Posts from November 2009

The Fall And Rise Of Media

David Carr has a good post this morning in the New York Times called The Fall and Rise Of Media.

The post starts out with the old way of the media business. Kids would come to NYC out of school and work in marginal jobs in the hopes of getting a break and joining the "velvet rope" of mainstream media.

And the post ends describing what kids do today:

Somewhere down in the Flatiron, out in Brooklyn, over in Queens or up
in Harlem, cabals of bright young things are watching all the
disruption with more than an academic interest. Their tiny netbooks and
iPhones, which serve as portals to the cloud, contain more
informational firepower than entire newsrooms possessed just two
decades ago. And they are ginning content from their audiences in the
form of social media or finding ways of making ambient information more
useful. They are jaded in the way youth requires, but have the
confidence that is a gift of their age as well.

David has it about right. I've watched this transformation and helped to finance it (and his first job in NYC too at Inside.com but that's a different story). I believe the move from a velvet rope model to a meritocracy is a good thing and that the new media business we are building in the wake of the old one will be a better media business; leaner, faster, and controlled more by users than media moguls.

I realize that the change is gut wrenching and many have lost jobs and careers in the process. I don't celebrate that. In fact, I find it upsetting. But I have also watched many reinvent themselves and come out in a better place too. Change is inevitable and we are better off embracing it than fighting it.

As David says, "It’s a wan reminder that all reigns are temporary". This one will be as well. So let's get on with it.

Some Thoughts On Email After Dealing With 500 Emails

I just spent four hours going through my inbox and taking it from 500 emails to zero. These were old unanswered emails, not spam (which I delete regularly in the ordinary course of business).

My email routine, now that I am solidly on gmail and loving it, is to quickly check off and delete all spam in my inbox at least once and ideally twice or three times a day.

Then I scan my inbox for emails from my top priorities; wife, family, partners, colleagues, portfolio, etc. I try to get to all of those at least once a day and ideally twice or three times a day. Gmail knows who these people are and I can't for the life of me understand why they don't build a tool to source up all of those emails automatically. Please build that feature google.

I let the rest build up in my inbox and try to get to it on the weekends. That's how I get to 500 unread emails and that's why I spent my sunday mornings in my inbox.

So for those of you who email me from time to time, here are some suggestions:

1) Be patient. I do try to respond to all legitimate non-spam email and do a pretty good job at it.

2) I am not perfect. Sometimes in my haste to delete spam, I delete a few legit emails. If you have not heard back from me in over a week, please resend your email.

3) Short and sweet gets a faster response than long winded.

4) I like to have conversations via email. If you send me an email looking for a meeting, expect a few questions back from me first.

5) Just because my reply is short does not mean I have no interest. It simply means I've got 500 emails to get through.

6) I've largely given up on responding to anything other than urgent emails and disqus comments on my blackberry. I do scan a lot of email on my blackberry.

7) I still would like a send and delete button from gmail. Send and archive is so awesome but I do a lot of send and delete too.

8) Gmail is life changing. Thank you google.

That's it for now.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

A Lot Can Happen In Five Years

There's a saying I heard recently from someone in the tech business that goes something like this:

Things take longer in the short run but they happen faster in the long run

I am sure I've bastardized the quote but the point is important. Nothing happens as fast as you'd like but if you have a longer term horizon, it is amazing what you can accomplish.

I was reminded of this today when I saw the news of our portfolio company Indeed's five year anniversary.

Indeed.com launched five years ago. I have no idea how many job searches or visitors it had that day, but I can assure you it wasn't many. Five years later, they are the leader in the jobs industry online. Check out these stats:

•The #1 employment website in the US by job search unique visitors and page views (comScore Media Metrix, Oct 2009).

•Websites in 19 countries and 10 languages.

•24 million unique visitors and one billion job searches per month worldwide.

•The leading pay-for-performance recruitment advertising network.

•The source of thousands of success stories from job seekers andrecruitment advertisers.

•A leading data provider, including Job Analytics, job trends, industry trends, job market competition, and salaries.

They did that in just five years. It's a pretty amazing accomplishment if you ask me. And they did it by keeping their heads down, focusing relentlessly on their product and users, and rolling out a better economic model for employers.

