Blog articles

Resource Constraints

A VC - August 23, 2017 - 4:57am

Most of the companies I work with tell me that they are resource constrained and do not have enough capital and engineers to do everything they want to do.

I tell them that is a blessing not a curse.

They look at me like I am crazy and rationalize it as me being an investor and not an operator.

I will plead guilty to both (being crazy and being an investor) but I am extremely confident that being resource constrained is a blessing in the hands of a great operator.

I have seen companies do amazing things with no money and tiny teams.

I have seen companies do absolutely nothing with all the money in the world and hundreds of engineers.

This experience, built up over thirty plus years in tech and startups, has convinced me that resources are never the limiting factor to doing great things.

The limiting factors are;

  1. having great management that can make the right decisions and drive exection
  2. knowing what to do and what not to do
  3. playing your game and not someone else’s

Resources, measured in available capital and headcount, often make #2 and #3 more challenging.

Organizations start to feel that they can do more than they can and should.

They start looking around enviously and counting the size of the fundraises and engineering teams of their competitors.

They stop knowing who they are. And that is death.

I believe that excess capital makes companies weak and unfocused.

I believe limited capital makes companies strong and focused.

And I don’t believe capital has ever helped a company win a market. Many have tried that approach and it always ends badly.

So I encourage all of you entrepreneurs out there to embrace being resource constrained and learn to love operating with less.

It will serve you well.

Categories: Blog articles

Go Back To School With Quizlet

A VC - August 22, 2017 - 4:35am

If you or someone in your family is going back to school in the next few weeks, I strongly suggest putting the Quizlet mobile app on your/their phone as part of the back to school preparation process.

Quizlet (a USV portfolio company) has a bunch of new stuff for its existing and new users this back to school season:

  1. Diagramming – an entirely new way to make and use study sets using visuals instead of or in addition to text
  2. Learn Mode – personalized, time based, adaptive study mode with reminders and notifications
  3. Quizlet Go – a new low priced subscription that provides ad free studying and customized themes

Quizlet is the largest user powered study tool in the world with over 185mm study sets created and available for learning pretty much anything.

You really don’t want to go back to school without it.

Categories: Blog articles

Sunblock

A VC - August 21, 2017 - 7:34am

From roughly 1pm ET to roughly 3pm ET today there will be an eclipse of the Sun by the Moon over the US.

I like this map which shows when and where the eclipse will take place:

I spent a half hour this morning on the Internet and learned everything I wanted to know about what is happening and why.

I wonder how the earliest inhabitants of planet Earth must have felt when the sky went dark for a few minutes in the middle of the day.

Mankind has learned a lot about the universe we inhabit over the years and that knowledge is now largely available online for anyone to browse and learn from, as I did this morning. Here’s a study set based on today’s eclipse from Quizlet (a USV portfolio company) which uses their new diagramming feature.

It is a wonderful time to be alive with so much knowledge at our fingertips.

Categories: Blog articles

Fifty Six

A VC - August 20, 2017 - 4:10am

It is my 56th birthday today.

I am spending it surrounded with family and friends on the East End of Long Island.

I came into this year thinking I would dial it down a bit on the work front and spend more time on personal things. But, like many things, the opposite happened and I have worked harder this year than I have in many years.

I have learned how to work differently. More calls and less meetings. This has allowed me to work from anywhere. And that is a blessing and a curse. I work from wonderful places but I still work.

Finding the right balance is hard. I am committed to making more time for other things in my life. But I love my work and the challenges it throws at me. So I find it hard to turn it off.

This blog continues to be a source of purpose and meaning to me. I appreciate all of you who read it and give me feedback on it.

And with that, I am signing off and going for a walk on the beach with my dog to start the day.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — August 28, 2017
Optimizing for energy

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Who Has The Right To Police The Internet?

A VC - August 19, 2017 - 5:37am

This week our portfolio company Cloudflare made news when they made an exception to their long-standing policy of not terminating customers for hate speech and terminated The Daily Stormer.

In this interview with Bloomberg, Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince explains why he made that decision and why it bothers him so much that he and other CEOs have that power.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — August 28, 2017
Optimizing for energy

Categories: Blog articles

Touchy Subjects

A VC - August 18, 2017 - 5:22am

I got feedback from some in the AVC community that the comments on Wednesday’s post were “ugly.”

As many readers know, we have a comment policy at the top of the comment thread and I’ve worked to make sure people know that we try to keep our discussions civil.

