Posts from December 2006

2007: Happy New Year


  Happy New Year 
  Originally uploaded by jciv.

I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. I am excited about 2007 for a bunch of reasons.

In my business endeavors I am particularly excited about the developments happening in our Union Square Ventures portfolio. We’ve been investing for a couple years and we now have a portfolio of companies, not ideas or projects. All but one of our companies are generating revenue. A couple will be profitable this year. And one, Bug Labs, will come out of "stealth mode" and show everyone what they have been up to for the past year. I am excited.

I am also excited to watch the companies left in the Flatiron portfolio continue to build what have become large and profitable businesses. Venture capital done well has a long time horizon. We get involved when its not much more than an idea. And in the best companies, we stick around for a long time. I love that.

I am less excited about what Todd Dagres called "a bubble in company formation" happening in the web space. As Todd pointed out in the WSJ debate with David Hornik, the barriers are so low to starting a web company that everyone is doing it. I heard from my oldest daughter that one of her friends who is a senior in high school may not be going to college because he’s got his web businesses to run. That may be the right decision for him, but it points out just how far reaching this web entrepreneur thing has become.

On the other hand, 2007 is going to be the "show me" year for many of the web investments made in 2005 and 2006. And I think some companies are going to come up fairly empty on their initial business plans. That should help to keep everyone focused on the reality that not every good idea turns into a good business and hopefully it will bring some rationality to what is clearly an overheated market right now.

But I don’t want to focus too much on the negatives. There are a lot of exciting new things happening, some of which I pointed to in my "2007:" posts. I hope you were able to read them.

I am really looking forward to 2007. I hope you are too.

Happy New Music Year

I am pretty excited about all the new music that is coming out shortly.

Specifically on January 23rd, two records will be released that are fantastic.

The Shins – Wincing The Night Away

Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer

And shortly after that, there are two more great records coming out.

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank


Sondre Lerche – Phantom Punch

Here’s one of my favorite tracks off of Phantom Punch. Happy new year in music everyone!

John Let Me Go – Sondre Lerche

User Controlled Pages (aka What I Need From Flickr)

Scott Karp doesn’t like my use of the word "user" in my post about The End Of Page Views. Scott argues that when someone controls a page, they are not users, they are publishers and we should recognize that in our terminology. Well Scott is probably right about that. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I want to do with my Flickr page, my LinkedIn page, my last.fm page, my Facebook page, etc, etc.

Scott is right that I want to act like a publisher with all of these pages. I’ve been using my Flickr page a lot lately as we travel around Italy. I am publishing some, but not nearly all, of the photos I am taking. I am blogging directly from Flickr to create the blog entries on our trip. And I am paying greater attention to the comments, favorites, and views I am getting on my photos.

One of the things about being an active blogger is you get used to a certain kind of behavior. I am used to being able to track visits and page views on a daily basis. I am used getting comments emailed to me. I am used to being able to see who is linking to me. I am used to adding functionality via widgets to my page, which include the ability to see who has visited it recently. The way I do most of this is by adding code to my page.

So here is my suggestion. If you want to allow users to truly control a page, if you want them to treat the page like it is their own page, you must let them put code onto their page. If you don’t, eventually sophisticated leading edge users are going to move on. I know I will.

The Forum


  VIew Of The Forum From The Hill 
  Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

We did ancient Rome yesterday.

The kids liked the Colosseum best.

But I was enchanted by the Forum.

How many great buildings and their architects have been influenced by what was built there?

2007: User Generated Devices

Time Magazine made "you" the person of the year, largely on the basis of what is happening on the web – blogging, social networking, YouTube, wikipedia, etc. This is from the Time column I just linked to:

It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen
before. It’s about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the
million-channel people’s network YouTube and the online metropolis
MySpace. It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping
one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world,
but also change the way the world changes.

Yes, the web has brought this power of the user to the forefront of our society, enough to make us the person of the year. That’s cool.

But what is cooler is that this is part of a larger revolution in information technology that started back in the early 90s with Linux. It’s the open source movement and it’s about opening up technology so that anyone and everyone can contribute to the collective good.

And I believe its time for this revolution in information technology to move into the hardware space. It’s time for user generated devices.

I have a broken Canon SD 550 with me on our family trip to Italy. The screen is cracked so I can’t see the photos after I take them. I can’t even control the flash or anything else via the user interface. Why don’t I get a new camera? Well I will when I get back, but this camera lists for $400. It’s not a disposable camera, it’s an expensive piece of electronics.

What I’d really like is a new screen to snap into the back of my camera to replace the one that cracked. That’s the only thing wrong with it. It still takes great photos as you can see on my flickr page.

And as long as I am talking about what I’d like, I’d also like to be able to snap on a wifi module so the best photos can be automatically uploaded to Flickr in real time, not hours later.

But the existing consumer electronics manufacturers aren’t interested in modularity and giving the user more control over their devices. Their desire to tightly control the user experience will lead to a movement much like what has happened on the web.

Users are going to take control of their devices and I think 2007 is the year we will start to see it happen.

Eating Our Way Through Rome

I continue to be blown away by the food experiences we are getting outside of the traditional restaurant. Today was a typical day.