So when you are frustrated that you can't get your next release out of engineering, you can't recruit that person you really want, or that VCs just won't open their checkbooks and fund your deal, take a deep breath and relax. Nothing happens as fast as you want it to, but if you stay focused on the long term goal and keep building toward it, you can reach your goals and it won't take forever.


Looking For An Expert In SEO/SEM/Online Direct Marketing

Our portfolio company Targetspot is looking for an experienced online direct marketer to "own" and manage their self serve advertising business.

This
is a fun job for the right person because it is an opportunity to run
and grow a small business inside a bigger business. If you are an "entrepreneur" looking for a chance to show what you can do, this job is probably a good fit for you.

Targetspot's self service ad
business is growing nicely and we want to invest and grow it using
classic online direct marketing channels and measurement systems.

The
right candidate will have significant experience in:

  • Knowledge of Google
    Analytics and ability to test results on campaign landing
    pages.
  • Experience in SEO, SEM or both (either as an affiliate, or as
    part of an e-commerce site).
  • Internet media buying.
  • Online direct
    marketing.
  • Webmaster experience.

The job description is here and if you are interested, please email [email protected] with "Self Service" in the subject.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Some Things To Be Thankful For This Year

1) The economic meltdown/panic of 2008 is largely over. The economy is still weak but markets are functioning and buyers are buying and sellers are selling.

2) The FCC has submitted a proposal for rulemaking on net neutrality.

3) Android looks to be a winner and will give the iPhone a much needed competitor to keep Apple honest.

4) Bing is showing some signs of life and may give Google a much needed competitor to keep them honest (this one may be wishful thinking).

5) Venture Capital investing is bouncing back:

Ve chart

6) The NY Metro venture investing market is bouncing back even more sharply:

Vc mkt nyc
Vc chart explanation 

7) Programs like Y Combinator, Techstars, Seedcamp, etc are expanding all over the country and now the world, turning out newly minted entrepreneurs by the thousands.

8) A secondary market for founder stock, employee stock, and angel and early stage investor’s shares is emerging, offering the possibility of a third way to get liquid on startup investments.

9) The NASDAQ’s Internet Index is up 128% over the past year suggesting that wall street loves the internet sector again. Can a vibrant Internet IPO market be far away?

Internet index

10) It’s thanksgiving day, a day to forget all of this stuff and spend it cooking, eating, watching football, and hanging with good friends and family. That’s what I plan to do and I hope all of you do too.

Note: The charts on venture investing in this post come from the PWC Money Tree survey for Q3 2009.

Presentations vs Discussions

We've been doing our Union Square Sessions events for almost as long as our firm has been around. We pick a topic, like Hacking Eduction, that interests us and we invite about forty people to sit around a big open table and talk about the issue for four to five hours. There are no presentations. We have amazing discussions at these events.

A presentation is like a TV show. It's a lean back experience. A discussion is like an online chat room. It is a lean forward experience. They are not the same thing and in many cases they work against each other.

This is particularly instructive when it comes to board meetings as I learned last week. We did our annual Return Path Board annual planning session last week. It is a grueling day. Roughly eight hours of review and planning discussions, both operational and strategic. In prior years, we'd work through a deck of well over 100 slides during the day.

Not last week. As Matt Blumberg, Return Path's CEO, explains in this post, we went without slides for the whole day. The Company did prepare a lengthy package that everyone reviewed prior to the meeting. But once we were in the room, the projector was off and the conversation was on. Matt managed the clock and made sure we got through the agenda. Everything else was impromptu.

It was a huge success as Matt explains:

We thought that the best way to foster two-way dialog in the meeting
was to change the paradigm away from a presentation — the whole
concept of "management presenting to the Board" was what we were trying
to change, not just what was on the wall.  The result was fantastic. 
We had a very long meeting, but one where everyone — management and
Board alike — was highly engaged.  No blackberries or iPhones.  Not
too many yawns or walkabouts.  It was literally the best Board meeting
we've had in almost 10 years of existence, out of probably 75 or 80
total.

"Changing the paradigm away from a presentation" is the point of this post. Presentations are important. I do a lot of them and post all of them on this blog in advance. I am not saying they don't have a role. But if you want to foster real engagement and real discussion, they are not helpful and in fact I think they are hurtful.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Boxee Beta Unveiling – Dec 7th, Williamsburg, NYC

NYC-BETA-Unveiling-09 Dec 7th is "a day that will live in infamy" as FDR famously stated about Pearl Harbor day. It may also be infamous for what will in all likelihood go down at at the Music Hall of Williamsburg at 7pm on December 7th of this year.

