Blog articles

Funding Friday: Hackers Are Creators

A VC - February 9, 2018 - 7:06am

The Internet has given creators a lot of interesting ways to sustain their work and lives. USV has invested in some of them; Kickstarter, Drip, Etsy, SoundCloud, Shapeways, Splice, YouNow, Wattpad, and Skillshare. Other notable platforms for creators are YouTube and Patreon.

The typical creators who take advantage of these platforms are video artists, musicians, podcasters, crafters, designers, and inventors.

But hackers are also creators and they make a lot of interesting things that are worth supporting, even if they don’t turn into popular applications.

AVC community member Kevin Marshall is a great example of a hacker who is always building something new and interesting.

And he has a Drip page where you can support his work. He has 32 supporters as of today but I feel like he should have way more than that. He has made so many fun apps over the years that tens of thousands of people have used.

I really like the idea that hackers are creators and need the same kinds of services to support their work and themselves that other artists have. And I really appreciate Kevin showing the way here.

Categories: Blog articles

John Perry Barlow

A VC - February 8, 2018 - 8:01am

John Perry Barlow understood what the Internet was, what it could be, and what it must be before most of us did.

He passed away yesterday and the Internet filled with remembrances.

Here are some of the best that I read:

Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing

Steven Levy on Wired

Cindy Cohn at EFF

Rest In Peace JPB


Bethany Marz Crystal — February 16, 2018
Sure! Please just link back to this. Thanks!

Categories: Blog articles

The Post–Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Beyond Money - February 7, 2018 - 12:58pm

Yesterday, I had occasion to watch Stephen Spielberg’s latest film, The Post, which tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the top secret government documents that came to be known as the “Pentagon Papers.” The film does a fine job of portraying an episode in history that everyone needs to know about and understand. These leaked documents, which Ellsberg hoped would help end the Vietnam war, formed the basis for a series of articles that were published by the New York Times and the Washington Post. A major point that the film brings out is the fact the Vietnam war was perpetuated over several administrations because no President wanted to admit that the war was unwinnable (not to mention, unjust). As a consequence, the lives of tens of thousands of American servicemen and untold numbers of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians were sacrificed for no good reason.

Here is an NPR interview with Ellsberg originally broadcast Dec. 4, 2017:

I’m pretty sure that no mainstream media outlet today would likely be willing to do what the Times and the Post did back then, and I wonder how long it will be before the independent internet channels are also taken over or censored out of existence.

Greater government openness and transparency are essential to ending the war economy and the culture of war, but that will not occur until we the people empower ourselves enough to force politicians to bring it about. We need a strategy that can effect a power shift toward popular control, and I believe the most promising approach for achieving that is to decentralize control of credit-based exchange media. Private and community currencies, and credit clearing networks can circumvent political currencies and bank-created debt money. We’re running out of wiggle room so we had better not waste any time in deploying them.

#     #     #

And while we’re on the subject of the Vietnam war, here’s a pertinent documentary that tells about another important aspect of the anti-war movement.

“In the 1960’s an anti-war movement emerged that altered the course of history. This sir-no-sirmovement didn’t take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it. Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile. And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. Yet today few people know about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.”


Categories: Blog articles

How To Think About Selloffs

A VC - February 7, 2018 - 9:38am

The crypto markets had a good day yesterday but have been down a lot since peaking in early January. Bitcoin peaked at almost $20,000USD in mid December and has gone down by roughly 60% since then. Ethereum peaked at almost $1400 in mid January and has gone down by roughly 40% since then.

A chart that I like to look at, the total market cap of all crypto tokens, has made a classic head and shoulders pattern and is now retracing on the downside:

The total market cap of all crypto tokens peaked at roughly $825bn and is down roughly 50% since then.

But most of you know all of this.

The more interesting question is what, if anything, to do about it.

In times like this, I like to turn to the fundamentals to figure out where things stand and how I should behave.

So how do we do a fundamental analysis of crypto prices. Is $8000 high or low for BTC? Is $800 high or low for ETH?  I see people opining on these things all of the time based on historical prices and that is not a proper way to value an asset. You need to have some fundamental theory of value and then apply it rigorously.