Whenever there is a touchy subject, like we had on Wednesday, the comment section lights up and things can, and do, go south.

I took a run through Wednesday’s comment thread just now and while there were some folks stepping out of bounds, likely newcomers stopping by to do their thing, I feel that by and large we kept it civil. Which makes me very happy.

I did leave a few replies for the newcomers asking them to temper down their language and we will see if that works.

I think it is important that we talk about the issues our country faces right now. I have views on them which I’m happy to share from time to time, certainly not all the time, and I’m happy to let the conversation flow. As long as it is civil and respectful. Understanding where the other side is coming from is incredibly helpful. Fighting with each other and calling names is not.

I’m hoping we have got it about right here at AVC now.

Categories: Blog articles

Transit

A VC - August 17, 2017 - 5:22am

As Co-Chairman of Tech:NYC, I get asked frequently to name the issues that matter most to the tech companies of NYC.

On my list, often at the top, is transit. Getting to and from work matters a lot to the employees of the growing number of tech companies in NYC.

And this summer has been a bad one for transit. If you haven’t been stuck in a subway and found yourself late for work, you’ve been anxious about that happening to you.

I take the subway to work a fair amount. It is simply the fastest way to get around NYC. And I like being in contact with the every day people of the city. You really get a sense of NYC in the subway. You see it all. I love it.

So I am in favor of the City making the needed investment, in partnership with NY State, which controls the transit system in NYC, to modernize and upgrade the subways. It would be nice to see our Mayor and Governor figure out how to do something together instead of just fighting with each other. I’m sick of that to be honest and I suspect most NYC residents are.

I am also fine with chipping in a bit more out of my pocket to pay for this upgrade. The Mayor says it will cost our family another $2700 a year to pay for this upgrade. I’m in on that. I do think the wealthy residents of NYC can and should help the city maintain and improve our transit system.

Finally, I would like to see new transit infrastructure built.

I like the City’s effort to expand the ferry system. I am a huge user of the East River ferries and I would like to see them routed up the Hudson to serve the west side of Manhattan too.

My favorite new transit project is the proposed BQX where I am a Board member and advisor. The BQX would provide street level light rail along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront neighborhoods and make it easier for companies and people to locate there as opposed to central Brooklyn and Manhattan where the density of transit options are today.

I would like to see the tech sector in NYC come together and support these transit initiatives. Elected officials need our encouragement and pressure to do these big infrastructure projects. They are expensive and the payoff is long term, well beyond their term(s) in office. So getting them done requires a lot of activation energy and we can and should provide it.

Categories: Blog articles

If You Lie Down With Dogs, You Come Up With Fleas

A VC - August 16, 2017 - 3:48am

I don’t know enough to say with any confidence that our President is a supremacist.

But he made a cold hard political calculation that paid off for him when he made these horrible people the foundation of his political base and fired them and their hatred up at his campaign rallies.

He can’t throw them under the bus now, even if he wanted to.

This poses immense problems for him, his ability to govern, his administration, and the people who accepted roles in it.

Supremacists are not fine people, they are repugnant and hateful, and they should be shunned by our society.

Instead, for political reasons, if not for other reasons, we have our President asserting their morality.

That isn’t going to work for our President as I am confident America won’t tolerate this.

This is likely to tear apart the coalition that elected him and make it easier for his opponents to fight him at every turn.

And that is a good thing.

The only good thing to come from this horrible moment that we are going through in America.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — August 24, 2017
On the blockchain: platform first or app first?

Categories: Blog articles

How To Hire Executives

A VC - August 15, 2017 - 4:06am

Brian Armstrong, founder and CEO of our portfolio company Coinbase, writes a regular blog in which he talks about a bunch of things; Coinbase, things he has learned, the crypto market, and a bunch more. If you don’t follow Brian, you might want to.

Last week he laid out the entire process he uses to hire executives and it’s a really great post.

Here is the outline of the process:

  • Speak to subject matter experts [1–2 weeks]
  • Choose the hiring committee [1–2 days]
  • Draft the mission/outcomes/competencies (MOC) document [1–2 weeks]
  • Source candidates [2 weeks]
  • Build the relationship [1 month]
  • Evaluate candidates [1 month]
  • Close them [1 month]

If you plan to hire executives or are already doing it and would like to see how another CEO does it, I would suggest you go read Brian’s post.

One thing Brian leaves out, likely not intentionally, is the role of board members and investors in this process.

