Posts from Weblogs

AVC – A Publishing Dinosaur

I was listening to Benedict Evans and Chris Dixon talking about micropayments, ad blockers, web and mobile publishing, and a few other interesting topics this morning and they were making the point that publishers have to go to platforms where their audiences are these days (Facebook, Apple, Medium, etc). I thought about that in the context of AVC and realized that we are most certainly a dinosaur. I publish using a wordpress instance running on a server in the cloud on my own domain. Direct traffic is the largest form of traffic AVC gets. Organic search still drives as much traffic as social. RSS still generates a meaningful amount of traffic (it is called (other) in the chart below).

all traffic channels

Within the social category, Twitter is king and Facebook is an also ran.

social category

Referrals come mostly from Twitter and Hacker News


All of this results in 250,000 web sessions a month, plus RSS and email which about double that. Over the course of a year, it’s over 5mm user sessions across web, email, and RSS.

This pales in comparison to a real commercial publication. But it’s not too bad for a small community tended to by a single operator.

We are most certainly old school in terms of the way this audience comes together.

Maybe that’s why the audience has been flat for over five years now.

2008 to 2015

But it still works very well for me and hopefully for all of you too.

Ten Years Of Techmeme

If you were blogging about tech in September 2005 when launched, you knew about it and you read it. There was a time when AVC posts would regularly be on Techmeme and AVC would regularly be on its leaderboard. That has not been the case for years but I still read Techmeme every day. It is as valuable a source of news for me as anything else.

Gabe wrote a short post about Techmeme yesterday on its 10th anniversary. There are few things in there that I’d like to react to.

  1. Techmeme’s original goals were to “1. Recognize the web as editor, 2. Rapidly uncover new sources, and 3. Relate the conversation.” These are awesome goals and made the site what it was and what it is. Techmeme does a better job at number 3 than anything out there, ten years after showing the world how it is done. Sadly they do not do a particularly good job at number 2 and have not for years. Gabe tacitly acknowledges this with this bit “However, as Techmeme became the first stop for tech news for a growing and influential segment of the tech industry, other goals became imperative too. In particular: strive for comprehensive coverage of the day’s most significant tech stories, and post big, breaking news story quickly.” I can get the “big breaking news” anywhere and don’t value Techmeme for that. But I understand that others do and frankly Techmeme can and should do whatever they think makes for the best site for the largest audience. But I do miss the time when solo bloggers made up most of the links. Those kind of voices are still out there and there really isn’t a great way to find them unless they are software engineers whose links show up on Hacker News.
  2. Techmeme survived each and every effort to supplant it. Gabe writes this “Later the phrase “Techmeme Killer” would appear fairly regularlyin headlines, most notably when Google itself introduced a would-be “Techmeme Killer”. Even after Techmeme survived Google’s Techmeme-killer, services like ePlatform and TechFuga would still elicit comparisons to Techmeme, while TechCrunch would later say of Tweetmeme, a Techmeme-like aggregator of tweets “If I were Gabe Rivera, I’d start worrying now”.” I’ve ranted on this before but nothing annoys more than the “xyz killer” headline. The fact is that that supplanting a category creator and market leader is not easy, as much as the media would suggest that it is, and Gabe and his team have done a terrific job of continuing to produce a great site day after day, year after year.
  3. Techmeme has never taken outside investment, allowing them to run the business as a “cashflow business” that creates a good living for the team. Gabe says this “I always hoped it would be possible to build and sustain Techmeme without the aid of venture capital or debt. Not so much because of real or perceived issues around independence or autonomy, not because “bootstrapped” is an impressive badge of honor, and not because I disliked investors (some of my best friends are VCs!) But rather because the media business we envisioned by its nature was just not destined to become the “unicorn” VCs always want, at least in its first of several possible iterations. So proving sustainability always seemed necessarily part of the plan. Moreover, in casual conversations with investors over the years most ideas for expansion suggested to me seemed destined to fail in my estimation (a fate borne out in a few cases by actual companies that carried out such plans).” Most businesses, including many that do raise VC including some we have invested in, should not raise VC. Kudos to Gabe for understanding that and financing his business another way (revenues).