There are plenty of people doing that kind of work in crypto-economic circles and I saw two blog posts in the last week that I thought were quite good.

Here is a post explaining the NVT ratio (network value to transaction ratio).

And here is a post critiquing the monetary velocity approach (MV=PQ) and proposing an alternative.

What you can see from these two posts is that not everyone in crypto land is speculating without thinking. There is some serious economic thinking going on and it is going to be super important in the coming years.

However, the bigger problem in crypto land is that none of the public blockchains have really shown they can scale to the volumes of transactions that would be required for blockchain technology to go mainstream. I have likened this situation to dialup modems in the 90s eventually giving way to broadband internet (and mobile broadband internet) in the 2000s. I am confident that trust-less consensus-based systems will be able to scale to the volumes we need to go mainstream but we are not there yet. The transaction ratios and monetary volumes that drive value in the economic models I linked to above just aren’t there yet to support the almost trillion dollars of value that crypto tokens reached in early January.

But there are some very promising signs out there.

We have the Lightning Network getting implemented in the real world. Lightning is Bitcoin’s great hope for scaling transaction volumes.

We have Truebit going live on an Ethereum testnet this week:

Massive milestone today — Truebit Lite is live on Rinkeby running verification for the DOGE-ETH bridge — Check out the demo! @sinahab @mattgcondon @hdswick @ethchris @robbiebent1 @mrsmkl

— Truebit (@Truebitprotocol) February 5, 2018

Truebit is off-chain computation for Ethereum.

Neither I nor USV has an economic interest in either Lightning or Truebit. I mention them because they are two of the more interesting efforts out there to scale these big public blockchains. There are many more of them.

The truth is that if you look behind the scenes, you will find quite a number of strong technical teams that are working on scalability and some of the other fundamental challenges of public blockchains. The crypto sector is full of get rich quick schemes and janky token offerings, but it is also full of brilliant computer scientists and strong engineering teams working on solving these challenges. And I am quite confident that they will solve them. When and how is harder to predict.

So given all of that, how does one do a fundamental analysis of crytpo tokens and the crypto sector?

Here is a three step process that I recommend:

  1. Get the Cryptoassets book and read it. The authors do a great job of outlining how one can and should do a fundamental analysis on crypto tokens.
  2. Follow the crypto-economists who are writing regularly about this stuff and read what they have to say. I linked to two of them above in this post.
  3. Understand the technical challenges and follow the progress being made in solving them. As more progress is made, that should be reflected in the prices of the top public blockchains. If it is not, that would be a buying opportunity.

I don’t believe that the recent selloff is a massive buying opportunity, but I also don’t think that anything has really changed in the fundamental analysis of the sector in the past month. I remain long term bullish and short term cautious.


Albert Wenger — February 16, 2018
The Power of Continued Innovation: MongoDB Adds Transactions

Bethany Marz Crystal — February 16, 2018
Sure! Please just link back to this. Thanks!

Albert Wenger — February 15, 2018

Categories: Blog articles

Quizlet – The World’s Largest User Generated Learning Platform

A VC - February 6, 2018 - 11:13am

On the occasion of our portfolio company Quizlet‘s announcement of a new round of funding today, I thought I’d talk about what led us to Quizlet and why it is poised to be a game changer in education.

Quizlet is the world’s largest user generated learning platform. Founded in 2005 in founder Andrew Sutherland’s bedroom (he was 15 at the time), Quizlet has become the wikipedia of the education sector. Over the last twelve and a half years, users have posted over 200 million study sets to Quizlet. A study set is a list of things you want to learn. Think of what happens when flashcards meet the Internet and mobile devices. A study set can be French Adverbs or Heart Muscles or a Pre-Takeoff Flight Safety Checklist. You can study these things anytime and any place that you have a mobile phone on you.

That was all already in place when we invested in Quizlet in the fall of 2015. I wrote this post talking about Quizlet at the time.

