everything is packed very tightly into the thin and lightweight MacBook Pro notebooks. While there are no real details offered at this time about the hardware inside, we already know what to expect from Apple’s official event.
Apple has fitted its 2021 model notebooks with additional ports. An improved keyboard is integrated that hopefully won’t break if you eat lunch and work at the same time. MagSafe charging is integrated, and Apple ditched the Touch Bar for traditional function keys. The real changes come in new Apple silicon running the show. One interesting tidbit that has been shared from the full teardown is that the battery cells have pull tabs to make them easier to remove and aren’t crammed under a logic board.
We hope that means should your battery go bad down the road; you don’t have to completely disassemble the notebook to install a new one. The four outer cells of the battery have pull tabs similar to those used in the iPhone and MacBook Air. However, we will have to wait for the full teardown to know everything about these batteries and just how easy they are to remove and replace.
The prospect of more DIY friendly component placements should have Mac fans excited. The gang also got their hands on that $20 official Apple polishing cloth, simply called the “Polishing Cloth.” A price of $19 is pretty steep for cloth used to shine the screen of your iPhone, but it has an Apple logo, and that’s enough for some. The cloth feels like Alcantara and appears to be the same material used inside the iPad Smart Cover.
Android apps on Chrome OS will soon behave better with Compatibility mode
Although it isn’t exactly the one Google OS to rule them all, Chrome OS has long been able to run both of Google’s preferred platforms and then some. It did take a while before it could properly handle Android apps and, even then, there are still a lot of rough edges thanks to the wide variety and quality of those apps. Years after there have been tablets, many Android apps still live in a phone-only world, but that’s, fortunately, changing with Google’s latest push for big-screen Android devices and, of course, Chromebooks.
Android apps that have been made only with phones in mind behave unpredictably or undesirably on large screens. On tablets, they often force a portrait orientation, which can be awkward and unusable for tablets 10 inches or greater in size. On Chromebooks, the app’s UI gets stretched, delivering a very suboptimal experience.
Some Android apps let windows be resized on Chrome OS, allowing users to select what best works for them. Not all apps support this, however, and it’s often a guessing game that people shouldn’t have to play. With the upcoming Android 12L changes, they won’t have to.
As spotted by Chrome Unboxed last month, Google has been working on a compatibility mode for Android apps on Chrome OS and, apparently, on Android tablets, too. This will add a very conspicuous button in the middle of an Android app’s window title bar, indicating that a certain app’s UI is optimized for a certain form factor. More importantly, this feature automatically resizes an app’s window to make it look and behave better on Chromebooks and even lets users switch between different form options.
This is part of Google’s newly-announced push to support large-screen Android devices, what it calls Android 12L. Ideally, developers would design their apps to support different screen sizes and form factors, including foldables, but this Compatibility Mode at least offers a stop-gap measure for apps that don’t.
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