Techmeme is an “internet treasure” to use the phrase my friend Mark taught me. I visit it every day. So do most of the leaders of the tech sector. It’s a fantastic resource and it’s been a pleasure to watch Gabe and his team build it into what it is over the years. Happy 10th anniversary Techmeme.

Some AVC Stats

Mario Cantin asked me to post some stats on the AVC readership in the comments to yesterday’s post. So here is some data from Google Analytics, Disqus, Feedblitz (which powers the daily email), and Feedburner.

Here are the high level google analytics stats for for the past twelve months:

avc readership TTM

That works out to be about 240,000 sessions per month and the average number of users per month is about 180,000. New visitors represent about 50% of visitors so about 750,000 visitors in the past year have come to at least once before.

There is a loyal readership that reads via email (using feedblitz). The total email subscribers right now is 10,972. These people read the daily post in their email and often reply to me via email and generally don’t participate in the comments.

There is also a RSS audience though it is relatively small. Feedburner provides these stats:

avc feedburner stats

The 14,804 total RSS subs number includes the 10,972 that subscribe via email via Feedblitz. I power Feedblitz via my RSS feed via Feedburner. The “reach” number is the daily number of people who actually read the post. That’s about 60%. The people who subscribe via email or RSS are truly regulars although they don’t visit the website and they normally don’t comment.

If you buy that reach number, then roughly 8,500 people a day read AVC via email or RSS. That is about the same number as the daily sessions on AVC. So I’ve generally assumed a daily readership of around 15,000 people.

The commenter community is much smaller. Over the past year, 4,036 people have commented on AVC and have left a total of 46,100 comments (an average of 126 comments a day). Certainly a lot more people than that read the comments, but I don’t have a number for that group.

The geographic distribution of people who visit (a subset of the total audience) looks like this:

avc geo distribution

I’ve been told a number of times that is blocked in China but I have never verified that and it may not be true now or in the past. If it is true, I am very proud of that fact.

Here are the top cities and countries:

avc top cities

All I have to say about this list is “fuck yeah Buenos Aires”.


avc top countries


I just turned on demographics yesterday so this data is brand new and only reflects yesterday. I will publish it again after a few months as one day of traffic may not be representative (you can click on the image to see it in a larger form):

avc demographics

The readership is young and male. No surprises there. The 19% female audience something I don’t feel great about and hope to change over time. I got some great suggestions on how to do that yesterday in the comments.

That’s about it for now. I hope you enjoyed this data dump. I try to do this once a year but Mario said he’s been reading AVC for over a year and hadn’t seen a post like this in his “tenure”. So we’ve fixed that now.


I got a notification from Twitter last night that I had passed 400,000 followers. I don’t pay much attention to my follower count on Twitter but I did pause at that number. It’s a lot of people.

In light of this milestone of sorts, I thought I’d share some details on the people who follow me on Twitter. All of this data comes from the analytics service that comes with every Twitter account.

Not surprisingly, my Twitter followers are interested in technology and startups:

twitter follower interests

They are overwhelmingly wealthy men:

twitter demographics

They lean democrat

twitter follower party affiliation

And they prefer iPhones:

twitter follower mobile preferences

I’ve run these sorts of analytics on the readers of this blog and the results are pretty similar. Similar size of audience, similar demographics, interests, and mobile preferences.

If I had a wish, it would be for a more global audience, a more female audience, and a broader demographic in terms of wealth (or lack thereof). But the content I produce determines the audience. And I’m pleased that all of you are interested in what I have to say and I’d like to thank you for listening.

The Blank Screen

I was at dinner last night with some entrepreneurs and VCs in Berlin and we got talking about my ritual of blogging every day. I told them that many days I stare at the blank screen and think “ugh, what am I going to write about today.”

blank screen 2

They asked if there was any correlation to knowing what I am going to write about and the quality of the post. I told them that I don’t think so. The best posts come out in real time and often they start with me staring at the blank screen. Same with the worst posts.