What wasn’t there, and is now, is the machine learning team to make sense of all of these study sets. Take 200+ million study sets and 30+ million monthly users and you have a ton of data about what people are learning, how they are learning, and how their learning evolves over time on Quizlet. From that data will come new modes of learning on Quizlet and a lot of help figuring out what study sets are best to learn something.

The other place Quizlet plans to invest in is expanding Quizlet internationally. Over the last year, the Quizlet team has localized into 18 languages. Now, over 90% of the world’s population can use Quizlet. And because Quizlet is free to use for everyone, that means this user powered learning model can be used by students all over the world. Quizlet intends to aggressively expand its content base and user base internationally in the next few years.

Just because Quizlet is free for anyone to use doesn’t mean it is not a good business. Quizlet has two primary revenue streams right now, advertising and subscriptions, both of which are performing very well and there will be more revenue opportunities for Quizlet as they build out their content base and user base around the world. Quizlet was a profitable business when we invested in it back in 2015 and has remained at or near profitability even with the significant investment we have made in the business since then.

Quizlet is a great example of how you can build a very good business while expanding access to knowledge dramatically around the world. One does not have to come at the cost of the other if you architect your product and business model appropriately.


Albert Wenger — February 16, 2018
The Power of Continued Innovation: MongoDB Adds Transactions

Bethany Marz Crystal — February 16, 2018
Sure! Please just link back to this. Thanks!

Albert Wenger — February 15, 2018

Categories: Blog articles

Setting Up A New Phone

A VC - February 5, 2018 - 8:53am

I finally got around to buying the Pixel 2, a phone that several of my USV colleagues have said is the best phone they have owned.

It’s too early in my relationship with this phone to comment on whether I like it or not, but I did have the easiest new phone setup experience of my smartphone tenure last night.

First and foremost, Google has made moving from one Android phone to another way better. You simply connect the two phones with a USB-C cable and about ten to fifteen minutes later, you have everything on your new phone. Then the apps start downloading and about 30mins later (depending on how many apps you have), everything you had on your old phone is on your new phone.

The second factor in the “easiest new phone setup experience” is Dashlane on Android. I realize Dashlane doesn’t have the same access to the operating system on iOS, but on Android, it is really great.

Once I had everything on my phone, I logged into Dashlane and turned on “auto login” for apps and websites on my phone.

After doing that, the process of logging into all of the apps on my phone was a breeze. It still required me opening every app on my phone, but I must have easily saved 30 minutes using Dashlane to automate much of that process.

I suspect other password managers can do the same, but I use Dashlane and it was a godsend last night.

Finally, a word about two factor authorization apps and codes. The regeneration of 2FA codes on a new phone is yet another annoying and painful process you have to do every time you get a new phone. I am not aware of an easy way to automate that and I suspect it would be a security challenge to make it easy. So that is today’s project.

I like to get a new phone for a lot of reasons. I like to get the latest and greatest technologies on my phone, I like the longer battery life that a new phone has, and I like change. Thankfully the process of setting up a new phone has gotten a lot easier in recent years.


Albert Wenger — February 14, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Spurious Correlation (Part 3)

Categories: Blog articles

Splitting The Deal

A VC - February 4, 2018 - 9:09am

Syndicating an early stage investment is a time honored practice in the venture capital business. It was extremely common in the VC business in the early 80s when I started.

I assume syndicating was a common practice in the early days of the institutional VC business because fund sizes were small, risk was high, and splitting the deal among multiple firms was a good way to manage those things.

Over the years syndication has become less common among large venture capital firms as fund sizes have grown and portfolio diversification can happen in a single fund to manage the early stage risk.

In the angel market (and to a lesser extent seed market), syndication is alive and well and remains very common.

But in the institutional VC market, it is pretty common to see one firm lead and take all of the Series A, another firm to lead and take all of the non-pro-rata amounts of the Series B, and the same in the Series C and Series D. Syndicates are still built but they are built round by round versus in the round itself.

I was thinking about this today and it occurred to me that the three best VC investments I have made in the last ten years, which are also the three best VC investments I have made in my career, were all syndicated in the first VC round, which was a Series A in all three cases.