Our Breakfast Ritual

We started with a "stand up" breakfast of cappucino, expresso, and pastries which takes all of five minutes and blows away anything in New York. If I could eat breakfast this way every day on the way to work, I’d be a caffiene addict for sure. I may be anyway by the time we get back on New Year’s day.

Lunch At Obika

We stopped at a mozzerella bar called Obika for lunch. This place is to mozzerella what Nobu is to sushi. We tried mozzerella five different ways, one for each of us. Each one was better than the next. Someone should bring this concept to NYC. I am sure it would work there.

Girls At San Crispino

And then we made sure to get our daily fix of San Crispino in the middle of the afternoon. Josh and I went there yesterday and the whole family went there today. Best gelato I’ve had in Italy yet. Josh had honey yesterday and zabaione today. I had pistacchio yesterday and cinnamon and ginger (one flavor not two) today. Jessica had banana and I think that may be the best flavor of them all.

Good thing we walked from our hotel to Galleria Borghese and back, then all over the place this afternoon. Gotta work off all these calories somehow.

Point Counterpoint

I suppose many of you have seen the great email debate in the Wall Street Journal between Todd Dagres of Spark Capital and David Hornik of August Capital on the topic of Whether Web 2.0 is a Bubble.

I know Todd and David pretty well and the email debate captures both of their personalities perfectly. Todd is impassioned, prone to making bold statements, and represents the more cautious east coast investor mindset. David is the classic lawyer rebutting Todd with reasoned informed logic.

The funny thing is I agree with both of them. There is a bubble in new company formation in the web 2.0 space for sure. But it has not really spilled out beyond the startup world and the VCs who are funding in this sector. A big question for 2007 is whether it will spill out. I sure hope not.

2007: The Implicit Web

My partner Brad and I were at lunch with Josh Kopelman a month or so ago and we got to talking about a number of exciting new web services we are seeing and Josh blurted out "web 2.0 is the explicit web and web 3.0 is the implicit web". That’s been rattling around in my mind ever since.

It’s true that many of the best things about web 2.0 (tagging, posting, digging, embedding) require explicit activities. Those activities provide great value to both the person doing the explicit action and in a social network, great value to many others.

What Josh was talking about when he used the words "implicit web" is myware, something I’ve been big on for a while now. For those who care about such things, I did not coin the term "myware", it was Seth Goldstein who first coined it.

Enough about jargon, the explicit implicit web is all about the value that will accrue to an Internet user when their every action is tracked, recorded, and used to provide value back to that user. There is also a second order play when that clickstream activity is shared with the user’s permission with everyone else.

My favorite example, which I used in that original myware post, is last.fm. I give last.fm the permission to capture all my iTunes listens. I publish that data on my blog (left sidebar) and the data is also published on my last.fm profile page. I can go back and look at the what I listened to most last week, month, year, etc. But more importantly, I can use the data about what I am listening to currently to surface new recommendations via musical neighbors. And because I share all that data with the entire network, my listens inform others in their search for new music.

This concept can be used in almost any activity you do on the web. Take shopping for example. Amazon does a decent job of capturing the activity in our account and recommending new stuff for us. But we use an aggregated account at Amazon, so the Gotham Gal’s books, Jessica’s music, my gadgets all get lumped into one profile. What if I had a profile of all my web activity and I could express it to any web store the minute I arrived? Amazon could do a much better job of recommending stuff for me. So could eBay. So could Netflix. But take it one step further, connect me to other people who are looking at and buying stuff just like me. Let me see what they are buying and where and why. That’s social shopping in my book.

What about paying bills? Now I am sure that this example is going to give some of you the creeps. But what if you could pay all your bills via a free web service that aggregated what you were buying and paying for and recommended ways to get those services for less? What if that service aggregated the buying power of all of its users and negotiated for better prices from vendors where it had significant market power?

You can take this concept and apply it to most any activity you can do on the web. The idea has been around for a while but privacy concerns have held everyone back. But people are starting to get used to profiling themselves and using it to add value to their Internet experience. They are starting to trust certain web services and let them profile them. That change in user behavior is a big deal. And as a result, the implicit web is going to start taking off in 2007.

The Vatican


  Kids In St Peter’s 
  Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

I was raised a roman catholic, rejected religion for the most part in college, married a jew, raised three jewish kids, and am not sure what to call myself.

Today I got to play to my latent catholicism as we visited The Vatican with a lovely guide named Gloria who showed us everything we had to see but also had a sixth sense when the kids were getting tired.

I have never been in the Sistine Chapel and I must say it is an amazing place. We watched Good Will Hunting the other night as a family in our hotel room in Siena after dinner and there is this scene where Robin Williams delivers this great monologue to Matt Damon, the highlight of which is when he says "you may have read everything there is to read on Michelangelo but you’ve never stood in the Sistine Chapel, smelled the scent of the place, and witnessed his greatness" (or something like that).

Anyway, as I was watching, I realized that I had never done that either. Today I did and it was pretty powerful.

More Competition for avc.com


  Coming Soon Indeed 
  Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

AVC by Adrianna V. Campanile may be coming soon but AVC by Fred Wilson is here to stay.

Neither of us own avc.com :(

For those of you who are curious, avc.com is owned by AVC Technologies of Bethlehem, PA (a city I lived in for 5th and 6th grades!).