I have seen board members and investors play a valuable and highly engaged role in the “hiring committee” and most certainly in the closing process. I have done this for Brian a number of times and so have Micky Malka, Chris Dixon and Barry Schuler. We are very fortunate to have a great management team and Board at Coinbase and that makes a big difference in running an executive hiring process.

I have been an investor in Coinbase and have worked with Brian for almost five years now. I have watched him grow and develop as a CEO. He takes that very seriously and it shows. Putting down things like your hiring process is a great way to pass on to others what you have learned and get feedback too.

 

Categories: Blog articles

MBA Mondays

A VC - August 14, 2017 - 11:33am

For almost four years, from Jan 2010 to late 2013, I would write a column every Monday called MBA Mondays where I tried to cover the basics of a business education here at AVC.

There are roughly 200 posts in total that I wrote during the time this weekly series was active.

Since many regular readers have shown up since then and may not know about MBA Mondays, I thought I would let all the new readers know about it.

You can see the entire MBA Mondays archive here.

There is a lot of good stuff in there.

Categories: Blog articles

Founder Friendly

A VC - August 13, 2017 - 4:31am

Long time VC watcher, writer, and analyst Dan Primack suggested on Friday that the days of VCs trying to out “founder friendly” each other are now over.

It is an interesting observation and was worthy of a reply. The VC industry is highly competitive for the best opportunities and we certainly do try to ingratiate ourselves and our firms to the entrepreneurs who will decide who gets to invest in their companies and who does not. Being “founder friendly” is an important way to do that.

But there is another important participant in the VC/entrepreneur relationship and that is the Company the entrepreneur creates and all of its stakeholders; the employees, the customers, the suppliers, and even the community around the Company.

Having worked with entrepreneurs for over thirty years now, I have developed tremendous admiration for what they do and for the Companies they create. Entrepreneurs are a very special breed of people.

But there are times when interests diverge and what is best for the Company and it’s stakeholders may not be what an entrepreneur perceives to be in their own best interest. This creates a conflict situation and VCs are often caught in the middle of it.

I’ve been there many times and my mantra in those moments is “what is best for the Company?”. It has to be that way and, many times, when it is all over and done, the founder realized it was in fact best for them too.

Of course, reasonable people will disagree about what is best for a Company. That is what Boards are for. They are the bodies made up of reasonable people who can and should debate these issues and find resolution and make the hard decisions.

I reject the notion that being led by its founder is always what is best for a Company. It is often so, but certainly not always so.

Orthodoxy in thinking and believing is quite troublesome. There is no one way to do things and no single truth. You have to figure things out all the time based on facts and circumstances, based on a combination of experience and knowledge. If you do that well, you will get a lot right but never everything right.

I have heard from quite a few founders that they read the book Hatching Twitter and came away thinking that they would not want to work with me. That sucks for me but I don’t regret anything I did or said in the events that were described in that book.

You must try to make the right decisions for what is best for the Company and if that means being labeled unfriendly to founders, so be it.

Categories: Blog articles

Video Of The Week: Albert On Decentralization And The Knowledge Age

A VC - August 12, 2017 - 4:41am

My partner Albert gave this talk recently at The Blockstack Summit. He frames the crypto/blockchain movement in the context of a broader societal shift into the knowledge age.

Categories: Blog articles

SoundCloud

A VC - August 11, 2017 - 12:46pm

Internet treasures don’t die so easily and @SoundCloud is one of the most treasured parts of the Internet https://t.co/ciYyMwbVu1

— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) August 11, 2017

I have spent much of the last four months working on this and was up most of the night last night finishing it, so I don’t have a lot of gas in the tank today.

But I do plan to write about all of this at some point, maybe soon, maybe not so soon.

It has been one of the most interesting and challenging projects I’ve worked on in my entire career.

And it could not have been for a better cause.

Categories: Blog articles

Work Market Acquires Onforce

A VC - August 10, 2017 - 10:59am

Our portfolio company Work Market announced today that they have acquired their competitor OnForce from its owner, The Adecco Group.

This combination makes Work Market the undisputed work automation leader in IT services sector, where both companies got their start.

Work Market also offers work automation services for many other verticals, but the IT services sector is very strategic as it has been using work automation software solutions long before other verticals.

Work Market describes the transaction in more detail here.

For those who haven’t read my many posts on Work Market over the years, work automation software allows companies to automate and scale their agile workforce, from W2 employees, contractors, staffing firms, and freelance/1099 workers.