In each one, I negotiated for a $4-5mm round that bought between 20-25% of the business, and I then offered between 33% and 50% of the amount I had negotiated for to another firm.

In each case, USV could have taken the entire round. We had sufficient capital to do that. But in each case, I wanted some company in the investment and, honestly, I wanted to lay off some risk too.

In each of these three situations, the $1.5-2mm that we “laid off” to others was or is worth hundreds of millions or more and yet I don’t regret the decision in the least.

These syndicate investors each stepped up at critical times and did things for the companies that I could not do and they earned every penny of the returns they got.

So, I am a firm believer in splitting the deal, even when the economics (another word for ownership) suggest that there is no room for others.

My personal track record tells me that splitting the deal works. It helps you step up to something that has a lot of risk but also a lot of upside and it brings other people who can add value into the situation early on.

At a time when we are seeing venture funds get bigger and bigger, I am convinced that the hallmarks of old school early stage investing; small fund sizes, small rounds, and syndicates remain best practices and we continue to do that at USV.


Albert Wenger — February 12, 2018
World After Capital: Digital Technology (Zero Marginal Cost)

Bethany Marz Crystal — February 12, 2018
What Kayaking Through a Mangrove Forest at Midnight Can Teach You About Teamwork

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: The Upfront Summit Crypto Video

A VC - February 3, 2018 - 11:03am

The annual Upfront Summit took place in LA this past week. I attended day two and enjoyed it very much.

Prior to the summit, the Upfront team interviewed a bunch of investors in the crypto sector and put together this video.

I think it captures the current investor sentiment very well.


Albert Wenger — February 12, 2018
World After Capital: Digital Technology (Zero Marginal Cost)

Rebecca Kaden — February 11, 2018
Welcoming Stash to the USV Portfolio

Bethany Marz Crystal — February 12, 2018
What Kayaking Through a Mangrove Forest at Midnight Can Teach You About Teamwork

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: An Open Source Voice Assistant

A VC - February 2, 2018 - 10:02am

I backed this project last week. I think open source and transparency is badly needed in this market.

Categories: Blog articles

USV Is Hiring Two Analysts

A VC - February 1, 2018 - 9:14am

It’s that time again. USV is hiring two analysts, each for a two year rotation.

The hiring process is similar to what we have done in the past, but the role is a bit different. We are adopting more of an apprenticeship model:

For this analyst cycle, we are changing things up a bit by transforming the program into more of an apprenticeship. What does that mean? You will work mostly with two partners at the firm, one of whom will be primarily responsible for your training. We are looking for two people. The first analyst will be working primarily with Andy, the second primarily with Albert.

The USV analyst role has been a nice launchpad for the folks who have done it:

Past analysts have gone on to join other venture firms and even start their own (AndrewCharlieJoel), work at USV portfolio companies (JonathanEric), help launch new products (ChristinaBrian) and start their own companies (ZanderJennifer).

If you are interested in spending a couple years at USV, here is our process:

Our process starts with having candidates answer two questions by recording videos, as well as submitting two short written pieces. These will be due by end of day Thursday, February 15.

From the initial submissions we select a smaller group for telephone interviews and then a set of finalists for in-person meetings. We expect the process to be finished by the end of March and candidates should be available to start work in April or May.

Here are the questions:

Video 1: Why are you interested in the analyst role? [30 seconds]

Video 2: What is an example of an initiative you took outside of school or work? [60 seconds]

Written 1: An email asking for a meeting with the founder of a startup you admire.

Written 2: An argument for why one of the following is either overvalued or undervalued [Twitter, Snap, Bitcoin, Ethereum] [750 words max]

If this seems right up your alley, you can start your application here.

Categories: Blog articles

An Addition To The AVC Comment Policy

A VC - January 31, 2018 - 9:38am

Yesterday I went to see what the community was talking about and found this at the top of the comment threads:

I thought to myself “oh shit, the token scammers have arrived” and immediately deleted those comments and left a reply saying that I am going to update the comment policy.

So I did that this morning.

There will be no token promotions in the AVC comments, period.