Posting every day isn’t easy for a host of reasons but for me the hardest is that much of what I work on every day is off limits. I wake up thinking about a drama unfolding in one of our portfolio companies and I can’t blog about that. I wake up thinking about a new product one of our portfolio companies is going to launch and I can’t blog about that. I wake up thinking about a neat company we just met and I mostly can’t blog about that.

So on a typical morning, I run through four or five ideas, tossing each out for a variety of reasons, before settling on something, and then I start writing and I go from there. I enjoy the real time nature of this approach to writing. I often don’t know what the gist of the post is going to be until I write that last line and hit publish.

Sometimes this process produces great insights for me and possibly others. Sometimes it produces garbage. But I’ve come to realize that the daily post, and its quality or lack thereof, is not really the thing. It is the ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline that matters most to me. And, I would suspect, the same is true of the readers and commenters who frequent this blog.

A Note On Anonymous, Pseudonymous, Guest, and Regular Commenters

One of the best things about AVC is the engaged and active community that envelopes this blog. It has been for many years a conversation among friends and the occasional stranger. I’ve called it a bar where I get to be the bartender. The people in the community come and go. There are regulars who come every day. There are regulars who come every few days. Some come once every week or two. Some have left never to return. Some return on occasion. That’s all as it should be and quite like what goes on in the real world.

I’ve always chosen to allow people to comment using a guest login. I’ve always allowed people to comment anonymously. And I’ve always allowed people to comment using a pseudonym. I believe that allowing people to comment the way they want makes a community richer. I do not think comment identities should always be mapped to a real name and a real identity. It’s great when it is. But there are many reason why that’s not a good option for some.

We’ve managed the trolling and spam by actively moderating the comments. I did that for many years myself and in recent years I’ve been aided by AVC regulars William and Shana who swing by every day even when I’m not active to make sure a thread isn’t filling up with spam or there isn’t some sort of other bad behavior going on. Our moderation policy has been heavy to clear the spam and light on everything else. We lean in favor of giving everyone a voice even when its a tough call.

There is one thing that has evolved into a community norm that is important and I’d like to highlight today. Regular commenters use Disqus Profiles to comment here at AVC. These profiles can be pseudonyms like Fake Grimlock, abbreviations like JLM, or real names, like fredwilson. That really doesn’t matter and I think its best to have a lively mix of all of that. But the frequency of seeing the avatar next to the name in the comments breeds trust, respect, and in many cases real friendship.

If you are a drop in commenter, none of this matters. But if you want to hang out here on a regular basis, I encourage you to build a Disqus Profile, invest some time and energy into it, and participate as everyone else does. It’s how we do it around here and it is one of the many reasons this community works so well.

Topic Mining AVC

So I’m on sitting on the couch waiting to go out to dinner with the Gotham Gal and friends last night, and wasting time by scrolling through Twitter and I came across this tweet:

I didn’t have time to check it out, so I favorited it and made a note to come back to it. And I did that this morning.

Bugra is a Data Scientist ; he likes machine learning, data, Python and NLP, not necessarily in that order. He did some data science on this blog, starting on September 23rd, 2003, which is when I wrote the first post here.

Here is his post. It’s worth a full read but I’m going to gank a few images from it to summarize his findings for those who don’t feel like clicking over to it (you should).

Bugra mined 22 topics based on things I wrote most about and then did some analysis on those topics. Here is a frequency graph of them:


But of course my interest in these things rises and wanes over time.

I mentioned at year end 2014 that I thought social media had become uninteresting. Well the data on what I write about proves that:


Sometimes it’s a lack of interest. But it could also be a conscious decision to stop writing about something. As the readership of AVC grew, it became a lot less personal. That was a conscious decision on my part.


Not everything has gone down over time.