Our portfolio company Boxee will be unveiling the beta software that they have been working on for the past six months. They will be showing off new content, new features, and new platforms.

And they will have some help from various friends of Boxee.

The last time they did an event like this in NYC, this past March at Webster Hall, it was a great time and Avner Ronen, Boxee's CEO, has promised to do even better this time.

So I encourage all of you who want to see the future of television to get on the L train and head out to Williamsburg

Please RSVP using this link. There's a competition among the management team and board members to see who can drive the most RSVPs. I plan to win that competition and get a Boxee branded Burton Sleeper Hoodie for my cross country trips. I appreciate all the help I can get.

Playdar

I use a lot of music web services but I don't like to invest in this sector. Nonetheless, it's an area that I spend a lot of time thinking about. I've written endlessly on this blog about the music web services I use, why I use them, and where I think the music web is going.

The most interesting music web service to me has been audioscrobbler (aka last.fm). I'm not all that interested in last.fm as a social network, but I am obsessed with it's value as a data asset. I report all my music listens to last.fm via the audioscrobbler technology and it has built a deep data asset on my musical listening habits (and therefore musical taste). Since October 2005, I've recorded 60,168 song listens with audioscrobbler. That's roughly 40 listens per day. Sounds like a lot, right? Well we listen to music all the time in our house and we've had audioscrobbler on our Sonos for the past year or so.

There are a bunch of music web services I use that leverage the power of the audioscrobbler data via the last.fm api. So I show up at a new music web service and it can instantly know what I like to listen to by simply asking me for my last.fm user name and password. It's like magic. I love it.

The developer of audioscrobbler is a guy named Richard Jones (aka RJ) who built it while he was in college. He merged it into last.fm and became the CTO.

Well RJ is back to building interesting new web music stuff and his new thing is called Playdar. And like audioscrobbler, I think this could be a powerful foundational platform technology for the music web.

Playdar is a "music content resolver" platform. You put the Playdar software on all the machines you have with music on them. And then Playdar makes it so that you can play your music via the web whenever and wherever you want. This is not the first effort to do this sort of thing, but it is the first time this has been done as an open source platform.

This is an important distinction. Like audioscrobber was the foundational technology for last.fm and many other music web services, Playdar can and will be the same.

The Playdar ecosystem is just getting going but there are already some interesting demos. I like Toby Padilla's Playgrub which turns web pages into playlists. I also like James Wheare's Playlick which turns last.fm accounts into playlists.

Open platforms and ecosystems are powerful and the music web needs more of them. I am excited to see where Playdar goes. I'll be following it closely and if you are into web music, you should too.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Looking For Product and Marketing Talent

Our portfolio company Covestor is looking for a VP Product and a head of marketing. Both positions are in New York City.

Covestor has created an entirely new form of investment product – people powered investing. With Covestor you don't buy stocks and you don't buy funds. You "follow investors" with your capital. I've been investing this way since the summer and it's a very interesting new way to manage your money.

These two job openings are opportunities to help define this new form of investing, from the product side and the messaging side. 

If you are looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to change the game in an important industry, then these positions might just be the thing for you. If you want to learn more, click on the links at the top of this post and if you want to send in your resume, email it to jobs1009 [at] covestor.com.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

My LinkedIn Avatar

I saw this tweet from Charlie O'Donnell yesterday:

LinkedIn pulled avatars of @laughingsquid @fredwilson @hunterwalk and me down. Isn't our "professionalism" for our networks to judge?

It's true. Here's my LinkedIn profile this morning:

Linkedin profile 

My avatar is gone, taken down.

That's unfortunate. I'm with Charlie on this one. I think we should be able to determine what we want to use to represent ourselves professionally within reason (no porn, no emotionally disturbing images, etc).

In my case, the "AVC avatar" has become my online brand and I use it everywhere other than the usv.com website where we've opted to go with a consistent presentation across all of the professionals in our firm.

The good news is that Linked In seems to be aware of the issue. I got this tweet last night from their community person.

@fredwilson I hear you. lmk talk to our CS teams abt the profile pic issue. feel free to DM me if you've q's…

So hopefully they'll change their minds and let those of us who choose to use our online brands on Linked In have them back on our profiles. Stay tuned.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]