I am fine with discussing the merits of various blockchain/crypto technologies and tokens, but outright promotion is not cool and I won’t allow it.

I hope this is clear and everyone understands why it is necessary.


Lauren Maz — February 8, 2018
USV Level Up Series

Albert Wenger — February 7, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Spurious Correlation (Cont’d)

Categories: Blog articles

USV Manager Bootcamp

A VC - January 30, 2018 - 11:42am

Our USV Portfolio Network Team built a new offering last year called the USV Manager Bootcamp.

The idea is to offer management training classes to our portfolio companies that are too small to be able to offer those classes themselves.

Last week was the sixth bootcamp and the self reported results are pretty impressive:

As I tweeted out last week, this is something other VC firms can do as well. It’s a perfect example of something that works for a portfolio of companies.

something VC firms can do for their portfolio companies is to provide training programs that the smaller companies can’t justify on their own

— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) January 25, 2018

If you want to learn more about how this works, our Portfolio Network Team wrote a blog post about it last week.


Lauren Maz — February 8, 2018
USV Level Up Series

Albert Wenger — February 7, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Spurious Correlation (Cont’d)

Albert Wenger — February 7, 2018
Velocity by Code Climate

Categories: Blog articles

A Low-Volume, High-Conviction, High-Support Investor

A VC - January 29, 2018 - 9:19am

My friend Mark Mullen and his partner Jim Andelman are announcing a new VC firm in Southern California today. They call themselves Bonfire Ventures.

I love how they describe themselves as “a low-volume, high-conviction, high-support investor.” That is who you want at your side when you are starting a business. There are a number of those types of firms out there, USV is one, Bonfire is another, and there are plenty more. But there are also plenty of the other variety; high volume, low conviction, can’t get them on the phone when you need them investors. So finding a high conviction investor to lead your seed or Srs A round is ideal and we have one more VC firm like that now.

Bonfire is based in Southern California, one of the hottest venture capital regions right now, and is focused on “B2B” companies, a sector that Mark and Jim have focused on for the last decade.

I’d like to congratulate Mark and Jim on getting Bonfire off the ground and welcome them to the high conviction club. It’s a good group of VCs and we can always use a few more.


Albert Wenger — February 7, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Spurious Correlation (Cont’d)

Albert Wenger — February 7, 2018
Velocity by Code Climate

Categories: Blog articles

The Co-Founder Relationship

A VC - January 28, 2018 - 9:59am

If you were making a list of things that could go wrong on an seed, angel, or Series A investment, you would have to put the co-founder relationship right up there at the top of the list. Not every startup has co-founders. Some just have one founder. In some ways, that is a bit easier to “underwrite.” At least it is clear who is in charge and why things are happening or not happening.

With co-founders, it is always a bit unclear where the issues are coming from. Founders don’t generally like to disclose their issues to their investors and Board. If it gets really bad, the stuff comes out. But often it stays under the covers where you, as an investor, can’t do much about it, other than wonder what is really going on.

Frequently one of the founders is the “business person” and the other is the “technical person.” That works pretty well as each person has a domain where they are “the boss” and that means they aren’t in each other’s hair so much. But there are many places where that framework breaks down. Examples of areas that create co-founder stress are compensation, raising money/dilution, product strategy, resource allocation, marketing, and PR, among many others.

The co-founder dysfunction impacts everyone in and around the company, but mostly the team underneath the founders. It is like being in a family where mom and dad aren’t getting along. There is stress and strain, messed up decision making, and everyone is walking on eggshells.

So what can be done about this issue?

Here are some suggestions:

1/ The Board and investor group should talk directly and honestly with the founders about the challenges of staying aligned and those conversations should start before an investment is even made. By putting the issue on the table, making it something people are allowed to talk about openly, there is a much greater chance the issue can be managed effectively.

2/ The team underneath the founders should feel like they have the right, and the responsibility, to talk to the Board and investor group when founder dysfunction gets really bad. In general the idea of the team going around the leaders to the Board is a big “no no” in startup land, but there are a few places where that needs to happen, like outing illegal or dishonest actions, or harassment. Likewise, if the co-founder relationship is so bad that the company is being seriously harmed, the team should feel a responsibility to come to the Board with that information.