I’ve become a policy wonk (thanks to my partner Brad mostly):


And some topics just reflect the changing landscape we operate in, like this one:


And some topics reflect the changing patterns of my blogging, like the rise and fall of MBA Mondays:


Anyway, I found Burga’s post fascinating. I would like to see him add a few more topics, like bitcoin/blockchain, education, healthcare, and crowdfunding. Those are all things that I think a lot about and I’d be very curious to see how my interest in them has risen and/or fallen over the years.

In closing, I’d like to thank Burga for his work. It is valuable and revealing to me. Thank you Burga.

Rant of The Week

I am interrupting our regularly scheduled programming (video of the week) to rant a bit.

Yesterday morning, Tom Labus left this comment on AVC:

You’re on the scroll on CNBC. Quoting you that “the Apple Watch will be a flop” A bit of creative editing

I had already seen Business Insider running that headline and that just put me over the edge. I got super pissed off and fired out this tweetstorm:


That led to a lot of discussion on Twitter that lasted most of yesterday.

Business Insider has been cross posting my blog posts for years on their website (totally allowed under my creative commons license) but they used to rewrite and sensationalize the headline. I hated that so much and told them so and to their credit, they’ve stopped doing that.

When someone takes the time to carefully craft their words, it is super annoying to see someone twist them into something else entirely. I know that it’s wishful thinking to imagine that media outlets that live and die on clicks will change their stripes on this one. Maybe I should get some thicker skin. But I am not sure I can on this one.

Feature Friday: Topic Pages

Yesterday we relaunched A team inside USV has been working on it on and off over the past few months. Though it’s not perfect yet, I encouraged them to launch it and fix the inevitable bugs in public. And that is exactly what they did yesterday. Nick Grossman, who led the effort, wrote a post outlining some of the goals of the relaunch.

To summarize, we want to make less “real time” and more thoughtful. We would like less noise and more substance. We want it to be referential as opposed to news driven. And the biggest step we’ve taken in that direction are the topic pages. Here’s the blockchain topic page. Here’s the policy topic page. We’ve started with four topic pages (blockchain, policy, marketplaces, mobile) but we intend to build out a bunch more.

I think this line in Nick’s post sums up our goals for and I’m pleased to see we are moving it in that direction in the new year:

The goal of [] is to expose more of our thinking, and to do it together with others

What I Write About And What I Don’t

There was a discussion in the comments on this week’s fun friday post about me “pimping” our portfolio too much. To which I responded with this:

i am my portfolio. its all the same thing. i go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. i would blog way more about it than i do but i can’t talk about most of the stuff that is going on in my portfolio.

It’s the latter point I want to talk about a bit today. Every day I run a bunch of blog topics through my head before deciding what I am going to write about. And most of them get rejected because they are “too close to home” meaning they are too specific to something that is going on right now in my work life. There is one thing right now, for example, that would make a great blog post but there is no way I can talk about it. That is almost always the case.

Here are some rules I live by:

1) If an entrepreneur walks into our office and tells us/me something that is not publicly known, it is confidential unless I explicitly ask for permission to mention it on AVC and receive permission.

2) If something happens in our portfolio, in a board meeting, in the company, or even in the market, and it is not public, then it remains confidential and I do not blog about it unless I’m asked to.

3) I don’t mention people by name unless I ask them and they OK it. There are times I don’t comply with this one perfectly. Last week I mentioned AVC community member Kirk Love in a blog post by name but left his wife’s name out. Kirk is known to this community and the mention was pretty harmless. This is something I manage as best I can. I think I do a decent job of it but it’s always a calculation.

4) If its a grey area, I don’t blog about it. Better to be safe than sorry.

What I should do and don’t, at least right now, is write down all of these things I’d like to write about but can’t, so that I could come back to them in the future when they are in a place where it is possible to talk about them. Not everything gets to that place. But a lot of things do. I will think about starting to do that.

I find myself in the middle of, or have a courtside seat for, a lot of super interesting things. But I can’t and don’t write about most of them. Which is a bummer for me and a bummer for all of you too.