We think this is the future of work and Work Market is powering it for many enterprises, large and small.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — August 18, 2017
Taking a Break

Nick Grossman — August 17, 2017
Who should police content on the internet?

Categories: Blog articles

Was This About Me?

A VC - August 9, 2017 - 3:23am

I often get people asking if something I wrote was about them or their company.

I have a rule for myself.

I don’t write a post about a specific person or company without making it clear that the post is about that person or company.

There are times when I don’t want to name that person or company, but when something is about a someone or some company, I don’t hide that. I make it clear.

On the day I wrote the “Greed Isn’t Good” post, I got a lot of questions about who or what it was about.

I replied on Twitter:

As always a confluence of events and not just one thing

— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) August 7, 2017

I do not send messages to people or companies via a post on my blog. If I want to tell someone something, I will do that privately.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Albert Wenger — August 18, 2017
Taking a Break

Nick Grossman — August 17, 2017
Who should police content on the internet?

Albert Wenger — August 16, 2017
Uncertainty Wednesday: Risk Seeking (Jensen’s Inequality Cont’d)

Categories: Blog articles

A Public Record

A VC - August 8, 2017 - 4:54am

AVC has been going on for almost 14 years now. I write every day, mostly about tech and investing in startups and observations about entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship.

WordPress says I have posted 7,622 times. That is more than once a day but that is because I used to post multiple times a day. Now I can barely find the time to write once a day.

Anyway, posting your thoughts and investment ideas every day creates a public record.

That can be bad when you are consistently wrong about something, like I have been about Apple since Steve Jobs left the company.

But all in all, I would not have it any other way.

A few days ago, Founder Playbook posted a timeline of my writing on Bitcoin and Blockchain, stating that “Since 2011, Fred has been bullish, yet critical, on the crypto market.”

I have been a believer in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and Crypto since 2011 and my confidence in this macro investment thesis gets stronger every day.

And I will continue to critique the sector, calling it out when I see things like greed, infighting, or other issues that get in the way of its collective success.

One could do a similar lookback on my roughly decade long obsession with social media that led me to blogging and ended around the time I fell for crypto.

I tend to get obsessed about one thing and write a lot about it. Which creates a public record. You can’t hide from that, but then again blogging is the opposite of hiding.


USV TEAM POSTS:

Nick Grossman — August 17, 2017
Who should police content on the internet?

Albert Wenger — August 16, 2017
Uncertainty Wednesday: Risk Seeking (Jensen’s Inequality Cont’d)

Categories: Blog articles

CBS Sunday Morning report-Creating new wealth on Sardinia, without cash

Beyond Money - August 7, 2017 - 9:50am

This recent report on the popular TV show, CBS Sunday Morning, highlights the effectiveness of direct credit clearing among buyers and sellers of goods and services–a way of doing commerce without the need for money or banks.

See also my own report from my 2015 visit to Sardex.


Categories: Blog articles

Greed Isn’t Good

A VC - August 7, 2017 - 6:24am

The famous Gordon Gekko line that “greed is good” is bandied about quite often to explain why capitalism, and the pursuit of riches, is a positive thing for the economy, society, and the world at large.

Greed is not good. There is a fine line between the profit motive and greed.

I am a firm believer in the profit motive. It drives many of us to work hard, make new things that can move the world forward, and better our lives and the lives of our children, and others, through philanthropy.

But when the profit motive is taken to excess and you enter into the territory of greed, things go bad quickly.

We have seen this in the tech sector in many places, we have seen it in wall street, in real estate, and elsewhere. And we certainly are seeing it crop up in the crypto sector as well, particularly recently.

I like the concept of checks and balances. It is important to make sure to stay on the right side of the line between what is reasonable and what is excessive. Surrounding yourself with the right people, who have been around this issue a lot, can help a lot.

There are a lot of temptations out there when a lot of money is sloshing around. It is good to resist them.

Categories: Blog articles

Podcast Weekend: Gotham Gal On The Role Models Podcast

A VC - August 6, 2017 - 4:14am

My friend David reached out to me and suggested that I share this podcast with the AVC crowd.

In it, he and the Gotham Gal talk about her career and the lessons she learned from it over the years.

Categories: Blog articles

Audio Of The Week: Recovering From Failure

A VC - August 5, 2017 - 8:46am

In last week’s Positively Gotham Gal podcast, Christine Quinn, the former NYC mayoral front runner who got passed and beaten by Bill de Blasio, talks about dealing with failure and how to recover from it.

It’s a good listen:

Categories: Blog articles
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