3/ There are some great “founder conflict” coaches out there. This is a bit like marriage counseling. The co-founders meet with a coach together regularly to diffuse and manage their conflict. I have seen this work very well. Most CEO Coaches will do founder conflict coaching, and if they don’t do it, they can recommend someone who will.

4/ Founder divorce is something that happens pretty regularly. If two, or three, people can’t figure out how to work well together, then one, or possibly more, will have to leave. Sometimes founders can figure this out on their own, but often the Board and members of the team will get involved as well. I have not seen the data on this, but I would imagine a minority of founder teams make it all the way to the finish line without one or more leaving along the way, often for reasons of unmanageable conflict.

Founder conflict is pervasive in startup land but is not discussed very often. That should change. It is normal. It happens. You aren’t the only one who is experiencing it. It is OK to talk about it, put it on the table, and deal with it.

DISCLAIMER – This post is absolutely not about any company, any founder or founders, or anything specific at all. It is just about something that we frequently see and is worth talking about. If you think I am writing about you, your company, or your founder, you are wrong. But I am happy to talk about it nonetheless.


Albert Wenger — February 5, 2018
World After Capital: Introduction

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: A16Z’s Alex Rampell

A VC - January 27, 2018 - 1:42pm

I found this wide ranging interview quite interesting.

Alex has been an entrepreneur and is now an investor.

He is operating at the intersection of traditional fintech and crypto, which is a place USV also often occupies.


Albert Wenger — February 5, 2018
World After Capital: Introduction

Categories: Blog articles

Funding Friday: A Year Undercover Inside The Alt-Right

A VC - January 26, 2018 - 7:47am

I backed this documentary film project earlier this week.

I want to see this film made and shown. If you do as well, you can back this project here.

Given the political nature of this post, I have closed the comments.

Categories: Blog articles

Board Feedback

A VC - January 25, 2018 - 10:21am

Something I am a huge fan of is Board Feedback. I’ve written about this a lot here at AVC and I am writing about it again today. Because it is important and not done regularly in my experience.

A founder/CEO and their team spend a lot of time preparing for a meeting, and then they give the meeting their all, and often the Board leaves and nothing is really said about it.

That sucks. For everyone, but most of all for the CEO.

Here is what I try to do and mostly do. I sometimes mess this up but not often.

After the meeting ends, at least one director, ideally the Chairman if there is one who is not the CEO, or the lead director, or the director who is there in person, should lead an executive session without the CEO and get feedback from all of the directors and observers and then they should sit down with the CEO and provide that feedback in an honest and open way.

The sooner you do this the better. No CEO should ever be wondering how the Board Meeting went, what people are thinking, and how they are doing.

And yet that is often the case. That is malpractice. It is wrong. It should not happen.

Categories: Blog articles


A VC - January 24, 2018 - 12:54pm

Last week I started getting lots of stories about Kendrick Lamar and SZA in my Google Now news feed on my phone.  I thought to myself “why all of sudden does Google think I’m interested in Kendrick Lamar and SZA?”

Then I recalled sending a text message to my son about the new Kendrick/SZA song from the Black Panther film and thought “Google saw that text message and added Kendrick to my interests.” I don’t know if that is in fact the case, but the fact that I thought it is really all that I am talking about right now.

That whole “why did I get this recommendation” line of thinking is what the machine learning industry calls Explainability. It’s a very human emotion and I bet that all of us have it, maybe as often as multiple times a day now.

I like this bit I saw on a blog post on the topic today:

Explainability is about trust. It’s important to know why our self-driving car decided to slam on the breaks, or maybe in the future why the IRS auto-audit bots decide it’s your turn. Good or bad decision, it’s important to have visibility into how they were made, so that we can bring the human expectation more in line with how the algorithm actually behaves. 

What I want on my phone, on my computer, in Alexa, and everywhere that machine learning touches me, is a “why” button I can push (or speak) to know why I got that recommendation. I want to know what source data was used to make the recommendation, and I’d also like to know what algorithms were used to produce confidence in it.

This is coming. I have no doubt about it. And the companies that offer it to us will build the trust that will be critical to remaining relevant in the age of machine learning.


Albert Wenger — February 1, 2018
Hiring New Analysts

Categories: Blog articles

DuckDuckGo Moves Beyond Search

A VC - January 23, 2018 - 10:21am

Our portfolio company DuckDuckGo which offers a search engine that doesn’t store your search history or track you announced some new offerings this week.
Here’s a quote from the announcement:

Over the years, DuckDuckGo has offered millions of people a private alternative to Google, serving over 16 billion anonymous searches. Today we’re excited to launch fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, extending DuckDuckGo’s protection beyond the search box to wherever the Internet takes you.

As I understand it, you can get this browsing protection via the DuckDuckGo mobile app and from their browser extensions.
You can get them here:

FirefoxSafariChromeiOS, and Android

DuckDuckGo is moving beyond search into a broader suite of privacy offerings. They have built up the trust of users over the years and can now apply that to a wider set of problems.

Along the way DuckDuckGo has built a great business too. As founder/CEO Gabe Weinberg explains in this interview with Techcrunch, DuckDuckGo has been profitable since 2014.

It’s very satisfying to me to know that in an era where billions are being made walking all over our privacy, a great business can be built protecting it.


Albert Wenger — February 1, 2018
Hiring New Analysts

Categories: Blog articles

ADP Acquires WorkMarket

A VC - January 22, 2018 - 8:35am

ADP announced this morning that they have acquired our portfolio company WorkMarket.

This is a bittersweet moment for me.

WorkMarket has been a big part of my personal portfolio for almost eight years.

USV and Spark seeded WorkMarket in June 2010, backing two serial entrepreneurs Jeff Leventhal and Jeff Wald.

The idea was to create a cloud based SAAS application to allow enterprises to manage their contingent workforces which were growing in size and complexity. It seemed like a timely opportunity at the time and it was. Eight years later the SAAS contingent workforce management market is in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually and WorkMarket is the creator and leader of it.

But like all startups, the WorkMarket story has a number of twists and turns. The market was a bit slower to develop than we had initially hoped and it wasn’t until the last few years that big companies started to include contingent workforce management in their SAAS budgets.

We also lost one of the two founders, Jeff Leventhal, when he stepped aside at the end of 2014 and was replaced as CEO by Stephen DeWitt who was recruited to the opportunity by Jordan Levy, who has been everything you could ask for in a co-investor.

The last few years at WorkMarket have been amazing. The senior team that Stephen and Jeff Wald built is among the best that I have had the opportunity to work with. And the contingent workforce market really exploded in 2016 and 2017.

But like all exploding markets, the expanding opportunity brought a lot of new entrants and buyers interested in getting into it. And one of those big companies, ADP, made us an offer we could not refuse, both in terms of the financial opportunity and the fit with their business. ADP has been helping enterprises, large and small, with human capital management solutions for decades and has the customer base, market knowledge, and capital to lean into this opportunity in a way that a venture backed startup never could.

So WorkMarket is now part of ADP and I am pleased with that outcome. Jeff Wald will take over leading WorkMarket for its next phase and he is well suited and deserving of that role. He has been the one constant for the eight years that I have worked on WorkMarket. Everyone else who was there at the start has come and gone. But Jeff and I saw it through from start to finish and I appreciate that very much.

I also want to acknowledge Stephen and the senior team of Grady Leno, Jim Chou, Marcy Shinder, and Tom Benton. As I said, this is an amazing team and it has been a pleasure to watch them build the product, market, and customer base. They are all superstars in my book.

This is the way of the VC business. You get inspired by an idea and a couple founders. You spend a lot of time helping them build something. You give a piece of yourself to the business. And one day, you are done. That day, for me and WorkMarket, is today and I have enjoyed the ride very much.


Albert Wenger — January 31, 2018
Uncertainty Wednesday: Spurious Correlation (Intro)

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